Editor’s Note: It has been six years since the torch march in Charlottesville.
“Liberal democracy” is neither liberal or democratic— John Behnken (@LutherEnjoyer) August 10, 2023
Happy Friday pic.twitter.com/7lPIkXEDwI— LeftyCrypto? (@LeftyCrypto) August 11, 2023
Morning Joe: “‘Morning Joe’ might not exist [if Trump wins], as … he has said, ‘If I’m elected, I want the FCC reporting directly to me,’ & he will cancel this show. You need to think that — that extreme. It’s over! Freedom is over if Donald Trump gets elected” pic.twitter.com/142LGMG4EO— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) August 11, 2023
Is this the greatest 10 seconds in CNN history? pic.twitter.com/ohbKxDs47K— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) August 11, 2023
In fact, Charlie Kirk specifically invoked Ruby Ridge and the Waco siege while discussing the recent event in Utah. pic.twitter.com/iQkyANdpjk— Madeline Peltz (@peltzmadeline) August 11, 2023
As a brand, the Alt-Right is dead.
It has gone the way of White Nationalism which was itself a rebrand. Many of the most influential figures in the Alt-Right have completely imploded or flamed out like Richard Spencer and MILO. Some of us who were involved in the Alt-Right are now older and look back on that period with a twinge of embarrassment. What were we doing associating with clowns like Andrew Anglin?
And yet, even though the brand is dead and hardly anyone claims affiliation with the umbrella label these days, the movement is still very much alive and thriving in a weird way. Keith Woods is being retweeted by Elon Musk. Richard Hanania’s past as Richard Hoste has been the talk of rightwing Twitter over the past week. BAP’s fantasies about slaying millions of human bugmen in the streets is scaring mainstream liberals in The Atlantic. This stuff used to appeal to a small audience on blogs and forums.
Consider Peter Brimelow and VDARE. In what sense is VDARE an extremist website in 2023? Nearly all Republicans want to curtail Third World immigration and at least 70% are explicitly opposed to the Great Replacement. The so-called normal or mainstream Republicans have been reduced to a rump 15% of the party. My paleoconish views on immigration, trade and foreign policy haven’t changed in twenty years. It is people like Charlie Kirk who have radically changed over the past six or seven years.
Occidental Dissent is positioned at the intersection of White Nationalism, Neo-Confederacy, Christian Nationalism, paleoconservatism and post-liberalism. Have we really lost when over half of Southern Republicans are open to the idea of dissolving the Union or when Christian nationalism is thriving among evangelical Protestants or when conservative liberalism has lost its hegemony over the Right?
The alt-right burst into public consciousness seemingly overnight—a radical, sometimes esoteric political ideology pointing a knife at the heart of American liberal democracy.
Harnessing racist and misogynistic energies from deplorable recesses of the internet, the movement thrust itself into national relevance as a force to be reckoned with in the 2016 campaign season. Donald Trump appeared to ride the alt-right tiger to the presidency where his chief strategist, “alt-lite” impresario Steve Bannon, occupied the corridors of the West Wing. Yet, following the Charlottesville rally in mid-2017, the project and its most public champions disappeared almost as quickly as they had emerged.
Six years after Charlottesville, it seems clear that the alt-right’s coherence and influence were dramatically overstated in the rush to explain Trumpism and larger upheavals in the U.S. political scene. At the same time, however, judging the alt-right as a set of ideas and ideological claims, rather than as an organization or collection of personalities, we have to grapple with something that feels uncomfortably like its success. Most of the movement’s ideas are now widespread on the American right. But before we can evaluate the alt-right’s successes and failures, first we have to address a more fundamental question. …
Leading figures associated with the alt-right have disappeared into obscurity, self-immolated, and reinvented themselves as centrists. Meanwhile, the ideology’s ideas have diffused across the political landscape. As a movement, the alt-right failed. Its ascendance, such as it was, was always more symptomatic of a larger transformation: the collapse of guardrails and gatekeepers on the right.
There is simply no need for an Alt-Right or Dissident Right in 2023. Curtis Yarvin’s view of The Cathedral or the Deep State is now how the mainstream Right understands itself in relation to institutions. My friend James Edwards is the median Populist Right voter in 2023.
