The Emergence of the Alt-Right and The Rise of Trumpism

Somebody said that the Alt-Right isn't really gaining popularity as much as it seems. Instead, they insisted that people like Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson are becoming more popular. To be clear, Shapiro and Peterson are Alt-Right. They're part of the same phenomena that gave us Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon. They aren't explicitly white supremacist like Matthew Heimbach and Christopher Cantwell, but they do give a nuanced and sophisticated critique of anti-racist, feminist, and anti-fascist ideas.

The right-wing in America had three factions historically. There were the classical liberals, libertarians, and traditional conservatives. The classical liberals and libertarians were substantially different, but similar enough that they are often lumped together. They were the advocates of free-market capitalism. On the other hand, traditional conservatism was rooted in Christianity and saw God as the basis for morality. Social ethics and politics were to be rooted in Christian values.

In the late 1900s, there was a movement to unify the right-wing. People like Murray Rothbard, Gary North, and R. J. Rushdoony tried to get traditional conservatives and libertarians to work together for shared political goals. This attempt to unite the right ultimately led to the right-wing becoming more divided than ever. The three factions on the right were fundamentally at odds with one another. The classical liberals saw liberty as lack of interference, but tended to support land value tax and basic income schemes. The libertarians were really propertarian, viewing liberty as the lack of interference in what one chooses to do with their own money. These two factions ultimately clashed, as classical liberals wanted limited government and limited property rights (limited by a fee-simple caveat that one must pay taxes on property), while libertarians wanted no government and absolute property rights. The traditional conservatives, on the other hand, wanted law to enshrine Christian values. They wanted to ban homosexuality, abortion, etc. In its purest form, traditional conservatism is theonomy or Christian reconstructionism, which seeks to impose biblical law. The classical liberals and libertarians support the right to abort, the right to engage in consensual sex amongst adults (whether monogamous, polyamorous, heterosexual, or homosexual). Thus, the libertarians and classical liberals clashed with the traditional conservatives. Furthermore, the underlying assumptions of each faction differed significantly. While they agreed in their opposition to Marxism, which allowed them to unite against the threat of Soviet Russia, they had no common vision. They wanted less government and more decentralization, but disagreed on the role of government. And, ultimately, with the end of the Cold War era, the unified right broke down as a result of in-fighting between these factions. Without the threat of communism to unify them, there wasn’t much reason to join forces.

The most fundamental problem was simply consistent thinking. Murray Rothbard carried libertarianism to its logical conclusion, market anarchism with privatized government. Rushdoony and North carried traditional conservatism to its logical conclusion, theonomy and the call to impose biblical law upon everyone. Classical liberalism waned in popularity.

The right-wing became scattered into these strange factions: anarcho-capitalism, geo-libertarianism, theonomy, reconstructionism, Libertarian Party, etc. With the rise of Obama, it became clear that the left was winning. But the mainstream movements in the right had disintegrated somewhat. And most of the right is anti-intellectual, refusing to identify with such sophisticated theories as libertarianism. The right had to find something to unify them against that common enemy, Obama and the queer-black-feminist alliance. They opposed egalitarianism and democracy, but that had proven to be inadequate to bring everyone on board. The right-wing intelligentsia needed to link anti-egalitarianism with the concerns of common right-wing folks. They needed to get the non-political folks into politics and specifically in it on their side. Simple opposition to the Democratic Party was not enough to elicit a religious fervor, but right beneath the surface there was suppressed hatred, and hatred, like love, is a religious sentiment. Love and hate are the only things that can really unite people.

Queers, women, and blacks were demanding more rights and questioning the privileges enjoyed by straight people, white people, and males. This led to resentment on the part of straight white men in particular, who felt especially threatened by the triple threat on their privileges. At the same time, the behaviors conditioned into us by our culture began to clash with the expectations of this new “leftist” culture. The idea that women belonged to their male partners and needed a strong, dominant male in their lives was no longer the norm. Women were asserting their own autonomy and patriarchal-minded men were becoming “involuntarily celibate,” as it became harder for conservative men to find mates. Thus emerged the incel faction. Black people demanding reparations led to affirmative action, which white people saw as “reverse racism.” White people felt that they were being discriminated against as they lost jobs to “less qualified” black people. Black identity politics introduced a new language with which to speak about racism, which white people found incomprehensible. Thus emerged the counter-movement of white identity politics or white nationalism, which had already been around but recently gained much more popularity. And queers were being openly gay, flamboyant even, and being open about their sexuality. Of course, straight men have always been open about their sexuality, but the thought that other men might objectify them and treat them the way that they treat women was horrifying. Thus, straight white men became more anti-gay than ever before. Common decency, which the right denounces as “political correctness,” began to be expected, so that one could no longer make racist, misogynistic, or homophobic jokes in public without getting called out for it. Jobs were also becoming more scarce. White men began to blame immigrants for taking all the jobs. The reality, of course, was that jobs were declining partially because of automation and partially because crony capitalists were hoarding all the wealth and encouraging risky speculation, which caused the economy to go into a recession. These are the people that the Alt-Right wanted to extend a hand to. But, many people who hold these racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and sexist sentiments often theoretically align with the left in other aspects of their thinking. Some of them even identified with Marxism, social democracy, and libertarian socialism. So, the Alt-Right needed to convince these people that they belonged on the right in spite of their difference of opinion with the mainstream right on economics. This is why Richard Spencer theoretically aligns with social democracy, but also argues that it can't work here. His basic argument is that social democracy would be perfect, but immigrants and black “welfare rats” will screw it up, so we better stick with plutocracy and conventional capitalism until we figure out how to eliminate minorities. Keith Preston helped to get marginalized left-leaning anarchists who shared such prejudices into "pan-anarchism," which drew them into the Alt-Right as they started associating with anarcho-capitalists and national anarchists, whose ideologies have strong fascistic tendencies.

The emergence of the Alt-Right unified these disparate movements by highlighting common themes, downplaying differences, and reinforcing the shared fear of the other. “The women are demanding equal pay, the blacks want reparations, the immigrants want to live off welfare.” The narrative became that the demonized “other” is the force behind the push for egalitarianism. Yet, egalitarianism is not possible, at least not in a culturally diverse society. There must be winners and losers. In order for queers, women, black folks, and immigrants to be better off, the white folks must be left worse off. The opposition to egalitarianism was there in the mainstream of the right, in libertarianism, classical liberalism, and traditional conservatism, but racism, homophobia, and sexism were just beneath the surface. Conservatives have always opposed feminism and queer liberation. Libertarians had long sided with racists in their opposition to the Civil Rights Amendment. Hate became the unifying factor. At the same time, a lot of pseudo-intellectuals started becoming popular as they justified the new right’s sentiments. Richard Spencer explained that social democratic egalitarianism only works in ethnically homogeneous societies, Jordan Peterson used naturalistic fallacies to justify hierarchy and gave a black eye to a feminist strawman, Ben Shapiro argued against transgender rights on the basis that gender is binary (citing bunk biological theories), and Lew Rockwell used libertarian propertarian analysis to justify anti-immigration policies. The Alt-Right isn't a school of thought, but a phenomenon, an intellectual movement uniting the right around fear of the other and attempting to convince more left-leaning individuals that they ought to support right-wing politics on the basis of racism, homophobia, and anti-feminism. The Alt-Right reached out to marginalized people who could have went for Bernie Sanders, but who are also very prejudiced and angry, and manipulated their emotions, playing on their hatred, and tricked them into joining the Trumpist fringe.

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