Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right.

Author:Dunbar, Mark
Position:Book review

Kill All the Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right

by Angela Nagle

Zero Books, June 2017

136pp.; $16.95

Before he was the White House chief strategist, before he was a founding member of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon served on the board of a company called Internet Gaming Entertainment. IGE made its profits by hiring poor Chinese workers to play World of Warcraft all day, then selling the digital goods these workers acquired to affluent Western customers. This was evidently a sustainable business model until the company was sued by WoW players for the neurotic in-game distortions it was causing. IGE was ruined by the lawsuit--it eventually had to change its name and begin exploring other profitable outlets in gaming. The legal experience, however, wasn't bad for Bannon. Besides being appointed CEO of the rechristened Affinity Media, he also believed he had found an online vanguard for his deranged political ambitions: what's now called the "alt-right."

Angela Nagle's short, intelligent book, Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right, is the story of how these "teenage gamers, pseudonymous swastika-posting anime lovers, ironic South Park conservatives, anti-feminist pranksters, nerdish harassers, and meme-making trolls" had until recently been gaining so much cultural, political, and ideological momentum. Somehow the politics of David Duke combined with the middle-class whininess-cum-sadism of Generation Xers became fashionable online. Explanations are needed. Nagle brilliantly provides them.

Modern conservatism has always tried using sneers and sarcasm to attract younger members. In the 1980s card-carriers of Britain's Federation of Conservative Students wore "Hang Nelson Mandela" stickers (ironically, of course). In his Letters to a Young Conservative, Dinesh D'Souza--a former editor of Dartmouth Review, a conservative student newspaper infamous for its witless skylarking--gave propaganda advice to campus reactionaries, suggesting for comedic effect they "distribute a pamphlet titled 'Feminist Thought' that is made up of blank pages. Establish a Society for Creative Homophobia ... Put a picture of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal on your Web site and instruct people who think he deserves capital punishment to click a button and execute him online."

Then there are right-wing liberatirans like FOX's Greg Gutfeld who practice the fatiguing nineties shtick of...

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