Is the Alt-Right for Real? - 2016-05-05
The suspicion that populist revolutionaries might not mean everything they say has surrounded Trump's campaign from the beginning. Photograph by Mark Peterson / Redux
A strange, fascinating story broke last week, one that contains the darkness of the Trump campaign and that has, like the Trump campaign at times, the cadence of a joke. A thirty-two-year-old man named Colin Lokey confessed to Bloomberg that, until days earlier, he had been one of the unknown authors of Zero Hedge, a blog that combines analysis of the financial markets, emphasizing the essential corruption of Wall Street, with what CNNMoney once called "a deeply conspiratorial, anti-establishment and pessimistic view of the world." Each post on Zero Hedge is written under the pseudonym Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt's character from "Fight Club," a workingman's nihilist. Lokey revealed to Bloomberg last week that Durden was actually three men: two wealthy financial analysts, Daniel Ivandjiiski and Tim Backshall, and Lokey, a recent M.B.A. from East Tennessee State University—their hired hand.
By his own account, Lokey was writing as many as fifteen posts a day, among them most of the political pieces. The gig had a certain formula, he told Bloomberg: "Russia=good. Obama=idiot. Bashar al-Assad=benevolent leader. John Kerry= dunce. Vladimir Putin=greatest leader in the history of statecraft." For Zero Hedge, Syria was a special obsession, a sign of the essential strength of authoritarian regimes and the weakness of democracies. ("Putin Is Winning the Final Chess Match with Obama," one Zero Hedge article claimed last fall.) The pace of the propaganda was too much for Lokey; last month, he checked himself into a hospital, believing he was on the verge of a panic attack. The populism seemed false to him. "Two guys who live a lifestyle you can only dream of are pretending to speak for you," he wrote. The "unmasking" that Bloomberg promised in its headline was really two, one inside the other. Remove the Tyler Durden mask and there were Backshall and Ivandjiiski, two successful bankers pushing populism. Remove the mask again and there was Lokey, pretending to be them. "This isn't a revolution," Lokey wrote. "It's a joke."