A case against branding everything you do
I posted this snarky piece of bullshit to my twitter feed yesterday and a good many people had a bit of a laugh. My beef was primarily with Weiser, which is why I don’t mention Georgina Rose by name, who you may also know as Da’at Darling. She recently announced a book deal with Weiser about Thelema and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t get under my skin.
I want to make something clear. I am an enthusiastic supporter of “the kids”. There has been a significant upswing across the last decade in the study of the occult and a mass abandonment of organized religion in favor of something more personal and it has to do with the broadest disillusionment of entire generations, starting with those poor folks, The Millennials. I land somewhere smack-dab in the middle of Generation X and even though our reputation in the 90’s was something of a disaffected generation that broke from the trails blazed by our parents, most of us still sold out in the end and brought you a lot of the platforms that are burning the world to the ground as I write this. We ended up carrying the torch for our Boomer parents when we should have taken that torch and set fire to everything that came before. It was the generation that followed us that did it right. They had no choice, really. They came out of university bright eyed and optimistic, having been patted on the head by their parents across their entire childhood for how awesome and special they are only to get slapped immediately with shocking interest rates on six-figure student loan debts that would more or less put the traditional American life of family, career, and home ownership permanently out of reach. They were the first ones to look back at us, the ones who came before, and ask, “What the fuck, you guys?”
It was the generation that came next that pissed in the punchbowl and I’m going to do my best here not to make this about kids these days, since many of them are shaking things up in other ways, but a good deal of kids moving into the marketplace right now have a host of tools at their disposal that allows them to take the source of most people’s anxiety, social media, and make a lucrative career out of yapping away in front of a camera while playing Minecraft. The gig economy has infected every part of life, mutating everything so that it has a hook now that one can use to hang a price tag. Google Adsense, monetized Youtube, Patreon, Ko-Fi, Fiverr, Etsy, now more than ever you can take whatever you do when you’re not at work and make a second job out of it! Yes! That thing you do to chill out and decompress from a busy day on the clock can be tuned to bring you all the same anxiety and paranoia that your regular job does. You now have an avenue to infuse the things you love with the same hate and vitriol you keep on the side for your 9-5 job. Even I have a Ko-Fi account but I hardly ever mention it and someone throws a couple bucks at it here and there but I keep my expectations realistic. I truly enjoy doing this but would I want to make a living out of it? I can think of few things worse than having to attach a schedule to writing about magic and sticking to it lest I lose money. I would also have to start looking at metrics and tuning my writing to the stuff that people are most likely to engage with rather than just write whatever I feel like. Writing becomes content, a word that I’ve learned to fucking loathe. Content simply exists in a space. It’s a volume of something in a place and not necessarily something worth looking at. It’s just there to take up space and hold whatever sliver of the attention economy that you can get your hands on.
The other day I received an email from a company called Wisdom who wanted me to bring my podcast, Fear is the Mind Killer, to their platform in the same way that I had to opt in on Spotify. I figured, hey, why not? But when I looked at it, it occurred to me that the sales person sending me this email had woefully misunderstood the themes of my show. The title of it, a well-known litany from the novel Dune, could be read a certain way if you’re unfamiliar with Frank Herbert, and you could misunderstand it to be a self-help mantra for go-getters and modern entrepreneurs, because this is what Wisdom is. It’s a sort of social media network of podcasts for people who are into motivational stuff, self-help gurus, and all that. I informed them of this discrepancy and they replied with the email version of a shrug of the shoulders.
This morning I received an email from a guy who offered me a new way to monetize my show. I opened the email out of curiosity only to learn that he repped a business that had a stable of professional podcast guests and that I could earn a commission for booking them. It went straight into the garbage. It’s flattering to know that I’ve reached a place where people think they can scam me but for fuck’s sake! Must everything be monetized? I have no intention of using the monetize function on Anchor for FitMK, nor do I have any plans of ever turning on the premium posts option here and holding content ransom until you pay up. That’s not why I’m doing this.
Back to the meme up top. It got a bit of heat from my followers and we had a good time being craven little haters for a few hours but it inevitably brought out the Da’at Darling fan club who varied between accusations of me being a bitter and bald middle-aged man and someone trying to latch on to her fame by being nasty and it’s the latter accusation that really got me to thinking. I can’t possibly be the only person doing this because they simply enjoy it, can I? I mean writing about the occult. Not dunking on dopey TikTokers who are rewarded for their social media savvy in spite of their well-known reputation for plagiarism. Many of the comments putting me to the question orbited notions of “I’m young and nobody takes me seriously. I have to do whatever I can to get recognition.”
