Editor’s Note: If you are wondering why I used the image of Anakin Skywalker above, it is because these people tend to be Star Wars nerds and Marvel fans and the idea of destroying them appeals to me.
The danger in e-theology is it becomes “fan lore”, a cinematic universe or MMORPG where you join a faction & wait for the next upload. God becomes the Mod or GM, & your soul dies. pic.twitter.com/91geUgEt2l— Silent Cal (@Cal_Crucis) May 19, 2023
Life Church in CO did doing Star Wars- themed church today. pic.twitter.com/iKzzUPFvO7— Protestia (@Protestia) July 31, 2023
I saw this bitter salvo from David French when I was on the road at the Amren conference in Tennessee. It struck me as another fitting reminder of where we are at these days like the article in Tablet Mag on the Alt-Right or Michael Lind’s attack on the eugenicons at Compact or the sudden spike in interest in BAP at The Atlantic. Conservative liberalism lost the Millennial Right.
It keeps happening. Since the ascendance of Donald Trump, with depressing regularity, right-wing men have been outed for using the most vile rhetoric. In private chats and sometimes in full view of the public on social media, they’ll engage in blatantly racist, sexist and homophobic speech, flirt with fascist imagery and then often disavow their words and actions the instant they’re caught. …
Terrible stuff. And even more terrible is the realization that I could fill this entire column with other examples of right-wing bigotry, from Christian nationalists, a former Trump speechwriter, a former Daily Caller editor and one of Tucker Carlson’s former top writers. And this is hardly a complete list. The problem is so widespread that Aaron Sibarium, a rising star reporter for The Washington Free Beacon, recently posted, “Whenever I’m on a career advice panel for young conservatives, I tell them to avoid group chats that use the N-word or otherwise blur the line between edgelording and earnest bigotry.”
What is going on? Why are parts of the right — especially the young right — so infested with outright racists and bigots? …
As I survey the right — especially the young, so-called new right — I see a movement in the grip of some rather simple but powerful cultural forces. Hatred, combined with masculine insecurity and cowardice, is herding young right-wing men into outright bigotry and prejudice. Contrary to their self-conception, they’re not strong or tough or courageous. They’re timid sheep in wolves’ clothing, moving exactly where the loudest and most aggressive voices tell them to. …
There was a battle of ideas.
It took place on the internet in the 2000s and 2010s.
It has been over for a long time now and David French’s side lost. They didn’t realize it was happening because they thought parroting conservative orthodoxy instead of defending it from criticism was sufficient to win the day. It was against the rules to engage with people like BAP. You shunned those people and called them racists and that was it. You don’t give them a platform.
In retrospect, we are only beginning to see how the rise of the internet and social media over the past 25 years has changed our culture and the direction of our politics. If you are my age or younger (I am about to turn 43), then you are a native of the internet. You entered young adulthood and made up your views about politics around 9/11 or in the years that followed. Your political views were likely more shaped by what you found on the internet than in print publications or network or cable television.
Think about it.
If you are my age or younger and you are rightwing, you don’t remember the Reagan era of childhood. The Soviet Union collapsed when I was 11-years-old. I experienced the Clinton era as an adolescent. I didn’t begin to think about politics until around Bush v. Gore to 9/11. I was born in late 1980 which makes me one of the very youngest Gen Xers or one of the eldest Millennials. I was using dial up internet in the late 1990s. I can’t ever remember buying or being influenced by a print subscription magazine like National Review which I read online. I made up my mind about politics and my basic values in the 2000s when George W. Bush was president. I was a young adult after 9/11, the War on Terror and the Crash of 2008.
The key thing here is how the internet flattened the political landscape. National Review and The Weekly Standard were officially at the top of the conservative pecking order when W. was president. Conservatism, Inc. had its hierarchy of institutions. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were yelling at Boomers on cable television. Rush Limbaugh was on talk radio. It was just as easy though to read American Renaissance, VDARE, Stormfront or later 4chan though as it was the mainstream websites. Ideas also traveled horizontally through discussions on forums, blogs, podcasts and later social media instead of vertically from the top down through mainstream channels. Debate went on outside of official channels. The clamp down on the internet only really began after the liberal establishment panicked when Hillary lost to Trump. By then, it was way too late to influence Millennials. A 20-year-old in 2018 was born in 1998.
