MAGA through Manga: How Japanese media have fueled the Western right
by Peter Caddle | August 09, 2018
God have mercy on us all, but the truth can no longer be denied: Anime has become the spearhead of a major cultural shift. This terrifying phenomenon has been seen in the politically secular mainstream quite a bit recently. A prime example is professional weirdo Kim Kardashian, who seems to have acquired an appreciation for some of the stylistic elements of these peculiar Asian cartoons.
How has this ridiculous shift affected our politics? The mainstream may be a little apprehensive of the medium, viewing it as something for degenerate basement dwellers, but certain fringes of the right have embraced it and have long since begun using it for political purposes.
And what is the draw of this particular medium? Why do so many on the right love it so much?
To find out, let’s look back to the year the of Trump’s victory. Pepe was the big meme of 2016, there is no doubt regarding that. However, while Pepe was off doing a great job of triggering Hillary and her supposedly egalitarian acolytes, pictures of anime girls wearing MAGA hats were putting in work behind the scenes, bringing people to the right-wing cause through the awesome power of moe.
While this strange phenomenon didn’t attract the attention of the mainstream press (except for this), it didn’t go totally unnoticed either. Many internet denizens were asking the strange question of why anime had begun to be linked with the right. Even more unusual, it was the internet rag Buzzfeed, of all places, that gave the most credible answer, blaming it mainly on 2channel, the most prominent Japanese online image board, and the Japanese right.
Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Broderick suggested that the 2channel internet trolling “community” Netto-Uyoku, ended up inspiring the much more influential 4chan, which simply took up anime as an aesthetic tool to be used memetically.
While there is definitely a lot to be said for this explanation, I think there is a little more to it. There is something inherent to some Japanese media which has tugged at the very soul of the West.
Let’s face it: right now, Hollywood is awful. Leaving aside all the scandals, all it does is spew out sequel after sequel for mainstream audiences, and then hosts the occasional SJW-fests for critics who have totally lost touch with the audience. In fact, Western cinema and television production have stagnated completely.
Want proof? Compare last year in cinema to the year 1980. In 1980, we had “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Airplane” and “The Shining”. In 2017, we had a mishmash of Marvel movies and a Star Wars sequel so terrible even its diehard fans admitted it was “absolutely dreadful.”
The television department isn’t much better either. “Game of Thrones” has suffered terribly since departing from the plot of the books, and shows like “Westworld” and “Stranger Things” have relied so heavily on media generated years before that it just doesn’t feel like a product of the modern world.
Compare all this to the heavy hitters of 1980: “M*A*S*H”, “The Dukes of Hazard” and “Dallas”. Even to this day, all these shows are major household names. Will people be talking about “Stranger Things” in 30 years’ time? I doubt it.
Western politics is stuck in a slave morality right now, and the media made for the masses reflects this: Film today is often poorly written, politically correct, virtue signalling garbage that pushes leftist talking points at the expense of a good story. Although I’m not happy with this state of affairs, I do admit it makes logical sense considering that a society’s media is often made by those with power over said society. Currently, the left has power, so the left control the media.
In Japan it’s a different story. With Nippon Kaigi (Japanese hardline nationalist group) member Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister, it is the proudly Japanese right that currently holds sway over the hearts and minds of the Japanese people. As such, their media is also right wing, and although anime is a much more underground, contrarian medium within Japanese society, it does share many of the basic assumptions of the mainstream Japanese. It’s often pro-nationalist, pro-ethnic homogeneity, and almost exclusively anti-feminist -- especially with regard to the movement’s third and fourth wave.
It is therefore not surprising that the Western right loves anime, one of the few mediums left that actually pushes traditional values. Anime is filled with ethnically Japanese people, living culturally Japanese lives. More importantly, Westerners are often given the same treatment, depicted as blond-haired, blue-eyed and frequently presented in some idealised, almost mythical setting. Shows often take inspiration from some of the best and most obscure of Western mythology, meaning that the Japanese can acquire a better understanding of the myths and legends of the ancient West than most Westerners do.
Lastly, the nature of anime is that of perfection. It typically tries to present the perfect human form on-screen, and not the more imperfect form of it we find in everyday life. Boys in anime are often tough, and have indomitable spirits while girls are depicted as attractive, capable and caring creatures. Men are often courageous heroes or cunning villains, and women tend to be either pure maidens, diligent mothers, or wizened crones. It is a strangely idealised version of humanity, some aspects of which the right likes to encourage and strives for.
As such, it is totally unsurprising to me that we are seeing more and more anime memes from the right these days. Anime itself is a highly captivating niche that is helping to drive the right-wing political machine. For those on the right, it is also encouraging to see that there are nations like Japan where nationalist thinking is not only mainstream, but successful in building a modern society.
Watching anime provides a morale boost to the Western right, since it reminds us of the fact that we are not alone in our thinking. It is much easier to stand for good if you know that someone else is standing with you.
Peter Caddle writes for The Burkean Journal, a recently established online political and cultural magazine in Ireland that promotes conservative thought and ideas. This article is republished, lightly edited, with the permission of the editors.