With the leaked audio of Richard Spencer’s embarrassing tantrum after the Charlottesville riot, the book can finally be closed on the alt-right. If there was anyone still using the term as anything but an epithet, they will no doubt drop it. The first political movement to grow out of internet culture has come and an ignominious end. While it may no longer be a thing, examining what they did right and what they did wrong, especially what they did wrong, can be useful for dissidents.
The primary reason the alt-right failed was that it was never a coherent movement with an intellectual center. It was just a ragtag collection of people with a gripe about something going on in the culture. There were those who recently discovered Kevin McDonald, so they worked that angle. Others had discovered race realism and figured out why libertarianism was a dead end. Then there were the boys who did not like what was happening with feminism. The alt-right was a grievance society.
Reaction to social trends can certainly be the starting point of a cultural or political movement, but it can never be the end point. If the whole point of your politics is to stand in opposition to something, you’re not part of a movement. You are part of an obstacle that will eventually be removed. That is what literally happened to the alt-right, piece by piece, over the last few years. One tribe of the alt-right after another was anathematized and then marginalized by the Left. Now it is gone entirely.
Now, some would argue that the concept of the ethno-state was the vision of the alt-right, but that was another reason it failed. Richard Spencer would have been more successful claiming he was going to lead the alt-right back to the Shire, so they could reunite with their hobbit brothers. Setting your goal as the creation of a what is basically white Wakanda is not serious. As a theoretical construct to use as a critique of multiculturalism it could have been useful, but as a goal it was absurd.
The thing is, racial nationalism is not a new thing. Arab nationalism was a legitimate movement in the middle of the last century. There was a pan-African nationalism that rose up in the later years of colonialism. Both failed in their stated goals, because race is a terrible way to organize people. Loyalty starts with family, then extended family and finally the extended family of ethnicity. Race is a general grouping of people that corresponds to the big geographical groupings. Race is not ethnicity.
This is why American dissidents need to be careful to acknowledge the geographic diversity of occidentals in North America. The old stock Yankee living in New Hampshire may share the same opinions on biology as a Southerner, but they will remain men from different tribes. This diversity among white people in America is why the people in charge have been so successful. They exploit these differences to turn a majority population into a hated minority. That reality must be respected.
That brings up another failure of the alt-right. It never had intellectual heft. Richard Spencer liked to cast himself as a philosopher, but he was always a dilettante, more concerned with media attention, than thinking about politics. He was a lot like Barak Obama, in that his fans would say he was inspirational, but they could never tell you anything he said that was memorable, other than the gaffes. His innumeracy prevented him from making an affirmative argument about biology.
Otherwise, no one filled the intellectual void at the center of the alt-right. Some of the writers for Counter Currents gave it a go, but they were always a bit wary of what was going on with the alt-right. Others would turn up with an essay here or there, but the movement never attracted anyone who was well read and prepared to articulate the main ideas that allegedly animated the alt-right. Instead, it was Spencer rambling on YouTube videos about Faustian man and the ethno-state.
Of course, one reason the movement failed to attract smart people toiling in the intellectual fields of bio-diversity is the movement had a lot of cranks. In fact, the alt-right seemed to be a crank magnet. It was a freak show of e-celebs, who were never all that interested in politics. Guys like Milo and Cerno are good examples. For them, politics is a vehicle to internet stardom. Serious people interested in serious politics will not get involved with a movement that welcomes freaks and weirdos.
That is the one great lesson from the alt-right. No organization can survive incompetence at the top. Whether you are forming a local group to clean up a park or you are organizing for a larger political goal, you have to have high quality people at the center of it. The alt-right made a fetish of not purging people, but that became a doggy door for the worst sorts of people to enter their movement. No matter how cheeky or clever your internet memes, you can’t win counting on losers.
Self-policing, of course, gets a lot easier in real life organizing. On-line, people are free to play any character they like. In real life, people quickly sort the wheat from the chaff, so excluding grifters and lunatics gets easier. Good people tend to boil off the bad people, through the natural social mechanisms. That is the most important lesson of the alt-right. The internet is not real. It cannot replace real life organizing. If there is going to be a resistance to what is happening, it must happen in the real world.
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