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First, Do No Harm

1,166 words

French translation here

It should go without saying that any cause is better served by doing something well than by doing it badly. But it needs saying, because in my ten years of observing and participating in the White Nationalist scene, I have seen more than enough poorly planned and executed events, botched demonstrations, inept videos, ugly websites, and bad writing, all of which do the cause more harm than good. They set us back rather than move us forward. 

In fact, it is better to do nothing for the cause at all than to do something that reflects badly on it.

If asked to explain these travesties, most of the well-meaning perps will surely say that they felt they had to “do something.” They were mad as hell, and they weren’t going to take it anymore. Well bless them. Obviously nothing would ever happen if people didn’t “do something.” But “something” can be “anything.” And we don’t want to do just anything. We want to advance our cause. We want a white homeland. So the first principle of responsible activism should not be “Do something.” Instead, one should take a page from medical ethics and “First, do no harm.” (Harm to the cause, that is.)

Why, then, do activists “do harm”?

There are many ways that things can go wrong through no fault of one’s own. Websites can be hacked, software can have flaws, printers can botch a job, a demonstration can be rained out, etc. Whether you are responsible or not, the cause has been set back. In cases like that, the best thing to do is not to brood over it and keep picking the scab, but to learn what can be learned and get back in the game.

Others “do harm” simply from lack of forethought, knowledge, experience, or taste. There is nothing wrong with these traits as such. They are universal features of youth, and youth usually brings with it many compensating virtues. They become problems only if individuals are unaware of their inadequacies, or if they are unwilling to correct them, or if they lack proper guidance from more mature and experienced mentors.

There are very few mentors in the movement today. (I am not counting the people who set examples of what not to do.) This puts a heavy burden on those who are willing and able to provide guidance.

But the “first, do no harm” principle applies to mentors as well. At the very least, a would-be mentor has to level with those who come to him for advice. All purpose words of encouragement do no good if someone is about to embark upon a project that puts him and the cause in a bad light.

It is particularly imprudent if one uses one’s name to endorse harmful products and actions, since it depletes one’s credibility, which is a precious commodity. Given that the system works overtime to “discredit” leading White Nationalists, it seems crazy to help them out.

I have not been particularly good as a mentor, but I am striving to improve. It is easy to mentor someone who is mature, self-confident, and emotionally healthy. But such people need very little mentoring. The hard cases are people who are immature, insecure, and neurotic. Unfortunately, our cause is filled with talented people of that description. And in those cases, I have not done all I could.

Ultimately, the root is fear: It is dangerous to level with a person who might be more than a little neurotic, and if he has serious mental problems, then the principle of “no harm” (to the cause and to oneself) means that one should not encourage him—or discourage him, for that matter—but just be silent and back slowly out of the room. From bitter experience with kooks, I am afraid that I err on the side of caution.

This brings us to one of the chief reasons White Nationalists “do harm”: Personality disorders like narcissism and mental illnesses like hypomania, depression, and manic depression are over-represented in our ranks. Learn the signs.

I want to deal with these problems at greater length in the future. But for now, I just wish to observe that even though White Nationalism is anti-egalitarian and elitist in theory, in practice White Nationalists tend to coddle and even promote people who are mentally and physically botched and unhealthy.

Part of this tendency is based on Christian “virtues,” such as pity for the lame, the halt, and the blind, or the soul-body dualism that allows us to believe that noble souls might be hiding behind Halloween masks of rage, brooding, and insanity. But non-Christians fall for the same traps too.

As a rule, White Nationalists are so alienated and so desperate to find people with talent that we are blind to glaring faults, or turn a blind eye to them.

But in doing so, we tacitly confess that we really don’t take this all that seriously. We aren’t really looking for people who can become political soldiers in a world-historical struggle. We are looking for audiences, sounding boards, echo chambers, drinking buddies, dinner companions, pen pals, phone friends, racialist sewing circles and sorority sisters, and the like.

When we surround ourselves with crazies—or even mere ineffectual, well-meaning milquetoasts—we are confessing that we don’t really think we can win, that none of us will “Die Fighting,” but we are bound and determined to “Die complaining”—complaining about the same stuff we have been complaining about for 40 or 50 years.

Serious activists don’t associate with kooks, even kooks who are all about “doing something.”

There are plenty of character flaws that keep White Nationalists silent and sidelined, but refusing to follow obvious kooks is not among them. These are good reasons for not getting involved, among many others.

