Last year I started showing up at dissident events and I started to interact with some of the important figures on-line. The main reason was to get to know some of these people a little better. You get a better sense of people when you see them in person and interact with them. Frankly, I figured if I was getting quoted and linked to by people in this thing, I should meet them and get to know them. It turned out that many of these people 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 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.
Now, there are very famous people, who are very good at being famous. They enjoy it and they know how to handle 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. Those fans asking for selfies are they are just part of the package.
On the other hand, minor celebrities are obsessed with getting noticed. 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. Whether you are a fan of Milo or not, he has real talent, but it has come to a sad end for him. His desire for fame exceeded his ability to maintain it.
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 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 uptick in traffic releases endorphins in the brain of the e-celeb. It’s like crystal meth for these guys as each hit increases their craving for the next hit.
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 him onto 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 weirdos have turned up as alt-right celebrities.
It’s possible that this benefits dissident politics 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 a dreary sameness. The breathtaking lack of self-awareness scares off more people than it convinces. The people who survive the e-celeb gauntlet and establish themselves as trusted voices, 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.
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. The people dominating the space will be narcissistic attention whores, willing to do and say anything to get views. The result is they drive out anyone with ability, so outsider politics remains a land of unwanted toys. The narcotic of minor celebrity is not a byproduct of the communications revolution, but a product of design. Either way, the narcotic of minor celebrity is the new opiate of the masses.