Raw Egg Nationalist

Every age produces its own set of unique characters, according to the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. By “characters” he means something like “archetypes”, idealised types that embody certain of the values and aspirations of an age, as well as its social structure and development. So the Homeric Age produced Achilles and Odysseus, who each in his own way fleshed out the sometimes diverging values of the archaic Greeks, serving as both models for and reflections of how they actually behaved (and thought about how they behaved).

The modern age, by contrast, in MacIntyre’s view, provides us with the characters of the bureaucrat and the aesthete. Although seemingly worlds apart, at least on the face of things, these two are really just opposing sides of the same coin. Both order their lives around what MacIntyre claims to be one of the defining aspects of the modern world: an absolute distinction between facts and values.

In the bureaucrat’s professional life, this means that he concerns himself only with means (facts) and never ends (values), which are chosen for him from above. All he can do is seek to maximise rationality in pursuit of the goals he is set – nothing more.

The aesthete comes at the separation between facts and values from the other side, as it were. Instead of concerning himself with facts, he chooses to pursue ends in an arbitrary manner, solely as a way of satisfying his whims. But he pursues a vision of pleasure which is always fleeting, never within his grasp – and so his quest for satisfaction never ends. In the literary world, the character of the aesthete is best represented by the libertine in Kierkegaard’s Either/Or (1843) or perhaps by Des Esseintes, the reclusive main character of J.K. Huysman’s anti-novel Against the Grain (1884).

The last dying splutter of a once proud aristocratic family, Des Esseintes confines himself to his home in the Paris suburbs, where he dedicates his time to a series of increasingly strange endeavours. His exploits – or anti-exploits, since they really amount to nothing – include encrusting his pet tortoise with ornate gemstones, which end up killing it; creating a garden of poisonous tropical plants, the more artificial-looking the better; and taking an abortive journey to London, which he cancels when, sitting in an English restaurant in Paris, he realises that nothing real about London could match the vividness of his own notions derived from reading Charles Dickens. Des Esseintes is, in short, a man both of and against his time, as the title of the novel states.

A kindred spirit, if you will, is the character of J. Alfred Prufrock, from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1917). Unlike Des Esseintes, Prufrock is not a genuine aristo, but something more like an upper-middle-class young man with pretensions to nobility. You could describe him as a kind of inadequate social climber, a man who is overtaken by events. Left behind in a fast-changing world, he can’t do the things he feels he should or wishes he could. Among these many inhibitions, most tellingly of all, is his failure to summon the right words to say to a potential love-match. And so he descends into increasingly histrionic and morbid self-pity, observing the growing bald spot on his head, his stiff garb and the thinness of his arms; squirming under the gaze of others – “the eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase” – before imagining himself in almost Lovecraftian terms as “a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

“No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Politic, cautious and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous –

Almost, at times, the Fool.”

Although Prufrock is just a literary character, many real Prufrocks existed in the early twentieth century – men whom the momentous changes of the time had simply left out of place, unable to cope. Sensitive men with aspirations to civility and the values of the landed aristocracy who were swept along in the rising tide of money and vulgarity. Chief among them was the poet himself.

People forget sometimes that Eliot was an American who spent his whole adult life trying to be something he wasn’t – English. As you might expect, he struck his English contemporaries as a strange creature, and the comparison with Prufrock, especially in attire and mannerisms, was not lost on them. Virginia Woolf captured Eliot’s in-betweenness perfectly when she referred to him in a letter to her brother-in-law: “Come to lunch. Eliot will be there in a four-piece suit.” His alienation from the Bloomsbury set only increased with his religiosity and monarchism. There are also – of course there are – suggestions of repressed homosexuality, especially due to the dedication of his first set of poems, “Prufrock and Other Observations”, which honoured a young French medical student he knew who was killed in the Dardanelles campaign of 1915.

All of which leads me, in a roundabout way, to a couple of questions: If Prufrock is both a literary and historical character whose place lies very firmly in the fin de siècle, why on earth would anybody want to resurrect him as their literary persona in 2021? And not only that, but bring him back to life using the clumsiest magic available? These are questions I find myself asking as I consider the case of “William Guppy”. A simple answer to both would be: lack of talent. But in truth these questions deserve more careful consideration.

Guppy is British (I assume) and a major-minor Twitter figure on the dissident-right spectrum (@w_guppy, c.9.5k followers at time of publication). He sometimes writes book reviews and opinion essays, some of which feature on his Substack page. He’s also self-published a book.

When he tweets, he writes things like this:

“I'm drawn to the type of people who have never heard of William Guppy; who would never even get close to the circles in which William Guppy is in [sic], nor those which circulate it. Someone at a party once spent half an hour explaining to me who William Guppy was, and it bored me.”