I should note that I am not claiming that certain strains of White Nationalism “do harm” by their very nature. I am not, for example, one of those race-wise bourgeois conservatives who blame the failure of White Nationalism to gain traction in their circles on the mere existence of the KKK and neo-Nazis, as if more mainstream groups would magically begin to get good press if the “costume clowns” would just go away—as if fellow White Nationalists were a greater enemy than the establishment and its media mouthpieces.

Any costume can be a clown costume if worn by a fool, even a jacket and tie. And every kind of group can make a positive contribution to our cause—from the most radical vangardists to the most accommodating mainstreamers—provided they choose realistic goals and rational means, then do something positive.

Of course the ultimate principle of activism is not “avoid harm” but “do good.” Yet a distant good is often harder to determine than an immediate harm, and the White Nationalist movement is still making baby steps. So for us today, the most reliable way of pursuing that ultimate good is to first do no harm.

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  1. Stronza
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    It is gracious of you to own up to your own lack of suitability for certain approaches. So many people don’t want to admit that good intentions can be dangerous if not backed up with talent.

    I want to doff my hat to the reviled owner, bossman, and administrator of VNN Forum. People come to racial awareness not through the existence of unflawed proponents, but through whatever means almighty God has in mind for that individual. And through a rather strange, unlikely, tortuous route that I won’t bother talking about now, that is where I ended up several years ago.

    Approximately one month prior to finding that site, I was walking down a busy street, admiring out loud to my companion how neat-looking those many recent Sudanese immigrants looked (tall, thin, swaggering, colorful) and what a wonderful world it was that they could somehow find their way here and bless our already multicultural society even further. I am not exaggerating one bit. This story is the fullblown, 4-star truth. I needed the, ahem, outspoken man at the helm of VNN to set me right. I looked beyond his unfortunate attitudes. For me, it could not have happened any other way.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Yes, even Linder’s sort of discourse has a place in the great circle of poo, but only as one of the ultraviolent shades of a broad, shifting spectrum of WN “discursive spaces”–to use the words of another reviled character–ultimately blending into the great American center. But Linder does not see the big picture, so he cannot see his place in it. In the end, he does more harm than good.

      Linder’s talent lies in crafting spintros, reviews, and opinion pieces. He needs to go back to doing that. He is wasting that talent presiding over the VNN Forum.

  2. White Republican
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    Another problem among White nationalists is the prevalence of what Julius Evola called the “Mediterranean” character over the “Roman” character. In Men Among the Ruins, Evola described the Mediterranean character as follows:

    “The first ‘Mediterranean’ trait is love for outward appearances and grand gestures. The Mediterranean type needs a stage, if not for the sake of vanity and exhibitionism, at least in the sense that he often draws the impulse and motivation even for noble, remarkable, and sincere things from his main concern to be noticed by others and to make an impact on them. Hence the inclination for a ‘gesture’–that is, to do something to draw attention and curiosity, even when the person knows he is the only one to witness it. In the Mediterranean man there is a splitting between an ‘I’ that plays the role and an ‘I’ that regards his part from the point of view of a possible observer or spectator, more or less as actors do.

    “Let me repeat: what is problematic here is the style, as the action or the work per se could have a positive value. But this has very little to do with Roman style, and it marks a disintegration and an alteration; it is the antithesis of the ancient saying esse non haberi [to be and not appear to be], or of the style due to which, among other reasons, ancient Roman civilization was characterized by anonymous heroes. In a wider context, the opposition could be formulated in these terms: the Roman style is monumental, monolithic, while the Mediterranean style is choreographic-theatrical and spectacular (see also the French notions of grandeur and gloire). Thus, if this ‘Mediterranean’ component of the Italian man were to be rectified, the best model to follow would be that of the ancient race of Rome–the sober, austere, active style, free from exhibitionism, measured, endowed with a calm awareness of one’s dignity. To have the sense of what one is and of one’s value independently of any external reference, loving distance as well as actions and expressions reduced to the essential, devoid of any exhibition and cheap showmanship–all these are fundamental elements for the eventual formation of a superior type. And even if the Italian man had in common with the Mediterranean type the above-mentioned ‘splitting’ (as simultaneous actor and spectator), this splitting should be utilized for a careful supervision of one’s conduct and expressions. This supervision should prevent every primitive spontaneity; one should carefully study one’s own demeanor, not with the purpose of making an ‘impression’ on others, or with great concern for their opinion, but for sake of the style that one intends to display to oneself.

