Over the course of the last 15 months, I have taken a deep dive into the world of the online dissident Right in order to understand the dissatisfaction, anger, and resentment that fuels its deviant political views. As you all know, I have focused primarily on the views of the pseudononymously named Bronze Age Pervert and his followers. I’ve taken the time to read their essays, dissertations, and Tweets. I’ve listened to their podcasts and watched their videos. I’ve engaged them in conversations and correspondence. And what I’ve learned is both fascinating and disturbing.
In what follows, I will address the following questions: Who are the young men (and a few women) who follow the Bronze Age Pervert, and where do they come from? How and why have they been alienated from the core principles and institutions of the American tradition? How and why did they turn to the ever-monetizing Bronze Age Pervert (t-shirts and mugs are on the way) for guidance and inspiration?
Revenge of the Lost Boys
Most of the young men on the dissident Right might have once thought of themselves as believers in the promise of American life. No longer. Many of them were red-pilled during their formative intellectual years by the increasing radicalization of the totalitarian Left and by the inability, unwillingness, and cowardice of Conservatism Inc. and Libertarianism Inc. to defend the principles of a free society against the transgressions of the cultural Marxists. More particularly, they feel as though conservative and libertarian elites have abandoned them, and so they have rejected as moribund and feckless the principles and institutions they once supported.
How did this happen?
To answer this question, we must consider the social reality experienced by many young men today. This is the generation that was told every day at elementary, middle, and high school and then in college they were racist, sexist, and homophobic by virtue of being white, male, and heterosexual. This is the generation that has been told that the content of their character has been predetermined by the unjust actions of their forebears. This is the generation that has been told ad nauseam that they are the unjust beneficiaries of inherited wealth and power. This is the generation that has been reminded daily of their “privilege.” This is the generation that has been told by their teachers and preachers that they are sinners in the hands of an angry new God—the secular God worshipped by the social justice woke. This is the generation that has been told that they must atone for the sins of others. This is the generation that has been forced to accept unearned guilt, shame, and self-loathing. This is the generation that must be censored, indoctrinated, and re-programmed. In sum, this is the generation that must be punished.
Should we really be surprised, then, that a certain segment of America’s young men has become alienated, confused, bitter, and resentful?
Those who now suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are stepping outside the arc of history yelling, “stop!” At a certain point, they let out a collective primal scream, shouting “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” And when the “youf” (as they refer to themselves online) realized that establishment conservatives and libertarians lacked the vocabulary, principles, power, and courage to defend them from their Maoist persecutors, they went underground to places like 4chan, 8chan, and various other online discussion boards, where they found a Samizdat community of the oppressed.
From there, they were quickly radicalized in ways not dissimilar to some young Muslims living in the West. And then along came the Bronze Age Pervert, who told this Tribe of the Refused that “he felt their pain” and that he would be their pseudononymous prophet-warrior.
BAP and the BAPsters begin with several core sociological-political assumptions. First, the America of the Old Republic is, they argue, gone, kaput, dead, and it can’t be recovered. They claim that the political system created by the founders is corrupt beyond recognition, and the majority of American people are morally bankrupt. As Herb Stein once suggested, “what can’t go on forever, won’t” and the BAPsters think contemporary America is a twitching corpse. Second, the BAP Boys also believe that contemporary American politics is no longer about ideas and principles; instead, they claim, it’s only about power and who has it. Power, they claim, must be fought with power. Nothing else will do. Third, they believe that movement conservatism and libertarianism are moribund and useless. They’re done with Brooks Brothers conservatism and they’re appalled by postmodern libertarianism. They mock the paint-by-numbers conservatism of the Heritage Foundation and the white-paper libertarianism of the Cato Institute.
With these basic assumptions, what we might call the Fight Club Right calls for a new kind of American politics. They’re done with the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the institutions of the Constitution. In doing so, BAP’s followers have stepped over a very clear line of demarcation separating a free from an unfree society. They now accept and promote ideas that have more in common with their explicit enemies (i.e., the totalitarian Left) than with the true proponents of a free society. (For more on BAP’s political principles, see here and here.)
America, the BAP Boys now argue, must be re-founded. But on what grounds will they construct a new America?
In the place of America’s founding principles and institutions, the BAP Boys call for a new kind of politics that begins not with first principles but with “will”—the will to power. As one of them put it, the “vitalist Right is making an attempt to summon a sleeping spirit in man, to revive thumos.” (Thumos, the Greek word for “spiritedness,” is not quite the “will to power” but it’s one step in that direction.) Another of BAP’s defenders claims that what is most needed today is a “new reassertion” of “political will.” In a time of war and politics, “no mere philosophy can save us now.” What is needed today is “Action First” and principles second.
