Max Stirner:
Marxist, Meme Master, or Mentor?
Part Two

[1]4,274 words

Part 2 of 2 (Part 1 here [2])

C. Max Stirner: Nineteenth-Century Shitlord

But we can sharpen our focus a bit more; Stirner’s contemporary popularity and perceived relevance may derive from a more specific connection. Since few outside of a small, hate-filled and self-inflated academic clique thinks Marx is “hip,” I’d like to keep the focus on Stirner as a Dissident Right harbinger.

If we take Stirner’s spooks as memes, the relevance to the Right is obvious: the Right has made meme warfare its own; our memes reign supreme![1] [3]

The Dissident Right recognizes that politics is controlled by culture, and culture consists in memes; there is, in fact, no truth, no master narrative – or if there is one, we don’t and can’t reach it, so it drops out as irrelevant. There is only the war of memes, one against the other, spooks battling for control of the culture, and control of the individual’s mind.[2] [4]

More generally, Stirner’s method, his style of destruction through ruthless parody, has also been taken up, monopolized, and perfected on the Right. Here’s Yojimbo of The Burning Platform commenting on a YouTube controversy:

Saw it [5]. But what he is doing is mocking the notion that questioning the # killed is unacceptable. First, he argued that 20,000 died in a video. Now he’s apologizing and saying that 1 billion died. He is effectively destroying the narrative through mockery and hyperbole. He’s doing excellent work.

And the Union of Egoists or union of I’s: not only the online community in general, but exactly the unique nature of the Dissident Right. As a commenter here at Counter-Currents has emphasized [6]:

“The movement” (to such an extent that such thing exists) was to be as it was always meant to be: ONLINE ONLY. No goon marches, no waiting for the big collapse, and certainly no overthrowin’ the goddamn government. We had Trump, a MAGA movement, and a growing presence on YouTube. We have some tools we can work with.

As a metapolitical movement, the Dissident Right is precisely not a party or a State, with rules, membership cards, and a platform of Unshakable Principles to serve as a litmus test and facilitate purges;[3] [7] it is a “coalition” that exists as long as it furthers the interests of its members.

Greg Johnson distinguishes [8] the Old and New or Dissident Right in Stirnerian terms:

The primary vehicle of the Old Right is the militant, hierarchical, totalitarian political party. The New Right’s primary vehicle is metapolitics: the transformation of culture to create a consensus[4] [9] supporting the ethnonationalism for all nations. As I conceive it, New Right metapolitics is also consistent with maintaining a large measure of democratic pluralism and respecting the human rights of all people.

And more recently [10], discussing National Populism:

[To] ride the National Populist wave, White Nationalists have to jettison certain incompatible ideological fixations. First and foremost, we actually have to be populists . . . Thus those among us who sneer at populism and democracy, make fetishes out of elitism and hierarchy, and try to resurrect inter-war fascist movements are not helping.

Combining both of the latter topics – parody and non-statism – Stirner calls the union “the desecration of the state,” evoking the reactions of pearl-clutching horror to Alt Right provocations.

And yet, speaking of pearl-clutching, do not the periodic purges and purity spirals indicate that some think that the Dissident Right is some kind of Corporation of which they – or somebody! – is in charge?[5] [11]

Indeed, some do, and it also cannot be denied that there are plenty of spooks on the Right – the “muh Constitution” Libertarians, the HBD nerds and IQ fetishists, and “traditionalists” of various sorts trying to revive some supposed “golden age” located anywhere from 1950 to 1500BC.[6] [12]

Nevertheless, it would be hard to deny that it is the modern Left that has most identified itself with spooks, making Identity Politics its substance and Political Correctness[7] [13] its method. Consider just one example [14]:

Anyone remember when President Obama named Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense? The Zionists went nuts, but they didn’t want to give any publicity to what was actually happening – Obama was teaming up with loyal American conservative Republicans like Chuck Hagel who had pushed back against AIPAC. So what did they do? They attacked Obama for not hiring a woman or a non-white and threw some squid ink about Hagel being “homophobic.” Obama and Hagel won that one, but [they] were able to replace Hagel after just about a year I think. Probably within that one year Hagel was able to stop a war with Iran.

