One source of perennial discussion in right-wing circles is the role of art in our movement. I think there are three approaches. Since I’m a content creator (my formal education is in creative writing) and the friendly neighborhood Rothbardian, I want to discuss three strategies for content creators on the dissident right and how they can serve the movement.
Creating good content will always help us. This is true regardless of the approach. There are some approaches that are a blunder, but those that lead to good content will always have value.
The first purpose of right-wing art is to inoculate the culture against subversion. This art does not need to be explicitly right-wing, it simply has to be good.
Of course, the current moment is ripe for this. Given the intense focus on social justice and other leftist social theories in “mainstream” media and massive entertainment corporations, any alternative without this message is better.
This kind of work doesn’t even have to be particularly ideologically pure, because it’s not about ideology.
Most markets are not zero-sum. As more quality options open up, a greater amount of investment (and consumer spending) will flow into the market.
However, people still choose where to allocate their entertainment spending, and moving customer dollars away from mainstream Hollywood (as the Daily Wire is doing), video game, tabletop roleplaying game, literature, and music centers is a win for the right under current conditions.
Any explicitly right-wing or decentralized independent creator not part of a left-wing vanguard is superior to the leftist homogeneity of the existing institutions. This may change in a future where we have explicitly right-wing content creators who can satisfy all the market’s demands, but this is not the case right now.
One important consideration here is that increasing social capital is important.
In an ideal world, we can build a network of people who are explicitly political and create content that the mainstream can enjoy.
However, even if a good number of right-wing content creators choose to be publicly apolitical—in the true sense of the term, not merely going with the flow—they will still occupy time and space in the public eye.
If June rolls around and the average person doesn’t see unironic rainbow flags and celebration of modern sexual degradation, then we will have leveled a blow against the regime.
Dissidents can strike a blow quietly by refusing to go along with mainstream narratives. If we don’t openly support the regime’s proxy wars, if we don’t amplify their narrative, and if we don’t normalize regime-sanctioned behaviors, successful dissidents can retain their cover and strip away the regime’s influence.
A common objection to this is that amplifying the regime signals is a rite of passage. You can’t secure mainstream funding or media coverage without bending the knee.
This is probably true, and we see left-wing “journalists” freaking out about such things as being able to merely incapacitate instead of killing German conscripts in video games (a rare time when hyper-violence is celebrated instead of decried as toxic masculinity is when you’re killing enemies of the leftist total state).
However, the mainstream has lost its value. We see publishers failing to sell books by Meghan McCain and Jill Biden (which are probably ghostwritten well above the capabilities of their purported authors). The regime often buys, directly or through intermediaries like NGOs, large portions of the final sale total of its own books.
This doesn’t reflect a direct correlation between book sales and other media, because more expensive multimedia entertainment still has spectacle if nothing else to lure people in. However, we have seen alternatives spring up in the film, gaming, and music spaces.
My suspicion is that when one has the choice between left-wing politicized drivel and anything else, the anything else will win for the same reasons that the mediocre Christian entertainment of the 90s failed to attract serious mainstream audiences.
One lesson to take from various communities is that it’s possible to get a lot of cultural power by producing small, viral, and catchy works that people can share quickly and easily across the internet.
A lot of communities like the 3d-printed gun community or Alex Jones fans can use this to get around censorship by producing low-difficulty high-speed content. This has the potential to go viral, doesn’t require a lot of context, and can present ideas and concepts quickly.
A strategic use of this can be found in the more politically oriented uses of these, like video compilations showing Fidel Castro next to Justin Trudeau and alleging paternity (regardless of whether this is true, it wastes regime time because they can’t resist the urge to fact-check it) or in situations where a politically embarrassing incident can be communicated in 90 seconds with a complete multimedia approach (for instance, a condemnation of the US war in the Balkans as a pretext for NATO expansion that did more harm than good).
The second role of right-wing artists is to subvert the existing regime’s narrative.
Beyond merely providing an alternative, subversion plays in the same space as the mainstream media but changes up the script.
This requires infiltration into the existing institutions. This will be easier in some industries than others, and simply depends on the publishing to consumer pipeline.
Decentralization has made it easier for the true alternative method outlined under cultural inoculation to succeed, but the increasing ideological bent in the mainstream, bolstered by particular characteristics of the current regime narrative, makes subversion difficult by design.
It is helpful to think in terms of civic religion. Many creative works put out by regime-friendly and traditional non-dissident publishers are little more than hymns in this religious tradition.
Aims of Subversion
Subversion achieves one of three goals by manipulating the target audience. Ideally subversion is not obvious and blatant but clearly delivers the point. Reefer Madness, regardless of its accuracy, was not part of an effective campaign to stir anti-marijuana sentiment in children.
The explicit deconstruction of existing norms and values causes one to reconsider previously held positions. The current regime used this tactic against the old social order, and its value is great.
This is one reason the left considers any positive depiction of patriarchy. They refuse to show society’s protectors, in any form (fathers, police, soldiers, etc.) as positive in any light, and raise a stink about how something as inane as Top Gun is little more than regime propaganda.
