Hillary Clinton’s speech yesterday focused on a stale and robotically-delivered attack on the so-called “Alt-Right”. She kicks it off with speaking of how concerned people speak to her on the topic of how divisive Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been this election cycle. For anyone with a working cerebral cortex and the ability to remember four years ago, the Obama reelection campaign’s rhetoric was no less divisive—his VP Biden went so far as to literally accuse Romney of wanting to re-enslave blacks and “put [them] back in chains,” while simultaneously Obama himself stoked the classist-fueled fires of the then-recent Occupy Wall Street nonsense and dismissed the Tea Party as an entire group of braindead racists. Hillary’s own platform—now endorsed by a Marxist-Leninist Soviet apologetic who has ridden the Occupy wave—has no room to criticize divisive rhetoric.
So who are the Alt-Right? Why should anyone care?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the Alt-Right is not a hate group. The Alt-Right is not even an organized group in the first place. In fact, almost nobody actually self-identifies as an Alt-Righter. The term includes self-described libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, constitutional monarchists, absolutist monarchists, national socialists and fascists, and yes, white nationalists. It includes neo-reactionaries, ideologue revolutionaries, and traditionalists. It includes people who are dissatisfied with what passes for conservatism and have thusly distanced themselves from the people and the establishments—if not necessarily the ideology—that support it in their respective countries. The people who rally under the banner draw from thinkers as varied as (and this list is by no means intended to be comprehensive) Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, Josef de Maistre, and Joseph Smith; Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, William of Ockham, and Thomas Aquinas; Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Julius Evola, Milton Friedman, Michel Foucault, Wilhelm Röpke, Patrick Buchanan, Russel Kirk, and Roger Scruton; and a plethora of contemporary thinkers, bloggers, YouTubers, and e-celebrities. Most of the people listed here are staples and mainstays of conservative thought on both sides of the Atlantic, and for good reason. The ones that aren’t are still worth reading.
There is one singular motivating factor that defines the Alt-Right, and that is the desire to preserve and conserve Western Civilization. This underpins every aspect and explains the cohesiveness of the term, despite the conflicting ideologies and various personalities under the umbrella. Leeriness of Free Trade, immigration, and globalist agendas typically pervade these groups, though to what degree is up for debate. Additionally, the importance of nationalism, patriotism, and tribalism—in particular the correlation of ethnicities with shared value sets—likewise find footing in Alt-Right crowds. And of course, the vehement attack against Leftism in the culture and the body politic are, perhaps, the most immediately obvious point of convergence among them.
The Alt-Right was born from the culture, and it works within the culture. It is not a political movement in the sense the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street were, much less a coherent political party with a platform and talking points like Britain’s UKIP or USA’s Libertarian parties are (or, in the latter’s case, pretends to be). The Alt-Right points to something that is larger than politics. I mentioned before that Alt-Righters are unified by the singular drive to conserve Western Civilization. They conceive of a struggle presently unfolding that threatens every aspect of the comfortable life which currently exists in the West.
The purpose of this post is to give some insight as to what this term signifies beyond whatever the mainstream media is going to publish. To them, the Alt-Right is little more than a buzzword that denotes racist GOP extremists, neo-Nazis, and anti-Semites. But to the Leftist media, these things now and then describe any card-carrying republican that doesn’t play by their rules, anyway. This post is to help shed light on the term and help provide some footing regarding how this term will be abused in the coming weeks, months, and possibly years.
Leftism, Dissatisfaction, and the Global Culture
The Alt-Right came about purely because the internet created the conditions of a culture based on rampant and unrestricted free speech and relative anonymity. These things allowed people to vent their frustrations over the current socially-policed rhetoric of political correctness that has destroyed any sense of community and reason in our everyday lives. Granted, some areas are much worse than others. Texas, for instance, is generally believed to be an easier place to speak one’s mind than Los Angeles or Baltimore. And much of the US is generally in a better place socially-speaking than much of Europe.
