An Evening With The New Right

Instead of the old clique of smug and heartless elitists, the new one is a pack of cheap and gutless cowards.

I recently attended a literary reading in Los Angeles hosted by a young conservative podcaster whose dark slim-fit polo was something I secretly wished I could still fit into. It was held at the large outdoor patio of an independent downtown animation studio, a garden-like area filled with giant discarded props from stop-motion shorts as well as a grounded psychedelic school bus that recalled a distant decade. You had to RSVP to get the address and attendee names were all checked at the door, where you were sheepishly informed that no photography or use of cell phones would be allowed. Once inside there was a cash bar set up with cheap wine by the glass and beer in tall cans and also product launches for Russian cigarettes and snack chips fried in beef fat instead of seed oil. The various organizers seemed surprised by the large turnout, maybe two hundred or more people on a Thursday night in a solidly left-leaning town, possibly the turning point they had been waiting for.

The host began the evening entertainment by reading a short piece from his cell phone and then quickly brought up the second reader, another author/podcaster who read an excerpt from a scathing Gonzo-style article about an affluent ski town in Colorado. The third reader was a Catholic mom who had built her Twitter following to the point of being invited on Tucker Carlson’s show, alas, just before it got canceled. She read a satiric piece condemning the promiscuity of sorority culture and later encouraged young women to have babies early and often.

Then the main event. The first of the two headliners was an effete sophisticate who started out a decade ago as a bitter dating blogger on OKCupid and gradually won a following through a Substack newsletter and self-publishing under the category of erotica on Amazon. He read some tales of failed encounters that feebly jumped the track into fantasy violence, cheered on by the amused crowd, then one of his colleague’s lamely tongue-in-cheek pieces about feeding California’s Jews to crocodiles, before finishing on an unguardedly sentimental note by exhorting the substantial incel segment of his readership to work towards finding tenderness with a special someone, as he himself was still trying to do.

The final reader, puzzlingly presented as one of the great minds of our time, started by returning the favor and reading from his predecessor’s work but with less panache, then shared several poems about his beloved wife’s recent illness before reading a long, ambivalent ode to war. The evening concluded with the tireless host putting his three main guests all back on the stage to answer a few questions about how they got started and what they hoped for from future victories.

This little gathering, modest as it was, nevertheless laid claim to a thesis, which is not only that there is a war of sorts going on in the United States but that a revamped right could eventually win it not through clear and direct polemics, which were notably absent, but by the long-term propagandistic use of culture, such as we had ostensibly been treated to that night, that is, by a concerted counter-effort to the unmistakable current liberal bias of art and entertainment.

The young conservatives I saw don’t deserve the name of a New Right; they are the same as the old Right. They are strategically distancing themselves from Donald Trump no sooner than the Republican party has. One might be forgiven for hoping for a new moral rebirth of seriousness from the minds of the previously unaligned, from independent thinkers who broke from one orthodoxy and slowly drifted until they fell into the clutches of the other. Unfortunately, their single idea is not new but old, very old, as old as fathers and sons. Their tragic search for some kind of benevolent authority figure has moved on from Roger Stone to Peter Thiel and Steve Bannon, who they hope will bankroll mini-media empires for them. Not new are the fringe fantasies of an overnight coup, followed by some kind of glorious purge of their opponents, although the ideal leader is now a tech CEO rather than a general.

There is something of a paradox in suggesting that conservatism would change, and perhaps a small victory in seeing through this supposedly new and improved product to the transparent dish of ancient germs on offer, to recognizing all the telltale signs of authoritarianism diagnosed long ago by Freud, Wilhelm Reich and Hannah Arendt: opportunism, false sophistication, the longing for a strong leader, repressed homosexuality, a fear of contamination by the female, mistrust of Jewish intellectualism, organized religion, crudity, spiritual rootlessness.

Just as there is now a less sanctimonious Dirtbag Left anchored by podcasts like Chapo Trap House and Cumtown, there had to eventually be a dirty or more licentious right that harnessed sexual perversity. The New Right also has a really weird hard-on for the Soviet Era, including the old Orwellian habit of concatenating new terms like Comintern and Politburo or Alt Right and Trad Cath. And it is a hard-on they will have to live with, because these lads long for the submissive agony that comes from denying both self-release and release from an unsuccessful marriage bond; they are trying to be more Catholic than the Pope.

New political voices will continue emerging from the safety of the subscription-only underground, where they use juvenile pseudonyms, comic license and false irony, keeping their captive followers riled up in regular installments. In a doomed quest for legitimacy, they have now started publishing their blog contents as books and trying to promote their amateur ideologists as literary geniuses.

This New Right is understandably nervous as they emerge from obscurity and fandom. But like most contemporary Americans, they don’t seem to even understand what politics is. They enter it as if it were a rivalry between two campus frats. Instead of the old clique of smug and heartless elitists, the new one is a pack of cheap and gutless cowards, afraid to even come out and say what they think or face the general public in the light of day. They are afraid of the complete whack jobs in their own audience and afraid of their culturally more accomplished opponents, who in their hearts they know are right.

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SAID SHIRAZI has written for Dissident Voice and PrintCulture.


SAID SHIRAZI has written for Dissident Voice and PrintCulture.

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