    “The propensity toward outward appearances is easily associated with a personalism that degenerates into individualism. This is another typical negative trait of the Mediterranean soul: the tendency toward a restless, chaotic, and undisciplined individualism. Politically speaking, this is the tendency that, after asserting itself by fomenting struggles and constant quarrels, led the Greek city-states to ruin, although it had previously contributed in a positive manner to their articulated formation. We find this trait in the turbulent times of the early empire; it finally erupted in medieval Italy, degenerating into particularisms, schisms, struggles, factions, and all kinds of rivalries. And although the Italian Renaissance has splendid features, they are nevertheless problematic features that derive from this Mediterranean individualism, which does not tolerate any general and strict law of order; and valuable possibilities dissipated in purely personal positions and in the fireworks of a creativity disjoined from any higher meaning and tradition. Here the author, rather than the work itself, is at center stage.

    “Thus, descending even lower, the same ‘Mediterranean’ component is found in the contemporary pseudo-genial type, who is ever critical and always ready to uphold the opposite thesis in order to make a show of himself, being very clever in finding ways to get around an obstacle and in eluding a law. Even lower we find the maliciousness and the shrewdness (i.e., knowing how to ‘fool’ others) that the Mediterranean type regards as synonyms for intelligence and superiority, whereas the ‘Roman’ type would feel in this a degradation, a betrayal of one’s dignity. . . .

    “The Roman chastity or sobriety of speech, expression, and gesture is contrasted by the gesticulating, noisy, and disordered exuberance of the Mediterranean type, by his mania for communication and effusiveness, and by his feeble sense of boundaries, hierarchy, and silent subordination. The counterpart of these traits is often a lack of character, the tendency to get excited and become drunk with words: verbosity, a flaunted and conventional sense of honor, susceptibility, concern for appearances but with little or no substance. The expression ‘Pobre in palabras pero in obras largo’ [Poor of words but rich in deeds], which characterized the ancient Spanish aristocratic type, should be compared with Moltke’s characterization: ‘Talk little, do much, and be more than you appear to be’; all this points to the ‘Roman’ style.

    “The Mediterranean man often shares with the so-called ‘desert race’ . . . an intense, explosive, and changeable temperament, tied to circumstances and also flaring up; an immediacy and the power of desire or affection in the emotional life; and random intuitions in the intellectual life. A style of psychological equilibrium and a sense of measure are not his strength. Although he is always cheerful, enthusiastic, and optimistic in appearance, especially when he is in the company of other people, in reality the Mediterranean type experiences sudden psychological lows, and discovers dark and hopeless inner visions that make him anxiously shun solitude and return to exteriority, noisy social interactions, effusions, and passionateness.

    “While acknowledging this, in an eventual rectification we should not proceed by mere antitheses. Nietzsche’s saying: ‘I evaluate a man by his power to delay his reactions’ may certainly act as a general basic principle against disorderly impulsivity and ‘explosiveness.’ Nietzsche himself warned against every morality that tends to dry up every impetuous current of the human soul instead of channeling it. The capability of control, equilibrium, continuity in feeling and in willing must not lead to a withering and mechanization of one’s being . . . What matters is not to suppress passion and to give to the soul a beautiful, regulated, and homogeneous, though flat form; but rather to organize one’s being in an integral way around the capability of recognizing, discriminating, and adequately utilizing the impulses and the lights that emerge from one’s deep recesses. It cannot be denied that passion is predominant in many Mediterranean Italian types, but this disposition does not amount to a defect, but rather to an enrichment, provided it finds its correlative in a firmly organized life.

    “A more negative element of the Mediterranean type is sentimentality. Here we should distinguish between sentimentality and true feeling, the former being a degeneration and rhetorical form of the latter. The former plays a predominant role in various expressions typical of the Mediterranean soul. As an example we could adduce a number of sugary songs; the success and the echo they have in the popular soul, despite their patent insincerity, are significative.

    “The Mediterranean man is always inclined to defend himself, just as the Nordic man tends to judge himself. The former is alleged to be more indulgent with himself than with others, and to be reluctant to examine the hidden motives of his inner life under a clear and objective light. This opposition is rather unilateral. Generally speaking, we should not ignore the dangers inherent in morbid introspection . . . A style of simplicity and sincerity, first of all toward one’s soul, is essential for a superior human type, as is the natural precept of being strict with oneself but understanding and cordial with others. . . .”

    Evola defined the Mediterranean and the Roman character in terms of character and style rather than physical anthropology, nationality, or geography. The Mediterranean man has not conquered the world, but he has crowded it.

