Hamburger Nationalism

Sandy's Hamburgers

With the constant churn of the news cycle, it's easy to forget that the current counterculture moment initially coalesced around pop culture revolts like Gamer Gate and Sad Puppies. Whether the aim was to reform games journalism or expose the logrolling at science fiction awards, these early efforts brought together fans from different political backgrounds to push back against the ideological co-option of their hobbies.

Another common thread running through these consumer revolts was their backward-looking vision. Gamers wanted to get back to playing vidya. The SP Baen contingent pined for the days when Campbell edited Heinlein, while the pulp crew longed for more Howard and Burroughs. All were operating under the assumption that their fandoms were being invaded, and everything would return to normal once the invaders were repelled.

We learned the hard way it wasn't that simple. Each snake in the grass turned out to be one head of a hydra slithering through practically every aspect of pop culture. The problem wasn't restricted to a few bad actors pushing hard left politics. It turned out to be--as the Lefties are fond of saying--systemic.

A popular meme that made the rounds in the Gamer Gate days featured a chart showing that most Gators were left-libertarians. They were Xers, Ys, and Millennials raised in the ruins of Christendom whose only morals were a vague notion of the Harm Principle and the general injunction against "being a dick". They largely bought the mass media agitprop painting Christians and Conservatives as clownish busybodies. When Gamer Gate unmasked the utterly duplicitous nature of modern journalism, a sizable segment of gamers started to realize they'd been lied to about more than just games.

The mass awakening of young adults to the total gaslighting they'd been subjected to all their lives paved the way for the Pepe/meme magic phenomenon of 2016. This pent-up energy found the perfect lightning rod in candidate Donald Trump. Yet the nostalgia factor remained. Most of Trump's online base hoped for a nationwide rollback to the 1980s or 1950s.

Whatever the results of the election--if we ever really find out what they are--it's undeniable that an era is hurtling toward its end. The trailblazing consumer revolts succeeded only in spawning a string of dubious 'gates, each shabbier than the last, that mainly served to line grifters' pockets.

Realistic or not, Trump's lofty campaign promises have clearly not been met. Like the knockoff 'gates, his election raised a class of oily social media hustlers to meteoric prominence followed by equally rapid falls. Meanwhile, his supporters rationalize that the Deep State thwarted the President's reform efforts; then argue that his reelection is necessary to thwart the Deep State.

Last week, I stumbled across a YouTube channel that chronicled the rise and fall of once-popular American restaurant chains. The same lessons that fast food entrepreneurs failed to learn time and again should serve as warnings to dissenters from Clown World.

Watch the videos on that channel, and you'll soon see that almost every now-defunct fast food chain followed the same pattern of ascent and decline. A hard-working restaurateur with a vision opened a hamburger stand in the 50s. The business took off and exploded in popularity during the 60s. After opening a few hundred franchises, the original owner sold out to a big corporation. The new owners didn't understand the chain's popularity, and it changed hands multiple times until the 70s, when the economic downturn finally did the brand in.

If that pattern sounds familiar, it's probably because you're familiar with author David Stewart's Corporate IP Death Cycle. It turns out the same market forces and human greed that milk entertainment IPs dry do the same to burger chains--except in the latter case, there's usually no reboot phase. However, this rule admits of exceptions.

Check out this brief history of one of my favorite long-lost restaurant chains for a rundown of how the cycle goes:

The common themes that keep repeating are that the late 50s-late 60s was the golden age of the American fast food industry. If you wanted to open a burger stand, that ten-year period was the time to do it. Some starry-eyed kid hoping to start the next McDonald's is out of luck. Not only can't a serious rival to McDonald's break into the business today, the odds won't be any better tomorrow. The market conditions that allowed McDonald's to happen have simply been phased out of existence.

In a way, the Puppies, Gators, and MAGApedes were much like investors trying to start another McDonald's or Microsoft in their garage. They set out to challenge the corruption in the system, only to find that the corruption had become the system. They were copper tops fighting against the Matrix all along.

If we've learned nothing else, it's that the system can't be fought from within. It absorbs or crushes any internal threats. That's the Achilles' heel that's so far kept dissidents from winning. Their main interest so far has been walking the system back to a less-corrupt point of their liking. Even if that were possible, it would just set a new countdown to Clown World.

Failure is a much better teacher than success, and honestly facing up to it is the only way to learn those lessons. The lesson of 20th century commerce, pop culture, and politics is that the whole machine is hopelessly broken and was designed to break from the start--what engineers call planned obsolescence. The dissident's main interest, therefore, must be replacing the current unsalvageable arrangement with something else.

