by Gaius Marcius
Almost a century ago, Hilaire Belloc wrote two books about 21st century American politics. At the time Belloc did not know he was writing about Donald Trump and the Alt Right, but his prescient observations perfectly fit this amazing year, because our current pre-revolutionary state mimics what has been periodically recurring for millennia. Belloc’s first book, The Free Press: An Essay on the Manipulation of News and Opinion, and how to Counter It, should be studied by everyone combating the pervasive influence of The Cathedral. The Free Press describes early 20th century media hegemony and the few free papers that were crying in the wilderness against the establishment.
Belloc’s general outline is also an accurate history of the rise of the Alt Right in reaction to our 21st century governing cabal of bureaucrats and journalists. Belloc considers all anti-establishment dissenters, from nationalists to anti-semites to communists, to be part of the Free Press. The following description and analysis will therefore encompass many politically incorrect movements that are not properly part of the Alt Right, including the Alt Lite, civic nationalists, the manosphere, and Neoreactionaries. Thankfully, Belloc’s analysis is so rich that this 86 page book includes almost every possible criticism of the Establishment; Hillary Clinton’s fabricated political persona, the laziness of the legacy media, the corrupting influence of George Soros, the persecution of Mark Steyn, and even Kek and meme magic are depicted in their pre-internet forms. Here is the executive summary for the Alt Right: We are winning. Winning, as General Suvorov advised, with ability and not with numbers.1 The hard task of rebuilding a civilization is still ahead, but our attacks on the current order are taking their toll. At the moment of change it is hard to believe the liberal social order is crumbling, but upon reflection the currents of American politics are eerily similar to those described by Belloc in The Free Press in 19182.
A Brief History of the Press
Belloc begins by describing the evolution and decadence of the press. A Catholic traditionalist, Belloc’s time horizon is measured in centuries, not decades, and he blithely traces the origins of the press back to the Renaissance and the Reformation. Printed news begins as an efficient way to expand the scope and range of word of mouth communication. Replacing the town gossip with a newspaper also standardizes, formalizes and narrows the scope of what is considered news. While every village may have its own noteworthy events, suddenly the opinions of the populace matter less than that of a single editor, who can have the entire countryside talking about the one story he finds most interesting. As the cost of printing news increases, editors find themselves at the mercy of advertisers, and advertisers soon realize that owning the source of news is infinitely more effective than the quaint expedient of taking out an ad. The power of the Press is eventually controlled by a small clique of advertiser-owners like our current overlords Zuckerberg, Bezos and Slim. The modern Cathedral takes shape as Finance funds the State, Capitalism fund the Press, and the Press shapes public opinion in favor of Finance and Capitalism:
“Another cognate fruit was what today we call Finance, that is, the domination of the State by private Capitalists who, taking advantage of the necessities of the State, fix an increasing mortgage upon the State and work perpetually for fluidity, anonymity and irresponsibility in their arrangements. It was in England, again, that this began and vigorously began with what I think was the first true ‘National Debt;’ a product contemporary in its origins with industrial Capitalism.” p. 28
Throughout the 20th century the public became more and more suspicious of the Press. Belloc and G.K. Chesterton were instrumental in warning the reading public of their danger in the 1920’s and 1930’s, just as the example of Soviet propaganda was first entering the Western consciousness. By mid-century C.S. Lewis was saddened to find British troops who expected newspaper accounts of the Second World War to be fabrications, and films like It Happened One Night and His Girl Friday made the cynicism of the news industry into familiar tropes.
Public mistrust was growing, but the incestuous relationship between the Press and Capitalism proved to be the salvation of the Press. The anti-communist economic ideology that would eventually take the name of Libertarianism was already fetishizing the free market. By conflating the existing market with pure economics, proto-libertarians helped convince the public that nothing could be done to improve the Press because the free market already ensured the best possible outcomes. After all, who would act contrary to their own best interests? In theory, readers will not buy a paper that lies to them, so editors and owners will never print falsehoods, knowing lies are bad for business. As Belloc points out, if everyone deceives the public, readers will not have any papers to choose from:
“In pure economics, exchange is exactly balanced by the respective advantages of the exchangers…In the immense complexity of the real world…other conscious passions besides those of mere avarice affect exchange: there are a million half-conscious and sub-conscious motives at work as well. The large advertiser still mainly paid for advertisement according to circulation, but he also began to be influenced by less direct intentions. He would not advertise in papers which he thought might by their publication of opinion ultimately hurt Capitalism as a whole…The advertiser came to see that he could actually dictate policy and opinion; and that he had also another most powerful and novel weapon in his hand, which was the suppression of news…But there is now a graver corruption at work even than this…It is the advent of the great newspaper owner as the true governing power in the political machinery of the State, superior to the officials in the State, nominating ministers and dismissing them, imposing policies, and, in general, usurping sovereignty- all this secretly and without responsibility.” p. 36-38
The Press goes far beyond its original task of passing on information and becomes an opinion maker for the literate masses. Everyone susceptible to the control of the Press becomes a mindless consumer, to the benefit of the capitalist owners of the Press. We see here the cause of media hostility toward a rural (or any truly unplugged) lifestyle.