The BAP Boys have abandoned not only the founders’ philosophy but reason and philosophy per se. Even worse: they’ve abandoned reason for “instinct” and philosophy for “will.” BAP’s ideal man is, as I demonstrated in Part 1 of this series, a pirate, a conquistador, a mercenary, or a beer-hall punk.
BAP and his merry band of online warriors now view themselves as beyond the concerns of good and evil. Traditional morality is, they argue, for chumps and “bug-men.” One is here reminded of Thrasymachus’s contemptuous discussion of the “just man” in Book I of Plato’s Republic. The just man (e.g., today’s Normie conservative or libertarian) is constantly being played and taken advantage of by the unjust men of the Left. Thus the BAPsters believe that injustice must fight injustice and power must fight power. Following Thrasymachus’s lead, BAP’s position is that injustice on a grand scale makes a man “mightier, freer and more masterful (Republic, 344c)” than does justice.
Ideas Have Consequences vs. The Will to Power
The BAP Boys also reject one of the core methodological tenets held by virtually all conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals, namely, that “ideas have consequences.”
The BAPsters do not see or care to understand what Lincoln saw and understood. To his dying day, Lincoln believed that the announced moral and political principles of the Declaration were true—absolutely and permanently true—and he believed they were self-evidently true. He believed the Declaration’s moral truths were as true as “the simpler propositions of Euclid are true.” And this is why he also believed “it is now no child’s play to save the principles of Jefferson from total overthrow in this nation.” Jefferson, the man on whom Lincoln bestowed “all honor,” had, during a moment of grave national crisis, “the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times.” And here’s the key point: that abstract truth inspired ordinary men to enlist in the Revolutionary army in 1776 and then in the Union army in 1861. It also inspired Abraham Lincoln to emerge from his political hibernation in order to challenge Stephen A. Douglas in 1858 for his Illinois senate seat. To forget this fact dishonors those men who have fought and died to defend America’s abstract truths.
Not only do the BAPtistas reject the methodological maxim “Ideas Have Consequences,” they seemingly replace it with a new way of thinking about political life. They claim, as one of them put it, that any “revitalization of the philosophy of the American Founding must follow—not precede—a new assertion of that political will, sine qua non.” Said author then invokes Bronze Age Pervert as an example of what it would mean to awaken “our languid political will” through BAP’s philosophy of “vitalism.”
The BAP Boys operating premise—one might even say their “philosophy”—is “Will Has Consequences”! BAP’s new-model man will be spurred to act not by reason or philosophy but 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,” the “wolfish and predatory instinct,” and the secret desire “to be worshipped as a god”—all of which “hold the key to the meaning of life in the most fundamental way.”
The following Tweet sums up the BAPist position pretty well:
The BAP Boys’ claim is subject to many objections, but let’s consider two.
First, the very idea that one goes into a political contest devoid of motivating ideas, principles, or philosophy is simply not true; it’s never been true. Such a claim reverses the necessary cause and effect relationship between ideas and actions. Furthermore, the BAP Boys’ logic collapses on itself when they suggest that the goal of this reawakening is none other than the “revitalization of the philosophy of the American founding,” but surely a commitment to that revitalization is what spurs the “political will” in the first place.
Second, there is no reason to think that the “new reassertion of political will” called for by the BAPsters will lead to a revitalization of the founders’ philosophy rather than to something else. Once the “will” genie is let out of the bottle, it’s deuces wild.
The Will to Power and the New Caesarism
If a good and true moral philosophy can’t save us from those who seek to destroy America, with what weapons, then, do our manly BAPsters propose to fight the battle against America’s internal and external enemies?
The BAP Boys want none of the Con-Inc., Establishment, pussy-footing around with all that philosophy stuff. They want a new kind of political ruler, a political strongman, who will declare political war against the Left and make things right. The BAP Boys long for a new generation of bold political leaders, those whom Lincoln once referred to as the “tribe of the eagle,” who are motivated by thumos, ambition, glory, and the will to power.
History has, of course, known many such men, although the BAP Boys don’t seem to consider George Washington and America’s revolutionary founders or Lincoln as the kinds of leaders that they hope to call forth. Washington and Lincoln were, after all, guided first and foremost by a certain philosophy and moral principles. In the American context, maybe the BAPsters are calling on the spirit of Aaron Burr to save America.
