‘Lauren Southern DESTROYS Feminism in 3 Minutes’ is one of the first results returned when you search for the Canadian alt-right polemicist.
In recent times, Southern has specialised in the demonisation of immigrants, most notably in her YouTube documentary ‘The Great Replacement’ – which she temporarily deleted after the Christchurch shooter gave the same title to the manifesto in which he justified massacring fifty-one men, women and children.
You might also recall that Southern sailed on a ship charted by the European fascist group Génération identitare to disrupt a search-and-rescue mission looking for shipwrecked migrants in the Mediterranean.
Yet it’s easy to forget that Southern built her early career on her willingness to promote the so-called Men’s Rights, from posing with a sign reading ‘I don’t need feminism’ to heckling Slut Walk marchers.
As the ADL Center on Extremism notes, anti-feminism and overt misogyny have played an important role for the online right, with ‘the largely anonymous outrage of the men’s rights arena [acting] as a bridge to the white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideology of the alt-right.’
The Center cites some of the most extreme examples, such as Andrew Anglin from the Nazi site Daily Stormer. Here’s an excerpt from this charmer:
The fact is, when you give women rights, they destroy absolutely everything around them, no matter what other variable is involved … Even if you become the ultimate alpha male, some stupid bitch will still ruin your life.
The reference to ‘ultimate alpha males’ underscores the extent to which online fascism has appropriated an entire vocabulary (‘alphas’ and ‘betas’, ‘chads’ and ‘stacies’, ‘cucks’ and ‘soyboys’) from the basement-dwellers of 4chan. This is a lexicon in which gendered hierarchies categorise all the gradations of a naturalised social inequality.
Perversely, the alt-right’s obsession with masculinity opened opportunities for women willing to use MRA talking points to ‘own the libs’. Southern is far from alone in riding that particular gravy train but has managed to take it further than most.
When, for instance, the New York Times recently analysed the YouTube videos that a young man called Caleb Cain says recruited him to far-right politics, they identified Southern’s work as particularly influential. In that interview, Cain referred to Southern as his ‘fashy bae’, an endearment that would make most normal people stab out their eardrums with a fork.
More the point, however, the prominence of women in a movement so dedicated to male supremacy generates certain obvious contradictions which have, just now, spectacularly come to a head.
Earlier this week, Milo Yiannopoulos – the onetime alt-right celebrity recently reduced to performing gospel tunes and peddling quack supplements for Alex Jones – released a long article denouncing right-wing promoters Caolan Robertson and George Llewelyn-John as frauds and con men.
The piece – apparently ‘the result of nearly a hundred telephone interviews and a forensic review of evidence provided in no less than five discrete leaks and document dumps’ – offers a masterclass in psychological projection.
Yiannopoulos excoriates the pair for bilking conservatives out money and then spending the cash on self-indulgent luxuries, a more or less exact description of Yiannopoulos’ own modus operandi.
Late last year, local Nazi Neil Erikson released a document trove detailing the car crash that was Yiannopoulos’ most-recently aborted Australian tour. Much of the correspondence consisted of Yiannopoulos screaming abuse at his cringing promoters while demanding more money to be wired to him instantly. Here’s a sample:
As so often, just when I feel like we are getting somewhere, you renege on an agreement and change course …
Why did you deduct $2,000, without telling me … I will have no way or [sic] paying my cleaning lady or paying back the loan for my phone bill …
Medical expenses. How could you not pay my doctor … You do not live in America. Healthcare here is not subsidized. … There is no “service level” to reduce. My doctor charges $10,000 a year to cover me and John. The $2,500 installment plan was a favor he did me due to financial hardship …
Aside from one good line describing UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin – aka Sargon of Akkad – as ‘YouTube’s David Brent’, te essay reads as a prolonged encounter between Mr Pot and Mr Kettle
No-one cares about Robertson and Llewelyn-Jones (who?) other than far-right chancers like Yiannopoulos, who seems to be consumed by professional jealousy at the amount they managed to grab. However, the essay blew up because of Yiannopoulos’ comments about one-time friend Lauren Southern, whom he slut-shames over several paragraphs. Here is, again, a mere sample:
Southern, famously, writes very little of her own material, and has often embarked on sexual liaisons with men who have helped her with video scripts or notes for her content. While giving speeches about the “trad life,” which typically refers to fidelity in same-race nuclear families, Southern was, in the indelicate words of one major YouTuber, “throwing herself around what seemed like the entire conservative movement in exchange for help with her writing.” We approached four of the men she has been linked to romantically, each of them a prominent Right-wing media figure in a position to help Southern succeed professionally. All four begged not to be named in this story.
