The Year of the Alt-Right

2015 was the year the Black Lives Matter movement went viral, seeing its aims discussed in cities and universities across the nation. Liberal media outlets trumpeted its objectives and prominent politicians threw support (at lest rhetorically) behind its calls for racial and legal justice.

But BLM was not the only peripheral political movement to make inroads into the mainstream of society. The alt-right, a loosely connected persuasion of rightwing radicals, found itself gaining ideological footing in ways that weren’t imaginable ten years ago. While the movement had been developing for years, the rise of Donald Trump helped cement a tone and approach befitting this multifarious cluster of militants. It seemed like everyone was talking about the alt-right, something that surely brought joy to its activists and transmitters.

This all culminated in Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed penning a piece about the movement. In it, she writes:

“The movement probably doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen before. The alt right is loosely connected, and mostly online. The white nationalists of the alt right share more in common with European far-right movements than American ones. This is a movement that draws upon relatively obscure political theories like neoreaction or the “Dark Enlightenment,” which reject the premises on which modernity is built, like democracy and egalitarianism. But it’s not all so high-minded as that. Take a glance at the #altright hashtag on Twitter or at The Right Stuff, an online hub of the movement, and you’ll find a penchant for aggressive rhetoric and outright racial and anti-Semitic slurs, often delivered in the arch, ironic tones common to modern internet discourse. Trump is a hero on the alt right and the subject of many adoring memes and tweets.

In short, it’s white supremacy perfectly tailored for our times: 4chan-esque racist rhetoric combined with a tinge of Silicon Valley–flavored philosophizing, all riding on the coattails of the Trump boom.”

When I first got interested in studying the alt-right, what grabbed my attention was its dissimilar ontological starting point that separated them from mainstream American conservatives. There was no reference to William F. Buckley or Ronald Reagan, rather Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Evola. Websites and publishers like Counter-Currents and Arktos seemed interested in intellectual conversations on the right that were completely absent from those held with conservative allies of mine. Even when I didn’t agree with their positions, they were far more entertaining to read and engage with on a cerebral level than the Fox News crowd I was accustomed to. The racism, anti-Semitism and conspiratorial mindset were apparent, but there was also an effort made by the movement’s purveyors to paint their undertaking as distinct from “the right” that came before. The alt-right was a “big tent” they claimed, with a slew of different perspectives not bound to any movement from the past. I appreciated exploring the overt paganism of Collin Cleary, or the right-wing homosexuality of Jack Donovan. These works were a world away from the conservative mainstream, and coming from the left, I found investigating these ideas recompensing intellectually, even if their ultimate conclusions were incorrect and effectively violent totalitarianism.

They wanted to create a legitimate, radical movement on the right that did not carry the historical baggage (and social scorn) of its predecessors. Yet, it’s the same old drivel that has become a rallying cry and badge of honor for those on the alt-right.

While Gray’s Buzzfeed piece does gloss over the persuasion’s philosophical roots for its online meme-generating, this focus is not without warrant. Websites like The Right Stuff have grown in influence and popularity by playing to the same, tired stereotypes connected to the far right. It is at The Right Stuff that any pretense of this movement being an alternative to the old right is extinguished. They publish a podcast called the Daily Shoah, which plays out exactly as it sounds. Any (and all) racist terms at the tip of one’s id are used in abundance; the Right Stuff gang sees other ethnic groups with derision and disparagement. There really is not much “alternative” in the right perpetrated by the website and its many followers; it’s just the same old stuff you hated the first time you heard it.

Even Cleary and Donovan did very little to hide their overt totalitarianism.

I have long since outgrown any attempts to banish or expel heretics from a political movement. I still spend personal time with radicals that carry pictures of Mao and Lenin or speak glowingly about the Bolshevik revolution that murdered millions, so I am in no place to criticize the company one keeps. In fact, the older I get the more I feel a need to engage with radical ideas beyond the mainstream, even if their ultimate aims are not ones I share. Nor am I a member of the alt-right, so it matters little to me who leads the movement and captures its energy. But as its members celebrate a year of influence, its leaders must know that frolicking about so overtly with a bunch of Stormfront followers with 4chan accounts will hinder their movement’s ability to spread throughout society in any meaningful manner. Or perhaps, just maybe, racist trolling is all the alt-right is and its academic veneer is nothing more than a veiled mask.

Being an Internet troll can be fun; having spent years working alongside humorless individuals on the left, I gather it can be rather enjoyable getting under the skin of high-and-mighty types online. But trolling is not a political movement: it’s just the kind of activity that helps lazy journalists write handwringing bits based on Twitter exchanges, or perhaps, even a Buzzfeed feature.

(Image: Fascist symbol – WikiCommons)


Staff Writer
Twitter 

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father just north of San Francisco who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular contributor at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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101 thoughts on “The Year of the Alt-Right

  1. Meh,
    This voice is just one that’s been ignored by “mainstream” media as “not worthy of our attention” or “wrongthink”, but these kinds of opinions have been around for a long long time. I’m not familiar with “the Right Stuff gang” but it’s not unique. There’s a whole lotta folks around, not just white folk, that see “other ethnic groups with derision and disparagement” and view racial solidarity as important.

