14 September 2016

Alt-erior motives

In recent weeks, particularly due to the election season, we’ve seen a growing attention to a certain, primarily online political presence, called the ‘alt-right’. These netizens have been gaining influence for quite some time, and not least because of the attention being paid to them now by the political candidates running for president. It seems somewhat relevant now to pay them a bit of heed, given their growing prominence.

Here’s the thing: I follow a handful of the ‘alt-right’ websites with some significant interest: in particular, The Unz Review (I was personally acquainted with one of the contributors when I worked as an English teacher in Luoyang) and Social Matter. Generally these sites are thoughtful, interesting and entertaining, even when they happen to be wrong – even spectacularly wrong. And there are certain things on which the alt-right and I find fairly significant agreement, at least in negative terms. I share with the alt-right a deep hostility to imperialism and wars waged in the far abroad for idealistic and ‘democratic’ reasons. In fact, I share with the alt-right a profound distrust of parliamentarian proceduralism itself (or at least, the ideological faith so many mainstream liberals put in it). Like the alt-rightists, I view globalism as doing as much harm as good to genuine human communities based on geography and tradition. Also like the alt-rightists, I don’t view immigration and ‘free trade’ as necessary, positive goods. And finally, the alt-rightists and I agree that culture, broadly stated, is ultimately more important than economics.

But, high among my political commitments, I am a realist. Realists recognise core interests as needful in any alliance. If there’s anything I’ve learnt from the past decade-and-a-half of political engagement, it’s that core interests need to be determined before committing to any kind of shared action. Otherwise, as our government has ably shown, in our pursuit of projecting our model of governance abroad and remaking the world in our image, we will ally ourselves with Islamic jihadists in Syria one day, and FEMEN in Poland the next; or we will ally ourselves with out-and-out fascists in the Ukraine and simultaneously with sycophantic native-informant neocon ‘activists’ like China’s Liu Xiaobo or Russia’s Garry Kasparov. Core interests presume at least a partial positive shared understanding of the common good; and if that shared understanding doesn’t exist, ultimately an alliance will lead to strategic errors and conflicts of interest, ultimately bringing more harm than good. So the question with regard to the alt-rightists is: what the hell are you for?

That question, it turns out, is somewhat difficult to answer. The online alt-right presence is expressed largely through memes and macros, and their expression is usually aimed not at anything substantive, but with an eye specifically to offending those they imagine are easily-offended. They are the equivalents of Marilyn Manson, Tucker Max and Howard Stern – which should give you some idea that they are ‘pop-cultural’ in orientation rather than either ‘high-cultural’ or ‘folk-cultural’. It becomes necessary, then, to look at the lacunae they leave; the residue of intellectual assumptions behind the memes. What is left on the alt-right at the end of the day, is a rancid mixture of free-speech absolutism, postmodernism and white identity politics – none of which I find particularly appealing on their own merits.

The free-speech absolutism of the alt-right, in fact, is one of the reasons I’ve taken to looking at tribal values on their own merits. The Teutonic tribes of yore, even as they were not yet fully Christianised, understood that speech had power, and as such they had the good sense to regulate it, albeit informally. It is no accident, and should come as no surprise to the students of ‘human biodiversity’, that the American cultures and subcultures which descend directly from northern European immigrants (Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish settlers who came to the Upper Midwest and Plains states, for example; or the northern English colonial, and later Russian and Polish, settlement in Pennsylvania) tend to be so ‘nice’ – and it has nothing at all to do with any ideological commitment to ‘political correctness’. It has much more to do with the fact that, historically, armed societies have been polite societies, and if you said something un-‘nice’ to another warrior or his kin in a tribal society, you ran the risk of sparking off a deadly blood-feud. It is actually only in the context of an overly-feminised, atomised, homogenised and deracinated culture that the sort of Internet-based incivility and free-speech absolutism which the alt-right represent stand a chance of becoming socially-acceptable.

