Ego Credo

Compact’s Obituary

Compact’s resignation on the Fourth of July of senior editor Nina Power marks the death of a directionless magazine which has been flailing for months. The occasioning cause was the circulation of a screenshot of an obviously ironic private dialogue between two friends, herself and I, making light of the psychosis of the contemporary far Left and our relentless harassment by it which was misleadingly framed by a mentally ill “anti-extremist” activist in order to instigate a fresh round of abuse.

As usual nobody really believes that this is evidence of anything, just as in sixteenth century Europe nobody really believed that their neighbor was truly a witch. What people recognize is that pretending it does grants an outlet to discharge their desires for sadistic aggression and restore a feeling of agency to their unhappy lives.

All this exemplifies the fanatical cynicism that today substitutes for belief in current year Western society. It is not a coincidence that the original witch craze took place at the dawn of modernity, after Copernicus and the splintering of Christianity and the extension of print. Because the world has destabilized, traditional forms of belief, embedded in a sacramental reality, have stopped functioning. The witch both embodies and temporarily relieves the anxiety in the certainty of orgies of blood.

Compact’s acquiescence to this well-theorized dynamic is a stunning defeat for an outfit which has previously claimed to oppose it, and has repeatedly analyzed it, but it is not a surprise. The political line of the journal has been confused since inception and lately erratic: recent activity by editor Sohrab Ahmari include flailing attacks on the “Nietzscheanism” of Passage Prize editor Jonathan Keeperman in support of Antifa journalist Jason Wilson, an attempt to associate the New Right with terrorism, mass blocking of critics and increasingly free accusations of “racism.”

All of this is about weakness and fear, but not only. Concerned that the appearance of scandal might frighten their respectable donors, Compact editors abandoned their higher convictions to safeguard their status. But what is respectable about people that do this? How does this judgement present itself to itself? Compact had a chance to demonstrate genuine leadership by drawing a hard moral line and defending it. Had they done so, they could have turned their project around. Instead they’ve surrendered their last claim to authority. Who could ever take them seriously again?

One political lesson to take from this story is the unworkability of the radical centrism strategy that Compact initially sought to employ. Yet they never really grasped the roots of the contemporary crisis. They convinced themselves it was a question of policies and incorrect ideology to be combated dogmatically by a Christianized Socialism, but the issue is collaborative structures, spiritual force and morale. Effectively operating in a complex and dangerous environment requires exceptional people who don’t crack under pressure because they know what they are doing and why. American revolutionary leadership, dissident political and cultural circles behind the iron curtain, and the Italian Arditi in the First World War… the model is a hybrid between a special forces unit and a jazz quartet; men and women perfecting and combining their talents to achieve things they couldn’t accomplish alone. Opposing this is the mob paradigm we witnessed last week: not an expression of purpose and discipline but metastasized mental disorder made up of people who don’t even really know who they are.

It isn’t a question of an eternal metaphysical struggle between the Left and the Right, since symbols change meaning and signals can sometimes be misfired or faked, but of the permanent conflict between these forms of activity in a climate of Leftist hegemony. Because the default assumption of the generically socialized citizen for the last sixty years has been that Leftism is basically good, and Rightism basically bad, and because the world propaganda regime that brings you this message today is degenerating into naked dysfunction and tyranny, Leftism is no longer an ethical or intellectual structure, but a matrix of alibis for whitewashing bad faith. What defines it isn’t convictions but a lack of convictions employing legitimatized symbols to channel pathological drives: thus we watch the incredible spectacle of transgender Hamas supporters claiming to care about antisemitism, anti-capitalist activists mobilizing to support corporate medical larceny and liberal progressives cheerleading role-playing neo-Nazi militias controlled by a mafia state in Ukraine.

These contradictions and ironies are lost on these actors themselves, who also lack the will and capacity to critically reflect on their concepts. Despite some limitations, Mark Fisher’s model of a “vampire castle” retains an explanatory power. A vampire has no reflection, that is, is incapable of reflexive self-consciousness and the higher faculties that depend on it, including analytic capacity, moral reason and memory. What sometime appears from the point of view of the Right as a diabolical plan is really the spontaneous organization of the absence of any plan whatsoever beyond the immediate gratification of drives. The maxim from Proverbs encapsulates the whole paradigm: the locusts have no king. But they all advance in ranks.

A vampire cannot enter a home without being invited: this invitation amounts a failure of intention and nerve. Finally any concession to extant passive nihilist (Leftist) ideological rhetoric (for example, by denouncing satirical “Hitler memes”, as if wasn’t the Left which made Hitler a meme) flashes a sign of submission which opens the door to enforcement actions like the one which unfolded last week.

The price of being a party member in good standing is accepting the authority of the party’s enforcers, but what they enforce isn’t dogma but weakness. In the same way that a drug addict — or rather the addictive structure itself — seeks to coax others into webs of addiction and responds with hostility to anyone trying to exorcise it, the Left — which is also a parasitic moral-libidinal structure — looks to prevent its own membership from escaping its clutches by enacting spectacular violence on its most articulate renegades. The reason why Nina Power and other ex-Leftist apostates are attacked so relentlessly — Mark Fisher, for his part, was driven to suicide — is to terrorize its own cadres into remaining in line. The Left blocks its servitors from engaging in any activities which would strengthen their minds and their wills, and encourages modes of behavior contributing to self-hatred and guilt, including drug abuse, prostitution, and participation in mobs.