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  2. When Moldbug first got out there and started writing his essays, they were freaking awesome. I loved his arguments that relied heavily on little more than out-of-print books written at the time of the events he was describing or links to Wikipedia.

    Clarkhat had a tweet recently where he complained that the alt-right had gone from essays analyzing the evolution of culture to just spamming that caricature of the Jewish guy over and over again.

    One of my weird suns had an awesome tweet saying something to the effect of “I read an alt-right essay and thought that it made some interesting points and then I read the comments and they were all about the Jews.”

    So the alt-right, once filled with the insights of those who have read Chesterton and Carlyle, has been overrun by those who haven’t read much of anything at all.

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    • Agreed . I don’t want to say “the alt-right was legit and now its all ruined” because I don’t think these shitty troll tendencies were absent before, but it does seem to be its defining characteristic today. Antifascist activists were probably right in saying the intellectual veneer of the alt-right was just a trojan horse for the anti-semetic/racist core that sites like the Right Stuff represent.

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    • once filled with the insights of those who have read Chesterton and Carlyle,

      Or at least the Cliff Notes. Moldbug was so deliberately obtuse and obscurantist that it was impossible to tell the difference, Since his conclusions were straight “European Christian culture uber alles”, so it was hard to give a fish.

      I do sometimes wonder how far “Europe” extends for that crowd. Do they realize that once you’re east of Germany, it’s all untermenschen?

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      • My takeaway from Moldbug was more of the whole “Cthulhu always swims left” insight along with his brilliant “Why I Am Not A Libertarian” essay (which reminded me of the whole sub specie aeternitatis thing that strikes me as an exceptionally important tool).

        I’m not sure about the conclusions reached by the alt-right, but their analysis tools are fascinating and, quite honestly, explain a handful of the cognitive disonnances that might have been more confusing without them.

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        • “Cthulu always swims left” is nothing more than using nerdy language to give a traditional rant about social change leading to the breakdown of society without evidence.

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          • Personally, I think he reached the wrong conclusion about the direction in which Cthulhu always swims but there was an insight that I’d never need before regarding Cthulhu swimming that was really good (for definitions of “good” that are somewhere around the definitions of “useful”).

            I’m pretty sure that most of the conclusions he reached were not particularly spot on but he did do a good job of pointing the water out.

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              • There are a couple hundred ways to categorize both the Right and the Left but one of the handy rule of thumb ones is to separate those into “Hobbes was Correct!” and “Locke/Rousseau was Correct!” camps.

                The Right believes that Hobbes was Correct. As such, the attitude towards Leviathan is… complicated.

                Cthulhu? There’s room for feelings toward Cthulhu to be uncomplicated.

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                • Parts of the Right believe that Hobbes is correct. The Right Libertarians or Anarcho-Capitalists, if you consider them part of the Right, have to believe at least partly that Locke/Rousseau was correct because otherwise they wouldn’t be against the state They basically think that people can be trusted to make the right decision without government.

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  3. Slate Star Codex attracts many alt-right posters along with posters with more conventional politics. From random readings, even the deepest level of alt right thought seems lacking. There was a post called Radicalizing the Romanceless, where deep in the thread we got treated to how all the alt right sees the Patriarchy, a social contract between alpha and beta men where alphas won’t take all the woman so betas would work. Under alt right theory, feminism is nothing more than a plot to break this social contract by alpha men. Progressive income taxes and the welfare state exist so women do not have to couple with bets men and could associate with alphas in voluntary harems.

    The entire thing seemed dripping with the juice of sour grapes. It was basically stealing a feminist concept, the Patriarchy, and putting their own spin on this to explain why they don’t have a love life. I don’t have a love life either but there isn’t a grand conspiracy behind it. The alt right seems grasping for some sort of system where they would be kings rather than toadies.

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  4. Another thought is that a lot of alt right thought seems like the paleo-conservative right libertarianism advocated by Rothbard or Rockerll but even with less of veneer of democracy.

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  5. I want numbers and I want pictures.

    A while ago there was a story on This American Life about a guy who got driven out of a small-town in Georgia because he kept getting smeared on some net forum dedicated to small-town life. The guy hired a lawyer before he left. The lawyer investigated and found that all the posts were being written by own person using different screen names. How do I know the alt-right is not similar?

    1. I reject comparing Black Lives Matters to the Alt.Right. Black Lives Matter is doing political protests in the real world (along with Internet activism). They have been covered by the mainstream media. How many people really know about Mencius Moldbug beyond the Venn Diagram middle of people who spend way too much time on the Internet and way too much time talking about politics? What victory has the alt.right had beyond briefly toying with the Hugo nominees? A fight they ultimately lost.

    2. Going back to the above. What does the alt-right look like? Are these people who are physically imposing? Or are they immature adolescents just trying to get a rise out their worse instincts and other people?

    3. I roll my eyes when the left on the Internet talks about how a revolution is coming. I do the same with the alt-right.

