identity politics, symbols, rebellion, and pessimism
after the dissolution of the soviet union in 1991, white supremacist groups began to form across a russia who's past government vowed to abolish racial prejudice worldwide. russians themselves were not more or less racist before or after 1991, and there's no telling how these groups would have fared between 1917 and 1991 had freedom of assembly in warsaw pact countries been different. at the basic level, this formation of groups became possible due to the soviet government's transition into that of the russian federation.
the presence of nazism in particular within these far-right groups has always interested me. nazi policy was generally divided on slavs, changing drastically within the thirteen years of hitler's power in germany. while eastern and most southern slavs were largely seen as untermensch, others, like bulgarians and czechs, were considered friendly. all of this materialized within nazi policy in the sending of occupied slavic populations to work and death camps, with the implementation of nazi-friendly policies varying from voluntary to forced depending on how the germans felt about a given country. in particular to our case, hitler harbored a disdain for russian slavs, and believed that only germans could have made russia as powerful as it was in contemporaneous history. this is not to mention soviet soldiers and civilians having the largest death tolls of any european nation during the war. it seems entirely antithetical to any self-proclaimed "russian identity" to base one's white supremacy off of a specific strain which targets them, especially when one has a ready, czarist alternative to choose from.
to tie oneself to an identity which seems to negate their "true self" is often termed as "self hatred", "self debasement", or "internalized x-phobia", as if one believes this solely because they "hate" their own inherent, unchangeable attribute and are running away from something they will always intrinsically be. to think this would be to think of the complex subject of identity on a "right" or "wrong" basis, which would be to accept a baseline that all such cases are similar in that the subject always makes the same conscious choice, or that this general phenomenon is grounded only within particular groups of people. self-hatred may be present, but i don't think it can accurately surmise the underlying intent of the breadth of similar occurrences, as this is mostly done not out of malice or denial, but of a perceived improvement that an alternate provides. therefore, it is more accurate to think of the perceived benefit of conducting such behavior as something far less conscious - the symbolism it involves. just as how some seem to believe certain things to adhere to their party line of choice, so too do individuals believe or not believe in certain things because they are representative forms of an underlying resentment they cannot describe. this is not to say that they do not partake in an ideology at face value, but one specific, apparently oppositional ideology will always relate to one in what it represents to them.
to the russian neo nazi in the 1990s, nazism could have represented a dissatisfaction with the economic and cultural collapse after the dissolution of the soviet union. this could have continued to this day, though it is probably coupled with an additional connection of the current russian state as a unification of several disparate cultural parts and its loss of status as a great empire. this is felt by the neo nazi as a personal, cultural displacement, a reflection of and easy explanation for their personal experiences. to them, nazism - an identity with a historical basis and a promise of a "purified" future they can choose for themselves - can provide.
aside from this specific case, much of this symbolism, especially today, is conducted through a semi-ironic appreciation of millenarianism. millenarianism, thought to be a fantasy done away with by postmodernism, becomes a martyr in what practitioners conclude is a stringently debauched world. it's thought to be the opposite of neoliberal, social justice-inspired self-determination, but is utilized much in the same way through opposite methodology. practitioners of both groups reflect on themselves and their world with a specific, predetermined code of ethics and reasoning with some sort of outside basis in order to establish their identity and how they fit into their respective "cultures". but while the former group aims to position themselves as against the natural order, the latter group seeks to position themselves within it. this is not to be mistaken as "liberalism" vs. "conservatism" or "left" vs "right". it's more of a scale of the feeling that "society" has "gone too far".
the internet, and especially the corporate internet, has facilitated the growth of this attitude. the identification of every online group of thinkers and their thoughts, a cultural obsession with "subculture" and being a part of one, a constant searching out of the next great thinker or thought revolution throughout "platforms" and political spectrums seems to spawn from the cultural mythos of rebellion surrounding global economic liberalization; that is, world war ii and cold war-inspired aversion to authoritarian modernism. postmodernism fetishizes the concept of "rebellion" as a contextless state of identity that is able to be materially manifested by the sole action of disagreeing with someone's post or wearing a particular style of clothing. at the same time, this aimless "rebel" is also lauded as a prognosticator, forever predicting the ills of the current day ahead of time and embodying political attitudes as reactions and through cultural output. despite the gains we have gotten throughout the years being the results of governments giving into protests they repeatedly shut down, the ideal rebel never goes as far as to actively change the country they live in for the better aside from what would be considered improvements only in the short term. this translates into a mainstream celebration of everything new and different from itself and an internalization of this celebration by individuals, translating into concluding that their own experiences of alienation, perceived or otherwise, mark them as clear examples of this ideal. this label is applied by the individual as cognitive incentive in order to cement themselves within a specific, attractive set of beliefs, regardless of their actual use, such as when a russian neo-nazi believes themselves to be a liberator.