I think this may actually be an excerpt from his book, Ha Ha Ha Delightful, which he calls a book of “selected epigrams”. One of the book’s main selling points, besides the self-referentiality, is an extra sprinkling of pomo charm from Michael Crumplar, a.k.a. M. Crumps, a man whose sole claim to fame is an embarrassingly unrequited obsession for Red Scare’s Anna Khachiyan. I believe only Logo Daedalus’s magnum opus, Carey Mulligan’s Brown Skidoo, sells better.

Guppy’s notoriety, such as it is, derives almost entirely as a result of the following tweet.

“Each large muscle of a bodybuilder represents a language he didn’t learn, a poem he didn’t read, a fun fact he never memorised.”

Lots of people clearly thought this was dumb, because it is, indeed, dumb. Guppy (metaphorically) dines out on this tweet as much as he can – apparently believing the vulgar dictum that any publicity is good publicity, in sharp contrast to his scrupulous principles (more on those below).

But if you want a fuller idea of his persona, you must go straight to the longer works, most of which are on his Substack. It’s there that his sub-Prufrock shtick is most fully developed. I choose one of them at random, “A Small Man on His Balcony”. This is how it begins:

“Mother, I have made it. That upper station of low life which you and Father fashioned for me has slipped away, and I find myself now looming over the unwashed masses from my little plinth between apartments 505 and 503. The distinction between the low and the high has never been clearer, never more delicious.”

The tropes are there for all to see in this first paragraph. Oedipal tension; a cavilling sense of propriety; an ultimately futile lament at modern vulgarity. And the piece continues along those same extremely well-worn lines as Guppy describes witnessing the carnage of an evening’s drinking from his “little plinth.” (Which, frankly, is an odd way for anybody with a decent command of the English language to describe a balcony, given that a plinth is usually used to support a vase or statue or the base of a column; but I’m sure Guppy knows this really, because he’s terribly clever.) The piece ends with Guppy coming across a man in the street getting “his head kicked in” as he drives home from the local supermarket. The supermarket is, of course, Marks and Spencer. (Sadly, the “beauty” of this last reference will be lost on anybody who hasn’t lived in England long enough.)

I don’t know, or even particularly care, whether the incident he describes actually happened. What bothers me most is just, well, how bad it all is. Take this description of one of the many sights witnessed by the titular small man from his balcony:

“Looking closer, I found that it was, in fact, a single drug addict who had taken to removing and replacing his coat in and [sic] infinite loop on the street corner. The eccentric movements of his gangling legs, which thrust him violently from one stretch of pavement to another, were so erratic that they had convinced me that his silhouette represented two men.”

Even now, a good few hours since reading this passage, I still have absolutely no idea of what Guppy is actually trying to describe here. It’s almost as if a GPT-2 openAI model had been made to generate text in the style of Orwell at his very worst. Which is very bad indeed. People forget, too, that Orwell was a dreadful prose stylist – go back and read A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935) or even one of his later novels if you’ve forgotten – but he did at least have something comprehensible to say.

Nope, still haven’t got it.

Things don’t get better. Almost every paragraph is riddled with solecisms, jarring turns of phrase and baffling word choices which serve only to reinforce the fact that the author really isn’t up to the task of inhabiting his chosen literary persona. It’s not just that Guppy seems to be reaching constantly for the thesaurus: it’s that he doesn’t even to know how to use it.

At one point, Guppy worries that the little people might notice him watching them from his balcony: “Then I am reminded that pigs cannot look up.” I won’t insult you by suggesting you Google “pigs looking up.” Guppy is either an idiot or thinks his readers are idiots – or both.

Although I know nothing about Guppy as an actual person, I believe I can nevertheless piece together a decent minimum of biographical information about him from his writing and his presence on social media. As well as having access to his public tweets, I occasionally run into him in a Twitter groupchat I was added to, when he appears to make some dire pronouncement, before skulking off to whatever “estaminet” he imagines he dwells in (having of course searched with characteristic thoroughness for a synonym to describe that poky little hole with its “plinth”).  
Most importantly, I think, so much about Guppy screams ‘master’s student’ and ‘second-rate university’, not least of all the ocean separating his pretensions and his abilities, and the brittle self-esteem so evident in his interactions with others, especially those who demonstrate real intelligence.

Little ink has been spilled on the pitiful figure of the master’s student, which is perhaps understandable, but it’s worth noting first, that there are far more of them than there have ever been before; and second, that some of the worst actors in this corner of the Twittersphere seem to have master’s qualifications. This isn’t a coincidence.

