The other day, the YouTube pioneer RamZPaul posted something on Twitter that generated a lot of responses and not all of them positive. The tweet was a link to a story about the arrest of someone calling himself Augustus Sol Invictus. Paul added a bit of commentary, “The former Alt Right was a movement that welcomed freaks and weirdos. The “no punch right” philosophy resulted in this.” As of this posting, the tweet had 133 replies and over one thousand likes.
Not all of the responses were positive, of course. Members of the subculture, in which people calling themselves Augustus Sol Invictus are welcome, were unhappy with Paul’s take on the matter. The general theme of the negative reactions is that Paul is ”punching right” and that this guy claiming to be a 2000 year old Roman Emperor needs to be defended. In other words, drinking goat’s blood and claiming to be a Roman emperor are not unforgivable acts in that subculture.
It probably does not need to be said, but Paul is correct. A person who has legally changed his name to that of a Roman emperor and is regularly issuing royal decrees on Twitter, needs mental help, not a political career. He’s also running for president, when he is not drinking goat’s blood in pagan rituals. The normal response to such things is to assume the person is mentally ill. Even if he is not a danger to himself or others, he should not be included in anything serious.
Paul is also correct to point out that the alt-right collapsed under the weight of these sorts of weirdos. There were so many oddballs and crazies flying the alt-right flag at one point, their enemies were spoiled for choice. The far-left media could just keep plucking these characters out and putting their profile out there on-line. In fairness, most of the people attracted to the alt-right were perfectly normal, but that’s not what the public saw when the alt-right was showcased in the mass media.
This is a problem that all outsider politics faces. The weirdo problem was not unique to the alt-right. Anyone who has attended a Libertarian Party event knows that movement has had a weirdo problem for generations. The environmental movement has had a similar problem. Most people are happy to support conservation efforts, for example, but when they see some nut dressed as an elf, demanding everyone give up their cars, they assume he and the movement are crazy.
There are two reasons outsider politics is plagued with weirdos. One is they are always going to be the most open to newcomers. They are trying to boost their numbers, so they are never going to be too picky about people coming into their thing. Even if the new people have odd ideas, the assumption is they will learn the new politics and eventually fit in. You see this with the White Nationalists, who spend a lot of time indoctrinating one another in the ways of the subculture.
The other reason for the weirdo problem is there are a lot of weirdos in a big society like America, so supply can easily overwhelm a new movement. These weirdos are always looking for a home, so as soon as something gets going, they are attracted to it like moths to a flame. Since new political movements are disorganized and chaotic at first, they have no way to ward off the weirdos. The alt-right was swamped by people whose reality was formed by fantasy literature and video games.
That is the lesson of the alt-right, one that the successor operations like Casey’s American Identity Movement have learned. Rather than try and attract the biggest crowd possible in the shortest time possible, the goal is to focus on high quality people, who can grow local chapters organically. It’s not as fun as trolling people on Twitter, but it limits the number of weirdos entering the movement. It is much harder to be August Sol Invictus in real life than on-line.
Of course, the main issue with outsider politics is that they usually form up around a complaint or a list of complaints. If the Roman emperor and the accountant have the same complaints they can end up in the same camp. At that point the accountant rethinks his position and moves along. In other words, a negative identity opens the doors for anyone who has those grievances. Often, it rewards the extremists at the expense of the sober minded.
That is the key to any successful movement in the age of democracy. The default is always going to be the shared reality of the society. The people who control the public space, can therefore always be the default position. In order to combat that the outsiders have to have a positive identity that can be both defended, but also advocated to normal people. The trick for outsiders is to remain in the realm of the acceptable while challenging the prevailing orthodoxy.
That can only be achieved by having rules and standards. This gets back to what Paul pointed out in his tweet. “A man that drinks blood and thinks he is literally a Roman Emperor is probably not my first choice for leadership material.” When the standard means presenting a respectable face to a skeptical public, lunatics drinking goat’s blood are never embraced as part of that public face. Instead they are kept in the background so they cannot cause trouble.
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