    4. I am not sure what is so joyous and humor filled about the alt-right compared the left. I never really got the complaint about the left being humorless. And I find it a bit odd that you think the people on the alt-right are refreshing and entertaining despite or because of the racism especially because your wife is Mexican. Presumably they would really dislike your wife as well. The left is at least saying things are not funny because the jokes are really about robbing people of their decency, dignity, and humanity because of their minority status. What is the alt-right saying? “Wouldn’t things be great if we can go back to the 1940s and 50s when it was totes cool to make jokes about Jews, Blacks, Gays, and women, and no one could say anything back without getting smashed?” If that is being light and refreshing, I say no thanks.

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    • 2. The folks I have meet in person who are on the alt-right look like normal folks to me. I imagine most of the trolls online are simply adolescents who think highly of themselves in spite of their actual accomplishments and abilities.

      4. It isn’t the trolling humor that I find refreshing; I find that stuff shitty and boring. The refreshing aspect I mentioned has to do with exploring philosophical ideas that I wasn’t exposed to prior. As so few people around me think beyond the immediate liberal-consumer order of the world, it is still worthwhile to read someone offering a very different vision of society. I have been reading an anarchist primitivist book from a left wing perspective as of late, and I feel this is akin to what I mentioned above. I don’t think I want to live in a world described in the book (or if such a thing is really possible) but I want to consider its possibility.

      And trust me, I know some of these alt-right trolls would hate me and my family for who we are, but I also don’t worry about what stupid kids on the internet think. While they talk about being alpha males from their parent’s basements, I have built a family and a career and a place of respect in my community. But many people on the far left would hate me and my family as well, but I am still going to read their core texts.

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    • Yeah, this. Comparing the alt-right to BLM is insulting to BLM on a variety of levels. The least of which is that BLM is doing real world politics rather than Internet complaining alone. The number of alt-right believers is probably really low.

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      • Different surely, but the comparison is built on the fact that both are radical movements that have begun to spill into the mainstream and make changes to the narrative. Both also demonstrate a slow deterioration of the traditional liberal order and narrative coming from the right and the left. Nor am I interested in speaking of BLM in only hushed celebratory tones as is coming to be expected from anyone on the internet.

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        • I don’t think BLM is showing that. They haven’t announced separation from the Democratic Party as far as I know. They are trying to influence within the party and the outside world and mainly through the legal system. They wanted the murderers of Tamir Rice to face trial and the protests against the failure to produce an indictment were of a civil and peaceful nature. They did not call for an overthrow of government in Cleveland and Ohio. BLM applauded when California used democratic and legislative action to remove grand juries from incidents when cops are being investigated for murder and other acts of unlawful force against civilians.

          Again, I need numbers. You are talking like the whole civil system is about to collapse and despite the rise of Trump, we really don’t see that yet. There was a lot of virtual and real ink spilled about whether Donald Trump was fascist or not. One of the most salient points against Trump being a fascist is that he has yet to call for the shredding of the Constitution. His politics are ugly but he is not saying that democracy is a sham.

          Are the neo-reactionaries saying this? Yes but how many people are there. How many people know about Radix Journal and take it seriously? 5000? 10,000, 100,000? 400,000? We live in a nation of 320 million people and things are not collapsing.

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          • “Again, I need numbers. You are talking like the whole civil system is about to collapse and despite the rise of Trump, we really don’t see that yet.”

            I don’t think the whole civil system is about to collapse. In fact, I think the current order is rather resilient. I am not sure where you are getting the idea that I think this is the end of America as we know it.

            I do think that the left and right have succeed in opening the overton window further and allowing divergent views to shift the national narrative on a slew of issues. While the BLM you describe is the one that mainstream liberals support, it is hardly the entirety of that movement. And I for one am all for people pushing the conversation out of its polite confines related strictly to body cameras and police procedure.

            Nor does a movement need to have thousands and thousands of activists to actual make change. A dedicated vanguard can alter the course of history without a mass number behind them.

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  6. People like Greg Johnson and Richard Spencer strived to separate themselves from the Stormfags that typified the white nationalist movement.

    Can we maybe not adopt homophobic 4chan terminology on OT? As a gay man, I’m not particularly happy to see the word “fag” used in this, or pretty much any other, context.

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  7. “But as its members celebrate a year of influence, its leaders must know that frolicking about so overtly with a bunch of Stormfront followers with 4chan accounts will hinder their movement’s ability to spread throughout society in any meaningful manner.”

    I think this rather graciously assumes that attention, as well as some degree of praise, popularity, and being treated as a movement leader and Intellectual by as many people as possible is just a byproduct of their internal goal rather than the actual goal. I suspect that is a misreading on your part.

    The alt-right strikes me as similar to the MRM that it often overlaps with, in that somewhere along the line it convinced itself that page hits and retweets through outrageous behavior was just a tool they were going to use until people started to notice them. And then when they reached that point, they discovered they liked the page hits, the acting outrageous, and the being pointed at more than they did being taken seriously by everyone else.

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    • Fair point, although I don’t know if I agree entirely. I am sure the Right Stuff crowd is exactly as you described above: a bunch of folks who simply like being trolls and getting attention for it.

      But I think your argument can be applied to any modern political movement that has developed online. I think a great deal of leftist activism I see from friends and family via Facebook and Twitter is just signaling intended to make themselves feel good and/or get people to like/share what they say. A decent number of people are just not that interested in the movements they claim to support to go beyond that.