It’s hard to know exactly the kind of political leader that the BAP Boys hope to see one day in America, but their description of such a leader’s qualities and characteristics (see their Twitter accounts) makes one think more of Socrates’s boy-toy Alcibiades or Agathocles or Periander of Corinth or Caesar or Napoleon or Peron et al. We know, for instance, that BAP has publicly praised Benito Mussolini, Alfredo Stroessner, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi.
Some of BAP’s followers have accused me of exaggerating, selectively quoting, or just making stuff up about BAP’s views. For me, there’s nothing like good old-fashioned evidence to prove the point:
It is hard to imagine that an American Hussein or Gaddafi would, after he’s completed his coup and killed his enemies and competitors, restore the founders’ philosophy of Americanism. Just sayin’.
We can get an even more concrete glimpse of BAP’s will-to-power politics by taking a look at his hopes and aspirations for the events that unfolded on January 6, 2021. Over the course of the afternoon in which a mob stormed the Capitol, BAP re-Tweeted from the safety of his faraway bunker that Trump should suspend all laws and declare martial law.
Let that sink in for a while! The rule of law shall be replaced by the rule of men. This Tweet, probably more than any other, is your window into the BAPist world.
The BAP Boys and the Historicism
How, then, do the BAP Boys justify or rationalize the abandonment of principle, particularly the principles of the Declaration of Independence, for the will to power?
In another inescapable irony, some of our slightly more academic BAPsters seem to have adopted the historicist “philosophy” of Carl Becker’s book on The Declaration of Independence—A Study in the History of Ideas (1922). Becker there wrote that to ask if the Declaration’s principles are true or not is a meaningless question. That is because Becker’s generation no longer believed that the Declaration’s self-evident truths were true.
And this is the position now taken by our young BAPsters, who think that the situation on the ground in 2021 is allergic to philosophic principles, particularly to the outdated philosophic principles of 1776. American culture in 1776 was, the BAPsters inform us, morally healthy and could sustain a free society but not so in 2020. American culture today is so debased, they claim, that the founders’ retrograde philosophy is no longer relevant for the twenty-first century.
For Abraham Lincoln, however, unlike Becker and the BAP Boys, the question of the truth status of the Declaration’s principles was not a meaningless question. In fact, it was the only question that mattered. And on that very question, hundreds of thousands of men dedicated and ultimately gave their lives in a real war rather than fighting with pea-shooters on Twitter. This is why Lincoln implored his fellow citizens to reject John Pettit’s heresy—i.e., the claim the Declaration’s self-evident truths were actually “self-evident lies”—and to return to the secular sacraments of the old republic.
Even the philosophically incontinent Carl Becker realized in 1942 when he re-issued his book on the Declaration of Independence that, in the face of Nazi atrocities, he might have been wrong twenty years earlier. Interestingly, when Becker wrote a new introduction, in 1941, to his book on the Declaration, in the face of the “incredible cynicism and brutality of Adolph Hitler’s ambitions” and an advancing Nazi state, he was forced to rethink and “reappraise the validity of half-forgotten ideas” and to once again “entertain convictions as to the substance of things not evident to the senses.” As Hitler’s military was attacking and brutalizing the people of Europe and as his police state at home was committing genocide against its own citizens, Becker was forced to reconsider and to ultimately concede—at least for the moment—that there were and must be objective moral truths that are stateless and timeless and that such moral truths motivate men to die in their defense. During this dark period of human history, Becker gained a new appreciation for the doctrine of “‘the inalienable rights of men’”—“phrases, glittering or not, that denote realities the fundamental realities that men will always fight for rather than surrender.” Becker was now willing to suspend the “truth” of relativism for the truth of an objective moral reality, or at least the possibility of one. Invariably, there is always an eternal return from the Gospel of History to the Book of Nature.
I have no doubt that some BAPsters think of themselves as patriots, but their patriotism has been seemingly corrupted by a “philosophy” of infantile regression that would fundamentally change the nature of the United States of America were it ever implemented. The good news is, of course, that it won’t ever be adopted here or anywhere else. You are living in a fantasy world if you think it will be. Instead, BAPism is a sometimes-amusing fad that will inevitably go the way of the dodo bird. The “BAP thing” is, hopefully, a phase that virtually all of its young adherents will outgrow in the same way that fourteen-year-old boys outgrow Playboy magazine.
In the meantime, my advice to all the young BAPists out there is to get a job, get married, have kids and homeschool them, coach a little-league sport, be a model of manly virtue for your children, defend your rights and freedoms, and be a patriot.