Recently, a number of valuable essays have offered various histories of neoreactionism, including Shuja Haider’s “The Darkness at the End of the Tunnel: Artificial Intelligence and Neoreaction,” published in Viewpoint, and “No Platform for Land: On Nick Land’s Racist Capitalism and a More General Problem” by the Shut Down LD50 collective. (Also check out Yuk Hui’s “On the Unhappy Consciousness of Neoreactionaries,” in the latest issue of e-flux journal.) Another piece that uncovers a key genealogy behind figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and Nick Land is “The Silicon Ideology” by Josephine Armistead, which traces modern neoreactionism back to the technology and ideology produced by Silicon Valley starting in the 1960s and '70s. Armistead’s piece first appeared on the web last summer but it hasn’t had the audiences it deserves. Read an excerpt below, or find the full text (in PDF format) here.
But all of this is ignoring the “alt-right” side of the culture. Let us, then, delve into the wretched hⅳe of chan culture and see how it birthed the alt-right. 4chan was founded by Christopher Poole, then 15 years old, under the name “moot”. It was based on the Japanese imageboard Futuba Channel (2chan) and originally intended as an imageboard for discussion of anime. By default, users would be afforded anonymity, and moderation was lax, only prohibiting clearly illegal content, upon the nature of which I shall not elaborate (and even that was gⅳen leeway). Originally (and, to an extent, today) 4chan had several cultures based on the board in particular and its topic of discussion. However, the anonymity and lack of moderation made its userbase quickly homogenize, especially in the random (/b/) board: shock-value centric humor (which, though originally supposedly ironic, in the vein of the use of fascist imagery by punk, metal, and industrial bands, quickly became earnest) and surrounding racism, misogyny, homophobia, and tansphobia was the centepiece of the culture, and so the userbase quickly became limited to young white cis straight men, who could show their investment in strutures of power. This made 4chan an excellent place for recruitment by white supremacists, patriarchs, &c &c, who at this time were centered on Daⅵd Duke’s website Stormfront, who quickly took over the boards /news/ and, later, /pol/. Furthermore, this culture lended itself easily to rage against “uppity” members of marginalized populations. With large numbers of anonymous masses who could easily be whipped into a rage, 4chan developed new harassment tactics. Most of these developed out of old troll techniques that originated on Usenet in the 1990s, but now instead of merely being used “for laughs” (though this was still the stated intention), these were largely weaponized against marginalized people in raids. In 2014, the biggest example of this occurred with the debacle known as GamerGate. In order to understand that, we must remember that traditionally in America, ⅵdeo games had been marketed to the audience that was likely to use 4chan, and engaged in the æstheticization of war and technology–but women, people of colour, and LGBT people always had played games and were a quickly growing audience for ⅵdeo games. Thus, in recent years, games that did not feature or emphasize the æstheticization of war and technology, or the objetification of women had grown in popularity and critical acclaim, much to the displeasure of the “traditional” audience of ⅵdeo games, who had called for serious critique not ten years prior in an attempt to legitimize their hobby (for this, see their engagement with the late Roger Ebert on the topic) but seemed unable to square with the ramifications of critique: they wanted legitimacy but not criticism, especially not social criticism, and they especially wanted to limit the demographics of ⅵdeo game players to themselves, and the range of ⅵdeo games made to those that participated heaⅵly in the æstheticization of war and technology.
Image: Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and neoreactionary. Via Business Insider.