The postmodernism and the identity politics on the alt-right, on the other hand, are all too common, and as clear as day to those with the wit to see them. When reading alt-right screeds on Breitbart or on Taki, it is fairly obvious that they have studied long and hard at the feet of the Frankfurters and the Poststructuralists, and are eager to join battle with their teachers using the selfsame weapons. They lament their victim status with all the eagerness and crocodile tears of a teenage Tumblrista; the only difference is that they take offence on behalf of a slighted white identity. As Tom Slater puts it, ‘they may take up arms against weepy identitarians, but they share the same, deadening sense of victimhood – just with another set of dreamt-up grievances attached’.

The postmodernism doesn’t stop there, though. Still creepier to my mind, drawn as I am to certain traditional values, is this interest I see on the alt-right for transhumanist fantasies and schemes to break and remake both human society and the human subject, in ways which would have utterly appalled the Old Right (who in general had a meet and proper appreciation for the small vices, the hypocrisies and especially the habitual inertia of the everyday, common man). Read that passage in Yiannopoulos’s piece linked in my first paragraph describing Eliezer Yudkowsky’s scheme for stripping away social inhibitions for the purpose of getting human beings to think like machines, and see if that doesn’t chill the blood. It’s the stuff of Dickian and Gibsonian nightmares, CS Lewis’s NICE writ large. It is, in point of fact, the one aspect of the alt-right which is with true justification linked to fascism. I can, of course, understand why such schemes have an appeal to certain classes and subcultures, primarily haute-bourgeois Silicon Valley desk jockeys and start-up investors. It is a truism that a class which has managed to convince itself of its own superior intellect will come to see itself as the rightful ruling class. But God save us all from any government run by such ‘experts’.

On the other hand, there are two versions of the alt-left that I have seen forming. One of them, sadly, joins the alt-right’s pathetic postmodernism and white identity politics to sexual hedonism and transhumanism. The result bears an uncanny resemblance to Eduard Limonov’s National-Bolshevik street theatrics: the worst attributes of the lifestyle-left combined with the worst of the alt right; a poseur’s version of being rebellious and ‘transgressive’ through breaking race and sex taboos alike, and offering the very worst dregs of 19th-century futurist thought in their place. The other version, though, the banner of which has been taken up by the blog of ‘Lord Keynes’, is far more sensible, to say the least! It explicitly rejects the postmodernist and identitarian direction of the alt-right as well as the ‘regressive [SJW] left’, but it retains the realist, anti-imperialist, anti-globalist, post-liberal and modernity-sceptical (that is to say, High Tory-derived) aspects of alt-rightdom that I’m inclined to respect in the first place. I’d very much like to see more of the ‘alts’ drawn into this ambit.

At the end of the day, what we need is not an ‘alt-right’ given to the weaknesses of late-19th and early-20th-century radicals, and guided by postmodernist and transhumanist delusions. What we need instead, if you will forgive me the anachronistic English wordplay, is an ‘eld-right’ driven by the modestly-cosmopolitan, virtue-ethical and realist suppositions posited by the High Tories and those who followed in their footsteps.


  1. I was following the Lord Keynes blog for a while, but I got really fed up of all the posts attacking immigration.

  2. PART 1

    1. The Unz Review is not an altright website (it publishes anybody left out of the mainstream, including Chomsky and that Tom Dispatch fellow). Nor is Breibart.

    2. Social Matter is an interesting site to read, but they are Neoreactionaries. While there is a certain level of crossover with the NRx crowd, (contra the Voxplaining MSM articles) those writers do not believe in political activism, and tend toward libertarianism 2.0, futurism/transhumanism, and corporate techno-commercialism. The vast majority of the alt-right reject those impulses as degenerate.

