Free Speech and Mr Jones: The Old Media Resorts to Censorship

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If you have not heard of Alex Jones by now, you certainly will before too long.

Articles about Jones have appeared seemingly everywhere over the last few days.

His name has appeared in every media outlet from the Daily Telegraph to Breitbart; from the Washington Post to the Weekly Standard. Even international outlets like the Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera have referenced Jones.

He has been at the centre of countless opinion pieces published over the past few days. In the process, he has become a symbol of the precarious future of free speech. The Empire of the Old Media is striking back. They want to dictate your content choices.

But let’s start at the beginning: who is Alex Jones and why is he suddenly noteworthy?

Well, frankly, Alex Jones is a bit of a nutter. He is a conspiracy theorist who rides a white horse at the head of the pack of the international conspiracy sub-culture – now involving millions of people – that reject established historical and scientific facts.

Sociologically, he is grit in the machine for he reveals one of the great paradoxes of an unrighteous age: that just as mankind gets a super-abundance of easily accessible information, we also get bizarre conspiracy theories by the truckload. Our culture now pumps out spittle-flecked nuttiness faster than a bicycle factory in China. And within this irrational world, Mr Jones is a star in the firmament. An information-age Stakhanovite.

Alex Jones promotes so much paranoia he practically sweats.

He says that 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. He maintains that a shadowy “new world order” is taking over the planet. He argues the moon landings were falsified. He criticises vaccinations. He has claimed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates secret concentration camps. After the Sandy Hook massacre, he said the shooting was a false flag operation by supporters of gun control. The survivors of school shootings, he declared, were “crisis actors”.

Selecting a broadcast at random, and clicking to a random time index, immediately yielded the following quotation:

Do you understand the grave danger of the Jacobins? We are in grave danger of total Illuminati revolution. And what does the Illuminati call for in their own writings? That are in the Encyclopedia Britannica? Murder; death; mayhem; a boot stomping on the human face; human sacrifice; fires; burning cities; slaughter; death! Because that’s what they like. The journey is the destination for these people.

It seems there is scarcely a single anti-government, anti-authority, anti-science narrative in existence that Jones does not uncritically embrace. It is no wonder that Rolling Stone magazine titled him “the most paranoid man in America”.

One feels a bit sorry for the Mr Jones. It must be exhausting to live in a world so full of malevolent schemes. It must be terrifying to see the long hand of sinister people at work in every joint and fold of the social structure.

It’s tragic that any man’s life could end up in low orbit around such ideas. But this is where Jones has ended up. One wonders what life experiences led him to such a mental void, because Alex Jones gives himself mind and soul to this stuff. He lives and breathes conspiracy. Conspiracy is his life mission. Conspiracy is his consuming passion. He is inextricably deep in the sub-culture, like a miner buried under a hundred feet of rock. You get the impression that Alex Jones will not return to the land of the clear-headed any time soon. For Jones and his legion of disciples, conspiracies serve as substitute religions.

For those who tune into his radio show, he is regarded as a latter-day prophet from whom comes a steady trickle of truth. He commands a following in the hundreds of thousands. But despite his big fan club, Alex Jones has been booted off Facebook, Spotify and Youtube. He still has his website, radio show, and other means of communication so it is not quite the same thing as the smashing of Protestant printing presses by the counter-Reformation. Yet, there is a deeply unsettling dimension to this.

The silencing of Alex Jones on these platforms was greeted with thinly-disguised triumph by a range of commentators who work in Old Media outlets like the Guardian and CNN.  In fact, it has been quite remarkable to witness the degree of collusion among the Old Media against the operators of the New Media.

This is because the New Media is a threat to the Old. Its power is growing.

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Part of the attraction of the New Media is that anyone can be a journalist. If you have worthwhile and interesting things to say, you can get a loyal following that would be the envy of many newspapers. But even more disconcerting (from the viewpoint of the Old Media) is that the content produced by “amateur” journalists is mostly free. It is also mostly uncontrolled. People can say anything, and they do. There are no corporate bean counters; no bottom line; no CEO; no bosses; and no “party line” that needs to be followed. The New Media has remarkable independence.

As a result, the New Media reflects a true diversity of opinion – far more so than any of the Old Media organisations. In other words, thanks to tools like Facebook, Youtube and delivery systems like Spotify, what has emerged is an exercise in true democracy. It is the creation of an open marketplace of ideas where the best ideas gain traction, and the worst ideas are pilloried and ridiculed. It is wild and untamed land, but reflects the rational democratic ideal far better than any Old Media news organisation can possibly do with their rigid, simplistic, stuffy command-style approach.

The attacks on the stars of the New Media follow the failures of the Old Media to really tap into the online world and get a loyal following. Mind you, they tried once. A lot of news organisations built online websites, created new content streams, published apps, and tried to “buzzify” their news stories so they sounded hip, edgy, and too-cool-for-school. But this was always doomed to fail. The social environment has changed. At the rate things are going, Old Media influence will wane within a generation.

But worse than all of this – again, from the view of the Old Media – is the disintegration of their social power. These vast media empires once could break politicians. Like Pope Gregory VII who left the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow for three days in penance, the Old Media establishment could leave leaders sweating and grovelling too. They could ruin the lives of celebrities and commoners alike. They could break men like twigs. They could call the shots of social policy.

But those days are passing and the empires are collapsing. Increasingly, the Old Media is being heavily scrutinised, criticised, and at other times completely by-passed. The most powerful man in the world – Donald Trump – has identified the Old Media establishment as the “opposition party” and he goes for the jugular. Other Republican politicians have adopted the same tactics. Internationally, other politicians are using the same approach. A minister in the Hungarian government recently openly rebuked the BBC for their ideological interview methods.

Brilliant new thinkers appear on Old Media talk shows and make the journalists look wooden-headed and deeply unintelligent – one only needs to consider the fate of Cathy Newman and Patrick Gower whose names are forever linked to disastrous, self-righteous interviews that went very sour. Other media organisations are embattled from their own readership. The frequent rift between the readers and the opinion pieces in “quality newspapers” like the Guardian is striking.

As our Lord once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). And a left-wing news organisation that cannot even count on the affirmation of its own left-wing readers cannot surely endure for long.

Throughout the world, media organisations continue to hemorrhage millions of dollars of advertising, and thousands of readers, fans, and consumers. Time and again, cash strapped news organisations announce rounds of job cuts, layoffs, hiring freezes, and efficiency shuffles. Each time they streamline they promise this will make their organisation “leaner” and better able to “meet needs going forward”. And yet, no organisational change seems to prevent the decline of circulation – the New York Times, for example, has seen a 50% decline in print circulation in the last 12 years. Readers may click onto the websites and even pay subscription for iconic boutique news, but digital subscribers are nowhere near as profitable as print news consumers. Furthermore, like other Old Media companies, the New York Times share price in 2018 is about half of what it was in 2002 which means the market does not consider the company to be anywhere near as worthwhile as it was at the turn of the millennium.

As for the Guardian, in April of this year it published a financial update in which it reported that its losses were less than expected. They only made a 19,000,000 pound loss in the year to the end of March. This is distinct from the 38,000,000 pound loss they made in the previous financial year.

At present, the Guardian is in the midst of a three year plan to reach their grand objective of “breaking even”. That is to say, to make a profit of exactly nothing, while at the same time adding nothing to their debt. “Breaking even” is usually only ever a goal for a business that is so derelict that the investors one forlorn hope is to be able to walk away without a loss. If “breaking even” is the operating goal of a media organisation, it suggests severe stagnation.

The Guardian is now principally supported by donations from its readership as if it were a charity. It trumpets that reader contributions now earn it more money than advertising, as if this is a good thing. What it really means is that advertisers know which way their bread is buttered. With additional costs, the Guardian will make a total loss of around 24,000,000 for the year. Another rousing success story for the Old Media.

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The Old Media – and the left-wing professional class that is allied to them – have responded to the ground-level revolution of the New Media by making the case for censorship. It is truly staggering to read articles in the Guardian and other liberal media outlets that use sophistry and pretended-rationality to argue, at basic, for a person to be unable to use social media platforms – although they try to re-badge this as “corporate responsibility”. In their view, social media corporations that host so much of the New Media have the responsibility to monitor and regulate the opinions that circulate so that nothing they find objectionable will ever be encountered in that social space.

They argue – usually without a shred of evidence – that people like Alex Jones produce “hate speech” and therefore ought to be de-platformed. This is a chilling precedent indeed, and can be understood as a protective measure by the Old Media in response to the fundamental shift that is occurring in regard to their social status.

It was heartening to read on the Guardian website this morning the sheer number of readers who were able to express disdain for Alex Jones and yet vehemently support his right to express his opinion untrammeled by politically-correct tyranny. Many recognise, (despite the fog of progressivism), that free speech should be a value enshrined in any democratic practice; and to the greatest extent possible in the arts, pursuits, and behaviours of a democratic people. It should be expanded and guarded. And the inverse – censorship – should not be celebrated and promoted.

But the Old Media is not a consistent beast. It will howl against the alleged censorship of bakers refusing to make cakes for same-sex couples, yet demand its use against people they dislike. And we may be certain it has not finished its assault yet. Some predators are most dangerous when they are wounded, and we can predict with some confidence that the Old Media establishment will champion censorship and the control of information more aggressively and zealously before their sun finally sinks below the horizon.

If Alex Jones has performed a service to the age, it is the demonstration of how fragile free speech is becoming. If a relatively harmless nutter cannot be allowed to broadcast his preposterous beliefs in peace; if a conspiracy theorist is referenced by a CNN journalist at a Facebook press conference as if this was a pressing concern, it will surely not be long before any one else with views that do not fit the cultural orthodoxy (like Christians!) will find themselves fighting for a voice too.

Sex for Breakfast, Death For Lunch: The Incel Movement (Part II.)

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This is the second article in a three part feature series written in response to the van attack in Toronto which killed 10 people. Part I. considered the PUA and MGTOW identity groups that have appeared in the last decade. In Part II. the “incel” movement is explored in significant depth. Part III. finishes the feature series with a demonstration of how orthodox Christian theology offers renewal to the damaged, and the lens by which to properly interpret the sociological forces at work in our time.

  1. An Overview of the Incel Movement
  2. Black Pills, Red Pills, Chads and Staceys
  3. Hypergamy and Misogyny
  4. Racist, Right-Wing, and Rebellious
  5. The Empty Self and Authoritarianism
  6. A Online Colony of the Morally Deranged
  7. Making Sense of the Subculture

AN OVERVIEW OF THE INCEL MOVEMENT

The “involuntarily celibate” movement – “incel” for short – consists of men who have very limited sexual intercourse. But unlike MGTOW, incels want sexual fulfilment and many regard its absence as a criteria for victimhood. They are celibate against their will, they argue, and celibacy does them harm. Yet, most incels would further argue that their celibacy is not a mere accident or the happenstance of their situation. It is the grim product of a conspiracy against them by genetics, society, and above all, by women.

Given the premise of their worldview, it is unsurprising to discover that the incel subculture tends to be simultaneously dark and childish. Such a combination tends to yield an alarming propensity toward violence and hatred. Where the rhetoric is not grotesque or borderline criminal, the views they express and the solutions they propose are suggestive of a deep personal dysfunction. Certainly no mentally healthy person, no matter how sexually frustrated, could ever arrive at their conclusions. Like the MGTOW movement, the true source of their misery is brightly revealed within the sheer unprincipled irrationality of the philosophy they push.

It is important to recognise that incels are not all alike. Some are genuine in their despair. They really do feel like outcasts and cannot understand why they have seemingly missed one of life’s great rites: the formation of a meaningful relationship. Others are celibate due to physical disabilities (although many within the disabled community hotly reject being associated with incels). Still others describe social impediments that look strikingly similar to high-functioning autism. Autism can make forming relationships very difficult, as this incel explains:

Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know what’s holding me back either. I have high-functioning autism, which has been my go-to explanation for a while. A lot of people with autism struggle to find partners and deal with late-stage virginity, so it’s probably not a coincidence, but it can be hard to tell the precise ways it impacts me.

For a while, I’ve assumed that little autistic behaviors like stimming, talking to myself etc. make women subconsciously categorize me as either a creepy weirdo or a pitiful, childlike sexless being. My current therapist challenged that a bit, saying that it sounded like the cognitive distortion of mind reading. I don’t know if I completely buy that, since it’s pretty well documented that women are always on high alert for potential creeps and awkward guys can get unwittingly categorized as such, but it may be worth thinking about.

Aside from that, there’s the fact that social rituals generally aren’t as intuitive to people on the spectrum as they are to neurotypicals. I can look back at my first few pursuits in late high school/early college and see that I went about it pretty clumsily, so I may’ve just learned the ropes of both reading and displaying signs of attraction a little too late to capitalize on the dating market in college, and now find myself thrust into the decidedly narrower mid-20s dating market.