Over the past 20 years, careerists like David French – people who have been carefully vetted by Con Inc. gatekeepers and who have received their kosher card – have risen through the official channels. He made a name for himself writing at National Review in the Obama era. Like many conservative pundits who move up in status by leapfrogging to the mainstream media, French later snagged his dream job writing as an opinion columnist for The Atlantic and the New York Times. And yet, the funny thing is that David French’s political influence has shrunk as he has been given ever larger platforms. He got his position because he knew whose ass to kiss, not because what he is saying is resonating on the Right.
All sorts of bright people were cast out of the conservative synagogue over the years for rocking the boat: Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis, Peter Brimelow, Jared Taylor, Joe Sobran, John Derbyshire, Steve Sailer. After 2000, the internet leveled the playing field and made their content as accessible as that put out by the careerists who got the positions and who were in good standing. I can’t remember who said it, but someone on Twitter recently observed that Conservatism, Inc. in the 2000s and 2010s had too many gatekeepers and not enough gates at a time when the internet had eliminated their power. The debates that Conservatism, Inc. refused to have simply went underground and happened anyway.
It is important to remember that these debates which shaped the political values and views of a whole generation of rightwing men took place in the context of the twin debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Crash of 2008, the suffocating grip of political correctness and later wokeness in the universities in the 2000s and 2010s, soaring Third World immigration, the long term consequences of feminism and deindustrialization playing out and myriad other things like the tribal drumbeat of anti-Whiteism which manifested in movements like Black Lives Matter and the dismal failures of the Civil Rights Movement. Lots of people noticed that over seventy years of antiracism, social engineering and trillions of dollars in wealth redistribution failed to eliminate racial gaps. We’re not supposed to ever notice the failure of liberal policies, especially on race and sex, but people do notice and draw conclusions.
The term “Lost Boys” which has been bandied about by these people – David French, Tom Nichols, Hans Fiene, etc – refers to all the legions of angry young men out there whose career paths were blocked by gatekeepers and who never found their way into institutions. They either never landed the comfortable establishment gigs in center-right institutions or were later doxxed like Scott Greer or excommunicated like Nate Hochman when their real views were exposed. Some like Richard Hanania or BAP participated in the formative debates of the early Alt-Right for years under anonymous pseudonyms.
Conservative elites didn’t want to address or deal with the real problems which the rising generation was diagnosing and discussing in the 2000s and 2010s. Their response was to stick their heads in their sand and to purge anyone who made too much noise. Those problems never went away. Those concerns never went away. The people who were angry about those problems, especially those who were cast out of the mainstream or injured by cancel culture or whatever it was, did not go away either. It took Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election to shatter the consensus and the response of many of these people like French was either denial or throwing a tantrum. Those who took a different path and began to seriously address these issues and give voice to the discontent like Tucker Carlson after 2016 have soared.
The tide is rising now. The first generation whose political views were decisively shaped by the free for all of the early internet is hitting middle age in the 2020s. Everyone before that grew up in a bygone world where you could only come across the truth about taboo topics like race in an obscure newsletter, print magazine or flier. It took a lot more work. This is happening as the oldest generations who were shaped by early television in the 1950s are departing. Today, only elderly people can remember the Civil Rights Movement. The “Lost Boys” are becoming middle aged men with their own children now. Millennials won’t hit the peak of their political influence until the 2030s and 2040s. We still have a ways to go.
No one is changing their views. Most people made up their minds a long time ago in their twenties. The “underground politics” of the 2000s and 2010s – race, sex, gender, culture, political correctness, immigration, war, demographic change, globalization, the merits of liberal democracy and free market capitalism and so on – everything that was once taboo to talk about and outside of the conservative liberal consensus is now bursting into mainstream politics. Meanwhile, the views of politics of people like David French have diminished into a rump that comprises at most about 15% of the Republican Party.
I know lots of Millennial writers who chose precarity and influence over material comfort and having no influence in young adulthood. In the long run, I think it will pay off for them.
Note: The Weekly Standard went out of business in 2018. Liz Cheney was driven out of politics in 2022. Pat Buchanan’s foreign policy views have triumphed over Tom Nichols.