    Evola’s comments will doubtless remind many readers of internet forums. Egotism, exhibitionism, individualism, contrarianism, peevishness, spitefulness, impulsiveness, superficiality, sentimentality, pettiness, and lack of self-criticism are the dominant traits of the discourse on internet forums. Many of the worst offenders on internet forums are people of considerable intelligence, learning, and ability. Their sins are greater because they should know better and because they squander so much that is or could be valuable in themselves and others.

    The antithesis of the Mediterranean character is the Roman character, which Evola described as follows:

    “[The] original Roman spirit was based on a human type characterized by a group of typical dispositions. Among them we should include self-control, an enlightened boldness, a concise speech and determined and coherent conduct, and a cold dominating attitude, exempt from personalism and vanity. To the Roman style belong virtus, in the sense not of moralism, but of virile spirit and courage; fortitudo and constantia, namely spiritual strength; sapientia, in the sense of thoughtfulness and awareness; disciplina, understood as love for a self-given law and form; fides, in the specifically Roman sense of loyalty and faithfulness; and dignitas, which in the ancient patrician aristocracy became gravitas and solemnitas, a studied and moderate seriousness. The same style is characterized by deliberate actions, without grand gestures; a realism that is not materialism, but rather love for the essential; the ideal of clarity, which eventually turned into rationalism in only some Latin peoples; an inner equilibrium and a healthy suspicion for every confused form of mysticism; a love for boundaries; the readiness to unite, as free human beings and without losing one’s identity, in view of a higher goal or for an idea. . . .

    “Likewise, these elements of style are self-evident. They are not connected to past times; they may act in every period as character-forming influences and effective values as soon as a corresponding calling is awakened. They have a normative value. In the worst case, they might have only the value of a measure. Moreover, we should not think they must be adopted by every individual; this would be absurd and even unnecessary. It would suffice if only a certain social stratum, called to inspire the others, could embody them.”


  3. Posted September 19, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Greg, I agree with everything you wrote in this much-needed essay. The lack of character of many in “the movement,” and the unwillingness of those who do have character to take their duties seriously, has always been one of its major flaws. I include myself in this to some extent, since before ITP/Arktos, which can be seen as a sort of intellectual activism, I was really never very active with any particular group or cause. To be fair, however, especially in the 1990s, when I first became aware of these matters, there weren’t too many groups worth joining – the National Alliance was one of the few halfway decent options but even when Pierce was alive it seemed to have grown stagnant, and it is now suffering a slow and painful death – and I didn’t know enough like-minded people to contemplate creating a new movement (not that I consider myself to be much of a leader).

    I guess the questions are, is there something endemic in the Rightist cause that only attracts ineffectual people and drives away the “achievers,” or is it that those of us who want to do something need to become more devoted and willing to make sacrifices? And what is the best way to apply ourselves to the present crisis?

  4. MOB
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    This is a forward. I’m surprised (and encouraged) to see Anti-Zionism at the top of Troy’s list.
    We would like to announce the formation of a new political organisation
    for all those who are serious about National-Anarchism and who wish to
    become involved in some way.

    If any comrades abroad would like to contact me privately about
    establishing the National-Anarchist Movement (N-AM) in their own
    countries then I will be happy to discuss it with you. Please read our
    section on how to join the N-AM for more details. We are here to meet
    the challenges of the future and we need your support!

    Troy Southgate


  5. Posted September 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Another aspect of this that just occurred to me is that we do need to give people time to mature. A lot of people become attracted to the Right when they are still very young. Often this might manifest itself in being too hung up on Nazism (Evola, I believe correctly, diagnosed this as the result of young people not being given proper referents in history and Tradition, given the sad state of modern education, so NS is the closest thing they encounter to genuine Western culture) or Goth culture, and in being more concerned about what looks cool or what will irritate other types of people than in what the actual issues and solutions are. I can only laugh at my own 19-year-old self who enjoyed walking around in a black leather trenchcoat and got the cops called on him for blasting Wagner out the windows late at night. Some people eventually grow up, others remain stuck in their obsessions, and others still (probably the majority) eventually move on to something else. But even if someone who is young exhibits some behaviors or qualities that we think are silly, we should be understanding and give that person room to develop, rather than to judge him or her too hastily.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Immaturity is natural, even lovable, in the young. Our whole culture promotes prolonged, even permanent adolescence, which has infected the general movement with an ethos of self-indulgent expressive individualism. This means that mature movement people have a special responsibility to mentor young people to help them grow, rather than indulge and encourage adolescent traits.

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