Break free of the Pop Cult!

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier


  1. Man, this digs deep. Quoted for truth: "They set out to challenge the corruption in the system, only to find that the corruption had become the system. They were copper tops fighting against the Matrix all along."

  2. So many lessons!
    One of the most important ones is that corporations do not act like people. The reputation of a burger chain is an asset to extract the value from, but to the man who built that reputation, it was something much more than that. Cooks and business owners are artisans too.

    1. Restaurant Rewind's best example of that is their Hot 'n' Now retrospective. A diligent Christian businessman parlayed his years of food service experience into a successful franchise. Then he sold out so he could focus on philanthropic projects. Long story short: PepsiCo destroyed the business he'd built in a few years.

  3. Brian, that was an unexpected and fascinating title to your latest column. "Hamburger Nationalism"? Wow! That's a good way to catch someone's eye. Well done on the title.

    And another explanation why I support Distributism. The big hamburger chains tend to crowd out and smother the local burger makers and smaller chains. That kills competition and is, as I see it, anti-market.

    1. I find I'm parting ways with laissez-faire capitalism more and more as the evidence of its corrosive effects mounts.

      Yes, a burger joint is the property of its founder. He doesn't operate in a vacuum, though. In healthy societies, places like restaurants serve vital social roles. They get entwined with the lives of customers whose fond memories of birthday dinners, first dates, and first jobs intimately involve those places.

      Morally, it could be argued that a long-time neighborhood dining spot belongs to the neighbors as much as the owner. In such cases, I could be convinced to support requiring the owner to get his regular clientele's permission before selling out to GloboCorp.

    2. This hits home. It's like when somebody asked why I was so emotional about all the changes to the Star Wars movies. I had to think about that for a minute. What I realized is that I had many fond memories of (mostly winter) days, usually during holidays, when my dad and I would watch the movies on TV. When I grabbed the THX mastered VHS boxed set (still regret getting the pan and scan, but I was young and foolish), we would occasionally watch through them on a Saturday. I would sit on the floor with my Star Wars Micro Machines. Dad would kick back in his recliner.

      Whenever I watch the special editions, the associations with those memories are jolted out of place whenever I see something so obviously changed as the Jabba scene from Star Wars or the awful Jabba's Palace redo in Return of the Jedi. It ruins the experience far more than a bad effect ever could.

      It's why the "They're MY movies and I can do what I want" argument never sat right with me.

    3. I thought of something like that while framing my argument above. You won't hear me peddling Death of the Author theory, but the experience of art always requires the audience's participation.

      People who insist that a work of art belongs solely to the artist have either a) never created art, b) never talked to their audience, or c) never listened if they did talk to them.

      Perhaps the most eye-opening part of going pro as a writer has been hearing my readers' takes on my work. I've written ten books now, but you can add the number of readers to that total, because each reader creates the story anew in his head.

    4. On a related note, you're on to something with Star Wars. I'd argue that the original trilogy has ascended to the Western canon. Lucas encapsulated a folk mythology for America just like Tolkien did for Britain. The Death Cult understood that far better than he did. That's why they spent billions to destroy it.

    5. I've defended the Special Editions on the grounds that authors have been revising their work for a long time and generally have the right to do so, but I'm at least sympathetic to the idea that the originals should be generally available as well.

      But for all its impact, I'm also starting to wonder if even the OT was too ungrounded, its glimpses of the True and Beautiful too cloud and ephemeral, to withstand the weight a generation placed on it even before the Antichurch seized it. Perhaps that's just the bitterness of age speaking, though. I spent 25 years invested in the EU, for good or for ill, and while I was fine with the idea of a revision and ressourcement, what we got was … disappointing.

    6. "But for all its impact, I'm also starting to wonder if even the OT was too ungrounded, its glimpses of the True and Beautiful too cloud and ephemeral, to withstand the weight a generation placed on it even before the Antichurch seized it."

      I think you're onto something there. When I read Jeffro Johnson's Appendix N, I learned about Lucas's attempts to remake Flash Gordon at first, and when that failed how that led him to Burroughs. And of course his take on Campbell's Hero of a 1,000 Faces is well know, as well as his being influenced by Kurosawa's movies. Lucas, in reality, and much like Quentin Tarantino if you think about it, is a syncretist more than anything else, and the problem is that it's such an unfocused syncretism, that it can be pulled in too many directions by too many interpretations perhaps. There's not enough single "core" that you find that can't be altered suitably by the whim of a licensed fanfic writer (which to be honest, is everything in SW since The Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and the problem is that the now semi-sacred EU was at least half crap, let alone the Disney era - most people I think are over-romanticising the EU - it had a large share of clunker material in it).

