An Outsider Reports on White Advocacy
F. Roger Devlin, American Renaissance, October 2, 2020
Philippe-Joseph Salazar, Suprémacistes : L’enquête mondiale chez les gourous de la droite identitaire (Supremacists : The Worldwide Investigation of the Gurus of the Identitarian Right), Plon, 2020, 304 pages, 21 €.
Philippe-Joseph Salazar, born 1955, is a French academic who teaches philosophy and rhetoric. Since 1999, he has held an appointment at the University of Cape Town. He is a man of broad interests and a prolific writer best known to English-speakers for the book Words Are Weapons: Inside ISIS’s Rhetoric of Terror (Yale University Press, 2017). This is his first publication on the identitarian movement.
Mr. Salazar describes his new title as an investigation, a survey that does not pass judgment, so the title Supremacists may well be the publisher’s attempt to generate interest. Mr. Salazar asked his interviewees if they were “white supremacists” and got no takers. Left-wing clichés about “neo-Nazis and the KKK” may be indestructible, but the author says they do not apply to people he met.
Today’s nationalism is defensive and deplores rivalries between European nations at a time when Western civilization as a whole is under threat. German identitiarians, for instance, don’t want to recapture Alsace-Lorraine from the French but to recapture Berlin and Hamburg from Africans and Asians. Everywhere, white advocates do not want to attack others but to protect their own people from the psychological warfare known as cultural Marxism or political correctness.
Mr. Salazar’s book was written for a mainstream French audience and contains material that may be unnecessary for American readers: a history of the abortive Charlottesville rally of 2017, an explanation of the 2nd Amendment, and even an account of his personal impressions of America. The heart of the book is a series of interviews with leading figures and activists of contemporary nationalism, including Jared Taylor, who reportedly told the author:
Our species is tribal. It is normal to prefer the culture, manners and way of life of one’s own people. That is why, despite the government’s great efforts to encourage immigration and racial mixture, Americans remain for the most part separate. . . . It is obvious that diversity—of language, religion, ethnicity, but above all diversity of race—is an endless source of conflict. My book White Identity is a detailed description of the problems resulting from diversity and from Americans’ refusal to face them. The United States has gone very far in the matter of diversity, and I hope that France—a country I know, admire and love—will not repeat the same mistakes.
Mr. Taylor explained that some Italians and Poles, like American blacks, have retained a group consciousness that white Americans have mostly lost. Mr. Salazar remarked that this comment matched his own observations of Mr. Taylor’s Northern Virginia neighborhood: “Coming here, it’s very white I believe and affluent, [yet] I didn’t really have the feeling of a community, but rather of a residential suburb without much in the way of neighborly relations.” Mr. Taylor agreed, but noted that whites have not always lived like this:
The coherence of our culture is well illustrated by ancient Greece or the Gothic Age which reflected societies that had a common purpose and lasting values. People like me are motivated by that culture and that heritage. My race has an inherent value that obliges us, biologically and culturally, to want to survive . . . . For us, there is no alternative to being white.
But whites have the peculiarity of being altruistic. This altruism expressed itself in white involvement in the Civil Rights movement for blacks . . . . Whites think they are proving themselves virtuous by being altruists. This white altruism is specific to my race, and it is a handicap.
Mr. Salazar also met frequent AR Conference speaker John Derbyshire, whom he credits with a “decisive influence on the young alt-right.” He began by asking Mr. Derbyshire whether his mathematical background had any connection with being a dissident. The reply:
The essential question which must always be asked is “is this true?” Mathematicians learn to think logically to arrive at truth, at what is real. The problem with educated people is their aversion to reality. For example, they might look at a YouTube video saying that sex is a social construct. Alright, but “is this true?” An example of fallacious reasoning: “X hurt my feelings; therefor what X says is false.”
Mr. Salazar asked whether women are not more likely to be guilty of this. Mr. Derbyshire agreed: “Men love ideas; women love people.”
Mr. Derbyshire also noted the bad logic behind mainstream representation of dissident thinking, citing the example of British statesman Enoch Powell. In his most famous speech, Powell explicitly warned against confusing a prediction of racial conflict with the desire to provoke it. This made no difference: His warning has gone down in history as the “Rivers of Blood” speech (words he did not use), and to this day, there are people who assume Powell was calling for race war.