The critical axiom isn’t no enemies to the right, but no friends to the left: that is, no political friendship with what the contemporary Left represents: self-delusion, self-pity, guilt, resentment, and fear. The Left isn’t bad because it is Left, but because it is the political form of these things. This recognition is especially critical for people who have suffered from the Left’s persecution, and/or persecution more generally: many victims of cancel culture have never recovered precisely because they’ve internalized the idea of themselves as a victim, which is the emblem of weakness, self-pity and fear. The precepts “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” were conceived for this reason: not for the sake of the enemies, but as watchwords against the psychological spiral which powers them. Finally the enemy is this spiral itself, not the destroyed individuals who have made themselves into its slaves.

This point of course extends naturally to what one should feel towards the author of an interminable cancellation campaign against the whole world and his morally comprised helpers. It would be a waste of time to relitigate a legal case which ended nine months ago by correcting the most recent edition of deliberate distortions, elisions, exaggerations, and lies which have emerged with respect to it (a summary of the key facts is here, Nina Power’s apologia is here, and a full record of documents, including transcripts and witness statements, is now available here) but worthwhile to analyze the meaning of this form of production more generally. The critical question concerns the psychology of an unemployed man in his forties who has spent the last seven years — tens of thousands of hours — behind a computer screen with his blinds drawn in a million pound London flat assembling a vast archive of screenshots as a shrine to his victimhood and a trophy case of vendettas.

What’s on display is an extreme example of a psychological type which has become increasingly prominent over the last decade because derived from the structure of the global attention economy, and the derealization it generates. Here again we observe the destruction of a meaningful world, and now even a sensuous world, and its replacement by an ideological flatland of electronic abstractions. Observed day and night in unblinking surveillance patterns emerge from the static like faces from rain: perception degrades to a pinhole, the self and the other switch places and the world comes to turn around torture. What do they mean? Are they mocking me? Are they all working together? What are they doing? They’re obsessed with me… I can’t allow this. I’ll stop them, I’ll

What is at stake here is a psychopathological structure which has lost the capacity to make meaningful sense of the world. The idea other people are not merely mirrors but have feelings and thoughts of their own, and also the right to narrate their own feelings, has become incomprehensible, and ultimately intolerable. Everything has only one meaning, and if this meaning is challenged, this challenge confirms the same point. To truly capture this story would require the imaginative techniques of fiction; amongst the most successful examples in Evan S. Connell’s 1967 novel Diary of a Rapist. When these kinds of people acquire political power the result is what Polish psychiatrist Andrew Łobaczewski’s book Political Ponerology called a pathocracy: the key 20th-century examples are National Socialist Germany and Bolshevik Russia. Today we are living through a new version in the form of what Christopher Rufo has called the Cluster-B society. But the critical question is what where we’ll be living tomorrow. 

It was with respect to this question that Nina Power and myself launched a legal case in April 2019. By that point we’d both been the targets of an activist harassment and smear campaign for two years. We’d seen the violent intimidation and closure of a contemporary art gallery in London for daring to investigate meme culture and the new online Right, the intimidation and closure of an Israeli bookshop in Berlin on charges of promoting Nazism for hosting a talk about Julius Evola, the circulation of an anonymous blog post claiming Nina and myself were connected to a Turkish ultra-nationalist group called the Grey Wolves for sharing a private joke on a live-stream, the picketing of a talk in Berlin about cancel culture by an Antifa activist famous for writing murderous fantasies about his political enemies, the creation of a vicious anonymous Twitter account by a woman employed by Cherie Blair (is this what she is employed to do?) to denounce and harass Nina Power and other gender critical feminists, a failed attempt to de-platform us from delivering a lecture about these experiences in Prague, a number of successful attempts to de-platform us elsewhere, and multiple false allegations, death threats and physical assaults. None of this was exceptional: similar things were then happening to hundreds of people and there was no sign of anything slowing down soon.

At that time the New Right wasn’t anywhere close to what it is now, and our theoretical grasp of what was happening was also much more limited. In particular, we remained undecided on how much what was happening to us was being driven by cynicism, and how much by insanity. But we believed that the key issue in either case was a question of courage, and the absence of courage, beginning with the courage to think, and that it would be necessary to demonstrate courage against what what was happening generally. We also believed that it wouldn’t be possible to replicate the same tactics which were being deployed on social media in a court room. We knew very well that we had truth on our side and thought that this would be the decisive factor. But this turned out to be completely incorrect.

Ultimately what counts in a trial is money, and now things can be made to appear through exactly the same methods used by Antifa activists: guilt by association, deceptive elision of details, loaded descriptions, systematic distortions, evasions, exaggerations and lies, now being billed at a thousand pounds sterling per hour. Ultimately, we didn’t win our case because our opponent’s father spent over a million pounds on a high profile law firm known for their efforts to “financially cripple” the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia shortly before she was blown-up in a car bomb to turn white into gray and then gray into black by bombarding us — for four years, sometimes daily — with long, threatening, and often abusive emails, simultaneously designed to exhaust us and to create an elaborate contraption of mirrors and smoke screen that was effective in hoodwinking an incompetent judge.

Because it was never his money, because he had (and still has) nothing else in his life, because he has no capacity for perceiving reality through his skein of delusional fantasies, and because he appeared to delight in the feeling of grandeur and power which the whole process gave him, our opponent had no interest in reaching a reasonable settlement. Nevertheless, despite his attempt to claim victory, he lost his own case, he was shown to have repeatedly lied and his father won’t get one cent of his money back. Now we’re both bankrupt, but bankruptcy isn’t an inappropriate or even especially bad state for philosophers. Nobody broke our spirits, and no one ever will. Finally, we succeeded in staging at the High Court in London through some of the most critical philosophical and political questions of our time. The ultimate verdict is still to be delivered, because the final authority is the tribunal of history, and we have no doubt whatsoever it will rule in our favor.

The full, unedited transcripts of the courtroom case between Miller & Power vs Turner can be read/downloaded here.

Daniel Miller is IM—1776’s literary editor.

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