Internet trolls around the globe celebrated when Hilary maligned the “alt-right” at a campaign rally on August 25, 2016, in Reno, Nevada. With a collective effort of memeing, insulting, race-baiting, and general internet nefariousness, they garnered enough credibility to warrant shaming by a presidential candidate.
Since then, the alt-right has all but slid in anonymity. GoogleTrends shows search interest is around 5 or 6 percent of where it peaked. With Trump’s support of an Embassy in Israel and the bombs dropped in Syria, both policies antithetical to Alt-Right ideals, the fear of an Alt-Right figurehead in Washington is gone. And yet, the Atlantic recently featured Richard Spencer, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, in a cover article. Pepe the Frog still stands hunched in many Twitter profile pictures, despite having been killed off by his creator.
The alt-right is not dead; they are merely comatose, and one worries that the next presidential election will once more galvanize the trolls back into notoriety.
That said, it has been almost a year since Hillary’s speech. One wonders over the significance of the alt right’s short life. Authors at Vox and Salon argue that the rise of the alt-right reflects an increase in racist ideologies among Americans and the potential for an overtly illiberal president.
However, with the likes of Pat Buchanan on the right and the origins of the KKK on the left, both parties have always had a racist minority wing. As for the potential of a totalitarian president, the halt of Trump’s travel bans and the floundering healthcare bill exemplify the ability of American institutions to still curtail extreme viewpoints. Neither pose a real threat.
Thus, the rise of the alt-right signifies not an increase in racist ideologies, but the ineffective nature of identity politics.
Humans are tribal creatures; this is evident through various nationalist movements and our current state of identity politics.
On the far right, Richard Spencer said in an interview with BBC: “I do care about my people more than other people.” On the left, Marissa Jenae Johnson, the woman who interrupted Bernie Sanders at his rally in Seattle, writes that her website “was created by Black women for Black women/femmes… Safety Pin Box is an act of radical collective self-preservation.”
Both quotations are perfect reflections of a concern foremost with each side’s own group—playground rules of “me and my friends” before “you and your friends.” This identification with a subgroup can bleed into supremacy and a superiority complex.
Spencer is reminiscent of Western heritage as an explicit assertion of cultural and racial supremacy. Conversely, the identity left removes themselves from the oppressive group and achieves a subtle supremacy by skirting around collective guilt. Both sides focus on groups and supremacy. From this focus they spring to “interest” phenomenons: an aversion to cultural mixing and a concern only for certain issues.
In a now-infamous article for Breitbart, Milo Yiannopoulos wrote that, “a Mosque next to an English street full of houses bearing the flag of St. George, according to alt-righters, is neither an English street nor a Muslim street.” In the eyes of the alt-right, this mixing lowers the quality of both Muslim and English ethnicities.
To the left, cultural mixing is shunned as cultural appropriation. White women wearing hoop earrings is an affront to decency. Katy Perry cried for her own appropriation of black culture. Kylie Jenner did not in fact do camo first. According to opponents of cultural appropriation, the phenomenon is a means by which the dominant culture “steals” aspects of culture from an oppressed group, which may be true, but ultimately it is an aversion to cultural mixing.
Within the sphere of tribalism is also a singular concern with that tribe’s problems. Within a university culture where identity politics fills the halls like the roots of a tree, suggesting that we consider the rights of white men would have been tantamount to suggesting we oppress black men. During graduate school, I found myself reticent to discuss the staggeringly high suicide rate among white men for fear of backlash.
On Black Lives Matter’s website, they decry the “black poverty and genocide.” Meninists turret out statistics of on the job death rates. White nationalists harp on the opioid crisis.
All identity groups have legitimate claims to oppression and yet each is masked as a “men’s issue” or “black issue.” When this masking occurs, it results in cross tribe bickering and very little change. As much ink is spent on delegitimizing one grievance as it is on discussing the real issues within a demographic. BLM protestors interrupt gay pride marches and gay pride marches oust Jewish marchers. There is a singular focus on one group’s issues.
Regardless, though, of the benefits or drawbacks of tribalism, it is prevalent in both the alt-right and far left.
Both groups are not fringe, minority parties like the libertarians who resist the left/right definition, but still function within current systems. Instead, the identity left and alt-right seek to change the very structure of government away from a representative republic.
Within the alt-right, there is an explicit rejection of democracy. Alt-right figurehead Vox Day reposted an article which lays out four essential problems with democracy. Elsewhere, he says democracy leads to “demagogic tyranny.” It does not take much searching into other similar writers to find a repetition of this theme. What they suggest as a replacement, however, is not common across the movement.