    7. I followed the EU from about a year after it took off through to the end ... and you're right, it's got a lot of clunky material in it. My cherry-picked EU is more the Zahn, X-Wing, WEG, and Tales of the Jedi stuff plus a handful of odds and ends (such as Kathy Tyer's The Truce at Bakura). I think the New Jedi Order and the Legacy of the Force--especially the latter--crippled the 'ongoing' side of things on the post-Jedi side, and the Clone Wars TV series did a number of anything in that era with things like Darth Maul returning, Mortis, and the Nightsisters.

  4. In gaming news you may have seen the CEO of Ubisoft grovel like Gollum before the metoo onslaught. Michel Ancel, who has been an Ubi game veteran since the early '90s, is retiring and while details are sketchy, I suspect he realized the blue-Cheka would eventually come for him.

    Also Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime has jumped ship to form Dreamhaven. His exit interview was buzzword soup, but maybe he can pump out an interesting game.

    1. Seeing that blue hair on stage at E3 introducing Beyond Good & Evil 2 and then seeing the 21st century diversity checkbox of cliche's in the footage was enough to tell me that he probably only got his sequel greenlit so the hacks could take it over and ruin it like they have with every new Ubisoft property over the last seven years.

      I'm sure Ancel realized his time was up and that's why he left.

      AAA is a dead man walking.

    2. I really haven't been able to bring myself to care about AAA gaming in years, and I don't understand why anyone else cares, either.

    3. Brian,

      I find it interesting that the game I am playing the most right now is Street Fighter Collection on the Switch. Its something like 9 Street Fighter games from the late 80's to the 90's. But I got to tell ya, its more addictive than most of the new releases.

      The only modern release that has enthralled me the same way has been the Mortal Kombat games or the various Metal Slug Collection. I know I am showing my age but those games are simple, fun and once your hooked you want to play all the time and the characters make for endless challenges.

  5. This does help to explain why so many in Gen Y and Millennials are anti-capitalist, though it is a bit like missing the forest for the trees and prescribing cyanide to treat an infection. Mammon worship goes beyond monetary systems. However, a system that rewards destruction and unfettered greed is broken, no matter how much we might want to cling to self-centered ideals.

    GloboCorps have gotta go. The local neighborhood and the owner alone should benefit from their businesses. Want to sample their wares? Come visit. That's what tourism is supposed to be for.

    We're turning the entire world into a combination of LA and NYC separated by sugar-addled ignorant urbanites on one side and everyone else on the other. They have their own architecture, religion, and culture, and wish to invade everyone else and forcibly convert or destroy them. This Globo crap allow them to do it.

    It's time to cut them off.

    1. Roosh made a proposal that I thought was good at the time and am convinced is necessary now: No more billionaires. You can have up to $100m in personal wealth; anything beyond that gets seized. That's more than anyone could spend in a lifetime, but it's not enough to fuel Soros/Bezos/Gates style global Bond villainy.

    2. Speaking in currency or in total value? Most of the super rich don't have their wealth in cash. It's in equity, stocks, property, etc.

      You'd need to close the "Foundation" "loophole", which is already how most of them handle their villainy. When people talk about Soros money, it's generally channeled through the OSI/OSF network (not him writing a check). I will admit to not having read Roosh's proposal, which may have dealt with this piece.

    3. Here's a more moderate proposal: corporations must be national, not transnational. They must have a single chief location for all purposes simultaneously: they will be under both the taxation regime and the law of that single jurisdiction and no other.

      Second, and this in considered, conscious, and direct opposition to the seizure proposal: all advantages for corporations - legal, tax, and other - relative to individuals and families must end. Charity via arm's length "institutions" and "foundations" must end. If a billionaire wishes to support a cause, he must cut a cheque for it, and sign it with his own name. No "NFP NGOs" in the political sphere whatsoever; politics will be considered a for-profit activity henceforth and forevermore.

      If the problem was money or a love of it, no era, place or system would ever have been, or could ever aspire to be, better than right now.

    4. I’m having trouble finding Roosh’s proposal. Do you recall the title by any chance?

      Building forward politically is definitely going to have to address the problem of Big Business, Big Banking and Big Wealthy (Billionaires). It also needs to push to having money again instead of debt currency.

