Massive media companies are being pressured by organizers and consumers alike on how they are going to deal with the home white nationalists have made on their social media and e-commerce platforms. The access that companies like Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have given to small-time content producers has provided a major boon to niche publishing and commentary, mainly because they can share the same platform as actors and politicians. The “alt-right” could not have skyrocketed in popularity without this support, and they have exploited this fact, flooding YouTube with videos, Twitter with troll accounts and Amazon with books.
But in the process of shuttering racialism, these companies are focusing on easy targets like neo-Nazi skinheads, while neglecting more influential voices. Audible, the popular audio book company owned by Amazon, tends to be known for a high degree of gatekeeping. Because audio books take a certain amount of capital to actually produce, and because Audible is picky about what it will include, it is a lot rarer to see insurgent, nationalist books populating the platform.
In the midst of Amazon’s recent push to remove white nationalist content from its platforms, the company has already removed “alt-right” books from publishers like Arktos Media. But there has been one glaring exception: Audible is still hosting several books by “male tribalist” far-right author Jack Donovan, a figure so central to the rise of the alt-right that it seems like more than a shocking oversight.
The Return of the Barbarian
Donovan is an unlikely figure to come to prominence inside a militant, fascist cadre scene, but these communities feed on contradictions and oddities. As an openly gay man, Donovan first became known as a member of the Church of Satan and published a book called Androphilia, which argued, among other things, that gay men need to stop calling themselves gay. His queerness is fully masculine, one he labels as a “Mars/Mars” attraction. Yet the term “gay,” to him, is indicative of effeminacy, feminism and leftist politics. He wants a warrior culture of male/male attraction, so he opposes gay marriage and argues that men with same-sex attractions need to drop out of queer communities, hit the gym and start learning masculinity from straight men.
Donovan believes that feminism is not just an ideology, but an expression of women’s core nature — one that they are imposing on men through modern social guilt. With the support of “elites,” his argument goes, women are going to create a world where men are no longer able to follow their “innate nature” and will be feminized. With this, his extreme transphobia and misogyny come out, just some of the many problems he has with queerness.
He went on to create an entire cottage industry of what he has labeled “male tribalism,” the recreation of masculine “gangs,” where men would act out primal masculinities based on violence. His 2012 book, The Way of Men, argued that men’s nature was “the way of the gang,” and that men are best when they avoid the trappings of modern liberalism and create insular “tribal” bands that enforce their will through violence and exclusivity. Men are not to be “citizens of the world,” but instead hold only allegiances to their small “tribe,” usually prescribed by qualities like ethnic and social bonding.
While working on that book, he shifted even further to the right, becoming a contributor to the white nationalist publication Radix Journal, operated by alt-right founder Richard Spencer, as well as white nationalist websites like Counter-Currents. He began speaking at white nationalist conferences, such as those held by the National Policy Institute, where he shared the stage with people like Spencer and white nationalist intellectual leader Jared Taylor. At the biggest white nationalist conference in the country in 2014, American Renaissance, Donovan gave a speech called “White Tribalism Disrupts Their Regularly Scheduled Programming” in support of white nationalists, suggesting that they are creating a “tribal” identity against modernity.
In interview after interview, he talked about what he saw as the “problems” of feminism (or just women in general), multiculturalism, and a culture that tries to suppress men’s “natural” instincts toward being warriors and expressing themselves through domination and violence. “I support White Nationalists. They are not all equally right about everything, but I am sympathetic to many of their general aims,” he wrote in a published article. He is opposed to what he sees as the “the deeply entrenched anti-white bias of multiculturalist orthodoxies,” and seems to support nationalism of other races, including a focus on Indigenous tribal identities of North America. Further, he has also made comments about potential racial differences in cognition. While his queerness was always controversial among the alt-right, his bulging muscles and masculine vibrato have often given him a pass.
In February 2017, Donovan was invited to Schnellroda, Germany, by the Institut für Staatspolitik conference, and has been propping up “identitarians” on his podcast, “Start the World.” The identitarian movement in Europe is a grassroots, anti-immigrant, fascist movement, on which the alt-right and organizations like Identity Evropa were modeled. Founded largely on the ideas of the fascist philosophical European New Right, identitarians want racial homogeneity, as opposed to modern multiculturalism, a notion that Donovan mirrors in his attacks on what he sees as globalizing universalism.
Donovan’s newest book, which is currently featured on Audible, is called A More Complete Beast. In it, he uses philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas of “Master Morality” over “Slave Morality” to realign men’s ethical priorities. Donovan argues men should value strength over weakness, stop rooting for the underdog and instead celebrate a culture where the valorous and strong rule over the weak.