Small, cohesive, homogeneous communities are naturally less concerned about the opinions of faraway strangers. With words to warm the hearts of Neoreactionaries and traditionalists, Belloc deftly exposes the true function of huge, anonymous cities and atomized societies:
“The country folk in my own neighbourhood can read as well as I can; but they prefer to talk among themselves when they are at leisure or, at the most, to seize in a few moments the main items of news about the war; they prefer this, I say, as a habit of mind, to the poring over square yards of printed matter which…are now food for their fellows in the town. That is because in the country a man has true neighbors, whereas the towns are a dust of isolated beings, mentally (and often physically) starved.” p. 32
News, Normies, and Trump
One of the enduring tasks of the Press, even in this age of pervasive video, is staging the public image of the political class. Everyone interested in political trivia knows that the perceptions of stupid Dan Quayle or clumsy Gerald Ford owe more to the nightly newscasts than they do to reality. The Press can also make politicians seem far more competent than they actually are. As P.J. O’Rourke remarked in Parliament of Whores, “The members of the House are, to a man…ridiculously bad at public speaking. Indeed, they don’t speak at all; they read from prepared texts and are ridiculously bad at reading.3” Now that their view is created and conditioned by television news the average American voter arguably has a less accurate impression of political candidates than 19th century attendees of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Consider how close we came to having an election in which no one had confirmation of Hillary Clinton’s health problems. If not for a single cellphone video at a 9/11 memorial the nation would have heard blind rumors, easily dismissed as crackpot theories, instead of seeing incontrovertible evidence before their eyes:
“No straightforward, commonsense, real description of any professional politician- his manners, capacities, way of speaking, intelligence- ever appears today in any of the great papers. We never have anything within a thousand miles of what men who meet them say…Once let the public know what sort of mediocrities the politicians are and they lose power. Once let them lose power and their hidden masters lose power.” p. 45-46
Much of Belloc’s description is depressing, even fatalistic, about the sinister effects of the Press. Once the talons of the media have dug into society’s collective consciousness, how can the public free itself? The election of 2016 provided the escalator-riding answer.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2017
The Press felt so secure that they became complacent about policing the boundaries of polite society. The public could not free itself from their grasp, but an outside force could dislodge the Press. Donald Trump amassed a private fortune, created a uniquely unassailable persona, and exploited technology to communicate directly with the people. Journalists overestimated their own power because they deceived themselves about the nature of their power. Progressives believe they are on a moral crusade that is strong because it is on the Right Side of History.
