Joe Clark

Catholic projects

Biggie smalls:
Staying just the right size in one’s Internet niche

Celebrity is now microcelebrity; online microcelebrity is the new celebrity. For some sense of the term, all fame is online. “Now you have two problems.”

More than that number, actually, because one should not chase fame. It’s all but impossible to conjure fame into existence without selling out, not least to satanic forces. If one has intrinsic talent, it’s possible to publish “content” that appeals to normiecucks; if one also engages in techniques that seem straightforward in retrospect, like blocking nobody and accepting every single friend request, you too can become Pewdiepie.

Except you can’t, and you shouldn’t want to. Everyone has just the right size to become – and to remain at.

Even Papists can be sellouts

Now imagine that the impulse to chase fame were to apply to devout Catholic men on the Internet. This, if anything, amounts to the fruit of a poisoned tree that has its own “app” on something called “Google Play,” a name that shouldn’t be taken seriously by a grown man, let alone uttered.

And indeed the manliness question – the MQ – is core to the discussion.

Never go full Sammy Davis, Jr.

Those, then, are the apex predators of Catholic media. They constantly talk about gays and lesbians without ever being able to utter those words. They make money had over fist. Taylor Marshall (doctor/Dr.) chases every ambulance in daily Catholic news, and never stops nagging us to pray. (Via Hallow or in Japanese?)

Tell us again, “Matt,” how proud you are that your kids can admit any of their transgressions to you yet your love continues unabated. Such a great Catholic dad – sorely needed in our time. I’ve gone to Byzantine divine liturgies for months at a stretch, and I do not buy an Australian in Steubenville as any kind of “Byzantine Catholic.” Then there are his liege’s baronial requirements to book him as a speaker.

Now, why would you want to be like these guys? Though being as handsome and manly as Marshall has no tangible downside, any labouring to become ever more popular, for no reason you could even articulate to yourself, let alone to your fans, stands barely any distance away from a one-eyed black Jew selling his soul to the devil. Never go full Sammy Davis, Jr.

The Armillary Spheres Model

Even if you’re a minority of sorts, if there are just enough of you in the first place – like English-speaking Catholics – then this firmament has the enough capacity for nested globes, each smaller than the previous. This Armillary Spheres Model applies to any number of cultures and subcultures, but certainly to us.

If you have a fan base, then somebody smaller than you can also have one of those, which in turn will be smaller. What’s true in macrocosm is true in minicosm, and again true in microcosm. A certain point of reductio approaches absurdum, in that even if we accept that the kids are always doing things the adults in the room cannot understand, how precisely are there enough such kids to keep these projects afloat?

But – surprisingly – there are.

I watch or listen to he-man Dr. Marshall and a South Australian. But the best show not on television is Avoiding Babylon, a near-zero-budget Catholic entrevue livestream (they’ve also got a few prerecorded videos) that is nothing if not a testimony to the power of the garrulous autodidact.

In fact:

Also blessed by a classically manly phenotype (and – so much rarer – a guileless smile), “Host & Founder” Anthony Abbate uses his high verbal tilt to elucidate biblical typology off the cuff and with accurate paraphrases. One does not expect a Long Island asphalt-spreader to have this degree of scholarship, nor to display effortless fluency. His cohost has managed not to be too scandalized by my humour.

But, G‑d love him, part of Anthony still wants his show to be bigger, or at least to score ostensible A‑list guests. No! Avoiding Babylon has enough recurring invitees to achieve a cozy friend-of-the-show feel – and I wouldn’t have heard of any of those guests if Avoiding Babylon hadn’t been there in the first place. But they’ve all got their own platforms already.

(On the plus side, some guests are so adorable I’ve coined my own sobriquets for them. Like the rather severe Fr. James Mawdsley, or, as I call him, Father Mawds & Rockers. Also an ex-con – but I’ll get to that in due course.)

Anthony et al. could stand to take in a bit more money from fans, who themselves may be at their limits, but Avoiding Babylon does not need to get bigger. How could that be “better”? There is no other show that could have hosted the conversion story, told in her own vernacular, of Nancy Charles, a tough turbodyke with a chequered past. But Nancy is also blessed with a brother who’s an amateur theologian and a convert to a Catholicism (and not a nerd or a dweeb); God’s plan for her duly fell into place.

Nowhere else could this story have been told. You heard it there first! All the big names wouldn’t even have been able to use the terms “lesbian” or “come out.”

And now, for the love of Pete, Anthony’s stated dream is some kind of twofer in which Taylor Marshall and Matthew Fradd appear on his show together. Can nothing be done to deprogram this man? He’s been getting so much else right.

Subterranean depths below Avoiding Babylon

Indeed the lads have been completely unaware of these labours of love:

  1. The entire œuvre of cantankerous swamp Yankee/ex-con John Dios.

    • I am the last person on earth who understands the Holy Agony, his Catholic sound experiment. I have had a 100% failure rate explaining this project, nor have I been able to get anyone – at all, not even kool-kid priests – to listen beyond the first 20 minutes of Episode 1. Of course I maintain the archives: I may be the Holy Agony’s sole surviving fan.

