Revisionism by omission.
From the summer of 2015 to the fall of 2016, the Alt Right was winning debates and changing minds. Even more significantly, it was also changing the parameters of political debate. It was increasingly capable of driving the news cycle and forcing the political establishment to respond to it. It was also funny, creative, and cool. Naturally, people wanted to join the movement and embrace the brand.
It was during this time that only two people (that I know of) associated with (American) racial nationalism had the prescience to be critical and/or skeptical of the Alt Right: Ted Sallis and Kevin Strom. Everyone else – including Johnson – were 100% on the Alt Right bandwagon. All the juvenile posturing, intellectual vacuity, obsessions over a cartoon frog, screaming about something called “Kek,” Trump worship – that was 100% fine and good to all these other people. Strom was skeptical, and I was openly critical (and skeptical), predicting (and hoping for) an end to the “Alt Right fever.” Those are the facts that all sorts of revisionist attempts at rewriting history cannot change.
But that presented some problems.
The Alt Right itself was the problem, and carried within it the seeds of its own downfall, clear to anyone with foresight and good judgment.
First of all, the Alt Right was a decentralized, largely anonymous, largely online network of individuals, webzines, and small organizations. Because of its online nature, there were no barriers to the movement’s viral growth—but by the same token, there were no barriers to entry either.
Doesn’t most of that also apply to Der Movement in general as well?
Second, the Alt Right brand was effective because of its vagueness.
No, that was one of the key flaws leading to its downfall. It was a building with no foundation. It was a deck of cards – which predictably collapsed at the first strong wind. That Johnson even now doesn’t realize this is remarkable.
But the flip side of that vagueness was that nobody could control how it was used. Anyone who dissented from the Republican establishment could call himself Alt Right, and as the Trump campaign gained momentum, increasing numbers of young Trumpian populists and civic nationalists wanted to use the term. However, many of these newcomers were ideologically naïve and half-baked.
The problem is that “ideologically naïve and half-baked” describes the founders of the Alt Right themselves.
The main bone of contention was race. The core and vanguard of the Alt Right were White Nationalists. They believed that whiteness is a necessary condition for being a member of any European or European-derived society like the United States. Many newcomers rejected this idea. They were ignorant of the problems of multiracial, multicultural societies. They believed the widespread dogma that being an American is a matter of a civic creed, to which people of any race can adhere. Many of them greeted White Nationalist ideas with indifference or downright hostility.
And so the Alt Right fell in between these two stools. Surprise!
The utility of the Alt Right brand was as a tool of reaching out to people who were closer to the political mainstream, the “normies.” The normies were now coming in droves, and some of them wanted to define the Alt Right in more comfortable civic nationalist terms. This led to a crisis in the Alt Right.
For years, people in our movement had complained about only “preaching to the choir.” But now that White Nationalists had a vast audience of people who didn’t already agree with them, they did not feel elated; they felt threatened. Many people were worried that their movement was going to be “coopted” by “entryists” and started thinking in terms of how to repulse newcomers.
Here’s where I think we delve into revisionism by omission. Johnson leaves out a middle ground here. My criticism of the Alt Right was two-fold. First, I didn’t like its intellectual vacuity, Millennial jackassery, regurgitation of empty “movement” dogma, stupid memes, Trump worship, drunken acting out, and all the rest. Second – and relevant to the point here – I vehemently objected to the Alt Right’s pretensions of hegemony of (American) Far Right activism. My point was, and is, clear: if the Alt Right wanted to welcome all sorts of “newcomers,” if it wanted a “big tent,” if it wanted to equate its worldview to a mash-up of Trump, Pepe, Kek, alcohol in Alexandria loft apartments, Beavis and Butthead sniggering, and Arthur Kemp, all well and good. But – BUT! - keep the Alt Right as its own separate entity, the “Far Right for immature Millennials” – don’t you dare pretend to represent, or speak for, ALL (American) Far Rightists, don’t you dare equate the Alt Right with White nationalism, and vice versa. I opposed putting all our racialist eggs in one Alt Right basket, I opposed Alt Right dominance and hegemony, I foresaw the damage that would be done by the Alt Right’s inevitable collapse, and I, frankly, resented being represented in the public eye by this group of semi-retarded imbeciles. It was not an either-or of “vanguardism” vs. “mainstreaming entryism.” It was to keep the Alt Right separate from racial nationalism proper. But all the folks who are historical revisionists about the Alt Right today did not see that then (or even now).
I thought this was self-defeating. I urged people to see the situation as an opportunity to convert a vastly expanded audience to White Nationalism. The reason we had come so far is that we had the best arguments and propaganda. We just needed to have faith in ourselves and our message, then we needed to get back in the battle and continue winning new converts.
