Keith Preston is a Really Bad Guy

I don’t think the author of this particular screed likes me very much:

“If you see Keith Preston or any of his national-“anarchist” cronies making inroads into your communities, do something about it. If people cite or share his articles without realizing what he stands for, take the time to inform them. Repost this text aggressively. He is going hard out to make his crypto-fascist ideas seem palatable to the more decentralist strands of the left. It’s a lot easier to head off fascist entryism than to uproot it after it has already taken hold and shaped the narrative.

With the election that “national anarchist” scum Keith Preston has once again emerged and gone into overdrive trying to make inroads into anarchist communities and gain respectability he can leverage. Preston tried to gain acceptance among left market anarchists a decade ago and we ran his ass out in no uncertain terms. It’s infuriating to see him trying to slither back, at least on the outreaches, with all his pretenses of intellectual dissent, and so I thought I’d write a post retelling why his project is so intolerable.
Preston is of course personally rife with reactionary perspectives on race, gender, and sexuality as any number of exposes of him easily attest.

And he feels most comfortable palling around with his various outright neonazi friends. He’s also openly grounded his shitty politics in sociopathic narratives about being part of a natural elite and all the normal fascistic might makes-right-nihilism. And we should not ignore that much of “national anarchism” emerged out of explicit attempts by fascists to appropriate anarchist aesthetics and culture, both for recruiting purposes and entryism (even if Preston himself came from the left).

But all this is largely epiphenomenal. They are symptoms of his central and most critical break with anarchism: Preston is not a globalist. He’s not seeking to build a teeming hyperconnected world where each individual can choose to form myriad different social relations from billions of possible friends. His “anarchism” has nothing to do with actually abolishing power dynamics and maximizing freedom. All that comprises his “anarchism” is merely a thin veneer of political decentralization.

But decentralization alone hardly constitutes anarchism, after all the genocide in Rwanda was decentralized. You can certainly have oppressive power dynamics — even *more* oppressive power dynamics (by being more responsive and immediate) in a politically decentralized society. Indeed the decentralization fetish of modern fascists (particularly in the Evola lineage) is quite coherent. A giant state bureaucracy is far less efficient at say killing all the jews and keeping women living in fear than would be an array of hyper-closed small town communities or compounds.

If we had any remote reason to take seriously Preston’s occasional pretense of being distinct from such “national anarchists” one would of course wonder where the fuck his plan is for avoiding and combating such widespread domination in a politically hyper-fractured world. Of course the answer is that Preston doesn’t care, or even actually desires such a state of affairs. The better for his personal reactionary aspirations to flourish.


Preston’s world of secessionism never actually gets all the way down to individual liberation — because what would distinguish it then from standard individualist anarchist or humanistic analyses? No, it terminates on the scale of “communities” — largely discrete and closed, and valued in-and-of-themselves. Preston is a cultural essentialist, or maybe better parsed: a *group essentialist*, thoroughly infected and haunted by visions of social structures outside of individuals with their own physics, agency, or narratives. The family, the tribe, etc. It’s embarrassing intellectual sloth. Albeit a form of self-assured brain rot prone to mass-murdering temper tantrums when challenged.

Preston loves to make a big show of brushing off the neonazi cobwebs that so clearly cover him from every angle by protesting that despite his endless horror show of associations (and reactionary outbursts), he’s actually a leftist. But what on earth could constitute his “leftism” once you slice away all the feminism, queer liberation, and anti-racism he despises? Well, most prominently a focus on the suffering of the white working class. In other words Preston’s argument against being called a fascist is that he’s actually *more* of a classic nazi than Hans Hermann Hoppe.

The rest of what Preston gets from the left are the very worst aspects of it. The slimy pluralism of modern liberalism that is simultaneously nihilistically relativist and righteously opposed to any sort of universalism. The cultural essentialism of “stay in your lane” separatism dialed up to 11. That there are leftists that treat for example black nationalism as totally cool because structural oppression and being the underdog somehow makes nationalism okay is an argument that performative hyper-simplistic identity politics have corrupted a lot of leftists with fascistic tendencies. When Preston crows that he’s totally cool with racially exclusive latino or black gangs, as if that somehow makes him *less* racist, what he’s doing isn’t demonstrating a good faith grounding in our shared values, but demonstrating how badly reactionaries have made further inroads to the left on all fronts.

It’s true that we in the counter-globalization movement of the 90s and early 00s in part opened the door to this kind of localism through our own shitty and lazy rhetoric — cutting corners when challenging the complex oppression and violence of the neoliberal order. Similar corner-cutting has continued within the tumblr era of social justice. Despite immense value to the critiques leveled by both movements, the modern left is rife with reactionary tribalism and localism. But this is cause for all true anarchists to say, “Fuck the Left!” Not to give a pass to the menagerie of fascists trying to get their feet even further in the door.

While personally I’m too deeply in the vein of what some might call the enlightenment to not have many bones with the Frankfurt school, contrary to the hysterics of the Alex Jones crowd that blame them for all the horrors of our modern “pc” world (where kids sometimes try to encourage new codes of etiquette that aren’t quite as shitty as older ones, the little monsters), they actually had quite a bit of useful critiques when it came to oppressive cultural and social environments. I happen to think Adorno put it quite well: “Auschwitz confirmed the philosophy of pure identity as death.”
Preston’s world of fractured rather than abolished power relations, of dramatically curtailed social possibility, where group belonging and cultural detritus holds any value against individual human agency, would be a world of fractal death. A systematic slicing away of human freedom rather than a blossoming of it.

That he can point to any commonalities within today’s radical left and even the mainstream anarchist movement should be an indictment of us, not a license for him.”


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2 replies »

  1. Where did you find this piece originally, Keith?

    This is pretty much what I expect from Gillis. It’s really not his positions per se so much as the attitude with which he holds them that really just turns me off. Unfortunately I think you should brace for more hysteria and ideological wailing.

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