what this amounts to in a context of social media's content aggregation and post word limits is the "branding" of schools of thought by what one consumes. this is something that was present before the internet - goths and punks have been around since the 70s, after all. but the widespread usage of the internet, including perceived interactivity with the rich and famous, has allowed for this to proliferate in a way where the person who is partaking in such behavior is able to remain under the genuine impression that their partaking in it can impart some sort of change or influence that is sorely needed. this is merely a modern perpetuation of the myth that one is a moral sum of all their words and actions and can best make a difference individually.
post-"sjw" millenarianists and cynics1 - the "blackpilled" and "redpilled" - seek symbols of their dissatisfaction with current culture within the communities in which they post, the labels they used to identify themselves, and/or the commodities in which they partake, much like their "rivals". the only difference, again, is that they seek to "accept" their place in the world in a monastic sense, a longing for some sort of hierarchy as an application for the usefulness of their individuality, as opposed to "accepting" their place in the world by flaunting something they believe they are not or is expected of them. but as their identities are so closely knit to their experience of the internet, the most change they can muster to break free of a cycle of artificiality is to substitute one premade framework for another, a process mistaken by them as "thinking for themselves". this tendency on both sides should be seen for what it is - an outlet through which to vent the hopelessness of an average individual's inability to stop the behaviors of institutions. criticism of the myth that one can change the behaviors of institutions by posts or by buying the right things in the right way has recently increased in visibility, but thoughts of organization seem to grow ever more distant to the minds of many (especially americans) in an environment when we're separated by profiles, feeds, followers, and a culture war that seems to never want to end.
in fact, this can be most readily evidenced in the positions they may take on culture war-related subjects - abortion, transgender people, inceldom, celebrity mishaps, and the like - as this "war" continues to inspire easily digestible headlines crafted for the sole purpose of making it as quick for one to take a position on them as possible, quicker for them to post about it, and even quicker than that to keep them on an app or website for longer.2 a particular flavor of online identity is often supplemented by the sum of several specific culture war stances. this "culture war" and its relation to politics is incorporated to imbue this tendency with an impressionistic sense of importance, as one's position regarding and posting about these topics expresses knowledge of "real-world issues" to the point of being able to elaborate on them. this conception lies in stark contrast to the sensationalist nature of culture war headlines, titles, and posts, and is a further extension of the self-flagellation inspired by veneration of the ideal rebel. due to the rebel's fastidious image, the perceived importance of an issue is able to covertly operate as a secondary concern to the relation of "takes" to one's identity. that is, people's positioning of themselves in relation to a specific issue of "importance" is seen as a definer of one's identity first and foremost. a reassurance that what they are posting about matters is sought in exchange for the semblance of personal fulfillment.
individual millenarianists and cynics have varying degrees of opinion and reasoning towards these issues, but the bottom line is some sort of opposition or ambivalence to pre-written social media headlines with "diversity" and choice feminism in mind. like "sjws" themselves, their scope of the world seems to be limited to what they see and hear of within these contexts and how they reflect on their real-life experiences, if at all. when "wokeness" is appropriated by corporations in order to sell products and keep people scrolling, it becomes, in their view, the ideology of the "mainstream", regardless of the actual circumstances. this criticism of the "mainstream" and what they interpret as acceptability and "pushing of agendas" is intertwined with genuine critiques of capitalism and interpretations of the "mainstream"3 that ignore the root problem in capitalism to come to a conclusion that foremost serves the interests of their group. to critique the mainstream is to browse a non-mainstream website, laugh at non-mainstream memes, make non-mainstream posts, and listen to non-mainstream influencers. ironically, they are also liable to use the phrase "terminally online" to describe people who base their stances on "culture war" subjects off of a specific viewpoint that is easily summarized by a mainstream, corporate internet's aggregation of headlines and opinions, despite the fact that their takes on these matters are also largely influenced by what they are seeing on their feeds. this highlights an insecurity in their cultural position as being relative to their affiliation with the internet, a denial of the current circumstances of their worldview, and a self-affirmation of their own perceived importance.
