Skip to Content
Fresh Hell

Fashy Posturing and Rich-Kid Juvenilia? That’s Praxis (Magazine)

The group that wants to create an autonomous nation in the Mediterranean has made a magazine.

A trucker hat that says "Praxis Magazine"

(Caroline Haskins / Hell Gate)

On Wednesday night, the East Village French restaurant Ella Fun was converted into a teeming club for the launch of Praxis Magazine, a free two hundred page volume created by the company and aspiring nation known as Praxis. 

Praxis, co-founded by two white guys in their mid-twenties, is best known for raising more than $19 million in hopes of creating an autonomous, high-tech nation somewhere in the Mediterranean. 

Such a task would take billions of dollars, and many years of planning and construction. So in the meantime, the company has largely spent its time and resources throwing parties and cultivating a social network. It quickly became known as a hot-bed for far-right politics

Praxis employees have described co-founder Dryden Brown as unusually interested in theology, Nazi occultism, libertarianism, and proto-fascism, according to Mother Jones. The New York Times described Brown as having "a sort of mood board politics: a social media pastiche of images and aphorisms that celebrate antiquity, classicism and biological hierarchy." Praxis has hired extremists like Mike Mahoney, encouraged employees to read reactionary texts, and courted right-wing influencers to support its mission. 

Naturally, the launch party included the types of people who can overlook stuff like this. The patrons were overwhelmingly white, mostly male, and often employees for a VC firm. There were more women than I expected, and all of them were beautiful. A few mentioned being personally invited by Brown, sometimes via Instagram DM. 

Praxis paid for an open bar until 1 a.m. and converted the main dining area into a dance floor with pinkish lighting and a DJ. Around midnight, a fog machine clouded up the space. The DJ played hits —"Dancing on My Own," "Can’t Get You Out of My Head," old Kanye West songs, etc.—but I didn’t see one person dance the entire night. Past midnight, the room reeked of weed.

But people were there to socialize, not dance. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., I tried to talk to as many of them as I could. The resulting conversations often fell on a spectrum between odd and unpleasant. It was fitting for a magazine that, I would later learn, amounts to a crude, juvenile fantasy of societal collapse and rebirth.

(Caroline Haskins / Hell Gate)

I approached three white guys who appeared to be in their late 20s. They said their first names, which I immediately forgot. A few minutes later, they all confessed to giving me false names.

A "friend" had told them about this party, they said, but declined to say who. All three said they vehemently oppose the mission of Praxis. I asked them to explain. A guy with curly hair and glasses, who said he had a job "making VC people money," said it was because of Praxis’s right wing ideology. His two friends felt similarly.

"I actually used to be right wing," curly hair said. 

"Oh, what kind of right wing?" I asked.

"Fascist," he said. 

"Sorry, did you say fascist?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. 

I wasn’t sure if he was being serious. Looking at his friends, I had a sense they’d heard some version of this conversation before. I struggled with words for a moment, then asked what initially radicalized him.

"It started in 2020. As we all know, COVID was bullshit, the vaccine was bullshit—"

"Wait, what?" I said, still unsure if he was messing with me. "Did you say the vaccine is bullshit? Are you vaccinated?"

His friends, visibly uncomfortable, tried to change the subject.

I asked what led him to leave the right. "The right wing is stupid," he said. “It’s a culture of stupidity.” He ranted about this sincerely for a while.

"So, you said you’re on the left now?" I asked him. "What kind of left wing are you?" 

"Fascist," he said, laughing. 

A sticker from the magazine (Caroline Haskins / Hell Gate)

I struck up a conversation with a tall woman named Alex (not her real name). She was holding a red sticker that said "HAVE YOU SEEN A UFO?" I asked Alex if she’s ever seen a UFO. She has. 

Referring to it as a UAP ("unidentified aerial phenomenon"), Alex said she saw it a little north of Jacksonville, Florida. This was a few years ago. She said there was a cigar-shaped object jolting about the sky, unnaturally fast, at roughly the same altitude as a nearby commercial jet. Alex noted that the cigar shape was likely due to bending light, and that there were multiple military facilities nearby.

Later, she mentioned being an investor in "hard tech" like chips and nuclear energy. 

"I’m working with defense and intelligence people," Alex said. "I can’t say much."

At one point, I approached a group of three: two women and a man. One woman was UFO Alex. The other was a tall blonde woman wearing one of the black "PRAXIS MAGAZINE" baseball caps that were being given out. She said, with a gush of pride, that she was one of the people who put together the magazine. It took more than a year of work. I asked what her name was, but she either didn’t hear me or ignored the question.

The man also didn’t give his name. It was only after the party that I realized he was Eric Wollberg, Praxis’s former "head of community" and one of its first employees. Wollberg told Curbed in 2022 that he "used to work for the government of Israel," and reportedly compared what it would take to form Praxis to the formation of Israel. He left Praxis about a year ago to start "Prophetic," which sells halo-shaped wearables that use “neurostimulation” to try to induce lucid dreams. 

Wollberg didn’t talk about any of that. He introduced himself as the grandson of a "really famous opera singer" and monologued passionately about opera’s "image problem." 

"Operas are filled with old people and retirees, and that's an issue," Wollberg said. The solution, he argued, is to make it a fancy night out for young people. He believes opera’s decline began when dress codes became less formal. He said young people want to participate in an "upper class social dynamic."

