How the Alt-Right Makes Converts
White Nationalism is national news once again, as Richard Spencer speaks at the University of Florida. This is his first campus event since the Charlottesville tragedy, and emotions are running high. The costs of adequate security were estimated to be as high as $600,000 dollars, and Governor Rick Scott stepped in to declare a state of emergency.
Reactions to this event seem to fall broadly into two categories. On the Left, professors and students alike want to see Spencer’s speech restricted. As I’m writing, they fill the hall where he is speaking with chants, shouting loudly enough that they can’t hear him, despite the fact that he has a microphone and is being heard by others anyway.
There is good reason for this reaction. Consider the following hypothetical exchange that might have happened on UF campus, if the students weren’t currently shouting:
SPENCER: “Do you believe all people should be treated equally?”
SPENCER: “And do you believe that minority groups can achieve a deep and special meaning in their lives by identifying strongly with their race, and celebrating their race’s accomplishments as their own?”
STUDENT: “Sure! They have a lot to be proud of. That’s why we have things like Black History Month!”
SPENCER: “Should these accomplishments be taken from them just because some people of their race have done horrible things?”
STUDENT: “Of course not! They can embrace the good and reject the bad.”
SPENCER: “Then why do you want to deny this source of deep identity and meaning to white people, at precisely the time when white people are losing their jobs and facing high suicide rates?”
This argument is devastating once the premises of the “identity politics” Left are taken for granted. Leftists have good reason to cover their ears. But they should do so by ignoring Richard Spencer. If the Left ignored him, Spencer would have shout in order to get anyone’s attention. But when the Left shouts, Spencer gets to look calm and collected by comparison. And this hands the alt-Right a win.
Those of us on the Right needn’t shout or cover our ears. We have no reason to fear Richard Spencer’s speech. Conservatives deeply and instinctively recognize his kind of evil, because the West has struggled against it throughout its entire history. White nationalism is, at its core, deeply, and horribly pagan.
The roots of European pagan religion lie in war and conquest. As author David Goldman put it, “the religion of the ancient world is a carnival-parade of new gods introduced by winners to replace the failed gods of the losers”. It is an unfortunate fact of history that, as Christianity conquered Europe, the God of Christianity, to some extent, became the large float at the end of this parade. Rather than radically transforming the Hellenic cosmos into a more Hebraic one, Christendom occasionally adsorbed the Jewish Messiah into a denuded pagan pantheon.
This left an ugly, pagan underbelly within European civilization. While Protestant Christians like to remember the progress of Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment as an escape from “pagan” darkness, it should be remembered that, in many ways, Europe was returning to its pagan roots during this period. I’m not just talking about the renewed interest in pagan antiquity. I mean that European tribes fought each other with renewed vigor over the right to be known as the “chosen people” of God, the precursor to the idea of being the superior race. Then God died (to use Nietzsche’s phrase) in Europe, the burgeoning paganism was released from the shackles of Christianity. Nation-states grasped for pre-Christian or post-Christian sources of identity. Some devoted themselves to secularized idealisms, with varying levels of success. Others reached for their pre-Christian blood-ties as the source of their national identity.
The German Nazi Party invented a story about the superiority of its own blonde race and proceeded to purge Germany of any elements that they believed would “dilute” the superior “Aryan” stock. This led of course to some of the worst atrocities the world has ever seen, especially against the Jewish people. The contemporary white nationalist movement in America is in this same vein. While they have largely abandoned the defunct “Aryan” designation for a more generic “white” one, the white nationalists, like the Nazis, assert that their preferred race deserves credit for all of the successes of Western civilization throughout the world. And, like the Nazis, these neo-Nazis have nothing but contempt for Jews.
Both Nazi and neo-Nazi ideology return to a pagan source of identity: “blood and soil”. More importantly, however, their ideology abandons wholesale the Hebraic (Jewish/Christian) contribution to Western culture. Even many Christians often overlook the fact that many of the foundational ideas of Western culture spring directly from the Hebraic tradition. Ideas like liberty, equality, individual rights, etc., stem from Judaism, being rooted in the covenantal relationship between Jehovah and his people. And these ideas were spread throughout the Western world by Christianity. In place of these Judeo-Christian ideas, the white nationalist substitutes pagan self-worship. He abandons the ideas of the West which are the source of its greatness, and then takes pride in Western greatness itself (high culture, art, music, architecture, etc.), imagining himself to be the kind of person to whom this greatness is owed: a “white” person.
Pagan self-worship will never lead to greatness. The great men of Western history – Moses, Socrates, Virgil, Augustine, Milton, Jefferson, etc. – were great, not because they cared about greatness, but because they were embodying, in some way, the great ideals of the West. Men who worship greatness, or who spend time attributing past greatness to themselves, never amount to anything.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between the traditional American Right and the new, white nationalist alt-Right is the attitude toward the Jewish people. America’s philo-Semitic Religious Right is unique in history and owes this uniqueness to a variety of factors, including the similarity of the stories of Jewish and Puritan exile, and dogmas like dual-covenant theology. But, most importantly in this regard, the American colonists who settled in America founded their townships upon ideals and creeds (or capitalism, in some cases), not race. This idealistic founding would eventually culminate in the cross-denominational creed that created the American nation: the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”.
It is this creedal, non-racial identity that makes America, and the American Right, uniquely philo-Semitic. Without a racial identity, the jealousy of the Jewish people at the heart of most anti-Semitism becomes impossible. This jealousy is palpable every time Richard Spencer mentions the state of Israel to defend his entho-nationalism.
The alt-Right is repulsed by the American creed. “All men are created equal” is the central principle of the American republic, which all good Americans wish to conserve. The alt-Right thinks is it a meaningless abstract idea. White Nationalists are not conservative. White Nationalists are not republican. As long as the American Right continues to loudly proclaim our creed – so long as Americans remain committed to their Judeo-Christian values – America will remain the most philo-Semitic non-Jewish nation in the world, and we will continue to be great. This is our true identity. Race has nothing to do with it.