      But even if every single person who we group into the “alt-right” was just a troll looking for retweets, I think reading and discussing anti-democratic and anti-modernist literature is still worth doing.

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      • But I think your argument can be applied to any modern political movement that has developed online.

        Agreed. Which I would argue tells us something important about online politics.

        But even if every single person who we group into the “alt-right” was just a troll looking for retweets, I think reading and discussing anti-democratic and anti-modernist literature is still worth doing.

        Why?

        And to be clear, this isn’t a challenge; it’s an honest question.

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        • We should read those texts for the same reason we should read religious texts that we know to be logically and empirically false. I know that the stories in the Bible are not real, but the outlook present in those tales provides a worldview and philosophical perspective that is worthy of consideration. Minimally, we should engage with said texts to reinforce our own ideological foundations. But I also think it is dangerous to think that we have reached the end of history and thus, need not consider alternatives to the current order.

          I am approaching the alt-right from a more academic position that many folks here seem to. I’m simply not willing to discount an idea outright because its adherents are miscreants, and I find it worthwhile to consider what a world would look like had these ideas been implemented on a small or large scale.

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          • I don’t know. Orwell’s observation that “there are some things so stupid that only intellectuals can believe in them” is pretty spot on.

            We saw what the rejection of democracy looked like during most of the 20th century in many parts of the world. It was not pretty. Why do I need to consider it as a hypothetical? I know how it worked in reality.

            I don’t agree with Jaybird that it was awesome that Moldbug was able to quote these old books. Things go out of print for reasons.

            I am not a fan of Palinista anti-intellectualism but often intellectuals have a way of letting their curiosity lead them down very dark paths. Some of the greatest atrocities in the world can be traced to this instinct without safeguarding for morality and decency.

            At a certain point, we should be able to reject nuts for being nuts and call them nuts.

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          • We already know how the world would look like if the alt right ideas were implanted on small and large scales. We know about slavery, colonialism, official government discrimination, apartheid, and genocide!!! We know about life under Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the Japanese occupation, and Stalin.

            Why do we need to think about it again?

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            • I agree. If these were new ideas, rather than a fairly straightforward amalgam of contemporary white nationalism and slightly older traditionalism and racial supremacist nationalism, it might be worth engaging them intellectually with the hope of understanding a new intellectual tendency and its sources and motivations.

              The only reason to engage these hackneyed ideas is to figure out what conditions in our time and culture are making it possible for then to gain in popularity.

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            • Is that not the same argument made against the left when discussing socialism and anarchism possibilities for society? That we have already seen these things turn monstrous and thus we need not engage with them at all (nor am I making a moral equivalency between those two ideas)?

              You are right to say “why should we engage with folks who simply want to recreate racist regimes of destruction?” We know what the right has done to use in the past and thus should bring up the obvious historic cases to anyone who celebrates totalitarianism. But what of European paganism? Re-defining masculinity? Criticizing consumer culture and modernity? These all seem like worthwhile exercises that involve the alt-right (as well as the radical left for that mater).

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              • Let’s take this on.

                “But what of European paganism?”

                I prefer this as done by Wiccan lefties and liberals as opposed to people who combine it with White Nationalism and Aryan supremacy. I’m Jewish so it is not really my thing overall.

                “Re-defining masculinity?”

                I don’t think these guys are redefining masculinity in anyway that broadens the term. If anything, they are all about imposing very limited and straight-jacketed definitions of masculinity. I was never really into sports. I am not about hunting. I am an urban, liberal intellectual who is into art, clothing, and design. But I identify as a guy, heterosexual, and masculine. I never felt threatened or emasculated because of women in the workforce, women as bosses/supervisors, etc. These guys seem to want to be Conan the Barbarian and frankly that is pretty silly in the year 2015.

                “Criticizing consumer culture and modernity?”

                I don’t know what is wrong with modernity. I see modernity as being the forward march of humanity, decency, and dignity for all. Equal rights regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, creed, ethnicity, etc. No one has ever been able to explain what is wrong with modernity without separating it from “We can’t say bad things or discriminate against Jews, Blacks, LGBT, Hispanics, Asians, etc.” anymore. I don’t see why modernity is supposed to be so isolating, evil, and wrong. I think it is great.

                As for consumer culture, we have been through this before but what is the alternative. Rants about consumer culture and consumerism have always struck me as people whining “Wah why do people have to like things that I don’t like.” This is true in an alt.right guy or an allegedly progressive person in fandom who doesn’t understand why people would prefer buying and expensive handbag over something geeky because spending 5000 dollars on a handbag is wrong but spending 5000 dollars on something fannish is totally cool.

                Consumerism makes life comfortable and pleasant.

                These all seem like worthwhile exercises that involve the alt-right (as well as the radical left for that mater).

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                • it does leave a lot to be desired when it comes to providing a connection to ones ancestors

                  I see variants of this complaint a lot, when it comes to discussions of religious and ethnic traditions, vs. modernity and its supposed ills.

                  But left unexplored, is why I much need to be connected to my ancestors, in any way other than the biological procreative chain that produced me.

                  My ancestors might’ve been real stupid a-holes, frankly; and they are long-dead in any case.

