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Beach Nietzsche: A Review of Bronze Age Mindset

Suppose Nietzsche was a “Chad” — what then? Suppose instead of being the sickly incel who alienated the few friends he had, was thrice rejected by the one woman he proposed marriage to, and sold hardly any copies of his self-published books — suppose that he was a Bro. Or rather, imagine the dead Nietzsche not as a syphilitic corpse but as a fallen Greek hero, a radiant paragon of strength, power, and beauty — a half-god, eulogized by the Dionysian cult of his fellow warriors. And imagine that those warriors are Abercrombie and Fitch models, hunky nudist surfers, eminently buff and handsome men. Now imagine that these Abercrombie and Fitch models are the Nazi Sturmabteilung.

Such is the world of the new book Bronze Age Mindset by the pseudonymous “Bronze Age Pervert.” A clever pastiche of the early hellenophile Nietzsche of The Birth of Tragedy, who gazes back to classical antiquity and sees a vital, primordial appreciation of life that has been lost to us moderns, as well as Nietzsche’s long-standing legacy of interpretation by far-right and fascist types, its title is a parody of the self-help books of alt-light social media personality Mike Cernovich (with such titles as Gorilla Mindset), himself a laughably amateur reader of Nietzsche. Whereas Cernovich just rips a few misogynistic zingers from Nietzsche’s aphorisms to “own the feminists,” Bronze Age Pervert (often shortened to “BAP”) actually seems to be a thoughtful reader of the great philosopher, obsessed with matching his “untimely” style — his cadence and breaks, his paradoxical reversals, his passionate exclamations. But unlike Nietzsche (and more like Cernovich), BAP’s book, accompanied by an uncannily sympathetic profile in a recent Vox article and revelrous acclaim from his own online Dionysian cult of fans, has sold remarkably well.

Aside from the nostalgic longing for an idealized past embodied in the Dionysian chaos of Greek antiquity, the aspect of Nietzsche’s work BAP grasps most aggressively is that of the will-to-power, the fundamental, insatiable force that underpins all life in its tendency to persevere and thrive in its power of acting. For BAP, this force is embodied in the highest sense by the physical strength of a barbarian warlord. And so he exalts the appearance of these great warriors as they are manifested throughout world history as if they were the diverse, so-called “cannibal” shipmates aboard the Pequod in Moby Dick. Buff nomad princes of the steppe or open sea that resist the complacency of sedentary urban life, nomads who embrace life in the fullest sense of its most joyous ecstasies and most vicious cruelties — powerful, beautiful, restless, and insatiable conquerors.

The vital affirmative force of pure will, the ever-flowing fire of Heraclitus, is opposed by the negative externalities that constrain it — women, the gays, xenoestrogens, life-hating nerds, the crowded spatial oppression of urban life, the tyranny of the herd, Jews, people who write for the Huffington Post, liberals, democracy, people obsessed with their own victimhood, slave morality, ressentiment — in short, civilization. In a sense, we have heard all of this before from Nietzsche himself, but not in the language of a renowned “shitposter” whose vocabulary of distinctive spellings (“attaq,” “sexorz,” “Bug-man,” “Turd World,” “huemans,” “gril,” “whoremoans,” “poast,”  “ghey”) and grammar that often omits articles (“Chimp in state of nature never jerks off, but in captivity he does, wat does this mean?”) has been cultivated in the environment of a far-right fringe internet discourse.

Civilization — the space of morality, of essences, of concrete categories — is hostile to the free cultivation of the will and prevents the appearance of such men of power as steppe nomads and bodybuilder surfer bros. It domesticates men and makes them weak, effeminate, and complacent. But civilization is tolerable inasmuch as it maintains residual spaces resistant to its law and order, an “underworld” of freedom in the “holes” of society — it is here, in filth, criminality, abjection, that the barbarian thrives. Thus the Bronze Age Pervert often describes his own personal adventures in which filth and abjection provide a line of flight to the outside. In one exemplary passage, the Nietzschean-pastiche tone gives way to a sort of nonchalant-noirish narrative voice:

“Having to be in passenger seat while moron is driving, I couldn’t even stand this friend and asked him if he wouldn’t mind if I jacked off while we drove between two cities. “Yeah man, sure, go ahead no big deal…” he agree, so I know there as nothing left in him. It’s for this reason that I go in the dirtiest of red light districts or enter porn cinemas: I like to see trap injecting industrial-grade silicon in chest, I like to hear whores trade stories how the word “homosexual” comes from “a sexual man,” and that homos are just hypersexualized whore-males. I believe this is true.” [§ 43]

There are several passages in which the narrator describes such overtly homoerotic encounters, often with some kind of indication that the encounter wasn’t “gay,” or that the possible “gayness” was acknowledged but is ultimately disarmed. Other men suddenly grab his crotch (multiple times), but he either doesn’t mind or gets angry about it. And when it’s him doing the touching, it’s always “not gay.” BAP is just a bodybuilder, after all, and he’s perfectly comfortable admiring the physiques of his fellow men. Calling this appreciation (of the body) gay is something that writers, nerds, and generally weak people (of the mind) do, generally as a means of bringing it down to terms they can understand and subsequently denigrate. Here we have one of the mainstream media’s greatest mediocrities doing just that:

