Am I Alt-Right?

Sometimes an expression appears for something that you never quite knew how to articulate. The ‘Alt-Right’ is the new phrase on every political commentator’s lips. This loose collection of gleefully obtuse and contemptuous keyboard warriors have risen to prominence on the back of Donald Trump’s election campaign, loudly cheering from the digital sidelines.

What should I make of this new online phenomenon? As a libertarian, I am quite used to the idea that other libertarians can have quite different ideas than myself. Yet something about the sneering brashness of the Alt-Right doesn’t sit comfortably with me. But maybe I’m overthinking things.

If we are to take the phrase Alt-Right literally. That is ‘an alternative to the run of the mill right wing’ then surely I come under that banner? Furthermore, there seems to be a tangible meeting of minds between leading Alt-Right figures and some prominent libertarians.

It has been announced that the Alt-Right poster boy and twitter exile Milo Yiannopoulos will be speaking at this year’s Anarchopulco conference. In a recent appearance on Radio 4’s flagship ethical talking shop The Moral Maze Yiannopoulos clearly stated his desired society was one where the government was very small and had virtually no power to interfere in the lives of ordinary people. So what exactly is there for me to dislike about the Alt-Right?

Firstly it would appear that the Alt-Right have no genuine commitment to freedom. The Alt-Right case for limited government seems to go something like this: Your average white male would do better in a country with less government intervention because he is usually responsible and hard working. Other ethnic groups, women and the poor overwhelmingly vote for more government because they are not hard working or particularly responsible. Therefore white males need to engage in crass identity politics in order to preserve a society that benefits them.

This is not an acceptable libertarian or classical liberal argument for numerous reasons, but let’s just stick with one for now. The Alt-Right logic makes the same mistake that Marxists make. They assume that the world functions not as a multitude of individuals but as cohesive and uniform blocks. The Marxist dialectic begins with the assumption that ‘the working class’ will realise what is in their economic self-interest and automatically assume their predestined revolutionary role of smashing the bourgeoisie. Replace class with race and bourgeoisie with white genocide and you essentially have the Alt-Right case for limited government.

There appears to be a certain determinism and lack of appreciation for complexity that should ring alarm bells in the minds of liberty-minded folk. The Alt-Right could reply by stating that all we need to do it look at the statistics. Non-White ethnic groups (in the USA) are much more likely to vote for bigger government…

While this may be true the assumption that people are cosmic pawns, locked into playing determined roles in a zero-sum struggle for supremacy is reductionist identity politics at its very worst. It is definitely not something I would regard as truly compatible with liberalism. The Alt-Right’s love of powerful strongmen like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin seems to affirm my suspicion that interpersonal liberty isn’t the real endgame for the Alt-Right.

Ultimately the Alt-Right’s tactless use of incendiary language and bleak world view prove to me that I am definitely not part of the Trumpeteer brigade.

  13 comments for “Am I Alt-Right?

  1. Katabasis
    Oct 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I wasn’t sure what to make of the alt-right phenomenon myself until I read Vox Day and found out that there are actually several groups in competition. I also found out that I would be classified as ‘Alt-West’ –

    • Oct 4, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks for the link. I had never heard of that distinction before.

      It’s interesting that Vox Day places the Alt-Right a having more in common with nationalism rather than being a libertarian phenomenon.

  2. Leigh-Anne Wain
    Oct 6, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Even though I strongly reject the myriad ideologies of the Alt-Right, Libertarians need to acknowledge that the Alt-Right ideology is increasingly influential in libertarian circles. It probably reflects the global rise in nationalism.

    Think Stefan Molyneux, Property and Freedom Society and the current day UK Libertarian Alliance. Even Tom Woods someone I thought was an otherwise mainstream Austrian economist type had Milo Yiannopoulous on his show recently and could not praise the man more.

  3. Paul Marks
    Oct 7, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Which side on you on in relation to World War II and the Cold War?

    If you are on the side of such people as Winston Churchill and “Chesty” Puller you (like me) are the ENEMY of the “Alt Right” and its vile creator the self-hating Jew Paul Gottfried and the other apologists for Nazi Germany and so on.

