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Aristarchus has pause: "The Ethics of Consuming Fascism"

Rejected submission by aristarchus at 2019-02-08 22:18:06 from the Bad-publicity-is-still-publicity dept.
Digital Liberty

From the fine publication, Fair Observer []:

In 1939, a Book of the Month Club (a US-based literary subscription service) edition of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published “for the political understanding of the American people.” As indicated in the pamphlet insert, the edition was sponsored for publication by a committee composed of the likes of Pearl Buck, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Eugene O’Neill and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, to name just a few. More importantly, the edition proudly proclaimed on its infamous red, black and white cover that all profits would go to refugee children.

In addition to doing right by the children, this effort to give profits to them most obviously attempted to ease the conscience of the consumer. Moreover, the committee also argued that publishing the book was a “demonstration, by quiet deed, of the truest spirit of democracy, to combat this new form of evil among men by first dragging it forth to the full light where it can be coolly appraised.” Indeed, just a few years later, philosopher Karl Popper, in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies, argued that tolerating intolerance could only ultimately end with intolerance. His “paradox of tolerance” asked if it even were possible to engage with fascism without running the risk of succumbing to, or permitting, its intolerant ideology.

Very good question. Is there an answer?

In her most recent book, The Extreme Gone Mainstream: Commercialization and Far Right Youth Culture in Germany, Cynthia Miller-Idriss writes [] that “Since the early 2000s, far right youth have gravitated away from the singular, hard-edged skinhead style in favor of sophisticated, fashionable, and highly profitable brands that deploy coded far right extremist symbols.” In her work, Miller-Idriss describes particularities of products the radical right purchases and sells to both identify each other and to finance extremist ideologies. Although the internet age has given scholars easier access to the propaganda and writings of the radical right, there is still material that is not available for free. Thus, one must ask: Is it ever ethical for a scholar to purchase something from a radical right group for the purposes of studying it? This is a question I certainly have confronted.

Of course, this dilemma exists elsewhere in the virtual world as well, and ultimately in more insidious ways. After all, alt-lite provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and his ilk do indeed profit from having eyes on their videos — whether for research purposes or not. Can we ethically watch these videos at all if we believe that in some way Yiannopoulos is profiting from them? These questions expand very quickly into just how our consumerism acts as a vehicle for our politics in a capitalist society — a larger question that leaves us all implicated and for which there is no easy answer or solution. On balance, we can only hope our work does more good than bad.

So is aristarchus funnelling funds into the pockets of the alt-right?

Original Submission