Mr. Derbyshire explained further:
The essential point is that there should be a strong ethnic majority to serve as ballast for society. The majority and minorities can have the same rights without minorities being full-fledged members, and the majority must learn to tolerate such small minorities. But for a society to have a personality, for a nation state to be coherent, an ethnic supermajority of 90 percent is necessary.
Mr. Salazar’s inquiry is international and devotes several chapters to German-speakers. Of these, AR readers are most likely to be familiar with 2017 conference speaker Martin Lichtmesz. Interviewed in a Viennese café, he emphasized Europe’s artistic heritage as a source of belonging:
The arts, music, are a heritage, and they are what establish connections between European cultures. Just look at a Velasquez in a museum and you are looking at the European soul. Contrary to the left, which is against the aesthetic, this is just what I appreciate in the arts. And it is what the left, with all its “-isms,” rejects: the “-isms” only reflect abstract ideas, not lived experience.
Mr. Lichtmesz brought up the Austrian Identitarian Movement led by Martin Sellner:
It is a movement, a political process, not a party. Its strategy is one of indirect action. For the government is powerful; it must maintain a façade of consensus. While we are chatting here, 17 identitarian activists are on trial in Graz for forming a criminal organization, as if they were mafiosi, and for incitement to hatred.
This trial led to the cancellation of the author’s planned meeting with Mr. Sellner. The accused were eventually acquitted.
Those we wish to rally to our cause are like an elephant led by its driver. The elephant driver is rational, while the elephant is instinctive and can decide to do what the driver knows he shouldn’t. In politics, it is too easy to leave the elephant to its own devices rather than acting rationally. Our ideas are powerful, but one must be able to motivate the elephant by using its emotions, playing on its basic moral sentiments.
Hence, perhaps, the importance of the arts.
The only Frenchman Mr. Salazar interviewed was Renaud Camus, author of The Great Replacement (2011), a book on Europe’s immigration crisis whose title has become a catchphrase. Yet Mr. Salazar notes the influence on identitarianism by a number of other French writers such as René Guénon, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, Robert Brasillach, Maurice Bardèche, Alain de Benoist, and Guillaume Faye. He also devotes a few pages to La Nouvelle Librairie, a recently opened bookshop in Paris that specializes in such authors. The shop is within easy walking distance of some of the most prestigious schools in the capital, and the owners hope it will influence students.
Mr. Salazar traveled to Copenhagen to report on a meeting of the Scandza Forum, which sponsors conferences on the future of the European people. He found himself in a spy-vs.-spy world of secret meeting locations and passwords. Participants were to dress inconspicuously and not to travel in groups, even of two. Mr. Salazar anxiously monitored the local “antifa” by internet.
As he listened to the first speech, by Colin “Millennial Woes” Robertson, the other side finally caught wind of the location and began gathering outside, where the author saw a forest of red flags. Opponents shouted slogans through megaphones so loudly that the Scandza audience had to close the windows. As Tom Sunic discussed various forms of populism, there was an explosion outside. The conference organizer reassured everyone that Danish police were calling in reinforcements to protect the building.
British activist Mark Collett then mounted the podium. He is a good speaker, and brought the audience to its feet: “We proclaim loud and clear: we will not be replaced!” Simultaneously, the goons outside raised an unprecedented racket to drown him out. Mr. Salazar realized that a mole in the audience must be sending them instructions.
No food was served; the mob attacked the caterer before he reached the building and destroyed the meal. Later, the police sent four minibuses to take the participants safely back to their hotels.
Participants gathered afterwards, and a young Dane who learned that Mr. Salazar is a professor of philosophy said he was reading the Menexenus, one of Plato’s less-celebrated works. The two discussed some of its ideas: that men are willing to die for their country because they share common ancestors, that societies reflect the nature of their people, and that democracy requires a homogeneous population. No wonder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister is alarmed to see young white men rediscovering the classics.
Later, Mr. Salazar interviewed the organizer of the conference, who explained:
Some young activists want to act quickly, out of anger. They don’t like not being able to reply to antifa in the same way antifa attacks us with almost complete impunity. But that is not a good strategy. Those who say we have only 15 years to stop demographic replacement and the dangers to our cultural identity are mistaken. Our efforts will take generations. We are not focused on politics but on developing our ideas, which will gradually affect more people, and on projecting our vision over the long term. We are patient.
Mr. Salazar has given the French-speaking world a useful overview of today’s identitarian movement far removed (despite the book’s disappointing title) from the clichés of the left. One hopes similar books will appear in other European languages.