    3. What the hell is the alt-right for? Here are a couple of good summaries:



    Here's an infographic too:

    4. Now you turn to dismissing the alt right by reducing us to a pop-cultural phenomenon. The alt-right is conscious the Great Men of Tradition did not communicate in memes and 140 character missives. But we live in a world of twitter. Richard Spencer's comment on his support for Trump is instructive:

    “I don’t think our support of Trump is about policy, at the end of the day — it’s about style. We live in a fragmented, decaying society. We live in a society of moral degeneracy. We’re going to fight our way out it, and sometimes that means using the tools at hand. It’s going to mean unleashing a little chaos.”

    The style of communication is a conscious choice, indicative of the decayed state the modern world. The proles do not respond to high minded pontificating as post WWII conservatism in America has plainly shown. The altright is about winning, not cucking by hiding behind intellectualism.

    5. 'Free speech absolutism'. I'd love to live in a pre enlightenment honour culture. But we don't. We live in a society that's deconstructing anything that is honourable. (For the record, if you're going to bake the liberal democracy cake [which is what the West purports to be], it should include maximal free speech per Popper). We're waging total metapolitical war against the establishment, and indeed many of the reigning verities of our time. If we got into power, we would certainly be restricting certain types of speech along traditional lines. Free speech for the alt right is a tool, nay a tactic that it will dispense with if it achieves its ends. The alt right turn the modern world against itself. 'Muh feelz' is not a consideration.

  3. PART 2

    6. Postmodernism! Oh noes... You are correct in that we will turn the present order against itself. That's only sound strategy. Make your enemy's strength his weakness. But here your analysis covers only procedural similarities with the left, instead of analyzing the content of the identity categories. You sound like the impotent libertarians at Spiked braying about how the real answer to the "SJW" is MOAR classical liberalism. When for example the Maori Battalion (to extract an example from my country) marched into battle in world war II singing 'for God, for King, and for Country' they were just being "rancid" social justice warriors, and the 'country' they refereed to had no particular identity, and New Zealander didn't definitively mean either a Maori or an Anglo-Celt. People had identities based around honour, tradition, and organic social wholes they were willing to fight and die for well before the word post modernism was invented.

    And apparently the documented reality that America will lose its European majority by 2050, forever altering the residual reigning norms instantiated by the historic American nation - all this is just a wingnut conspiracy. These are empirical questions, and you offer no empirical rebuttal. Whole areas of London turning into Karachi while in Rotherham kebabs raped native European girls while the authorities did nothing - this is all fevered victimhood? What's really post-modern is your deployment of language to avoid substantive issues. Accuse some of playing the victim card and they cant' be a victim...this is an epistemological dead end under which no truth claims are admissible.

    Btw, the alt right is not afraid to give a non prejudiced hearing to fascism in the generic sense, extracting the enduring truths it contained while criticizing for its excesses and failures.

    7. The Gay (((Milo))) is not 'alt right'. He appropriated the label and like you he's confusing neoreactionaries with the altright. Dugin's opposition to transhumanism is popular on the altright (although you should not consider Dugin a central alt right influence).

    8. Reasonable depiction of the alt-left. As a matter of fact, the altright are open to all sorts of economic ideas, barring extreme Marxism and libertarianism.

    At the end of the day, alt right objectives are relatively modest. They want to live in homogeneous, high trust communities free from #CurrentYear degeneracy. Is this too much to f****** ask for? For Aristotle, the state was an extended family, and it would be rather strange for families to randomly permanently invite strangers with different customs into their homes. Or take my experience in New Zealand. Our largest city is gradually turning into Shanghai, while Somalians in full regalia roam our cheaper supermarkets. Wtf! Why is my wish to live in a homeland and not bloody confection of deracinated foreigners being a 'victim'? Why must I fight for something my ancestors got to take for granted without being accused of post-modernism? The Japanese must be massive victims under the logic of identity interests = victimhood, living as they do in their 98% Japanese Japan. (Btw, I have a lot of respect for Asian civilization...I just don't want it here). But then everybody is allowed to have group interests except Europeans. Even in the homelands of the old world, we must bow and scrape to the whims of third world invaders and view their interests as morally superior to ours.

