Racism as Deep Trolling and Other New Centre Diversions
Will the New Centre for Research and Practice do the minimally decent thing and de-platform Nick Land? Or is their main concern to save face by discrediting critics, using the play book of the far right to demonise anti-racists as 'Red Guards', as Land himself has taught his disciples to do?
Who would begrudge the New Centre for Research and Practice attempting to salvage a modicum of credibility after all the egg on its face for its association with Nick Land? It does look extraordinarily foolish, fashioning itself as a fulcrum of leftist innovation while singing the praises of a far right racist whose eugenic fantasies entrench the neoliberal status quo. We would have left it to its predicament, but in the New Centre’s desperate fire-fight it has shown itself to be more troubling than we first thought.
On one level, our broadside against Land’s racism, ‘No Platform for Land’, had the intended effect, provoking the New Centre’s public statement against future associations with Land and throwing light on the circulation of far right racism in cultural and academic scenes. But in the New Centre’s statement and associated social media postings, it has sought to rewrite its sorry history to position itself as a leading edge in the critique of Land, and to deflect attention from this shameless manoeuvre by positioning its anti-racist critics as vengeful and reactive ‘Red Guards’. Now it’s not only a matter of saving face. Attempting in this way to discredit and divert those who would challenge the content and circulation of far right ideas cannot but serve the agenda of the far right. Hence it’s no surprise to find that this trope of the ‘Red Guard’ is not the sole preserve of the New Centre but is integral to today’s far right, to be found, for example, every time Land looses his prized ‘coldness’ to Twitter-rave at those who would object to the spread of racism.
But at least the New Centre has finally cut loose from Land? Well, sort of. It was astonishingly reticent in doing so, and at least one of its Board of Directors seems to think the matter not yet closed, posting this on 30 March in reply to the New Centre announcement about ending relations with Land: ‘whatever decision we come to on this – and there’s been nothing like a consensus yet – i think we can agree that we shouldn’t in any way encourage the extortionary, red-guard tactics of these goons’.
In what way has it been reticent? The New Centre’s public position is that breaking ties with Land is due to his recent Twitter activity, that from early 2017 it was ‘displeased and angered by several tweets by Land in which he espoused intolerant opinions about Muslims and immigrants.’ Yet the New Centre has known since at least summer 2016 of the odious nature of Land’s ideas, which are far more extensive and integral to his philosophy than some ‘intolerant opinions’. We refer to an attempt by the New Centre to host Nick Land at an e-flux conference in July 2016, of which the organisational discussion stream on e-flux is eye opening (see the screen-grabs below). Three participants who opposed Land’s presence at this conference drew attention to his eugenecist and ethnonationalist screeds. New Centre director, Mohammad Salemy, took the opportunity to clarify, dismissing the ‘false accusations’ of one critic and claiming Land as some kind of double agent, his racist proclamations not to be taken at face value. Another member of the New Centre chimed in to argue, in a delusion of grand proportions, that Land is in fact a rigorous anti-fascist and Marxist critic of media and economy.
Yes, we were taken aback too! When the full stinking pile of Nick Land’s racism was rubbed in the face of the New Centre, it responded by: accusing Land’s critics of spreading false accusations; attempting to disavow the significance of this racism; and claiming, with half-hearted conviction, that Land’s racism is really an anti-fascist subversion from within. When an institution promotes a far right racist, regularly hosts a far right racist, and makes out that far right racism is actually something wholly other… one is entitled to be a little alarmed.
Roll forward to February and March 2017, when after the e-flux fiasco the New Centre once more hired Nick Land to teach a course – a series of eight, 2.5 hour online seminars on ‘accelerationism’, at a price per student of $400. When challenged on social media, the New Centre’s public statement (29 March) was no longer along the delusional lines of the e-flux dispute; instead, it now leveraged in its defense the value of hosting ‘controversial ideas’ and abstract notions of ‘freedom of speech’. Salemy was less self-controlled in Facebook posts around this time, at least once arguing that Land’s idea of ‘hyper-racism’ (i.e. eugenic selection for intelligence and new speciation in separation from the ‘refuse’ of the rest) was not in fact racist (see the screen-grab).
But, hey ho, eventually, on 30 March, the day after our broadside against Land’s racism and an extensive critique of the neorectionary scene in Viewpoint magazine, the announcement came: ‘The new Centre has stopped planning more seminars with Land’. It is worded a little too carefully: ‘stopped planning’ doesn’t preclude starting again. But let’s not quibble; it’s a public announcement against Land. The statement continued, protesting too much: ‘We want to stress that we have not reached this decision based on the pressure by Shutdown LD50 campaign (there has been none until now) but as a result of our own personal convictions, beliefs and plans’. What a craven racket! It rewrites its longstanding apology for Land’s racism in order to shore-up and project a marketable brand image at all costs.
But wait! The New Centre just can’t keep its obsession down, as Landism seems to return under cover of denial. The ANON text, ‘Against Nick Land and the Reactive Left’ (2 April), functions like a proxy for the New Centre as it feels its way forward, reintroducing the New Centre’s notion that there’s a useful Land to be retrieved from a bad, and with it a new turn of Salemy’s earlier dissimulation, that Land could be a Marxist ‘deep troll’. Added to which, now the alt right as a whole may be an agent of anti-capitalism: ‘Land himself even remarked that the Alt Right is a mass political movement against capitalism incubating, unexpectedly, from the right.’
ANON will continue to glean gems like this as Land teaches his New Centre course through April 2017. After that, even the New Centre wouldn’t be daft enough to host him again. But we don’t doubt that elements there hanker to keep that option open and will be grumbling on Facebook about the Cathedral, Red Guards, and other neoreactionary bogeymen for some months to come.