During the early days of the right-wing dissident political revival in America some felt that presentation was extremely important. These commentators looked at the rising success of Donald Trump’s “populism” and inferred that “good optics” (a term stolen from corporate capitalism) was the path to victory. The problem with this assumption is misattributing success to the wrong factors is a sure recipe for future disaster. In the case of Trump in particular, the “success” has proven to be incredibly dubious in the first place. I’m also being very generous here, it’s much more likely that all the crowing about “good optics” was from bad actors behaving maliciously and does NOT represent an actual strategy.
There were two assumptions made on the basis of optics:
1. Look like a mature, respectable individual so the media and state don’t treat you as a costumed Nazi.
2. Appeal to the average normal American by cultivating a more “professional” and patriotic appearance.
On point 1, we can declare any attempt to change the media or state perceptions of dissident political figures a complete and utter failure. The news continues to call literally any rightwing male a “white supremacist”, even if that white male happens to be a black Cuban leader. The default setting of the propaganda networks is to scream “NAZI” at anyone outside the neo-liberal paradigm and a business suit doesn’t work as a cloaking device to make you invisible to the secret police either. “Ricky Vaughn”, the originator of the “wignat” meme is facing Federal charges along with a slew of attendees to the Capitol protest. Commentators like Nicholas J Fuentes that were extolling the virtues of Trump’s “optics” just prior to the January 6th rally are now cowering on Twitter and disavowing any participation in the actual storming of the Capitol Building. “Good optics” ended with a shirtless man in a Viking helmet becoming the public face of MAGA and stop-the-steal in the international media. This is absolutely more ridiculous than ANYTHING that happened during the 2017 alt-right activist rallies.
“Qanon Shaman” and other MAGA cultists utterly demolished the second idea under an avalanche of horrible garish American anti-aesthetics. Clearly the “average normal American” doesn’t exist anymore and he doesn’t have a “Sunday best” outfit in his closet either. There are precious few “normal Americans” left, and the weird little awkward manlets on the internet trying to appeal to them haven’t found any either. The final collapse of Trumpism was packed to the gills with shabbily dressed Boomers dancing to Rage Against the Machine and following a leader not exactly known for his cool, clean-cut professionalism. This is a vulgar, nasty, collapsing nation full of enraged rabble, there is simply no one left to sell on a pitch of “respectability”. Compared to the antics I saw during the last months of Trump, dudes dressed in Superman onesies with Swastika armbands banging rubber chickens on trashcan lids would’ve been “better optics” than those deranged Magatards milling about like confused Saturday morning Costco shoppers. At least the Super-Nazis would’ve been making some kind of performance art statement about the sad condition of American democracy.
Donald Trump did not take power because of his “good optics” either, he took power because a net worth of 3 billion dollars buys you an awfully big war-chest for campaign spending and it goes a long way with frustrated, desperate Americans looking to give the system the middle finger. If anything, it was Trump’s bad optics that resonated with people, not his business suits or the red, white and blue.
From a conceptual point of view, moderating your statements and calibrating your physical appearance to appeal to pre-existing tastes is a mind-numbingly stupid gambit anyhow. Your job as a political dissident to is to break down existing norms and convert people to radicalism, not to sell out to the status quo. If confronting people about the realities of Jewish power makes them uncomfortable, too fuckin’ bad for them. The “American Nationalism” crowd ultimately retreated on hard questions while simultaneously waving around the American flag like a security blanket, and all they got for it was Federal arrests stacked on top of a complete political defeat. I haven’t forgotten that these were the exact same individuals accusing more radical right-wingers of being “Feds” either nor is that irony lost on me. All of the hiding under Trump’s coat-tails didn’t work either though, and at the end of the day MAGA/Stop-The-Steal/Good Optics was a dead-end that has currently revived far more interest in pursuing programs to stop “domestic terrorism” than anything so-called “wignats” have ever been responsible for.
The logic of “good optics” lead people to embrace deradicalization rhetoric that lulled them into a false sense of security so overwhelming a good number of them walked into the biggest trap ever set for political dissidents. One would be very tempted to think this was an intentional conspiracy to entrap gullible patsies by a collection of cynical grifters taking money from shadowy figures to do it.
I want everyone to learn from this object lesson though. We are dissidents, we are radicals. We must acknowledge who we are and that the state is desperate to throw us in cages and make us into public examples to anyone else that dares to object to the current neoliberal paradigm. There are no short-cuts, no easy ways out. The target is already on our backs and it isn’t going anywhere. By being serious minded the “theatrical revolutionaries” dressed as goons are quickly weeded out, making “optics” a superfluous concern in the first place. We must also not hesitate to criticize “thought leaders” that are half-hearted cowardly charlatans. Ask yourself this, would a leftwing radical tolerate a mealy-mouthed Tucker Carlson? The rightwing cannot do incrementalism, it has been a losing strategy for 150 years.
“Optics” is over, this is a deadly serious struggle, not a high-school dance.