What I can say with a lot of confidence, is just about everybody in the vanguard of the right-wing, among its intellectuals, its staffer class, its journalists, etc. is in daily close proximity to some form or another of fascist or white supremacist propaganda. And I don’t mean this in the “woke,” everything-is-kinda-white-supremacy way, I mean this in it literally bubbled up from Nazi message boards and the like. At the very least, they do not react in horror at coming into close contact with someone or something from the real extreme. It’s titillating for them. Perhaps it might be worrisome for their career prospects, but not for their sense of themselves. They barely bother to really hide it anymore! It’s in their feeds. It’s in their DMs. It’s their real life social networks. It’s just the air they breathe. Even if they are afraid to hold or evince extreme views, they will admire those who do as the cooler ones and heroes. For the brainier of the set, even as they mock those who talk about fascism as hysterics, they eat up the works of Jünger, Evola, or Schmitt. This is what you have to realize about these people: It’s all lies, all the way down; to themselves and to others. The other thing: there is a reason why people don’t say “alt-right” anymore, there is no more “alternative”, this is just the Right. This is who they are.
In my view, the history of the movement can be divided into four phases:
1. The Edgy Vanguard – This was the period before 2016 when the conservative establishment was still strong and there was a hard barrier between the Alt-Right or Dissident Right and the mainstream Right. Conservative liberalism was the dominant ideology of the Right and was championed by candidates like W., John McCain and Mitt Romney. The Senate was full of people like Mitch McConnell.
2. The Breakthrough – The rise of Trump toppled the conservative establishment in 2016 and discredited conservative liberalism. Conservative institutions were still strong and people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell reigned in Congress. Donald Trump was like an island in his own administration and in the wider government. He was surrounded by a sea of mainstream conservatives, but what had previously been marginalized Alt-Right or Dissident Right ideas began pouring into the mainstream Right. The organized movement got ahead of itself in 2017- misreading the breakthrough of the Trump victory in the 2016 election as a total triumph – and cracked up after Charlottesville.
3. The Tipping Point – Clearly, this happened in 2020 as a result of the COVID lockdowns, the George Floyd riots and Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Millions of people were radicalized on the Right by this experience. It began showing up in the polls in early 2021. 1/6 was a symptom of this.
4. Mass Radicalization – This has been the story of the rightwing backlash against the Biden presidency when previously marginalized Alt-Right or Dissident Right ideas began to permeate the mainstream Right to the point where the old boundary between fringe and mainstream has nearly vanished. Nick Fuentes and America First, for example, are more pro-homosexual than Turning Point USA who they used to protest in the Groyper War. Both support Trump although Matt Walsh has better content.
We lost people like Richard Spencer and Evan McLaren along the way. Spencer started his doomed Alt-MSNBC venture at the very moment his former cause took off.
The entire Alt-Right package also hasn’t gone mainstream – explicit White racial consciousness, the Jewish Question, Nietzscheanism, sympathy for National Socialism – but nearly everything else either already has or is getting close. There is nothing fringe anymore about wanting an isolationist foreign policy or a nationalist trade policy or immigration restriction or opposing anti-Whiteism. Even Ron DeSantis is comfortable with wielding state power to punish enemies and reward friends. So much of what were marginalized for saying is now mainstream that it is pointless to carry on as a fringe group. There will always be people like that and their influence has shrunk as they have become more of a subculture.
Ramzpaul used to be an Alt-Right influencer. He is just part of the rightwing scene these days like Mark Dice. The mainstream Right is now much closer to Ramzpaul than Freedom Conservatism. A whole generation of people has also come of age that doesn’t remember True Conservatism. The David French arc from the cuckservative Never Trump columnist at National Review (2015) to the debate with Sohrab Ahmari (2019) to the total pariah he is now (2023) illustrates the shift.
I identify as a normie rightwinger these days, not as an “alt” or “dissident.” I was an early adopter and saw further ahead than most people on my demographic, but there is nothing special about my views anymore.
Note: I saw this blast from the past on CNN yesterday.