We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the fateful Unite The Right Rally, at which the violence that took place was all blamed on the “Alt-Right”, leading to much persecution (deplatforming, firings, conferences cancelled) of people identified with that movement. It’s been said repeatedly that the Alt Right is dead or dying—but it can’t be, if Conservatism, Inc is still trying to kill it.
It seems that Jonah Goldberg has time left over from beating up on Trump and refurbishing his credentials as a leading “conservative” Never-Trumper to hobnob with House Speaker Paul Ryan at Jonah’s stamping grounds, AEI. The two of them agreed recently that the “Alt-Right is about “identity politics.” In what appears to be a mutual congratulation session, the interlocutors proclaimed that “conservatives must reclaim “hijacked” terminology.”
“Intellectually do everything you can to defeat the alt-right,” Ryan said Thursday in an interview with Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor at National Review and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where the interview was held.
“It is identity politics, it is antithetical to what we believe, and it’s a hijacking of our terms, just like the progressives hijacked the word, ‘liberalism,’ the blood-and-soil nationalists of the alt-right have hijacked things like ‘Western civilization,’” Ryan, R-Wis., added.
“So we have to go back and fight for our ground and re-win these ideas and marginalize these guys as best we can to the corners.
Paul Ryan: ‘White Identity Politics’ of Alt-Right Isn’t Conservatism, but Racism, by Rachel del Guidice, July 19, 2018
But there was absolutely nothing in this interview that leads me to believe that the Alt-Right, or what it’s imagined to be in this interview, “hijacked” anything from the Right—if that Right is represented by Goldberg and Ryan. In fact, I can’t imagine how Ryan, who is a very centrist politician, or Goldberg, who seems to be a badly-educated Leftist in all but name, have any better claim to the “conservative” label than those on the Dissident Right whom they’re laboring to marginalize. Having these characters define the legitimate Right is like asking zealous vegetarians to judge the quality of meat dishes in a cooking contest—or having Hillary Clinton give out prizes for feminine charm.
Of course, I have my own horse in this race, if only by association. George Hawley explains why in Making Sense of the Alt-Right, his balanced, book-length examination of the Alt-Right: “There are only two people from the paleoconservative movement associated with the Alt-Right in any meaningful way. The first is Paul Gottfried…” (The second: the late Sam Francis.) Although I don’t classify myself as part of the Alt-Right, Hawley notes that my scholarly work certainly influenced many people on the Alt-Right—especially his [my] books and columns critiquing the conservative movement.”
George, to his credit, does dissociate me from some of the more unsavory positions attached to the Alt-Right. He points out that I am “not an anti-Semite,” which (apart from the fact that I am Jewish) is certainly true providing one accepts H.L. Mencken’s definition that “an anti-Semite is someone who dislikes Jews more than is absolutely necessary.”
George also correctly notes that I “reject white nationalism,” for all the good it’s done me in winning favor from the obsessively virtue-signaling members of Conservatism Inc.
My own relations with the Alt-Right took a noticeable plunge from about the time that the Left began smearing Donald Trump as the voice of the Alt-Right. That was also around the time that Richard Spencer began identifying his movement more explicitly with white nationalism. Then last year came the clash at Charlottesville. This brought news coverage that was less than objective. In its wake, I found that I had to protect myself against a Canadian celebrity who claimed in the National Post that I was the spiritual force behind a neo-Nazi riot. Never mind that said riot took place when well-armed “Anti-fascists” attacked right-wing demonstrators who had a legal right to assemble; and after the police failed to protect those who were exercising their legal right
But while I have criticized the Alt-Right, it is utterly dishonest for Conservatism, Inc. to excoriate the Alt-Right as racist. Fox News is awash in black race hustlers, with whom its All-Stars engage in respectful dialogue. Why are white nationalists or white race realists off-limits? And why does Conservatism, Inc. not treat its Right-wing dissenters as indulgently as those who deviate from it from the Left, e.g. George Will, Goldberg himself and other Never-Trumpers?
Of course we know the answer: professional token conservatives prize good relations with the MSM, with which they exchange favors while proclaiming anti-racist respectability. It is no longer the French Left but Conservatism Inc. that favors the motto “no enemies to the Left.”
That said, I’ll make an exception for the “antifascist” rioters on American campuses who rage against neoconservative speakers just as they do against Richard Spencer. But these demonstrations have been a godsend for their targets and neocon sponsors. They have created media martyrs, who after their cancelled speeches can revel in the praise of their TV colleagues.[Ben Shapiro: Conservatives Under Attack on College Campuses, NRA.tv, October 25, 2017]
And let’s not be hard on the Alt-Right and its contending internet stars. Given the glaring imbalance of power between the current Left and any serious Right, even a cleaned-up version of the Alt-Right would not likely have access to the MSM—especially after Trump was elected and the Alt-Right was no longer useful to smear him.
