Matt Featherstone approached his study of the conquest and rule of Ghengis Khan after witnessing a lecture from far-right activist, Leon Hemmings. Hemmings asserts that the history of Khan shows that, in the wake of his brutality, came order and prosperity – Khan’s dictatorship is credited for consolidating the silk road and bringing economic and technological development between Asia and Europe.
“There is an emerging, but increasingly influential, narrative on the macro-effects of Khan’s conquests. Hemmings is not alone in this. The idea is that we, as societies, cannot provide for the growing populations – though its clear that it is possible, just not with a complimentary profit that is always considered to be an imperative. One of the most frequent comparisons used in this alt-right lecture circuit is the parallel drawn between the effects of the near-total eradication on the grey wolf in Europe and America. What was identified was that, unchecked, the deer population mushroomed and began to damage the proliferation of plant life. Without any wolves to hunt them, the plant life was chewed and decimated by the voracious and complacent cervidae. The re-introduction of the wolf was necessary to balance the large forest ecosystem, even if wolves remain one of the biggest threats to a human community if within close proximity. There is a contentious pride about this, that we as humans play God well. Happy to control one of our greatest threats and believing we have re-introduced harmony.”
Featherstone continues to elucidate how this side of alt-rightism attempts to explain that mankind needs its own wolves. The onrushing of the Mongol warriors was a necessary re-seeding of disparate tribal communities that had atrophied and no longer developed the greater good of human endeavor. They even go as far to draw comparisons with the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, once the lava has cooled very often the soil is full of nutrients and perfect for agriculture.
Featherstone’s research into the events of Khan were not only to check the alt-right interpretation but also to verify the long-accepted view of Khan’s actions; in order to quantify how much of the Mongol Empire’s military ability was direct or indirect to the ‘development’ that is cited as such a crucial step in the justification of genocide.
Delving into six of the huge military campaigns that the Mongols carried out, what Featherstone uncovers is evidence that part of the success of the attacks was the complicity of the political and merchant class. During the conquest of the Jin Dynasty, the Mongols were aided by a messenger who, instead of passing a message to Ghengis, betrayed the location of the Jin military. In the battle for Qara Khitai, the Mongols were low in numbers, but succeeded in the overthrow by generating discontent with the rule of Kuchlug, it was his own people who turned on him and, after fleeing, he was captured by isolated hunters, who proceeded to hand over the Kuchlug to the Mongols.
Featherstone all the while reinforces the key of his narrative. It was not some natural evolution of animal instincts that caused the tremendous drop in the populace.
“You cannot ally human genocide, of which the human is the only animal on this earth to consciously perform, with the natural miracle of fertile soil left behind from a volcano eruption”
The regimes that Khan toppled, though powerful, were betrayed from the inside and often not with any idealistic motivation. Much like the alt-right rhetoric, the betrayers encouraged destruction in the blind faith that they would be spared as a reward for the betrayal.
My one reservation is that Featherstone’s work is open, just like the misuse of Darwinism that he hates so much, to interpretation. Who, if we are looking for traitors, do we see. The weak despotic ruler, for popular revolution? The wealthy elites, who see profit in between the chaotic transition from liberalism to fascism? The people themselves? In attacking the alt-right, he attempts to remove the dress of this neo-caucasian-terror as an ideology; by doing this he opens the targets, and the nets, wider.
“Along the Silk Road” Matt Featherstone (2018)