Indeed, Stirner diagnosed this among the “liberals” of his own time:

Is not all the stupid chatter of (e.g.) most of our newspapers the babble of fools who suffer from the fixed idea of morality, legality, Christianity, etc., and only seem to go about free because the madhouse in which they walk takes in so broad a space? Touch the fixed idea of such a fool, and you will at once have to guard your back against the lunatic’s stealthy malice. For these great lunatics are like the little so-called lunatics in this point too – that they assail by stealth him who touches their fixed idea. They first steal his weapon, steal free speech from him, and then they fall upon him with their nails. Every day now lays bare the cowardice and vindictiveness of these maniacs, and the stupid populace hurrahs for their crazy measures. One must read the journals of this period, and must hear the Philistines talk, to get the horrible conviction that one is shut up in a house with fools.

No wonder Marx hated – and feared – Stirner. In 1845, Max Stirner saw that the liberal and his modern State is essentially connected with censorship and political correctness. Caste and privilege (lit: “private law”) is abolished, and the rich man and the pauper are “free,” as the libertarian would say, to enjoy their riches or starve; but they still must have the right ideas:

Be rich as Croesus or poor as Job – the State of the commonalty leaves that to your option; but only have a “good disposition.” This it demands of you, and counts it its most urgent task to establish this in all. Therefore it will keep you from “evil promptings,” holding the “ill-disposed” in check and silencing their inflammatory discourses under censors’ canceling-marks or press-penalties and behind dungeon walls, and will, on the other hand, appoint people of “good disposition” as censors, and in every way have a moral influence exerted on you by “well-disposed and well-meaning” people. If it has made you deaf to evil promptings, then it opens your ears again all the more diligently to good promptings.[8] [15]

As Ricardo Duchesne has said [16]:

Academics today are the slaves of voices that command them to “fight racism,” and to repeat forever in their minds the commandment that “diversity is our strength,” that “Western ethnocentrism is morally pernicious,” that “all cultures are equal,” and that “race is a construct.” It is not that they are lacking in subjective consciousness similarly to the men living in ancient theocratic societies. They are conscious in many areas of life, except in the areas of race, white identity, and Western uniqueness. When it comes to these subjects, they cease to have “a self that is responsible and can debate within itself” (Jaynes, 79). They become subservient, in a blindly habitual way, to the religiously unquestioned mandates of diversity. The threatening voices of diversity instill fear of ostracism, loss of status, the cutting back of grants, and job loss.

By contrast, the Dissident Right relies, not on spooks and “bats in the belfry,” but on observable fact; what Steve Sailer has dubbed “noticing.” These fact-based generalizations are attacked by the Left as “stereotypes” when they have the bad grace to bump up against the made-up spooks that the elite impose on the implorables, and acknowledgement of which is de rigeur to be one of the “well-disposed and well-meaning” elite.

So it’s not surprising to find Stirner making comments that sound like they come from some HBD blogger:

What one can become he does become. A born poet may well be hindered by the disfavour of circumstances from standing on the high level of his time, and, after the great studies that are indispensable for this, producing consummate works of art; but he will make poetry, be he a plowman or so lucky as to live at the court of Weimar. . . . Indeed, the born shallow-pates indisputably form the most numerous class of men. And why. indeed, should not the same distinctions show themselves in the human species that are unmistakable in every species of beasts? The more gifted and the less gifted are to be found everywhere.

Or easily discerning the Leftist proclivity to “love Man but hate men”:

To have a liking for the corporeal man with hide and hair – why, that would no longer be a “spiritual” warmheartedness, it would be treason against “pure” warmheartedness, the “theoretical regard.” For pure warmheartedness is by no means to be conceived as like that kindliness that gives everybody a friendly hand-shake; on the contrary, pure warmheartedness is warm-hearted toward nobody, it is only a theoretical interest, concern for man as man, not as a person. The person is repulsive to it because of being “egoistic,” because of not being that abstraction, Man. But it is only for the abstraction that one can have a theoretical regard. To pure warmheartedness or pure theory men exist only to be criticized, scoffed at, and thoroughly despised; to it, no less than to the fanatical parson, they are only “filth” and other such nice things.[9] [17]

D. Max Stirner: Mentor?

In the wake of the New Zealand incident, the question arises whether bringing Stirner into relation with the “Alt Right” is helpful to either side. At the Aryan Skynet blog, resident “Hipster Racist” immediately noted that “[t]he manifesto is full of internet jokes, 4chan humor, alt-right insider references, etc. . . .”, and concluding from these Stirnerite touches that “[whoever] wrote this manifest[o] is one of us, or pretending to be,” which promoted a scolding [18] from one “Apollonius”:

As far as “normal White people” (the demographic most ambitiously and most hopelessly sought out by Hipster Racist) are concerned, “Alt-Right humor” is repulsive and alien. Those same people will not have any sympathy for the man who did this. They will ignore this event because the victims were Muslims, but they would not feel the need to compliment his sense of humor. There is clearly a psychological and ethical disconnect here. I would say that this is a perfect example of how pathological the “Alt-Right” internet subculture is, and why it will never be anything other than a bizarre, postmodern fringe phenomenon.