Such men are clearly intelligent and competent within their sphere, yet uncomprehending. For these, the incel movement provides an explanation that makes sense of their frustrations with the subtleties of human relationships.

The incel movement is also heavily colonised with men who exhibit a grab bag of disturbed sexual and relational behaviours. Already the incel subculture has bred at least three mass murderers, two of whom explicitly described their actions as a service to the incel philosophy. Quite apart from the lethal violence that has flowed from its bowels, incel forums are loaded with men whose self-described behaviour is not merely “creepy” but deviant. The behaviours they record represent the classic precursors to rape, sexual violence, destructive paraphilias, or other criminal perversions.

In between these extremes are a vast mass of men who are intensely lonely, anxious and sad. They have entered the subculture and embraced its misogynistic narrative as an explanatory device for their personal inadequacies and frustrations. In fact, within most incel circles, women are blamed for practically every problem in contemporary society. Women are routinely denigrated. Violence toward them is often celebrated. Yet at the same time incels are consumed with the thought of sexual intercourse.

Regardless of the motives behind each individual person’s involvement with the movement, in virtually all cases they are highly depressed and their participation in the subculture only aggravates their condition into outright despair. One moderator of a popular incel forum told the Washington Post that three members of his forum have attempted suicide. This gives some inkling into the mental state of the people gravitating toward the movement. A single suicide attempt would be rare for an online group, but three is a statistical tsunami.

An investigation into the subculture by researchers from Georgia State University found:

…involuntary celibacy is part of a self-sustaining package of psychological issues: depression, neuroticism, anxiety, autistic disorders. Those problems prevent incels from forming relationships — which in turn makes their depression and anxiety more extreme.

Clearly incels suffer with relational disorders. This becomes dangerous when it is united to a sense of victimhood and oppression. Indeed, incel forums tend to get shut down precisely because they descend into vicious bigotry, racism, violent rape fantasies and credible threats of doing harm to others.

This article was written to expose how the movement’s premises are deeply inimical to Christianity. This is only to be expected. Whenever large numbers of perverted, unhappy, or dysfunctional people collaborate, they build extensive online manufactories of hatred. Many incels certainly hate women, but there is also a deep vein of religious and racial bigotry within the incel subculture. In other words, the typical incel is not a Christian and is disdainful of Christianity. I found nearly inexhaustible examples like this:

Christianity is based on a series of transparent and idiotic falsehoods, beginning with its central premise:

There is a heavenly magical Jew in the sky who loves and cares for you.

Talk about mind-boggling stupidity. How do you even go about proving any of that nonsense? And no, your magical book does not count as evidence. Not to mention the other problems with the religion, such as nearly destroying western civilization, retarding scientific and technological progress, promoting hundreds of years of bloody internecine conflict among Europeans, and giving rise to liberalism and communism (yes, these are of Christian origin).

If Christianity is a dying religion in the west, it is because of science and mass literacy. No need to explain things with god doing this or that, like they did during the Dark Ages. Only an idiot would believe in Christianity these days, which is why it’s growing so rapidly in places like Africa and Latin America.

Groups which exist to share hatred with each other – even as a coping mechanism – are lethal to human flourishing. They provide disturbed people with plausible-sounding justifications for perversion. They encourage the dismantling of boundaries that would not otherwise be breached. And they plunge the vulnerable, hurt and isolated further into despair.

Despite this, they represent the mission field of the Christian Church.

BLACK PILLS, RED PILLS, CHADS AND STACEYS

Nailing down the incel worldview is difficult because we are dealing with a large number of men who have built a common identity around a single characteristic: the lack of sexual relations. Aside from this one characteristic, there are numerous subdivisions within the subculture.

Its most extreme manifestation is the “black pill” stream. The term is derived from The Matrix movie in which the protagonist is given the choice between a blue and red pill. If he swallows the blue pill, he returns to a life of simulated delusion. If he swallows the red pill, he embraces reality which will be much less comfortable. When incels talk about the “black pill” they mean that the “true reality” is far more savage than most people could ever believe. Thus, only the bravest and most honest incels take the “black pill”.

To “take the black pill” is to embrace a package of beliefs that include elements of social Darwinism, biological determinism, pessimism, dystopianism, and thoroughgoing nihilism. Black pill incels vehemently affirm that their fate is sealed; their future is fixed, and it consists of nothing but a grey, colourless blur.

Red pill incels, by contrast, are less pessimistic. Red pill incels have awoken to the “truth” that society is rigged against men and all women operate in certain ways for their own advantage. But whereas black pill incels conclude that hopelessness and passivity is the only response to this truth, red pill incels retain hope. They believe that they can take action. They can improve their confidence, work on their “game”, utilise some Pick Up Artist techniques, and improve their looks (something called “looksmaxxing”). In other words, this variety of incel do not forfeit the individual responsibility to improve themselves.

One incel explains the difference in this way:

Red-pill is focused on average-looking dudes to improve their looks and help them gain confidence to date women. A 5/10 guy can become a 6-7/10 after working on all of these things[:]

  • Working out regularly and building muscle, getting lean, dressing well, having nice haircuts etc.

Black-pill is for dudes who are just downright ugly and will never really find true love or be in a relationship. Think bottom of the bell-curve genetics. No amount of self-improvement will ever make them conventionally attractive[.]

To which another forum member replies:

Sometimes incels post pictures of who is an incel according to them, whether it’s some ugly celebrity, some random picture of a somebody found online, or a picture of themselves. Most of the time the caption says the person is a subhuman incel, and most of the time they’re just average looking person, not the scum of humanity, not the biggest loser of the “genetic lottery”.

Really ugly people do exist, but most incels are rather delusional when it comes to their own look.

The latter post correctly illustrates the twin beliefs which tend to result in the utter despair that is common among a broad cross-section of incels. On the one hand they are rigidly fixated on looks, yet concurrently have an unrealistic self-appraisal of their own appearance.

The narratives about appearance result in twisted exemplars. Incels commonly label the most romantically successful people as “Chads” (or sometimes “Brads”) and “Staceys”. The name comes from an imaginary man called “Chad”. Chad is a hypothetical “alpha male” who is the ultimate sexual machine. Incels theorise that this man would reflect the highest levels of romantic competence. He would be handsome, athletic, intelligent, wealthy, have irresistible sexual allure for women, and have an unparalleled degree of social mobility and independence. Chad could happily rub shoulders with the Manhattan elite and then flourish just as well in a dockside mafia gang.

Incels will often refer to Chad as if he were a real person. On incel forums they write laudatory biographies of him, with graphic details about his prowess with women (one incel wrote that Chad would have lost his virginity at 12). These biographies shower superlative adjectives upon Chad as if he were an object of religious veneration.

Here is a typical incel post:

Chad is a man who automatically and naturally turns girls on due to his appearance and demeanor [sic], in much the same way that your typical FA [Forever Alone] automatically and naturally turns girls off.

Chad feels and exudes confidence, in part because of his privileged upbringing but mainly because he has had positive feedback his entire life.

Girls don’t play games with or flake on Chad, because they know he can instantly replace them. They wouldn’t dream of answering their mobile phones while out on a date with him.

Conduct which is considered “creepy” or “mysoginistic” [sic] or “harassment” when done by average guys is excused or even celebrated when Chad does it. If Chad playfully pats a girl on the rear end she will admire his courage for having done so. She will hope he does the same again, or more.

Girls think carefully about what sexy clothes they can wear to catch Chad’s eye. At clubs and parties, they will try to sit in his lap or grab at his crotch in hopes that it will lead to the opportunity to perform fellatio on him.

When Chad cheats on his girlfriend, she invents excuses for it and puts all the blame on the girl he cheated with. To do otherwise would be to risk losing Chad as a boyfriend.

It is significant that part of this fantasy includes socioeconomic factors. Chad is not poor and underprivileged but enjoys wealth and educational opportunities from an early age, turning him into a confident adult who enjoys access to power. In other incel posts, race and age are mentioned as a key part of Chad’s character. He is almost always described as young and white, although there is a black counterpart who is given the name “Tyrone”. As these qualities stack up it becomes apparent that Chad represents for incels a totem of power which they feel is absent within their own masculinity.

Chad illustrates the recessional nature of incel profiling. As time goes on, the characteristics he is said to possess become more narrow. The narrative turns upon itself in ever-decreasing circles. Most of Chad’s characteristics relate to looks. This reflects the incel obsession with attractiveness as the prime mover of a sexual relationship. Since incels are rigidly fixated on a collection of exterior female characteristics as sexual triggers, they assume that all relationships work on the same basis.

Crude illustrations of “Chad” circulate within incel forums. He is usually depicted with luxuriant blonde hair, ripped muscles, strong profile and a chiselled jawline – jawlines being a physical feature that incels discuss frequently. It has been noted (not unfairly) that there is a definite element of homoeroticism in the “Chad” phenomenon. Incels who write about him adopt the angle of a female viewer and psychologically feminise themselves. Some incels openly admit to wanting to have sex with Chad.

On the other hand, a “Stacey” is an attractive “high value” woman who is only interested in one thing: getting an “alpha bad boy” who is powerful and competent – in other words, a “Chad”. This places “Staceys” beyond the reach of incels since they do not have the attributes they associate with masculine power. Stacey is therefore highly desirable to incels but at the same time completely unattainable. This inflames a deep resentment because incels think attractive women will readily have sexual intercourse with many Chad-like men but will not, of course, ever have sexual relations with them.

HYPERGAMY AND MISOGYNY

With few exceptions, incels are unremittingly misogynistic.

This is a true textbook-definition of misogyny not merely a flippant label. There is hardly a negative stereotype of women that has not been ram-packed into their philosophy. Incels believe that women are fickle, disloyal, treacherous, gold-digging, and callous. The full personhood of women is routinely denied. Instead women are viewed mostly as an assemblage of body parts or as mobile genitals. It is normal for them to be called “sluts”, “whores”, or terms even more repellent to a normal person.

Neither is this hatred just idle chatter. Three incels: Elliot Rodgers (2014), Chris Harper-Mercer (2015) and Alek Minassian (2018) have each committed acts of massed murder, targeting women. In two cases, lengthy manifestos were left by the killers with elaborate justifications for their actions. These men have become icons within the incel subculture. They are often referred to as “saints”. The anniversary of their massacres are celebrated on many online forums. Incels literally celebrate these men as folk-heroes and revolutionaries, as if they were latter-day Robin Hoods standing up for the sexually oppressed.

The murders are constantly discussed on incel forums and a lot of incel humour involves references to the killings. Some incels reject violence, but there is a troubling ambivalence among the majority.

Violence and suicide are frequently encouraged on incel forums. A BBC reporter, Johnathan Griffin, writes:

I saw one forum thread where someone was saying they wanted to take their own life, and various commenters suggested violence.

One said: “DON’T be selfish. Go to an elementary school and kill some children before you commit suicide. Please!?!”

Messages like that aren’t unusual in the incel community. When someone mentions that they have suicidal thoughts, they’re often egged on by other posters.

As we speak, Liam, the 19-year-old UK incel, tries to joke about Rodger’s murder spree.

“I don’t think it was even that wrong,” he says, laughing nervously. When I push, he does say: “It’s common sense, it’s wrong to kill people.”

Incels believe that society is “gynocentric”. By this they mean that women are favoured to the detriment of men. They argue that feminism caused this. Feminism has not only allowed women to be more assertive about their rights but also fortressed female values and concerns in modern politics. Some incels blame their sexless condition on feminism. They see themselves as victims of women (and gynocentric society) and they speak the language of victimhood.

Incels also claim that women are naturally “hypergamous”. (Less pretentious incels use the term “gold-diggers”.) They argue that women have an instinct to seek higher status sexual partners than themselves.

Hypergamy is a legitimate sociological concept for a pairing where one partner does have higher status in a measurable variable like wealth or education. Nonetheless, hypergamy does not define female behaviour, and it is not isolated only to women. Sometimes women “marry down” too, a practice termed “hypogamy”. These behaviours are most common in stratified societies where social mobility is limited and marriage is governed by complex rules of kinship, caste, tradition and status. In modern egalitarian societies, neither hypergamy or hypogamy are a mainstream aspect of romance. Most people tend to marry someone who is their educational or class equal.

To incels, however, hypergamy (or at least their interpretation of hypergamy) is a fixed law of human relationships. Since they see themselves as being at the bottom of the heap – “ugly, semi-educated, and poor” – and since no woman is going to partner with someone with less status than herself, they have no chance at having sex. Not ever. Lots of incels genuinely think this is the reason they are celibate. They blame female “hypergamy” or “gold digging”. Having no “gold” they are not being “dug” by cold, calculating women.

Incels have an utter obsession with physical attractiveness as the main ingredient for romantic fulfilment. It comes up time and time again on incel forums. Not a forum exists where looks are not discussed. Any suggestion that personality, behaviour, or intelligence plays an equally important part in attraction is viciously disparaged.