    As for nationalism – there is a vast gulf between nationalism and patriotism. The patriot believes in the universal principles of natural law (natural justice) and he judges all countries (including his own) by this standard, the nationalist (the Nazi) mocks the very existence of universal rules of just conduct.

    There can be no compromise between the moral universe of Old Whig Edmund Burke and Great Tory Whig – and, on the other side, the evil swamp of Carl Schmitt and the Nazis.

    Nor is it “just” about the Nazis – the “Alt Right” are no fans of the Cold War (Korea and so on) either – and they are fans of Mr Putin who has destroyed Civil Society in Russia (which was reemerging from the nightmare of the Soviet years).

    The Black Flag of the Alt Right is no answer to the Red Flag of the Marxists – indeed they are the two sides of the same corrupt (debased) collectivist coin.

    By the way – the latest gossip is that the Alt Right is falling out with their friend Milo.

    • Jordan lee
      Oct 8, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      History is indeed important when we consider the Alt-Right. I think it is equally important what future historians make of Libertarians today.

      I fear if Libertarians are seen as synonymous with the Alt-Right or sympathetic towards it then we certainly place ourselves on the wrong side of history. We risk being branded racists and philistines by future generations.

      • Alan
        Oct 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm

        I agree we should make sure people can see clear water between us and them

  4. Leigh-Anne Wain
    Oct 7, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    I’m not so sure that there was ever much of a civil society in Russia for Putin to overthrow but yes I agree with you, they certainly do gaze longingly at Mr Putin.

    What is the gossip by the way?

  5. Mr Ed
    Oct 7, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Despite having asked the Sage of Kettering in person who or what constitutes the ‘alt-right’, I am none the wiser as to whar they are or stand for, a one-line summary would have helped, but I am left to my inferences.

    • Paul Marks
      Oct 31, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      To use a term that is over used (but in this case is basically accurate) they are “Neo Nazis”.

      Some less “Neo” than others.

  6. Oct 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I agree with your thoughts and worry that the alt-right groups will use call for limited government and controls simply to temporarily support their other agendas. When one looks at their stance towards free movement, for example, they are not libertarian in the slightest and I fear that we may get associated with them which could prove damaging in the struggle to create a free society

  7. Tom Burroughes
    Nov 22, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    For me, one of the key markers, or tests of what the Alt-Right is is genetic determinism, which fits with its tribalism and hostility to traditional Judeo-Christian morality as well as hostility to groups such as Objectivists (Rand famously denounced racism as the oldest and most primitive form of collectivism).

    Some of them are fixated with issues such as race/IQ. They posit that racial groups have different IQ levels on average and that these differences have causal effects on things such as educational achievement, economic performance, etc. It is true, of course, that humans are not a total blank slate – we are the creatures of our genes – but we are also not robbed of volition by these genes. We are the first creatures to even know we have genes and to think and talk about them. We introspect, think about how we think and behave, write treatises about this, even put up blog posts! So regardless of what racial group you might be in, that does not detract one iota from your ability to be a responsible moral agent. And yet the Alt-Right appears to contend that it does, opening the way for coercion.

    The determinism of the Alt-Right is directly at odds with the core values of freedom, self-responsibility and free will that for me are at the core of Enlightenment liberalism and our civilisation (including our Judeo-Christian and Graeco-Roman inheritances). The Alt-Right is a return to the ethos of the tribe, of “might makes right”, of a nihilistic “whatever works for my group” point of view. It also tends towards conspiracy-mongering, and a view that some sort of “enemy class” has oppressed the White Man and reduced his natural place in the world.

    I get the impression that some libertarians, such as those involved with Lew Rockwell in the US, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Sean Gabb of the UK’s LA, are close to some, if not all, of Alt-Right positions, and that is a major problem if the libertarian message is to be put forward honestly. I left the Libertarian Alliance in early 2011, and nothing I have read since on that outfit’s website has given me cause to regret my decision.

    • Paul Marks
      Nov 22, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Yes Tom.

      It is their genetic determinism that is key. They (like the German philosophers Herder and Fichte) see culture and politics in biological terms. They deny Free Will – human moral agency (the “I”), upon which libertarianism rests. Nor are they conservatives – unless one rejects Edmund Burke and even Dr Johnson (both of whom rejected racialism and rested their whole position on Free Will – Moral Responsibility) were not conservatives.

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