It’s Not Enough to Just LARP

2016 marked a turning point in American consciousness, characterized by a promise that the future President shouted from a campaign podium: “We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism.” In retrospect, very little seems to have been done on that front, but the point remains: never before had globalism been called out on the national stage by an American president as an evil that must be fought. This wasn’t merely a top-down anthem directed at rubes who didn’t know any better, either. The millions of voters he succeeded in swaying—the people defrauded of their livelihoods by things like NAFTA and free trade, who have been watching their neighborhoods sink into poverty or crime or speak languages more commonly heard overseas—these were the people who bore the brunt of globalism’s damage upon the country. What was inflicted by a corporate-political elite decades ago came home to roost in 2016.

While Trump was busy giving a name to the monster that had colonized American interests, those of us too-online for our own good were busy digging into the elite pedophile rings that just so happened to orbit the figures who dominated international politics, finance, and entertainment. If recognizing globalism was the entryway into the mansion of this brave new world, then pedogate, Eyes Wide Open, or, more pejoratively, pizzagate, lurked in the dark recesses of the basement. It would be another three years before the audiences responding to anti-globalist sentiment really had this bone to chew on, when Jeffery Epstein was caught dead-to-rights on sex trafficking charges last year. The fact he wound up suiciding himself in the middle of the most contrived and unbelievable set of circumstances imaginable didn’t quell any suspicion, either, although the quickness with which the entire affair vanished from serious inspection should worry you.

For some, the events of 2016 and the last three years mark a turning point in their own amateur-intellectual efforts. They did for mine, certainly, as any long-time readers of this meager outfit will recognize. But for others, just as the last four years have marked the rise and shine of new internet personalities, the last four years marked an awakening—first to the connection between ethnicity and nationhood, then later to order, the order of the world, and to the natural law. Unwittingly, the dissident right found itself pursuing the truth when prior to all of this, that word had been trapped in the domain of cringe internet libertarians and Carl Sagan-obsessed redditors. Somehow, the frog-posting Pepe avatars stumbled into Catholicism.

Political Action

This didn’t happen immediately, of course. Online chatter surrounding the campaign and eventual election of Donald J. Trump included a confusing mix of race realism, nationalism, identitarianism, and varying combinations of libertarian and authoritarian beliefs. At the beginning, aside from his appeals to Evangelicals, religion had almost nothing to do with the MAGA movement and, at least in any official capacity, this remains so even today. But the alt-right burned as quickly as it did obnoxiously, fizzling into autistic racial arguments and sidelining itself safely out of existence before Trump had completed his first year in office. Part of this may have been due to the shuffling about of advisors at the national level, but it’s more likely a result of the fact that racial arguments propagated on internet forums never have definite ends and never result in real action. By the end of 2017, the dissident right—fractured across pro- vs anti-Trump lines, since he’d begun his tendency to drag his feat on key elements of his campaign platform and had found comfortable friendship in Israel—had lost most of its steam.

In the mean time, Never Trumpers within Conservative, Inc. had taken it upon themselves to rebrand MAGA as MAGA, Inc., a clear subsidiary of the aforementioned controlled op that seeks, at best, merely to commercialize off of clueless baby boomers and their ideological progeny, and at worst, to grift that same audience into being an irrelevant and misinformed electorate so as to be easy targets for the opposition. Spearheading the Los Angeles division of this project was, of course, The Daily Wire, fronted and run by Jeremy Boering and Ben Shapiro, both of whom had vociferously attacked Trump “from the right” during the election. Ridiculous claims that their critiques came from the right of Trump aside, their heel-turn on Trump was looked at by most of the dissident right as a clear indicator that they were just out expand The Daily Wire’s influence and market value. They were grifters, but they weren’t stupid: they could see what direction the wind was blowing at the time. Your average American republican voter wanted MAGA; he didn’t want to hear, for the fifth time, a fast-talking nasally voice inform him as to why it was actually a good thing (!) that the jobs he and his father held for decades were shipped overseas. Especially not while the opposition, the Democratic establishment, was telling everyone the exact same thing: Learn to Code (trademark pending) even if you’re 65, can barely use Facebook, and still need your son to show you how to transfer images off of your phone.