And considering that one of the chief complaints of this blog’s author is that “normal White people” have no “pro-White” influence in any institution of significance in the West, it is rather a surprise that the response here has been so nonchalant and unprincipled. Assuming that this blog stands for any real principles that is . . .

Note the appeal to “real principles.” “More spooks!” Stirner would reply.[10] [19] But it’s a fair question. As “Icareviews” says in response:

I’m pointing out the double-edged nature that edgy humor seems to be taking on. Previously, the Alt-Right could distinguish itself from 1.0 white nationalism with hipsterism, edgy memes, youthful irreverence, and an idiosyncratic mix of normalcy and weirdness that set today’s rising generation of nationalists apart from the uniformed, rigid, and more easily mocked followers of George Lincoln Rockwell or Frank Collin, the guns-and-God culture of various militia groups, and the violent criminality of the Order. Now, whether by accident or design, the sense of humor that up to now has served us and set us apart appears to be weaponizing itself against us.

Stirner is indeed “double-edged,” if not many-edged, like Ulysses; hence the appeal and distrust across ideological lines. Reader beware!

Stirner’s isomorphism with the Dissident Right, however, suggests he may also have some valuable advice for the path forward, regarding both “principles” and tactics.

Nevertheless, there are, I would suggest, some clear advantages in pursuing the Stirner option. Most of all, it obviates the need to engage in tedious and mostly futile justifications for our various positions. Why do you take your own side? Why do you privilege European culture? Why? Because it pleases me to do so.

This in fact is simply an extension of the “stepping over” stance that Greg Johnson has highlighted in the work of Jonathan Bowden:

“Well what’s your view of the Shoah then?”

And they say, “We’ve stepped over that.”

“What do you mean you’ve ‘stepped over’ that? Are you minimizing its importance to humanity?”

You say, “We are minimizing its importance to our form of humanity!”[11] [20]

It also obviates the equally tedious internal arguments over what the Dissident Right “is”: “Traditionalism is the foundation of the movement.” “Traditionalism is a modernist heresy! We must take our stand on St. Thomas’ mediaeval synthesis, the fountainhead of European civilization.” “Away with all this superstition, the science of genetics is the key to the preservation of the White Race!”

Something of this, a weariness with spooks, may lie behind Andrew Yang’s attraction for elements of the Dissident Right who have soured on Trump. Consider this [21]:

If Yang’s vision were to be successfully implemented, rightists of the future could focus squarely on issues of freedom of speech and association, and peacefully create their own microcommunities and neo-tribes within a globalized, technologized, economic order. Is the way we’ve been thinking about nationalism an obsolete holdover from the 20th century? Should we give up on the idea of seeing our cultural identity reflected in our government? Andrew Yang’s campaign inspires these types of questions.

2020 voters would be very much ready to embrace Yang’s identity-neutral “not left, not right, forward” message. His goal seems to be to find solutions to the problems that have given identity politics such vicious fangs in the 2010s, thereby allowing individuals the space and means to make informed and rational decisions about what steps to take next. That’s something we should all be able to get behind, left, right, and center.

After all, the Dissident Right is, I have suggested, a Union of Egoists. And corresponding to the Union of Egoists is Stirner’s notion of The Insurrection. As the State is to the Union, so Revolution is to Insurrection; the one is the petrified corpse of the other. As Stirner says, the revolutionist seeks new political arrangements; the insurrectionist seeks to no longer be arranged:

The revolution aimed at new arrangements; insurrection leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and sets no glittering hopes on “institutions.” It is not a fight against the established . . . it is only a working forth of me out of the established. . . . Now, as my object is not an overthrow of the established order but my elevation above it, my purpose and deed are not political or social but (as directed toward myself and my ownness alone) an egoistic purpose indeed.

Here we find most of Stirner’s fingerprints on the Dissident Right, as two of its major figures have clearly been influenced by him in formulating key notions in their late thought: Julius Evola’s apoliteia, and Ernst Jünger’s Anarch [22].[12] [23]

Looking forward, the ZMan has – without evoking Stirner, Evola, or Jünger – reached a similar analysis, and applies it to the failure of the “Alt Right”:

A common theme to all of these failed opposition movements is the decision to engage in the established political system. Once they connect to the system, the system releases a virus that either assimilates the new group, turning it into a feature of the system, or kills off the threat. The former case is a universal in life. When the king recognizes a threat to his rule, the first move is to buy off the threat. Offering him a position in the system, in exchange for him adding his legitimacy to the king and his ruling order.