That such things are likely regime propaganda ignores the necessity of instilling respect (if conditional) for the protectors of order. However, the left intentionally inflicts distress and associates such things with danger and corruption.
The great thing about deconstruction is that you can show it in art easily by making the tragic or dramatic flaws in characters center on something inimical to right-wing thought. We can see this in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” a story which dos[;ays deeply reactionary responses to the idea of egalitarianism (even if Vonnegut himself was not a reactionary opposed to equality in other ways).
If egalitarianism is bad, then you will subvert the left-wing project of egalitarianism.
The other is to both explicitly and implicitly present assertions about the world in literary and artistic works and the conversations that surround them.
One example of this is the fascination in leftist studies of insinuating homosexual relationships between any men who had close friendships with another man, applied to both historical figures and literary characters.
Insinuations like this accompany the idea that such things carry cultural stigma, excusing the lack of evidence on account of deliberate concealment.
While this historical revisionism is immoral in its own right—such speculations are fine for one’s table talk, but not academic or mainstream discourse—there is an important strategic value here.
By presenting information that reframes the narrative, it is possible to change things. People vastly overstate the rate of homosexuality and other LGBTQ characteristics in the general population. We can do the same by focusing on narratives of, for instance, famous Christians and amplifying the religious parts of their lives to give a perception (likely historically accurate) that religion was central to life.
Another option for the subversive is to portray a point as absurd by defending it poorly. This is subtle, difficult, and I don’t endorse this route, but it has been done.
However, many of the examples of this have wound up backfiring. The Starship Troopers film set out to lampoon and ridicule right-wing thought, but it instead introduced many people (including myself) to reactionary ideas about the franchise and normalized conversation about them at a time in which the left had already accomplished its goals.
The song “Keep Your Rifle by Your Side” from Far Cry 5 has become an anthem for right-wingers because despite parodying survivalist/prepper/boogaloo types it has a catchy tune and nothing in it successfully debunks any of their ideas.
In short, black propaganda is difficult and has high risks with questionable rewards. Some of these failures come from leftists’ incapability to understand right-wing thought, but some of it also has something to do with the nature of it. Something only suffers from being defended poorly if it is effectively attacked. A better example here would be the endless droning on about “trickle-down economics” that the leftists do despite no right-winger ever espousing any theory that is directly equivalent.
Another use for right-wing art is to indoctrinate people in our ideas.
There is a reason indoctrination has a negative context—but it is something that all belief systems must do. As a Rothbardian with a belief that a intellectual vanguard that will bring about a libertarian social order (or, at least, that the vanguard is the most likely way to bring about a libertarian social order), it is worth viewing every ideological presentation as doing one of three things:
It may create a vanguard.
It may recruit the masses.
It may refute opposing ideas.
The last is useless, and the second is useless without the first.
Indoctrination for Masses
Art is a vehicle for ideas and spirits. The work of Ayn Rand is much more well-received than her philosophy. Despite her correct stance on free markets and their natural rivalry with progressivism, few people cite her analysis of capitalism when they talk about her work. Instead, they reference one of her novels, or perhaps her novella Anthem, which is probably the best from an artistic standpoint.
This is a testament to the power art wields, but it is primarily targeted at the masses.
And this is where one must consider their own art. Modern “conservatism” (little more than a progressivism restrained by something that bears distant resemblance to sanity) is very good at refuting the ideas of progressives, but bad at rallying masses or creating a vanguard.
The MAGA movement rallied the masses where mainline Republican thought had either languished in obscurity or drifted into the progressive neoconservative camp or rudderless and ineffective TEA Party camp.
However, it failed to produce an intellectual vanguard, in part because Trump was little more than the platonic ideal of noughties Republicanism sans Bush’s neoconservatism.
Many of the successors who claim Trump’s legacy from a more ideologically pure position don’t have mass appeal or are merely claimants to elitehood without any substance to back their claims.
Indoctrination for Vanguards
For vanguards, the ideal is different. The natural elite can confront ideas even when they are uncomfortable and when they are outside the natural windows.
One reason MAGA could never reach the vanguards is that it is a message for the downtrodden. To borrow from Nietzsche, it was a slave morality (or, to put it another way, it was a philosophy designed for underdogs). MAGA spoke to those the neoliberal regime forgot, and there is value to that.
I am not implying, of course, that this is inferior to the neoliberal contempt for the poor. I am lower middle-class myself (despite my over-education), and to the degree that we have government it should respect the honest people of America rather than the decadent artificial elites with their state affiliation.
But any populist movement must target the elites. Noblesse oblige is more effective than underdog philosophies.
The vanguards are the secular priests of a civic religion. They must have a myth to drive them. Rand’s work appeals to vanguards, albeit in a flawed manner (Galt’s retreat from society causes it to collapse, so at least there’s something here, but this is not a winner’s myth).
To do this it must have clear archetypal figures and the trappings of myth. What is our paradise? Where are our heroes? How will we achieve our goals? Envisioning things does not bring them about, but it is a prerequisite for doing so.