‘He who f*cks goats, either as part of a performance or to troll those he deems has overly delicate sensibilities is simply, a goatf*cker.’ (Censoring not in the original)
Whilst amusing, it might confuse the reader why I am sharing this quote. Popehat’s Rule of Goats, as it is known, comes from the Popehat blog’s Ken White and is a riff on an old Irish pub joke involving a man’s sorrow about his reputation. The rule explains that even if your reason for doing something is to provoke an outraged reaction, you still did the action. And it should have particular relevance for those following recent events with DeSantis’ GOP Primary campaign.
In the past few weeks, the DeSantis team has dramatically reduced its staff; the most high-profile of these cuts is the firing of Nate Hochman, which comes after he was caught not only sharing but also allegedly creating a video promoting DeSantis using Nazi symbolism, specifically a sonnenrad or black sun. Reactions from across the political spectrum have varied wildly, with some eagerly taking the opportunity to use it to attack DeSantis as a Nazi sympathiser, and some insisted on declaring his innocence without bothering to offer a defence.
However, many of these defences and attacks seem either shallow or more intent on satisfying the preexisting biases of the one offering them than on ascertaining actual truth. As such, those left unsatisfied by these takes are left with questions. Was it an intentional addition to the video? Did he know what it meant? Does he hold Nazi views? And so on.
In an effort to answer those and better judge Hochman and his actions, it is worthwhile to delve into his record.
Despite his youth, Hochman has had a successful career so far, gigs at many conservative institutions and his writings featured everywhere, up to and including the New York Times, and a speechwriter job at one of the most highly-anticipated presidential campaigns in a long time, and all that in just a few years. However, even with such a short career, this is not his first brush with Nazi adjacency.
In December 2021, Hochman participated in a Twitter Spaces discussion with Nicholas Fuentes, a hyper-online Nazi who primarily spreads his hate to an audience of young men and boys and is most famous for giggling in the corner whilst Kanye West explained how much he loves Hitler. The interaction between the two includes Hochman praising Fuentes because ‘You’ve gotten a lot of kids based, and we respect that for sure,’ and ‘I think Nick’s probably a better influence than Ben Shapiro on young men who might otherwise be conservatives,’ according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The Dispatch.
Hochman would go on to defend himself by stating that, ‘I was eager to get the chance to actually debate him.’ He further says that his praises of Fuentes were ‘an attempt to get him to engage… so that I could actually get him to talk to me—I said some really stupid things, which I don’t actually believe, that signalled agreement with Fuentes, even though I couldn’t disagree more with his vision of the world.’
Not knowing Hochman I obviously can’t say for sure, but his explanation seems highly plausible. He is still guilty of making a stupid and immoral decision, but mistakenly cajoling Fuentes to entice him into debate marries up with Hochman’s work beforehand far more than him genuinely being a massive fan of Fuentes.
So what are we to make of his more recent foray into alt-right adjacency in light of this?
First, his explanation for creating the video and including the sonnenrad symbol, according to Rod Dreher, is ignorance of the symbol’s meaning. To be frank, this is absurd. After all, why include the symbol if you don’t know what it means? After all, he would have had to have found or created the image (which we should remember has been modified to match the colours of the Florida state flag upon which it is superimposed), despite not knowing what it means (he just liked the squiggly lines, I guess?). He then also placed it against footage of lines of soldiers marching and DeSantis standing at a podium speaking passionately. The video is so ham-fisted that it simply can not be anything but a deliberate evocation of, at best, generic fascist iconography and, more likely, simply Third Reich imagery.
So, if it was intentional, why’d he do it?
According to his own explanation, Hochman is comfortable putting forth arguments he does not believe if it suits his purposes in the moment. Far more likely than Hochman promoting Nazi symbolism in a DeSantis campaign video because of a genuine belief in Nazi ideas, Hochman cynically used such symbolism to make DeSantis more attractive to those whom the symbolism would appeal to. That is, he was deliberately trying to get members of the alt-right, white supremacists and neo-Nazis to vote for DeSantis by falsely representing DeSantis as one of them.
Hochman clearly knows better. He himself has written condemning Fuentes and his followers for their views. But his attempts at playing clever games in order to manipulate adherents of an evil ideology were more important to him than maintaining sincerely held and morally just positions. At this point, one has to ask, whilst they aren’t the same, how different will the consequences of their actions be when looking on the one hand at someone who genuinely holds and promotes Nazi ideology and one who does not hold such views but is comfortable promoting Nazi ideology when it suits them?
And this is where Popehat’s rule returns, rephrased for Hochman, ‘He who promotes Nazism, either out of genuine belief or to curry favour with Nazis is simply, a promoter of Nazism.’