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Why I Write

[1]2,702 words

Since I was a small child I have felt that I had to devote my life to something tremendously important. This is it. You are looking at it.

My life now easily divides into “before Counter-Currents” and “after.” Before Counter-Currents I held most of the views I do now, but had virtually no idea what to do about them. I attended various Right-wing conferences, and made Right-wing friends, and attended meet-eat-and-retreat Right-wing dinners. We all talked about the need to “do something,” but aside from a very small number of us (men like Jared Taylor, for instance, who I first met sixteen years ago) nobody had any idea what to “do.” Meanwhile, I was very busily pursuing success in my chosen profession – one which genuinely seemed important to me at one time, but over the years has come to seem more and more like a corrupt racket. I needed to keep my real name and identity under wraps in Right-wing circles (and still do — though perhaps not for much longer).

About seven years ago I realized I had achieved my basic professional goals; what people in my line of work define as “success.” But suddenly it seemed pointless and hollow. I felt like I was waking up from a long sleep. What on earth was that “important” thing I thought I was going to accomplish? I no longer had any clear idea. Had I ever had a clear idea? And, of course, I asked myself “what now?” I was in my mid-forties. And then my mother died, reminding me of my own mortality. As she lay dying, my attention had been divided between her suffering and the politics of my profession, in which I was embroiled at the time. It was shameful. I had become the sort of person that, when I started, I thought I would never be. And I knew my time was running out.

It was during this period that Greg Johnson and Mike Polignano, who I had known for many years, founded Counter-Currents. I had a standing invitation to write for the webzine. But it took me awhile. I had reservations about what I saw as the ephemeral nature of online publication. Plus, I needed to find an authorial voice. It was in September of 2010 that I contributed my first essay to Counter-Currents — though I used a different nom de plume. I got a certain satisfaction from seeing my essay instantly “in print” — and even greater satisfaction when Greg told me the number of people who had clicked on my essay and (presumably) read it.

Finally, I felt that I was doing the elusive something.

But it was not until February of 2011 that I would really find my voice and that yours truly, Jef Costello, would be born. My earlier essays had been detached and philosophical, and had all the pep and humor of Julius Evola (which is to say, no pep and humor at all). At the beginning of 2011, however, I felt the desire to reach readers on a much more personal level, and to be freed from the constraints of “serious writing.” I began to reflect on the personal difficulties that being a heretic have caused me — specifically, my frequent depression at the state of the world, my alienation, and my recurring fears that maybe, one of these days, I’m just going to lose my goddamned mind. The result was “I Am All Right (A Cry For Help) [2].”

I signed this essay “Jef Costello.” The name comes from a French film of the late ’60s called Le Samourai [3]. Alain Delon plays “Jef Costello,” a hired killer depicted as living a solitary and ascetic lifestyle. Just exactly what drives him to be a hitman is unclear, but the odd thing is that he seems to approach it with the same self-denying devotion with which a monk might devote himself to prayer. Something about the loneliness and isolation of this character must have appealed to me — the way in which he voluntarily stood apart from all others. On an impulse, I picked his name. The essay and the choice of pen name were one of those fortuitous events that sometimes happen in life, when things just seem to magically come together in the right way to help us produce something of value. Later on, it felt fateful and mysterious, and I no longer have a very clear memory of writing the essay or choosing the name. I wish Jef had a better origin story, but there it is.

I followed this up with other, similarly personal essays such as “How I Found My Mission in Life [4],” “The View from Hippie Hill [5],” “Against Happiness [6],” and “My Real Life [7].” I found that these essays struck a chord with readers, especially men. I was articulating the feelings of many who think the way that we do, who face every day the enormity of our predicament: the very real possibility that our people and our culture will cease to exist, the sheer perversity of our enemies, the cowardice of so many “friends,” and the enervation produced by the culture’s constant parade of stupidity, ignorance, and vulgarity. I wrote with a bitter kind of humor and irreverence (some time later I realized that a major influence on my style was, oddly enough, D. H. Lawrence: see his essay on Walt Whitman [8]). Often in my essays, however, the humor would fall away after a few paragraphs and the piece would end with a crescendo of passion and earnest sincerity. Sometimes I must have laid it on a bit thick, because readers would respond with comments like “hang in there, Jef!” They must have pictured me writing these things from a ledge somewhere.