Another equally fixed belief is that women are naturally do not describe their own desires truthfully. Women are “naturally” dishonest or indirect, so they cannot be listened to as a guide to romance! Incels routinely malign the idea that women could be attracted to inward qualities, even when women themselves say they are.

Incels – particularly black pill incels – typically employ a morose selection of junk science titbits to support their case, of which the following is a standard example:

The results showed that as long as a man was considered attractive or moderately attractive, both mothers and daughters would pick the guy who had the most desirable personality traits. But when an unattractive male was paired with the most highly desirable personality profile, neither daughters nor mothers rated him as favorably as a potential romantic partner, compared with better-looking men with less desirable personalities.

Both young women looking for men and mothers seeking boyfriends for their daughters consider a minimum level of attractiveness to be an important criterion in a potential mate, the researchers concluded.

One incel replied:

Everything a woman says they are attracted to only applies if the man is good looking.

Comments like these betray a fundamental inability to make commonsense deductions from a rational observation of how the world works. Or, it is a sullen determination to argue for an untruth because of a sense of enjoyment in being vengefully dishonest.

A normal person learns very early in life that while looks are important to some people, relative attractiveness does not determine a person’s fate. Looks are not destiny. Yet incels insist that women superimpose attractiveness over every other consideration despite what women themselves say.

Female dishonesty and treachery is thus an omnipresent theme in incel dialogue:

This is what kills me about women they are never honest. When a woman makes an effort to compliment a man you should know that man is a chad even if they don’t admit. I remember one woman was talking about how that waiter in some restaurant is kind and professional when I went to that restaurant guess what? he was a [profanity deleted] chad and she didn’t mention that.

To which another incel replied:

Yeah because they aren’t aware they are grading looks. They think a good personality is good looks subconciously [sic]

Finally, another poster commented:

Women are naturally wired to do and say things indirectly.

This is a convenient way of dismissing women’s views and forcibly impressing incel beliefs upon all contrary data. So, whenever a woman comments about romantic attraction being more than a sum of body parts for her, it is normal on incel forums for her to receive sharp disdain and contradiction. If her comments do not fit the incel philosophy, then she is either consciously lying because she does not want to admit the truth, or she is being coy. Or perhaps, she does not really know her own mind and simply repeats socially acceptable lines like a human tape recorder on playback.

RACIST, RIGHT-WING, AND REBELLIOUS

Subcultures often have interesting overlaps with other currents active within the cultural mix. The overlaps provide clues about the dynamics within the subculture, where it has come from, where it is going, and what gives it impetus. In the case of the incel subculture, there is a heavy correlation between incels and racism, extreme right-wing views, degrees of financial difficulties, and a generalised iconoclastic tendency that permeates the movement. This latter characteristic is nearly universal. Sacred cows are slain on incel altars. Cultural heresy is enthusiastically celebrated. Anything that is politically correct is pilloried with rhetorical tomatoes soon following after. The other characteristics may not be descriptive of every incel – for example, some incels appear to come from privileged, progressive backgrounds while others incels are certainly not racist – but judging from the sort of posts found on forums, incels are more likely to fit into these categories than they are to belong to the inverse.

The overlap between racism and misogyny is noticeable to anyone who takes an investigative or anthropological interest in this subculture. The Toronto Star made this very observation in a recent expose on the incel movement published shortly after the Toronto van attack:

In all the discussions around Incels or involuntary celibates — a term violently wrested out of an obscure internet subculture and thrown into mainstream lexicon after last week’s van rampage in Toronto — a less talked about aspect is the overlap of its foundational misogyny with racism.

There’s a reason for that. It’s complicated.

“When you have these communities that don’t have coherent ideologies on a lot of things, they’re united in their misogyny, not necessarily united on the racial stuff,” says Arshy Mann, a reporter for Xtra, a Toronto-based LGBTQ magazine, who has been surfing the larger “manosphere” subculture for a decade and researching Incels for the past six months.

For the sake of fairness, it must be underscored that not all incels are racist. Such a disparate movement united primarily by misogyny will naturally have texture in relation to its various attitudes toward race. In fact, there are many non-white participants within the subculture and this is reflected by a blend of ethnic backgrounds represented on incel forums – for example, the so-called “currycels” and “ricecels” (incels of south Asian and east Asian extraction). There are black incels too – “blackcels” – with their own bête noire in the form of “Tyrone”, the black counterpart of “Chad”.

Nonetheless, racism is endemic within the movement. It is found everywhere on incel forums; racist viewpoints are discussed in a laudatory manner by the so-called nazicel subgroup; and racist adjectives are casually employed within normative forum discussion apparently without thought. There appears to be no concerted effort to delegitimise this behaviour by most forum administrators.

Virulent racism flowed in nearly equal proportions to his misogyny from the icon of incel angst, serial killer Elliot Rodgers. Rodgers was crystal clear in classifying people of different ethnic backgrounds on a sliding hierarchy of value:

Rodger, the half-Asian 22-year-old Santa Barbara, Calif., killer of six people (and then himself) in 2014, hailed as some sort of patron saint for the Incels, was so fixated on whiteness he bleached his hair and fantasized about tall, blonde girls. He saw their rejection as a rejection of his non-white parts. So he reserved in his so-called manifesto particular venom for boys of colour who got attention from white girls.

“How could an inferior, ugly Black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more …”

Rodger’s rage wasn’t reserved just for Black people, though.

“How could an inferior Mexican guy be able to date a white blonde girl, while I was still suffering as a lonely virgin?”

“How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them?”

On one black pill forum the question was asked: “What’s your opinion of Hitler and National Socialism?”. The fact that this question was raised is significant. It is not a question that is usually raised within a normative social setting, although it is sometimes posed by adolescents wanting to test the boundaries of decency.

A poll was taken on the forum. Although its sample size was restricted only to a self-selecting group of online participants, nearly half of the respondents – 47% – indicated they were “neutral” concerning Nazism. Meanwhile, 35% of those surveyed selected options to indicate that Hitler “did nothing wrong” or was “a good person”. Only 17% of the respondents thought Nazism was an evil ideology.

The subsequent comments quickly descended into historical and moral derangement. Some incels praised Hitler; others denied the Holocaust; and still others indicated that Jews needed to be monitored and isolated within societies.

One incel wrote:

The holocaust did not happen. They were work camps, not death camps.

Another agreed:

Honestly he was the best leader in all of mankind’s history.

Anti-Semitism quickly appeared:

…war does not help anyone and neither does removing the juden [sic]. the juden [sic] race must be isolated within countries and controlled.

Another incel claimed that Hitler’s vicious anti-Semitism constitute the very grounds for according them admiration:

Adolf Hitler and many in the NSDAP were great men, up holders and defenders of traditionalism and steadfast soldiers against Jewish Tyranny. They took on the Jews and they deserve all the admiration and respect we can give them.

This thread continued to dozens of posts, with many incels contributing their anthems of praise for Hitler and Nazism, along with sickening remarks about Jews. It demonstrates how any ideology of hatred eventually combines with extreme right-wing persuasions. Indeed, in recent months there has been an increasing segue between the incel subculture and the alt-right movement, now generally accepted as a basket of immature iconoclasts who not only hold virtually fascist viewpoints – in the truest sense of the term – but work to rehabilitate the legitimacy of such viewpoints in mainstream culture.

In one sense a lot of this type of discussion is simply designed to be nonconformist and shocking. Part of the internal dynamic of the incel movement – and the related MGTOW movement – is a reaction against politically-correct opinions and the people who tend to uphold them. It is a form of rebellion against all that is deemed by respectable people to be “safe”, “sensible” and “normal”. Perhaps some of this attitude among incels arises from the feeling of being outcast.

How do outcasts form a bond? How do outcasts construct a group identity? To understand incel group psychology we should consider the behaviour of adolescent males who experience persistent failure in school. Every message they receive tells them that education is valuable and important. It is a message reinforced by teachers, parents, television, and government leaders yet they are equally conscious of their academic inability. They cannot attain success. But they see that their peers can.

Young males frequently cope with these circumstances by openly (or clandestinely if they have a weaker personality) rejecting authority, sabotaging others, writing demeaning notes, finding people to bully, and by embracing maverick opinions that are purposefully intended to be shocking. The more shocking the better because it distinguishes them from the crowd and gives them notoriety when they may have little else that is deserving of attention. In the same way, many incels bond in a fellowship of iconoclasm to the extent that incel forums often seem to be a contest in who can write the most derogatory, bizarre, and disturbing things. It is doubtful that all incels necessarily believe what they write.

Moreover, incels are increasingly aware that they have become media villains, associated with danger, with racism, terrorism, and with a movement commonly described as dark and subversive. Some of the incel forums have featured in stories published by serious media outlets. This is quite a satisfying payoff for any person who feels disempowered and disenfranchised. By merely participating on some forums, they have become part of a subculture that has sparked a minor moral panic.

Long time observers of incel forums have come to this conclusion as well:

That’s what makes this postmodern form of extremism so interesting. Everything is a half joke. It’s like that Simpsons… episode where the dude says “He’s cool….” and the other guys goes, “Dude, are you being sarcastic?” and he responds with “I don’t even know anymore…

The “movement” is consistently sexist, racist, sadistic and ridiculous to the point where it seems like it’s just everyone being edge lords…

Another commentator in close contact with some incels writes:

…if you examine the way they openly sh*tpost outside of their preferred safe spaces and domains, you realize they seem to be actively drawing attention to themselves and their outrageously edgy OMG you can’t say that! beliefs in a very specific way.

Don’t believe me, go look at some of the incel advice threads on here in the past month or two. Several of them have an underlying tone of “I’m afraid I’m going to turn into a racist if I don’t get laid,” or “look what women made me do” (also evident in several PMs I have received…).

They are aware that a lot of people are starting to think this way, that the incel / soft-right is a gateway into extremism, terrorism and ethno-nationalism, and they’re making attempts to leverage that belief because they honestly think it will get them laid. They’re saying to you, on this sub, “Look if I don’t get [sex] then I’m going to turn Nazi.” Like that’s an ultimatum.

It’s the same type of logic they use on actual women, in actual social situations, even if just online, and it’s exactly consistent with the rhetoric they use “in private” when they think nobody is watching – “if women don’t give us what we want then we’ll destroy ourselves and do everything we can to destroy society, because if we can’t have what we want then nobody can have anything!” It’s the ultimate exercise in petulance.

THE EMPTY SELF AND AUTHORITARIANISM

Setting aside the incels who spout politically-incorrect views for sport, other incels are very serious about their extremism and hatred. They hate women with a seismic vengeance; they hate people of other races; and they even hate each other (solidarity in the incel world only goes so far; their forums are permeated with incivility and rage). It is precisely these sorts of venomous incels who tend to hold the frightening Nazi-style opinions and show an uncomfortable interest in violence – for example, animations on their forum profile of teenagers cocking rifles in their bedrooms.

At the same time as writing streams of blood-curdling slurs and slanders – casually talking about the extermination of Jews or referring to women’s genitalia, breasts, and buttocks in graphic terms – incels also commonly embrace a highly distorted conception of men and women in which the fundamental dynamic is power and authority. They see the two genders in Darwinian terms where biology determines that men ought to be domineering and women slavishly submissive. For instance, some incels will insist a man has a right to sexual intercourse with his wife even when she does not want it, and as he is the stronger he has a right to take what he desires. Given such a worldview it is perhaps inevitable that rape is routinely glorified in incel circles since it serves as a symbol (to them) of male potency, authority, and control.

The topic of Islam often results in an collision of authoritarian extremes among incels. Some incels find the religious subjugation of women compelling while others are repulsed by the religion due to the ethnicity of its adherents. This results in one of the many internecine squabbles that are characteristic of incel forums, in this instance conflict between incels who prioritise male supremacist fantasies above racial ones and other incels for whom the fantasy of white racial supremacy is more important:

The women are separated from the men. They have to wear burkas to cover their faces. So, in fact, Islam is very much agreeable with reason and the physics of the universe. Who in their right mind could object to a religion where a holy man will receive as his property 72 virgins in paradise?

Similarly:

Society determines male status, and if society lowers male status, the males already on the lower end of the ladder feel it the heaviest. Spandrell argued that this is why Islam is so successful: Islam raises the status of men. The downgrade in status that drives Muslim males to terrorism in the West is the same that drove Alek Minassian to kill pedestrians, [and] 4 years ago drove Elliot Rodger to kill 6 people.

Other incels disagree. For these men, cultural bigotry exercises the greater imperative and outweighs even their interest in domineering women:

I see the sandn*gger masses across the world, have read the Qu’uran [sic] and spoke to many [M]uslims at college. They were primitive cultureless low IQ [profanity]. I have enough experience with it to know it[‘s] nonsense. Maybe Islam was relevant back before the dark ages when Persia was a major power, but now its just a bunch of paedo worshipping neckbeards (literal neckbeards) who move around in herds like sheep because they are too [vulgarity deleted] to go it alone.