Over the past fifteen years or so, there has been an unheralded proliferation of master’s courses in Anglo-American universities; once upon a time not all that long ago, these degrees didn’t even really exist. Everybody knows, certainly on the faculty, that these courses are just cash-cows, but even so they are promoted as meaningful degrees, combining rigorous study (hahaha) with enhanced job prospects (hahaha… sorry, please excuse me).

Because of the pressures caused by the massive growth in the numbers of people who get bachelor’s degrees, you now have a whole demographic who choose to get master’s degrees in the hope of going on to distinguish themselves in the crowded job market. At the same time, you also get just as many who feel that they should be engaged in “higher” study, but don’t necessarily want to (or can’t) commit to reading for a PhD. These types often come with heavy chips on their shoulders, feeling that their particular star has yet to be recognised in undergraduate study.

In the UK, perhaps the worst of these have studied outside Oxbridge as undergraduates (often having failed the Oxbridge entrance) and then choose to do a master’s at Oxbridge in the hope of proving that this grievous injury to their self-esteem was unjustly inflicted. Both groups, ultimately, must pay for these courses themselves: only the doctoral students actually get scholarships or funding to study. It’s the second group who are usually most affected, then, by the discovery that they are being quite literally milked – as they discover, to their horror, that they are paying for the privilege of sitting in on undergraduate lectures and minimal contact hours with their tutor, that nobody (maybe not even their tutor) will read their shitty 10k word thesis and that they don’t have a chance in hell of an academic job or even a job “commensurate with their qualifications”, whatever that might mean, in the real world. A year is over so quick, it’s almost as if they’d never left their accustomed place behind the bar or in front of the coffee machine.

The process of embitterment is already at work, as I’ve said, while these unfortunates are studying. But it’s only once they return to the real world from the cloistered halls of a decent university where they didn’t belong (if they’re lucky) or a former polytechnic, that these circumstances really begin to bear their bitter fruits. Which reminds me… Guppy! If I were a gambling man, this is precisely the trajectory I would ascribe to him: second-rate university, a non-Oxbridge master’s, disillusionment and desperation in the “world of work”.

I won’t lie: Pope’s famous question – “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” – has been in my mind most of the time I’ve been writing this. Perhaps if I had been in a more charitable mood today I might not have written it at all. After all, what does Guppy matter? Talent will out, as they say, and he’ll have disappeared without trace soon enough, right? While I don’t doubt this, I think there is still a broader point worth making. The point is this: beyond the fact that Guppy isn’t worth reading or interacting with, these types are increasingly proving to be quite dangerous.

Two of the worst offenders in this regard have been “Kantbot” and “Logo Daedalus”, both of whom, to my knowledge, hold master’s degrees and seem to be motivated by the same combination of petty talent and petty spite as Guppy. Over the course of the past five years, both have demonstrated themselves not simply to lack a hardcore of beliefs or any kind of genuine allegiance or sense of loyalty, which is bad enough in itself, but also to be actively malicious. Not content to be intellectual cornstalks in the wind – which is something of a necessity when you have no genuine talent to sell – Logo and especially Kantbot have tried to re-sell themselves to the so-called “dirtbag left” by shitting all over people they formerly did their utmost to ingratiate themselves with.

This is best exemplified in the case of Kantbot’s attempts to doxx Bronze Age Pervert and reveal a network of anonymous Thiel-funded right-wing bodybuilders that’s out for his blood. But the truth is, anons are out for his blood because he’s a sneaky fat fuck, straight out of the playground, not because he’s some high-value target in a propaganda war.

That Kantbot and Logo Daedalus have proven to be untrustworthy in the extreme should have been clear to anybody who actually knows what they look like; physiognomy still remains undefeated. I don’t know what Guppy looks like, but I can’t imagine it’s good. My prediction: look for him, if he does stick around, to make a similar pivot when it suits his chances of (extremely humble) success. Indeed, look for this career path to become increasingly common as other moderately successful accounts try to cash out with the right and in with the left, to keep their dreams alive.

Broadly, I think this is just an extension of the problem of “gentleman conservatives” that has plagued the right since the time of William F. Buckley, as described by the Fat Nutritionist in the first issue of this magazine. These people are play actors:

“That’s why the ‘gentlemanly conservative’ feels zero guilt for ratting you out or stabbing you in the back. Because all he cares about in the end are his deluded pleasures and fake symbols… It’s worth asking: why tolerate these people, when the least-bad ones are just weak, useless, repellent and a waste of time, and most turn out to be active sell-outs and traitors?”

We don’t need these people around. They look bad; they smell bad; they have nothing interesting, new or funny to say; and they have no genuine desire to help us.

I’ve used the following line before, but it deserves repeating. Despite what our enemies claim, we don’t discriminate anywhere near as much as we should. Let’s try to live up to our reputation, shall we?