The latter is the one that is most puzzling, as it suggests legitimate opposition lacks the right antibodies to function in a modern liberal democracy. A recent example in America was the alt-right. When it was a humorous on-line enterprise, operating outside the political system, [a Union of Egoists] it was effective at introducing paleocon ideas into the flow of social media [meme warfare]. Those memes making sport of ruling class piety were highly effective. The alt-right operated like a highly diffuse guerrilla movement [or insurrection], using mockery and satire to undermine order.

Then Richard Spencer started imagining himself as the leader of a vanguard and started to stage protests and go on speaking tours. The shift from underground guerrilla movement to above ground political activism was a disaster. Quickly, Spencer became David Duke 2.0, which gave the Left cover to send in their street mobs. Woke capital joined in and the entire dissident scene was subjected to an ongoing pogrom that persists to this day. The alt-right exploded and has followed the Tea Party into the dustbin.

After considering What Would Stirner Do, what about What Would Stirner Say? Stirner has influenced many, on the Left and Right, but mostly high-functioning individualists, for obvious reasons;[13] [24] the masses, not so much.[14] [25] But he professed to care naught for any “influence,” positive or not; in Prof. Blumenfeld’s idiom, he gives neither a shit nor a fuck.

I see how men are fretted in dark superstition by a swarm of ghosts. If to the extent of my powers I let a bit of daylight fall in on the nocturnal spookery, is it perchance because love to you inspires this in me? Do I write out of love to men? No, I write because I want to procure for my thoughts an existence in the world; and, even if I foresaw that these thoughts would deprive you of your rest and your peace, even if I saw the bloodiest wars and the fall of many generations springing up from this seed of thought – I would nevertheless scatter it. Do with it what you will and can, that is your affair and does not trouble me. You will perhaps have only trouble, combat, and death from it, very few will draw joy from it. If your weal lay at my heart, I should act as the church did in withholding the Bible from the laity, or Christian governments, which make it a sacred duty for themselves to “protect the common people from bad books.”

But not only not for your sake, not even for truth’s sake either do I speak out what I think. No – I sing because – I am a singer. But I use [gebrauche] you for it because I — need [brauche] ears.

Let us then return the compliment, and use Stirner – as the Church of the SubGenius, a Stirnerian outfit if ever there was one, would say – use the Hell out of him.[15] [26]


[1] [27] I analyzed the role of “meme magick” in the election of Trump in a series of essays collected as Trump: The Art of the Meme (Amazon Kindle, 2017).

[2] [28] “This world is the Will to Power – and nothing else! And even ye yourselves are this will to power – and nothing besides!” (Nietzsche). For an extended presentation, from a Dissident Right perspective, of reality as a war of worldviews, with no foundation, see Jason Reza Jorjani, Prometheus and Atlas. Indeed, Jorjani’s work devotes itself to analyzing the spectral (as he calls it) nature of our worldviews, with the aim of giving us conscious control over these spectral presences Stirner would call – spooks. The link to Stirner perhaps comes through Jorjani’s use of Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx, which Wikipedia [29] says “dealt with Stirner and his relationship with Marx while also analysing Stirner’s concept of ‘specters’ or ‘spooks’.” For the Marxist party line on Derrida and Stirner, see Blumenfeld, if you must.

[3] [30] Con men might get important “positions” at supposed “Alt Right think tanks,” grifters can buy up control of supposed “Alt Right” publishers, and even trademark the term “Alt Right,” but like jackals attracted by a feast reflected in a mirror, they are left puzzled and hungry, jaws a-snappin’; there is no “movement” to seize, no party to “discipline.”

[4] [31] Or, as Stirner says, a “coalition.”

[5] [32] “The central illusion of . . . a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody . . . or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.” ― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (San Francisco: Straight Arrow Press, 1972).

[6] [33] Jim Dixon, a proto-Dissident Right figure, memorably sank his own academic career in a public lecture denouncing “the home-made pottery crowd, the organic husbandry crowd, the recorder-playing crowd, the Esperanto crowd.” Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (New York: Penguin, 1992), with Introduction by David Lodge, p. 227.