    5. https://www.rooshv.com/6-policies-i-would-enact-as-president-of-the-united-states

  6. Brian

    To follow up on Roosh's proposal, there's a growing interest in common good jurisprudence in AngloAmerican legal thinking. And finally the Anglophones are looking at Latin law via Spanish/Latin American law for ideas.

    Cf https://iusetiustitium.com/common-good-constitutionalism-and-the-ius-constitutionale-commune-in-latin-america/


  7. "A popular meme that made the rounds in the Gamer Gate days featured a chart showing that most Gators were left-libertarians. They were Xers, Ys, and Millennials raised in the ruins of Christendom whose only morals were a vague notion of the Harm Principle and the general injunction against 'being a dick'. They largely bought the mass media agitprop painting Christians and Conservatives as clownish busybodies."

    I'd like to add to that a bit if I can. I first got online in 1995 as a college freshman, in the Netscape / Geocities / Angelfire era. What I encountered, in the about 5-15 years older than me collection of "netizens" people who knew how to code before HTML, were using computers at the end of the ARPANET/DARPANET era, and who were in computer science and engineering - the original "hacker" culture all had a very common set of cultural memes, touchpoint texts, movies, books, and ideas to an extent that present day "fandom" can't grasp. It was almost a monoculture - if you were a computer guy and internet savvy, then you were, as you said, a "left libertarian" - you'd all read the Principia Discordia (Hail Discordia!), you'd read the Illuminatus! Trilogy, you could quote Life of Brian in your sleep, etc. It was also very much the same canon. You saw the same limited number of anime commercially available in the US (or bought 4th and 5th generation sub tapes), you all knew Pat Robertson was a toolbag, listened to Rush, and read the same fanfic on USENET and rec.arts.anime. It was a small crowd with the same politics. This crowd cheered along with SJG and Palladium books for "standing up" to the "right wing censors" who would spoil all the fun. Now what's funny today, is this same crowd of old heads - every single last one of them almost has rolled over and played dead for the woke mobs, nearly every time. What's more, they can't seem to figure out _what_ happened. They "thought we were all in this together," or "we're all on the same side" - it's pathetic to watch, and hindsight being 20/20 they should have seen it coming. The woke generation is most certainly NOT libertarian tragically hip theory wonks (and it's funny, because there's still a cadre of oh-so-libertarians in the Baen crowd). Then there's the members of this generation that, instead of becoming either stockholm syndrome hostages of the woke side of fandom (because they'd still rather go with them than any evil "right-wingers" or Christians, gawhd forbid!) are the ones who embraced it wholesale - essentially the "tenured radicals" of fandom. It makes me think that American Christianity made something of a huge tragic mistake by alienating so many of the damaged, lonely weirdo crowd - I think we practically forced them to the other side (and I'm saying this as one of those kids who became a metal head, punk, gamer, etc, and came back to the Church in his early 30s).

    1. The only person I can think of that doesn't fit this pattern is Eric Raymond.

      I tend to fit the mold and have the same recollection, although I was on the younger end of the phenomenon described. But I disagree that "American Christianity" alienated these people. There probably wasn't outreach where there could have been, but there was no event where they were pushed away or unwelcomed. The mostly fit in Brian's "mad at dad" category (even if it wasn't a hot rage, it was a "I'll do what I want and you can't tell me where I can't stick it" whether it's a disk or something else - I still get a little embarassed when I hear retreads of "it's just a number, man" to complain about copyright infringement or crypto cracking).

    2. Most of the old hacker culture has indeed fallen under the power of the Death Cult, and even ESR is part of it. Others, like RMS, were always leftists. I've interacted with ESR on his blog a bit. He might be fighting it for now, but at the end of the day, he is a pagatheist openly hostile to Christianity.

    3. "But I disagree that "American Christianity" alienated these people. There probably wasn't outreach where there could have been, but there was no event where they were pushed away or unwelcomed."

      I'm going to disagree with you there, at least from personal experience. My parents, although nominally Catholic, were big 700 Club watchers back in the '80s and '90s, and there were also plenty of pastors in the Church and not just on TV who were actively campaigning against particular forms of music and such. I was forbidden to play D&D or any "fantasy" games for a number of years (that probably had more to do with the "Mazes and Monster" movie itself). Church youth groups in our local area actively shared Jack Chick pamphlets - I'd say it was a pretty active campaign. It definitely alienated me and many of my friends - I know anecdotes aren't data, but it was pretty real.

  8. Of course I can think of people that don't fit the pattern (I'd include myself, for instance) - I meant to say the only mainstream or well-known person from the hacker culture/cypherpunk time period described.