So we have, in the wake of Trump’s election, a dissident right that part-purity spiraled, part-autism debated itself more or less out of existence, and a conservative media establishment that tilted itself into generic MAGA talking points. People who were not part of the latter camp eventually got deplatformed, such as Alex Jones, who managed to maintain his media enterprise but at greatly-diminished impact. Naturally, the Free Speech Conservatives at Conservative, Inc. felt no need to even attempt an intervention when the deplatforming escalated in the next couple of years. Virtue signaling a few impotent tweets about how “no one deserves this” online was the extent of their activism, because some of them believed that people like Jones, who were on the Trump train way before they were, posed a threat to their share of the MAGA market. Others actively wanted people like Jones gone because Conservative, Inc’s real value isn’t just a sub-par get-rich-quick scheme for losers who can’t make it in established media, but rather to cow republican voters back toward a neoliberal mindset. And as liberal as Alex is, he’s certainly not on their side.

But from the fallout generated by the alt-right dissolving, and the greater numbers of people falling off of Conservative, Inc’s coattails in the wake of their tepid defenses of their own principles, a genuine American conservative consciousness finally took root. It had been there in the build-up to 2016, but America First initiatives wouldn’t become a dominant thread of the dissident right until after the alt-right was safely sequestered back in the ideological incoherence that it had jumped out from during the election cycle.

Now, of course, America First is most closely associated with Donald Trump’s rehabilitation of the term, but it was by no means his own creation as a slogan: America First had its own political party back in the forties, emphasizing, as you can probably guess, domestic policies, anti-interventionism (commonly derided as “isolationism”), and the like back in the immediate post-war years of Truman and Eisenhower. Before this, it’d been the rallying cry of patriots and American nationalists stretching all the way back to the First World War.

Historical associations aside, America First remains the most intuitive position for any American citizen anyway; it positions those who denounce it as racist, imperialist, bigoted, whatever, clearly in a camp that opposes American nationalism in any concrete sense. Those types are the ones who proclaim America to be a set of ideas rather than a group of people, or that America was founded by immigrants and therefore should be open to all—if these sound like things you’ve heard from people like Ben Shapiro, it really ought to make you wonder whose side they’re actually on.

In 2017, Nick Fuentes launched his own America First show on YouTube, borrowing its usage from Trump and, again, tapping into the thing that made Trump so appealing in the first place. Fuentes, young and freshly dropped-out of university at the time, was blatantly unapologetic about nationality, about ethnicity, and about Catholicism. While not a commentator on Catholicism, he was not one to shy away from the fact that he was a commentator who was definitely Catholic. He wasn’t “culturally Christian” in some abstract sense that so many right wing grifters had characterized themselves as, and he wasn’t “generally Christian” in the sense that he believed in God but didn’t really consider the faith any deeper than that; he was an unapologetic, Sunday Mass attending Catholic who knew the Faith and refused to back down from it. In another era, you could have just called him Catholic, but nowadays, openly believing the dogmas and doctrines of the Faith is enough to pigeonhole you as a “traditionalist,” sometimes even among other Catholics.

Completely unrelated to Fuentes’ rise as a YouTube personality, another key figure propelled Catholicism as a viable alternative to the defunct ideologies of the dissident right: Culture Wars Magazine founder and editor, Dr. E. Michael Jones. Some of us were familiar with his work long before he started to get real busy over the course of 2017. After all, he’s an older fellow whose consistent public history stretches back into the eighties, having written significantly on topics such as traditional Catholicism and Medjugorje, the relationship Rabbinical Judaism has with the Church and the world at large, the ethnic replacement of urban centers under the guise of urban renewal, and perhaps most notably, the sexual revolution and the disaster it spelled for American and Western life as a whole. He’s no stranger to the public spotlight, having once been a university professor and then later managing his magazine for the last several decades. Like Fuentes, Jones is an unapologetic Catholic and has been for as long as he’s been writing publicly. Again, not vaguely so, but weekly Mass-attending, daily-Rosary-praying Catholic.