The authoritarianism expressed by this type of incel manifests a psychological need for control. It is particularly obvious from the “black pill” forums that these men keenly feel that a sense of control is missing from their lives. Unfortunately the incel philosophy heightens the despair and fear that comes from being out of control by magnifying their supposed powerlessness to change their circumstances and reinforcing a viewpoint in which life is significantly directed by a whirlwind of vast, impersonal biological forces.

The sense of being small and powerless comes up in many aspects of incel conversation. For example, money is a frequent topic on many incel forums. Although some incels come from privileged backgrounds, there is abundant evidence that a majority come from lower socioeconomic strata. This can be seen in the frequency with which money is discussed on incel forms; the advice on squeezing government benefits from the system; the low standards of education revealed in many posts; and the poor living conditions that incels describe. Being relatively poor in a consumerist culture is both a frightening and emasculating experience for these men. It is even more galling when the media regularly shows them examples of women or people of non-white ethnicity, who earn more than they do.

Despite this package of inadequacy, for many of these incels the chief locus of powerlessness – the very definition of their lack of control – is their physical appearance. Perhaps they lack the strong jawline, or a muscular build, or a manly nose and thus they conclude that they can never have sexual intercourse or a meaningful relationship with women. Short of plastic surgery – too expensive and risky for most incels – they can do nothing to change themselves. Of all the issues of their lives, physical appearance overshadows everything else. It is the thing that they most wish they could change.

This profound feeling of inadequacy requires a compensatory mechanism or otherwise the individual incel would have no choice but to confront the empty self. For this is surely what lies at the root of the behaviour of many incels. It is evident from reading numerous incel forums that many not only suffer from extreme depression and anxiety, but from any number of personality disorders. The most obsessive show clinical traits of Body Dysphoric Disorder. For these incels, the gravitation to online forums and to shrill, threatening, militant, and aggressive behaviour is nothing short of an effort to medicate an empty self.

An empty self results in a fragile personality that must be sustained by outward resources. In a consumerist society this means products, approval, flattery, status, pleasure, and power. It means aligning with the images that are presented in advertising and movies. An empty self is maintained by validation from the world outside. When that validation is lacking, the true empty self is exposed.

When incels are drawn out on their feelings they often describe this in despairing terms:

I feel like I get caught in a cycle. Like I hate most everything about me, I want the external validation so badly, which causes me to be even less confident.

Like I wanna be sure of myself and be confident around women, and just people in general. I get that’s a more attractive quality. I just can’t figure out how to break the cycle and stop thinking like this.

Maybe it’s oversimplification on incels part, but to get these traits that people want, you’ve got to experience this sorta approval that comes with physical attraction

Incels primarily seek outside validation through sexual intercourse or a romantic partnership. To these they attach a supreme importance because in a sexualised culture there can be no greater fulfilment for an empty self than sexual satisfaction with a willing partner (sexual activity with a prostitute does not count for most incels). The absence of such sexual validation engenders a profound (and painful) inadequacy. This in turn often leads to the development of either an authoritarian personality or the embrace of authoritarian beliefs and attitudes like misogyny, Nazism, and racism.

Such beliefs provide two necessary scaffolds for a fragile personality seeking validation. Firstly, it grants a much-coveted feeling of control – even if it is completely illusionary. Secondly, because these beliefs are shockingly counter-cultural (like Nazism) they provide perverse validation. By identifying with despised authoritarian beliefs, incels feel that significance is conferred on them from the outside world. This occurs when the world reacts with horror and fear. To the incel, this translates to respect, power, and significance. “I am feared,” they reason, “because I espouse Nazi beliefs, therefore I am significant“. Or, “The horror expressed at my beliefs reassures me that I am seen as dangerous to the status quo, therefore I have power.” All of this is small potatoes – the fourth place ribbon – but it is at least something flowing from the outside world that can soothe an empty self.

Control and validation are the keys to understanding such men. The most hostile and despairing incels desperately want the feeling of control. Not only because they lack significant control over the things that matter to them, but also because control is a critical part of their conception of masculinity. Control is an attribute incels universally associate with their male fantasy figure “Chad”. Lacking this feeling of control and power themselves, they seek compensation in the embrace of beliefs or fantasies that have historically permitted males to control others. They may have no control in their own lives but they can vicariously experience the thrill of control through projection and fantasy. By tapping into beliefs that have conferred power on other men in the past, they discover a compensatory authoritarianism that corresponds to their powerlessness.

Thus they constantly articulate rape fantasies (projection to a past when men used to control women); use racist slurs (to project to a past when white men controlled blacks); talk admiringly about Nazism (when white men were able to control Jews and other ethnicities), and so on. This explains the explosive misogyny and the prevalence “rape talk” among incels. These things are spoken about so ubiquitously precisely because they confer a feeling of control over women whom they intensely desire, yet cannot control.

Neither is the thirst for control merely rhetoric for this stripe of incel. For when they have the opportunity to exercise genuine control over women, they do so. This is vividly illustrated in an interview conducted with an incel by French journalism student Jean-Gabriel Fernandez. The interview was conducted in April 2018 and published on an incel blog which describes itself as:

Anti-modernist, anti-feminist, anti-liberal, anti-MRA [Men’s Rights Activist], anti-seduction, pro-patriarchy/reactionary, pro-Islam…

Incidentally, this self-description is a handy summary of the political and social opinions that tend to rinse around the sprawling online communities of incels and MGTOW groups. The third part in this series of articles will discuss this in more detail.

Fernandez asked the incel operator of this blog about his views of women and he was brutally forthcoming:

Since around 2014 I have become a reactionary anti-feminist who believes that that women should be married off as virgins and not be allowed to vote while males should only be using prostitutes before and during marriage.

I believe that four key traits of a good society are 1. monogamy, 2. good religion, 3. female premarital chastity, and 4. widely available prostitution. Number 1 and 4 aren’t contradictory, because sleeping with prostitutes isn’t considered actual cheating in sane societies. Actual cheating is having a lover you invest in.

I see most modern Western women as sluts one should have no moral qualms about raping and as completely incapable of a committed relationship or marriage.

The incel blogger then went on to describe his chequered romantic history. When he was younger (he is presently 28 years old), he had the opportunity to have a sexual relationship with several women – one of which, by his own admission “aggressively” offered him sex. Nonetheless, he was too skittish to pursue them.

Later he had multiple sexual encounters with women he deemed “slutty” and had ongoing sex with a “friend with benefits”. Later, the friend with benefits asked him to father a child with her because she wanted to be a mother. At the time the incel blogger had been stinging from insults he had received on a forum in which other participants had taunted that he would never reproduce. Thus, in order to prove that he could easily reproduce and that, in fact, reproduction was no great accomplishment, he agreed to have unprotected intercourse. When his sexual partner fell pregnant she moved away with his daughter whom the blogger admitted that he had never seen and does not have any interest in meeting. In his own words, “I do not care about this daughter” and having had a child, he has demonstrated “it isn’t so hard to breed”.

He describes making threats to kill one woman and later being charged by the police. He also admits to doing “illegal things” which he did not wish to elaborate on. However, he has found happiness within a world where he can exercise control:

In early 2017 I became a Muslim and moved to [place deleted in original] for a while. There I was introduced into their Muslim community. I met my girlfriend via Tinder. She claimed to be 18 years old but was in fact just 17 (she lied about her age at the time). This relationship is different than the ones I had before. I now know how women are dealt with in the current non-patriarchal rotten society. My girlfriend is tightly controlled by me and my Muslim community, and she is available to them in every way. I realize now that good relationships are only possible in a patriarchal, coalpha society.

Also, I’d like to mention one more thing. The leftists/liberals say that incels promote violence etc. But you must understand what the liberal definition of violence is to understand just how hollow that is. Liberalism is hatred of the whites. An act of rape is a crime of rape only when a white rapes. Other acts defined as rape by liberals are whites having consensual sex, whites asking a girl on a date, and every other act a white does to get a relationship and sex.

When asked by Fernandez if he had ever raped someone, the blogger replied:

I obviously won’t/can’t say if I practiced it myself but it is quite obvious from my posts. I believe it isn’t morally reprehensible if the raped ones are modern Western women who feminism turned into worthless scum. This doesn’t mean that all women everywhere deserve to be raped. Women in non-feminist places shouldn’t be raped and even some women in feminist places (like Amish or Mormon women in America) don’t deserve to be raped.

On a related note, many of my enemies have this fallacy that because I hate modern Western women I must hate all women. This is a basic misunderstanding of my positions. I don’t like women on location x (Western world) and time period y (modern time) and even then there are exceptions like the ones I mentioned

The incel blogger clearly articulates his view that the subjugation of women to male authority and control is a prerequisite for him to respect them enough not to regard them as candidates for rape. He singles out a few women within the Western world who are exempt from being targets of justifiable rape, all of these being women who exist largely in traditionalist collectives (although his assumptions about Mormon women seem a bit out of date since Mormon women can and do hold feminist viewpoints too).

He hastens to indicate that he only hates some women in some places in some time periods. He has no grudge against pre-modern women or the women who live in places where the law does not treat people equally, without regard for gender.

In the same interview – and in a dazzling display of moral and intellectual malformation – the incel laments:

My blog has a somewhat low reputation but only because those criticizing it are leftist scum that oppose my reactionary views, just like they oppose [anything] that I write… humanizing incels in the first place.

There is a constant view that incels are “entitled”, ie believing they are owed something, when this simply isn’t true for most of them. This “entitlement” is a leftist buzzword to attack all white males and nothing else.

However, current anti-intellectual incels sites… have a deservingly bad reputation, as they are filled with crazy people and ideas.

It apparently does not occur to the incel blogger that he is also a crazy person with extremely sick ideas, and that the people who criticise his blog very astutely recognise the absurdly entitled and narcissistic individual at work. A person who can develop an apologia for rape with a straight face and argue that the targets of sexual assault are fair game, suffers (at best) from a delusion of his own supreme importance, which may be satisfied at the expense, pain, and suffering of others. He is an “entitled” young man by any stretch of the language.

In this interview, the incel all but admits that he has raped women. This behaviour is consistent with his clear desire for control over others and his authoritarian beliefs. He thinks his masculinity entitles him to domineer women and have sexual access at his whim. He thus finds his Shangri-La in a community where his teenage girlfriend, ten years his junior, can be continually monitored and controlled by a team of “alpha males”. This, in the incel blogger’s judgement, is “a good relationship”.

If ever a person demonstrated the Freudian concept of the “narcissistic wound”, it is this deeply disturbed young man. And if ever there was a young woman for whose safety one may rightly fear, it is the girlfriend of the operator of this blog.

AN ONLINE COLONY OF THE MORALLY DERANGED

The incel community is heavily colonised by perverts. The subculture acts like a magnet, pulling into its black hole a motley assortment of morally deranged men. Their perversions range from the grotesque to the criminal; from fetishes to bizarre fixations, but in nearly all cases such interests could only arise from dysfunctional personalities.

In the incel subculture, men with perverted appetites find an environment that not only refuses to judge their conduct, but accepts it as a natural part of the background colour of incel culture. It is taken for granted among many incels that the community is an enlightened Gomorrah for the sexually crippled, welcoming migrants from whatever cesspit they happen to originate from. There is a spirit of invitation, “We’re all friends here, and no matter how morally deranged you may be, we’ve all suffered at the hands of perfidious women and we’re all in this together.

Such tolerance of perversion is an inevitable phenomenon in a world where women are targets of hatred and disdain, and where the participants drink so heavily from the toxic fountain of violent pornography.  There are no limits on many incel forums to how depraved a man may become. There are no boundaries; no rules; and no limits. This is a Wild West of sexual anarchy.

The online forums function as connective hubs not only for sharing their ideas but also for trading the sorts of digital goods that have value in the incel world: photographs, videos, vicious memes, and graphics. In online discussions, sexual behaviours are described in lurid detail, and techniques are shared for effectively pursuing disturbed behaviour. In the process of sharing this material, the forums serve to normalise aberrant behaviour. The pseudo-scientific nature of the discussion clothes their fantasies in the robes of plausibility (at least to their minds), and thus rationalises their behaviour.

It serves to explain precisely why a sizeable segment of the incel community do not have sexual relationships with women: women avoid men who have sub-normal sexuality. Neither can it be argued – as some incels will argue – that a lack of sexual expression causes the sexual perversion, and thus women are to blame for making them the predators and creeps that many of them surely are. Examples abound of incels admitting that they had opportunities for sexual intercourse but turned it down because it was the wrong sort of woman who was making the offer. The woman did not align with the fixations and obsessions of the incel, and therefore did not count.

