Nihilism is a popular yet often misunderstood subject by those who are attracted to the worlds of metal and industrial music. In this book, Alt-Right writer Brett Stevens attempts to explain his views of what nihilism does and doesn’t mean. Stevens is best known for his work on Amerika.org, a site that in his own words is supposed to be “conservatism from a Nietzschean perspective,” and also for many years wrote, and likely helped initiate, a site many should be familiar with called Anus.com. In fact, many of these essays are already on the site, or are very similar to essays that already exist by other writers. With those two things in mind, if those websites are familiar to you at all you will already have a fairly solid grasp on what to expect. Being that he has strong views about social issues, all of these things accumulate into this particular book, which is subtitled A Philosophy Based in Nothingness and Eternity, but would perhaps be more fitting to call it a philosophy based on how nihilism has shaped his reality.
The book itself has a bold font, double spacing, and space between each paragraph, which makes it a readable work that is easy on the eyes. It is comprised of a number of essays which were written over at least an eight-year period, and is printed in a completely random order, which dissolves any linear thread. The advantage is that this book could be read from anywhere, with no need to read any two essays in succession or start with a particular one. It is divided into three sections in an attempt to give it some order—nihilism, realism, and transcendentalism—the latter of which is only about twenty pages. It is arguable if the chapters within these sections stick within these three ideas or not. There are also only a few typos, which as a bibliophile is always a positive thing.
While this book’s main thesis is supposed to be on the subject of nihilism, this is only partially a philosophical work, and largely a cultural critique along with some self-help advice. These perspectives largely come from Neo-Darwinism and the myth initially perpetuated by Herbert Spencer, among others, of survival of the fittest and “might is right.” Essentially, everything he says is to be seen from this lens, which to put it succinctly is a misinterpretation of how evolution works and what Darwin was actually saying. Evolution itself is about adapting to change, not being stronger than others, and continuing your species by any means necessary, including slyness and being sneaky, or running away from your enemy to survive another day. Along with this is the ongoing and quite preposterous argument about nature versus nurture, despite the vast amount of evidence showing how the two relate and function together. It is no surprise that he is convinced that we are our genes, nature is vastly much more important than nurture, and from this trails down the idea of nature itself being red in tooth and claw, only the strong survive, and so forth. All of these are ideas one would expect to come from a person with conservative viewpoints, while a liberal would traditionally be all about nurture, cooperation within the animal and plant kingdom, and so forth. Either bias is only twisting the truth to fit into either perspectives ideology, and this bias shapes every bit of this work and his ideas. It also contradicts the very notion of perceiving reality as it is, not the one that the individual wishes to see.
His views are, if anything, confrontational, from parables of supposed leaders murdering the weak (women and children especially included), caste systems, heterosexuals being oppressed by homosexuals, and segregation of race, to the low point which was a joke about ugly women not being able to get raped. It is a near certainty that many would not give this book a second chance once they came across any of this, and that is a shame as his philosophical ideas are often quite interesting and valid. At first, I did not understand why a writer today would say such things, but then it dawned on me that he essentially wants to push most of his potential readership away, for simply reacting to these ideas is, in his mind, just evidence of weakness. To him, most people are “lessermen,” as he often says throughout the book, and at one point he argues that those who do not understand him or agree only do so because they are not as intelligent, so he would not want most of these “inferior” creatures to read his work anyway. This essentially creates an echo chamber, where anyone who disagrees is dismissed because only an idiot would not agree with him. This view is anything but nihilistic, for it is based on the assumption that only one’s personal beliefs are correct. With that said, he does claim to be accepting of all kinds of people from different views, as long as he deems them worthwhile and, of course, not emotionally reacting to any of his strong statements.
Not all of his views are troublesome: Equality certainly should be questioned, although he lacks an understanding of what this essentially means for most who simply want the same opportunity to earn a living. Multiculturalism is troublesome, and I am grateful that he recognizes that the multiculturalism both he and I have a problem with is this corporate-driven brand where we all think, act, talk, and look the same over a long process of destroying all individual cultures until we are all copies of one another—the American melting-pot nightmare that only the most naïve think is a good thing.
I also understand, to a degree, his elitism. It is certainly difficult for me to disagree that most people are idiots, although the amount of times he says such things is a clear indicator of just how superior he views himself. How that elitism is defined is a troubling, however, as intelligence is not the basis for the ability to create beauty through music or painting. Being book-smart is not decisive in one’s ability to build a home for his family, grow his own food, or fix his own truck. How elitism is to be defined is a tricky notion, and I do not think Stevens really sees this.
