One of the items on my vacation list is to read Making Sense of the Alt-Right, by Alabama political science professor George Hawley. His book, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism, was well received. It is refreshing when someone from the academy peers over the walls of the hive and not only sees what’s on the other side, but makes an honest effort to understand it. I don’t know anything about the man’s politics, but he does not appear to be a guy spending his nights howling at the moon.
That came to mind reading F. Roger Devlin’s review of Hawley’s latest, posted on VDare.com the other day. Devlin is a serious guy, who is largely responsible for the whole man-o-sphere subculture. He literally wrote the book on critiquing feminism. That’s not a small accomplishment. He’s also been involved with the alt-right from the start, so he has observed and interacted with all of the big shots of the movement. That positions him to be a good critic of a book written by an outsider, attempting to understand the alt-right.
The review is worth reading, even if you are not interested in a book length treatment of the alt-right. Devlin’s four key points that define the alt-right are excellent and precise. I think the fourth point cannot be emphasized enough, mostly because it is a point I often make about dissident politics. When I write about peaceful separation, it is not intended to be a road map or political treatise. The point of the exercise is to break free of the old moral paradigm and get readers to start thinking outside of those restrictions.
Before I get off onto another point, I would take some issue with Devlin’s criticism of Hawley’s use of scare words like “racism” to describe the alt-right. Paul Gottfried, in reviewing Hawley’s previous book, made the point that it is a requirement of every academic. “If I were young enough to be considered for tenure in the average political science department at an American university, I too would spray my books with PC bromides in order to keep the Leftist lunatics off my back.”
This is a point that cannot be overstated. Every university is infested with feminist rage-heads, writing autoethnographic “research” papers about how toxic masculinity makes them angry. In departments like political science, feminist “scholars” demand that the white males take a version of the Voight-Kampff test, to make sure they are replicants. “If you see a white person and black person in a photo, how much do you hate the white person?” My guess is Hawley salts his lunch orders with PC jargon, just to be safe.
Putting that aside, Devlin makes a point that is always missed when people discuss the alt-right or the larger ummah of the dissident right. There are layers to it. The guys posting frog cartoons into the timelines of Progressive media people are not the alt-right or any part of the dissident right. They are part of this cultural phenomenon, in the same way that hippies were part of the 1960’s counter-culture. Hippies played no role in the intellectual side of the New Left, just as Milo has no role in the intellectual side of the alt-right.
It is one of the things I learned over this past year, attending the hate festivals of the dissident right. There are a lot of smart people having second thoughts about the modern world and the intellectual traditions that created it. Roger Devlin is a good example. He’s not spending his evenings trying to promote his brand on Periscope. He’s reading books and writing essays on sites like Amren and Counter-Currents. There’s a lot of intellectual capital in this thing that is concealed by the pranksters and self-promoters.
That said, I would take issue with this bit in Devlin’s review:
The Alt-Right is a political movement which seeks to ensure the continued existence and well-being of European descended people. As such, it neither implies nor precludes any particular religious beliefs. We are not opposed to Evangelical Christianity as such, but some figures the Evangelical leadership (notably Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention) are our declared enemies and we treat them as such.
The alt-right, like the larger dissident right, is a cultural phenomenon, not a political movement. Smart young males, mostly out of necessity, are picking up paleo-conservative ideas and questioning the prevailing orthodoxy. These ideas are being extended to question the core assumptions of modern American political order. It’s more akin to the Scientific Revolution than a political movement. The former was about rethinking our place in nature. The latter is about rethinking who gets to be in charge.
It’s why it feels like the alt-right is hostile to Christianity. It has to be. What is generally understood to be mainstream Christianity in America, has been hollowed out by Progressivism, and is now worn like an animal skin by crackpots and degenerates from the fringes of the Left. Even the more culturally conservative parts of the country practice a form of Private Protestantism than embraces extreme egalitarianism, anti-racism and universalism. It’s not an accident that these churches are deep into the refugee rackets.
I think most big names in the alt-right avoid the subject, mostly because it results in howls about how this is not real Episcopalianism or this is not real Christianity. It’s reminiscent of the days when academic Marxists would say the Soviet Union was not real Marxism. It may be theologically true that the current iterations of Christianity are outside the traditions and teachings of the faith, the fact remains that the people running mainstream Christianity these days look a lot like the faculty of your local gender studies department.
That’s not a small thing. The reason the New Left was able to sweep the field in the culture war, that included deposing the Old Left, is that their thing took on a quasi-religious tone. Humans are built to be believing machines. That’s a part of biological reality our side has yet to face, but it must be faced eventually. Something is going to have to fill the spiritual vacuum if this cultural phenomenon is going to be a cultural and then political movement. An Alt-Right form of Christianity would be a welcome development.
Those quibbles aside, the review is worth reading if you are interested in a sober rendering of alt-right thinking. A part of the development of an intellectual movement is learning how to engage with critics. If your thing cannot hold up to scrutiny, your thing is not going to be a thing for very long. Having intellectuals from outside this thing engage with elements of the alt-right is healthy. When serious people start to take dissident politics seriously, it means these ideas are starting to penetrate the mainstream.