I write and publish this essay to warn my friends of a great ugliness that is spreading throughout our world.
Readers of my essay on “The Rise and Fall of the Pajama-Boy Nietzscheans” will recall that I discussed the ideas and influence of the queerly-named Bronze Age Pervert (BAP), who has developed something of a following with young men on the reactionary Right. The Pervert is the author of the self-published Bronze Age Mindset (BAM), which Michael Anton introduced to the academic world with a semi-empathetic review in the August 2019 issue of the Claremont Review of Books. I’m told that since then, BAM has sold tens of thousands of copies. BAP is also a talker. He hosts a podcast named Caribbean Rhythms that is likewise generating buzz on the internet with the “youf” of the reactionary Right. BAP devotees treat him as prophet just as the natives first treated Kurtz in The Heart of Darkness.
Strangely, Bronze Age Pervert has developed a serious following amongst the most unlikely of groups, namely, graduate students and junior faculty trained in political philosophy, particularly those from the so-called Straussian school of thought. In this essay and in two more to follow, I will examine: 1) the essence of BAP’s ideas; 2) why a generation of highly educated young men has embraced BAP’s dystopian worldview; and 3) how they rationalize their philosophic turn to political Caesarism.
Before we proceed, we should recall that Leo Strauss was one of the greatest and most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. He trained scores of Ph.D.’s in the United States (e.g., Harry V. Jaffa, Allan Bloom, Harvey Mansfield, Thomas Pangle, Michael and Catherine Zuckert, and many others), who in turn have educated tens of thousands of undergraduates and many hundred graduate students.
Strauss was both a deep and profound thinker whose thought cannot be easily summed up in a few lines. If I were to identify Strauss’s two most important contributions to twentieth-century thought, I would name, first, his critique of modern nihilism and its adjunct principles of moral relativism, historicism, and positivism, and, second, his restoration of classical political thought as an inspiration for the present and future. (For a fuller treatment of Strauss’s thought, see the five chapters I dedicate to Strauss in my book, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea.)
And what of the Bronze Age Pervert? Who is this curiously-named fellow, what does he believe, what is his relationship—if any—to Strauss, what is this movement he claims to lead, and who are his followers?
BAPism is first and foremost an aesthetic movement. BAP, with some justification, believes that we live in a world of physical and spiritual ugliness. This cultural disfigurement, this “spiritual obesity,” is man-made and is the existential embodiment of modern nihilism and egalitarianism. To counter the cult of mediocrity and the degradation of all higher forms of beauty, BAP’s Twitter account (@bronzeagemantis) is constantly posting photographs of handsome male and beautiful female models, as well as photos of half-naked body builders. The Perv believes that “physical beauty is the foundation for a truer higher culture of the mind and spirit as well.” BAP is attempting to resurrect an appreciation for all that is beautiful in either its masculine or feminine forms.
We can certainly appreciate BAP’s condemnation of cultural nihilism and his attempt to restore classical forms of beauty, but his positive moral and political teaching must be rejected as false and contemptible. BAP’s politics lie somewhere between authoritarianism and fascism and possibly even worse if we are to take his podcast seriously.
What are the core principles of BAPism?
Let’s start with Bronze Age Pervert’s view of human nature. Like Rousseau, Marx, and Nietzsche before him, BAP is attempting to recover a quality of man’s true nature that has been lost or corrupted. Modern man, according to BAP, has devolved into living a mere “yeast” life. Nietzsche’s “Last Man” is a hero compared to today’s “Bug-man.” By contrast, BAP’s ideal man is a pre-Socratic, who seeks a return to a Homeric Bronze Age, where men once “had life and force.” BAP’s goal is to prepare a new generation of young men “to receive this old spirit.”
This pre-Socratic ideal antedates the rise of Western reason and philosophy. Mr. Pervert has explicitly abandoned reason and rationality for the liberation of man’s “instinct[s],” “intuitions,” and “will.” According to BAP, “Hormones hold the key to the meaning of life in the most fundamental way.” The Perv’s new-model man will be spurred to act by his “hormones” and “innate blood and desire,” the “true power of aion,” the “fire of Heraclitus,” the “demoniac and violent madness underlying things,” the “unquenchable lust for power,” the “instincts to conquer and expand the domain of his action,” and the “wolfish and predatory instinct.” BAP’s ideal man will be “possessed” by a kind of “divine madness,” and he will know “how to listen to the voice of the gods.” He will live and act through his “moment-to-moment perception” and in a “state of permanent religious intoxication.” Mr. Pervert also believes “reincarnation is fundamentally true.” We should not be surprised, then, that the Perv has declared publicly on his podcast, “Logocentrism must die” . . . “death to philosophy, death to intellectuals, death to legalism” (Caribbean Rhythms, episode 44).
BAP’s views on morality might be described as Thrasymachian. Thrasymachus is, of course, Socrates’s famous interlocutor in Book I of the Plato’s Republic, who makes the clearest possible case for the anti-principle, “might makes right.” Not surprisingly, BAP opposes conventional morality, which he says “is for cows” but is an “absolute necessity” for hoi polloi. By contrast, the only kind of moral code that applies to superior beings “who are willing to live in danger, and who don’t care for their animal lives” is, according to BAP, one based on a “biological hierarchy.” The actions of such men cannot be judged by conventional morality. They yearn to “live dangerously and do great deeds, for good or evil,” which means they are beyond good and evil.
