Alexander Hart, American Renaissance, April 21, 2016
Jared Taylor has long struggled to find a proper label to describe American Renaissance’s viewpoint. He explains that its views were once common sense. In 1900, a man didn’t need a word to explain that he believed America and Europe should remain European anymore than he needed a word to express that he put his pants on one leg at a time. Over the last half century, the Left has chosen a number of pejoratives for us: white supremacist, racist, etc. The term white nationalist has its own baggage, and various thinkers and polemicists have come up with terms like identitarian and white advocate, which Mr. Taylor supports.
However, over the last year, another term has dominated the headlines: the Alt Right. The official organs of the conservative movement express horror over how this movement will, as one Commentary op-ed put it, single-handedly undermine William F. Buckley’s successful attempt to make sure conservatism is “taken seriously by the New York media and cultural elite” and will bring forth a “conservative dark age.”
Now Dylan Matthews of Vox has written a 5,000-word think piece trying to explain the Alt Right. Vox is a new publication founded by Ezra Klein, formerly of the Washington Post’s Wonk Blog. Upon launching Vox, Mr. Klein explained that its mission was to “explain the news” by “hiring journalists who really know the topics they cover” and who can therefore give “contextual information that traditional news stories aren’t designed to carry.” However, this usually amounts to regurgitating leftist academic theories and talking points with clickbait titles like “11 ways race isn’t real.” This has lead many to mock Vox’s supposed think pieces as “Voxplaining”–a play on the left-wing portmanteaus mansplaining and whitesplaining.
Mr. Matthews is not neutral when describing his subject–frequently using pejoratives like “white supremacist,” “openly racist,” and “world-class anti-Semite.” Furthermore, the article shows little understanding of his subjects. Thus, before addressing Mr. Matthews, it may be useful to give a brief background of the Alt Right.
Richard Spencer coined the term Alternative Right in 2009 while he was still the editor of Taki’s Magazine. The next year he launched his own site, AlternativeRight.com. An inaugural essay, “Why the Alternative Right is Necessary,” laid out the ideology quite simply:
The Alternative Right takes it for granted that equality of opportunity means inequality of results for various classes, races, and the two sexes. Without ignoring the importance of culture, we see Western civilization as a unique product of the European gene pool.
Furthermore, while the Alternative Right may share many of the conservative movement’s policy goals on economic matters, fighting the Left without acknowledging the reality of human differences “is like stabbing at your opponent with a knife when you have a bazooka in your arsenal.” The article noted the name Alternative Right was appropriate, because
When you live in a society in which you’d like to change the entire idea-making establishment, it makes little sense to call yourself a “conservative.” On the other hand, we shouldn’t do away with the term completely, as there is something inherently conservative about seeking a political and social culture that is a better fit with human nature than the one we currently have.
Mr. Spencer closed AlternativeRight.com in 2013 and launched Radix Journal, which produced similar content, though it initially championed the term identitarianism. In the last year, a growing number a race realists, many of whom were former libertarians and Ron Paul supporters, popularized the abbreviated term“Alt Right,” which gained popularity on internet message boards and Twitter. The Right Stuff, a website and Facebook group that helped drive the Alt Right resurgence, defined the term simply as “the right wing stripped of any superstitious belief in human equality and any admission of the left’s moral authority.”
While the Alt Right’s use of the social media and memes may seem odd, its ideology requires little explaining. Rather than simply pointing out these viewpoints, Mr. Matthews Voxplains the Alt Right by muddying the waters and failing to grasp its major institutions and figures. He mentions Mr. Spencer only once in his 5,000-word article, and does not discuss Radix, AlternativeRight.com, or the National Policy Institute. VDARE, American Renaissance, and The Occidental Observer receive brief mentions, but Mr. Taylor, Peter Brimelow, Steve Sailer, Paul “RamZPaul” Ramsey, and other figures most associated with the Alt Right, along with major websites like Counter Currents and The Right Stuff, are all omitted.
Instead, he focuses on three movements: Neoreaction, Paleoconservatism, Gamergate/4chan.
Rather than discussing the key points above, Mr. Matthews writes that “its core are the ideas of a movement known as neoreaction, and neoreaction (NRx for short) is a rejection of democracy.” In contrast to his short shrift of the major figures on the Alt Right, Mr. Matthews mentions NRx or neoreaction 35 times in his article.
