I’ve rewritten this post a few times now, mostly because I keep thinking about a rule that I think all of us should follow. That is, no enemies to the Right. The reason the Buckley thing is falling to pieces is they invested all of their time slicing pieces off of the right side of their movement. The Birchers were easy, but before long they were slicing off vital parts. The reason the so-called alt-right exists is that so much of the Right had been purged, the fringe has become a majority.
Still, there’s a lot of the alt-right that creates a fair bit of doubt in my mind. Since the election, the media has been racing around looking for “leaders” of the alt-right to report on and interview. That’s catnip to the sort of people who like being famous more than they like being right. It also attracts people who think they can make a buck off selling people what they want to hear. That’s how the Tea Party went from grass roots movement to a bust-out. How long before someone launches a line of Pepe gear?
For instance, is Mike Cernovich a guy in it for the money or a higher purpose? I don’t spend a lot of time reading his site, or any time to be honest, but his name pops up a lot in stories about the alt-right. I see he is peddling a book called MAGA Mindset with a picture of Trump on it. Maybe it is all above board and perfectly legit, but it could be just another grift too. It’s hard to know. Would he be selling the Commie Mindset if Bernie Sanders had won the White House? I don’t know, but it is a good thing to keep in mind.
There’s a difference between selling the word and spreading the word. It’s the Bible salesman versus the missionary. The former could just as easily be selling toasters or porn. The point of the exercise is to make the sale. Their product is just a means to an end. The missionary, on the other hand, is the product. He is selling more than just his wares. He is selling himself. His identity is measured in converts. VDare begs for money so they can proselytize, not so Peter Brimelow can drive a Ferrari.
It’s not just the fringy sorts that give me pause. Ann Coulter was an enthusiastic champion of Mitt Romney. She used to talk about Chris Christie as a lion of the Right. She was a late arrival to the immigration patriotism cause. Ann Coulter is in the business of selling books. It has worked to our favor that she picked up the cause of immigration and then championed Donald Trump, but what happens if she can sell more books promoting open borders? I’m not questioning her sincerity, just making a point about motives.
I don’t want to cast aspersion on these people. I don’t know enough about Cernovich to judge his motives. Honestly, my hunch is he is just a harmless weirdo. Ann Coulter was a skeptic of the Bush Klan going way back. She was fond of ripping into the Bush people over “compassionate conservatism” before it was popular. Ann Coulter has taken a lot of abuse and lost a few friends over her Trump support. Still, it is wise to be skeptical about people making a living selling you what you want to hear. Talk radio falls into this too.
Money is one reason for skepticism. Hidden agendas are another. Fringe movements that gain traction inevitably attract members of other fringe movements. Every fringe weirdo in America is hoping on the alt-right bus, hoping to ride it to legitimacy. During the election, Jill Stein tried to ride the Bernie Bro wave. When that failed, she went on Twitter, aping Donald Trump, by calling Hillary crooked and corrupt. She even started making noises about immigration, thus earning her the nickname “Based Yenta.”
Richard Spencer is another good example. Watching the NPI event the other day, I kept getting the sense that Peter Brimelow was there to legitimize Spencer, not because Spencer had a big stage to offer Brimelow. Spencer invests a lot of time declaring himself the Pope of the alt-right, but my guess is hardly anyone calling themselves alt-right knows anything about him. The next time someone quotes Richard Spencer to me, it will be the first time. His white identity thing is a tiny club without out much of a future.
The point here is not to disparage these people. I think Richard Spencer is mostly harmless. I’m just using him as an example to make a point. Populism is always going to be open to a lot of oddballs looking for a home, but it is important to remember that they are the ones seeking shelter, not the ones building the shelter. The people rallying to the Trump banner or the Brexit banner or any of the populist movements of Europe are not doing so because they want a white ethno-state. They just want normal countries again.
Skepticism is a good thing. There are a lot of people pulling down their freak flag now and hoisting the Pepe banner. Most of it is harmless and well intended, but not all of it. It’s never easy to know so it is wise to maintain a healthy degree of doubt about all of them. Old soldiers like Brimelow or Sailer have earned trust over long careers, but all the new guys have a long way to go before we can really know what they are up to and assess their motivations. Until that’s clear, I have my doubts.