But even in places where one feels comfortable matching their speech and actions to their ideas and values, the pervasiveness of the news cycle remains. For anyone who is socially connected and active, politics and current affairs remain popular topics of conversation. Judgement gets passed over the correct manner of thinking regarding general topics like immigration, race, and gender identity, as well as contemporary issues like Hillary Clinton’s email server, Trump’s latest political faux pas, and the Syrian conflict. The Left has worked hard for decades politicizing every issue under the sun, and on this issue they have reached undeniable success. Conservatives surrendered control of the culture and came to believe that morals, religion, and reason would win out against a constant and consistent slow poisoning of Leftist ideals that slithered through the media, entertainment, and education complexes. The utter cluelessness with which key conservatives acted on this issue is somewhat mind-numbing in retrospect, but I cover this a little more later on. The point is, this march through the institutions was only possible through the politicization of all possible issues. All.
The Alt-Right recognize this. Back in 2008, anyone who survived public schooling, university, and the workforce with a few brain cells still left looked around and wondered why most of the civilized world was run by socialists and why the US had just elected one. And as the grandeur of Hope and Change! wore off, as the economy failed to improve, and as the fascistic lingo of the Obama Administration’s blame game vamped into overdrive for the next eight years, these people panicked. But when publicly and actively dissenting against the Leftist demagoguery can get even tenured professors fired and have the careers of scientists ruined, these same people were understandably hesitant to speak out in any meaningful way. This is how you get a significant refuge of Alt-Right activity on the internet.
And this isn’t just a United States thing. The Alt-Right spans the entirety of the West, with enthusiasts to be found even in Asia and South America. The disgust with Angela Merkel’s immigration and social policies, dissatisfaction with David Cameron’s treatment of domestic affairs, Francois Hollande’s inability to crack down on the Islamic extremism in France, and, of course, the entire decade-long decline of Sweden as a Leftist refuge of debauchery and self-flagellation are all part of the same general movement that Obama’s regime characterizes.
All of this sent what eventually became the Alt-Right flocking to the internet, gathering on sites generally unfrequented by your average Facebook user. Not that most of these sites were terribly were obscure; most of them were simply hobbyist sites that ended up growing over time.
As a result of the relative anonymity that the internet provided, the general demographic of those who frequented these sites on the internet (typically late-teenage through mid-twenty-something males, often but not necessarily white), communication through humor and painting complicated issues in broad strokes became the norm. Levels of intelligence and life experience obviously varied from user to user and, in many cases, from post to post. The cynicism and disgust with the Leftist narratives merged with these users’ various backgrounds and produced what was and has been, by and large, likeable, humorous content. Inside jokes that take advantage of the ironic underside of popular culture abound, from anime and bad movies to popular indie/hipster music and classical literature.
The important part here is that this method of discourse popularized the Alt-Right. Relevant, edgy humor and the actively anti-PC discourse, despite originating as an unguided and rampaging reaction to Leftist culture, ended up popularizing several pillars of conservative thought in the process. Smaller government, defunding of the welfare state, and isolationism in particular rose the forefront, alongside the nastier side of the Alt-Right.
This brings me to the whole national socialist thing.
National Socialism, Racism & Anti-Semitism, and Is All Of This Just a Big Joke?
You can’t have a serious discussion about the Alt-Right without at least mentioning the fact that there are self-identifying national socialists, racists, and Jew-haters that are grouped in with it. Their numbers are, from what I can tell, vastly overestimated—counting is difficult due in part to the treatment of jokes and irony. Generally, most of the anti-Semitic comments are made only barely in half-seriousness, many falling short even of that. The case can be made that it doesn’t matter whether they’re jokes or not, and I don’t disagree. But the number of these people who would be out actively partaking in pogroms and lynchings seems, to me at least, to be minimal if any. Most of these Alt-Righters sit behind a computer for most of the day, and perhaps a relative minority of them really are fitness-obsessed. But none of them are organized to really act out in any significant revolutionary way. The few that are generally aren’t extremists of the fascist persuasion.
And of course it doesn’t help that some comments deemed anti-Semitic or racist aren’t in fact anti-Semitic or racist at all. Pointing out that the people who run all or most of the major media outlets are Jewish, for instance, isn’t a statement of violence or hate. Nor are citing black crime statistics. But these days even pointing such things out create inferences of allegiance and presumed agreement with neo-Nazi platforms. These sorts of unwarranted connections, fueled by Leftist demagoguery and exacerbated by youth’s general tendency to both rebel and paint in broad strokes, only fuels the hatred against the Alt-Right and serves to discredit the term as a whole.