Talking about the sexuality of the Bronze Age Pervert social media personality and Bronze Age Mindset book require talking about physical desire in a way that is both divorced from gay identity (Kirchick is the “gay” one here) and from sexual repression (BAP is clearly satisfied with building his public brand on far-right trolling mixed with endless pictures of hunky guys). Just as Jamie Kirchick wants the United States to engage in all kinds of democratic-queer-colonial military interventions around the world, so too he wants to engage in a scholarly colonization of male desire that boxes BAP into a liberal-ideological essential category. Presumably, the characterization of BAP in an article on “gays and the Alt-Right for The Washington Post” would gloss over all the nuances of #HandsomeThursday posting and attack him on the level Kirchick and his audience would enjoy (“Whereas I am the properly woke and well-adjusted openly gay journalist, this nazi freak here is obviously so repressed and ashamed of himself”). This rightfully draws ridicule. It also shows the need to talk about this kind of sexuality in a much more nuanced way than the liberal-ideological conception of homosexuality entails.

German sociologist Klaus Theweleit describes in Male Fantasies the collective unconscious of the fascist “warrior” through a study of the fantasies of men in the Freikorps that sprung up in Germany after World War I, many of whom would go on to become members of the Nazi SS or other parts of the Nazi Party. These fantasies are characterized by a hatred and fear of women, a sense that women are distractions that sabotage the rigid order or soldierly men, a mistrust of cities as the site of corruption, and a repressed homosexuality. This bears a superficial resemblance to the fantasies of Bronze Age Mindset. And, like BAP, whose catchphrase “You must SUBMIT” is repeated by him and his fans to become a meme unto itself, the Freikorps volunteers exalted the “Prussian” ideal of submission to powerful, militaristic authority.

The Freikorps volunteers were often war veterans and embraced these fantasies as a means of coping with the traumas of war. The common reference to war experience was sublated into a cult of national identity and submission into a larger authoritarian political framework that would rule Germany. The Freikorps volunteers wanted to annihilate their bodies and become one with the collective machine. But for BAP and his readers, there is no such common war trauma or sense of national identity. The “constructive” part, the part that offers a framework for some kind of revolutionary political potentiality, however brutal and totalitarian, falls off. So what remains for Bronze Age Mindset is just a magical realist self-help roleplay mechanism for a novelty-seeking bourgeois audience.

The misogyny and homophobia of the Freikorps is characterized by a literal, absolute fear of women and an urge to  “annihilate the body,” to remain stoic in the face of women’s sinister “liquid” or “Dionysian” seductive power. In other words, “sex is bad.” By contrast, the BAP fantasy is still that of the hypermasculine fascist paramilitary, but this fantasy is already seemingly aware of its sex-positive feminist and queer critiques. It’s already consciously aware that some scholarly nerd might call it “gay” — and it seeks to pre-empt and run around that accusation. Rather than be caught off guard repressing homoerotic desire, the BAP fantasy brings this desire forcefully to the surface. This kind of steppe nomad warrior feels entirely at home masturbating in front of his fellow warriors, going to gay bars to “troll,” and ejaculating at the sight of ancient Greek kouroi statues — and if you dare call those things “gay,” perhaps it is you who is gay!

The real problem BAP sees with the so-called “gheys” and “trannies” is not their queer desire, but their essentialism. In a sense, these people are too heteronormative, tied to the rigid, domesticated enforcement of essential categories of gender. The now-popular notion that a transgender person’s brain somehow structurally reflects the gender that they want to present as illustrates this tendency. The gay identity movement, rather than freeing queer desire from the “closet” of heteronormativity, confines men to a false and constructed gay “essence” that ultimately provides little more than perpetuating the acceptance and proliferation of “broken, effeminate” boys. The simplest argument one would perhaps associate with the stereotypical homophobe — that same-sex desire is “unnatural,” or just “gross” — is conspicuously absent. While he considers transgender people “worse than gays” in that they take the essentializing process of homosexuality a step farther by literally becoming women, he has no problem with “traps” in “the dirtiest of red light districts.”

The end result of this is, ironically, the advancement of an unmistakably queer project. Since Bronze Age Mindset is only able to relate to the idealized form of the warrior barbarian through an ironic distance (“There is no irony here: I don’t do irony! Learn that I don’t understand the gay idea of ‘irony’”), what’s left is just pure erotic simulation. It is the male-on-male porno parody of the fascist warrior, one that attempts to reclaim a space for male desire free from the slave-morality colonialism of gay identity. What initially appears in Bronze Age Mindset to be the Nietzsche of the reactionary, fascist, and militaristic interpretive tradition paradoxically unfolds into the Nietzsche of “postmodern,” feminist, and queer academia. This is the Nietzsche of famed leather connoisseur and bathhouse regular Michel Foucault, the Nietzsche of an endlessly recursive critique of structures of power/knowledge. Amazingly, many of his fans seem to take the “no homo” disclaimers at face value. Not very Nietzschean at all!

Mike Crumplar is a writer and editor living in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter.