October 20, 2016

The Power of Evil (and Donald Trump)


One of the essays by Anton LaVey that I find to be most insightful to his worldview is "On the Importance of Being Evil," as printed in "The Devil's Notebook." You can buy the book and read the whole essay if you're really interested, but in it LaVey talks about the beneficial impact of evil upon the greater good. Examples he provides include the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang inspiring a multi-billion dollar motorcycle market for riding enthusiasts, but also the horrors of WWII as stimulant for the creation of Israel. There are other examples given, but what it boils down to is that LaVey saw evil as a polarizing force for motivating and strengthening essentially "good" ideas, movements, and groups. 

In all of LaVey's writing, he never portrays himself as an anarchist: if anything, he leans authoritarian, and much of his recorded philosophy embraces the need for stability and power in government. LaVey was very consistent in his writing that he considers himself and those who take the name of Satan to be outsiders, but from what I read, he never advocated violent revolution. Instead, what I understand in his writing is that he advocates for a kind of watch-dog agitation. To LaVey, it was very important that a small number of people on the margin always be present to agitate and test the powers that be because - as a result of this constant agitation - weakness is discovered. And although he always considered himself an outsider to the mainstream community, he never saw himself as living in a vacuum and completely detached from the world (and country) in which he lived - because of course that would be solipsism and a loss of perspective.

Furthermore, this outside agitation is necessary because the greater number of people - by reason of their revulsion and rejection of the outsider - will polarize against unstable evil and seek to strengthen "good" outcomes. So LaVey reasoned, if not for Hitler's slaughter of the Jews, the rest of the world would never have cared enough to take notice and create the country of Israel.

But LaVey didn't say that this is justification for being just plain mean and stupid. In order for your evil to exceed the mere idiocy of "ripping wings off butterflies," your evil must expand beyond your local sphere of influence and disrupt the minds and lives of people far outside your regular life. In other words, don't pretend for an instant that you're going to change the world by shit-posting dank Satanic memes on your Facebook page. Surely you'll gain some satisfaction from doing so, but it doesn't actually do anything. No - if your evil is to create the kind of change described, you must have sufficient leverage to affect thousands and even millions of people at a time.

Enter the presidential election of 2016.

Donald Trump is no stranger to offense, and there's almost literally nothing and nobody he hasn't deliberately attacked, mocked, or insulted: Mexicans; Muslims; Blacks; many women, his own daughter, and even allegedly a teenaged girl; the disabled and deaf; dead, wounded, and captured veterans; journalists; his own political party... for fuck's sake, once he even kicked a crying baby out of a rally. I can't even list it all here - the man seems to lack even the most basic filter between his inner monologue and the words that come out of his mouth. There appears to be no line he won't cross, and this volatile aggression has made him the darling of racists and fascists everywhere. He's even gone as far as claiming that the elections are rigged by his preferred ennemi du jour, and has instructed his supporters to become vigilante poll monitors

In response to his  sustained campaign of unhinged, conspiracy-laden vitriol and now his attack upon the very foundation of democracy in the USA - his refusal to accept the outcome of the election before it's even been settled - vast social movements have formed. He's spurred a civil war within the Republican Party which many (including longtime GOP leaders) believe has lost its way; motivated broad coalitions to organize under the banner of #NeverTrump; indirectly pushed record numbers of people to register to vote; spurred people from all levels of stratification to affirm their confidence in the political process; shamed the news media into fact checking their stories; and generally pushed the vast majority of Americans to come out against racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

Will evil Trump win the day? It's highly unlikely: the most reliable polls have a Trump victory at not more than 12%, and some as low as 8%. It's possible his chance of winning will fall even further between now and the election on November 8th, but it's generally agreed that Trump's chance of winning the White House is absolutely dead and buried. But just because he didn't win the White House doesn't mean that he hasn't had a substantial impact - you'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind to ignore Trump's cultural footprint, because that's the power of evil.

Does this mean that all Satanists should support Donald Trump because he's just so damn good at being evil? Absolutely not. First, each Satanist must decide for him or herself which candidates to support (or not support) based on his or her own values. And second, Trump would sooner shit on the American bed than let anybody else have it. He's already preparing his supporters for possibly violent protest when he almost certainly doesn't win the election. If he'd embrace his role as the outside agitator, I could at least respect what he unintentionally accomplished, but his rejection of the very system which sustains him proves him to be the parasite he is. 

But you know, even parasites can be useful in their way.