And then, in 2018, the Church was placed into the media spotlight once again under the pretenses of investigating the child sex abuse crisis—a hammer wielded by secular authorities against the Church nearly two decades ago, and one which did such damage that people still to this day believe a pedophile to be underneath every cassock. This time, ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, whose last diocesan appointment had been as Archbishop to Washington, D.C., was embroiled in allegations that he’d leveraged seminarians for sexual favors. In the same month, the State of Pennsylvania revealed an ongoing investigation into several of its major Archdioceses that revealed decades of abuse. While this certainly helped fan the flames of classic anti-Catholic sentiment on the public stage, what many non-Catholics didn’t realize was that laity and clergy at the lowest levels of the Church were even more enraged by these transgressions against the Mystical Body of Christ than secular authorities could ever understand.

But then January of 2019 rolled around, and the annual March for Life—organized and attended largely by Catholics—became a national talking point for months, all because a couple of Catholic school kids wearing MAGA hats got photographed smirking at a Native American guy banging a drum in their faces. The resulting media circus of slander and falsehood left CNN settling a lawsuit for $250 million (final settlement remains undisclosed), the kids vindicated, and the mainstream press looking like the dishonest, agenda-pushing liars that they are.

Everything I’ve highlighted so far has pushed Catholicism into a position that both attracts the dissident right while also entrenching the Church into the familiar position contra mundum. Most of the people caught up in this whirlwind are young men who are pursuing truth, even if originally they began this journey because they got tired of being fed contradictory propaganda or because their political views ceased being coherent in a world that’s clearly gone mad. Some are already eager to join the Church, while others remain skeptical that, out of all the religions on the planet, this one is the correct one.

Certainly, there are plenty of fresh converts retreating from other faiths that can’t answer their questions—a common thread among conversion stories that the contemporary issues have nothing to do with. And while I didn’t mention the abject misery that feminism has left its women in, plenty of women are finding solace today in the traditional role of femininity best put forward by Catholic social teaching.

But for these young men, traveling the road to the Church is not as simple changing your diet and beginning an exercise routine. The Faith isn’t just another political ideology that can be worn like a different hat or an “I Voted!” sticker. This isn’t another mystically-tinged self-help adventure the sort that Jordan Peterson might try to sell you for $10 a month or $3,000 per rug. The Faith is Truth, and the Faith is life, and to choose the Faith is to reject the world.

What Catholicism is About

What do we mean when it is said, “the Faith is life”? In its most literal sense, the Faith offers certain guarantees as to the nature of the world’s construction and its relationship—and our relationship—to the Creator: by faith are we saved from the evils of this world, and through faith in Our Lord do we come to everlasting life in the world to come.

But for the early-convert, much less the not-necessarily-convinced unbeliever, such a definition usually doesn’t carry much water. In a more practical sense, the Faith offers the only coherent means by which the world and our place as free agents in it can be understood. Discerning this aspect of the Faith, however, is only step one, because such a belief can be arrived at almost entirely through the use of reason. Faith is what transforms this general belief into a personal one that bears practical consequences: the notions of death and judgment, the gravity of sin, and relevancy of our place in a fallen world as we carry out—or reject—the will of God.

It is for this reason that a person’s faith cannot be faked in any meaningful sense. We may encounter plenty of charlatans or nonbelievers who carry the banner of God for their own devices, and they may receive the adoration of followers who have been fooled, but it will be by their sincerity and love for God which they be judged at the hour of their deaths. God’s justice and His love are the objective standards against which all moral behavior is deemed worthy; it is by His command that morality is even sensible in the first place.

For the convert who reads his way into the Faith, whether by taking the political and social route or otherwise, it is tantamount to understand that Catholicism is the only means by which a man can be saved. Worldly problems have possible solutions to be found in the libraries of Catholic teaching, but these solutions exist merely as means toward the salvation of men, not as permanent solutions to the underlying problem of man’s brokenness. The remedy for that is only God, and He gave to us the Sacraments and offered Himself up for our sake for that very reason. All aspects of Catholic social teaching and all frameworks of Catholic political theory are derived from this fact. Our Lord’s body, pinioned to the Cross, triumphing over death and carving forth the road to Heaven for all of us: history turns around this one event since it has made all of the world sensible. Catholicism is true because it is the method given to us by God so that we may return to Him, and it’s made comprehensible by His Holy Sacrifice on the Cross.