[7] [34] The term itself is redolent of State and Party. As an additional Stirnerian point, according to Wikipedia, “Stuart Hall suggests one way in which the original use of the term may have developed into the modern one: ‘According to one version, political correctness actually began as an in-joke on the left: radical students on American campuses acting out an ironic replay of the Bad Old Days BS (Before the Sixties) when every revolutionary groupuscule had a party line about everything. They would address some glaring examples of sexist or racist behaviour by their fellow students in imitation of the tone of voice of the Red Guards or Cultural Revolution Commissar: “Not very ‘politically correct’, Comrade!”’” This is an interesting example of how memes can overtake their creators; similarly, in my Trump collection (op. cit.), I suggested that the Left’s fascination with imagining the horrors of a Trump presidency ironically amplified the Right’s memetic activity.

[8] [35] What else are the increasing efforts of tech companies to act as online nannies, enforcing “community standards” and the like, but examples of how a Union degenerates into a mere Society? See, for example, Facebook’s proposal [36] to have a pop-up to guide users away from “hate groups” toward “a non-profit urging them to leave hate groups” (kinda like gay aversion therapy), or Twitter’s idea of flagging tweets as violating “community standards,” including those of the President of the United States [37].

[9] [38] A “basket of deplorables,” indeed.

[10] [39] Or, as “Hipster Racist” does, “Oh, blow it out your ass, you have no more ‘principles’ than some SJW, you’re just signaling.”

[11] [40] Jonathan Bowden, “Revisionism: Left & Right, Hard & Soft [41].” The italics are Bowden’s, but notice how they nicely highlight the spook (“humanity”) and the Stirnerian response, repeated at the beginning and end of his book, of ownness: “I have founded my affair on nothing!”

[12] [42] Jünger’s Eumeswil is littered with reflections on Stirner. On this novel and the Anarch’s “striking resemblance to Evola’s idea of apoliteia, see John Morgan, “The Man of the Twentieth Century: Remembering Ernst Jünger, March 29, 1895-February 17, 1998 [43].” Evola does not reference Stirner in this context, but in both Ride the Tiger and his autobiography, The Path of Cinnabar, he acknowledges the influence of Stirner during his adolescence – along with Oscar Wilde, whose The Soul of Man Under Socialism has been suspected of being a product of the reading of Stirner. Again, there are striking parallels to Nietzsche, who, like Stirner, calls Christianity “an insurrection against the ‘good and just,’ against the ‘prophets of Israel,’ against the whole hierarchy of society — not against corruption, but against caste, privilege, order, formalism. It was unbelief in ‘superior men,’ a Nay flung at everything that priests and theologians stood for” (Antichrist, 27).

[13] [44] “For the most part, Stirner’s influence has been restricted to those who were great individualists themselves” (Carroll, Break-Out, p. 29). Wikipedia says [45] that in addition to “a significant influence on Marx,” many thinkers “have read and been affected by The Ego and Its Own in their youth including Rudolf Steiner [46], Gustav Landauer, Victor Serge, Carl Schmitt and Jürgen Habermas. Few openly admit any influence on their own thinking. Ernst Jünger’s book Eumeswil, had the character of the Anarch, based on Stirner’s Einzige. Several other authors, philosophers and artists have cited, quoted or otherwise referred to Max Stirner. They include Albert Camus in The Rebel (the section on Stirner is omitted from the majority of English editions including Penguin’s), Benjamin Tucker, James Huneker, Dora Marsden, Renzo Novatore, Emma Goldman, Georg Brandes, John Cowper Powys, Martin Buber, Sidney Hook, Robert Anton Wilson, Horst Matthai, Frank Brand, Marcel Duchamp, several writers of the Situationist International including Raoul Vaneigem and Max Ernst. Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism has caused some historians to speculate that Wilde (who could read German) was familiar with the book.” (Links and citations omitted).

[14] [47] Did someone say, “fascism”? In my previous review, I discussed the absurd view of John Carroll, that Stirner “influenced” Mussolini (as shown by Il Duce mentioning him in a list of “peaks of the human spirit”) and thus deserved inclusion in George Steiner’s tendentious Roots of the Right series; even Carroll can’t find any evidence that Hitler had even heard of Stirner. In the end, he is reduced to arguing that “. . . Stirner has by default Rightist tendencies” (op. cit., p. 13,) although citing Christ’s “He who is not with us is against us” is a nice touch, given Stirner’s bibliomania.

[15] [48] One of the Church’s commandments is, “Don’t just eat a hamburger, eat the Hell out of it!” The passage from Stirner continues: “Where the world comes in my way – and it comes in my way everywhere – I consume it to quiet the hunger of my egoism. For me you are nothing but – my food, even as I too am fed upon and turned to use by you.”