John Jackson, American Renaissance, July 18, 2019
Greg Johnson, Toward a New Nationalism, Counter-Currents Publishing, 2019, $20, 232 pages.
Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents has published an excellent new collection about nationalism. He calls it a “companion volume” to his recent White Nationalist Manifesto, but while the former is a statement of white nationalist principles, this covers many topics, from freedom of speech to activism tactics.
The book contains Dr. Johnson’s articles, speeches, and one interview. One article, “What is the Alternative Right?” is an interesting history of the term and the movement. In this article and in others, Dr. Johnson explains where nationalists have gone wrong and how they can improve.
Despite calling one of his articles “In Praise of Extremism,” a recurring theme is the danger of what Dr. Johnson has elsewhere called “self-indulgent extremism.” He writes that beginning in 2017, there was an increase in attitudes and behavior that had an unmixed record of failure: National Socialism, outright hatred of non-whites, misogyny, and “costumed demonstrations and street brawls with Leftists” (121). The first two drive away potential allies and attract the wrong people. Misogyny gives the impression that “the movement is simply a safe space for damaged people to vent,” making it less likely to work towards creating “healthy families and sexual norms” (123).
Dr. Johnson writes:
As long as we attacked the enemy’s weaknesses from our strengths, we were making remarkable metapolitical gains. But as soon as some attacked the enemy’s strongest points from a position of relative weakness, they were destroyed. (127)
Our strengths include the truth of our ideas and our ability to dismantle those of our opponents. Our opponents’ strengths include every asset we lack, including numbers, lawyers, funding, greater public sympathy, and preferential treatment from the media and legal system. The Unite the Right rally in August 2017 pitted our weaknesses against our opponents’ strengths. As a result, our side is now dealing with lawsuits we cannot afford, many have had their lives ruined through doxxing, and several have even gone to prison. Many people—presumably intimidated—have disappeared from the dissident scene.
Dr. Johnson prefers another strategy. Our opponents’ views are “based on lies about human nature” (127), and are ridiculous when contrasted with our own views, so he encourages a “propaganda war” (128). He advocates “low-risk, high-reward” actions that follow the model of the European identitarians and more recently the American Identity Movement (163, 128, 181). This has advantages: Rioters cannot disrupt these events, and unsympathetic media cannot cover them directly, but must use footage taken by activists themselves. It allows regulating attendance to exclude “undisciplined clowns” and to maintain focused messaging (163). It means organizing smaller local events rather than larger national ones, thus saving on travel and lodging.
Dr. Johnson also endorses “American nationalism” as opposed to a white nationalism that rejects American identity. Figures such as James Allsup and Brittany Pettibone—who are conscious of race but reject terms like “white nationalist”—already talk of “American nationalism.”
Some argue that American identity is essentially indifferent to race, but Dr. Johnson shows that the United States has always been “normatively white” (43). The first Naturalization Act in 1790 required that candidates for citizenship be “free white persons of good character.” Both native-born blacks and American Indians (though only those not on reservations) were granted citizenship in 1868. Native-born Chinese could not become citizens until 1898, while other Asians along with “descendants of races indigenous to the Western hemisphere” did not gain that right until 1940. All these changes were “fiercely resisted” (42). Further, immigration laws before 1965 were intended to maintain “an ethnic balance based on the 1890 census” (ibid.).
Most of the people who might be sympathetic to white identity are patriotic and attached to American symbols. “Anti-American White Nationalists” thus face an uphill battle (44). American nationalists need only persuade them of the realities of race and diversity. More radical nationalists not only have to do this but also persuade Americans to trade their national identity for “Southern Nationalism, cranky conspiracy theories about Freemasons . . . [and/or] a whole host of historical revisionist theses about the Civil War, the Third Reich, and the holocaust,” along with “symbols which are at best alien to Americans” (44).
A common theme in this volume is psychology and its role in politics and culture. In the transcript of a speech called The European Fighting Spirit that he gave at the 2018 Awakening Conference in Finland, Dr. Johnson talked about the relationship between the three aspects of the psyche defined by Plato: reason, desire, and thumos. Dr. Johnson defines thumos as “a passionate love of one’s own: one’s own honor, one’s own family, one’s own tribe” (69). He also associates it with masculinity.
With modern whites, thumos has become the weakest of the three; love of one’s own kind is denounced as xenophobia while honor is belittled as narcissism. Dr. Johnson thinks this was by design, as “the founders of liberalism” tried to “cast down the sovereignty of reason and thumos and replace them with the sovereignty of desire” (71). Earlier European society was dominated by the church and the aristocracy, with aristocrats elevating honor above all else while Christianity, though not entirely rational, was “a system of ideas that subordinated desire and thumos to its imperatives” (ibid.).
“The result of this rewiring of the soul was the rise of modern bourgeois man,” writes Dr. Johnson, who will sacrifice nothing for “principle and patriotism” (ibid.). Such people accept any kind of humiliation as long as they get food, shelter, and security. This spirit means the West is increasingly dominated by “soy-drinking, cuck-mouthed hipsters” who venerate globalism and multiculturalism over their own nations (68). Dr. Johnson exhorts the reader to rediscover thumos and reject the “slave” status of “producer-consumers.” He urges whites to become “people who are willing to fight and die over matters of honor, principle, and patriotism” (72).
One of the most interesting essays is about freedom of speech. Dr. Johnson writes that this freedom begins with the idea that bearers of bad news must be protected. No ruler would punish someone for flattering him, but many resent anyone who tells him what he doesn’t want to hear. Humans are fallible and will always need to hear bad news.
Dr. Johnson identifies the current censorship regime with narcissism, which means maintaining a high self-image at all costs. A responsible person can take criticism or bad news and change his mind. A narcissist cannot; he will try to punish the bearer of bad news. There are many such people among our elites, but they are terrible leaders, because they make decisions without considering information that doesn’t suit them.
Nationalists today bear bad news. Multiculturalism and diversity have failed, and people who believe in them don’t want to hear this. But we must continue to speak the truth. Indeed, Dr. Johnson identifies what should be the two main goals of the nationalist movement: Remove the taboo against white identitarian thinking, and preserve our freedom to tell people what they don’t want to hear.
Dr. Johnson wants the law to protect free expression: “All private companies must be forced by law to respect freedom of speech and thought” (158). Further, “Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon.com, YouTube, and Google [must] be regulated as public utilities so that they cannot deny service to any paying customer on the grounds of ideology” (ibid.). These changes would go a long way towards protecting a fundamental American right and enabling a peaceful transition from globalism to nationalism.
It is a typically rich irony of our times that after having sold Dr. Johnson’s books for many years, Amazon recently banned most of them. Dr. Johnson bears bad but essential news of precisely the kind our narcissist elites cannot bear to hear.