                  If you find beauty or meaning in a connection to your ancestors, by all means, please enjoy that; I have no wish to take that from anyone. On some days, I might experience that beauty or meaning as well. I do get that it’s a thing; some cultures take it so far as “worship”.

                  But treating it as necessary, or implying that certain subcultures or traditions are somehow lesser because, to your eyes, they lack such a connection, sounds pretty condescending to those of us who feel little such connection, and also feel little NEED for such connection.

                  Put another way, Christianity/Judaism/Islam/Buddhism/Hinduism aren’t superior to Scientology just because there’s a longer unbroken “chain to one’s ancestors”; they are (hopefully) superior because they are (hopefully) less nutty and exploitative on the whole.

                  The problem is, of course, that the longer something sticks around, the harder it can be to see the “nutty and exploitative” parts.

                  If it just sticks around long enough, anything can become a revered institution.

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                  • It’s like art, I think; religions that stick around are ones that generations of adherents can find something meaningful in. If Scientology does stick around, it’ll be because it turns into something like that, and the fact that it began as a transparently silly con won’t really matter. It’s like the speech the Mormon kid gives at the send of that South Park episode:

                    Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life, and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it.

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                  • “But treating it as necessary, or implying that certain subcultures or traditions are somehow lesser because, to your eyes, they lack such a connection, sounds pretty condescending to those of us who feel little such connection, and also feel little NEED for such connection.”

                    I don’t know it is is necessary really; that I am still exploring. I am so new to European paganism that my feelers are still in many pots. The Wiccan post-modernism just didn’t feel right, but I can’t articulate it entirely at this point. Perhaps a further reading of their texts will help make that clear.

                    But it is not my intention to tell those who don’t have ancestor worship that they need said connection.

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                  • The problem is, of course, that the longer something sticks around, the harder it can be to see the “nutty and exploitative” parts.

                    If it just sticks around long enough, anything can become a revered institution.

                    I think the argument is something to the effect of “95% of everything is crap” mixed in with a sprinkling of “we kept the best of the best of the best from thousands of years ago, the best of the best from hundreds of years ago, and the best from tens of years ago” and so, the argument is, the stuff that we still have must, by extension, be part of the best.

                    If we look at what we make nowadays, how much of it will be revered the way we revere (insert example here)?

                    Damn near everything seems ephemeral from here. The only thing that probably isn’t is the new Star Wars movie and that’s mostly because Disney cheats.

                    Books? I dunno. Games? Hardly. Rock and/or roll? After the nieces/nephews who listened to the stuff their aunts/uncles bought for them, will anyone go out of their way to buy anything from the last 50 years? I dunno. Everything we have today feels like twitter. Entertaining as hell then forgotten immediately.

                    We no longer create works but “content”.

                    The revered institutions are the only things that are more than “content”.

                    Until, of course, we decontextualize them and wonder why anybody thought that this stuff was ever worth keeping when they have the option of listening to Bieber burp the alphabet.

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              • Consumer society and materialism seems to lead a lot more peace and comfort than other societies. Providing for people’s emotional happiness or souls is not really possible. Societies that aimed for the spiritual over the material like Puritan New England, Buddhist Tibet, and the Taliban’s Afghsnistan have been fiercely authoritarian places along with their 20th secular cousins like the Fascist and Communist regimes. We can provide for people’s material well-being though and give them a bit of entertainment and meaningful work hopefully. They might not be emotionally happy but they will have a full stomach, a comfy place to sleep, and that isn’t a bad thing to aim for.

                The alt-right is not expanding what means to be a man. They are contracting it into a narrow field where men have to be alpha warriors, hunters, and providers. There is room for gentleness in their world.

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          • Thanks.

            I may or may not disagree agree with you. (I’m still somewhat feeling out where it is you’re coming from.) But I think where I might part ways with you is this:

            I think there is a difference between, to use your religious text example, studying and understanding Heliocentric Cosmology and giving that same cosmology equal weight as one might give our current understanding of the solar system in a scientific discussion.

            That the alt-right has assembled the base that is has does not seem to me to be a random fluke. In fact, it seems to me to be an inevitable end-point — in the same way that the MRM basing their political philosophy on thinkers such as Ernest Belfort Bax inevitably lead to its own base. (That is to say, one the isn’t just misogynistic but also both startlingly insular and illogical.)

            As an academic study, therefore, it seems a very worthy pursuit. But I think that treating it as an equal potential player in a free and pluralistic society bestows upon it a legitimacy that it has not earned. And also like the MRM, I suspect that treating the alt-right like its earned a seat at the big kid’s table will succeed in not only growing the movement, but also empowering the movement’s trolls over its actual thinkers.

            And again, to end where I began in this comment, we may agree or disagree here.

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            • Slight point of disagreement:

              “I think there is a difference between, to use your religious text example, studying and understanding Heliocentric Cosmology and giving that same cosmology equal weight as one might give our current understanding of the solar system in a scientific discussion.”