And there’s more: BAP’s new-model man will have a “Superman mindset,” which is expressed through an “unquenchable lust for power, and this means power to become lord over life and death in your state.” The Perv’s moral ideal is the man whose “instinct” to burn, rape, and pillage provides him with the “means to self-overcoming and self-perfection.” Only when men are “driven by this kind of monstrous and single-minded obsession for the heights of power,” BAP writes, can they find the “motivation to overcome the lying, dirty ape in us.”
In Bronze Age Mindset, BAP describes (in truncated syntax) his new-model men as elevated on a “perch from where they remain watchful over the state and of territory far outside it, and swoop down like eagle for the prize; in one swoop the king of birds catches its bloody prey in fast talons.” BAP’s ideal man is a warrior, a pirate, or a conquistador, who is a “born beast of prey” and who seeks to “turn himself into a living work of art.” In fact, such men have a secret desire “to be worshipped as a god,” which holds “the key to the meaning of life in the most fundamental way.” In the end, the only meaningful difference between BAP and Thrasymachus is that the latter at least had a sense of shame!
And what of BAP’s view of justice? Not surprisingly, his view of justice is reminiscent of the 2013 movie and recent TV series, The Purge, which is set in a dystopian future where all crime is legalized once a year for a 12-hour period. One suspects that BAP’s version of The Purge is more like 24-7/365. Mr. Pervert’s purge vision of justice is quite vividly expressed in Bronze Age Mindset:
Here is my vision of the true justice, the justice of nature: the zoos opened, predators unleashed by the dozens, hundreds… four thousand hungry wolves rampaging on streets of these hive cities, elephants and bison stampeding, the buildings smashed to pieces, the cries of the human bug shearing through the streets as the lord of beasts returns.
Welcome to BAPdom, which is the twenty-first century version of Marlin Perkins’ Animal Kingdom (a Boomer reference unintelligible to Zoomers)! Yup, that’s pretty much what you’re left with.
And how do such views translate politically?
BAP’S core political philosophy can be summed up in four principles: 1) the liberation of vitalism (i.e., the “vital life-force capable of superhuman strength”); 2) the restoration of thumos (i.e., the spirit of a “primordial and primal Will”); 3) the need for Lebensraum (i.e., the “struggle for ownership of space” to develop man’s “inborn powers”); and, 4) the inevitability if not desirability of Caesarism (i.e., the “power to become lord over life and death in your state”).
And what will the new BAPist America look like? How do his core principles translate into policy prescriptions?
As outlined in Bronze Age Mindset and on his Caribbean Rhythms podcast, BAP’s political policy prescriptions include: 1) recognizing, rewarding, and institutionalizing the inequalities amongst men and the “true hierarchy of biological types”; 2) the rejection of individual rights; 3) the domination of the weak by the strong; 4) the elevation of pirates, conquistadors, and warlords as the highest and freest type of men; 5) “boundless cruelty”; 6) “preparation for struggle and war”; 7) “command and obedience”; and 7) some form of military-monarchical rule as the best form of government. The best way of life, according to BAP, “appears at its peak . . . in the military state.” (On BAP’s Twitter feed you’ll find celebratory photos of Saddam Hussein strutting on horseback during a military parade, or on his podcast you’ll hear praise for Muammar Gaddafi or Alfredo Stroessner.) Welcome to what BAP calls the “regime of sun and steel.”
And for those of you who might not yet be fully convinced that BAPism is a repulsive “philosophy,” let me leave you with a couple of last thoughts from the Perv that should wake you from your dogmatic slumbers. BAP has declared that he is not a “white nationalist.” That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that he has stated on more than one occasion that he is “a white supremacist” (see Caribbean Rhythms, episode 1). But BAPism is not your dime-store variety of white supremacist thought. The Perv goes the full monty. “My ambition, my most secret ambition,” he said recently without shame and with a straight face,
is to have one day at my disposal the territory and resources of a State and its laboratories, so that I can begin a great project, the greatest project of all, which through various [pairings] and [crosses] to rebreed the original Aryan race, or as close an approximation as possible, through some kind of a Platonic Lebensborn program (Caribbean Rhythms Podcast, episode 62).
A Platonic Lebensborn program! Got that? For you Zoomers out there who are ignorant of history, allow me to inform you that the Lebensborn program was an SS-initiated, State-supported, selective-breeding program of Nazi eugenics.
So, what is this political “philosophy”? What name do we give to it? Where do we place it on the political spectrum? You tell me.
BAP’s followers have written publicly that his principles and policies are the necessary precondition for a restoration of the founders’ principles! I don’t know if this is naive, delusional or dishonest, but I do know with certainty that it’s not true. As I wrote in the “Pajama-Boy Nietzscheans” essay, such repulsive ideas are anathema to the principles and institutions of the American founding and to the trajectory of American freedom as it spread from east to west and north to south over the course of two-and-a-half centuries. The founders’ liberalism is as opposed to such perverse principles as it is to those of Progressive liberalism.
Nor will the Perv’s ideas find any kind of philosophical kinship with the ideas of Leo Strauss and his best students. To all young graduate students possibly tempted by the false promises of the Perv, I say this: You can’t have both the Bronze Age Pervert and Leo Strauss. You must choose: it’s one or the other.
To be continued . . .