For the past couple weeks I’ve been listening to Daniel Harper’s excellent “I Don’t Speak German” podcast in which he reviews various alt-right figures and their content. The production values are good, Harper’s imminently listenable voice would be more than at home on NPR, and aside from the much less interesting interjections by his British cohost, the entire program offers a thoroughly entertaining experience. I would note, as Harper himself did, that the quality of “alt-right” broadcasts is somewhat inconsistent, but his own work escapes this criticism entirely.
To paraphrase Nietzsche (You didn’t think I’d write about “I Don’t Speak German” without sneaking in a reference to an Original German, did you?), to know a man’s philosophy you must know the man himself. The audience that enjoys our body of work would describe Daniel E Harper as the “quintessential soyboy bugman”, but I find this language to be crude and inadequate. Harper is more properly understood as a “geek” who exhibits an extremely consumptive relationship with entertainment. He would likely identify himself as being “anti-fascist”, but his own moral nostrums are not intellectual conclusions resulting from careful introspection. Like many in his peer group, his opposition to the right is a cultural affectation and is in many ways utterly belied by his voracious appetite for the content of those he would describe as “genocidal fascists”. Daniel Harper is first and foremost a man whose entire creative focus is aimed at exploring the creative efforts of others. His penchant for reviewing Doctor Who episodes points to a man starving for good science fiction in an era largely bereft of this content. More than anything, this is the mind of someone that craves a good story and wishes to engage with that entertainment on a level deeper than any other pursuit in his life, and I don’t necessarily begrudge him for it.
Modern media has ultimately proved unfulfilling in this regard as TV and movies are increasingly designed by “creative teams” that have assumed the role of bland committees pandering to the lowest common denominator. Gone are the days of J. Michael Straczynski sketching out 5 seasons of a beautifully intricate and carefully interlocking plot about an intergalactic space station, now we have social justice after-school specials with lens flare masquerading as Star Trek. Geek culture is more than conscious of the decline in the quality of entertainment and I doubt Harper is any exception in that regard, regardless of any pretensions to “wokeness” he might publicly harbor.
Fortunately, a newer, more hyper-real form of entertainment has arrived.
The internet age has created its own saga of villains, struggles, carnage, and theatrics all streaming live on YouTube. This is real entertainment, this is entertainment featuring real live “Nazis”, not imaginary Daleks or Weeping Angels. Even more incredible is that expert geek culture reviewers like Harper can actually engage with, and get recognition from, the creators of this elaborate human drama. Imagine if Chris Chibnall not only acknowledged your interest in Doctor Who, but actually wrote you into an episode? Is this entire article a self-indulgent meta-narrative weaving Baudrillard with Inception?
There are two digressions on this subject I find pique my curiosity.
First, Harper notes that no one bothers to reject his assertions about alt-right “content creators” being genocidal fascists. Why Daniel, that’s part of the performative dance! One could use me as a perfect example here: What genocidal fascist pursues a job that necessitates saving the lives of black patients and then, according to a comparative analysis conducted by the State of Virginia, conducts those duties with a complete lack of racial bias? Why would the revealed preference of a supposed genocidal racist be a professional commitment to making sure black people receive exactly the same level of high quality medical interventions as whites during medical emergencies? The answer is pretty obvious, my creative team has fashioned a character with extremely complex motivations that frequently crosses the line back and forth between anti-hero and super-Nazi white supremacist villain. Reflect too on that pushing media attention on my occupation ultimately worked to harm the very ones the “good guys” were ostensibly trying to protect as my employer suspended me, while continuing to employ another Advanced EMT of such profound incompetence that she drew up the wrong medication on a call and ultimately had her privileges restricted by the medical director. This raises some very interesting questions about the nature of exposing “wrong-think” being seen as worse than actual negligence, stay tuned for Season 12, available via our premium streaming content service only on TheRightStuff.biz!
Secondly, some aspersions have been cast on Harper himself for being so engaged with alt-right content. I’ll admit, the strange home-life of geeking out to an “anti-Semitic” radio broadcast for hours while being married to a Jewish woman and publicly talking about cuckolding/polyamory does indeed raise some profound psychological questions about what’s happening under the surface of Daniel Harper’s consciousness. (One wonders if she’s ever heard the Merchant Minute by “accident”.) For the record I do not believe Harper is under any danger of being “converted” to the political positions espoused by the dissident right, as previously stated, this is hyper-real entertainment for him and he dives into it with the same gusto that would possess him if Firefly came back to television. We have decades of reality TV proving that one does not have to like the characters to tune in and watch their antics. Moreover, the ability to possibly hurt the “villains” he’s coded as “bad” under the cultural norms of his belief system means there’s a visceral thrill of being a little hero for a moment when one strikes out at them. What I think bears mentioning is not that Harper is so engaged with alt-right content that he will become a “Nazi”, but that he is so disengaged from his actual life that he spends more time consuming this content than the most dedicated fans of it. His own father died in 2015, and as someone who also recently lost a parent, I can empathize with distracting oneself into another mental space to avoid dealing with the soul-rending chasm left by such a loss. These real human experiences of permanent anguish are too painful, too real to countenance when the escapism of mocking Christopher Cantwell’s public antics beckons so strongly.
Indeed, the spectacle of a beer salesman coming home from a long day at Tiffany’s Wine Shoppe to sit down with his cats and binge-watch James Allsup videos is itself one of the strangest exponents of the modern societal twilight one could imagine. In many ways this is the ultimate personification of the domesticated modern man; being reduced to hate-watching the content created by Jungian avatars of your own shadow-self while your obese Jewish wife shops online for more exotic dildos. What I found truly mesmerizing about researching Harper’s content was how easily he and his poly-amorous relationship partner lapsed into analyzing the supposed views of their fellow citizens by peering into the entertainment content marketed to them. These are individuals so immersed in the superficial hyper-reality of the mass media complexes they can seemingly only make sense of the world via their relation to these moving images. Want to understand how a white woman living in Georgia conceptualizes patriotism? Just watch an episode of NCIS, this reflection of what the media industry thinks Americans want to see is surely free of any problematic distortions of their authentic views. In his latest podcast, Harper is almost breathless in his fevered imaginings that Tucker Carlson and everyone right of center is somehow part of a terrorist cell engaged in a subtle propaganda effort aimed at young white males that ultimately radicalizes them into committing mass murder. The idea that the “Turner Diaries” is taken seriously by the dissident right is a conclusion that says more about Daniel’s own susceptibility to media influences than anything else. I can only describe the tone used by Harper’s narration of the Christ-Church Massacre as positively voyeuristic, but during the moment he describes the shooter self-critiquing his technique to a live-stream audience our humble geek comes dangerously close to some self-awareness about the metacontext of this entire scenario: “This is a radicalized Evil Nazi Racist killing actual live people on a Facebook live-stream and yeah I’ve watched the video at least two times!” The perverse ecstasy, the fetishistic obsession of Daniel E Harper recounting every detail about the incident and voraciously reading the manifesto points to an unslaked appetite for some kind of hyper-real stimulation to hold back the floodwaters of real self-inventory and personal reflection.
What would Jean Baudrillard say about that?