              That isn’t exactly what I mean. Surely, someone who wants to understand the development of scientific inquiry must look back at previous positions on the matters of the day. But I was generally talking about the social and philosophical arguments rooted in those texts and how they might be applied today. Much as I mentioned in my piece about the left needing Christianity as a meta narrative, there is a tendency by non-believers to say “these stories are empirically false, so why engage with them at all?” I would argue that they are till worthy of philosophical consideration even if their foundations are nonsense.

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          • I agree with and

            I don’t think we can assume we are at the End of History, but the Alt right just seems to want to go back through the history we’ve already had in the opposite direction. Whatever replaces the economic and political systems we have now will most likely be something entirely new, and likely not yet conceived.

            Criticism of the status quo only seems useful to me if it offers superior alternatives. Consumerism happens because, given the choice, people like to have nice things and easy living. And why shouldn’t they, isn’t it a lot better than the opposite? I’m only interested in hearing in suggestion that improve on what we have, not ones that would make things worse.

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            • Well one might want to keep an eye on the toxic stew of the alt-right for a couple reasons; one to guage the tide of it- if it’s rising and falling; two, to understand their arguements so you can effectively destroy them when they send tentacles out; and finally to keep an eye out for a new idea or concept that might happen to mutate in that environment.

              Now whether those three reasons are worth the effort? I dunno.

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    • I think this rather graciously assumes that attention, as well as some degree of praise, popularity, and being treated as a movement leader and Intellectual by as many people as possible is just a byproduct of their internal goal rather than the actual goal.

      I’m not sure I understand this. Perhaps you’re thinking of these type of groups as resulting from the influence of a narcissistic charismatic leader who bends disaffected and disenfranchised people to his will purely to satisfy delusions of grandeur?

      Irrespective of the motivations for why the “leaders” of these groups say what they do, the people who read them, and coalesce into communities loosely bound by that person’s actions and writings, have beliefs and values which aren’t exclusively the result of that person’s demonic powers of indoctrination. There is something there, there. The problem is figuring our what it is – what drives them to coalesce into communities in which shared expressions of [whatever!] is valued, explored, promulgated, refined, etc. Ie., a charismatic leader or page-hit-valuer can only find followers or collect page hits if they’re saying something that appeals to so-called “supporters”.

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  8. @Roland Dodds:

    I know that the stories in the Bible are not real, but the outlook present in those tales provides a worldview and philosophical perspective that is worthy of consideration.

    Sure, but it’s primarily worthy of consideration because it is regarded as significant by billions of people, and informs their worldviews and philosophical perspectives (and culture and literature and so on) in many, often complicated ways. There doesn’t seem to be any equivalent importance to the alt-right.

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    • There doesn’t seem to be any equivalent importance to the alt-right.

      Other than the ascendance of Trump to the top of the polls. At least, according to *some* people’s view of things.

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            • It has pretensions that way — inspiring the whites to overthrow their liberal-multiculturalist-feminist masters.

              I don’t follow Trump particularly closely, since most of what he says are childish rants and insults, but I presume that if he’d said anything explicitly racist or anti-semitic, it would be front-page news, and I haven’t seen anything like that.

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            • Don’t agree JB. The alt right (and for that matter the regular right) thinks there’s a vast silent majority that agree with them but stay silent because of the PC police.

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                • Kolohe kind of has a point. One division in politics is between the elite and the non-elite voices. This isn’t necessarily a left-right division or reflected in party politics. During the Post-War Consensus in the United Kingdom, the elite of the Labour and Conservative Parties developed a consensus on certain social issues like increasing immigration, abolishing the death penalty, legalizing abortion, decreasing censorship of the media, and decriminalizing homosexuality. Most of these elite opinions were not popular with the masses of British citizens and typically polled very poorly, especially the abolition of the death penalty and immigration. Enoch Powell was the most popular politician in the United Kingdom during the late 1960s and early 1970s because he was willing to express the anti-immigrant sentiment that was widespread popular belief in the United Kingdom.

                  Even though we seem to be an age of ever increasing political polarization, the party elites in the Democratic and Republican parties are in agreement on some issues like free trade and even immigration to an extent. Trump and Sanders are doing much better than they should be because they are voicing popular opinions at a higher level than previously done.

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                  • Well, Kolohe didn’t say that there’s a silent majority of folks who support alt-right policies. He said that alt-righties think there’s a silent majority etc etc.

                    Whether there’s a silent majority who supports alt-right policies remains to be seen: by whether those folks become unsilent or not.

                    Adding: actually even that’s not correct: they could continue to remain silent, like a deep reservoir waiting to be tapped….

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              • Maribou explained a few things to me in the car, foremost being that my experience of the alt-right is limited. I don’t spend time in the MRA circles (girls are icky, you see) and the Scientific Racism folks are exceptionally distasteful so all of my time was spent with the “here is the way the world works, here are the ways that Modernity is acting against that way, this will all end in tears” corner.

                Which, she tells me, is not representative and likely makes me more attached to the category than I would be if I spent more time in the parts of the alt-right that everybody else thinks of when they think of the alt-right.

                All that to say: the corner I swim in doesn’t think that there is a vast silent majority that agrees with them. They think that the vast silent majority has been infected with the modernity drug and in the same way that they snicker at the beliefs of their grandparents, they will be aghast at how their grandchildren will snicker at them and they will have no idea what happened.