Newcomers to the Faith will wrestle with this, as secular thought holds itself as the default position. Secularism demands that facts exist independent of ideological frameworks, ignoring that such a position is itself the construction of an ideological framework. Faith then, to the secular humanist, and to the modernist, is little more than the window draping around a portal: the world exists outside the window of your own perspective, and your faith hangs about it as a curious but otherwise harmless oddity that merely adds to your uniqueness. The wrongness of this idea should be obvious even on its surface, as applying such a backwards understanding to epistemology hampers any efforts at understanding proper moral behavior, and it can’t explain why the world is the way that it is.

Converts must dispense with such beliefs entirely, and fortunately, most do. Catholicism does not posit that it is one correct option among many—despite the words of some clergymen who insist as such at the risk of contradicting infallible doctrine. If Catholicism was one correct option among many other correct options, there would be no reason to be Catholic. No, Catholicism insists that its take is the only correct take, whether that be at the expense of all other takes or not. We know this because of the uniqueness of the claims that it asserts regarding the historicity of its origins.

This is actually a more flexible position than it seems at first, as everything defined around Catholic social teaching is subject to some mild amounts of flex and debate. After all, it is only the dogmas determined to be infallible that are set in stone.

Embracing the Faith requires a radical reorientation from the secular alternative when it comes to contextualizing history with politics, philosophy with teleology, and morality with all of it. But more importantly, when we embrace the Faith, we are each of us called, in our uniqueness, to grow in holiness. This means the explicit development of an interior life, which cannot occur without the indwelling of God and His ability to cultivate graces within us. As we know from Church teaching stretching all the way back to Apostolic times, such a thing is possible only when in a state of Grace.

Developing a prayer life, avoiding occasions of sin and confessing those we commit, receiving the Sacraments, communing with God whenever it’s possible, and above all, living out to their maximum the infused virtues of faith, hope and charity—these are the priorities of the Catholic, and they remain so whether the Church is running the world or in the throes of the darkest persecution. Catholics called to political action must not forget that their calling to be a good Catholic comes before any calling to challenge an existing—if hostile—political order. These two things are not always at odds with one another, but should they come into conflict, the former is always of greater importance.

With this in mind, what Catholicism teaches is that we must live in the world, as that is our lot in life, but we must never embrace the world. We must remain wary of esteem by our fellow men, even in cases when it may seem warranted, and as a general rule, should guard against explicitly seeking it out. Remember that pride is the foremost among the cardinal sins, because pride erects the wall between the prideful and God, and God will respect that wall insofar as it was erected out of the prideful’s own free will, at the expense of his salvation.

Avoid the LARP

Today, most radical political positions usually boil down to some kind of live-action role playing game. I can’t speak for times past, but it’s hard not to look at your self-professed “radical communist” who supports Bernie Sanders and not see a blissfully oblivious college kid who never had any real dreams in life lurking beneath the veneer of indignation. The same can generally be said even for the radical race realists, though due to federal interference, the right by and large lacks the sort of Antifa-style gangs that the left can afford to amass. Where the communists have legions of similarly-minded and probably-indoctrinated friends to hang out with, the race realists survive almost entirely online.

In the last half a year, we’ve seen a small legion of internet denizens make an open assault on the Conservative establishment, culminating in a series of laughably handled Q&As hosted by Turning Point USA and the Young Americans Foundation back in autumn. Conservative, Inc. types like Ben Shapiro and Matt Walsh (also of The Daily Wire), Charlie Kirk, Steven Crowder, and even political figures like Dan Crenshaw and Donald Trump Jr., encountered relentless questioning on topics ranging from our alliance and foreign aid to Israel (as well as their lobbying group that owns all of congress), to how to combat the tendency in mainstream Conservative circles to embrace the sexual immorality that the movement is supposed to reject. A similar, second tour is about to start this spring, and I imagine it’ll go about as successfully for all of the parties involved.