As for the substantive issue at hand, the very question of national socialism and its place in the Alt-Right should serve to underline that the Alt-Right is not a comprehensively conservative, right-wing movement. The NatSoc groups are disorganized and held together more by pure belief in the ideology than by personal bonds or coherent structure. They are individuals who make posts online, they aren’t splinter groups meeting secretly in basements somewhere plotting revolution. As far as we’re aware, they aren’t even coordinated groups of hackers plotting the dismantling of intelligence systems. That sort of thing is Hollywood-level fantasy. Reality is much less spectacular.
Unfortunately, the white nationalist and ethno-identity groups tend to be the loudest, whether by force of posting habits or simply because the media gives them the most attention since they’re the most bombastic and edgy. Some of these people have some pretty good arguments. Some of them don’t, and some of them don’t even have arguments. That said, it does make the entire label look bad in the eyes of the general public, and it isn’t hard for someone to be swept up under the label, either. Speak with enough of them and you’ll have that label pinned on you whether you like it or not.
That said, as the political dialogue has shifted toward politicizing how men sit on the subway to what kind of movies white people should be allowed to watch, being deemed as racist is becoming an increasingly powerless threat. The Left’s favorite buzzwords are being devalued at an alarming rate by their sheer overuse. Many Alt-Righters take this in stride and have realized that fighting these labels and accusations from Leftists isn’t only a waste of time, but it’s a form of acknowledgement. As a result, many have thrown up their hands and said, “so what?” when decried as racists or bigots. Discerning those who have ceased to care about appropriate politically correct discourse from those who harbor deep-seated, racially-motivated hatred can be difficult when all we see are their rhetoric.
National socialism has of course been debunked time and again as fundamentally a Leftist agenda—it even has the word ‘socialism’ in its very name, which despite what defenders claim, means the same for nationalists as it does the commie internationalists. National socialists take the same pages from the Communist Manifesto that Lenin did, believe the same view of history that Lenin did, and use and abuse the same terms that Lenin did. One of the greatest public relations pivots of the last century was how the Left spun national socialism into the monolithic opposite of communism, as if big government, the idolatrous worship of political leaders, and the lawless institution of social justices that riddled both systems were somehow diametrically opposed to one another. But it worked, given that laymen are still more likely to believe that a conservative would harbor more sympathies with Nazi practices than a progressive would, despite the consistent historical record to the contrary.
But the issue with national socialism, and the primary characteristic of what situates it on the Left, isn’t just its revolutionary spirit nor its faith in large government to solve the problems of the common man; it is purely its idolatry of Man as an idea. This alone creates the rift with conservatism from which all other aspects of the national socialist framework spring.
God and Atheism, the Religious Question
Alt-Righters are divided heavily across the religious question. Whether God exists, whether it matters if He exists, and what difference it makes if He is worshiped pops up time and again. That the Alt-Right straddles the metaphysical chasm between the traditional camps of Left and Right again makes it clear that the Alt-Right is not a cohesive whole.
The classical liberals, libertarians, and anarcho-capitalists alluded to earlier have no particular room for God within the political framework. Some of these people are simply agnostics who don’t give the question of belief much of a thought, or they are more concerned with finding a way in which human welfare can be provided by private enterprise or some other means than to dwell on matters of esoteric-seeming metaphysical implications. Others are dyed-in-the-wool atheists who drank deeply from cup of the Enlightenment’s Kool-Aid. And this makes sense. Anarcho-capitalism and, to a lesser extent, libertarianism both stem from a fundamentally materialist worldview which believes implicitly that all of human action, motivation, and prioritization can be analyzed and understood through economic analysis. They believe that the movement of capital directly relates and refers to human agency, and as such, ensuring the freedom of that market will ensure the freedom of human agency so that man can, presumably, reach his fullest potential.
However, like all materialist models, this level of purism foregoes any sense of reasonable moral system. The non-aggression principle is usually the one held up in highest esteem, but even this principle, formulated by man, can only be enforced by law that is referential to the very force it claims to discourage.
The national socialists, as described above, are generally godless atheists or some form of neo-pagans. It’s hard to take seriously the claims of neo-pagan advocates, as they generally come across either as a more hipster version of LaVeyan Satanism or some sort of strange admixture of Wiccan New Age voodoo and environmentalist conspiracy theorizing. In any case, the question of the Christian God, much less the Judeo-Christian legacy, is one they better responded to when framed in the sense of Western heritage. Their conception of the West traces itself back through a combination of Germanic tribes, a Victorian-like romanticization of the northern European primitivism, and the grandeur of the southern European empire-building and philosophical traditions as exemplified by Rome and Greece. Christianity generally carries very bad connotations within these circles, to say nothing of Judaism.