The text goes on in this vein for some time before Yiannopoulos classily repeats ‘rumours’ that Southern has ‘married a fifty-year-old surgeon sugar daddy with whom she is embarrassed to be photographed’ or perhaps is planning ‘a shotgun wedding to a black security guard whose baby she is expecting.’
Unless you’re a trainspotter of far-right squabbles, a bust-up between some of the worst people in the world probably doesn’t merit much attention. Yet the treatment dished out to Southern does highlight some of the ongoing tensions within the movement.
In my book Trigger Warnings, I argue that the alt-right distinguished itself as a political tendency by its ability to weaponise identity politics against the Left. Yiannopoulos, for instance, established himself during Gamergate by simultaneously stressing both his homosexuality and his right-wing politics in a way that disoriented many liberals. This remains his shtick. For instance, he recently agreed to serve as marshal for the pathetic ‘straight pride’ provocation organised by white supremacists in Boston.
Yet if his sexual identity enabled Yiannopoulos to confound those progressives who automatically associated gay men with the left, it also enraged those conservatives who made the same connection. The man’s career began falling apart when footage circulated of him discussing sex with boys. It’s probably fair to say that, for many on the Right, the disgust with his promotion of paedophilia cloaked a broader disgust with his promotion of homosexuality.
You can see a similar process playing out in respect of Southern.
The piece attributes much of the gossip about her to Laura Loomer and Faith Goldy, second-tier imitators of Southern who gleefully do to her what she had previously done to others.
‘It might not be a coincidence,’ writes Yiannopoulos, ‘that Southern’s most ferocious critics are all other women, but if she has somehow become the “self-serving, sabotaging bitch”—not our phrase—that other women in the conservative movement have always suspected, she has only herself to blame.’
Women are calling her a ‘bitch’ and a slut so there can’t be anything sexist about it. Why, it must be her own fault!
On social media, conservatives didn’t bother with such niceties, with Twitter filling up with sexist abuse and pornographic speculation about who else might or might not have had sex with her for content. The hideous MRA who goes by the name Roosh epitomised a certain line of argument. He tweeted:
Two years ago I put out a “Tradthots are not trad” video. I was attacked for “dividing” the conservative movement, which is exactly what Lauren Southern has accomplished with her public career. Women in public must be humble followers of male leaders, not leaders of their own.
Quite an invitation, is it not?
At the start of this month, Southern announced her retirement from public life, purportedly to ‘focus on my family and future family, to focus on my studies and my soul.’ One would like to think that her discussions with Hope not Hate (if these truly occurred) spurred her to reflect on the spiritual consequences of, say, sabotaging the rescue of refugees drowning at sea. But more likely, she learned of the bucket that Yiannopoulos was about to tip on her and concluded she wanted nothing further to do with the movement.
The civil war raging among the far right’s various grafters and opportunists reflects, among other factors, the failure of fascists to build after Charlottesville and their increasing disappointment in the Trump administration. From the heights it reached in 2017, the alt-right has fallen into complete disarray, both politically and ideologically, and the confusion is spreading amongst its alt-light hangers-on.
In that context, the contradictions between, on the one hand, the movement’s need for female representatives and, on the other, its commitment to old-fashioned sexism will only widen.