I supplemented these essays with lighter commentary pieces, such as “In Defense of Royalty [9],” “The King’s Speech is C-C-C-Crap [10],” and “Aryan Cows? [11]” Beginning with “Dystopia is Now! [12]” I graduated to writing more substantial pieces. This one surveyed four literary dystopias — 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and Atlas Shrugged — and argued that we are now living in them. All that talk about “the age of anxiety” that people used to trot out in the ’50s and ’60s and even into the ’70s has fallen away, because the majority no longer have a basis for comparison: dystopia is all they’ve ever known. At the beginning of 2012 I produced probably my most ambitious essay of all: “Fight Club as Holy Writ [13],” an eleven-thousand-word analysis of my favorite film. Again, this touched a chord with a lot of readers — and, again, they were mainly guys.

By this point I was hooked on writing for Counter-Currents like it was a drug. If I went without writing anything for a while I would start feeling guilty, and my life would feel emptier. I would go back to that “what the hell is this all about?” feeling. When I produced a new piece and triumphantly emailed it to Greg, my soul would feel cleansed. I had done my part — again — for Western civilization: I had given moral support to somebody whose commitment was wavering, I had helped one of our comrades to understand himself and the world a bit better, I had red-pilled a normie who had stumbled upon my writing through an innocent Google search for Fight Club, etc. When I would wake up the next morning and see that my piece had been posted, I would feel intense pride and satisfaction. And I would go a little easier on myself, for a few days at least, basking in the glow of my new essay. Inevitably, my ego got involved. I would carefully watch how many Facebook shares each essay got. “It’s got 80 shares and climbing!” I would announce to Greg on the phone, as if he didn’t know this already. By contrast, if a piece I’d put a lot into got only a few shares, I would be crushed. (Author’s Message: share this and all my other pieces very, very widely or you will put me back on the ledge.)

The periods in which Jef would write nothing (and would thus feel quite guilty) had various causes. Sometimes the demands of my job made it difficult to write. But then sometimes I also went through periods of depression and lack of motivation. Then there were times when I felt motivated (at least in the sense of wanting to get the guilt of not writing behind me), but had writer’s block: I just couldn’t think of a topic. I’ve learned, however, to keep my mind open to the possibility that anything can be a topic. I’ve thus written essays on modern art [14], murder [15], narcissism [16], the supernatural [17], anthropomorphism [18], and even my pet peeves [19] (I was REALLY stumped for a topic when I churned that one out, but lots of people liked it). My essay “What the Drugs Have Taught Me [20]” was an attempt to shock right-wing purity spiralers by discussing the positive effects that drugs like marijuana and LSD have had in my life. I definitely succeeded in shocking them: it’s one of my most controversial essays. I think a few were also shocked by “The Vermont Teddy Bear is a Giant Phallus [21],” which remains one of my favorite essays (and, personally, I think it may be my funniest).

The two most important lessons I could impart to younger writers are the following. First, keep your mind completely open to different possibilities for topics. Try the following experiment: sit in a room that’s filled with as many varied and interesting objects as possible. Then, keeping your mind as receptive as you can, let your eyes scan the room and see how many topics pop into your head. Is there, say, an old picture of a beautifully-dressed woman? Write an essay on how standards of appearance have fallen (i.e., how people today dress like shit). Is there a cup of coffee in front of you? Write about how caffeine has helped white people to conquer the world and rocket to the moon. My only hard and fast rule is that I won’t write about a topic for Counter-Currents just because it interests me. In some way, it has to be relevant to the interests or concerns of our readers: race realism, Western culture, critiques of modernity, masculinism, Traditionalism, etc.

The second lesson I would impart is this: JUST WRITE THE DAMNED ESSAY. What I mean is that once you’ve got the topic, sit down in front of the bloody computer and start cranking it out, no matter what. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says “this sucks.” Just keep writing. You can always go back and change the first parts later. It’s very often the case that when I start an essay it feels forced and awkward at first, but then begins to “click” as I keep going. In those instances I resolve, as I’ve just said, to later “clean up” the opening bits that seemed awkward. But more than half the time I go back to the beginning of the piece, I find that I’m actually satisfied with what I’ve written. That voice that says “this sucks” is almost always a liar. You have to try the experiment of trusting me on this, or you’re never going to produce much.

