When we think about polarization in American politics, we often think it’s left versus right, progressive versus conservative, or Democrat versus Republican. We picture each side entrenched in its cause, rapidly becoming more extreme. And with each side only escalating, it sometimes all seems irreconcilable.
What if, beyond these two opposing cultures, there was a force at work cheering for and working to further exploit this polarization?
Meet Michael Malice, self-proclaimed anarchist, media personality, columnist, podcaster, and author.
His most recent book, “The Anarchist Handbook,” was for months the top non-fiction book on Amazon (and #3 overall) beating out books by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Oprah.
As well as hosting his own successful podcast entitled “Your Welcome” (purposely misspelled), he’s appeared numerous times as a commentator on Fox News and on Tucker Carlson Tonight—the most-watched show on cable news. He’s also been a guest on popular podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience, The Rubin Report, Timcast IRL, and The Lex Friedman Podcast.
He’s also a veritable savage on Twitter, with almost 227,000 followers. Tweeting—and trolling—prolifically, he says he uses Twitter for “psychological warfare.”
It seems like Michael Malice matters. There is a rising power beyond the progressive left or conservative right, and if we don’t acknowledge it now, we may be in for a rude awakening down the road.
“Politics is landline technology for a post-cellphone world.”
Malice’s goal is the delegitimization of politics and the political process. It begins with the recognition that government isn’t legitimate and can’t be made legitimate.
The idea of democracy is mere illusion to Malice. It works neither in theory, nor in practice. For example, he views voting in a democracy as deciding at what point a percentage of the population can dominate another. He also likes to point out that everyone votes in North Korea, and he finds it bizarre that people will say with a straight face that having one choice for ‘dear leader’ is tyranny but having two (or even a few) is freedom.
Sometimes describing himself as “a pure liberal,” Malice just wants government to leave him alone. And if he wants representation, he’ll hire the most qualified person to do it.
His rights, simply put, aren’t up for discussion, much less a vote. He doesn’t want people getting together to impose their will—period.
“When people have power over you, they will often use that power in arbitrary ways,” he claims. “It’s important to expect and anticipate it.”
State action, he asserts, proceeds independently of any democratic justification, and legislative and party votes are a mere formality. Our governments, in essence, do what they want. And betrayal is built into our systems of governance.
As a result, Malice is uninterested in trusting people. He claims he’s more interested in trusting ideas and creating mechanisms to ensure people can’t enforce their will.
“To realize that we live in an absurd culture where we are taught absurd things by absurd people and threatened with absurd consequences for defying all of it, is to achieve a level of contentment.”
Part of Malice’s appeal is his ability to explain his position simply, and often humorously. He revels in pointing out the absurd. But if you ask Malice what he believes he’ll explain that this is precisely the issue—you don’t have to buy into what he believes. You can think what you want. Anarchy, after all, means voluntary association. We can disagree and part ways.
And it’s not a matter of how we get to anarchism. Because, Malice claims, anarchism is not a location—it’s a relationship.
And it’s already here. It’s everywhere.
Every country, he contends, is already in a state of relative anarchy with other countries. Nation states maintain agreements—and disagreements—between themselves with little or no effective control by world-governing bodies.
According to Malice, we don’t need politics to solve our disputes. We can do it on our own, and we do do it, all the time, in our day-to-day lives and personal interactions. The people in our lives are there by choice. Voluntarism, mutual advantage, and incentives—not politics—drive these choices, all without coercion. We choose which businesses to patronize and regularly maintain private compacts and contracts.
Anarchism, as such, is the only worldview that allows someone to have a clear conscience with what they advocate politically. All others by default involve subjugation, domination, oppression—you name it. For this reason, Malice says he is more comfortable defending anarchism than capitalism, communism, etc. Anarchism doesn’t contend with other ideologies at all. It is, in some sense, beyond ideology.
“You can let go,” beckons Malice. “You don’t have to be so ideological all the time.”
For many in his audience this is undoubtedly refreshing. And he has more than just an audience.
His 2019 book, The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics, details the rise of an entire movement. A powerful undercurrent comprised of anarchists, nationalists, populists, alt-right, internet trolls—anybody who disdains progressivism as we know it. These aren’t your old school conservatives.
It’s time to pay attention.
