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Jonathan Bowden’s Apocalypse TV

[1]1,359 words

Jonathan Bowden
Apocalypse TV [2]
London: The Spinning Top Club, 2007

Apocalypse TV was published in August 2007 by the Spinning Top Club. It runs to 239 pages and contains a pencil sketch of the author in the frontispiece or prelims by Michael Woodbridge. It is quite different to the other books which I have reviewed by this author — novels and plays, etc. . . . — by being directly non-fictional in character.

Yet, on closer examination, I wonder if the author really thinks this. For, like Nietzsche, I believe that he scorns academic specialization into different, diffuse, finite, and often trivial disciplines. Didn’t Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy virtually finish off philology at a stroke? Also, and more importantly Bowden follows Bill Hopkins here, in that he believes over-specialization led to a corresponding primitivism at the end of the nineteenth century. This was partly a result of wey-faced specialism — an absence of fury — and it led to an expressive interest in primitive culture outside Europe . . . partly as a response. I think that both Bowden and Hopkins in no sense disprivilege the primeval, but they prefer it to come from within Nation Europa by virtue of the Cycladic culture in archaic Greece, say.

Nonetheless, Apocalypse TV is a Platonic dialogue of meta-political import. It consists of two independent voices which both appear to be ‘hardline’ and illiberal in tone. They are also highly educated and cultivated — yet, in this context, cultural knowledge does not presuppose a weak or milksop attitude. I believe that this text appeared for a brief period on the British National Party website when the author was that group’s unpaid cultural officer between May 2004 and August 2007. I understand that he is no longer associated with that political party whatsoever. He is now Chairman of a philosophical group called the British New Right which spreads elitist and non-humanist ideas.

One of the characters or Dramatis Personae in this dialogue is a Nietzschean (Frederick) and the other an avowed Christian (Thomas). These two puppets or stage-maneuvered characters are obviously stand-ins for Nietzsche and Thomas Aquinas, respectively. Yet there is no attempt at an easy way out here — since both characters are anti-liberal in a very radical or fanatical way. The Judaeo-Christian voice is almost on a par with the theodicy of Mel Gibson’s traditionalist film, The Passion of the Christ. This means that both voices are virtually as Right wing as each other. The physical-cum-textual dialogue is split about 50/50 between them. Neither voice really wins, and they often agree, but Bowden’s preference for the pagan and vitalist voice is implicitly obvious. Likewise, a clash between metaphysical subjectivisms and objectivisms occurs herein.

These two dynamic Wills debate Political Correctness as a grammar of Modernity, radical Modernist art a la the Brit or anti-objectivist tendency in Britain, mass migration, the politics of the liberal European Union, contemporary (then) Blairite politics in the UK, popular delusions and mass media inanity, as well as criminology. A very detailed, factual, and yet immediate narrative follows on from this. A humorous element amidst the disputation of these two (quite rare in this type of material) is also discernible.

One thing stands out to me, withal, and this is the originality of the approach as well as the range of cultural knowledge evinced. There is a striking sub-text of factual accuracy which is quite rare in works that are propagandistic in intent. Similarly, on the EU the hard or fascistic notion of integration is discussed (never looked at in contemporary Euro-babble); while phenomena such as the US militia movement and the activities of the Unabomber are mulled over. The analysis is slightly dated due to the fact that the dialogues appear to have taken place in the late ‘nineties or thereafter. The attentive reader just substitutes present synonyms for proper names like Clinton, Bush, Blair, Gorbachev, Mitterrand, Yeltsin, etc. . . .  the only glaring omission is the relative absence of Islam throughout the text. Indeed, the Christian personification (Thomas) mentions this at one point. Quite clearly, this text originated and was edited before the Twin Towers and the unfolding events that came after it. Other than that, it proves how little the core issues have changed after more than a decade.

Two areas stand out for this reviewer. The first is the dialogue called “Sex, Death, Fred and Rose.” This is a duologue (Aeschylus’ invention in theater) over a notorious married couple who were sadistic erotic killers. They were known as Fred and Rose West. I suppose comparable American cases in your criminology and penology would be the Bundy affair, Son of Sam, the Tate-LaBianca murder, and the Leopold and Loeb cases. (The latter was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in Rope.) It’s a fascinating dialogue because the Christian tends to think that such individuals are possessed a la Dostoyevsky’s novel; the pagan (Frederick) mulls over this case existentially. But only in part — since, although his locution is much closer to Camus or Durrenmatt, Fred believes that biology and Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis plays a much more blatant role.

The other very interesting dialogue is over Modern art — where the anti-objectivist Turner Prize is considered from every angle. Interestingly, the author has the Christian adopt a more aesthetically conservative and ‘reactive’ point of view — whereas the Nietzsche substitute seems to be much more sympathetic to the extremely imaginary, but not in every case. Stewart Home’s book about post-modern art and other marginals, The Assault on Culture, is also analyzed by our twosome. This consists of fringe art movements like Situationism, Fluxus, Lettrism, the Movement for an Imagist Bauhaus, Auto-Destructive art, etc. . . . yet the far-left, materialist and ideologically ‘neo-proletarian’ prefix often falls sheer. Since, in Home’s very description, Mail Art involves an artist sending, unsolicited, various representational paintings of Adolf Hitler to all sorts of people who probably didn’t wish to be in receipt. (Bowden’s antennae were very acute here. When Apocalypse TV was composed Home was a very minor player. But after this he has emerged as the writer-in-residence at the Tate gallery in London. Jonathan Bowden has also devoted an oration or talk on this area called “Stewart Home and Cultural Communism [3].” It can be found on YouTube.)

All in all, this philosophical dialogue harks back to one of the West’s oldest forms — namely, a debate between two lively minds. It also hints that both pagans and Christians are going to have to collaborate (up to a point) in the cultural war. Indeed, the only real source of tension between these dual personifications involves ethics. Perhaps the author is hinting that Western culture is a Christian-pagan hybrid — just like Evola who always described his faith-system as Catholic-pagan. (Note: The Paganism he’s referring to relates to the ancient world.) I have to say that every radical right point of interest, intersection and debate is dealt with in this volume. Tens of thousands of Apocalypse TV have been disseminated, but its themes are not just restricted to the British Isles.

I will close this review with the following remark . . . two writers who were members of the Angry Young Men in the ‘fifties, Bill Hopkins and Colin Wilson, used to have debates with one another that lasted around seventeen hours. Each would sit back-to-back on wooden stools in a bare or semi-deserted room. Some of this was recollected in Wilson’s books about ‘fifties Soho. Nevertheless, this is genuine dialectic — it is high western intellect, where each intellectual is given a space to articulate a viewpoint, to think aloud, without interruption. Then his colleague has to take up the Tennis racket in the match. There are no political correctnesses, no false boundaries, no unsayable propositions (even on one’s own side). There remain no boundaries to pure thinking. This is presently what all Western universities or tertiary institutions of learning lack. Yet if it isn’t allowed in the Ivy League it will gravitate elsewhere . . . some call it de-tribalisation amongst intellectuals; it is probably the only way in which you could transform a Carpet-bagging liberal into a cultural fundamentalist.

It is the nearest thing you will ever get to the debates between the Philosophers in Ancient Greece — yet it hails from a primordial standpoint.

You can buy or freeload Apocalypse TV here [4].