Dylan Matthews at Vox summarized the position of one alt-right leader, Curtis Yarvin. He writes that Yarvin’s “vision is corporatist, where instead of a nation belonging to a royal family, it belongs to corporation with shareholders to whom it is accountable.” In other words, he hopes to put an intelligent visionary in charge – undemocratically – and give him near free reign to legislate.
The left follows the same path, beginning with a rejection of America’s fundamental principles in different words. While it is trendy among the alt-right to reject democracy, it is trendy on the left to attack American exceptionalism.
In an article on Everyday Feminism, author Audrene M. Taylor begins her argument with the title “5 Ways Trump Liberated Us All From the Myth of American Exceptionalism.” She ends her article by demarcating the ways in which America’s system, from the Constitution to the cultural norms, are interlaced with “whiteness,” a near insurmountable problem.
With this problem in mind, movements grow that see reformation as insufficient. Rather they seek to demolish the underlying system of a regulated market and representative republic, which constitutes American exceptionalism, and reconstruct something fundamentally different. The best example is the near-success of Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist and critic of the classical liberal vision the Founders had.
If you do not yet believe the similarity, Richard Spencer says it himself. In one interview, he claimed, “I think we should adopt the Bernie Sanders platform.”
What’s important is not that each group suggests similar solutions to America’s problems,– which they do–it’s more that each wants to fundamentally restructure the American system away from its current foundation.
With roots in tribalism and anti-liberalism, naturally there will spring similar fruits in policy and practice. First, there is Israel.
Black Lives Matter has a policy specific arm of their organization called The Movement for Black Lives with a website detailing the minutiae of six different broad policy areas they wish to see change. Their “Invest Divest” section decries that “approximately 3 billion dollars in US aid is allocated to Israel, a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades.”
At the most recent Gay Pride march in Chicago, three people carried rainbow flags with a Star of David in the center. Officials asked them to leave, because other marchers felt unsafe with their flags.
It is sufficient to say that the left considers Israel’s government to be a colonialist oppressor. The alt-right considers its citizens to be greedy money launderers. Neither side supports the nation of Israel.
Factions on both sides also unite on their celebration of abortion. Richard Spencer said in a YouTube video: “Smart people are not using abortion as birth control … It is the unintelligent and blacks and Hispanics who use abortion as birth control. This can be something that can be a great boon for our people, our race.”
Similarly, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a stalwart supporter of birth control, once said that it would act as effective birth control “particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” The similarity of these two quotes show, in stark and guttural reality, the similar roots of pro-abortion policies.
Finally, each group begins to function as its own subculture, complete with its own specific lexicon. Much like Christians speak of substitutionary atonement or biblical exegesis, both sides have developed their own group-specific language.
Too many times I have seen older friends struggle to remember all the letters of LGBTQQIP2SAA. Other times, adults have asked me for the definition of a trigger warning, assuming I know because I’m a millennial. Along with these words, there is intersectionality, woke, patriarchy, systemic, and a litany of other content-specific language. Words that exist and are used almost exclusively within the subculture of the far left.
For the alt-right, up has cropped another category of darkly esoteric and racist language. “Red pill” is an allusion to The Matrix and refers to the act of turning democratic voters conservative; cuck is a crude reapplication of “cuckold” and is used to disparage any perceived weak male. In the more intellectual sphere of the alt-right, words like neoreactionary and identitarian are used like common language.
With a focus on exterior characteristics and ingroup/outgroup categorization, neither can hope to move beyond inter-group bickering and contests for governmental protection. Even now, within the far left, the African-American and LGBT wings of the movement are finding themselves ever more in conflict, interrupting each other’s protests, demanding concessions, and thereby curtailing the progress of both groups.
The rise of identity politics cannot be ignored. Within each movement are serious grievances: the high suicide rate and homelessness among men, the worsening state of public schools and now statistically documented police brutality within the African-American community, the denial of gay marriage rights until 2015, etc. The list of genuine grievances could go on.
Each injustice on the list is genuine and valid. However, when they are asserted as the most important at the expense of the rest, each one gets lost in the fight.
Let us instead fight once more for the collective American culture. This ideal need not be a sophomoric commitment to beer, brats, and the flag, but rather a commitment to the idea that was America, a country committed to freedom and the importance of man before group. Only with this mindset can our country move forward.
The alt-right is dying. Let’s hope the rest of identity politics goes with it.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.