Last year I started showing up at Dissident Right events, as well as trying to interact with some of the figures on-line. The main reason was to meet some of the leaders and see them in a social environment. The impression you get of people from television or from their internet activity is always much different than their real life personality. I figured if I was getting quoted and linked to by people in this thing, I should meet them and get to know them. A funny thing that happened is people at these events wanted to meet me.
Now, I’m no rock star so it’s not as if people are chasing me down the street looking for a selfie or autograph. Even so, it is flattering to have someone walk up to you and thank you for your efforts. I was approached at a bagel shop recently by someone who recognized my voice and decided to see if I was the man behind the podcast voice. I’m not very good at handling these encounters. I usually resort to false modesty, as I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I also have no great desire to be famous, but I get the attraction of it.
Now, there are very famous people, who are very good at being famous. They enjoy it and they know how to handling it. I once saw a famous guy do selfies for fans, while carrying on a conversation with a friend. My guess is the truly famous, the people most everyone recognizes, look at celebrity in the same way that most of us look at filling out a time sheet or an expense report. It’s just a part of the job and they treat it as such. Those fans asking for selfies have no impact on their ego, because they are just part of the scenery.
On the other hand, minor celebrities seem to be possessed with a desire to be famous and the fans that approach them or follow them on-line are how they keep score. A guy like Milo is a good example. His glib homosexual routine was a good compliment to his writing at Brietbart, but then he got a little famous. The desire to see himself on TV and internet had him doing increasingly nutty things to get attention. I’ve never been a Milo fan, but people tell me has real talent, but it has come to a sad end for him.
Milo’s story arc is a familiar one, but the proliferation of social media has brought a new version of this, the e-celeb. Mike Cernovich is probably the best example. He has no real talent for anything, as far as anyone knows, but he is good at getting attention on social media. One of the things you can’t help but notice if you pay attention to him is how much he obsesses over his follower count and impressions on twitter. Followers and friends is the coin of the realm, so all of the internet celebrities focus on growing those numbers.
This lust for recognition is certainly at the root of the endless in-fighting we see among the alt-right personalities. An alt-right person gets some traffic to their YouTube channel and before long they are picking fights with everyone they used to call allies. Because the drama results in more traffic, it becomes a feedback loop. The traffic releases endorphins in the brain of the e-celeb. It’s like crystal meth for these guys. Each hit increases their craving for the next hit. Eventually the drama blows up into nasty feuds and vendettas.
Another side of this is the leaders are picked from the pool of people desperate for attention. Some glib or photogenic person pops up on social media and they attract a crowd. Before long, the other e-celebs are inviting them on their platforms to get some second hand traffic. The result is the influential people are being selected for their vanity and lust for celebrity, rather than intelligence or mental stability. That’s why more than a few wackos have streaked across the alt-right sky over the last couple of years.
It’s possible that this is something that benefits the alt-right in the long run. The dominant media has a filtering mechanism to make sure no one with unclean thoughts ever gets access to their platforms. The result is they select for dullness and obtuseness. The breathtaking lack of self-awareness scares off more people than it convinces. The people who survive the e-celeb gauntlet, or avoid it entirely, to establish themselves as trusted voices in the alt-right, could turn out to be much more shrewd and savvy as a result of it.
A guy like Nick Fuentes is a good example. He has a creepy maturity to him that has gained him a lot of attention. He’s like Bill Mitchell in a child’s body. He’s an alt-right version of the movie Big. While he does a fine job on his YouTube shows, he often goes onto social media and posts stupid and childish things. People who talk about their IQ on social media tend to be mentally unstable. On the other hand, Fuentes is a kid so maybe he figures it out and gets better. In ten years he could be the Ted Baxter of the alt-right.
That said, it could be that new media and social media have evolved in a way that allows the people in charge to keep challengers out on the fringe. Instead of smart subversives quietly doing what it takes to weasel into the orthodoxy, they are having purse fights with e-celebs and disqualifying themselves in the process. Since your internet activity is now part of your permanent record, all those youthful mistakes will later be used against you as an adult. In other words, YouTube is a favela for political and cultural dissidents