like with russian neo-nazis, this is not to say that they are doing this for the sole purpose of rebellion or that they do not really understand what they are doing.4 rather, "wokeness", as a concept that has been appropriated for the purpose of making sales, has effectively become a cultural symbol that one is able to position themselves either for or against in order to establish what one can assume about their thought process, and, further, their identity. criticism of "society" has become a matter of polemics and adherence to ideals rather than of opinion or individual analysis. the other end of the spectrum does this by reacting against perceived threats through what they believe to be a superior moral compass. millenarianists and cynics do this by reacting against them. the former jokes about being "cancelled", subconsciously desiring the position of the cancelled in their adulation of the rebellious martyr. the latter empathizes with the "cancelled" as a means of synthesizing a disagreement they can't fully elaborate on without outside help with the very same adulation. no matter their actual beliefs, both points of view operate off of symbols and the ideal of the rebel as prophet. neither are true "rebels" and only serve to maintain the systems they claim to be against.
there is no shortage of people who are rightly less than content with the corporate appropriation and profiteering off of modern social justice movements, as evidenced by the success of the red scare podacast and the myriad of disaffected twenty-somethings who seek to emulate the narrative stylings of anna khachiyan and dasha nekrasova on substack. as social media and "culture" have translated discussions about politics and culture into algorithm-aided, hardened semblances of routine since the 2008 recession, to be "online" becomes synonymous with being a participant of culture and wider society. this paradigm has become mainstream, taking the form of an all-encompassing social guide with various disparate interpretations, as senators from arkansas and connecticut begin to use words like "woke" and celebrities seem obligated to post about their trauma and privilege on instagram. everything, no matter who does it, is in service of something else more important than an individual, more political, while disguising itself as one's own will. everything someone does proves who they truly, innately are. one's thoughts on culture and one's opposition or agreement to specific facets of "culture" or discourse become one's identity. "identity" becomes every encompassing facet of a person that is able to be posted, tagged, and grouped, and posts, tags, and groups become everything that is able to amount to an identity. it is used to control, disguises itself as self-control in a world where people "protest" by shopping. "identity" is something that one puts on, the summation of the words they can use to describe themselves, where they spend their time, what they think, and how well all of this fits into a ready-made paradigm and like-minded other. whether or not it is inherent or "mainstream" makes no difference, as "identity" is something that is perpetually fetishized.
"identity politics" does not exist as a phenomenon tied to a specific subculture or as an entity separate from the internet - it is merely politics centered around certain facets of individual identity. identity politics have become an important piece of "internet culture" as "internet culture" has become "culture" itself, affecting "real life" rather than the other way around. one can't help but look at all of this and be reminded that such fixation on the direction of "culture" within a large swathe of the population not only halts much-needed progress on the solving of the effects of neoliberal, imperialist hegemony, but is a way of maintaining ignorance of the true nature of these underlying elements while maintaining a facade of intellectualism for their own faux self-gratification.5 capitalism, first and foremost, is the numbing of pain instead of the blocking of its source. this is simply the most recent continuation of an "optimist/pessimist" cultural ebb and flow that is required for the maintaining of these systems. just as stock markets and demand for products fluctuates, so do our determinations about the world around us in accordance to what is now deemed cringe.
something is to be said about how millenarists and cynics, no matter the vast diversity of their groups of thought, offer no alternative aside from either far-flung fantasies of single-group dominance, the world of today with only differing cultural caveats, or staying within the confines of one cultural group and continuously labelling others who do not conform to their aimless misanthropy as "bluepilled". as long as one prioritizes that fantasy of a rebel's improved vantage point over those around them, they are not immune to being stuck within the cycle of global ills going unchecked, instead forming a bubble around themselves to cope with a world they're too afraid to understand outside of dogmas that rationalize it through elementary connections. claims are only claims. this is unless, of course, they choose to forego the concept of the central importance of identity altogether and go touch grass.
this isn't to say that the social justice determinist types they pit themselves against are somehow immune to this, but much has already been said about them and anything i could write wouldn't add anything new. it's already pretty "obvious" how social justice determinism applies to this concept.↩
it can also be evidenced by the sort of memes one finds funny. memes are the best marker of one's self-established cultural identity because humor is something that is reliant on one's social context and understanding - "inside jokes" - and a sense of humor can be easily obtained from words and images alone. memes are, nowadays, slightly more difficult than clothes or music genres to wear out, as they are better able to last within an internet culture of recycling and short attention spans.↩
"mainstream" here should be interpreted as "the dominant/popular narrative pushed by state or corporation-backed media". while such narratives do exist, their specifics are disputed amongst most unique cultural groups.↩
i'm also not saying these people are or are "as bad as" neo-nazis.↩
or, as max stirner calls it, "false egoism". this apparently selfish behavior is only performed for the express purpose of proving a point, pushing an agenda, or putting down enemies. compare to a cult member's insistence that they are proselytizing on their own will.↩