Episode 48 of my podcast is now posted here (with copious links). My guest is the Twitter poster who goes by the handle Bumbling American. Yes, he is one of those pseudoanonymous “Twitter trolls” that the kids can’t stop talking about and our elite can’t stop being scandalized by. Despite his reputation, he is, as you will hear, quite a genial fellow.
He describes himself as an ex-atheist and an ex-neoconservative. My investigation of the AltRight has revealed that most of those allied with it describe themselves as former libertarians or former neocons (or in my case, both). By his own account, Bumbling American moved toward the light (or darkness, according to taste) by way of Mark Steyn and Steve Sailer. (In AltRight circles, Sailer is typically described as a “gateway drug.”)
Bumbling American told me that he was much influenced by what Chesterton wrote (in Heretics):
Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer and more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of men.In other words, the AltRight does not stand by appearances, and it does not put its faith in princes.
Contrary to what the SPLC and the ADL will tell you, the AltRight is not dominated by neo-Nazis and neo-pagans. As far as I can tell, most of those allied with it identify as Christians, with many being of the “Trad” variety. They have no sympathy with the milquetoast mannerist Marxism of the mainline churches or with Pope Francis’ heretic blend of modernism and Peronism. In economics, they are not socialists but neither do they worship at the shrine of Manchester liberalism. Bumbling American told me that he was particularly disgusted by the Movement Conservative nostrum that GDP growth is a moral good. He referred in that regard to the Edward Abbey essay on immigration solicited and rejected by the New York Times.
Abbey was one of the first to consider the problem of SCALE (size, complexity, atomization, liberalization and elitism). This is a topic much discussed at MPCdot.com, the website that birthed the Twitter trolls (including, most famously, Ricky Vaughn 99). MPC is a thoughtful site and a funny one, but its approach is savage and scabrous. It is not for the faint of heart. (You have been warned.) I asked Bumbling American why MPC and the AltRight in general are so violent, and he replied with a question of his own, “What has civility gotten the Right?” There’s no answer to that.
The Twitter trolls are linked to the rise of Donald Trump and for good reason. They share the same approach.
When the Right was content to respond to the bad faith and outrageous behavior of the Left with wounded incomprehension (“B-b-but we’re not racist/sexist/homophobic,” etc.), it lost every battle on every front. Now that it has taken the battle to the enemy and frightened it half to death, the response from the “civilized” Right has been, “We don’t want to win that way.” Well, autres temps, autres mœurs. Each era has as much civility as it can afford, and in an era where even polite demurral is now grounds for professional and personal ruin, savagery is just the tool for the job.
But I don’t want to leave the impression that my interview was unremittingly po-faced. Quite the contrary. “I just like to tell jokes,” Bumbling American declares. I like to tell jokes too, and so we each tell some, having great (and rather vulgar) fun at the expense of Barack Obama and his lady wife.
When the inevitable question of anonymity arose, Bumbling American again turned it around. If Justin Trudeau, to give one example, was compelled to start from zero and build an audience solely on his ability to entertain, how long would it be before he gained as many as 500 Twitter followers?