21 June 2010

Sovereigns of Their Own Domain

Thanks to my frequent correspondent Hobbyfan I'm in possession of three issues of The Sovereign, a monthly tabloid published in New York City. Hobby got them as samples from a pen pal, but as he is largely apolitical (or nonpartisan, to be more fair) he found them a pure nuisance. When he told me about them I had an instant anthropological interest, so he sent them along. These are the three most recent issues, unless the July 2010 number has already appeared, and I'm halfway through the May issue, but I'm ready to draw general conclusions.

Published by Philip J. Schrader, The Sovereign "does not apply a 'litmus test' to any contributor(s)," but its content will draw a certain type of contributor. Schrader presents his paper as "an outlet for information that helps the Citizenry defend their freedoms currently under attack by our so-called 'government,' and to keep selected/elected officials honest." There is an editorial bias in favor of individualism against "collectivism," though the tone is less anti-Marxist than anti-conformity of all kinds. Hostility to President Obama is intense (one contributor suggests that he may have been a CIA operative working in Afghanistan during his 1980s college years; another identifies him as "level four" manchurian candidate, "a fully programmed 'sleeper' assassin" potentially programmed with "'super human' talents such as a photographic memory and the ability to lie convincingly") but there is little sympathy shown toward Republicans here. The Sovereign opposes the War on Terror and one contributor regards Dick Cheney as a confessed war criminal. As a rule, the paper expresses a nonpartisan distrust of all complex systems. The American Bipolarchy, from this perspective, merely fronts for what Stewart Dougherty calls a predatory Master Class "so alien to mainstream American culture and thought that [it] might as well be an enemy invader from Mars." Echoing many other contributors Dougherty accuses this Master Class of seeking the literal enslavement of humanity, while others go further. The Master Class, some believe, want to reduce the human population by any means necessary. Some writers tie what they consider the great hoax of climate change to this mass-extermination agenda, while others obsess over every report of innovations in robotics for military or surveillance purposes. Regular contributors use pseudonyms taken from the Terminator movies, to give you an idea of the prevailing suspicion. Truthers and Birthers are well represented, the former somewhat more than the latter, though one can easily be both.

The best description I can think of for The Sovereign's style is "paranoid punk." The papers are liberally illustrated with images from classic album covers or old concert posters. There's no "heartland" feel to the thing, which probably makes sense given its metropolitan origins. There's little sense of reverence for religion or tradition, except insofar as those affirm the individual's right to be left alone. There is much protest over the immiseration of humanity but little or no evidence of any commitment to social justice. The publisher's attitude toward the "collective" pretty much preempts that idea. Some might characterize the paper's philosophy, if they concede that it has one, as right-wing libertarian, but right-wing anarchist seems closer to the mark. Nihilist individualism may be closer still. The contributors' idea of democracy, one suspects, wouldn't go far beyond voting people off the island. This is what some of us thought the Tea Parties were going to become, but The Sovereign almost makes the Tea Partiers look not so bad in comparison. It may regard itself as an information resource (though only the committed will be convinced by most of its reporting), but it really represents an intellectual dead end. Reading it uncritically could kill your mind.

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