About identity, mental health, and your neighborhood nazi.

I’m horrified. I had a feeling that this was bound to happen. It did. Fascists are like cockroaches in a 19th-century house with a chronic leakage problem: You step on three, and when you lift your sight, you find twenty or thirty around you, laying on their back, flapping their repugnant little arms.

Not only am I a homosexual scribbler, but I’m also a digital marketer. This means that I spend a good portion of every day of my life, reading about digital marketing, content marketing, social media, sales, and related etceteras.

Mere minutes ago, while browsing Medium, I found an article titled “How to write emails like a CEO”. It was, in itself, tremendously useful. The following was my favourite portion:

For emails that require a more in-depth response: schedule a call. Immediately set up a call that will last no longer than 5-10 minutes. If a call needs to last more than 5-10 minutes, make time to meet with the person over lunch.

This is great advice for someone in business. It’s (and, forgive my language, but worse things are ahead): great-fucking-advice. It’s the sort of almost reckless self-confidence that, in occasional, strategic doses, can drive businesses to their goals. It’s about not allowing oneself to doubt one’s worth: “Of course they want to have lunch with me, I mean, I’m Andrew Torba-”

I visited Andrew Torba’s profile because his post was interesting, and I wanted to see more. It wasn’t long until my two last functioning neurons made synapsis: Andrew Torba was Andrew Torba, the nazi platformer. Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, a website established in 2016, ignited by the fear that social media would tilt the election by banning conservative voices from social media. I was browsing the successful byproducts of his entrepreneurial past. He was a talented, promising startup bro and blogger. He left his native Scranton, Pa., to move to Silicon Valley, after his digital advertising agency caught the many eyes of an accelerator called Y Combinator.

Torba’s character intrigues me particularly, because, in some concerns, we’re alike, and I think I could have liked him. Perhaps, I could have even admired him, in the modest, pragmatic way in which I admire those who are two or three chapters ahead of me, in the book of capitalism.

I confess: I might be a toxic liberal piece of shit who can’t bear people with different views; but, here, I’m not referring to someone who is just slightly to my right- This guy joyfully designed a platform that would serve as Twitter’s ideological dumping ground: All neo-fascists and fascist sympathizers that Twitter banned, adopted it as a meeting place. It hosted the threats and onanistic hate-posting of Robert Bowers, the author of the worst antisemitic massacre in U.S. history.

Gab (which, last week, when I started working on this piece, could be referred to in the past tense, but is now live again), is specifically a white supremacist forum. One would hope that, in spite of its context of production and initial target demographic, a website that promises to protect free speech and anonymity would host, like many others have, a heterogeneous (perhaps, even international) choir of marginalized voices. That’s not the case, Gab seems to have no value proposition for, for instance, atheist bloggers based in Islamic countries, or Eastern Europeans skeptic about their government and willing to organize around that skepticism. The only radicals Gab attracts and hosts are white supremacists. The consequence is a fascist echo chamber.

Well, one could reference other cases in which mass shooters publicly masturbated their anger online. On his YouTube channel, Elliott Rodger left a collection of parked-car-vlogs in which he ruminated about isolation and romantic frustration. Why aren’t we shutting down YouTube?

Because, even with some major flaws in this regard, YouTube’s tolerance is limited, and Youtube’s audience isn’t mostly composed of white supremacists. In YouTube’s case, white supremacist content is merely a byproduct of the platform’s wide reach. It’s, to put it in conceptually loose terms, a universal tool. It can be used by your local bakery, by a manufacturer of luxury automobiles, by an Antifa coordinator, by a college student that enjoys reading DC comics, and by a fascist.

Gab was designed as a platform where the worst of contemporary Anglo-Saxon extremism could be found. If I suffered a cockroach infestation, I’d know, and I’d wonder why. All houses have cockroaches, but it’s not normal, pleasant, or healthy to live covered in them. If the municipality plead me to shut down the health hazard that is my house, contact plague control services, and move away for a couple of days; and, when the inspector arrived, the cockroaches were still fucking there, it would be natural and reasonable to assume that I didn’t take any measures to get rid of the infestation. And, if I didn’t take any fucking measures, what is there to assume about the person I am and the company I like to keep?