As Mr. Matthews explains, NRx is a movement of tech-oriented libertarians who reject democracy and enlightenment. Though many of the leaders are ethnically Jewish, they hold the old Catholic Church in high regard. They support a form of monarchism, which Mr. Matthews explains as,
Well, not monarchy specifically, but some kind of nondemocratic system with rule-driven succession. [Neorecationary leader Curtis Yarvin, known as Mencius] Moldbug likes to use the term “formalism,” or “neocameralism,” a reference to “cameralism,” the philosophy of government embraced by Frederick the Great of Prussia.
He further notes that most neoreactionaries do not like Donald Trump and that Mr. Yarvin suggested that Jeff Bezos–the same man who presides over Amazon, which banned the Confederate flag–run the country. These views are at odds with the Alt Right. While some Alt Righters are skeptical of democracy, more oppose how corporations undermine democracy on issues like immigration.
In addition to disliking Mr. Trump, who the Alt Right has rallied around, Mr. Matthews notes that the leading neoreactionary figures explicitly reject white nationalism.
The only major connection between the neoreactionary movement and the Alt Right is they both grew from tech-oriented libertarians who began to question some tenets of orthodox libertarianism. Yet saying the Alt Right grew out of the neoreactionary movement is like confusing a cousin for a father.
Mr. Matthews sees the paleoconservative movement as the intellectual predecessor to both the Alt Right and neoreactionary movement. As with the Alt Right, he seems to completely misunderstand its institutions. He correctly observes that most paleoconservatives shared traditional conservative views on social issues, but differed with much of the movement in opposing an activist foreign policy, free trade, and mass immigration. He also correctly notes that Paleoconservatism’s influence peaked with Pat Buchanan’s presidential runs.
However, he wrongly claims that a major cause of the paleoconservative decline was that the “movement had a huge racism problem,” particularly how its “skepticism of foreign entanglements and of the alliance with Israel specifically would occasionally bleed into overt anti-Semitism.” He cites William F. Buckley’s 1991 essay “In Search of Anti-Semitism,” as exposing this problem, and then claims that the “trend for paleoconservative writing in the past decade or two” has been an embrace of white nationalism–citing John Derbyshire writing for VDARE.
Mr. Matthews claim makes no sense on its face. Mr. Buckley attacked the paleoconservatives’ alleged “contextual anti-semitism” in 1991, yet Mr. Buchanan went on to outperform expectations in 1992 and 1996.
Moreover, the paleoconservative movement used to be far more hospitable to race realism than it is today. The flagship institution of paleoconservatism is the Rockford Institute with its Chronicles Magazine and John Randolph Club conferences. Mr. Matthews does not mention it, nor leading paleoconservative figures like Paul Gottfried, Tom Fleming, or the late Sam Francis, in the article.
Mr. Francis, undoubtedly a leading paleoconservative intellectual, was also a leading white advocate, and Jared Taylor used to write for Chronicles and speak at the Randolph Club until 1997, when the Rockford’s Institute’s then-president Tom Fleming denounced an unnamed “racialist newsletter”–clearly meaning American Renaissance–and most of the leading figures associated with it, for promoting the “abstractions of white identity.”
While Dr. Fleming is no longer involved with the Rockford Institute, Chronicles recently published a series of articles criticizes white nationalism. According to its current publisher, Chilton Williamson, “whiteness, at least as white nationalists imagine it, is largely an ideological construct rather than a biological one, based on a more or less arbitrary system of classification.”
As for John Derbyshire, his writings have appeared at VDARE since 2000, including an article describing himself as a “neocon” who supported the War in Iraq. While Mr. Derbyshire has since come closer to the paleoconservative position on foreign policy, his professed views on race have remained constant for decades. National Review firing him evinces its own retreat on race, but nothing about paleoconservatism.
Paleoconservatism declined in large part because Mr. Buchanan was the only well known figure associated with the movement. Like all politicians, his stature waxed and waned, and the movement fell after his disappointing 2000 campaign and the successful neoconservative takeover of the conservative movement and the Bush administration after 9/11. Having been vindicated by the failure of the Iraq War, Buchanan is now held in higher regard than he was a decade ago.
