Donald Trump, Alt-Right Goddess
If you've been keeping up with the alt-right, you will have inevitably stumbled into the /pol/ Politically Incorrect section of the image board 4chan and the virtual gathering place of white men who feel sick from what they perceive as the full privileges their race and gender grants them.
I am a queer woman of color who started going on 4chan in my early teens. I understand that these men identify as alternative because of an identity politics which includes women, queers, and people of color as part of the national population. They made this election about them going mainstream (because what can be more mainstream than the presidential office?) because of this perceived alienation. None of them would last a day in my shoes. I know this because when they happen to be the only person of their race [and ideas] in a store, it makes them severely uncomfortable, while this kind of position of being "alternative" is in fact the condition of my daily existence.
If you've happened upon /pol/ or are active on 4chan, you will have learned about meme magic, Kek, and Donald Trump. For those who are unfamiliar, Kek began as a synonym for 'LOL' and became associated with Pepe the frog. On 4chan, every post is given a unique, numerical string so that another anonymous poster can reference it when replying. Posts that end with double digits of the same number are values higher than those without, triples are valued more than doubles, and so on. When digits repeat at the end, this is called a GET.
When Pepe or "Kek" the frog became the mascot for /pol/'s infatuation with Donald Trump, it seemed that posts of Kek earned more GETs and were favored by chance. /pol/ then realized that Kek was an ancient Egyptian deity that was, coincidentally, a frog. Coincidences tend to excite meme culture and make certain memes special to those who were first- hand witnesses of the coincidence and, in this case, of Trump/Pepe, more Kek posts were spawned, earning more GETs. An ancient Egyptian deity seemed to be making Trump's presence, at least on the message board, luckier.
The game /pol/ was playing was 'chaos magic'. 'Chaos magic' says that all possibilities exist--chaos--but that human intention and belief is an active force that can make some things more possible than others. By believing something, one can manifest it. Sigils, or magical symbols, create a material manifestation of said wish and make it even more likely to manifest materially. Kek the frog was Donald Trump's sigil for the 2016 election and, because of the GETs, probability seemed to favor Trump. The more GETs Kek got, the more people believed in Trump's victory!
This was not rational, but magical thinking.
Leonard Shlain published a book called The Alphabet Vs. the Goddess (1998) in which he locates the gender binary in the organization of the human brain and society. Throughout history, according to Shlain, societies that didn't use written language tended to worship goddesses and matriarchal culture. Societies that use an alphabet tend to behave patriarchally, worship an abstract god-figure, and enforce legal and moral systems. He attributed this difference to data processing in the brain. The left-side of the brain tends to process things one at a time, linearly, and creates logical thinking or rational thought. The right-side tends to perceive in a big picture way, all at once, and thinks through association. Under this logic, 'chaos magic' is a right-brain system because it uses symbols rather than reason and believes in what seems to be.
Donald Trump and the alt-right live and perceive the world based on images of what seems to be the case. They feel that a “they” is taking “our” women, that this “they” is taking “our” jobs, that this “they” is a violent people based on stereotypes of black, Muslim, Latino/a, and Asian characterizations. White people, educated or not, male or female, straight or not, do not frequently interact with actual people of color and base most of their perceptions on fiction. In fact, having even one person of color in a white person's life will make them less racist because it cuts into the screen of stereotypes that a white person frequently uses, for lack of anything better, to define the Other.
The facts and statistics of both history and contemporary existence clearly show that white supremacy stands as strong as ever, but the alt-right is not thinking logically. They are using right-brained, associative thinking. Trump justifies what these white people feel and what seems to be true. Although he did not create the stereotypes, he has contributed significantly in his campaign, to the culture of fear around the Other.
Cultural archetypes and stereotypes, when believed, are immensely powerful symbols with or without chaos magic. The associative "alt-right" thinking is no less intelligent than rational thinking, and is just, if not more powerful when you consider how much of the digital age is also defined by image-making. Magic, however, is amoral and will serve its own purpose no matter who uses it whether it is an Asian woman doing so for protection against her bullying boss, or a group of white supremacists trying to put their leader into the Oval Office.
The other aspect of magic, however, is that every action provokes a reaction.
By focusing all of their energy into one figure, the alt-right has been able to elect one of their own using image-making and branding, both instruments of right-brained, magical thinking. What the alt-right does is create images of whiteness.
Whiteness has dominated historically through the invisibility of its opposites and abstraction of its ideas.
White supremacy has stayed powerful because it is synonymous with universality,
humanity, and rationality. Left-brained, abstract thinking has maintained white
power for centuries. White people have always had the power to look
anthropologically and, at the same time, to tell others not to stare. Segregation and red-lining
have made race invisible to most whites. The white population has made itself see only its own culture and to see it as the status quo.
By selecting Donald Trump, the alt-right has created a voodoo doll of whiteness that they can put on a pedestal and we can stick our pins into. White supremacy has so far refused to erect such a doll, relying instead on systems of abstraction to maintain its power. For the first time, however, now whiteness is represented by the image of a frog-like man, sweaty, pallid, and blotchy with redness, comically angry and paranoid at imagined infractions, and wearing a ridiculous patch of yellow-blond hair at the top of his head.
The thing about magic is that women, people of
color, and especially
women of color have been practicing it for a very long time. We know
how to seem like one thing and be another because we live in a world
structured against us socially and politically. We know exactly how to
in something, to pray, and to manifest the belief because we are not raised that it is our
god-given right to succeed. Most of all, we know exactly how to break ideas down
by destroying images: their integrity, their ability to be trusted;
their ability to influence.
White people will have to learn what people of color have known for a long time – when there is an image representing your race and you're inside it, you will have to prove that you are not “that kind of white person” from the moment you meet someone and every moment after. It is excruciating everyday work and exhausts every facet of being, body, mind, and emotion crucial to mere existence.
Alice Sparkly Kat is a queer,PoC astrologer with a focus on decolonizing astrology. Her lectures and workshops,
writing, and other astrological work has appeared at BHQFU,Dixon Place, Ars Nova,POWRPLNT,
and other venues. She is the in house astrologer for Little Skips! coffee shop and feminist magazine Selfish. Alice uses astrology to re-chart a history of the subconscious,
redefine the body in the world, and re-imagine history as collective trauma. Located in Bushwick,
she available for readings in person or by phone at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Graphic by Alice Yang.