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.
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.
Number 1 with a bullet in Catholic media is Taylor Marshall (gender pronouns: doctor/Dr.), who indeed has brought more anglophones to the Latin mass than anyone on earth. He did that not by explicating why the Novus Bogus is deficient but with the aid of pure charisma and by looking great on camera.
Masculine features, good shape for his age (43), obviously well more than enough money to keep that manse and his brood of junior Papists running, deep voice – and, above all, pure masculine connoisseurship and command of subject-matter. There’s a bit of a receding hairline, but you simply could not order up, à la Logan’s Run, an all-American specimen better engineered than Dr. Marshall. Why, he’s dreeeamy.
It would be naïve to doubt that Dr. Marshall addresses a father wound in the young man who turns to, or reawakens his own, Catholicism. Of course a subculture made up of nerds and dweebs (they call themselves theologians) responds to a man who looks like the best the American phenotype can produce.
Next we address the man who, as always, is Number 1 at being Number 2.
If you were fancying an Australian and were hoping for Mr. Sam Worthington (singing in church), contain your disappointment, because the best overseas Australian we can come up with is Matthew Fradd. He’s proof that getting so many big things right, but every little thing wrong, can still make you rich.
As someone with a pair of assonant monosyllabic names, I can state categorically that he shouldn’t be calling himself Matt Fradd, even if that’s what the birth certificate issued in Adelaide might read. (Actually, he’s from Eastwood, NSW, but only in the way I am from Prince Edward Island.)
He operates a nice enough studio, at least in the 2.0 version now seen, but, like all men with bad taste, falls down on make-or-break details. Pints with Aquinas (shocker: Aquinas rarely discussed) works better as a podcast because Fradd’s motion-sensitive cameras literally catch him picking his nose while his guest is making a solid point.
Why bother with an on-site, if never-seen, producer, if he isn’t going to run a switcher in real time?
Fradd’s lifestyle accoutrements of cigars and ales would be livable if he weren’t a shill for Hallow – the dumbest, if best-named, prayer app on Google Play. I’d prefer to walk down the street listening to the rosary in Japanese than run an abomination like that. (I do the former.)
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.
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.
“The guy on keyboards who doesn’t smile and the singer who looks a bit uncomfortable. That’s the act” – Neil Tennant, Pet Shop Boys
“The garrulous Italian autodidact from Long Island and the sidekick who pipes up at random moments – always startlingly well-miked – to drop scant few bons mots. That’s the act” – Avoiding Babylon
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.
Indeed the lads have been completely unaware of these labours of love:
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.
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.)
Do Australian-Lebanese Maronite Catholics need their own talk show? Apparently so.
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.)
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 –
– that lent itself to being fractally reimagined as a vehicle for biblical imagery as if spontaneously generated by Betamaxen of that same époque:
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.)
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?
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