A critique or attack upon something I’ve said deserves a response best put into essay format rather than comment rebuttal, so the following will address this article from James at West Coast Reactionaries, in which I am referred to under the somewhat cryptic moniker “some people”, but the article concerns two of my own essays published here, which you can read for yourself via the following links (1, 2)
The first paragraph is just a helpful rehashing of events at Richard Spencer’s NPI conference this past week, which I’ve already gone over, at the end of which he described the AltRight as a “monstrous immature entity”. Immature I’d agree with (it’s a term I’ve used). Monstrous? A bit strong… That’s probably what people imagine the AltRight is from all the non-stop news coverage but I haven’t found it particularly monstrous myself.
There’s some further adjective invective; “sadistic” and “puerile” to describe the activities of the AltRight. Again, not terms I’d use to describe the behavior of many people whom I have respect for, even if we disagree in some areas (including Richard Spencer), and indeed some who I call friends. It has been stated on numerous occasions that I have virtually zero empathy for Liberals and so that does likely cloud my judgment somewhat, but there is a case to be made that while actually ovening someone is sadistic, photoshopping someone into an oven isn’t, and can be classed as black comedy. When we describe these things in such terms, it probably only lends ammunition to the arguments for safe-spaces.
This part is where my own statements on ”meme magic” are brought up, and my astonishment at their success is applied to antics at the recent NPI conference. I’d like to point out, nothing in my second article was really refuted here, but I’ll continue. It is of course easy to point to a particular failing and then categorize everything else as a failing, but for those who believe as I do that the AltRight played some role in the surprise election of Donald Trump, then my previous reasoning is bolstered because the tactics that were being used were effective instruments of information warfare. The bungling of Richard Spencer does not diminish this effectiveness to any substantial degree, even while I did regard the incident as serious enough to pen an article addressing the subject, which you can read here. While it almost seems as if I am expected to sweep the events that took place under the rug, I am actually in full agreement that there was a startling amount of immaturity and poor organization that could have been easily avoided. However, rather than simply demeaning Spencer as a “kid”, I tried to be firm yet fair in recommending he learn from his mistake and keep tighter control of his conferences, both for his own sake and those of the people who do him the honor of speaking there.
What follows is the assertion that Spencer can’t actually be blamed for what happened, because it is inherent to the meme culture which he is subject to, which ironically reduces Spencer to having no control over his own conference, something I don’t believe is the case. I’m not such a fatalist as to think that the conference could not have been a success, had Spencer not gotten ahead of himself.
The parts beyond this are better quoted than summarized:
“Can we see for a moment if Spencer’s actions were in error beyond the scope of whether or not this affected the public relations of movements to the Right of the political spectrum. After all, one should learn to not care about the biases of the “Lügenpresse,” right?”
I myself have never asserted this. While there is some merit to the idea of ignoring the press, the fact is that optics matter, and Spencer does seem to have acknowledged this somewhat. If optics didn’t matter, I wouldn’t have bothered writing anything on the incident.
“It demonstrates that the Alt-Right’s main energy is not from the dignity of its principles, but from the mass-movement of its members. It functions by the same underclass mentality as its Leftist counterparts. It excites the lower strata of society in dissatisfaction and it leads through euphoria rather than awe.”
I don’t really disagree. The AltRight is, in some ways, populist. Though we must emphasize that as a phenomena distinct from ‘Trumpism’ itself, it is not as populist as its ‘God Emperor’, and does cleave to a common idea or principle, that which was argued by Argent Templar to be its definition on the very same website:
“A movement based on the belief that human interchangeability (not equality interchangeability) is both wrong and dangerous, which consists of various factions who are attempting to explain the reasons for this and what the consequences of it are.”
The point about the “lower strata” is also important, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
“Ultimately, this draws into question what kind of person is a person of the Right? Does he maintain any level of virtue or self control superior to that of his Leftist counterparts or is he just as nihilistic about reality and treats everything as a joke? Does he have any gravitas that raises him higher than the parody-mills of late night television hosts? Is policy and ideology the only measure of difference between a person of the Right and the Left? Is a person on the Right just as willing to throw the Molotov cocktail of internet memery? I posit that any true distinguishing marker between ideologies can be found in the character and actions of its members. If an ideology does not inform the character of an individual so that he behaves differently from his counterpart, can we really say that it is qualitatively different? I suspect that any movement that revels in the immaturity of its own members represents a movement for children rather than adults.”
This is the section where I felt there was the most concrete disconnect between my view and that of James. The other stuff is minor by comparison, and that includes later appeals to Evola. Would Evola approve of the AltRight? No. And let us be very clear, Evola did not approve of much, and a lot of the stuff he did approve of he later reversed himself on, ending his life with little hope for any kind of political solution to the crisis of Modernity, a rejection of the optimism he had displayed during the early days of Italian Fascism, when he and the Ur Group were excited by its potential. I am by no means dismissing the criticisms Evola had of various movements and groups, they were for the most part entirely valid, but using these to make the case that Evola would disapprove of the AltRight is just a truism that nobody would deny, and doesn’t really add anything.
So what is to be said about the passage above which encapsulates the most meaningful argument? Can we reduce it to a more simple thesis? How about…
“The AltRight is bad because it’s actors do not meet my standards of behavior and personal conduct, and thus it is clear that the ideology they are purportedly a part of (rightism) has not caused them to change their own lives in any significant way to fit in with the values they supposedly wish to enshrine.”