We have already witnessed the omnipresent rape fantasies which soak the forums ceaselessly. Many of these are accompanied by rubbish evolutionary psychological explanations which tells us that the search for scientific legitimacy is widespread among incels even if their theories are scientifically illiterate. The following is typical:

Incel01

Other incels get the thrill of power and control in other ways. The following is an incel’s description of stalking a young teenage girl, and doubtless terrifying her. He recommends other incels try stalking women as a form of “harmless psychological fun”, but cautions that they should only do so if they know their limits. Given the frequent correlation between stalking and sexual assault, this is a very cold comfort:

Incel02

The incel writes that he enjoys stalking women. It gives him “a good feeling”. He explains that this is a gratifying activity for him because the fear shown by his victim confers a significance and importance on him which he would otherwise lack. Neither is this an isolated event. It is apparent from his post that he has experimented with stalking women often enough to know that following them at night produces the same result with less effort than following them in the daylight.

To say that this is disturbed conduct is an understatement. This incel is a deeply disturbed individual and what he describes is the sort of scenario that results in the making of a sexual predator. We may safely surmise that when the thrill of stalking women wears thin, this man may seek further gratification with more violent or forceful encounters. If not escalation, his description manifests a nexus of symptoms that demands continuation in the future: it is habitual behaviour, it excites him, it is dependent on a degraded view of women as prey (as in the description of the girl as a “fawn”), and it demonstrates strikingly malformed moral regulation. The fact this incel describes this as “low-level behaviour” indicates that he has already travelled a very great distance down the rabbit hole of sexual pathology.

Other incels describe fixations that are less dangerous but still subnormal. One incel, whose profile bears the message “remember the dead shooters” and a rant about a “final solution for the entire human race” whom he hates, wrote:

i wanna sniff the chair she is sitting in

To which another incel wrote:

I also have this fetish but only on hot women…. Have u ever sniffed a chair after a girl leaved the chair tbh

The original writer replied:

i thought about it alot in high school when attractive young girls got up out their chairs never did it because i didnt need another label on me..

The other incel admitted:

I actually did it 1x but i wont do its cuz its too risky.

Stomach-churning discussions on incel forums abound. Some researchers have noted, for instance, that there is a significant interest among incels in incestuous relationships. One woman posted a screenshot of a message she received from an incel who asked her whether she had “ever been penetrated by her father”. When she reacted with understandable anger, the incel apologised for his forwardness and then messaged again, “But has this ever happened to you?”

The number of examples of aberrant sexual interests are practically inexhaustible. Many demonstrate the imprint that pornography has made on young men, since it is apparent that the primary sexual experience and education for many of these incels has come through the channel of pornography. Their reliance on this source for knowledge and experience of sexuality means they only experience sexual arousal at stimuli that is repellent to a psychologically healthy, sexually normal male. For instance, there is a substantial interest among incels in the topic of sexual degradation and sexual domination. Both of these are standard themes in modern pornography, which is not chiefly about the human body, but rather about the interplay of power. Therefore it is not surprising that so many incels associate sex with force. Neither is it surprising that so many incels harbour preposterous fixations on the size of genitals, and have notions about the sexual act worthy of adolescent gossip in the corners of a schoolyard. For instance, one incel wrote a post in which he insisted that a woman’s vagina will grow in length the more often she has sexual relations with a man with longer genitals.

In contradistinction to this poisonous stew of sexual deviance, the sexual intercourse practised by normal people (“normies”) is often presented as boring, “vanilla”, and of secondary value compared to the grotesque appetites they have developed. All of this goes a great distance toward explaining why these men do not (and cannot) form normal relationships with women and cannot have healthy sexual intercourse. It explains precisely why they are celibate. For in the first place, women tend to avoid men with subnormal sexual interests such as smelling chairs or violent fetishes. In the second place, a healthy and normal sexual interest is a prerequisite to forming a healthy and normal gendered relationship.

The fact that such fantasies are largely accepted within the incel subculture as a natural part of the rich tapestry of sexuality, confers legitimacy upon them in the minds of their practitioners, and perversely reinforces the very behaviours, imaginations, fantasies and appetites that cause a large number of incels to be repellent to women. They are conscious that their sexuality is freakish, but their subculture reassures them that freakish sexuality is okay. They are continually reassured that their isolation is the fault of women, or the fault of biological determination, or genetics, and not the fault of a disordered mind or a unhealthy imagination which could be remedied (as so many things in life can be) with a refinement of their moral sense.

When incels do exist in a relationship with a woman, they tend to sabotage the relationship. Below is an account from one young woman who dated an incel. This story provides ample witness to the inadequacy of the incel theory that behind their sexless state lurks a complex of female injustice. This, and other accounts just like it, proves that in many cases the problem really does lie with the incel himself; within his psychology, his habits, his appetites, or his character. As Shakespeare wisely observed from the mouth of Cassius: “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves…“, a citation that seems a particularly apt backdrop for this testimony:

A lot of people seem to think if these guys had women in their life they would be better. I’m here to tell you that’s wrong.

So when I first met the dude I had no idea. I thought he was cute and we seemed to have a lot in common. As our relationship progressed he started using all these terms I hadn’t heard before. “Cuck” [cuckold] and “beta” [“beta male”] were thrown around all the time. He was also obsessed with Redit [one of the main forums where incels connect].

Then came his weird obsession with my sexual history. I was a 21 year old girl at the time and had lost my virginity at 19. Apparently this was totally scandalous to him and even though he had feelings for me, he wanted a virgin. He seriously never shut up about how he could only be with a girl who’s a virgin. Everyday he went on and on about how he was an outcast and the world treated him so badly, especially women.

He actually had other girlfriends in the past so it’s really strange that he disliked women. Then I found out that when one of his former girlfriends wanted to break up with him, he threatened to kill her. Yet somehow throughout this story it was still her fault. He also had girls who wanted to be intimate with him in the past and he rejected them. Only once, when the girl he was dating was a virgin, he wanted to have sex. He kept pressuring her so much that she broke up with him. Again this was somehow her fault.

I can’t even begin to describe the delusions this dude had. He was obsessed with being cuckolded, especially by black guys. He even said I wore certain things just to get ploughed by dudes. He was also super-obsessed with race and anti-Semitism. I’m half-black but he reassured me it was OK because I “looked” more white.

There’s so much more I could go into but it would take forever. Basically access to women isn’t going to help these men at all. They love playing the victim and it all comes down to entitlement.

This is a fairly humdrum account. Many similar examples exist in which the young men exhibit traits of a deep-seated neurosis. Here, the young man displays an unhealthy idealisation of female virginity. Multiple sources of testimony indicate that this is very common among incels who are prone to attachment anxieties. The young man in this account was fixated on female virginity probably from a fear of a negative comparison being made between himself and another sexual partner.

In this account, the incel also made threats to kill a previous partner. This aggressive behaviour appears with monotonous regularity in the online record. Lashing out with such anger demonstrates a severe inability to self-regulate emotion and demonstrates the paranoia of relational breakdown, which the incel subculture tends only to exacerbate. In the minds of neurotic incels romantic relationships end when another male swoops in and seduces the woman away. Since they believe that a woman’s behaviour is biologically determined, they are certain that she will embrace a “higher status” male whenever the opportunity is presented.

Many of these neuroses probably arise from childhood relational trauma. In other words, these are men who have experienced avoidant or dismissive parenting styles, and possibly witnessed one, or multiple, relationship breakdowns. Even so, this does not explain the origin of insecurities for every incel, and whatever insecurities a man may have internalised, the subculture itself actively reinforces and inflates them through constant prattle about the unreliability of women, the supposedly promiscuous character of “Chads” and “Staceys”, and puerile speculation about which man any given woman may be sleeping with.

More than anything it is basic misogyny that feeds these incels’ habitual lack of regard for women as people. Note that throughout the above (admittedly abbreviated) account, the young man treated his girlfriend with disdain and viewed her feelings as secondary to his own. His sexual desires and emotional needs were vastly more important than hers. It is clear that he was not relating to her as a person but as a collection of characteristics. This kind of perversity is common among incels. They do not have romantic relationships because they cannot (and do not) relate to women as if they were complete persons.

Instead, over and over again, it is evident that many incels relate only to women as if they were assemblages of discrete characteristics. They relate to a woman’s race; the size of her breasts; her status as a virgin; her attractiveness out of ten; or her weight. The presence or absence of such characteristics becomes the central concern for the incel such that these characteristics assume the nature of an all-consuming passion. These incels do not want to have sexual fulfilment; they want to have sexual fulfilment with a white, virgin number ten. In many – if not most – instances, this kind of thinking is probably the result of long-term exposure to pornography.

So far, these are all instances of sexual paraphilias. It is not fair to say that all incels exhibit paraphilias although there is unquestionably a high incidence of abnormal sexual interest within the culture. In the search for a social patterns, it is not accurate to say that a paraphilia or even a neurosis is a conclusive necessity for identifying as an incel. But there is one characteristic that can be singled out as practically emblematic. It is a characteristic that is shared by the overwhelming majority of incels to the extent that it nearly deserves the status of being predictive, and that characteristic is anger.

The raw anger that is exhibited by incels – both toward others and themselves – is surely the most definitive feature of the subculture. The omnipresence of anger is noted repeatedly by academic researchers, investigative journalists, psychologists treating incels, and virtually anyone who has ever had anything to do with incels. It is even acknowledged by thoughtful incels themselves:

I had a LOT of internalised anger [after high school]. I wouldn’t really consider myself “happy” today but I’m definitely FAR from being an incel…

…the thing is.. if I had been on Reddit then and stumbled upon that community, I really think my life would have been worst. I would have ended like them [incels on the forums] to the worst level. It’s the thing that makes me the angriest about them, how they make young boys keep that anger and never get better. And that’s why I’m happy to see the media is now talking about them and denouncing them.

The anger displayed by incels is explosive, toxic, and murderous. It is almost always expressed in self-pitying terms as if the incel were a genuine victim, is very frequently interlaced with hatred and contempt for groups of people, and sometimes finds expression in dark, sinister revenge narratives.

Revenge narratives range from the plausible to the preposterous. Some narratives are formulated with a degree of rationality (if such a term is applicable), while others are sheer fantasy, weaving in imagery and concepts of the Final Solution, wars, rape and other miseries to be visited upon the world at large. In most instances these narratives include mass murder, specific torments for attractive men and women, with a special arrangement of grotesque “punishments” reserved for attractive women.

The following is a typical example:

incel10

Neither is the anger merely theatrical. The subculture has already given birth to multiple serial killers whose anger translated to violent action. In the case of Elliot Rodger, the methodology he employed to murder his victims amply reveals his dark inner state. His three roommates were stabbed to death as they entered their shared apartment. The autopsy report noted the high number of stab wounds sustained by each victim. One victim, George Chen, was stabbed 94 times, indicating that the attack had continued long after the victim had died. In similar fashion, the two women Rodger killed each respectively sustained seven and eight gunshot wounds. Once again, Rodger had continued to shoot at them even after it would have become apparent that his victims were dead.

In the killing spree at Umpqua Community College, in October 2015 had many more fatalities and (if it is possible) is more disturbed than the random nature of Rodger’s murders. The incel Chris Harper-Mercer corralled a group in a classroom at gunpoint. There he unleashed his rage (one victim was shot multiple times), but also contempt for his victims and evident pleasure at acting out his revenge scenario. Victims were forced to beg for their lives before being shot; one person was forced to watch as others were killed; and one victim was shot trying to get back into her wheelchair at his order. Survivors said that Harper-Mercer smiling during his killing spree. Like Rodger, he finally shot himself to death when the police wounded him in an exchange of gunfire.

Anger and hatred have destructive consequences when they are left unchecked and nourished by a narrative of victimhood.

MAKING SENSE OF THE SUBCULTURE

The incel subculture is both disparate and unstable, held together by very thin threads of commonality. It is also riven with contradictions. For example, although many of its participants are fascinated by order, control, and authoritarian ideologies, it is a fundamentally anarchic movement that has atomised very quickly into a plethora of subgroups that turn in ever-tighter circles. Incels within different these subgroups denounce other incels. One division centres on the incel principle of “lookism”, which is the idea that involuntary celibacy is mostly the result of physical ugliness. This belief is common among “black pill” incels but not necessarily within other incel groupings who may regard feminism as a more primary cause of their plight.

The fragmented nature of the community keeps it neutered when it comes to any kind of mass action, even though incels often fantasise about revolutionary schemes that would punish and humiliate with graphic enthusiasm. But although these men may daydream about channelling Lenin, the average incel resembles more a sexually frustrated Mr Bean whose incompetence and solitariness keep him from being too much a threat.

Not that all incels are conscious of this. Alek Minassian, the Toronto van murderer, wrote about an “incel rebellion” and referred to a grand uprising in which incels would “overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!”. Unwittingly, this was a savagely ironic statement because the anarchic and solipsistic properties of the incel subculture render it absolutely incapable of coordinated action. Point blank. For all the talk of rebellions and uprisings; for all the discussion about changing the world, the subculture has produced no political, social or cultural action outside of its own circuit. Even its serial killers were lone-wolfs whose murder sprees were self-consciously performed (either wholly or in part) for an audience of fellow incels.

