Bronze Age Pervert, “Bronze Age Mindset” (2018) – I decided to take a look at this one because people on the contemporary far right talk about it a lot, including people close to Donald Trump, people with security clearances. “Gaze upon the terrible and stupid shit supposedly serious people are taking seriously.” Well, I had my little gaze, but I also do antifascism and watch street-level and internet fascists on my own. It might be important that the likes of Michael Anton (author of the “Flight 93 Election” essay) take “Bronze Age Pervert” seriously. But I have the inkling it’s less likely that BAP will directly advise on policy or something, and a lot more likely — in fact, is already a fait accompli — that BAP expresses a way of thinking that has already filtered outwards into the broad contemporary right.
For those of you unfamiliar, “Bronze Age Pervert” is a social media personality. He hollers about the corruption of our current age, harkens back to a period when men were men (there were a few such periods but as you’d guess, the Bronze Age is his favorite), and caterwauls about the relationship between physical strength/classical beauty and virtue. In 2018 he put out some of his stuff in ebook format. As far as where he fits in contemporary reactionary circles goes, his influence mostly runs in the “manosphere” and in “neoreactionary” circuits. Some even speculate that BAP is actually Curtis Yarvin, aka “Mencius Moldbug,” a neoreactionary writer I reviewed a while back. Whether he is or isn’t Yarvin, BAP fits in- while a screaming reactionary, he’s also pedantic and, like many in the manosphere, urges a peculiar vision of self-improvement over real-world political action. Scream online, whisper in the ear of the powerful (if you can get them- this isn’t 2017 anymore), and “cultivate yourself,” the main MO of this type.
A brief detour: what seems like a long time ago, when this book was likely being conceived and before she took her “heel turn,” Angela Nagle cut a reasonably high profile in the land of left-wing altright-explainers. We all should have seen how thin that pretense was (plenty of people did- but we all should have) between her needless cheap shots at tumblr teens, the distinct absence of the deep research into altright forums she claimed she did from her written work, and from the sort of pseudo-clever, Twitter-sound-bite quality of even her best points. One of those points was this: in no way did the altright, as we called it then, resemble patriarchy of yore. It was juvenile, vulgar, polymorphously perverse. Nagle would assure us that growing up in rural Ireland (another tell- for someone who hated identity politics, Nagle was not above making use of her Irishness for authenticity points) she knew from patriarchy, and it wasn’t that. As usual, even her relatively good points were more about scoring points against enemies on her left, in this case Internet feminists throwing charges of “patriarchy” around. Moreover, the point lands and then mires in the context of twenty-tens Internet debate like a two ton anchor in swampy bottom muck.
I say all that to say this: it should be a given that Internet misogynists (racists and other reactionaries too), even when they harken back to one or another period of the past as a golden age of gendered order, should not be expected to actually live up to even their own picture of said golden age, let alone what the time was “actually” like. It can be good for “owns.” The failure of people to live up to the standards they set themselves seldom fails to provide targets for criticism and abuse, and if the standards are ludicrous to begin with and they scream and abuse others for not accepting them, all the better. But there’s limits to that, too, and arguably that’s where books like “Bronze Age Mindset” come in.
The word “mindset” is a vague one. Most users of the word would be better served trying a variety of nouns ranging from “attitude” to “ideology.” BAP and those like him are a (likely accidental) exception. Vagueness serves them, and if you think the mind is a sort of simple input-output device you can “set” or program, then the word is perfectly cromulent. Set your mind on its course and let it fly! Don’t think too much about how you had to think — at least a little! — to get yourself on this set course. That should be your last thought! “You’ve been thinking thoughts your whole life!” As Super Hans put it in that one Peep Show episode where he and Jez join a cult. “Look where that got you!”
That’s roughly the sort of thing BAP would say, though he might use fewer conjunctions, to get across the idea he is a hulking caveman, or else throw in some dumb Internet-speak. That’s not to say he recommends something so simple as just not thinking. Oh no! He’s a Nietzschean, you see. He’s the real thinker! He sees past the skeins of lies put out by vampires who seek to prevent the true spiritual elite — who are also the intellectual elite, and the physical elite, the strongest and the prettiest — from living out their destiny. You can guess what ethnic group most of those vampires come from, though BAP has a lot more to say against the Chinese and Shia Muslims (not sure how that bee got in his bonnet but who cares) more than he does about Jews.
