L. A. Marzulli is asking for money to pay the costs of his weekly radio show because YouTube won’t let him sell commercials in the recordings he posts to their site. This is because his videos are about Islamic terrorism, mass shootings, and other topics explicitly prohibited from commercial sponsorship under YouTube’s very clear terms of service. However, Marzulli has spun YouTube’s longstanding ban on monetizing videos about current events, violence, and terror as an attack on conservatism. He implied a link between YouTube and “Antifa” (anti-fascists) and claimed that they were engaged in a war on conservatism. Oh, and he asked for cash money: “We are now looking for sponsors for Acceleration Radio or those of you who would consider donating on a monthly basis to help with the production costs. We have already had one sponsor—the makers of an amazing cleaner, JINGOS—offer to help.” Jingos is a brand of pet urine cleaning products. Insert your own joke here, and be sure to avoid Jingos. Any company that would sponsor hate radio to sell cleaning spray doesn’t deserve patronage. I do not begrudge a radio show looking for patronage or sponsorship; everyone needs to pay the bills. I do, however, dispute the idea that it is a conspiracy when he does not get the money he thinks he deserves.
Marzulli’s bitterness stems from his upset that he isn’t on the receiving end of the web of financial support that makes rightwing propaganda such a lucrative industry. As Buzzfeed News detailed this week, a network of very rich conservative businesspeople pump obscene amounts of money into fringe rightwing outlets and orchestrate their proliferation with the purpose of creating alt-right propaganda that appeals to white nationalists, racists, and Neo-Nazis. Buzzfeed examined a trove of emails that lay out the operations of Breitbart News, and the machinations that turned provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos into an alt-right celebrity. The three most important takeaways from the trove of emails are:
I’m not particularly interested in the sordid story of Yiannopoulos’s riff on Anne Coulter’s schtick, but I am interested in the repeated claim from him and Bannon and their friends that they are not white supremacists but rather “Western supremacists.” This is the same claim, you will recall, that ancient astronaut theorist and Pan-Aryan chauvinist Jason Reza Jorjani made, in different words, in describing why he disassociated himself from Richard Spencer’s brand of white ethnonationalism.
Bannon wrote to Yiannopoulos that minor culture war stories weren’t of interest to him. Affecting the spelling of half-educated teenager, he expressed his view that there is a war for the heart of Western civilization: “Dude---we r in a global existentialist war where our enemy EXISTS in social media and u r jerking yourself off w/ marginalia!!!! U should be OWNING this conversation because u r everything they hate!!! Drop your toys, pick up your tools and go help save western civilization.” But what, precisely, does Western civilization mean to these people?
What fascinates me is the limited conception they have of Western civilization. In many respects, the portrait that the emails reveal is of a group of powerful people who have embraced the Nazi pseudohistory of civilization, who see the West as essentially America, Britain, and Germany, united in Teutonic-Anglo-Saxon reverie and defined by violence. They obsess over these countries’ wars against Muslims, but seem largely indifferent to Christianity except as a historic element of the West.
Theirs is a highly negative view of culture, made worse by the fact that they feel that the only defense of the West is to attack everything that they perceive as being anti-Western, as though the West were not always a hybrid of various peoples, beliefs, and practices from all over the world. Just to take the obvious: Christianity was not born in Europe.
But it is the negative vision they have of “saving” the West that amazes me. They do not celebrate Christianity or Christendom, but rather attack Muslims and joke about gassing Jews. They do not honor Western art, literature, music, philosophy, or cuisine; instead, they strategize over whether they can promote “a legit racist” instead of more subtle appeals to pseudoscientific ideas about differential IQ by race. Once we see a discussion of “European identity and the Western greats,” presumably referring to ethnonationalism and Western culture, but it occurs only in the context of defining white Europeans against brown Muslim immigrants. What makes the West great, white nationalist and Yiannoupolos colleague Devin Saucier claims, is the “high IQ” of “white” countries over their black and brown counterparts.
How did we end up in a place where “Western civilization” is becoming a code word for “whiteness” among those who want to be racist without seeming so? It reduces the whole history of the West to racism in the service of imagining that white men are synonymous with civilization. I couldn’t help but contrast this form of race-tinged activism with the equally acerbic but much more urbane Western advocacy in the New Criterion. This magazine is just as right-wing, but it promotes its conservative cause by celebrating the best of Western culture (albeit with plenty of well-heeled jabs at liberal academics) rather than using Western culture as a proxy for racism. What does it say about Breitbart’s—and Bannon’s—love of the “West” that their view of it is essentially a negative, merely the opposite of the Muslim, brown, foreign East? Someone, though, needs to take back Western civilization from those who would make it a synonym for whiteness, and those who would make belief in its ideals synonymous with reactionary politics.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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