by Guy Walker
Stephen Miller has an obsession he knows he’ll never be able to satisfy. It’s not his contorting hatred of immigrants—leading him to send around nine hundred emails to a Breitbart editor containing stories from the white-supremacist publication American Renaissance and the anti-immigrant website VDARE, promoting the narrative of a white genocide. It’s not his cinematic gloating of villainry, casting himself as some sort of advocate of cruelty. It’s not gaining the political power he has worked tirelessly to achieve.
No. Stephen Miller’s obsession is his own self-hatred. People like him come around every now and then—spluttering fuckless teenagers who are breastfed on slurries of American cheese and Froot Loops, who despise their localized worlds for reasons indiscernible to ordinary people. It’s not difficult to spot. You meet these people all the time. They’re usually just mildly grotesque against the humdrum of other forgettable personalities. Their contrarian evocations are contrived, as you can predict exactly what they’re going to say under each topic of discussion. But Stephen Miller has to campaign for others to hate him. His lifelong mission is to get mobs of people so terrified and enraged that he’ll finally be taken seriously.
Before being Trump’s primary speech writer and senior policy advisor—where he helped design the child-separation policy, as well as pressed to shut down the government in order to force Congress to pay for southern border wall—before he worked for Jeff Sessions when still a Senator, before being a spokesman for Michele Bachmann, before fundraising alongside Richard Spencer at Duke University (or, according to Spencer, being mentored by him), before flailing in a high school speech that janitors should pick up his garbage, there was the pale paralyzed slime of Stephen Miller. Wheezing like the thing in Eraserhead, he drags his tail netted with exterior veins across the cold concrete floor. Bubbling out of the sulphuric pits where the first microbes of life formed, he was there, with contempt for that first form of life. Because, similarly to the Bret Easton Ellis character of cultish lore, there is an idea of a Stephen Miller, some kind of abstraction that behaves willfully on its own. You can shake his hand, and stare into his cold gaze, but he doesn’t really exist in the way you think.
He knows he doesn’t have the countenance to be in front of the public. His leaden scowl is not patronizing enough to hold our attention. So he fashions himself as the hemorrhaging brains of the operation—writing the speeches, designing the policy—the champion ideologue who will set the agenda. But he’s not smart enough to be even notably controversial. His speeches for the President read like an alcoholic paranoid’s Letter to the Editor of some remote Town Crier newspaper. He wants to be viewed, more than anything, as a serious ideologue.
There’s a general public fear around Miller’s nobbled ideology—of kicking all the brown people out, of separating their families, of leaving infants in soiled diapers in frigid chainlinked paddocks, of banning Muslims—in that, he’s often viewed as being serious about what he purports to believe. In what reads like a congratulatory think piece on political villainry, The Atlantic described it a difficult task to outsmart “a provocateur as skilled as Miller.” The consensus seems to be that he’s not just some ordinary troll, that he is elevated from the squabbling carnies inside the White House, and severely focused on spreading his vitriol like it was the diseased gravy poured from a punctured tumor. The New Yorker reported officials describing him as a “savvy operator” who was cunning enough to manipulate a broken system to his advantage. Perhaps. But this determined ‘seriousness’ is wrong. Whatever ulcers of psychopathy slowly ooze from his various holes, he doesn’t believe any of it.
When the story emerged that Stephen Miller’s girlfriend is Mike Pence’s press secretary, and that they are in fact engaged, there was a momentary flurry of callow gossip at how gross it must be that Miller participates in any sort of act that could be called sexual, however balmy and profane it must be. And I guess there’s point there. It seems more likely he greases himself up in a full-body mask of Crisco, and watches hours of grainy 1970’s porn reels in the dark without doing anything himself—just sitting stone still and staring straight ahead until his eyes bleed. But none of it is right.
It’s not that it’s unfair to want to pry into the private life of someone so cretinous; rather, Stephen Miller conducts his fetishes and kinks out in the open for everyone to see. His normal self-flagellation as a teenager curdled like spoiled milk into what makes him a man today, getting off at the sight of mothers crying over their kidnapped children, climaxing to the horror stories of families fleeing gang violence in Honduras, punching the air with victory at the prospect of some poor kid stumbling up to an impenetrable thirty foot wall after crossing the desert. But most of all, his fetish is being hated by anybody. At least he’s something. Some men get off by going to a dungeon to get whipped by a dominatrix; Stephen Miller entered politics.
Then there is the issue of looking presentable. A year ago on Face the Nation, he didn’t even attempt to get a decent hairpiece. His hairline returned one day, sprayed on from an aerosol canister. Whatever the method—polluting his glistening bald head with a crop duster, crude oil thrown at his it through a window screen—it doesn’t matter. You can imagine in the beaming despair of Stephen Miller’s subjectivity as he performed this task himself, in the bathroom mirror, the way a five-year old cuts their own bangs with the kitchen scissors, or a teenager bleaches their hair in the middle of the night, realizing after it’s too late that they seriously fucked it up. So Miller revoked the stenciled blotch of graffiti on his head, and returned to being bald. But it’s in this strangely unskilled attempt to look normal that Miller’s paralyzing insecurity is exposed.
Through his smirks and half-attempts at looking relatably human, he can’t lift his eyelids above the threshold of indifference. He adds hair from a spray can; he gets engaged; he writes speeches; he performs the ordinary tasks of normal politicians and their chronic banality. But he’s so bad at trying to come across as a wicked mastermind. The whole act is a poorly groomed deflection of one’s self-hating idiocy, keenly aware that this routine won’t work much longer, trying desperately to appoint himself the patron saint of an intellectual famine before he’s thrown to the gallows.
Because there is something even more miserable ahead, and he knows it: in a couple years’ time when his tenure of wretchedness is over, and he disappears into the void of history like a background movie extra, he’ll do his anticipated episode of Dancing With the Stars. He’ll pirouette in a permed neon predator’s frill, sweating under the spotlights, smiling with feigned cinematic desperation, and twirl and twirl until the crescendo hits and his act is finally over. After the obligatory smattering applause, he will crawl away to join the other discarded Trump officials, left only to gloat about how serious people used to take him.