Deus Vult

I found this article in Polygon fascinating, discussing the odd conflation between an alt-right adoption of the term “Deus Vult” and the growing online community around the game For Honor. I find it fascinating in no small part because I gave my students Robert the Monk’s version of the famous Pope Urban II speech that gave life to this particular term, and did so with no knowledge about the online alt-right connotations.

Allegra Frank describes the historical nature of the phrase as “obvious and inextricable”, which is not a bad way of putting it in terms of its use in the game. I cannot help but find it all a bit disturbing, frankly. I had read previously of the alt-right community’s interest in monarchy and medieval standards of governance and (supposed) moral justifications for autocratic rule. Their approach, needless to say, is ahistorical and embarrassing. I’m not sure how you could come away from reading a version of Urban II’s speech in the early twenty-first century and come away thinking he was on to something exciting or that in any way gives us a useful blueprint for the future. The source is inseparable from its context, and it takes remarkably willful rejection of that context to draw parallels with challenges the world faces today.

As for For Honor, it seems the fans of the game use the term as part of their own celebration of their community online. Go for it, I say. There is something to be said for relationships between terms and I am grateful that even in the savage land of wild untamed memes there is genuine competition between representations.

John

John is an assistant professor of History at Centre College. He is fascinated by the development of modern popular sport and the evolution of video games within modern popular culture.