The song for this post is Ukraina by Nokturnal Mortum. This isn’t the first far-right band I’ve pointed to on this blog - I referenced Drudkh in my post after India’s delta wave and earlier in my essay on what I consider to be the false consciousness of America’s rural population. I also reference Burzum, a Norwegian far-right one-man band, on my Twitter. Despite being extremely opposed to the politics of these bands, I have to admit that I enjoy their music. And more than just enjoy their music - I find it powerfully alluring. It channels a subdued rage and melancholy which…resonates.
Slavoj Zizek once commented on the band Rammstein in a way that illuminates what’s happening here:
For Žižek, far from being sympathetic to Nazi ideas, Rammstein show us the ridiculousness of Nazism by allowing us to experience its emotional structure and the way it works by stirring us up into a violent frenzy, whilst attaching this to something divorced from Nazism completely. This shows us how Nazism works, and undermines its claim that our emotions are stirred by its greater cause or anything like that; they can be stirred up this way for anything, even for a New German Hard band like Rammstein. For Žižek then, ‘the way to fight Nazism is to enjoy these elements […] suspending the Nazi horizon of meaning and undermining Nazism from within.’
This defense falls apart for avowedly National Socialist-aligned bands such as Burzum, Drudkh or Nokturnal Mortum. I’m not going to be so silly as to say that I can enjoy the art separate from the artist. There is clearly something about these “forbidden” bands that I am drawn to. It is maybe a childish impulse to rebel against the parent ideology within me - of complacent and content neoliberal acceptance of the world. Or maybe it comes from something a bit more fearful - that the enemies are out there and they’re coming - and the sooner we know how they work, the better.
Or maybe, it is not just that these bands talk about forbidden topics, but they also channel forbidden personas. Rammstein is the mildest form of machismo made more acceptable in liberal American circles since they are critical of America. The manner in which they do so is reminiscent as much of Ernst Junger as it is his ideological opposite: Red Army Faktion.
The Structure of Magical Revolutions
In Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions he delivered the final blow to scientists committed to their self-image as impeccably rational. The history of science, according to scientists in 1950 is one of practical and visible goals achieved through the rational grouping of experts. Kuhn helped reverse this narrative with his research of the adoption of the Copernican method - which spread mostly because of simplicity and not because of correctness. This isn’t the first time the almost-exclusively male scientific leadership had to deal with its self-image - like when doctors were murdering pregnant women because they refused to wash their hands. But what Kuhn really did was pave the way for this paper on the rise of sap in trees, which lays out the difficulty of science in just a few pages on a question as banal and seemingly unimportant as “How come sap, a sticky and thick liquid rises in trees instead of pooling at the bottom?”.
It’s no secret that I have a problem with Whig history - which is tied to the problem I have with simple narratives of progress more generally. We do not automatically get better over time - morally, economically or in any other manner. Progress is up to us to define, and very hard to achieve even after we know what we want. It more often comes at us sideways.
This theory of science has parallels to ideology more generally. Simple ideas develop and spread and within them are practical tools to help explain the world and reduce the number of questions the average person has. These simple tools are not simple in some platonic sense - we cannot very easily build a Turing machine that recognizes race, for example, which is a fairly ‘simple’ tool. It is as hard to discriminate with race as it is with any other feature. Rather, we find that tools are simple because they have been used in the past. The past is fertile ground for those who want to exploit human emotions because of the long, dark matter of our history. We truly do not know what happened to us as a species for the last 100,000 years. We have but the scantest sketches. if humanity were a single human being who was alive for 30 years, they would have only broken nondescript tools from anything before the last two years. They would know that they are at least 30 years old, but remember nothing of most of their life.
The Nazis and the Nazi bands are clearly calling out something from our past, some strange psychology that helped us surivve the past 100k years perhaps in wars fought between brothers and tribes and clans. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that the Nazis and their ilk are master practitioners of this form of sorcery of the past. And it is a magic that many leftists are immune to, for the perhaps simple reason that much of American leftism is Christianity without Christ, and it turns out even without Christ, Christianity has some ideological opposition to the type of cosmic theism that Nazis rely on.
I’m not trying to say that there are things remnant in our genetic memory - no. We know how to change genes and that would be a solved problem. Rather, I’m saying that the internal myths that pass from family to family - not just in phenotype and epigenetics - but the words we say and the postures we take and the deference we show to those of a higher station - these myths carry with them traces of our history. We are oftentimes haunted by them, unknowingly.
I’ll return to the question of this post - can racists make dishwashers? The inventor of the modern dishwasher is a woman, which is not surprising. Someone gifted with both the inventive spark and the burdens of cleaning is soon to invent an automated cleaner. We don’t know if Josephine Cochrane owned slaves, though we know she had servants she was upset at for bruising the china, and we don’t know her attitudes towards other races. But we also don’t need to - we know that despite Nazi philosophy, the Nazis produced a great many things in an industrial capacity - not just music and films but also war machines and death. Racists can produce a lot of things, we know that. Just as we can co-opt racist energy to make heavy metal, so can racists learn that same co-opting technique.
Yet, the neoliberal order wants to soothe us by assuring us that somehow racists are stupid. Racism isn’t the product of stupidity or a lack of education. It is the result of hearing a song - one that awakens a side of your humanity probably long dormant.
The purpose of the neoliberal project is to unleash capitalism upon our desires. A project to understand and demystify every source of strange energy within human-ness and then chain it to a legible and managed brand. Find that infinite engine that allows things - like love and hatred - to live forever. After all, the Nazis took religious zeal supposedly only reserved for the afterlife and bound it to the concept of a nation, which is really not that old as far as human organizations are concerned.
And so the modern method seems repellant to fascists: because the modern era does better what they try to do. It has created a new pool of the afterlife, which you can chain your energy to, to make your way into the sex cells of humanity: into that strange thing that keeps reproducing itself wherever it goes - capital. Crypto is at its stated best, the creation of a new sea, where all nutrients are capital and all beings are data stored in the impossibly large cloud. Forever.