Was the way to win new converts – all those “normies” – to declare that the Alt Right was White nationalism or nothing at all? Seems inconsistent. Don’t you want to bring the “converts” in gradually? Isn’t the whole point of Johnson’s argument so far that the original Alt Right was successful in attracting a “big tent” following because of its vagueness?
We also needed to be realistic about the limits of our ability to control a decentralized, grass-roots, online social movement with anything less than the best memes. It is empty to talk of entryism and purges when one is dealing with an online movement with fuzzy boundaries.
How does this differ from Der Movement in general?
We cannot prevent people from going online, nor can we throw them off the internet. Finally, we needed to develop an ethos that would allow us to collaborate productively with people closer to the center, whose links to the mainstream were channels for our ideas and influence.
By declaring that the Alt Right was White nationalism – or nothing at all?
These arguments, however, were rendered moot on November 21, 2016, when Hailgate allowed the mainstream media to forever tie the Alt Right to neo-Nazism. At this point, many civic nationalists rejected the Alt Right brand entirely. This was the birth of the so-called “Alt Lite.” It was “lite” only in one sense: it had tossed White Nationalists overboard. The Alt Lite remained a potent force, while the Alt Right became significantly weaker. The Alt Lite commanded a large audience, which White Nationalists could no longer reach. The Alt Lite retained an enormous social network, from which we were now cut off. White Nationalists could accomplish less, because a lot of highly competent and creative people on the Alt Lite would no longer cooperate with us.
If the Alt Lite was so sensitive, so weak, then good riddance. You don’t want to be in a foxhole with someone who starts running as soon as they hear one artillery shell being fired.
Perhaps the worst loss, however, was in the ideological realm. The most important intellectual battle White Nationalists face is to destroy the taboo against white identity politics. After Hailgate, the Alt Lite differentiated itself from White Nationalism by drawing a firm line against white identity politics and digging in behind it, strengthening the taboo among the very people who were most receptive to questioning it.
Ideological realm? What was it before Hailgate? Pepe? Kek?
It was a disaster. But it did get high marks from Andrew Anglin, who had been at the forefront of the effort to identify the Alt Right with Nazism: “Basically, Richard Spencer did something at NPI that was needed exactly right now in the post-victory period: he separated the Alt-Right from the Alt-Cuck and the Alt-Kike. We are better off without these people.” We were better off only if one’s goal was to assert control over a marginal, subcultural political movement. We were significantly worse off if one’s goal was to interface with the cultural and political mainstream and move it in our direction.
I thought Anglin was one of the new voices of White nationalism? I suppose when he defends Spencer, that’s all forgotten, eh? Look, I disagree with Anglin on most things, but he was right about all those folks throwing Spencer under the bus because of Jews. I wish we had “pro-White leaders” who cared about ALL Whites (i.e., European-descended people) as much as they care about Jews. Then again, Jews are much superior to low-IQ Afrowops and all those “non-Western” Romanians dancing the hora (long may it turn), right?
Some figures on the Alt Lite have speculated that Spencer engineered Hailgate precisely to drive off civic nationalists by identifying the Alt Right with racial nationalism in its most stigmatized and toxic form. For what it is worth, I ran this theory by someone who socialized and worked closely with Spencer over the years, and he rejected it as “giving him too much credit” for Machiavellian strategizing. Instead, he chalked Hailgate up to a mix of impulsiveness, drunkenness, and unfathomable bad judgment.
I said it then, and I’ll say it now: Hailgate was bad judgment and bad optics, but it was nowhere the disaster all the Spencer-haters make it out to be. Spencer and the Alt Right could have rebounded, if all the hysterical Alt Wrongers didn’t start immediately disavowing him (for all the wrong reasons) and if Spencer and the Alt Right wasn’t fundamentally characterized by “a mix of impulsiveness, drunkenness, and unfathomable bad judgment.”
Whether Hailgate was intentional or not, however, it became the pattern for what came next: a drive to centralize the Alt Right under the leadership of Richard Spencer, which led to further division and dysfunction.
All Spencer’s fault. Boring already. How about the error in trying to centralize White nationalism under the Alt Right? And if folks are now saying that Spencer has long been “problematic” and has all sorts of serious personality flaws, then why didn’t they see that earlier? Didn’t they all work with, associate with, and make podcasts with, Spencer before? Before these folks had their own personal falling out with Spencer, he and his “flawed personality” were no problem. Judgment?
Who is ultimately at fault here? Neither Spencer nor Johnson. It's the rank-and-file of Der Movement, who keep on following and enabling failed leaders through all of their "unfathomable bad judgment."