Donovan’s Odinic Wolf Cult
At the peak of this work, Donovan joined an organization called the Wolves of Vinland, which has been commonly referred to as a white nationalist organization. This designation came largely from the fact that it was a “folkish” heathen group, which means a form of Nordic paganism that believes only people of white Northern European heritage should be a part.
This all-white organization was founded on the principles of a motorcycle gang, and members had to submit to rigorous physical challenges and fights. Members, adorned with tribal runes, sacrifice animals and submit to absolute loyalty. The founder, body builder and musician Paul Waggener, created the Wolves as an exclusive group, one that is receding from the “decadent” days of late liberalism to create a “counterculture” of committed men acting out what he believes to be a “natural” mode of masculinity.
While the Wolves are insular and rarely admit members, Waggener created a program for their ideology and workout regiments called “Operation Werewolf.” This operated both as a recruitment strategy for their organization and as a way for others to start their own, similar model. Operation Werewolf puts out zines and books with the organization’s ideas, creates diet and workout plans, sells swag and has become popular with ex-skinheads looking for a new branding for their white nationalist organizing.
The Wolves have done well recruiting from the edges of the right, including bringing in Kevin DeAnna, former staff member of the right-wing Leadership Institute and founder of the proto-alt-right Youth for Western Civilization. One Wolves member, Maurice Michaely, spent two-and-a-half years in prison for setting a Black church a blaze, resulting in $1 million in damages.
During all of this, Donovan has been at the front of the Wolves of Vinland as its most famous member and has committed his life to his new group. His 2016 book, Becoming a Barbarian, was built around this new vision of how men should live their lives, rejecting the trappings of modernity and thinking “tribally.” Violence is always central to this, and his essay, “Violence is Golden,” essentially argues that violence is at the center of all of history, and that it is how men define themselves, their value and where they stand in a hierarchy. Donovan has been prolific, doing podcasts with former Breitbart News editor and alt-light provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, game show host Chuck Woolery and a range of body builders, while getting boosts by writers like Chuck Palahniuk.
Part of what has given Donovan his cover is that his behavior and symbology rides large inside of power-lifting circles, and from his Instagram to his well-manicured poses, Donovan has designed himself as a massively muscled strongman. For a couple of years, Donovan rented a room inside of Elite Performance, a lifting gym in an Eastern Portland suburb, where he practiced his burgeoning craft as a tattoo artist. (Not surprisingly, he brandishes several Nordic runes, a fact that horrifies the largely anti-racist Nordic pagan community of the area.)
Donovan has more recently tried to distance himself from the alt-right, saying in an article on his website that he was not a white nationalist, but that he’s “not a spineless cuck who pisses his pants every time someone calls him a racist on Facebook.” He went on to defend his relationships with white nationalist publisher Counter-Currents and others, saying his primary reason for not joining with white nationalists is that he doesn’t like enough white people. Donovan recently parted ways with the Wolves of Vinland, which many speculate came from a disagreement with co-founder Paul Waggener.
At Audible, he has his own author page and sells multiple titles, all read aloud by himself. He is presented as a new and original voice that the website is giving ample support to. Audible subscribers can use their monthly credits to buy his audiobooks or purchase them outright. When users look at Donovan’s page, they see suggestions for other writers on masculinity, and similar to how people are being radicalized on YouTube, the Audible system will recommend Donovan to users who are interested in a range of less radical authors. This places Audible as one of the perfect vessels for online radicalization, a process whereby angry white men are being pushed toward militant far-right violence without ever entering a fascist organizational meeting.
Users then find themselves moving along a process of radicalization, where more moderate contributors eventually lead their way to Donovan. This model has not been uncommon for Donovan, whose books have been featured by liberal book outlets like Powell’s and, often because of his gay identity, has simply not been flagged as the provocateur his career indicates.
Donovan has been successful because he is able to mobilize misogyny in really profound ways, creating a violent angst in men and moving them into the fringes of the radical right. While Donovan was never a perfect fit inside the alt-right, he started publishing at AlternativeRight.com years before the movement became well-known and helped to create the nascent network that coalesced into the white nationalist mass movement today. He has been an important point of radicalization, and giving his books an equal platform is a profound statement for a company like Audible, which is redefining the audiobook format by keeping it in users’ pockets.
Audible’s high production values and exclusivity makes Donovan’s large profile feel more intentional rather than an oversight, which is common given the coded nature of his work. Misogyny still flies inside of mainstream male authorship, and Donovan’s calls for “tribal” male violence has a lot of appeal with a generation of men who are caught between patriarchy and a culture that no longer values toxic masculinity.
For men lacking meaning, Donovan provides a narrative and path forward. While no one values companies like Amazon or Audible having monolithic gatekeeping power, the collective voice of activists has shifted the tone of public acceptability, and that means setting standards about what we want propped up in large-scale media operations.