I don’t think this is an unfair summation. I chose the term “my standards” just to make clear that not every person will have the same standards they expect from people in order to be ‘truly right wing’, especially if this is based on conduct rather than dogma. I honestly don’t like anime’s appearance all over the right, but I’m not going to question AntiDem’s credentials because of it. Everyone is a sinner. Not everyone is a heretic. While there is virtue in keeping a tight definition of what constitutes rightism, you can make that eye of the needle so tight that only you pass through it, which is to be avoided as a perfect example of holiness spiraling.
To make very clear why I think the argument is wrong:
The AltRight is not the Legion of the Archangel Michael.
It has never been that, was never intended as that, and will never be that. The AltRight is a loose collection of dissidents, mostly online, who are united by a common belief in the non-interchangeability of peoples, and whose primary goal has been offensive rather than constructive. Trying to tone police such an organism is fruitless, hopeless, and not something I am interested in doing. From his now defunct second channel, Adam Wallace used to have a video where he discussed “morality policing” the AltRight, and how it was a stupid idea, how attempting to judge the moral character of people in these spheres over the internet and somehow influence their behavior was a non-starter (at the time as it pertained to the suspected sexual habits of certain people). I cannot help but apply this same reasoning to tone policing, that is, being concerned about the method of expression that people on the AltRight engage in, be that memes, swearing, parody songs, etc. I can rightly critique these on the grounds of optics, such as the case of the sieg heiling at Spencer’s conference, but if I shunned everyone who had ever posted Pepe or used the word “cuck” as mere children, I would only talk to James, but I guess I could take solace in the fact that I would be perfectly sane since I wouldn’t be talking to myself.
Remember when I posted my own article at West Coast Reactionaries, comparing the American and European right, and drawing a distinction between them? As someone who is not American, I must be brutally honest in saying that the apparently “puerile” nature of the American right’s discourse does not concern me. There were three things I mentioned in that essay on which I felt Americans and Europeans could mutually benefit from collaborating on; personal development was not one of them. I could not have been more open when I finally came around to endorsing Donald Trump as to my motivations for doing so, and my reasons for why his election would be a positive thing. How the AltRight as his ‘private army’ went about achieving that was none of my business, I was interested in results. Aleksandr Dugin, being the bookish professor that he is, probably has no love for Trump’s method of discourse which is uniquely American bluster, but he wanted a certain outcome in a foreign state, and so did not care about the method that was used to achieve it. Why should he? He is Russian. I’m not coming from any different angle than that.
I supported the AltRight’s tactics so long as they were effective. Worrying about their tone or tenor was neither my job nor something I believed to be of importance given the context. Earlier in his article, James says that the AltRight should have focused on achieving real greatness through their own self-improvement. My own view is that if your one-stop-shop for self-improvement advice is political analysts and theorists on the net, there is probably no hope for you. There are places that can help you lose weight, help you speak more eloquently, help you get in touch with the spirit world. The internet is not one of them. One can be in the AltRight and also be in a self-improvement class, but one should not expect the former to be the latter.
When you dismiss all activities which do not adhere to a strict code of conduct and character, on top of whatever ideological pretensions you might have, and especially if this takes place on the internet, you will be disappointed every time and eventually leave the medium frustrated and having gained nothing. I have not held to any delusions about the AltRight. I am fully aware of its shortcomings,and as I made clear in this article, its ultimately limited lifespan. I am also aware of its successes, ones which I have found beneficial. And herein lies the problem of expectations. I have a deliberately low standard for the AltRight because I am aware of its nature, its members, and the milieu it emerged from. For a powerful, extra-political force of dedicated warriors who will overthrow the Liberal order and reinstate the World of Tradition… the AltRight is a catastrophic failure. But for a mishmash of disgruntled men wanting to cause havoc for a system they despise, in the name of a basic proposition that I agree with… they’re not bad (recent slip-ups notwithstanding).
Thus we arrive at that point about the “lower strata” once more. I am rather perplexed as to why someone who believed in caste would ever believe it possible for those of the lower strata to demonstrate Brahminical levels of self-discipline, especially as they have emerged from the womb of Modernity to a despairing landscape with no kings and effectively no priests.When these figures do arise, things may change, but until then this is what we have to work with in terms of the masses, who of course only have limited uses.
I want to conclude by saying that I don’t think my views are unrepresentative of most of the Reactosphere, the vast majority of whom have never gone further than offering constructive and polite criticism of the AltRight, usually of specific issues, and while keeping an arm’s length from certain people or proposals that they dislike, have quietly or loudly cheered the growth of the zeitgeist. After all, it has increased our readership and helped to propagate our ideas! NeoReaction, of which I am a close affiliate, has watched the broad AltRight with analytic amusement and cordiality, and the highly respected deacons of The Orthosphere have openly declared themselves one alternative on the alternative right. I’m comfortable standing by what I have written, and am content with where I stand on the AltRight (at least for now), given both my realist expectations and recognition of the limited role that I have decided to play, that of an analyst rather than a tone policeman or a self-help guru. Where the AltRight is wrong, there should be criticism (and on the issue of abortion I have not been shy about it), but in the future such criticisms of tone or rhetoric ought to be directed at individual actors at fault and what they have said or wrote that is so disquieting, rather than a continual return to my months-old article on the success of memes, as if it had any impact whatsoever on how people on the AltRight choose to converse.