Online surveys indicate that the largest cohort of incels are young men between the ages of 18 and 29. Many of these men are broken by difficult life experiences, and sadly the onset of cynicism and the feeling of hopelessness has occurred early in their lives. No carefree youth for these. Some incels have grown up in undeniably traumatic circumstances, or in conditions of poverty, family breakdown, and mental illness. Others have been bullied at school, or are autistic, misunderstood, depressed, or haunted by feelings of deep unworthiness. Others still are clinical neurotics and have a need of affirmation and love from the world greater than the world is able to give them. The brokenness of this community cannot be understated. It consists of human wreckage, self-confessed outcasts, adrift on the sea of life with no idea how they got into their current predicament, why things went wrong, or how they can possibly make things better again. Their lack of a relationship is the capstone on a miserable life.

One cannot help but be moved when these young men describe the tragedy of their lives. For example, one former incel wrote:

I’m not incel anymore, but I am still sympathetic to some of the struggles that other self-identified incels go through. Misogyny, threats of violence, racism are absolutely reprehensible, but underneath that anger are some really broken people.

At the same time it is undeniable that incels are frequently unpleasant individuals, immature, disproportionately resentful, prone to exhibitions of entitlement, narcissism, and practitioners of deviant sexual interests. In turn, this gives rise to the group construction of a pretend world in which they paint themselves as victims or as the human detritus of a cruel and capricious society. Yet they also like to see themselves as special, either as great martyrs (“my life is hell” is a common expression) or as overlooked heroes chronically misunderstood by the “normies”. In this sense the narratives and theories of the subculture, no matter how preposterous they might actually be, are an unconscious attempt to compensate for deep feelings of inadequacy, abnormality, and usually a diminished set of social skills.

The strong overlap between the incel subculture and the alt-right is also highly significant. If there were no correlation then we could correctly deduce that the political values, beliefs and experiences of incels were irrelevant to the subculture and understanding the motives of the people involved in it. Or, put another way, an absent correlation between these factors would show that being an incel made no difference to the political views that person was likely to hold. But this is not so. The opposite is true. The relationship between incels and the alt-right movement is so strong that the former is virtually a fail safe predictor of the latter. Incels can be reliably predicted to hold alt-right beliefs. Of course, the reverse is not true. The entirety of the alt-right movement are not incels. But most incels hold alt-right views, to some degree or another.

This relationship is largely built around the alt-right’s gleeful image of being the ugly stepchild of politics that prides itself on stepping outside the square of political correctness to “speak the truth”. It presents itself as edgy, but also as the misunderstood and marginalised political affiliation that is deplored by the elite because it challenges prevailing orthodoxy with views amounting to cultural heresy. Heresy in any age, whether political or religious, has always had a particular allure for a particular sort of person. In this case, the draw for incels probably has much to do with the alt-right’s opposition to feminism and its enthusiastic destruction of feminist shibboleths, like the “wage gap” and the “#Metoo” movement.

Feminism is the arch-enemy for incels. It is their nemesis whose idols must be energetically smashed in order to destroy its cultural and social power. When mentioned among incels, feminism is almost ubiquitously referenced in the bitterest terms. Incels regard themselves as both a demonstration of the collateral damage of feminism, and they also view themselves as a pocket of resistance against it.

There is some validity to their grievances. In fact, the emergence of the incel subculture itself as a distinct entity should be viewed, at least partially, as a peculiar reaction against feminism and its radical excesses. This can be missed in the welter of condemnation from feminist blogs, news organisations and researchers who typically write about incels in monochromatic terms. Many articles have been written in contemptuous tones about the “fragile masculinity” of these young men or the “aggrieved entitlement” they display. The following is just one example:

Hegemonic masculinity dictates that men are expected to have sex; not having sex as a straight (white) man is deviant. Most other demographics are stigmatized in some manner for having or expressing interest in sex. Celibate women are more likely to be successful compared to celibate men. In general, celibate men tend to be in lower socioeconomic classes or unemployed, whereas celibate women tend to be of high status. Celibate men, while being marginalized for being celibate, blame women for their emasculation, not the powers that be (the patriarchy). They thus believe that their emasculation is justification for revenge violence against women, which they believe will restore their masculinity.

These sorts of analyses about the causes of involuntary celibacy and the attendant beliefs and attitudes found within incel circles are too simplistic and general, and are often blinkered by the assumption that the ideology of feminism is always an intrinsic good, that its suppositions are self-evidently true, and the perspectives of those who think otherwise are worthless. As this article has sought to show, the causes of involuntary celibacy are varied. It is difficult to capture the texture of this movement because it is highly diverse, highly disparate in its proposed reactions (e.g. the “red pill” stream versus the “black pill” stream), and highly unstable. Involuntary celibacy generally arises from an insecure identity. The insecure identity is created by a range of factors. These factors include childhood trauma, depression, sexually abnormal interest, autism, a defective view of women, an empty self, anxiety, socioeconomic marginalisation, a neurotic temperament, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

The anger among incels is part of a complex coping mechanism that cannot be easily boiled down to a gravy of simple interpretations. Their anger necessarily intersects with the system of beliefs they embrace in which the world is dominated by “Chads and Staceys” who live out a hypergamous dynamic. Yet, no matter how ridiculous, this an effort by damaged people to resuscitate a sense of self-value and belonging.

This is the keystone to really grasping the subculture. Sexual fulfilment for incels has nothing to do with slaking a burning sexual appetite that leaves them frustrated and miserable. Or put another way, they are not driven by a biological need for orgasm. Instead the desire for sexual intercourse masks a craving for status. Some Incels see sexual intercourse as a transition that advances them from one life condition to another and often feel depressed because they seem unable to make the transition that others easily can. They want the status of sexual activity and hope it will give them feelings of acceptance, connection, normality, and confidence. Other incels want the status that comes from having sexual intercourse with a specific type of woman under specific circumstances. For these incels, it is not that they cannot find willing partners. Rather the partners they find are not good enough for them. They will not settle for a “6” when they “know” they deserve a “9”. Finally, other incels want the status that comes from having real control over a women as a means to fulfil their construct of masculinity.

Their silly theories serve as both an explanatory framework that alleviates incels from the responsibility for their predicament, and also positions incels as victims of powerful forces over which they have little control. Many incels readily accept this premise because it confirms their preexisting feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. Yet, at the same time they urgently desire control. Perversely, taking a regular bath in dismal thoughts encourages them to see themselves as martyrs and this provides a compensatory sense of significance. It is better to belong to an underground movement of oppressed and misunderstood victims – who gather to lament and tear their shirts at their hellish lot – than it is to be a solitary weirdo in a world of people who are having sexual intercourse and forming romantic attachments.

An intelligent grasp of the subculture must see all of its nuances. It consists of both dangerous and harmless men. It consists of men who are childish and unworthy, and others who are damaged and socially untutored. But whoever they are, the subculture they have created offers nothing. It may be an effort to medicate their sorrows, but ultimately it twists, destroys, and is self-defeating.

The Loss of Transcendence

nave-panorama

Ecclesiastes and the Christian historian

One of the philosophical principles generally accepted by historians is that no one can fully appraise or appreciate the time in which they actually live. People have often tried to give definitive and authoritative explanations of their own time period – it is a staple of opinion columns in newspapers – and many minds have flailed around trying to make sense of things. But invariably they arrive at deficient conclusions. The broad failure of this intellectual effort has been long recognised by some of humanity’s most enlightened minds. Ecclesiastes wrote nearly three thousand years ago: “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.

It is not wise, asserts The Teacher, to approach historiography in any way that romanticises the past, unreasonably magnifies its wonders, and airbrushes away its horrors. Yet over again, we see that people think exactly in this way. Ancient Romans of the Imperial period looked back fondly to the days of the Republic. In their minds, Imperial Rome was decadent and immoral. But in contradistinction, Republican Rome had forged its heroes in the fires of glorious combat, had produced its white-bearded scholars, and the citizenry had breathed a luminous atmosphere of enlightened values.  Nearly two millennia later, we find the same thing in the minds of Frenchmen in post-revolutionary France. Only they looked back to the Ancien Régime with nostalgia for the glories of Louis XIV, the “Sun King”.

In modern times we have entered our own period of longing, told through the hundreds of romanticised historic television shows and movies that mostly give us a version of the past as modern people wish it had been. And our times are strongly characterised by an attitude that Chesterton described as the “cult of simplicity”. He meant the yearning people have (or claim to have) for “nature”. To go back to supposed cleaner and healthier way of life before the grime and plastic of industrialisation.

Ecclesiastes’ basic point is that people fail to appraise the past accurately. They unwisely forget each time period has it own unique blend of good and evil, and in forgetting this, they come to unwise conclusions about their own lives. They neither see their own time properly nor the past. To fail to see the one is to fail to appreciate the other. And like the man who brings his face very close to an oil painting until it blurs into meaningless colours and patterns, human eyes often water with the effort of dealing with history.

Developments that will be seen as monumental in a few decades may be shrugged at carelessly in the present. History is garlanded with examples. Guglielmo Marconi is considered the father of radio yet his invention was received with a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the early 1900’s. He was told by the authorities to check himself into a lunatic asylum. Yet, from our standpoint more than a hundred years later, the tremendous importance of radio is readily seen. Without Marconi’s work, Hitler could never have come to power; the Second World War could never have been fought; the culture could never have been unalterably shaped by radio entertainment. Even baseball would not be the sport it is.

It is only in the rear view mirror of history, as we get greater distance from the period we consider, that it becomes evident which forces and attitudes shaped it. But, does this mean that our own time period must always be scorched earth to us? That it is merely dead ground, shrouded in heavy fog; dense; impenetrable? Not all. It is possible to understand our time through a process of comparison. But it must be done carefully so that we do not run afoul of the warning given by Ecclesiastes who, after all, was sharply insightful when it came to the condition of man and the sociology of mankind.

We must lapse into neither apocalyptic nor romanticised thinking. We must avoid arriving at conclusions that view the past as unspeakably wonderful or our own time as unspeakably evil. Neither must we arrogantly imagine that our current state – after a mere two hundred years of industrialisation – has advanced us morally and spiritually to be wiser than our forebears. Only a sober and sensible comparison can serve as the flare in the night that lights up our age for us to see rightly.

Loss of transcendence

I contend that if there is one thing revealed by a side-by-side comparison between the present and the past, it is the profound loss of any concept of transcendence in our time. Transcendent beliefs and experiences have been evacuated from the public and moral sphere in the Western world in a way never seen before in human society.

Let me first define my terms. By transcendence I mean the social and moral anchoring of humanity to a realm that is higher than itself. For me, transcendence is a shared sense of significance that imbues life with a richer meaning than mere existence itself. It is a framework that aggressively denies the view that we are organic machines whose only real function is to consume, replicate, acquire, and amuse ourselves before death.

A sense of transcendence always lets man brush his fingertips over things that are eternal. By feeling the infinite, he is properly integrated into the stream of time. Man lives a transitory life. We all are pilgrims, transmitters of a sacred trust; a precious deposit of truth that must be safely handed on until the ending of the world. To quote Alan Bennett, “Pass the parcel boys. This is the game I want you to learn. Pass the parcel! Not for me; not for you. But for someone, someday. Pass it on!

An awareness of the transcendent is what enables a person to experience emotions and thoughts that can only arise when standing before something monumental. Awe; veneration; reverence; wonder; self-conscious humility; gratitude; adoration; and genuine worship. Unlike our forebears who valued these experiences and went to great effort to establish settings in which they might occur (churches, museums, galleries etc.), modern people have surgically excised this whole emotional domain from their psychology. Especially among the young, the words awesome or wonderful are now only terms of approval. They are unhooked from what they once signified. The term irreverent is a synonym for good and prides is synonymous with healthy.

Transcendence has been replaced with a narrow band of utilitarianism that presents an entirely different universe of values. Few things are considered sacred anymore. Important things are also consumable. Anything new is good. Anything old is bad. The is no reverence, not even for time itself. Amusing ourselves to death, wrote Professor Neil Postman in his seminal work. The number of human hours wasted on entertainment, particularly screen based entertainment, is probably higher now than ever in history.

Does it work? people now ask. Does it matter to me? They do not ask: Is it right? Is it good? Does it matter to God? There is no longer a common  template of transcendent principles against which all things are tested and measured for worth. In this sense modern man is worse off than the pagans, for at least they had their heroic men, their legendary philosophers, mythologies, gods, and their epic poems against which they could judge their present.

It may have been a deficient template, alien to the concept of holiness and overburdened with immoral deities, but it was undeniably transcendent. It crossed the threshold between the material and the spiritual. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, in these ancient stories we may even see faint echoes of a longing for Christ. Prometheus, man’s greatest benefactor, stole from the gods their flame and fought with Zeus on man’s behalf.