    • I’ve appeared on John’s successor project, Cathedral in the Pines, twice.

  2. The only original and listenable Scripture podcast, Trans Regret Snoopy Presents the Bible. I have learned more from this show than from anything I have paid any attention to in 15 full years of walking down the street listening to podcasts.

    Any of Snoopy’s guests who could be even vaguely described as Internet-famous have – reliably – proved to be crashing bores (modulo a ginger washed-up alternative-rock singer), while weird marginal transgenderist guests turn out to know what they’re talking about and have something original to say.

    Snoopy gets an extra dose of hormones (I meant an indulgence) for showcasing friend of the show Thomas Jay Oord and his elucidation of open and relational theology. Summed up as the God Can’t hypothesis, Oord’s theological varietal amounts to a real shit-test of one’s faith. And I never would have heard about it had I not been a loyal listener.

    (My appearance on the show was marred by the worst audio I’ve ever heard, and it was all my fault. I’ll sound better next time.)

  3. Do Australian-Lebanese Maronite Catholics need their own talk show? Apparently so.

    Maronite monk in head-covering habit (red crucifix on forehead)

    Where else might one meet a blue-eyed, fair-skinned, butterscotch-bearded Arabic-speaking Catholic monk – with the coolest habit in Christendom? (There’s a white version for Sunday wear that I gotta see. And! They’re vegetarians.)

  4. Last but not least, one of the few æsthetics that non-progressives (or “conservatives”) have actually gotten right: Tradwave.

    • Conservatives cannot communicate typographically, but dissident youth have invented entire new visual styles. The Tradwave æsthetic descends from Vaporwave. (I’ll keep using initial caps. And I won’t render it as Vapourwave [or, worse, Vapeur Wavé].)

      What is imparted is the feel of a bygone age of cyan/magenta neon, as if in dreamily recollected shopping centres, perhaps used as shooting locations for a TV show all these designers are too young to have watched, Miami Vice. An extraordinarily productive and winsome genre –

      Rising sun at end of ray-traced scanlines
      Magenta-hued cityscape, with shadowy DeLorean in foreground

      – that lent itself to being fractally reimagined as a vehicle for biblical imagery as if spontaneously generated by Betamaxen of that same époque:

      Video-game character beholds magenta/cyan Sacred Heart of Jesus
      Magenta Jesus on neon cross superimposed on Latin mass
      Cyan rays beam outward from Mary, who hovers above Sacred Heart

      Papist postmodernism with scanlines and Okidata-manqué typography. Wojnarowicz were he not a dissolute trackmarked invert with his own father wound.

    • A symbolic image system this fruitful needs its own soundtrack. Electronic garage noise artistes, chief among them the well-named Wafers 3D, sprang as if out of nowhere, many of them heard on the Holy Agony when they weren’t DJing their own Tradwave complines.

      (Honourable mention: One or two of Fradd’s Catholic Lo[‑]fi videos [others poorly executed]. Demerit: rendering name as catholic lofi.)

How small can you get?

These kids are waaay ahead of us. Had you heard of all these projects, these outlets, these tastemakers? I barely had and I’m the one documenting them.

Which projects have I not heard of? What is the next step in micromedia? Zines come to mind, but only because the entire medium got so much press when I was a young adult. Perhaps only Diseased Pariah News had any lasting value, which is why I placed well-crafted PDF scans at the Internet Archive. But DPN was quite deliberately created in a paperless desktop-publishing process. To typeset a zine requires technology that is a kissing cousin to publishing a Web site. Besides, the Orthodox have tried this already (cf. Death to the World, indeed marred by half-assed desktop publishing).

The next step down from niche Internet “content” may be real-world events you cannot afford to miss. An extremely superclose personal friend is now running Papist dance soirées (in competition to a set of same already in place). While they should also probably be doing squat and deadlift, here we’ve got socially awkward dweebs and nerds learning they actually have bodies. What’s not to like?

Couples dancing in parish hall, with reddish illumination

An ecosystem of Papism

If you thought Taylor Marshall and Matthew Fradd were the alpha and omega of the niche that could be called the Catholic Internet, you have misunderstood the full breadth of “alpha and omega.”

This genre and its subgenres function, in the cliché, like an ecosystem. A scant few juggernauts lumber alongside countless exemplars of God’s favourite creature, the beetle. Jesus may not have led a brachiosaur by a bridle, but the Flood did not wipe out every creature in the virtual firmament. There seems, if anything, to be a kind of flourishing afoot.

Do not try to be “bigger.” By any standard that is the wrong way to become “better.” Avoiding Babylon with three-quarters of a million subscribers makes as little sense as Wafers 3D with even a thousand of them.

You were here: Catholic projects ☞ Biggie smalls

Posted: 2023.11.18 ¶ Updated: 2023.11.19. 22