In my search for topics I have sometimes gone in the obvious direction and produced book reviews. These include Tito Perdue’s Lee [22], Jack Donovan’s A Sky Without Eagles [23], the Art of Manliness [24]book, F. Roger Devlin’s Sexual Utopia in Power [25], and Jim Goad’s The New Church Ladies [26]. I’m also a great lover of cinema (including, like James O’Meara, bad cinema) and I also have what friends have called an encyclopedic knowledge of old television shows (it’s not true, actually, I just know a fair amount, mostly about ’60s TV). Counter-Currents has allowed me to write about my passion for James Bond [27], the Bondian spy-spoofs of the ’60s [28], The Man From U.N.C.L.E. [29], Dark Shadows [30], and Breaking Bad [31].

In 2015, like so many of us, I became passionately interested in Donald Trump. I was visiting a friend in August of that year, and had not been paying too much attention to any of the hubbub leading up to the 2016 campaign season. My friend (a faithful reader of my essays) convinced me there was something to Trump, who I had previously dismissed as a kind of nouveau riche vulgarian. In 2016 I bought a ticket on the Trump train and started writing about him — mostly, of course, in support. Unlike many of you, I have not yet given up on Trump. The man is facing incredible, unprecedented opposition. I believe it is still possible that he can make good on his promises. (Which would certainly not fix our predicament, but might slow our dissolution a bit.) I therefore stand by what I wrote in essays like “What Would Trump Do? [32],” “The Happening [33],” and “After Trump [34].”

In 2016, Counter-Currents also published my first novel, Heidegger in Chicago [35]. It’s a picaresque tale of what happens when Martin Heidegger goes on a lecture tour in America (which he never did). The genre is, I suppose, a kind of “magical realism,” with some large dollops of Terry Southern. I originally conceived this as a “complete speech of the whole,” since it manages to reference, in one way or another, everything I have ever been interested in and, directly or indirectly, everything else. In short, it’s pretty weird. And not for all tastes.

This year I have returned to the more personal content of my earlier work. My first essay of 2017 was “Reflections on Turning Fifty [36].” This piece was originally entitled “The Warrior’s Way: Reflections on Turning Fifty.” But some ding-a-ling contacted Greg and claimed that he had copyrighted the term “warrior’s way” (!). Rather than waste precious time and energy arguing with him and his attorney, we just shortened the title. I’m particularly proud of this year’s essays “The Myths We Live By [37]” (a thorough demolition of the myth of World War II and how it supports the myth of human equality), “Unintended Consequences: How the Left Keeps Helping Us [38],” and “How to Live as a Dissident [39]” (which, in truth, is a major, recurring theme of my work). In addition, I’ve produced some frivolities like “Trump Will Complete the System of German Idealism! [40]” and “Relax! Liberal Witches are Powerless to Harm Trump [41].”

This essay is the 22nd piece I have written for Counter-Currents in 2017. In earlier years, as mentioned already, I have gone through slumps. In 2015 I wrote (as Jef) only six pieces; in 2014 a grand total of three. But now it seems I’ve got my mojo back, and nothing is going to stop me. I need my Counter-Currents publication “fix,” and I need to feel that I am, again, “doing something.” No matter how “funny” and frivolous some of my essays might appear, they always have a serious point. As I have already said, I am always trying to give moral support to those who think as I do, and to enlighten others. This is why I write.

I write—exclusively—for Counter-Currents partly out of loyalty to my friend Greg and the community we have built here, and partly because I think that Counter-Currents is the most substantial and intellectually sophisticated New Right webzine in the world today. Sure, some people hate Counter-Currents, but they are intellectually and morally inferior. I’d like to invite you to get addicted to the drug of writing for Counter-Currents. Consider making this the “something” you do. It has put a great deal of meaning and purpose into my life, and it could do so for you as well. (But I know Greg would want me to advise you to consult him before you go to the trouble of writing and submitting something.)

By my count I have now written (again, as Jef) 81 essays for Counter-Currents since 2011. And this year, Counter-Currents brought out an anthology of my writings on popular culture: The Importance of James Bond, and Other Essays [42]. Eighty-one essays is a lot, but it’s never going to be time to retire. I doubt seriously that this struggle is going to end in my lifetime. What are you doing for the struggle? What will you write for Counter-Currents?