Posted on January 20, 2014

Meet the Dark Enlightenment: Sophisticated Neo-Fascism That’s Spreading Fast on the Net

Jamie Bartlett, Telegraph (London), January 20, 2014

Since 2012 a sophisticated but bizarre online neo-fascist movement has been growing fast. It’s called “The Dark Enlightenment”. Its modus operandi is well suited to today’s world. Supporters are dotted all over the world, connected via a handful of blogs and chat rooms. Its adherents are clever, angry white men patiently awaiting the collapse of civilisation, and a return to some kind of futuristic, ethno-centric feudalism.

It started, suitably enough, with two blogs. Mencius Moldbug, a prolific blogger and computer whizz from San Francisco, and Nick Land, an eccentric British philosopher (previously co-founder of Warwick University’s Cybernetic Culture Research Unit) who in 2012 wrote the eponymous “The Dark Enlightenment”, as a series of posts on his site. You can find them all here. 

The philosophy, difficult to pin down exactly, is a loose collection of neo-reactionary ideas, meaning a rejection of most modern thinking: democracy, liberty, and equality. Particular contempt is reserved for democracy, which Land believes “systematically consolidate[s] and exacerbate[es] private vices, resentments, and deficiencies until they reach the level of collective criminality and comprehensive social corruption.”

The neo-fascist bit lies in the view that races aren’t equal (they obsess over IQ testing and pseudo science that they claim proves racial differences, like the Ku Klux Klan) and that women are primarily suited for domestic servitude. They call this “Human biodiversity”–a neat little euphemism. This links directly to their desire to be rid of democracy: because if people aren’t equal, why live in a society in which everyone is treated equally? Some races are naturally better to rule than others, hence their support for various forms of aristocracy and monarchy (and not in the symbolic sense but the very real divine-right-of-kings-sense).

The whole bankrupt edifice, they think, is maintained by what they call “The Cathedral” (what conspiracy theorists call the New World Order): a cabal of universities, newspapers, and establishment values which perpetuate the status quo and prevent dissent.

Whenever someone is arrested for a racist tweet, it is taken as proof that the Cathedral is pulling strings. You become darkly enlightened when you start to see these constructs for what they really are: modern atrocities that go against the natural order of things which must be torn down. It’s all a little bit like the movie The Matrix (and indeed some adherents refer to the Red and Blue Pill scene, in which the protagonist if offered a choice between blissful ignorance and painful reality).

So how many have been enlightened? No one knows, but unlikely to be many. Yet. There is certainly a growing interest in this type of rejectionist philosophy and politics. As I argue in a forthcoming essay for the think-tank IPPR, radical anti-establishment politics of all shades are on the rise, driven by a growing belief (and surveys bear this out) that our current way of doing things–our parliamentary system, our judicial system, our economic system–don’t work.

While researching my book about internet subcultures, I’ve bumped into plenty of online movements that reject democracy, believe in racial superiority and fantasise about a purer more “natural” life before the French Revolution or the Normans came along and ruined everything.

The internet has transformed the ability of niche movements to gain support across the world: already the Dark Enlightenment has picked up interest from the bigger (though still tiny) New Right and other reactionary neo-fascist movements. By bringing together diverse elements of alternative Right-wing and fantastical rejection of the system into a single political philosophy for internet intellectuals, this could well grow. I’ll be keeping an eye on them, and report back here with any interesting developments as they happen.