    In closing, i'm not sure I agree with the alt right's race realism. I haven't examined in detail both sides of this argument which seems interminable. Nevertheless, I am certainly of the opinion culture at least is very deeply embedded, and difference + proximity leads to alienation or conflict. Call it the Spenglarian view of race. Thus I agree with their policy prescriptions on the racial/ethnic matter for slightly different reasons than they.

  4. And one more good article on what the alt right want: https://voxday.blogspot.co.nz/2016/08/what-alt-right-is.html

  5. @ Matthew C.: LK is still good in my book. He's simply a part of that old working-class tradition which sought to preserve high wages from mass corporate influxes of rootless workers from abroad.

    @ Lemur: Well, thanks for doing this point-by-point; I shall respond in kind.

    1.) Ron Unz is, if not an alt-rightist, at least a right-leaning person with alternative political views. Breitbart has undergone a transformation in recent years from being a neocon outlet to something closer to alt-right.

    2.) The leanings away from postmodernism and transhumanism are precisely what I appreciate most about Social Matter, to be blunt.

    3.) So, postmodernism (with, I guess, a dash of Dawkins / new-atheist mumbo jumbo thrown in) and white identity politics, then.

    4.) Yes, the alt-right are a pop-cultural phenomenon. But it's not about 'winning'.

    Why? Ultimately, the war against the insanities of modern, late-capitalist liberalism won't be won through memes or internet cultural warfare or elections. It will be won slowly by attrition, through raising children in traditional homes and intentional communities across generations.

    5.) 'Total metapolitical war'? Really?

    See above. If the alt-right really were fighting a total metapolitical war, their tactics would not be focussed on electoral politics and internet memes.

    6a.) I have no objection to God, King and Country. I have even less objection to Maoris using Oastler's formulas. You'd know this if you'd paid attention to my blog for a longer time. But my theology is Orthodox Christian; I don't bow to false kings or idols; and my understanding of 'country' doesn't line up perfectly with modernist nation-states or their self-serving legal categories.

    6b.) Again, this is identity politics. And please do try to keep up - it's precisely the content rather than the process of the alt-right's politics that I am addressing, and what I see, frankly, does not impress me. Race homogeneity is clearly not the same thing as having a healthy culture. Please see my polemical comments on Japan below; or search my blog for my posts on Japan, if you have more time on your hands.

    7.) Point taken on Yiannopoulos. As for Dugin - he's interesting, but there are better voices in Russia right now for the civilisational direction it will ultimately take. (See: Aleksandr Prokhanov, Sergei Mironov, Natalya Narochnitskaya, Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov.)

    8.) My view of modern Japanese civilisation is pretty dim, actually (particularly in comparison with classical Japanese civilisation, which was awesome). They aren't even reproducing at replacement levels; their society is awash with porn, degeneracy and depression; they've replaced much of their traditional architecture with skyscrapers and their traditional material culture with cheap plastic facsimiles. Geopolitically they are a tool of the United States. And their leaders, for all their talk about preserving tradition, still kick women out of the home to have them serve in the office. So what if they're 98% Japanese? At this rate their sclerotic culture is going to be extinct in a hundred years anyway, give or take a decade.

    1. What has happened to Japanese society is tragic.

      That's why I feel so sad when I watch Ozu films. Fifties Japan was poor and still remembered the horrors of the war, but his films are full of working young people getting married. He depicts a society full of life, energy and optimism. You compare that to the dead-end, low marriage, non-reproducing, porn obsessed Japan of today and you can only weep.

    2. I will have to take your recommendation on Ozu's films, Matthew. Thank you! I'm a fan of both Kurosawa and Miyazaki - basically for the same reasons. The Japan they depict and that they love is a very different one than the one we find today.