On June 30, the far-right website Infowars posted a 15-minute-long video titled “Why modern architecture SUCKS.” This foray into design criticsim by Infowars—better known for pushing the ludicrous Pizzagate conspiracy and for host Alex Jones’ insistence that the Sandy Hook massacre was faked—comes on the heels of another video that turns well-known works of architecture into symbols of liberal decadence. I’m referring to the National Rifle Association’s “clenched fist” ad, which critics have called “chilling” and “an open call to violence.”
The aesthetic judgment in the NRA’s one-minute ad is implicit, almost subliminal, whereas InfoWars launches a full-bore attack. But both bear the same message about modern architecture: It is the province of the liberal urban elite, and that it stands for oppression.
The Infowars video is not the work of the red-faced, desk-pounding Jones but of a British alt-righter named Paul Joseph Watson. It’s a mish-mash of critiques borrowed from highbrow architectural traditionalists with other opinions that seem idiosyncratic to Watson. He clearly researched his subject, albeit through the keyhole perspective of “globalist” cultural tyranny.
Watson seems to have drunk deeply of the writing of James Howard Kunstler, the fiery retro-urbanist who wrote The Geography of Nowhere and whose TED talks Watson generously excerpts. Kunstler was an early influence on New Urbanism, and Watson touts many of the principles of that movement, extolling the virtues of neo-traditional architecture and of Poundbury, Prince Charles’ classicizing model town in southwest England. Watson also complains (correctly!) about restrictive zoning and makes a plug for mixed-use development, not seeming to realize that that is eminently compatible with large, contemporary-style buildings, and harder to find (and fund) in areas of low-rise houses, where he insists everyone wants to live.
The NRA’s ad, on the other hand, uses a somewhat different visual tactic. The spot is narrated by NRA spokesperson and talk-show pundit Dana Loesch, who lays out a series of charges against an unnamed “they”