Nearly all of those who asked these barbed questions were Christian, and most of them were Catholic, spurred into action for reasons I’ve highlighted already. And if you happened to be one of these guys, good on you. Don’t give these grifter types even an inch of leeway. You’ve got 100% of whatever support I can offer.

But like any movement, the Catholic must be keen not to get swept up in the mob; do not confuse the veneer of a trendy identity—in this case, of a dissident-right Catholic defending all the things that enrage the corrupt liberal establishment—with the real identity of what being Catholic means. The politics of Catholicism are wholly secondary to Catholic identity.

To use a dated example: Paul Joseph Watson tried to coin the phrase “Conservatism is the new punk rock” back in 2015. This is the sort of thing I’m talking about. Don’t fall for it. Conservatism—let’s say we mean authentic conservatism here—isn’t anything like punk rock. It isn’t anarchic, revolutionary, petulant, loud, garish, libertine, childish, or rebellious. It’s not trendy or hip or cool. Conservatism is supposed to be normal. A world in which children aren’t exposed to men dressed up as succubi is a normal one. A world where women aren’t advocating for the extermination of their own kids is a normal one. Families with fathers who work and mothers who stay home and raise their sons and daughters and care for the household are normal families. Abstaining from sexual relations before marriage is supposed to be normal. These are supposed to be conservative principles, and there’s nothing punk rock about them at all.

And yes, I understand what Watson was trying to say at the time, but highlighting the irony that pursuing a lifestyle reminiscent of Leave it to Beaver is now considered counter-cultural does little to attract the people who really need to be engaged in the movement. Attaching trendiness to truth only devalues truth; those attracted by the trend just get sucked into all sorts of grifts, accomplishing meaningful change for neither themselves nor the world around them. See also: the alt-lite and where they are today. There’s a reason the Church forbids us from pursuing fads.

The social element of Catholic life emerges as the personal element of each Catholic deepens. It may sound tedious or cliché, but you have to live the life you want to see around you, particularly if you’re Catholic, and even if there’s little hope of a true Catholic sodality coming about in your immediate social circle. You won’t see a solution to the ailments of modernity unless you yourself are in a pew every Sunday morning, or on your knees with a Rosary every evening, or in a confessional at least periodically.

And this doesn’t mean that you should LARP as a trad Cath, either—in fact, for newcomers the to the faith, the less you know about the last 75 years of the Church’s ecclesiastical history, the better. You don’t have to attend a Latin Mass in order to be devout. You don’t need to memorize the Rosary in Latin to be devout. And you don’t need to have any opinion about the Pope—save that he is the head of the Church (which isn’t even an opinion, really)—in order to be devout. You need to prepare and dispose yourself to be able to receive the Sacraments to be devout. You need contrition and sorrow for your sins. You need to cultivate virtue. You need to pray.

In a certain sense, this is asking more than to just hit the books and study the background of what you’re getting into. Reading histories of the Church and the Summa Theologica and The Lives of the Saints are all good things to do, certainly, but there’s little to be gained from them if that knowledge is not properly contextualized into a life of active prayer. At the end of his life, a man will not be judged by what he knows but by what he loves. What he loves determines what he does, because what he loves determines his priorities and his practices.

What’s Next

Maybe it was the revelations that the world really is run by various depraved sex cults whose practices are so clearly demonic as to make the Hollywood movies commissioned to normalize them look tame in comparison that did it. Maybe it was the recognition that everyone in the global elite, from the journalists in New York to the propagandists in LA to the politicians in DC, all lie to you so freely and thoroughly that it’s easier to just believe the exact opposite of nearly everything they say. Maybe the Holy Ghost has been working to prepare the world for a great evangelization after decades of internal rot within the Church. Or maybe all of this was sparked by various cults of personality.

I don’t know the reasons, but an active Catholic wing of the dissident right is here and, by all appearances, it’s hear to stay. And for those of us who are already valued members of the Church, be prepared: that the Church has defenders against the secular world only means that greater assaults against it are already being prepared.

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