                My preferred corner sees the vast silent majority as one of the arms of the PC police.

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                • I am curious. How do you separate this:

                  “here is the way the world works, here are the ways that Modernity is acting against that way, this will all end in tears”

                  From this:

                  “I don’t spend time in the MRA circles (girls are icky, you see) and the Scientific Racism folks”

                  Because I can’t. What do your folks in the alt-right movement mean by Modernity? What do they mean by “my preferred corner sees the vast silent majority as one of the arms of the PC police” without any bigotry?

                  What do they think our grandchildren are going to do*? Go back to being like Victorians and Edwardians? How is that not racist? My grandparents were born between 1913-1922. There was a lot of racism including “scientific racism” going on at this time. I really don’t understand how your corner of the alt-right is less racist or bigoted than the “scientific racist” corner. You are going to need to give details.

                  *Do they even consider the possibility that our grandchildren could go further left?

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                    • Many Neo-Reactionaries and people on the Alt Right are hyper-capitalists even though their political heroes hated and loathed capitalism. This is why I see it as Rothbard’s version of libertarianism with less of a veneer of democracy.

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                      • Um, this isn’t accurate?

                        They’re capitalists insofar as they are not capital C Communists but the twitter ones at least are pretty much hyperlocalists which seems to have a lot of overlap with a pre-Marxist socialism. Capitalism disrupts culture too much and culture is the first and foremost concern of the alt-right.

                        It’s the neocons and libertarians that are hyper-capitalists. The alt-right is, if anything, rediscovering paleoconservativism.

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                        • I don’t know. A lot of members of the alt-right like knocking things like social security, universal healthcare, and other social safety net programs as more disruptive of their desired culture than capitalism. Educational policies designed to help people of color get good educations and more of them into elite schools also draws a special ire from them and is seen as disrupting the natural way of things in their mind. I wonder why.

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                  • Well, I’m not particularly interested in listing my bona fides, so I must be comfortable with you assuming that I’m a racist, sexist, evil person.

                    That said, there are some interesting questions in here: What do your folks in the alt-right movement mean by Modernity?

                    This is probably summed up perfectly by a recent interaction with Justin Trudeau. He was asked “how come half of your cabinet is women?” and he answered “Because it is 2015.”

                    Not a discussion of skills, not a discussion of merit. It is the current year. There were a handful of funny memes floating around asking questions like “Pope Urban II, why are you calling for a Crusade against the Muslims?” “Because it is 1095.” or “Josef Stalin, why are you calling for a Revolution?” “Because it is 1917.”

                    Now, of course, we know that Trudeau might have been wrong. Why?

                    Because it is 2016.

                    To put a finer point on it, an idea of progress being a good thing in and of itself, for the sake of progress, is one of the manifestations of modernity.

                    The current virulent strain doesn’t seem to have required reading. It’s going head-to-head against a form of conservative populism that doesn’t believe that it’s important to read history.

                    It won’t end well.

                    Anyway.

                    What do they think our grandchildren are going to do*?

                    I thought I already answered this. They will look at their grandparents as ignorant and see their grandparents’ beliefs as backwards and retrograde… and then they will go on to be flabbergasted by their own grandchildren* seeing them the exact same way.

                    * Assuming they have grandchildren, of course. This isn’t the safe assumption it once would have been.

                    Go back to being like Victorians and Edwardians?

                    Do you mean like with regards to having hangups about sex? I think that we can look at any given college campus and see some weird attitudes about women and sex resurfacing despite swimming around in a “hookup” culture.

                    It’s completely different than when the Victorians did it, though.

                    It’s 2016, after all.

                    Do they even consider the possibility that our grandchildren could go further left?

                    Yeah, this is their primary assumption. There is a school that thinks that there is going to be a collapse (a “happening”) that will press the reset button and re-impose, in short order, a more “traditional” set of gender roles on society but this strikes me as yet another eschatological daydream that shows up among those who think about these things too much.

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                    • , Justin Trudeau’s answer “because it is 2015” isn’t really that bad. Its actually a very good answer if you think about it for just a little. No political system has operated purely on merit for the purposes of giving away high and low offices of state.

                      The Monarch might give a particular plum position to a favorite courtier rather than somebody of more merit. This even happens in republics although we call them campaign donors rather than courtiers. Ambassadorships to low stress, developed countries like the Netherlands are given out as rewards to donors rather than for merit and years of work in the States department. There have always been political considerations along with merit based reasons for distributing appointments. As the number of people in the body politics grows more inclusive more people need to be considered. Women are very important in electoral politics in 2015 and giving them half the Cabinet positions make good sense politically.

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                      • I think you just articulated why Trudeau would do what he did, but that isn’t what he said. @jaybird’s point is dead on; many on the right take his argument as an acceptance that one position or understanding of the world/society/politics is now accepted and they need not explain it further. That is pretty infuriating, and it shows just how successful the left has been at dominating the public narrative. They have won to such a degree that they don’t even have to explain themselves. It’s the current year after all!

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                        • Trudeau’s statement sounded like a one liner not a complex statement on gender politics and the role of merit in hiring. If the left was truly successful with the public narrative the original question ( why so many women…?) would be worth diving into. Yet in 2015 “why do you hire so many chicks?” is still a question that seems reasonable to many.