I’m interested in both serial killers and neo-reactionaries, because I fail to understand them in the same way.

Let me explain: The self has many facets, it’s complex, it’s polysemic. As Virginia Woolf wrote in The Waves, “I am not one and simple, but complex and many”. The facet of my identity that I expose to my lover isn’t the same as the facet I expose to my father, or to my coworkers. It’s an unconscious compartmentalization. We naturally make a selection of our personality, tailored to our context. How can someone compartmentalize being a Nazi, or being a murderer? How can something that requires such heavy, intense and nefarious feelings fit in a compartment? – Torba’s compartments were starting to spill. Two years ago, he was kicked out of the accelerator’s alumni group, after a politically-themed outburst.

I understand the borderline unemployed skinhead who opens their eyes, every morning, to the sight of the Third Reich flag hanging from their ceiling, the obsesedé, because fascist mythology requires an obsessed commitment because it presents a world in which your heroes are dead and your enemies are in power, and they’re coming for you and those you love.

Are fascists mentally ill?

One of Gab’s most popular users is prominent white supremacist and webmaster of The Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin.

Some time ago, The Atlantic published a marvelous profile whose subject was Anglin. The piece revealed him as an ex-vegan, ex-anti-racist, ex-self-harmer, and ex-wannabe-monk.

During his adolescence, according to the piece, Anglin banged his head against walls and pavements, consumed psychedelic drugs with abnormal, worrying frequency, tried to modify his body by unhygienic and painful means.

In his early adulthood, Anglin would spend some years in the Philippines, picking up 14-year old children, and protesting deforestation and the effects of western imperialism on local culture. In a podcast, he said that the white race should be bred out. An attempt to become the self-appointed leader of a native tribe, would leave him resented and motivate him to flee the country.

Edward, a New Yorker friend he made at a Davao City hotel, told The Atlantic that “Anglin seemed transformed. He’d shaved his head and was dressed in a street-tough style, with a white tank top and baggy jeans. He was angry, especially about the subject of race-mixing. He also had a gun.” Anglin referred to the tribe that rejected him as “primitive minds”, “idiots” and “monkeys”.

Anglin’s obviously pathological past, and the almost cartoonish, chaotic soul-searching that followed, beg a question: Is his neo-fascism somehow the manifestation or consequence of a mental illness– Are neo-fascists mentally ill?

Along with several colleagues, Alvin Poussaint, an African-American psychiatrist who provided care to southern civil rights activists in the 1960s, tried to introduce a new disorder into the DSM. The belief that extreme racism could be cataloged as a “delusional disorder” didn’t prosper. But the question of whether extreme racial, gender, or sexuality-related prejudiced might be a symptom of an untreated mental illness, strengthen as we dig into the profiles of neo-fascists.

But, when fascism succeeds in the polls and in the streets, is it because a whole country has gone insane?  Most people who support fascism aren’t fascists.  Most people don’t have a passionate, obsessive hatred, but are the victims of propaganda. Their hatred is skin-deep, but it’s a skin they’ll shred. They are carried by the wave of a political frenzy, like the crying petty bourgeoise that appeared on TV, donating their cars to the Argentinian Armed Forces during the Malvinas/Falklands War. They are under a feverish dream, they are conned, and they might not know or understand the extent or final result of their passions.

The neo-nazis I’m talking about are fully aware of what their values encompass, they’ve bought in the narrative, and they are eager to act out. They know and expect the devastating praxis it demands.

If neo-nazis are mentally ill, what is there to do? The possibility of choosing to medicate people based on their political activities (independently of how repugnant and pernicious they are) isn’t one I can’t quite buy. Racists aren’t like non-offending pedophiles: They aren’t disgusted by what they are. Maybe the only responsible way to get racists the care they need is to expect them to commit a crime and introduce them to the penal systems- But prisons don’t tend to allow for much insight, growth, or any other necessary, new age, self-help crap.

Photograph by Antony Xia on Unsplash.

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