The assumption that anything new is better than anything old has become more and more ingrained until it now dominates the latest generation so completely that they are hardly even aware of what the past was like before their august advent into the world. Terms like “updating“, “moving with the times” and “modernising” have become synonyms for good. These terms are applied not just to the domain of technology but also to morality, lifestyle, and behaviour. To update one’s household furniture is a good thing, requiring no further explanation since it is obvious that the new is always better than the old. When a politician speaks of updating the law to fit the times, it is never questioned whether “the times” would be better off fitting the law than the other way about. It is never questioned because these terms are complete microwavable arguments in and of themselves. If a house is repainted in the latest style and someone asks what was wrong with the old style, one may simply rebuke the questioner with the phrase, “We must move with the times, mustn’t we?” and this is considered a satisfactory, even unanswerable, response.

Modern Protestantism must reclaim a sense of transcendence

I am convinced that the loss of a transcendent sense is not isolated to unbelievers but also to Christians. The decline is most accentuated among Protestants but no group of Christians is really immune. This inescapable deduction flows from the most elementary observations. Consider following image:

Church

This is St. Helen’s Church in the small village of Lea, West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire. This church is a typical representation of small, country churches found throughout Europe. It was built in the 12th century and during the 900 years since, has been restored several times. It features items – pews, stained glass windows, towers, roofing, paintings and so on – that date from nearly every century between its construction until now. The east window of the northern aisle features stained glass from 1330, a century that was particularly busy for the church.

Several things are noteworthy. First, this is a building constructed for a very small village. Lea’s current population is just over 1,000 people and the village is so small that it has no shops. Other than the church, its two major communal institutions are a tennis court and a small primary school. Major metropolitan centre it is not.

Over the centuries, the local population would never have much exceeded what it is today. Yet despite the small number of people that would have worshipped here, Christians of the 12th century constructed a building that required a significant investment of capital and labour, and was obviously intended to be permanent. The builders of St. Helen’s expected it to be in use for a very long time. They were not building something that might – maybe – last for merely a hundred years. They were building something that would be used by their great-grandchildren. It would last for as long as God willed, maybe even to the ending of the age.

The building reflects an attitude of confidence about the future and a collective concern for coming generations that is quite foreign to modern man. They may not have been historians but the villagers who built and worshipped here 900 years ago would have known about the prophets, biblical kings, apostles, and probably a good deal of hagiography. They would have been trained to see their faith as one that stretched back through the mists of time to the dawning of the world. Their confidence in the long history of the church and in a transcendent God resulted in a stability of purpose. This building, in other words, was a vote of confidence in the future.

Secondly, note the aesthetics. Although only a small country church and therefore built with some degree of economy and functionality in mind, the designers and builders were still keen that it should offer a clear expression that something special occurred in this place that occurred nowhere else. For it was here that the community gathered to offer up their communal worship of God, the King of Creation in whose hands their lives rested.

For many centuries this would have been the most ornate building in the village and certainly among the largest. Situated more-or-less in the dead centre of the village, its tower reaches higher than any other structure; its windows are long and beautifully outfitted with stained glass. There are a number of Gothic features on the tower and the interior is colourful. Nothing is disposable. Everything is built with durability in mind.

The building is doctrine and faith taking form in stone and wood. It reflects a formality and otherworldly concept of worship. The fundamental attitude behind this building is that worship involves being lifted into the heavenly realms; of handling carefully the sacred trust of the Faith. It is an act of coming into a sanctified place to kneel before an omniscient and holy God, and there participate in something awesome and mysterious. Participating, it must be said, not as individuals who happen to be sitting in a group; but as a community approaching the only true God together.

This building, although one among many churches just like it, represents an entirely different way of thinking to our own. Contrast with this:

group

Could meaningful worship be offered up in a setting like this? Of course. Christians have worshipped in caves, in prisons, and holes in the ground before. Our Lord promised that wherever there are two or three gathered in his name, there he would likewise gather in the midst of them. We are all familiar with the Christians in the Roman catacombs during the early centuries of persecution.

These arguments for the “democratisation” and “de-formalising” of worship are so well known by nearly every Protestant of the last hundred years that they trip from the tongue with hardly any thought. And yet, so soon forgotten, is that in the long intervening years since the ascension of Christ, the predominant and favoured form of worship of the overwhelming majority of Christians everywhere has been decidedly toward the elevated and formal. Borrowing from the forms of worship laid down in the Old Testament, Christians have sought to worship in an atmosphere of sacredness and other-worldliness, with a true effort to maintain a faithful continuance of worthwhile practices laid down by dozens of generations.

I would argue that their sense of the all-pervading holiness and greatness of God – as the One before whom man in his smallness bows – has been largely dispensed with and modern worship is more akin to the receipt of information.

I am not suggesting that reverent and meaningful worship cannot be offered up in a variety of formats, neither am I advocating for a particular form of worship. Only that a study of the past conveys a very different attitude toward life and toward God from what is generally expressed today. The difference is the loss of a heavy sense of transcendence, and this has diminished the practice of the faith, and I believe driven people from it. In some way, an informality in worship renders it something less than that which our forefathers of faith experienced and practiced, and passed to us.

No Ideology Last Forever

stalinstatue

A statue of Stalin, once the feared ruler of millions, lies abandoned in the dirt. The ideology of communism which he used to justify his brutality has also experienced much the same fate.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the defeat of Germany during the Second World War was the absence of Nazis. Few people acknowledged having ever belonged to the party. Its leaders scattered and tried to bury their record. Many other Germans claimed no knowledge of government atrocities like the Holocaust. Subsequent interviews of civilians often have them musing along the lines of, “We didn’t want to dig too deeply into what was happening. We just thought the removal of Jews would be good for business.

Even Herman Göring claimed not to been an active persecutor of Jews. He later said that he would never have supported the Nuremberg Laws and other anti-Semitic measures had he realised it would lead to the horror of the Holocaust. Despite this, Göring gave tacit support to the Holocaust, and was certainly complicit in robbing Jewish families of valuables. In other words, he might not have been so savagely anti-Semitic, but he knew how to make hay while the prevailing wind was blowing in a certain direction.

In Hitler’s Last Will and Testament, dictated in his bunker in Berlin in the final days of his regime, he said that he hoped Nazism would continue after his death and that “the struggle” of the German people would continue. By this, he meant their struggle against Jews and communism. Of course, Hitler did not get his wish. In fact the credibility of Nazism collapsed utterly as his regime was dissected and examined after the war.

Today, apart from a few cracked anti-Semites gathering in basements and getting a buzz from their Sieg Heils and salutes to portraits of a long-dead dictator, Nazism holds little attraction to people. The wearisome rallies, songs, racism, shouting, saluting, and its brutal, heartless use of human beings as mere instruments all seems horrendous, ridiculous, evil and sad.

In fact, although a few of my students express sympathy with some of the tenets of Fascism, none of them can understand the attraction of Nazism. None of them can fathom how such an extreme ideology could come to power, and then remain in power even when its effects on the population became increasingly deleterious. Although Nazism at its peak seemed to be unassailable and impregnable, beyond the power of a mere man to overturn, yet after a run of just twelve years it came to a bloody termination along with the group that gave rise to it. It demonstrates that human ideologies do not last forever. And when they fail – as they inevitably do – great is the fall of them.

This is an encouraging reminder for us in the 21st century. Our time is characterised by a rampant and radical secular ideology, ever more aggressively intent on toppling Christian beliefs and convictions and pushing them out of the public sphere. This is not new. Since the Enlightenment, a smorgasbord of ideologies have been part of the human experience in the West, and each of these have been variously hostile toward Christianity to different degrees. The current anti-theistic humanist secularism is more benign, (at least, in some ways), than the communism and fascism of the previous century. But it is an ideology nonetheless, with advocates who justify their programme with terms like equality and tolerance when we know that what they actually mean is unequal treatment, with some groups having rights that supersede those of other groups (e.g. Christians)

Ideologies always require government and institutional support. But if history teaches us anything, it is that ideologies that require institutional protection are fundamentally weak things. They can thrive only in an absence of any meaningful rebuttal. They can survive only when they can avoid being challenged. This is particularly true of the “social justice” shibboleths of secularism where only one viewpoint is ever presented in the professional news media; and where only one viewpoint is discussed, taught, spoken, and written. People who step out of line find a mob howling for punishment. Institutions then swing into action against the offenders, sometimes even to their own detriment. One university in my state rejected a large grant of money for a new research centre because a person was involved in the project who had made the claim that poverty was more important than climate change.

Transparently obvious truths cannot be publicly spoken when an ideology is in ascendancy. Questions cannot be asked. Things become unsayable. And the vast mass of people meekly fall into line, sensing the direction of the prevailing wind. Most people find it is altogether safer to capitulate or at least to keep quiet – as Orwell once wrote, to aim to be “free on the inside”. Those who openly chaff under the yoke of the ideology – usually Christians – pay the price for doing so. They are the bigots who must be maligned but never understood. Some activists would have people believe that the Christian faith is an evil, and that their version of godless secularism is mankind’s deliverance. Under such pressures, for the Christian faithful, sometimes it can seem as if the current ideology is permanent and unmovable.

But history teaches us that no ideology and no social arrangement lasts forever. All ideologies, by seeking to create a godless worldview and social practice, are shot through with cancerous contradictions that ultimately destroy the ideology from within. For example, communism could never be realised as Marx dreamed, because it was fundamentally unable to reshape human nature. It was a juvenile idea – that people would labour for the sheer betterment of others and not for their own advancement, and that in time government could thus wither away leaving a workers’ paradise. It was a simplistic childish notion in the extreme (as ideologies generally are), but one reinforced by a monstrous regimen of secret police, torture, massed surveillance, and barbed wire fences. The fences and walls have been a ubiquitous feature of communist regimes, whose leaders have always found it necessary to keep their people from escaping paradise.

Such contradictions led to falsified data until the Soviet Union was largely planning its economy on figures that were essentially fictitious. Everybody told lies. Atheism did not produce the seedbed of a moral life, and without God everything becomes morally permissible. The entire society participated in a great mass deception of social practice. The people themselves often came to recognise that their way of life was abnormal and that it should not be necessary to mouth platitudes or inflate production figures. They came to see their leaders as pathetic fools. Eventually, the simple human longing for a reasonable measure of prosperity overwhelmed the government machinery of fetid dreams, lies, propaganda, and a failed ideology.

Nazism was no different. Its entire existence was predicated on war. It never learned how to function in peacetime. In time, Hitler’s application of Social Darwinism to government and to society produced a brutal, radicalism that created so many enemies and so many foolish, childish decisions that the regime could not sustain itself. The same could be said for every other social ideology. All ideologies and schemes of mankind eventually run their course. They cannot survive because they do not find their origin in God, or predicated on his enduring word. Only the Church has survived century upon century, because it builds itself upon the everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So it will be for the current brand of secularism that is progressing to a soft form of tyranny before our very eyes. This secularism is also riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. It too will last for a season before it will also collapse beneath the weight of the lies it perpetuates and the ungodly, false dream it is trying to live out.

Human Rights vs. Human Rights

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A Soviet propaganda poster. Its message was obvious to the most illiterate Russian peasant: religious people stand in the way of progress and the development of a better world. Bulldozing them out of the way is therefore a logical and necessary step to betterment.

Anyone who has studied dictatorial regimes will recognise that classic, orthodox tyrannies always recognise the Christian Church to be an impediment, if not an outright obstacle that must be destroyed. For all of Richard Dawkins’ nonsense about Hitler being a Roman Catholic, his administration was deeply anti-church and anti-Christian and produced some of the most bizarre replacement theologies in the modern world (like Himmler’s occultic blend of mysticism and German mythology). German fascists took this view partly because Christianity was based on “Jew texts” and partly because biblical Christianity elevates virtues that the fascists regarded as weakening vices – things like compassion, care for the weak, the primacy of the reward in the world to come, and the universality of the human condition unrestricted by “blood, race and soil”. Such beliefs are incompatible with any human-centred, utopian ideology.

Likewise, communist regimes around the world – with almost no exceptions – have been equally as systematic (and in fact, usually more transparently hostile and radical than the fascists) in their opposition to confessing Christians. Russian communists were unabashed in listing the eradication of religion as one of the major objectives of their administration and ideology. Tens of thousands of churches were demolished; the overwhelming majority of Russian Orthodox clergy were shot (about 100,000) or otherwise imprisoned. In fact, the Russian Orthodox Church was very nearly extinct when the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa. It is almost unbelievable, but in all of Russia there were only about 500 functional churches left and a very small handful of clergy.