The monarchists, predictably, are the unequivocally religious group. Monarchy by its very nature requires some conception of God to exist, otherwise it is little more than dictatorship. Monarchists, perhaps most predictably, humbly bask in their belief that they are the last refuge of Western Civilization. And it’s not an unappealing position; the peaks that the West experienced have all been under and because of monarchal rule. Christianity, and in particular, the apostolic sects (often Catholicism) are depicted and adhered to in the most positive light by most self-identifying monarchists.
Economics and the size of government aren’t frequently addressed directly by monarchists, as most of them generally tend to frame their arguments within a theological view heavy on morals, duty, and the place of God within the life of man, family, community, and nation. This is a much larger issue than I have room for here to get into, and I hope to dedicate a post to this all by itself in the future. For now, however, it suffices to say that monarchists are among the only conservatives—much less Alt-Rightists—that seem to frame the question of governance within the proper theological context.
One cannot speak of the Alt-Right as a singular movement organized, coordinated, and controlled by leaders who oversee the presence of a revolutionary turning point in the battle for the West. To speak of it in such a way is at best a misinformed and ignorant attempt to make sense of a complicated set of contradictory beliefs, and at worst a deliberate and propagandistic smearing of those who have come to dissent against the prevailing and castrated movements that pass for Conservatism-Proper across the West. It is not a movement per se. It is a term applied to individuals, and many of these individuals speak with each other and engage in dialogue, disagreement, and discourse. Some operate as groups with clear goals and purposes, some happen to have large online followings for whom they create content to inspire people with and spread the anti-Leftist message, some are content to simply write what’s on their mind and publicize themselves. But none of this implies any sort of vast Alt-Right conspiracy. Because there isn’t one. As I said above, most people categorized as Alt-Righters don’t even apply the term to themselves.
To use Lefty jargon, the Alt-Right is the product of the current zeitgeist. On one hand, they view—perhaps rightly—that American Conservatism-Proper has been a failure as a movement. Viewed as an adherence to a paper document written by men with failings, this form of conservatism has been the shining light of the American Right for generations—arguably since the days of the Federalists. But it isn’t difficult to see that much of the Constitution has been subverted, worked around, or otherwise ignored in the last two-hundred years, even as it is amended and transformed as a so-called living document.
American Conservatism has time and again failed to address the fundamental notion recognized by Burke, de Maistre, and even Adams: that the constitution of a nation is not what is included in founding documents—things that, we must remember, were in their time considered patently absurd. The constitution of a nation was quite literally its constituents, the free men that lived beneath the banner of that flag, and more specifically, it was the values and creeds written upon the hearts of those constituents. Documents could be forged, rewritten, ignored, bypassed, and reinterpreted, even while they sat on display and appealed to for validity by the very people whose policies ran antithetical to the writer’s intentions. But the values of men were the growth of the nation as a greater organism, and the values of men shape and are shaped by the nation itself. These change subtly over time and across the generations just as a tree does, in order to respond to the times and stay relevant. But no written document, no matter how well-worded or cleverly introduced, can efficiently govern men. Only men can do that.
American Conservatism fights this every day, even now. The parroting of constitutionalism and the appeal to the values contained therein are battles that are already lost. The constitution writ upon the hearts of Americans now is fragmented, splintered, and manifold, and approaching, I think, levels of dissonance with one another that conflict amongst the various groups who identify according to their own values is inevitable. The BLM movement is only the beginning of this sort of bifurcation. If left unchecked, these divisions will lead to civil strife and possibly even to balkanization. And while the Left is certainly at fault, I think the one job that American Conservatism had—conserve the American ideal, conserve America—is clearly not working out. If Leftism is in the last throes of its screeching invasions, it isn’t because Conservatism is defeating it; it’s simply because Americans’ (and to some degree, Western men’s) general disposition is antithetical to Leftist thought, and has resisted totalitarian tyranny by running off the ideological steam of the last five hundred years. But the damage left in the wake of the Left’s perpetual revolution is so corrosive that it’s clear American Conservatism hasn’t done what it was intended to.