Discover more from The Bluestocking
The Bluestocking, vol 281
seminude Aryan beefcakes, usually in tropical settings
And welcome to new readers who subscribed after reading my interview with the New Statesman’s Saturday Read. Expect a weekly digest of links covering weird internet content, psychology, politics, feminism and the Hapsburgs.
The Obama Factor (Tablet Mag)
Q: I’ve gotten the sense, from my read of [Barack Obama] and from people close to him, that the pose of being a writer is actually one that he prefers in many ways to being a politician.
A: Oh God, yes. Yes, yes, yes.
So why wouldn’t he want his writerliness to be revealed?
He doesn’t want the writerliness challenged. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The book [Dreams] is so fictionalized.
What’s wrong with that? At this point in time, only a very naive person would think of memoir as anything other than a literary genre that is cousin to the novel. It’s not history.
It’s so inaccurate, whether about the dynamics among the guys in Hawaii or what’s going on in the community group on the far South Side. And it completely omits women. I’ve always thought that there’d eventually be a feminist critique of Obama because his mother and all the girlfriends—they’re not there. They don’t exist.
I will say, from reading your book, I had the sense that all of those women seemed like they felt betrayed by him.
Like Ian Leslie, I found the interviewer here overbearing—skip his introduction complaining that the US didn’t invade Syria as if that was obviously the correct thing to do, rather than one of two bad options, and the somewhat overwrought suggestion that Obama is running a shadow government from his Washington townhouse because Biden is senile.
However, the main Q&A, with Obama (and MLK) biographer David Garrow, is worth your time. I would characterize it as a fair but extremely unsympathetic take, something you rarely see in the wild. As in, I think Garrow would have liked Obama to succeed, but doesn’t feel he did, unlike most Obama criticism, which comes either from utopianists (why didn’t he make the U.S. into a European social democratic nation) or partisans (why didn’t he admit he was secretly Kenyan).
Garrow is particularly good on the moment Obama willed himself to become a Black American, rather than the kid raised by a white family in Malaysia and Hawaii. I admire Obama’s charisma, but you can’t help noticing how he sometimes seems like an anthropologist on Mars.
There’s also some very good material on stuff I don’t know a lot about—the FBI wiretaps of Martin Luther King, for instead— as well as stuff I do, such as abortion being a “class issue.”
How Bronze Age Pervert Charmed The Far Right (The Atlantic)
[Bronze Age Pervert’s] message, delivered in tweets, podcasts, and a self-published book, mixes ultra-far-right politics, unabashed racism, and a deep knowledge of ancient Greece. He has never shown his face or admitted his real name. But I know Bronze Age Pervert [. . .] He’s an MIT graduate who grew up in Newton, Massachusetts. His name is Costin Alamariu.
It is hard to convey precisely what BAP believes, in part because his views are so outlandish that even when stated simply, they sound like incoherent ranting. America’s civic religion holds that all humans have inherent and equal worth, that they should not be graded according to beauty or nobility, and that they should not aim to destroy one another. BAP says this orthodoxy is exactly wrong. He argues that the natural and desirable condition of life is the domination of the weak and ugly by the strong and noble. He considers American cities a “wasteland” run by Jews and Black people, though the words he uses to denote these groups are considerably less genteel than these.
The modern state, he says, has been designed to empower the feebleminded and the misshapen at the expense of their betters. The strong and noble must humiliate and conquer their tormentors and destroy their institutions. On Twitter, where he has more than 100,000 followers, BAP posts images of seminude Aryan beefcakes, usually in tropical settings, to celebrate the physical perfection of the warrior element of the race that he hopes will someday be restored to dominance.
My colleague Graeme Wood on the niche (but sadly not niche enough) internet personality Bronze Age Pervert, whose manifesto was read by junior staffers in the Trump White House, and is now popular with the kind of people who would have once been members of the Klan, with all the racism and taste for embarrassing sub-Masonic secret society bullshit that implies. BAP’s popularity is interesting on his own—as Graeme notes, never has fascism been more homoerotic—but also because of what it says about a generation who grew up in the peace and prosperity of liberal democracy but find it all so terribly dull.
Would any of these people survive a real fascist uprising followed by a Randian struggle for survival? My hunch is no.
This week, I wrote in The Atlantic about Labour’s pivot to compromise and discussion on gender, and whether America could do something similar:
Labour’s new position represents a big ideological shift, but it wasn’t presented as one. That is typical of [Keir] Starmer’s personality, which is unshowy but ruthless. Unlike many American politicians on either side of the spectrum, he has tried to find a position that will make the debate less inflammatory, and to appeal to the wider country rather than his activist base.
For further evidence that the vibe has shifted, look at Wes Streeting’s (entirely correct) comments that the decision by the SNP to play this as a culture war—complete with Nicola Sturgeon claiming that anyone with concerns about self-ID was a racist, bizarrely—was deeply unhelpful for the cause of LGBT rights.
He also said something else which I believe to be true, which is that good opposition makes good government. You should want to hear the other side to check you’re not missing something. “I’ve got plenty of hard criticisms to make with the SNP,” Streeting said. “But on the gender recognition reforms, I would cite their Bill as a really good example of what happens if you only ever legislate with good intentions, and don’t legislate for the worst-case scenario, the risks and challenges that are presented. Had they listened to the opposition a bit more, it would be better, and we can learn from that at UK level.”
If you have moderate sleep apnoea, you might benefit from. . . . playing the didgeridoo.
“I suggested speaking to your partner on his own, as this might help him speak more freely, and you agreed. Your partner also agreed, and the next day we talked on the phone. He warned me this was going to be one of the strangest conversations I’d ever had in my life, and he wasn’t far wrong.” Phenomenal Telegraph money column where a woman thinks her partner has lost £500,000 in dodgy investments and the reality turns out to be far worse.
“Blair’s new life, according to some former colleagues, feels like one long prime ministerial cosplay in which everybody must play their part. There is the media grid, the box, the police protection officers, armoured cars, private jets and constant meetings with world leaders and VIPs.” Tom McTague on Tony Blair’s attempts to “save democracy — but from Mayfair” (Unherd Premium)
As a lapsed Catholic, this article had me at “cancelled priests.” Some people are dismissive of Bari Weiss because her heterodoxy sometimes tips into credulity, but her commissioning nose is fearsome. The Free Press sends its reporters into bits of America I otherwise wouldn’t hear about, and it runs sweet pieces like this one on why you should always write to your heroes.
“I know my way around air travel, and here’s what I’ve learned: Board last on the plane. Ignore your boarding group. It’s okay.” Enjoyable, if occasionally woo-inflected, list of life tips. Intuitively, I feel that this boarding suggestion is correct BUT this lady does not know the fear of having a carry-on suitcase on a full easyjet flight where only people with Speedy Boarding are getting that mfer in the overhead bins. Long haul, sure. I’m happy to spend less time with my knees around my ears.
See you next time!