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(The Second World War is a tragic episode in human history, but is rich in examples of the Sovereignty of God. It is surely no coincidence that a residue of Christianity – albeit in the form of Russian Orthodoxy – was preserved under Stalin in the Soviet Union itself by an invasion orchestrated by an equally anti-Christian ideology.)

Whatever one may think of the orthodoxy of the Russian Orthodox Church (and as Protestants we cannot accept the bulk of its teaching as biblical), their faithful adherents nonetheless present an illustration of amazing resistance and fidelity in the face of what is probably the most intense and widespread persecution of Christian people in the modern era. The persecution lessened only after the German invasion, when Stalin gave concessions to the Russian Orthodox Church and actively sought to revive so that it might to imprint some sense of supernatural mission upon the minds of the Russian people, who could hardly be expected to fight in the name of communism alone having, by that stage, experienced it for about 23 years.

The question to consider here is why is the church such a target? The answer is straightforward, at least when considered in raw political and social terms: in revolutionary times all radicals who are intent on cultural transformation recognise the Church as an autonomous centre of opposition with its own authoritative message that demands unquestioning obedience. This cannot coexist with modern total states, although the Church can coexist with monarchical states where the king cannot rule or legislate by fiat alone.

From the perspective of radicals, the Church’s teachings always trumps those of the state, and therefore constitutes a serious threat to the state. The Church has a message from heaven; the state can only claim that its ideology is from men. The Church has its mandate from God; the state can only claim a mandate from “the people”. The Church has texts that are infallible, inerrant and ancient; the state can only appeal to texts that are fallible, errant, and recent. The Church is founded on God in human form – the Person of Jesus Christ; the best the state can manage is to attempt to deify a leader, president, or generalissimo. The Christian people who constitute the Church will lay down their lives for the Faith in the sure knowledge of everlasting life; the state can only command men to lay down their lives for a paradise on Earth.

In Western countries we have become accustomed to the Church being legally inviolable. Its finances are untaxed; various constitutions declare it immune from government interference; and it is usually exempted from laws that run counter to its teachings and mission. Indeed, this is a peculiar feature of Western constitutional government, which is so much a product of the Protestant Reformation.

But, times are a’changin’. We are living in the midst of a cultural revolution, primarily driven by sexual inclinations and the legitimisation of novel relationship types. And the Church is increasingly existing on an island of shrinking support in the wider culture which is growing restless at the Church’s historic immunity to state interference. And the means by which the state is being harnessed to attack this only remaining bastion of serious counter-cultural opposition is the tension between “human rights”.

Human rights are universal. They apply to all people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a covenant devised in the ashes of the scarred, near-apocalyptic, post-Second World War era with all its traumas, and was designed to be applicable to the entire human race. It is a wonderful document, full of righteous sentiment, affirming the freedom and dignity of the individual and granting to him or her the right to be unencumbered by the unreasonable control and mastery of another. Great faith was invested in this document. It was assumed that signatory nations with their recent experience of war would remember the depths of human horror forevermore, and thereby not depart from this straight way.

Yet these rights have now come into tension – a tension that was never imagined in 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was developed. The great tension of our times is the freedom of conscience and religion as opposed to the new rights of non-discrimination, non-offence-giving, non-hate speech, and radical equality of access to individual’s service. The cultural revolutionaries adopt the attitude that, “Very well, you may have your freedom of conscience and religion, but you must never act upon it within the shared public domain“, which of course is no freedom at all.

In like manner, to say, “Yes, we uphold freedom of speech, but if you say X or Y, which was once acceptable but is acceptable no longer, then you are engaging in hate speech, calculated to offend people, and therefore is illegal and unacceptable“. Under such a view, freedom of speech is no longer freedom at all. As the Internationale put it (heaven forfend! I quote from it only this once!),  freedom is transformed into mere extended privilege. It is transformed into the right to only say what is popular; what is convenient; what is supported by the majority. To be able to say only what everybody else is saying requires, surely, no legal protection at all. You do not need a human right for that. You do, however, need the right of free speech to protect the act of saying something that is unpopular.

As soon as one is told that they may not act according to their conscience in refusing to do something – like bake a cake, or open their bathrooms to people of a certain gender, or openly declare their ancient beliefs – then the rights that were brought into focus by a devastating and tragic episode in human history have been eroded.

This is because “rights” increasingly are not thought of as universal standards that apply to all people equally and thus are meant to protect the unpopular as much as the popular. Rather they are seen as primarily about protecting the interests of select minorities from the unintended, uncontrolled, and indirect results of other people’s freedoms, and moreover doing so with a hyper-sensitivity and a higher-priority toward some groups rather than others.

For instance, in Australia there is mounting pressure for a parliamentary decision on something that is commonly called “same-sex marriage”. The conservative government has purposed to use a process similar to that of the Irish referendum, and to ask the Australian people to vote on the issue through a plebiscite. The constellation of left-wing parties are deeply opposed to any kind of popular vote. Why? Because “human rights are not determined by popular vote“. Ironically, these parties argue that the correct approach is to have politicians vote on the issue in the parliamentary chambers and be done with it. In other words, if it were carried by a majority vote by professional politicians then this “human right” would presumably enter existence as a human right within Australia.

Of course, in objective terms, it is true that human rights are not decided by a majority. That is the philosophic framework behind human rights. But this is not the case in terms of political process. After all, each signatory state to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had to ratify the covenant through their parliamentary systems. Even the United Nations itself is an organisation that functions on the basis of voting, and this has never been seen as inimical to human rights. To want human rights to enter existence without any process at all is to advocate tyranny and a fear of democracy. Yet the left-wing parties do not really believe their own rhetoric. They merely count on people not thinking it through very deeply. The reality is that they prefer a method that avoids any popular vote because it is much easier to work over a small group in the nation’s capital who will have a “conscience vote” (in other words, a vote reflecting the politician’s own conscience rather than the will of their electors). Moreover, they prefer this method because they calculate that they have the numbers to enact the legislation.

In other words, it is precisely because they think they have enough numbers in parliament to win on the issue that they have chosen to belittle a more democratic approach. And in so doing, they are essentially claiming that these human rights exist in some ethereal place and that they can be determined by a select group (i.e. themselves) who need not apply a democratic procedure to their recognition, or even acknowledge and seek out the true will of the people they represent. After all, they have the numbers.

They are therefore practising the very thing they claim to oppose: the use of numbers to birth a human right in Australia.

Another, and more instructive argument that they have made, however, is that debating same-sex marriage and voting on it would be cruel, divisive, and raise uncomfortable arguments and issues that could lead to great harm among people who practice homosexuality. In essence, (and it has been seriously put this way) the exercise of popular democracy could lead to deaths among practising homosexuals who might be tempted to commit suicide due to exposure to people and ideas that oppose their particular lifestyle. This, of course, raises a great many questions about how far democracy should be curtailed in order to prevent bad things from happening to people who might have mental vulnerabilities. For instance, is it the case that parliament should not debate same-sex marriage in case it is so hurtful and divisive that it causes people who practice homosexuality to commit suicide? If a public debate is harmful and would unleash dark forces, so might a parliamentary debate. After all, both would hit the television screens.

Moreover, is it the case that parliament should not discuss taxation in case it drives the poor to despair and leads to suicide? Should there be no freedom of speech on certain issues like war, in case soldiers’ widows become traumatised and commit suicide? If, as these left-wing group argue, the precautionary principle must be applied to protect people from unknown future harms, then just how far are we to take the precautionary principle? Indeed, arguments are beginning to surface to the effect that religious freedom itself should be curtailed precisely on the basis of the precautionary principle. To allow religious people to speak their message could result in harm to people whose lifestyle they disapprove of. Therefore, in the interests of human rights, the human right to the free exercise of religion must die. It seems, in the new economy, not all human rights are equal.

Lutherans Regret Abolition of Women’s Ordination in Latvia

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The German Evangelical webpage featured an article that outlined the regret among various Lutheran leaders when Latvian Lutherans voted to abolish women’s ordination.

There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about that, of course. The mainstream churches of Europe have so deeply sunk into secularism and theological liberalism that true Christianity now resides in exceptional pockets. It is no longer the norm. One needs to go as far afield as Africa or Asia to find mainstream churches that faithfully retain their deposit of orthodoxy.

What is instructive about this article, however, are the arguments made by supporters of women’s ordination. Their arguments bear the unmistakable imprint of secular reasoning. It is a powerful indication that feminist philosophy has deeply infiltrated the Lutheran World Federation, (not that there was ever much doubt about that). [Read more]

Christianity in Nazi Germany: How Should a Christian Live in an Evil Time? (PART 1)

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(PART 1).

For the last few months, I have been teaching a course on the rise of Nazism in Germany.

It is a complex subject – frustrating for every educator, lecturer, teacher or professor who has ever tackled the subject, for he must begin by unpicking the ideas that his students have uncritically hoovered up out of the cultural fabric.

At the outset, I impressed upon my students the need for them to dispense with their ideas of Nazism derived from Hollywood, and from school, and to set aside their reflexive condemnation of Hitler as “insane” or “a madman”. Such a superficial approach is designed only to make modern individuals feel more comfortable – for here is a handy-dandy explanation of great evil – but does not bring us toward any meaningful measure of objective truth.

An enlightened mind will naturally seek a nuanced and fine-grained understanding of these past episodes, and to do so through a critical historiography that recognises that these were real events, real people, who had real ideas and convictions. They were not “insane”, at least, not in the classic psychiatric sense of term. And even within Nazi Germany, life was not populated with a Disney-esque binary of heroes and villains. Despite examples of moral whiteness and moral blackness, there were far more shades of moral grey than even postmodern people like to imagine.

Nazi Germany is much more than a study of moral and political evil. It is more than an exploration of social complicity or a look at the destructive potential of human ideology. It is more than an interesting insight into the corruption of absolute power. It is more than any of this. For it provides us with one of the most illuminating illustrations of a society that reorganised itself on purposefully, teeth-clenched-in-determination, profuse, robust repudiations of the commandments and instructions God has given us in Holy Scripture.

And in the process it raises the critical question that is present in every generation of true Christians: How then, shall we live? How should Christians live in an evil time? How should true Christians function in an age of governance that celebrates wickedness, and destroys good? In our time, how then, shall we live?

This is a critical question because we face a future in which governments (of any persuasion) now come to office with a de facto hostility toward Christian doctrine. The difference lies only in the degree of hostility from one party to another. Moreover, on a broader level, the Western World has lapsed into a collection of secular states which have embraced the ideologies of radical personal autonomy. As faith fades; as churches hold their final parish meetings before dissolving themselves; as denominations shut their doors in rural places and retreat to the urban centres, we are left with the prospect of living as minorities – a kind of religious enclave – within a social, cultural and political context that is inimical to any true and meaningful Christian expression.

Therefore, by looking at how Christians lived (or should have lived) under famously abhorrent regimes, we may learn some lessons for our own time. Not that our lands are yet proximate to the evil of a 1940’s fascist state – that certainly is not my argument, and any predictions that we are shortly to plunge into a new form of Nazism are certainly unhinged and intellectually unworthy. Nonetheless, we must face the reality of increasingly oppositional and disdainful government. We can learn something about how to live rightly in these conditions coming upon us, by studying how other Christians live for Christ in truly difficult times.

This is not easy work. For all the information humankind possess, he is not wise. And he has quickly forgotten to take the past seriously. No wonder nearly the entirety of Israel or Judah could depart from the Living God within a generation or two of great deliverance. Inter-generational arrogance has a tendency to reduce the past to forgettable nuggets, and thus, cease struggling to grasp it. Christians themselves often imbibe this attitude.

In contradistinction, previous generations of Christian philosophers, theologians and thinkers tried to come to terms with the unprecedented scale of evil and error of the Second World War. They really tried to understand the sociological forces and currents released within societies that later perpetrated great atrocities, but at the same time to also acknowledge that “our” democratic societies were responsible for horrors as well. Less in scale, to be sure, but blots and blemishes that cannot be erased from the record nonetheless.

In fact, even seriously secular intellectuals once struggled to deal with these events. I can remember one of my history professors explaining that the First World War did grave damage to the Old World of Europe, but the Second World War finished the culture forever. “Whose values,” he said, “could come to terms with the Holocaust and the atomic bomb? Whose values could be adequate for such things?

In our generation the bar has been definitely lowered. These events have become the stuff of movies, of “Second World War for Dummies” books, and are less raw and confronting. Young people regard it almost as a dark fairy tale. At the same time, populist writers and news organisations have done a great disservice to their viewers and readers by using Nazi Germany as an ideological truncheon; a clever strategic move in the culture wars, or a means of putting the wind up an opponent in the political contest. It has emptied an entire historical episode from its truly significant moral content; coarsened people; and turned a momentous period of history into a comic facade of heroes and villains.

I want to approach this topic seriously, and to investigate what scripture would teach us, and how true Christians actually behaved in the face of Nazism. It should be a difficult and confronting topic. It should hopefully produce humility and worthwhile lessons.