Good God. I’m old and nobody takes me seriously. It’s an inescapable constant in life. Just look at that picture of me! That’s how I choose to present myself in a world of content consumption that expects me to be bristling with silver jewelry, Black Craft Cult clothes, and guyliner. Does it look like I give one single fuck about my brand?
And yet I still write.
It’s not like any of my critics will read this, but I’m going to say it anyway: Recognition is overrated. Having an audience is validating but the size of that audience is meaningless. It’s the effect that your writing has on them that matters. People who are trying to build a personal brand that they can capitalize on out of online occult person are creating content, not quality. They have to. There’s a ratio of social media followers to monetization that needs to be reached if you’re going to make a living doing this and that ratio is insane. It’s something like one out of every thousand active followers who will eventually throw you a few cents for your work. The quest then shifts away from producing quality writing/video/audio to simply creating content in order to keep your engagement numbers growing. In a very short time your stream of content goes from being stuff you’re quite proud of to stuff you put out there because you simply had to. Commanding authority, or even just an adequate amount of knowledge to speak on a topic takes a backseat to simply sounding like you know your business and nowhere is nuance and detail shunned more than on the God damn internet.
There’s a very solid reason for why initiatic orders don’t recruit. You’ll never find a member drive going on at a Masonic Lodge. Their order is shrinking to insignificance in the United States and despite this, they stick to their guns. When you recruit, you’re going to end up with a lot of people who join for poor reasoning or the wrong reasons, altogether. If you let people come to you, however, you get to be an active part in their initiation and help them find out if your order is really, truly right for them and their path. Sometimes they won’t be a good fit and having a period of zero-degree initiation, where they meet their lodge associates and see how the chemistry goes ends up stocking lodges with people who click and are going to get a lot of out of the work that they put in. But if this is what you do, creating content for the internet that reflects your love of magic and occult, you’re way better off approaching it with this philosophy. Simply put your work out there. Promote it, by all means, but you don’t have to go nuts. Work on your own schedule. Expect no compensation. Simply do the work because you love to do it. Let it fulfill you in all the ways that writing for money can’t. The validation will come. It absolutely will. Your audience will find you. But don’t put a price tag on it. Do it because you love it and the love will shine through. The right people will find you. Writing for yourself will end up being writing for them and the feedback you get from that will be so much more rewarding than cranking out articles, videos, and podcasts because you risk losing eyes and ears.
My criticism of Georgina stems from several factors. Key to that piece of mockery up there is her naked plagiarism of other writers. When it came to light that she was liberally stealing from other writers she quickly went through her feeds and deleted anything that could be used against her and being that she was just some kid online at the time, no one thought to screenshot anything so all we have is anecdotal evidence.
There was also the matter of some screenshotted texts between her and her ex, a dude who goes by The Nemeton, where she laid out her plan exploit the Thelema niche because all her influencer friends were choking up the pagan scene and that “they will simp for me”, a phrase meaning that Thelema dudes will be horny. Which is what happened. Young and pretty can go a long way when your knowledge of the topic you claim authority over is, in fact, quite lacking. The Nemeton turned out to be a lunatic, which cast an unfortunate pall over the entire situation and, again, the screenshots vanished with all of the manic break-up posting that cast the dude in a seriously unpleasant light.
If her moves to establish herself as a teacher on the topic of Thelema were in earnest and not simply recognition of a scene packed to the rafters with thirsty dudes who can’t help themselves but engage with a fantasy (Scarlet) woman on the internet I would never have posted that picture. I wouldn’t have had a reason to. But brand-building is the name of the game here and exploiting something that is extremely important to me and close to my heart, being that the occult quite literally saved my life, I take it a bit more personally that most folks will. I was met with comments like, “You’ve obviously never spoken with her if you think she doesn’t know her shit.” And I’m here to tell you that I have, in fact. I followed her for a time and we have had some interactions. However, I’m still confident in my claims that her character online is just a cynical cash-grab because her knowledge of magic and, in particular, Thelema, is woefully incomplete. And you know what? Ordinarily, that’d be fine! She’s, like, twenty years old. No one is a walking encyclopedia of anything at that age. But any time she says anything of merit, it was sourced from someone else’s material as though it were her own. And when engaging with her fandom-obsessed defense force who, to the best of my knowledge, acted completely of their own volition, arguing that someone knows more than you do on a topic does not mean that they’re knowledgeable. “Knows more than I do” does not equate to “Mastery of a topic”. It doesn’t even mean “knows their shit”. It just means that they know more than you do.
Finally, fuck Weiser Books, man. Online publishing is killing the old publishing vanguard and most of the usual suspects in their publication schedule is aging out and retiring for good. They know full-well that they need some new blood and are willing to trade in any notion of respect that they may have carried for young person with recognizable face. Some beasts are doomed to die as a guttering candle in a drafty room. At least go out with some dignity, Weiser.