“What is being presented as fact is actually a carefully coordinated movement by elites to establish and impose their view of what really is and how it should be.”
Malice’s goal is to force people to lose faith in the state. And he regularly points out that it is indeed a faith. He often describes the left, and progressives in general, as “the evangelical left.”
‘Democracy’ is a tenet of faith in the evangelical left, he tells us. So long as it’s not the kind of democracy that elects Trump or votes for Brexit. Universalism is another tenet—the idea that everything must be inclusive; that everything must be for everyone.
‘No,’ Malice argues. ‘And that’s OK. This is a big world. Go live your best life.’
“The Cathedral,” as Malice calls it, of the evangelical left trains its audience what to think and how to react. It defines what is acceptable in the political discourse and sets the narrative. It isn’t about facts, and there is no thought process. It is, rather, a filtering process. What’s in and what’s out. Who’s in and who’s out.
And there are an ever-narrowing range of faith-based opinions allowed. This is why you’ll see the Cathedral attack not only conservatives, but its own adherents as well. Look at Tulsi Gabbard, Bernie Sanders, and Andrew Yang. Nobody is safe. Academia and politicians write the scripture, and the media enforce its doctrine. Even the Democratic National Committee is subject to the media’s dictates.
And Malice is clear about his feelings towards the corporate media. They’re the “enemy of the people.” They specialize in being factual without being truthful. It’s a con art.
“The battle is won,” says Malice, “When the average corporate journalist is regarded the exact same way as the tobacco executive.”
He contends that the corporate media epitomizes the perversion of the social gospel. Now, instead of the individual being saved, in the spiritual sense, it’s the whole nation that must be saved. Ultimately, Malice warns, every aspect of life becomes subject to the Cathedral’s control. It’s totalitarian.
All this criticism of progressives, however, does not make Malice a conservative. He is famously quoted as saying “conservatism is progressivism driving the speed limit.” Moreover, it makes no sense that conservatives at once claim that government is rotten at doing everything, but then simultaneously put themselves in charge.
Malice says they’re both part of the problem.
“The faster we escalate the breakdown in political discourse the better it will be for everyone involved.”
Malice is certain there’s no reconciling the divide between America’s right and left.
When Trump was elected, progressives said, ‘not my president.’ Meanwhile, many conservatives celebrated, believing they had elected their finest president in generations—maybe ever. When Biden was elected, conservatives claimed electoral fraud. Progressives said hope was restored in the nation. Malice sees nothing wrong with these opposing sentiments—because he reassures us there is absolutely no reason for you to be governed by someone you despise.
One side wants to defund the police, pack the Supreme Court, and make Washington DC and Puerto Rico states. The other wants to maintain gun rights and keep health care private.
Malice, therefore, argues for a “national divorce,” and encourages state secession. He doesn’t know what secession would look like geographically, or even culturally, but he doesn’t think it has to be violent.
He points to Brexit as an example of non-violent secession. The Czech-Slovak split known as the Velvet Revolution. Singapore-Malaysia. Norway-Sweden. It happens.
America has been one country with several cultures since the beginning, Malice tells his audience. And there is no reason for two or more cultures who have contempt for each other to be part of one polity.
The cure for polarization then, is to accept it. And embrace it. It’s a simple and powerful idea that would take a lot less effort—and government coercion, Malice argues—than reconciliation.
Whether such an idea would provoke the kind of violence Malice eschews remains unknown and untested.
“The important thing is to have fun and enjoy life, because we’re still free, and we’re still blessed in this country.”
If there is one group Malice wants to reach, it’s those who have been “black-pilled.” Who think it’s all a lie and have lost all hope; the most cynical among us.
He presents us instead with “white pills.” He reminds us that we are not, in fact, each other’s enemies. And this isn’t about left versus right. It’s us versus them.
Spurned Bernie voters know it. And so do Tulsi Gabbard fans.
That increasingly neither of the two parties are seen as representative of people’s views is seen as a positive development.
These are compelling ideas. Simple to understand. And in an age where social media is king, gaining traction.
In a peaceable sort of anarchy, Michael Malice sees hope. And if having empathy means being understanding, keeping an open mind, and accepting unique differences, Malice could certainly claim to do all those things.
But he does them in his own way.
What way is yours?