Many on the secular alt-right have misgivings about an association with the orthosphere, broadly defined. Many have more than misgivings. And to be honest, the misgivings run both ways.
One benefit the alt-right might get from association with us is that we are a restorationist movement in what we perceive as ramshackle operations. We are not jaunty salesmen for new and untested ideas, but rather disillusioned salesmen for ideas that have seen better days. We are, one might say, “used car salesmen” in the world of ideas, and selling a rusty bus is altogether different than selling a glossy chariot.
Of course a hasty paint job is one way to sell a rusty bus, and this is why so many drummers for religion smell like the chemicals that waft up from the back room at a low-rent body shop. But this is not the orthosphere way. We do not say the church is “as good as new.” We say it is not “beyond repair.”
To make the argument that a thing is not “beyond repair,” one must of course explain what needs repair, how it got out of repair, and how this process of decay can be reversed. For perfection, one might also explain how decay might have been prevented in the first place. For instance:
“This car here has great potential, but right now it has lousy compression. Its former owner never changed the oil, so now it needs a ring job. Get a ring job and then change your oil regularly, and she’ll serve you well.”
We of the orthosphere are not new car salesmen or dishonest used car salesmen. We are honest used car salesmen. Everything on our lot needs repair, but nothing on our lot is, we believe, beyond repair. And there are one or two things the jaunty new car salesman can learn from an honest used car salesman—things about how glossy chariots look after ten or twelve years knocking about in the world. Especially, he can learn how they look if no one looks after them.
Here what we know to be the Three Maladies of Mature Movements.
- The average quality of people in any movement will decline as the movement succeeds. This is because the social costs of membership decline and the social benefits of membership increase. Successful movements anticipate and make provision for this decline.
- An idea will develop in ways that are not obvious when that idea is first propounded. This is because the inherent entailments of the new idea have yet to be discovered, and because this developing idea will, in future, interact with other ideas that are not yet fully developed or perhaps even propounded. Successful movements examine their ideas critically and anathematize those that are most dubious.
- Symbols are subject to superstition, which means that the symbol very often becomes more important than the thing symbolized. This is because the symbol exists in the world of experience, which is easy of access, and the symbolized exists in the world of intelligence, which is difficult of access. Lazy movements are complacent about this; successful movements are not.
Obviously the Three Maladies of Mature Movements interact in deleterious ways. Bad ideas and superstitious regard for symbols will flourish among the lower-quality members who come aboard as the movement succeeds. Working together, the Three Maladies can all too easily become a movement’s Terminal Illness.
These are things Christians have learned (or should have learned) the hard way, through two thousand years of painful experience.
Does the alt-right want to learn these things the hard way?
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Everything above is a prologue to what I have to say about the alt-right symbol of “helicopter rides.” This symbol comes from tactics that were used to fight Leftist movements in Chile and Argentina in the 1970s. In some case Leftists were transported directly to prisons by way of helicopters, in other cases they were thrown from airborne helicopters to their deaths.
In the argot of the time, these Leftists were said to have been “disappeared.”
Zerothposition has written a good historical overview of the actual era of “helicopter rides,” but I think he overlooks a couple of relevant points. The most basic point of actual “helicopter rides” is that they are extrajudicial. They bypass or circumvent the courts because the people giving “helicopter rides” do not trust the judicial system, most especially the judges, but also, often, the laws themselves.
Real “helicopter rides” are, in other words, a form of vigilantism, or “lynching.” Like vigilantism and “lynching,” they are partly undertaken to terrorize an enemy with exemplary justice, but the more basic motive behind all of these actions is loss of confidence in the judicial system.
In the South American cases, one branch of the government—the military—collaborated with the vigilantes in “lynching” leftists who were collaborating with other branches of the government. They were engaged in a “civil war,” which is to say a war for control of the central government.
Real “helicopter rides” occur in the context of a civil war and are employed by the side that does not control the judiciary.
Should the “cold civil war” of American politics become “hot” (which no sane person desires), and should the bulk of the judiciary then take the side of the Left (which no sane person doubts), we should expect actual “helicopter rides” for Leftists. We should also expect actual political trials and political prison sentences for persons on the Right.
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I trust that very few people on the alt-right are actually rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation of a hot civil war with actual “helicopter rides” and actual political prisoners. Those whose eyes glint at the mention of these things should be checked, suppressed, and if need be, purged.
Everyone should be made to understand that the phrase “helicopter ride” is the symbol with which the alt-right presently expresses its intention to “disappear” some person or group from public representations of reality.
In other words, they are talking about postmodern “helicopter rides” in the postmodern world of mediated reality. They are not talking about throwing actual humans out of actual helicopters into actual oceans. They are talking about throwing symbols out of television programs, movies, and the curricula of the schools and universities.
Postmodern political struggles are struggles for control over representations of reality, and postmodern “helicopter rides” are therefore the instruments of those who do not control those representations in the normal way. The normal way to control representations of reality is, of course, to run the television networks, movie studios, schools, and universities.
With this in mind we can see that postmodern “helicopter rides” are already being given whenever the alt-right makes used of memes that mock and ridicule dominant representations of reality.
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So listen to the voice of disillusioned experience and police your symbols and ideas now. The real knuckleheads are coming, and they will blow up your engine if you let them.