Interview: Alex Lee Moyer
Interviews Technology Internet

Interview: Alex Lee Moyer

Nick Whitaker
Nick Whitaker

Director of TFW No GF

When Amazon Prime posted a picture of Wojak, Twitter quickly took note. The streaming platform was announcing the premier of a new documentary, TFW No GF, after its planned South by Southwest debut was canceled due to COVID-19. Though many were quick to dub the film “The Incel Movie,” director Alex Lee Moyer had a different project in mind. As the media has focused on the “alt-right” and “incels,” Moyer contends that to the degree those groups exist at all, they are merely parts of a larger cultural shift taking place among young men. TFW No GF attempts to begin to understand this larger phenomenon. Athwart presents the first written interview with Moyer about the film.

The interview took place over email and has been edited for length and clarity.

Nick Whitaker: You’ve discussed how your work on The New Radical, a film profiling people using digital activism against governments, led you to work on TFW NO GF. What did you learn from Cody Wilson?

Alex Lee Moyer: From documenting Cody, I learned a lot about the dark web in general, and about questioning media narratives, and how scary ideas can be to people. That put me slightly ahead of the curve from any enlightenment that resulted from the 2016 election—but not by much. That being said, I’ve also learned a few things about what not to do from Cody, obviously. That being said, he remains a trusted friend and supporter of mine, as well as an advisor. He’s probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, if not the smartest.

Nick Whitaker: When I’ve seen interviews with Wilson, he seems like an intense and serious person. Where do you see him and the culture he represents as standing in relation to the subjects of TFW No GF? What connects their dispositions?

Alex Lee Moyer: I don’t see much connecting their dispositions per se. One thing that connects Cody to the subjects in this film is a keen understanding of Internet culture. Also, not being so far removed in age as the people in the film, Cody recognizes the underlying socioeconomic phenomenon at the heart of the film—and its importance to an understanding of the kind of postmodern era we’re living in. I should clarify that Cody is a producer on the film, but that there were several other producers—and that the budget for our film was basically nothing. Cody helped out as a friend and a supporter of my work—and that’s the only substantial connection here.

Nick Whitaker: Similarly, I’m curious—where do you see this new irony culture as standing in relation to Curtis Yarvin and the neoreactionaries of the late 2000s?

Alex Lee Moyer: Curtis is another friend of the film, only because he developed an interest in it after it was completed. It does seem like there’s been a loose network forming among some of the more dissident type intellectuals (and artists) online right now. Kantbot, Wilson, Yarvin, Justin Murphy, Red Scare, etc. I don’t flatter myself to include myself among them per se, but it’s been fun to watch it all come together.

Nick Whitaker: The group you film is often considered right wing. Do they have any unironic political commitments?

Alex Lee Moyer: I think that’s a misnomer. Yarvin considers himself a globalist, Wilson an anarchist, and I consider myself to be politically homeless. Like I’ve said, I’m an artist so politics is not really as much my concern. But yes, there certainly are people who would consider themselves Right or conservative. To me, it just comes down to people who are free thinkers vs. this new soft-core authoritarianism we’re living through, which is mostly just about the mainstream media and not even the general public. People just get called “right wing” anytime they don’t fall in line with the woke/liberal narrative. I think what “we” have in common is in some ways not so much about politics at all, but in sharing an interest in the proliferation of ideas. It’s not so taboo as everyone makes it out to be.

Nick Whitaker: How does the sad posting represented by Wojak relate to the motivation and self-help posting from people like Bronze Age Pervert? Is it a response to it, or more like a form of it?

Alex Lee Moyer: I don’t think the film bears any direct connection to BAP [Bronze Age Pervert], but he is a part of this bigger, ephemeral online enlightenment thing we’re talking about, and Bronze Age Mindset will of course remain a perennial classic. I’m sure a few of the guys in the film read it. The film wasn’t a response to it though. He’s just one part of a very large puzzle that I didn’t even pretend to solve.

Nick Whitaker: Bronze Age Pervert and Second City Bureaucrat were published in American Mind. Do you think we’ll see more institutions directly acknowledging Internet discourse in an honest way?

Alex Lee Moyer: I feel like not any time soon. But I could be wrong.

Nick Whitaker: Most people who know the story you’re telling at all probably know it from Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies. What do you think her story gets wrong?

Alex Lee Moyer: I’d have to go back and read it again to decide where she’s wrong. I do think the work she did with that was very important though and I recognize that I am in some ways carrying the torch there. The thing is this is an amorphous and rapidly developing culture that I’m not able to pin down any better than she was perhaps able to, which is why I haven’t tried. I’m more interested in observing.

Nick Whitaker: Nagel tells her story as a clash between 4chan and Tumblr culture. Post-2016, do your subjects have a natural antagonist?

Alex Lee Moyer: The Media.

Nick Whitaker: What’s the irony poster cannon? Outside of internet culture and memes, what are their common reference points?

Alex Lee Moyer: Oh god. It could be anything from Mishima to Hegel to Houellebecq to Elliot Rodger’s “My Twisted World” to Blade Runner 2049. The Unabomber’s manifesto . . . Of course there’s Bronze Age Mindset, Delicious Tacos’s kind of proto-efforts in self-publishing, and I guess Logo Daedalus has a book now too. Paul Town’s trilogy. The Weekly Sweat, Eggwhite’s Blackpill series and SoundCloud, School Shooter/Negative XP . . . It goes on and on . . . “Irony poster” is too big an umbrella. Kantbot’s Tren Warriors is good. Plus all the tweets—Menaquinone, Melzcizek . . . Again, I’m not the expert and not pretending that I’ve even read all of this shit or I’ll be hung from the highest tree. Just telling you my observations because I am of course, an outsider.

Nick Whitaker: An incident around the film Joker (2019) features in your documentary. How did Joker and the irony posting around it change the public understanding of this group? In a way, it seemed like the hysteria around it made the journalist class look bad.

Alex Lee Moyer:  You’re right. It did.

Nick Whitaker:  Do you see the so-called Dirtbag Left as playing the irony posters’ game?

Alex Lee Moyer: I think they try. The bar is set pretty high for them. I wish them luck.

Nick Whitaker: When Prime announced your film on Twitter, a lot of the reaction seemed anxious. What should people be expecting?

Alex Lee Moyer: The film is really quite wholesome. People will project what they want. I just wanted to make a doc about something I thought was important and interesting. I’m happy for the attention it’s getting whatever the case, and my only hope is that it can positively impact the audience as well as the demographic it profiles, even if it’s just a conversation.