TGRB #2 - "Gargoyle" by Jake Hanrahan
The most valuable talent in new media is being able to produce compelling content. You can be as wise, kind, passionate, dedicated, scrupulous et cetera as man is capable of being but if you cannot shape their products into something entertaining or intriguing, well – who cares?
Jake Hanrahan always creates interesting content. An investigative journalist who worked for Vice and elsewhere before establishing his own media platform, Popular Front, he has a lot of guts and marches to the beat of his own drum. A lot of us spend our working lives sitting at home, peering at the laptop, scratching our heads and wondering if our next drink will be caffeinated or alcoholic. Hanrahan has been everywhere from separatist Donetsk to a Turkish prison.
Gargoyle, a collection of his journalism, ranges from a profile of a wealthy Dark Web drug dealer, to an essay exposing the terroristic neo-Nazi death cult Atomwaffen, to an account of his time enduring the dubious hospitality of Recep Erdoğan.
The book is called Gargoyle to reflect Hanrahan’s interest in the morbid and peripheral. It is interesting to get to know, through his experiences, people on the geopolitical, ideological and technological fringes of society, though of course it should not be idly assumed that such phenomena will remain there. From ISIS to crypto-currencies, a lot of things which might have seemed like marginal curiosities have burst into the mainstream.
There is fittingly absurdist humour here. In Donetsk, we are told, McDonald’s is not called “McD” but “DonMak”. There is a lot of poignant detail as well, such as this, from a profile of a young Scot who ran off to fight ISIS:
...the pop, pop, pop of fireworks sounded from somewhere outside. Straight away, Callum was on his feet and by the window. “Incoming!” he shouted. “Allahu Akbar!”
Then he looked back at me, imaginary rifle still at his shoulder, and laughed.
Hanrahan is attuned to how much the hunger for meaning, camaderie and respect drives young men, sometimes for better and sometimes, as in the case of this deranged Atomwaffen murderer, for worse:
Woodward posted many hundreds of messages to the Atomwaffen chats. But, on January 5th, he typed out a few lines that are quite distinct from all the rest. In them, the raging young man suddenly became highly sentimental.
“Hey everyone,” he wrote. “I just wanted to let you all know I Iove you so much.”
Two days earlier, according to prosecutors, he had buried Bernstein’s lifeless body in a shallow grave in a park in California after stabbing him to death.
This juxtaposition is more damning and affecting than a thousand pejoratives.
A problem with foreign reporting – well, with all reporting but especially foreign reporting as I have less of a pre-existing knowledge base – is that I often feel as if I am being tempted to support a side, even when it is far from clear that I have any reason to do so. More often than not I don’t want to be on anyone’s side – any more than I would care about choosing between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain – but I want the truth.
Hanrahan has biases, of course – you will be surprised to hear that he is no big fan of the Turkish state - but I think he plays it straight when it comes to the facts. When the dead-eyed Soviet nostalgist Ben Norton alleged that Roman Protasevich, the Belarusian man who was dragged off the plane that was grounded in Minsk last month, had been working with the far right militants of the Azov Battalion I was inclined to shrug it off. Norton thinks anyone is a fascist if they happen to oppose an American enemy. I suspect he accuses ten people of fascism before breakfast. Hanrahan, though, who I believe is drawn to anarchism, and who certainly opposes tankies, said Protasevich could at least be associated with the group. It turns out that there is evidence to support this theory. Perhaps it will turn out to have been incorrect – and I will say that Protasevich could believe literally anything and I would still think it is outrageous and abominable that he was very obviously tortured into making the false statement that he was being treated well. Torturing someone in an attempt to make them to tell the truth is dreadful but I can at least appreciate the motivation. Torturing someone in an attempt to make them tell a lie earns you a trip to Hell. Still, the facts must be established, whoever benefits from them, and presenting evidence against interest wins you respect from me.
In his introduction, Hanrahan writes:
I the idea of...gargoyles riling up the pious. I think those lucky enough to live in the warmth, should at least be made aware of those outside.
I don’t know about this. Sometimes it is better to appreciate the beauty of the whole cathedral rather than focusing on the gargoyles. But ugliness has a way of spreading inwards, and sometimes, it must be said, beauty is built on the perverse and the profane. So, it is good to have people out there on the fringes – and, besides, it is very entertaining.
If you enjoyed this free article, please consider taking out a monthly or yearly subscription. I should say that Jake sent me a free copy of the book - though I would have written a warm review anyway. You have to give a little more than a free book to corrupt a seasoned opinion commentator. Like two free books.