January 03, 2008
I am on Facebook and my daughter, 24, doesn’t like it; she thinks I should act my age and not hang out on a website created for high school and college kids and recent graduates — never mind that I am, among other things, a college reviewer by trade, or that I was thinking of doing an article about the phenomenon. Since then there has been a Newsweek cover story, and, more recently, a realization of how pro-life libertarian Ron Paul has used such social networking services to get his message out and raise needed funds, and the news that the Burmese military has had to shut down access to the Internet because of the use supporters of the dissident monks were making of Facebook in particular.
Now there are two things you need to know about Facebook. The first is one noted by Danah Boyd of the “apophenia” blog: compared with MySpace, Facebook is where the elites meet to greet. Until recently, you needed a college or high school email address to get on it; only the better high schools ever gave out student email accounts, and the low end colleges can be stingy with them. Where the United States military has banned MySpace, they have left Facebook alone, presumably because grunts use the former, officers the latter. The second thing, the one that concerns us here, is that Facebook is home to numerous groups of highly intellectual and educated young people far to the right of what you would expect. Not only libertarians and generic conservatives, but paleocons, reactionaries, Jacobites, legitimists in general, and Medievalists.
Facebook’s social networking is based on association, as identified by the member’s email address, so that there are networks for schools and companies, and also on location, so there are networks for the region, town, or neighborhood the member claims calls home. There are also affinity groups, for, well, just about… anything. For example, there is a group, admittedly small and mostly English, dedicated to “HM King Francis II — our rightful Monarch” — Franz, Duke of Bavaria, senior descendant of Charles the Martyr. Were it not for the Inglorious Revolution and the infamous Act of Succession, “HM” would be living in Buckingham rather than Nymphenburg Palace. He is no doubt happier in Munich; I know I would be. Of course but for the Inglorious and Infamous Revolution and Act, King Henry IX Benedict would have been a statesman rather than a churchman and left behind generations of royal Stuarts rather than passing his claim on first to the house of Savoy, now Wittlesbach (by way of Habsburg), and eventually Liechtenstein. A slightly larger group proclaims, “Prince Charlie Was Overrated, But I’m Still A Jacobite,” which seems fair enough. “Return the House of Stuart to the Throne!” demands another, sadly, despite the exclamation point, for, as I have noted, that House passed into history with the Cardinal Bishop of Frascati and Duke of York. The more modestly named group of mere “Jacobites” seems more reasonable.
The harder edge of Facebook reaction is represented by “Il Partito di Fascista di Facebook,” which is what one might expect, but also by another group, which I will not name, as it is not open to the public, headquartered — virtually, no doubt — in Neuschwabenland, Antarctica, the officers listed, in order of rank, as a Caudillo, a Voivode, and a Capitanul. While there may be an element of good, clean fun here, some of the names listed as “Inspiration” show signs of considerable if faintly disturbing erudition. (Bring up the Miskatonic University fight song.) Julius Evola has pride of place, of course, and some of the usual and less usual suspects follow, of whom Blake, Emerson, and Nietzsche are the most mainstream, and Coomaraswamy, Guenon, and Schuon represent what is usually understood as Traditionalism, along with Seyyed Hossein Nasr, formerly of the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy. Islam is represented by Mansur Al-Hallaj, one of the founders of Sufism and by Ibn Arabi, its great metaphysician—but also by Dawud al-Sini, a contemporary theologian educated in Europe, who praises the terrorists of 9/11. Similarly, Hinduism is represented not only by Shankara, India’s great philosopher, but by Hitler’s European sycophant Savitri Devi as well, and deep ecology by Finland’s Pentti Linkola, and by “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski. Oswald Spengler stands for the philosophy of history, but so does the implausible Francis Parker Yockey. Yukio Mishima and Ernst Jünger are mainly literary figures who can probably be described as Fascist without upsetting anyone duly. On the other hand, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was a Fascist right out of central casting, the sort who gives liberals (and conservatives) nightmares, and Mussolini a bad name. Another group displays a Byzantine style icon of Codreanu, halo and all.
These people are of course not conservatives in any sense of the term, a term which for the most part they despise. But they correspond to the Left’s fantasy of the Right, and it is important to note that there is a place on Facebook even for them. But of course they are few in number in comparison with what might be called the real Right.
Facebook hosts fan clubs for such traditional thinkers as Ludwig von Mises, Robert A. Taft, Russell Kirk, Michael Oakeshott, Murray Rothbard, Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Joe Sobran, and Sam Francis. (None for Richard Weaver or Erik, Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Not yet; give me time.) Other groups promote the work of ISI, ISIL, YAF, the Federalist Society, the Institute for Humane Studies, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Cato Institute.
One interesting feature of Facebook is the ability of members to create Causes, allowing other members to make tax deductible donations to anything recognized by the IRS as a charity. The function is connected to an online database of such groups, which is not governed by political correctness. For example, anyone who wanted to enable Facebookers to contribute to the Charles Martel Society, which publishes the Occidental Quarterly, could do so in less than five minutes (I searched the database for the most politically incorrect of charities). I myself have set up such a conduit for the good people who organize the Village Hallowe’en Parade, just to see how it is done. More seriously I recently joined one for keeping alive the memory of the Armenian genocide. The most important function of these Causes is not fundraising, but continually reminding people of the issues.
Looking at today’s collegians, some of them, I am reminded of the early days of the Conservative movement, of the Conservative Club (Edmund Burke Society) of Earlham College in the late ‘60s, and the even earlier Party of the Right at Yale, and of the campus speakers and summer schools of what was then the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. This is as remarkable as it is refreshing, given what has come in between. There was the sexual revolution, heterosexual in its first stage, and the reaction to it, homosexual to a certain degree, which tinged Conservatism somewhat for some time. There was the capture of the anti-War movement by the Maoist faction and the marginalization of the libertarians and localists not only within that movement but also among the (other) Conservatves. There was the temporary eclipse of traditional Catholic philosophy and morals in the wake of Vatican II, and the embrace of New Age spirituality and the Great Society social gospel by the organs of the American hierarchy. There was the Nixon regime and its wholesale corruption of young folks who called themselves Conservatives into the service of the New Deal Welfare/Warfare State. There were the Paleocon Wars: the successful attack on Mel Bradford by the supporters of William Bennett and the Kristols, the drawn battle of Podohoretz and Neuhaus against Chronicles, and the redefinition of Western civilization by Alan Bloom and others to discredit and even to exclude traditions tainted by remnants of the Christian religion. And finally there is the myth of September 11 as the opening battle of a clash of civilizations demanding the utter destruction of the Arab nations and the Muslim religion, and the repudiation of whatever in our own heritage of personal freedom and limited government stands in the way of our masters’ ruling the world.
I would like to say that the new generation has put all that behind them, but in fact, they know little of it, which may be just as well. Even 9/11 is but a distant memory to today’s freshman, already a third of a life ago. And the youngsters are in command of a technology which can connect them with kindred spirits throughout the world without submitting to the censorship of the old media of mass communication, or more seriously, censoring themselves according to their ideas of what communications might pass inspection by the thought police. American higher education is the great school of this self-censorship, which ISI, among others, fights with the old media of books, lectures, and campus newspapers, all of which can provoke harassment of greater or lesser severity and lasting consequence. The Internet’s social networking goes under the radar of the Blue Meanies, and, given the libertarian sympathies of the vast majority of techies, will probably continue to do so—apart from occasional tournaments of Pin the Tail on the Pedophile. And, unlike more capital-intensive media, it won’t be so liable to corruption and intimidation by Republican Party hacks and flacks.
See you online. Oh, wait, that’s where we are already!