Of all the bogeymen in Russia that the West has created, none has earned as many scary-fascist-points as Alexander Dugin, the former ideological guru for Edward Limonov's National-Bolshevik Party. Dugin is the Dr. Evil that Western academics dreamed of. In him, they finally found a bogeyman who wasn't the typical NAMBLA pervert in a Darth Vadar getup like RNU leader Barshakov, a cheap drama school villain far too easy to dismiss even by Beigeist American academic standards. But Dugin was a different story. He could make a professor or grad student who cites Dugin actually appear to be both morally brave and intelligent. Dugin's dense, allusive prose, mixed with carefully-"hidden" shock-value stances on violence and race, made him the West's choice as the "conscience" of Russian neo-fascism.
But is he really? We have a skinhead, Sasha, who works in our office, and when I asked him about Dugin, he looked at me with a puzzled face and asked, "Who the fuck is he?" Not that it matters to Western academics whether or not Dugin actually counts in Russia; what really matters is that he was articulate and fascistic in ways that Beigeist academics could easily identify.
There is no doubt that Dugin is remarkably intelligent. He speaks nine languages. He can spontaneously lecture for hours, weaving revolutionary and post-modern philosophy with mysticism, history and logic in a way that can be almost hypnotizing. His eloquence is the sole reason that he is the subject of endless "The Threat of Russia's Right" articles in the West. Look his name up on the web: you'll see him not just in English, but German, French, Swedish, and so on.
There's only one problem. Their biggest bogeyman just came out of the closet last week and admitted that he's a neo-liberal convert, putting him on the same team as, say, Carnegie Foundation talking head Michael McFaul. Dugin announced both in a Soros forum in Budapest and a subsequent lecture in Moscow last week that he rejects revolution, violence, or anything of the sort. Most shocking of all, he accepts the neo-liberal model as espoused by Francis Fukayama in his notorious Beigeist manifesto, "The End of History."
For those who don't know that article, its inane premise is that with the end of the Cold War, ideology and war are now a thing of the past; in the future, markets and market-economics will dictate the geopolitical map of the world. As middlebrow as it sounds, Fukayama's article actually caused an earthquake in American intellectual circles. That's because, well, it doesn't take much to rattle those little footnote-synapses and define-your-terms-neurons that pop and sizzle in the minds of nearly every liberal arts academic in my home country.
When Limonov first told me that Dugin had turned coat, I could barely believe it. So I double-checked it with Maxim Balutenka, an analyst for Panorama, which is perhaps Russia's leading think tank in terms of documenting fascism and extremism in modern Russia.
"It's true, Dugin did say those things," Balutenka told me.
Why? What led Dugin to do it?"You have to understand, Dugin's just role-playing," he went on. "He does it all for his Western audience, and now he's looking to expand that audience. Already in this week's issue of Litsa, he's going back in another direction. It's all a role to keep Westerners guessing and interpreting him, that's all."
You mean he's not the big scary fascist threat to Russia that Western academics make him out to be?
"Not at all. His audience in Russia is extremely small. It always has been. His only real audience is in the West. He's taken much more seriously there."
"Because he's the kind of villain that Westerners were looking for all along."
That is to say, according to one of Russia's leading experts on Russian fascism, Dugin was created by neo-liberal academics in the West. He exists only in their minds-and academic journals. Which means the "conscience" of Russian fascism... was created by Western liberals.
So Dugin's switch makes sense: a case of licking the hand that feeds him.
I wish Professors Michael McFaul of Stanford University and Stephen Shenfield of Brown University would talk to Balutenka. Because they're two people responsible for creating the false phenomenon. For the record, McFaul recently tried to have the eXile censored from a scholarly internet forum, Johnson's Russia List, a move that was soundly defeated after scores of top Russia-oriented journalists and academics shot him down. Professor Shenfield called for "shutting the eXile's business down" because we were fascists-by-association with Dugin. McFaul also repeatedly berated me in private emails for harboring fascists in the eXile.
Here is a sample of Shenfield liberal-Beigeist logic, and his utterly fascistic solution: "[I]ssue no. 7 of Elementy, the 'theoretical' magazine produced by Alexander Dugin, Limonov's colleague in the National Bolshevik Party, is devoted to the ideological, moral and aesthetic rehabilitation of 'aggression, terror and violence.'[...] Limonov too indulges in a cult of terror and death. Does Mark Ames agree with his friends?" Shenfield concludes his email, posted on the JRL forum before all of his peers and practically anyone who matters in Russian studies or journalism, "ways should be found to put the eXile out of business." It sounds like a parody of a Nazi from Hogan's Heroes: "Ways should be found to put the eXile out of business"... except that it isn't. Shenfield is safely tenured at an Ivy League, and his students are all the worse for it.
My association with Limonov, and thus with Limonov's former ideologist, has led others from the Confederacy of Dunces to train their Beigeist guns on me and on the eXile. Those expository nerf-prose guns would have silenced me and ended my career had I chosen academia instead of the path I did, and the most recent spat has only reminded me once again of how right I was to bail on academia when I first saw that Beigeist dragon aim its bran-muffin-breath logic at me.
I have dished out some pretty vicious criticism on the Russian intelligentsia for wallowing in their tragic drama and revealing themselves as a pretty simple bunch once the Communist monster dissolved. Until the recent spat with McFaul and Shenfield, I'd forgotten how much worse and how much more sinister America's "intelligentsia" is by comparison. At least you can't blame the Russian intelligentsia: through unbelievable courage, they learned how to battle a true monster; suddenly the monster disappeared, and they were left holding weapons that were no longer relevant. But my country's-they've actually STIFLED dissent (as witnessed by McFaulwell and Shenfield) at every step, discouraged courage, and created a kind of Brezhnevian bureaucracy out of academia that has driven all the great minds I knew as a student out into the "private world," leaving us with little more than furniture salesmen with good memories.
This whole manufactured Dugin phenomenon is a perfect case-in-point. I have an explanation why. It's called "Nazis." As Dr. John Dolan wrote in a book review in the eXile last year, such people were "warped for life by the overly simple moral schema they encountered in their 'Good War.' If all you have to figure out is that Nazis are not as nice as Jimmy Stewart, you just don't have much incentive to hone the ol' cognitive skills." Every decent liberal arts academic and journalist will tell you that the greatest thing he could do would be to find and stop any potential Hitlers before they get into power-and feel proud for saying so. By focusing on that, they're ignoring all the non-Hitlerian evil that goes on in the world right under their eyes. And there is an incredible amount of it-like, just about ALL the evil that goes on in today's world is non-Hitlerian. As in, right here in Russia. Do McFaul and Shenfield feel even a twinge of guilt that Russia's mortality rate has soared, poverty exploded, corruption abounds, and so on, and so on... As bad and scary as sharks are, mosquitoes kill a LOT more people, MILLIONS more. But mosquitoes are a lot harder to see, and a lot less sexy. Which is why the Shenfields and McFauls and everyone else saves their moral indignation for the sharks. Which are, incidentally, an endangered species.