If they ever read anything besides Lena Dunham’s blog they may have recognized the danger Trump posed earlier in the political cycle:
“For the strength of a newspaper owner lies in his power to deceive the public and to withhold or to publish at will hidden things: his power in this terrifies the professional politicians who hold nominal authority: in a word, the newspaper owner controls the professional politician, especially upon his private life…[H]e can only command a large public…by interesting that public and even by flattering it that it has its opinions reflected-not created-for it. The power of the press is not a direct and open power. It depends upon a trick of deception; and no trick of deception works if the trickster passes a certain degree of cynicism.” p. 44
Because the Press willed it, the scandals of Hastert, Spitzer and Weiner remained long time open secrets among elites in D.C. and New York even as the public happily and obliviously reelected their “representatives”. The average voter is still unaware of the disastrous corruption of the Obama presidency because the Press, in defiance of facts, chose to report a scandal free administration. Only minor political players like the Tea Party and talk radio reported on Tony Rezko, Jeremiah Wright, and Bill Ayers. Trump alone among major candidates recognized as insupportable the level of cynicism in a Press that would compare Bush to Hitler and Obama to Cicero, and he singlehandedly nullified the power of the Press by shamelessly broadcasting (almost) every hidden thing that they could hope to reveal about him. Trump campaigned against the media and came dangerously close to connecting all the dots between the Press, the government, and international finance in several speeches late in the campaign. None of the essential features of the Press have changed in the 98 years since Belloc wrote his analysis of the JQ (that’s the Journalist Question):
“What has grown up here is a Press organization of support and favour to the system of professional politics which colours the whole of our great Capitalist papers today…This gives them so distinct a character of parliamentary falsehood, and that falsehood is so clearly dictated by their connection with the executive power that they merit the title “Official”…If anyone doubts that this adjective “Official” can properly be applied to our Capitalist Press today, let him ask himself first what the forces are which govern the nation, and next, whether these forces… could be better served even under a system of permanent censorship than it is in the great dailies…Is not everything which the regime desires to be suppressed, suppressed? Is not everything which it desires suggested, suggested? And is there any public question which would weaken the regime, and the discussion of which is ever allowed to appear in the great Capitalist journals? ” p. 49-50
Trump scares the Press because he is able to command a large, passionate audience independent of the news reports about him. Trump’s twitter account is one of the few weapons that can challenge the Official Press as Belloc describes it. The Republicans trying to abolish the Congressional Ethics Office forgot this, even after a year and more of examples. Trump can ask public questions and suggest topics that weaken the minority occupation government of the USA, and he will elevate the Presidential bully pulpit to undreamed of heights. He will need every bit of skill he has to bring the people along with him. Trump won by addressing the suspicions of the masses about the Press and the State. The majority of Trump voters are only partly awake, as evidenced by their willingness to praise Fox News when it occasionally aligns with their own views:
“[T]he mass of Englishmen have ceased to obtain, or even to expect, information upon the way they are governed. They are beginning to feel a certain uneasiness. They know that their old power of observation over public servants has slipped from them. They suspect that the known gross corruption of the House of Commons is entrenched behind a conspiracy of silence on the part of those very few who have the power to inform them. But, as yet, they have not passed the stage of such suspicion…They are still, for the most part, duped.” p. 51
Trump must take voters beyond mere suspicion of the Press, and for this he will have to turn on members of his own social class. Despite his ability to exploit the weaknesses of the ruling class for his own gain, Trump is still within The Cathedral because he made his fortune playing by its rules and is about to ascend to an office that is an integral part of it. Trump should point out, as Belloc did, that power in the hands of the mediocrities we call judges, senators and representatives is bad, but the true state of the nation is even worse:
There are plenty of guilty men who are already despised by normies, cucks, and Republicans. To start with, Belloc’s description of the power behind the throne deserves to be added to George Soros’s Wikipedia entry. In 1918 Belloc and his friends in the Free Press led the opposition to the international financiers of their day, and what Belloc terms the Free Press is the functional equivalent of the Alt Right. It is precisely the overreach of Soros and men like him that has provoked the Alt Right reaction today.
The Rise of the Alt Right
Unlike the average Trump voter, the Alt Right has been far ahead of the politicians, let alone the voters, in its opposition to The Cathedral. Describing the Alt Right with quotations from Belloc is when The Free Press becomes truly eerie. It is as if Belloc had a time-machine and the only things he forgot to write down during his visit to the 21st century were the names of the movement’s participants. (Perhaps that was just a courtesy to avoid doxxing anyone.) It is encouraging to think that Belloc could see the future so clearly just by his careful attention to history and philosophy:
“Now to every human evil of a political sort that has appeared in history (to every evil, that is, affecting the State, and proceeding from the will of man- not from ungovernable natural forces outside man) there comes a term and a reaction…which I will call for lack of a better name “the Free Press.” p 52 “Three distinct moral motives lay behind it and converged upon it. The first motive apparent, coming much earlier than either of the other two, was the motive of (A) Propaganda. The second motive was (B) Indignation against the concealment of Truth, and the third motive was (C) Indignation against irresponsible power: the sense of oppression which an immoral irresponsibility in power breeds among those who are unhappily subject to it.” p. 54
Though Belloc was far from being a White nationalist in the modern sense of the term, he was to a certain extent an ethno-nationalist. Belloc, along with most men of his era, recognized that even if cultures can bend to admit a certain amount of ethnic diversity, the race differences inherent in humanity manifest themselves through differing propensities and traits. Living in an almost entirely white nation on an almost entirely white continent, Belloc objected to the statist social engineering programs of eugenicists and the frankly laughable biological theories that were used to bolster German nationalism at the time. Even so, Belloc would be considered embarrassingly racist by cuckservatives today. Read his account in The Crusades in which the dilution of Gallic blood by intermarriage with Semitic peoples is one of the key factors in military defeat. Belloc identifies the key spiritual deficiency of The Cathedral, which was mainly applicable to religions proper in 1918, but is now true of every essential question including race-realism. In short, the Press has become the Pajama Boy of every ethical and philosophical question:
“The motive of Propaganda…concerned Religions, and also certain racial enthusiasms or political doctrines which, by their sincerity and readiness to sacrifice, had half the force of Religions. Men found the great papers…refused to talk about anything really important in Religion. They dared do nothing but repeat very discreetly the vaguest ethical platitudes. They hardly dared do even that. They took for granted a sort of invertebrate common opinion…Great bodies of men who cared intensely for a definite creed found that expression for it was lacking…The “organs of opinion” professed a genteel ignorance of that idea which was most widespread, most intense and most formative.” p. 55
All the enlightenment modernism spread by the American, French, and Russian revolutions is fundamentally opposed to tradition, hierarchy, and race-realism. For all the secular individuals on the Alt Right, the movement as a whole is quite religious in the sense that it reacts against the secular religion of Progressivism. We want a definite creed, whether it be Catholic, Nietzschean, or neo-Pagan. The spiritual aspect of the Alt Right is not immediately apparent. It is so deep in the human psyche that despite its importance it is one of the last things to be discussed and analyzed. Much more obvious to the casual observer is Belloc’s second motive, indignation against the concealment of truth. As you read the next quotation just imagine Jared Taylor giving this response verbatim to a reporter:
“Men gradually came to notice that one thing after another of great public interest, sometimes of vital public interest, was deliberately suppressed in the principal great official papers, and that positive falsehoods were increasingly suggested or stated…Why should this or that vulgarian (men began to say) exercise the power to keep the people ignorant upon matters vital to us all? To distort, to lie? The sheer necessity of getting certain truths told…was a force working at high potential and almost compelling the production of Free Papers…That is why you nearly always find the Free Press directed by men of intelligence and cultivation- of exceptional intelligence and cultivation. And that is where it contrasts most with its opponents.” p. 60
Jared Taylor is far too cultivated to ever brag about his own intelligence in this way. He does not need to, because it is already an indictment of modern journalism, though not a very surprising one, that no depiction of Mr. Taylor given by reporters who attend American Renaissance conferences can rise to the level of a British writer who died in 1953. Everyone willing, like Jared Taylor, to use their real name within this movement deserves to be commended. Their righteous indignation has overcome the expedience of anonymity. As men like Taylor, Spencer and Brimelow lead the way, those who can not come forward publicly also contribute unique gifts to the movement. Belloc’s third cause, indignation at irresponsible power, applies particularly to the populist elements of the Alt Right, whose impulse to reform and save the beloved homeland found succinct expression in the MAGA hashtag:
“Only a small number of people were acquainted with such particular truths. But that small number knew very well that we were thus in reality governed by men responsible to no one, and hidden from public blame. The determination to be rid of such a secret monopoly of power compelled a reaction: and that reaction was the Free Press.” p. 61
Alt Right opinion of America is divided between patriots who believe the USA can still be restored by removing the secret monopoly of power and pessimists who think the country is now hopelessly corrupt. America is the land of Cultural Marxism, and Cultural Marxism is our number one export, spread by trade and war. A country that can fund the militaries of both ISIS and Israel while condemning Russia and Uganda for their homophobia has lost all coherence and legitimacy. When America ceases to exist in its current state many problems will disappear with it. On the other hand, removing America’s minority occupation government would go a long way toward correcting these deficiencies. If the Left could make a Long March through the institutions the Alt Right can as well. Breaking the spell of multiculturalism would bring a sizable majority of Americans back to historical norms. This debate is one for the Alt Right to handle internally and at a later date, because even our slight victories in 2016 have provoked a counter-reaction from The Cathedral.
1. Military Pedagogy: A Soviet View, Chapter 2.↩
2. All page references are to the 2002 IHS Press edition of The Free Press.↩
3. Parliament of Whores, Chapter 5.↩
Read Part II here.