In fact, I can’t imagine any movement to the right of Conservatism, Inc. that would do better than the Alt-Right leaders in achieving a national presence.
Of course, Neocons, West Coast Straussians and the GOP Establishment have predictably seized Trump’s presidency because they were the “conservative” powerbrokers when Trump became president. It was always likely that the Old Right, Alt-Right or Dissenting Right would be shouldered aside.
The question is whether this imbalance of power will survive. I suspect the current situation may not last. Growing racial tensions, reckless immigration and a further weakening of already-weakened social bonds could all help the Alt-Right expand its following.
Part of the Alt Right’s eventual success may come from its anti-traditionalism. The Alt-Right is mostly (but not entirely) anti-Christian and advances a Nietzschean or neo-pagan perspective. It is thereby in sync with the growing secularism of millennials.
And the Alt-Right doesn’t wear itself out trying to defend the traditional bourgeois family. It appears to be made up largely of young, unattached bloggers. Most of those Alt-Right publicists I read focus on racial conflict or the struggle between civilizations; and they push these themes far more frankly and with less careerist backtracking than the well-paid propagandists of Conservatism, Inc. They also cite telling statistics about racial and gender differences; and they pride themselves on their openness to science as well as on their sometimes vaguely defined “radical traditionalism.”
The Alt-Right belongs to a post-conservative Right. But the “conservatism” it rejects is not even recognizable as such. What the Alt-Right rejects is a bogus Right that misleadingly calls itself “conservative” but which in most ways is indistinguishable from the historic Left.
One signature Alt-Right position (and one that Hawley traces back to both Sam Francis and to me) is a willingness to mock Conservatism, Inc. for its servile kowtowing to minorities. Alt-Right publicists mock “conservatives” who call for dismantling Confederate monuments, promote the obligatory celebration of MLK as a “conservative” titan (after decades of conservatives calling King a philandering communist fellow-traveler) and advocate “moderate” as opposed to “radical feminism.”
Unlike Conservatism, Inc., the Alt-Right avoids mealy-mouthed celebrations of “legal immigration” and “diversity” when it opposes illegal immigration. Instead it demands an end to all immigration that is not compatible with what America was as a nation up until a few decades ago.
It is hard to miss the family resemblance between the Alt-Right and various European identitarian movements. Several years ago, when I attended a conference in Stockholm sponsored by Arktos Press, I noticed Swedish and French identitarian spokesmen cheek by jowl with their Alt-Right American counterparts.
A difference between the two groups, however, concerns their concept of the uncongenial “Other.” European identitarians are principally concerned with keeping out Muslims and limiting the influence of Cultural Marxists in their societies. The Alt-Right has a much stronger racial edge, which may reflect the peculiarities of the American past.
Still, on the racial front, one finds more variation in the Alt Right than the “fake media” might lead us to believe. Jared Taylor and John Derbyshire, among others who have influenced the Alt-Right, characterize themselves as “race realists” but reject the “white nationalist” label. Some younger Alt-Right bloggers like Mike Cernovich don’t seem particularly interested in race, except to whatever extent political and culture elites weaponize it against whites. Cernovich has famously trained his fire on the “deep state” and the evils of feminism.
Another Alt-Right spokesman, Theodor Beale a.k.a. Vox Day has tried to integrate “race realism” into a reactionary posture, including anti-feminism and the defense of Evangelical Christianity. The Canadian libertarian Stefan Molyneux has tried to blend Alt-Right critiques of cultural Marxism with anarcho-capitalism.
Ultimately, the Alt-Right represents a long-delayed reaction to the landmark Great Society legislation passed by the US Congress in the mid-1960s. Alt-Right defenders are opposed to the long-range consequences of the Civil Rights Act, the disastrous 1965 Immigration Act and Voting Rights Acts. They condemn these actions as beginning a process of cultural, demographic and political radicalization. Presumably only a regime change, one that Trump has not yet brought about, can alter this trend.
The Conservative Establishment would never make peace with any serious Right, at least not one that offended the global corporate capitalists, Zionist casino-owners, and arms merchants who payroll our GOP think tanks.
But what this assumes is a continuation of the present moment. A sea change may still take place sooner or later, one in which our current political elites are swept away.
If this occurs, it will be a true populist revolt among American whites—not merely a new disguise for what Sam Francis aptly described as “the harmless persuasion.”
Paul Gottfried [ email him ] is a retired Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After Liberalism, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism His most recent book is Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America.