Sunday, September 16, 2018

A mindset here to stay

“MAGA Mindset” is a book by Mike Cernovich, a popular blogger and Twitter personality. He is mostly known for his tweets and Periscope broadcasts on Hillary Clinton's health and various media hoaxes. His two designer dogs Dante and Julius have also become Twitter personalities of some standing. Cernovich, who calls himself libertarian and New Right, supports the campaign of Donald Trump and calls on Trump's voters to boycott the rest of the Republican ticket. “MAGA Mindset” is published by Vox Day's Castalia House, an Alt-Right outfit. Weirdly, Castalia is based in Finland and Cernovich's work is therefore protected by Finnish copyright laws!

“MAGA Mindset” (MAGA refers to Donald Trump's campaign slogan Make America Great Again) is somewhat eclectic. It deals with Trump's political campaign, its significance for the New Right (or Alt-Right), and the author's Twitter activities. However, about a third of the work is a tie-in to “Gorilla Mindset”, a non-political self-help book also penned by Cernovich. Trump is a great admirer of Norman Vincent Peale, the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking”. Cernovich connects his own ideas on self-improvement to both Trump and Peale, arguing that ordinary Americans can make their personal lives great again by applying the lessons of Trump's success and Peale's affirmations techniques. I admit that I only skimmed this section, not being very interested in improving myself at the moment…

In the more political sections, Cernovich explains his reasons for supporting Trump's candidacy. He also discusses some of the more general reasons for “The Donald's” seemingly inexplicable rise as a serious contender for the White House. Cernovich has a tendency to conflate the analysis of broader cultural trends with his personal reasons for supporting Trump. Either way, many of the issues he raises are interesting.

Cernovich argues that voters don't really care about Trump's concrete policy positions (with the possible exception of immigration reform). He acknowledges that the mercurial candidate frequently and deliberately changes his policy stances. Rather, people support Trump because he is seen as an effective counterblast to the stifling climate of political correctness, the feminization of Western Man, and a “conservative” GOP establishment which is indistinguishable from the liberals and leftists they are supposed to be opposing. Trump is seen as a real American, a self-made man, and above all a *man* in the unabashedly masculine sense. The Trump phenomenon became inevitable once the Republican Party turned globalist, pro-immigration, weak and “cuckservative”. The author supports White identity politics, neo-masculinity and isolationism in foreign policy. He comes across as pro-Alt Right (the weird term “cuckservative” is an Alt-Right slur against mainstream conservatives). While Cernovich says little about the future, he does warn the establishment that Trump's movement isn't going to disappear even if Donald J Trump himself looses the elections. Even the biased opinion polls show that Trump is supported by around 40% of the American electorate – a stunningly high figure for a candidate who is deliberately contrarian and subject to constant attacks by the mainstream media. The MAGA Mindset is here to stay.

As a frequent “troll” on Twitter, Cernovich devotes a large portion of his book to the power of social media. Trump is the first candidate in American history to really understand the power of Twitter, YouTube and similar forums. He is not dependent on traditional media coverage and can effectively bypass and short circuit the “gatekeepers”. (As a side point, let me note that the moderators during the second presidential debate actually complained about Trump using Twitter to get his message across – an obvious Freudian slip.) Trump's supporters, including Cernovich himself, use the same methods. The media has completely lost control of the news cycle and is frequently being forced to cover stories which originally emanated from Trump-supporting Twitter feeds.

Cernovich also points out that Trump is good at trolling the media by deliberately outrageous statements. The inept “talking heads” and pundits have a tendency to treat Trump's bizarre gaffes as they would treat scandalous remarks by mainstream politicians, not realizing that they are being “owned”, since a contrarian like Trump thrives on bad publicity. This explains the otherwise baffling fact that essentially no scandal can hurt Trump's brand. (Another side point: pretending to be a madman in order to entertain the crowds or troll the press is actually a common populist strategy in Europe, although a drawback is that some of the populist candidates turn out to be crazy for real! The fact that Trump's sidekicks, such as Pence and Giuliani, seem pretty normal is a good indication that the real estate tycoon is perfectly normal himself.) A whole chapter of “MAGA Mindset” deals with media hoaxes exposed by Cernovich to show how corrupted the mainstream press and TV networks have become, further underlining the importance of social media.

Despite the above, “MAGA Mindset” isn't really a book about Trump's campaign, per se. I rather see it as a one-man manifesto from Mike Cernovich on why he supports DJT. However, since Cernovich's Twitter feed is extremely popular, I do think the book can tell us a thing or two about at least a subset of Trump voters. The Clinton campaign would probably call them deplorable and irredeemable! While “MAGA Mindset” isn't Alt Right in the strictest sense of that term, it's definitely pro-Alt Right or Alt-Lite, representing the views of a libertarian sector moving towards economic protectionism or even White nationalism, perhaps too close. Personally, I'm not Alt-Right. In fact, I'm on record calling Cernovich's editor “God's vampire” and “somewhat to the right of Genghis Khan”, but since this little oeuvre did contain a few interesting angles, I will give it the OK rating. Besides, both I and most Americans (that would be Trump's current voters + Sanders' former voters) do think the political system in these United States is long overdue for a massive overhaul. In that sense, at least, both Cernovich and his macho hero are right. Deplorable or not, the MAGA Mindset really is here to stay.

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