Brandon Adamson has recently published a new book, The Rats of Nationalism, concerning the Internet (mostly really Twitter) presence of alternative right movements in America. Everyone who sees the title is bound to be confused. It’s not about calling nationalists “rats” in a derogatory sense, nor really about nationalists ratting out on each other, though the latter interpretation is closer to the truth. Rather, Brandon takes the title from an obscure (from a European perspective) 1982 children’s movie called The Secret of NIMH which is about a colony of genetically engineered intelligent rats. If all that sounds very confusing I recommend listening to the Robert Stark podcast on the subject before you go on reading or decide to buy the book.
I must warn you that it gets worse. The other peculiarly American inspiration Brandon employs to structure his book is the children’s board game Candy Land which, being aimed at young children, provides an illusion of agency while actually being based on the dumb luck of card draws. Numerous bold-printed references throughout the book refer to Candy Land cards, or at least I hope they do, because otherwise I have no idea where they’re coming from.
At this point you’re probably wondering why you’re even reading this review, or why indeed you should read the book. Well, it is actually an extremely astute analysis of the American Twitter phenomenon known as the Alt-Right that emerged with the Trump presidency. There’s a lot of inside baseball on that account, too: Milo Yiannopoulos and Mike Cernovich are among the best-known names mentioned, so if you don’t know about them much of the book will be incomprehensible to you.
If you’re still with me, this is where it gets really interesting and you probably should get the book. Brandon interleaves numerous observations on simultaneous mass shifts in Alt-Right memes (which are accurate as far as I observed them myself) with sourced documents on psychological operations and systematic manipulation by American state institutions. His key point is that “fed posters” not just try to radicalize dissidents and entrap them (which of course they indeed do) but also attempt to divert attention towards harmless and ineffectual memetic targets.
One example is the strange explosion of “traditional Catholic” accounts on American Twitter where Catholicism has usually been liberal and pro-immigration, unlike say in Spain. Another is the outsized attention given to Bronze Age Mindset which is hugely entertaining but not actually conducive to real-world change in the near future perspective. Likewise, Brandon is suspicious of the sudden popularity of Andrew Yang memes among the disillusioned Alt-Right, contradicting both Yang’s actual election chances and the majority of his own positions.
From a European viewpoint, this book is somewhat moot because we are doubly blessed by proportional parliamentary representation and stricter censorship, which are actually both good things in a sense because we can have effective political forces that by law keep the loonies out. This is not the case in America, so if you operate in the free-wheeling but exclusively Internet space of the American dissident right you would do well to read this book.