However, he is 77 years old, and most other leading paleoconservatives are also senior citizens or, in the case of Messrs. Sobran and Francis, deceased. The paleocon’s core ideology of nationalism with regard to economics, foreign policy, and immigration remains popular and Donald Trump embraces it. However, many of the movement’s eccentricities, such its focus on the antebellum South and traditional Catholicism, do not appeal to the youth.
Gamergate and “channers”
The final group Mr. Matthews discusses comes from internet message boards–most notably the “pol” subforum on 4chan. Much of the Alt Right’s tone and tactics–using twitter, memes, and trolling to gain attention–originated there. From an ideological perspective, Mr. Matthews quotes Alt Right apologist Milo Yiannopoulos,
Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish “Shlomo Shekelburg” to “Remove Kebab,” an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide. Are they actually bigots? No more than death metal devotees in the 80s were actually Satanists. For them, it’s simply a means to fluster their grandparents.
Some in the Alt Right objected to Mr. Yiannopoulos’ characterization of their tactics as mere rebellion and irony. Regardless, his observation underlines a larger point. Young straight white men have faced constant attacks from the media and schools intended to instill guilt. Yet this backfired with some by instilling a sense of identity. Moreover, with almost all old sexual and moral taboos now mainstream, race realism is one of the few ways to truly rebel and shock. These factors certainly attract help attract the youth to the Alt Right.
One example of this backfiring was Gamergate–a controversy where the Left accused video gamers concerned about ethics in gaming journalism of embodying sexism and the patriarchy. The gamers fought back, and through the movement some became politically aware Alt Righters.
Keep it simple, stupid
As the Alt Right, paleoconservatism, and neoreaction are all small and marginalized movements, splitting hairs about philosophical differences can devolve into petty squabbling. One is reminded of the famous scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian where a member of the People’s Front of Judea gets upset when they are confused with the Judean People’s Front. At the end of the day, all three movements are all far more skeptical of multiculturalism and racial egalitarianism than most in the conservative movement.
Thus, while it’s counterproductive to attack these movements, the Alt Right, nonetheless, is both distinct and has the potential to be more effective for one main reason: its simplicity.
As a practical matter, people who are willing to question the conventional wisdom on race will be more likely to question the conventional wisdom on a host of other issues. Thus it’s not surprising that many paleoconservatives and neoreactionaries combine race realism with non-mainstream views on philosophy and government.
Yet this can make it harder to attract converts. Mr. Matthew’s article is entitled, “The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It’s that, but way way weirder.” Putting aside the pejorative use of “white supremacy,” it’s fair to say that the Alt Right largely repackages the “old” ideas of men like Sam Francis, Jared Taylor, Peter Brimelow, and John Derbyshire for a younger audience. Yet, as this author noted in VDARE, the movement is not weird and most of its members are smart, successful, and sociable.
Mr. Matthews wrote that neoreactionaries are “sympathetic to arguments for black racial inferiority” by quoting Mr. Yarvin:
Ever since Mill wrote his response to Carlyle on The Negro Question and probably well before, writers in the English Protestant tradition have been defending the blatantly theological proposition that ‘all men are created equal.’ In the absence of any evidence for this proposition, one can always assert that evidence for the contrary is unconvincing. Note that exactly the same rhetorical strategy can prove the existence of God, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that matter.
While this was supposed to be shockingly racist, most readers were likely confused. Mr. Yarvin apparently argues that egalitarianism is a product of the English Protestant tradition and has become a theology, which, like both a belief in god and atheism, is unfalsifiable, but not necessarily true.
Compare this convoluted quote to Sam Francis’s simple and profound maxim that “The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people.”
While the Alt Right is a big enough tent to accommodate both people who hold fairly conventional positions on social and economic issues and those who don’t, it is united in the belief–as noted in the inaugural Alternative Right op-ed–that these squabbles are superfluous until we’ve overcome the taboo about discussing group differences, and until we reverse the demographic destruction of the West.
Whether intentionally or not, Donald Trump’s campaign has embodied this view. He has taken a hard line on immigration and political correctness, while having far more moderate positions than the rest of the GOP on foreign policy, taxes, abortion, and gay rights. And this has a lot to do with why he is winning.
The Alt Right cannot claim credit for Donald Trump. However, it’s managed to achieve significant influence with virtually no resources or public figures backing it. Perhaps in the not so distant future, the Alt Right will be subject a clickbait article entitled, “9 reasons the West reversed its suicidal trajectory.”