In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the character of Renfield busies himself devouring flies, spiders and, birds in the belief that every life consumed will invigorate him with the same demonic power as his master. Renfield is an immiserated pantomime of the Count, for Dracula’s power cannot be separated from his nobility, a pernicious force of the old world, subject to wild superstition and rumor among the peasants that dwell in the shadow of his Castle.
The vampire myth is alive today in the baroque conspiracy theories of Qanon. A conspiracy theory-turned movement that began on online message board 4chan in 2017, and has gained remarkable popularity, Qanon followers disseminate sensational narratives in which Elites devour the innocent in order to gain supernatural power and class solidarity, a gruesomely literal analogue of Mark Fisher’s Vampires’ Castle. These Elites evangelize a vegan diet to emasculate and pacify the masses- the great soyification. The paranoid theories of Qanon are often embraced in the emergent industry of internet personalities that promote male chauvinism and reactionary social values collectively termed “The Manosphere”.
Defense against the perceived emasculating effects of modern society is critical to the messaging of the Manosphere, exemplified in public figures the likes of Liver King, a hulking self-proclaimed barbarian who centers meat consumption in a politics of masculinity, which he broadcasts to an audience of millions. Many of his followers looking for solutions to the poor material conditions and social atomization of their lives through his teachings. Liver King’s fans seek to return a primal state, favoring an exclusively carnivorous diet including raw testicles and bone marrow while rejecting modern ideas of personal hygiene and gender roles.
In Dracula, Renfield also labors in hope of attaining a primal state, for The vampire is the essence of the man-turned-beast, shapeshifting at-will into a bat or giant hound. Renfield’s diet of live vermin is not so different from the lifestyle that Liver king espouses, it is process of identification with the predator or perhaps more importantly, in dis-identification with the prey. The tragedy of Renfield, as with adherents of the Manosphere, is that they have been fed an empty promise- it is not the return to a primal fantasy ideal that grants figures like Liver King their power, it is altogether more modern inventions of the Vampires’ castle: marketing companies, steroids, TikTok algorithms. As with Dracula, superficial emulation is not enough.
The stigma of veganism in the manosphere with its tropes of vegans as being ineffectual, submissive, feminized, perhaps lies in their denial of the libidinal nature of flesh. As Dracula looms over the bedside of his next meal, the dining table becomes a theatre for an eroticized performance of power. Penises and raw testicles are served to liver King’s guests with a ribald glee.
The last time I ate meat was in Ireland six years ago. I was visiting for my grandmother’s funeral, and I did not with to alienate my extended family by copping to a diet I feared would be associated with a kind of pathological neurosis or sanctimoniousness. I ate chicken curry, cheeseburgers and dubious sausages in a local pub after the wake. I enjoyed it. Rumors began to circulate that I was in fact, a vegetarian, and relatives began to enquire in amused tones as to whether this was the case, to which I would deny each time rather than expose my moral inconsistency.
— Jack Jubb