Biology is everything; history is mostly falsified and in fact men and monsters and weird gods coexisted, maybe (he strikes many more poses than he stakes claims, but says readers should look into hollow earth ideas). The real conflict is between those who’d “domesticate” people by getting them to live in cities, and then those who want to live wild and free with the strong taking what they want, as nature supposedly intends. The nonsense of it all is apparent and not really that necessary to rehearse here- science is true when he wants it to be but a tower of “bugmen” (domesticated people) lies when it says something he doesn’t like, history is mostly lies except the back third of the book is mostly tediously-retold stories of heroic men from history, most of whom came from at least partially agricultural/urban societies, blah blah.
Stupid to expect much sensible here. To the extent he has anything to say, it’s about the farce that is most of contemporary masculinity. He uses “gay” as a casual insult, but advances an interesting, sympathetic theory as to why boys turn out queer: they get a look at the parody of masculinity prevailing around them, abd don’t like it. Without any “real” masculinity to model themselves after, they become effeminate and hence gay and/or trans, etc. I reject a lot of the premises involved, but I do tend to think a lot of people, by no means men and boys only, have discovered themselves somewhere on the spectrum of queer because of just how awful and rotten conventional sex and gender roles are. But he doesn’t sustain any real train of even half-interesting thoughts — one wonders if he included that bit about gay boys to appeal to rich reactionary gays like Peter Theil — and like I said, spends a lot of the book telling “epic fuckwaffles”-toned versions of old stories about pirates and conquistadors and shit. He gets that contemporary Internet-based life is awful, but he doesn’t write like it.
Like I said, I think this book is less important for its potential to reach important shitheads — they’ll do awful and stupid things whether or not they read BAP or anyone else — and not really directly his impact on more everyday fash, either, at least not directly. I guess what I’d say is that BAP is an example of an emerging attitude towards truth on the part of some reactionary sections of our society.
In recent years, being wrong has not proven to be a problem for our elites. Everything from the Iraq War to the 2008 crash to the Clinton presidential campaign shows that they just don’t suffer meaningful consequences for fucking up, and often recieve greater rewards when they do. I’ve come to think that in lieu of any better explanations for the world around them, certain sectors of society have more or less decided that being factually right or wrong about things is for suckers, and even having a standing attitude towards the rightness or wrongness of most given ideas beyond personal convenience is just unnecessary. If they just carry on that way with enough conviction, then they, too, can be like our elites, consistently rewarded. They too can fail upward. That most of these same people claim to hate postmodernism, while adopting distinctly postmodern attitudes towards truth claims and towards the relationship between appearances and reality… well, that’s just the sort of factual reality they don’t have to care about.
I see this pretty frequently in street practice. Political types generally try to minimize their losses (it takes discipline to follow Amilcar Cabral’s motto, “mask no defeats”) but contemporary fascists really take it to a whole other level. What does it matter if they get infiltrated, routed, humiliated again and again as long as they can cut video for their few hundred followers on right-wing-only social media that makes them look (their peculiar version of) cool? Real world failure seldom embarrasses them. If you can really get them at their ethos, that embarrasses them, sometimes- a big manosphere figure got shamed, “cancelled” if you will, because someone dug up an essay on how he enjoyed his girlfriend having sex with other men, thereby making him a “cuck” (his outsized emotional reaction, directed at a player in the scene bigger than himself, didn’t help). But even that’s inconsistent. Reality as you and I understand it, with some relationship between cause and effect and everything that implies, is for bugmen. Supermen make their own reality, with kickass elves and magic and shit in it.
“They’re immune!” you might find yourself crying out. Well, they may be immune to facts and logic, but we already knew that, didn’t we? Immune to mockery most of the time too- well, we’ve seen that, too. Really, as unsettling as seeing people who really think the Earth is flat, or that there’s microchips in vaccines, or that physical strength is the same as personal virtue is, it’s probably a good thing. It’s good that we see what we’re dealing with. Think about eras when embarrassment actually did work, when people didn’t pipe up with their worst ideas because they were afraid of being mocked- the sixties and the nineties come to mind, that is, rising tides. Once they stop handing out shiny apples for being good rational types, it’s no surprise that people — many of them only a few generations removed from hex signs and tent revivals (or darker things yet) — decide they won’t play along.
Beyond showing the seriousness of our situation, there’s another… maybe not happy, but positive message here. People of this type lose to people who can see reality and drag the others into it. Sometimes, it’s even relatively easy- the original altright became a punchline because one dude decked Richard Spencer on TV, and because we dragged the rest of them off their forums and into real, public space, and made clear we wouldn’t put up with their shit. It’s unlikely that this form of reactionary post-truth, and others like it (QAnon probably most troubling of all) will be out to bed that easily. But if we can adhere to reality harder than they can adhere to fantasy, I think we can do what needs to be done. *’