Wollberg also linked opera’s decline to people undervaluing "Western culture." The other women nodded in agreement. Nostalgic promotion of "Western" culture is a known dog-whistle for a branch of far right politics defined by bigotry. Former Praxis employees told Mother Jones in 2023 that when they were hired, they got book recommendations that included “Bronze Age Mindset" by the far-right influencer who goes by "Bronze Age Pervert." It warns about "the enemies of Western man and the enemies of beauty" with racism, antisemitism, misogyny, and homophobia.

Wollberg spoke reverently of two particular pages in Praxis Magazine: One page shows the invitation to an 1865 opera performance of "Tristan and Isolde" in Germany, and the other has a black and white photo of the performers. 

I would later learn that these pages are directly followed by a two-page spread of anime girls with enormous racks, all captioned with platitudes like "Your life is only as important as you make it."

(Caroline Haskins / Hell Gate)

Although I’ve seen pictures of Dryden Brown, I needed a guy to identify him for me because so many people fit his demographic. He was standing in front of the DJ in a thick white sweater—not dancing, but talking with two friends. 

"Hey Dryden, I’m Caroline Haskins, the freelance journalist who emailed you earlier," I said. "You added me to the guest list." He and his friends looked at me silently. 

"Sorry for, uh, my lip balm just exploded," I said, forcing a laugh, thinking they were looking at my shirt. (About ten minutes earlier, I realized that the tinted lip balm I had been nervously fidgeting with all night had opened and stained my white button-down with berry-colored splotches. I was afraid this made me look like a toddler.) More silence. "Anyway I was just wondering, what’s your goal, or the goal, of Praxis Magazine?” 

Brown took out his phone and started taking a video of the DJ. I thought he would take a short video and then answer my question. Instead, he took a 360-degree shot that ended behind him, and walked away without saying a word.

Later, I described this to a man who said he knows Brown. He said Brown doesn’t like journalists.

Praxis Magazine spread (Caroline Haskins / Hell Gate)

On Thursday morning, I flipped through Praxis Magazine. It's thick, with its 200 pages printed in what’s clearly very high-quality paper. In many ways, it’s a beautiful magazine. The colors are lush and vibrant, the images are crisp, and there are gorgeous graphics on almost every page. It’s also very bizarre.

The magazine makes an effort to be provocative that’s excruciatingly heavy-handed. It often feels like the moodboard of a teenager who’s trying very hard to be edgy. 

There’s a memorial page for Theodore John Kaczynski (the Unabomber), and a petition to grant clemency to Ross Ulbricht, the creator of Silk Road. There’s photos from Praxis parties, including one of Dasha Nekrasova, co-host of the podcast Red Scare. There’s a photo of four young women smiling with the caption, "Fifteen years ago, these girls would have been following Julian Casablancas around on tour. Instead, they were born too late and have to pretend to care about things like AI and crypto in order to sleep around." These are broken up by archival photos and posters, especially from the 90s and 2000s, and old neoclassical paintings.

(Caroline Haskins / Hell Gate)

There are just nine written essays and articles, all very short. One of them is by Miles Routledge, also known as "Lord Miles," best known for getting captured by the Taliban and befriending his captors. He wrote about getting "Tea With The Taliban." Another one is by Casey Krol, who runs a website called "Truth about Fluoride." His article simply lays out his (scientifically dubious) case for why fluoride is harmful to humans. Another is an interview with Bryan Johnson, the 46-year-old who is creating a cult of personality around his quest to spend his fortune becoming biologically equivalent to an 18-year-old.

The front and back covers, as well as many, many pages inside, are dedicated to a single photoshoot. In the photos, female models wear oversized men’s suits and masks of a few former presidents: Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and either Ronald Reagan or JFK (it’s hard to tell.) They point large rifles at "hostages," all professionally-dressed men posing in surrender. Later, the models take off their masks and sprawl out on a cash-laden floor. One points her rifle suggestively into her mouth. 

(Caroline Haskins / Hell Gate)

The magazine seems designed to bombard the reader with images and narratives of impending violence and doom. Conveniently, readers can join Praxis and escape all of that. There’s Praxis stickers, and pages where you can sign a "residency grant" to the "Eternal City of Praxis." 

The six editors of the magazine all went by pseudonyms. Two of them are characters from Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." One is a James Bond character. What caught my eye was "Dennis Weekend," a person who does not exist anywhere except for a small X/Twitter account. It has just a few dozen followers, including crypto influencers, Truth About Fluoride, and ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees, who was a hostage in the aforementioned photoshoot. It only has 101 posts, and they’re overwhelmingly bigoted. Most have at least one slur, often the n-word. It’s dripping with the fake irony that has characterized far-right online speech for ages.

"Google, generate an image of epic muscular black women In charge of running Auschwitz," he posted in February. "It's called drag because you dress up like a scary girl and drag children away to molest them," he wrote a few days later. 

According to Praxis Magazine’s masthead, he’s on the "Print Team."

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Give us your email address to keep reading two more articles for free

See all subscription options

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Hell Gate

MAGA Loons, Drill Rappers, and Unlikely Voters: The Never-Ending Trump Rally Comes to the South Bronx

"If Trump is here, and he's asking for a second chance, I can't judge that."

May 24, 2024

Finally, NYC Gets the Bird We Deserve

All hail our new beady-eyed queen, Astoria the wild turkey! And more news to take you into the long weekend.

May 24, 2024

Is the NYPD Solving Crimes? Who Knows—Their Last Published Clearance Data Is From 2022

City law requires the NYPD to report its clearance rates quarterly. Under the Adams administration, it just…stopped.

See all posts