This also forms his views on how selective breeding can have a positive impact, which I don’t think genetics offers any evidence of. Plus, anyone can be born into any kind of family and still end up quite different from their background, so, as an example, his belief that a carpenter would not make a good leader dismisses the fact that a child could be born from a poor blue-collar worker as a matter of circumstance and end up being one of the most brilliant minds to ever exist. There is no gene that leads one to become a gas station worker or any other “lowly” job, nor are any of these things an indication of intelligence but more so of environment and society, the individual’s goals, and a number of other factors. Using external factors only limits humanity, from the homosexual Alan Turing whose inventions both helped end WWII (which he may not consider a good thing) and helped lead to the computer, to the black women who helped man land on the moon, to the kids in Africa that today are inventing brilliant new tools to assist their economically impoverished societies. To think that a person is only their genes or their parents’ choices is to say that we are to be cut off from the world’s greatest minds, all because of preconceived notions of who someone is based on race, gender, or any other subject. This purely intellectual-based argument is why many of his ideas are completely invalid.
Returning to how he defines nihilism and what was supposed to be the overarching theme of this work—philosophy—he reveals an empowering ideology that gives the readers an opportunity to analyze themselves and redefine how they perceive reality. To use his own word, nihilism is a “gateway” to lead to something better for the individual. Fatalism is dismissed as a false nihilism, passivity that only leads to an excuse to sit around doing nothing and wasting your irrelevant life away. The exact definition of nihilism he gives is a “lack of inherent value,” and if anything, nihilism is a spiritual path, not one obsolete of spirituality in any form. Much of this may surprise the layperson, whose views of the subject are of giving up on life and the complete antithesis to anything metaphysical. In fact, he sees things as quite the opposite, and strongly believes in subjects such as the karmic cycle. In fact, it becomes fairly clear that he is a self-identified Hindu, largely I am guessing for their acceptance of the caste system, which he strongly advocates for.
Contrary to what most may believe or define as nihilism, for Stevens it seems to be about finding the meaning that is true to yourself when all the other things that do not fit into your individual idea of reality are analyzed and necessary. The idea is to see what has formed your version of reality, and dismiss that which is irrelevant to you and inhibiting you from being true to yourself. All of this is quite empowering if you allow it to be, and with his life advice and insistence on his personal belief that he is a leader, one gets the impression that he is a life coach of sorts. He teaches that a person needs to see who they really are, deny excessive materialism, and live according to their own rules; that things like values should be dismissed, and the negation of morality is an allowance to form your own views, contrary to what is popular. I have to wonder how much of this indeed counts as forming his own views contrary to what is popular, however. Also present is an underlying mysticism that would not be expected in a book on nihilism. He talks about the possibility of a conscious universe, and he clearly is not coming from an atheistic approach with his philosophy.
Stevens believes that concepts such as anthropomorphism can be dismissed as irrelevant, which can certainly be argued. While it is true that these perceptions are “confined to the physicality of humans,” this is simply how the mind works. From a Buddhist standpoint, which he himself admits has similarities to nihilism, it is not so much about never having an illusory mind, but recognizing that you have an illusory mind. It is the awareness of how you tell yourself stories that matters, that you created the anthropological connection. You may not necessarily stop doing something just because you are aware that you are doing it, especially if, as I am arguing, this is as natural for the mind to do as it is for the body to breathe.
Some essays focus on how to live an ideal life, such as being mostly clean from drugs and alcohol, having self-discipline, and being in control of your own destiny. In this, nihilism will be of interest to those who are into the ideas of people like Ernst Jünger and Paul Waggener. Much of this is about positivity, and in this Stevens’ nihilism is more uplifting than anything, but first you have to be able to see how you have created a false reality and move beyond that. This is not nearly as dark as one would suppose the subject matter is, and Nihilism shows more similarities with someone like Brené Brown than, say, a black metal kid brooding about the misery of his existence. All of this makes it quite confusing, for beyond the wacky ideas and parables, he often makes quite a lot of sense. Brett Stevens is a man of contradictions, revealing an interest in conservation while advocating for corporations, expressing ideas that many would find shocking and simultaneously seeming to say some of these things are in others’ best interests—and perhaps they are. I do know that in recognizing how he may have shaped some of my views, it has been interesting to see how all beliefs, including nihilism, can create a false perception of reality. Perhaps it is in this false perception that nihilism cannot adequately give us a way out. As my old God Dethroned shirt use to say, “To a nihilist, nothing is at least something.” If that is all we have, then so be it.