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                        • Trudeau was making a joke and I was able to figure out what was going on by thinking about it for a minute or two. The people on the alt-right idealize a certain era of life but they really don’t know much about what it was actually like and that a lot of the things they don’t like about modern democracy are also part of more authoritarian systems of government.

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                        • If I was a gentile rather than Jewish, I’d actually be a prime target for alt-right. I’m a successful man in his mid-thirties who is seemingly endlessly frustrated with certain aspects of his personal life. I recognize that a lot of what the alt-right says is nonsense. Than again, I also think that what their opposites, the Social Justice and Sex Positive movement, also says is nonsense.

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                          • I wasn’t aware either were a movement. “Social Justice” seems to be teenagers on twitter realizing racism, sexism, and other sorts of bigotry exist and trying to hash it out. (And, as is usual for teenagers, failing badly. But that’s how you learn).

                            In fact, in my experience, “Social Justice” is generally just used as an insult by people whom, I must say, I rarely agree with anyways on the topics it comes up on.

                            I’m not sure what sex positivism is, but I have to say the name isn’t exactly striking me as crazy.

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                            • Apparently it’s a gritty modern reboot of the Free Love movement. Everyone should have lots of affirmatively consensual sex, and beyond everyone taking suitable precautions, anything goes.

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                              • Eh, can’t complain about that. Safe, sane, consensual — it might be the kinky motto, but it’s darn good advice for your sex life.

                                I suppose if they’re super judgmental, but there’s jerks everywhere. I can’t really disagree with the message. Unless there’s some “must be” swinger/poly vibe in there I didn’t get from your thumbnail description.

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                                • I’m only going by what I see online, since I’m approximately as unconnected with hookup culture as seems to be (for similar reasons, and also not entirely by choice).

                                  If anything is driving fear and loathing, IMO it’s (a) how explicitly poly- and LGBT-friendly it can be, almost (as you note) to the point of seeming to be encouraging, and (b) the fear of affirmative consent creating an almost Victorian ritual (“Sir, I offer you my honor.” “Madam, I honor your offer.”) that excludes those who aren’t In The Know.

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                                    • Its more than that. Its how the rules changed and they don’t realize how the changed rules might benefit people they did not intend it to benefit. At least for heterosexual men, the most extroverted and some ways entitled men seem to do much better than anybody more introverted because they are better at chemistry.

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                                  • Yes, this is it. My main problem with Sex Positive movement is that it turns very good principles like don’t have sex with or even touch non-consenting people, don’t be a creep, don’t make really inappropriate remarks into something more than good morals and ethics. I also think that they are ignoring parts of human nature that they don’t like such as jealousy as artificial rather than natural or how any man who expresses frustration is an entitled nice guy.

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                        • Yes, exactly. I do not think that Trudeau should not have the cabinet he has. I’m sure that the people he has chosen are well within the ballpark of being perfect for the job. Women hold up half the sky, after all, and the old and bad attitudes that said “well, we should have a man in this job because we’ve always had a man hrmph hrmph hrmph” is a backwards and harmful attitude because, lemme tell ya, there are a ton of people (guys) out there who are promoted well above their competence due to stuff like the good old boys’ club mentality and whathaveyou and such attitudes are making the world worse.

                          And, yes, saying all that takes a minute when “because it is 2015” takes a couple of seconds and we all know, deep in our hearts, that that was what Trudeau really meant.

                          But “because it is 2015” is also shorthand.

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                          • As i noted to Roland, the question about why he hires so many women is, umm… pregnant with meaning. Why is that question even a question in 2015? Does anybody ask why you hire so many men? What does the existence of that question tell us about how people think about women working and in high positions?

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                              • I don’t think that assuming it was a crusty old tory asking the question accurately captures the dynamic behind the question.

                                This is pretty much my take: it was a sound-byte-ey answer to a softball question. Not that there is much wrong with giving a newly elected PM a few slow ones down the middle of the plate. He won the election, so he deserves his victory lap.

                                Also, a pithy answer in support of gender equality beats one in opposition, which is pretty much what the alt-right crowd breaks down to: a bunch of pithy, pseudo-intellectual arguments in support of the worst elements of traditionalist thought.

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            • The alt-right is a lotta stuff, but “populist” it ain’t.

              No, I agree, but maybe for a different reason. Populism is a relation between candidates or political parties and the general public, so the alt-right itself sorta can’t be populist, seems to me. (They’re the ones being populized).) So the question is whether Trump’s current level of support is based on a populist appeal to those voters sentiments. Some segments of what we’re calling the “alt-right” appear to support him because they think it will further their political goals. Other people think his support derives from purely economic issues.

              Whether or not he’s “alt” isn’t really an interesting question given how I look at things. (Unless you’re asking me whether I think he’s actually a white-supremacist or something.)

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    • I would also challenge this argument that ideas are only important when they are accepted by large portions of society. The 20th century seems to paint a very different picture with small dedicated vanguards working tirelessly to implement a specific set of ideas.

      Although I concede that these are fringe ideas and thus should be taken with a grain of salt.

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