Antisocial – America’s online extremists

Dorian Lynskey in The Guardian:

Antisocial is, among other things, a tale of two Mikes. Mike Cernovich was a law student, nutrition blogger, self-help author and generic Twitter troll before hitting the jackpot as a tireless online booster for the man he had previously called “Donald Chump”. The similarly directionless Mike Peinovich, AKA Mike Enoch, took an even uglier path: he ended up calling for a white ethnostate and making Holocaust jokes on his podcast the Daily Shoah. One is effectively a neo-Nazi, the other just an agile hustler. Whether that distinction matters when you consider the damage both have done to political discourse is one of the urgent questions of this compelling book.

There are many ways to tell the story of Donald Trump’s rise to power. Andrew Marantz, who patrols the darker precincts of the internet for the New Yorker, sees the president as a “ready-made viral meme” and “the world’s most gifted media troll”. Despite being a technologically ignorant sexagenarian who had spent his entire life among wealthy elites, candidate Trump spoke the same language as Reddit shitposters and YouTube provocateurs and was similarly adept at bamboozling the “normies” who held fast to such old-fashioned concepts as telling the truth and having coherent beliefs. In Marantz’s diagnosis, Trump operates like a clickbait website, AB testing new material and running with whatever gets the strongest reaction. The road to hell is paved with likes. Antisocial scrutinises the online firestarters who see Trump as their avatar. Even if you don’t know their names, members of the “alt-right” (far right) and the less overtly racist “alt-light” have influenced media narratives, popularised abusive buzzwords, confected news stories and helped create the cultural context for the Trump presidency. If you remember rumours about Hillary Clinton’s health during the 2016 election, then Cernovich got to you. If you’ve seen triple brackets around a Jewish journalist’s name, that originated on Enoch’s blog the Right Stuff. To write about politics in this era is to write about the media and the internet. A minor figure in Antisocial sums up the election as “the article versus the comments section”.

More here.