Attempting To Understand the Alt-Right Part I

galaxyI admit it. Prior to the election of Donald Trump I had been largely ignorant as to the beliefs and practices of the Alt-Right movement. I have had my run-ins with the self identified “genuine white supremacist” but I am not sure to what degree either his bizarre beliefs or his equally bizarre way of communicating them reflect this movement. Another place where I have been exposed to the Alt-Right mindset is on the blog called The Orthosphere. Through reading the various blog posts and comments over time I have come to a better appreciation as to the beliefs associated with the Alt-Right.

Recently on The Orthosphere a contributor named Alan Roebuck wrote a piece entitled, “A Basic Guide to Liberalism and Conservatism, Part I.” In this piece he purported to be a “catechism of liberalism and conservatism (i.e., anti-liberalism)” he made a number of observations that I would like to unpack in an effort to deepen my understanding of the Alt-Right mindset. It is in this spirit (that is, to better understand) that I write this post although I will express any counterpoints I think are appropriate. My point is that I do not write this post from a hostile perspective. Nor is it my chief purpose to refute the beliefs of the Alt-Right as I understand them.

As with the white supremacist gentleman I referred to earlier I do not know to what extent Mr. Roebuck’s views are in line with Alt-Right orthodoxy (if there is such a thing) but it is another tile in the mosaic. He begins with this provocative statement:

Liberalism is the deliberate violation of the laws of God, the laws of nature, and human tradition. If this blasphemy excites you, you’re a liberal. If it disgusts you, you’re a normal person.

The standard definitions of Liberalism taken from dictionary.com read in pertinent part:

 

a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.

 a movement in modern Protestantism that emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority, the adjustment of religious beliefs to scientific conceptions, and the development of spiritual capacities.

 

I am not entirely sure these fit the definition of liberalism that Mr. Roebuck believes to be a deliberate violation of God’s laws. Unfortunately (from the perspective of wanting to better understand him) as his post continues he refuses to define liberalism saying,

 

There is no need here to give a full definition of liberalism. Like the famous quip about pornography, we know it when we see it. We know liberalism because its message is everywhere.

 

This seems to imply that Mr. Roebuck believes there is a definition of liberalism that is (perhaps) different than the standard dictionary definition. However, if liberalism in the mind of Mr. Roebuck is not essentially “a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual”  but some other (as he says) “dominant” and “perverted” philosophy that “we all need defend ourselves against”, it remains to be seen just what exactly he is getting at. In other words I am not sure that what Mr. Roebuck considers to be the liberalism that he knows when he sees it is the same liberalism that I know when I see it. The fact that the two of us are using different definitions for the same terms goes a long way to explain why it seems liberals and members of the Alt-Right movement have difficulty communicating with one another.

 

Mr. Roebuck then describes political conservatism as “any opposition to liberalism” and provides the following exemplars: “Libertarians, Bible-believing Christians, Nazis, monarchists, and the atheistic followers of Ayn Rand, among others…” He stipulates “not all [these exemplars of] conservatism (anti-liberalism) [are] good [so therefore we] must become the right kind of conservatives.” Up until this point Mr. Roebuck has refused to define liberalism and as such his definition of conservatism as anti-liberalism also remains undefined.

 

He takes a step closer to a definition by saying:

The … first conservatives … noticed that the traditional way of life of their people was under attack by liberals and their natural—and honorable—response was to defend what was under attack. They wanted to conserve what was good in the traditions of their people.

 

But that was the past. Liberalism is now victorious. According to our leaders, we’re all supposed to be liberals … [and] celebrate diversity, tolerance, compassion, multiculturalism, and so on.

 This last passage is informative. Here we see that a liberal (in the mind of Mr. Roebuck) is a person who believes diversity, tolerance, compassion and multiculturalism are good and a conservative is one who disagrees with these values because presumably these values are antithetical to or incompatible with traditional values.

 

He goes on to say, “The conservatives have failed to conserve the good. Therefore many honorable anti-liberals [i.e., the Alt-Right] have contempt for conservatism.” He characterizes the failure to conserve the good by failing to reject the values of diversity, tolerance, compassion and multiculturalism as an “undeniable fact.”

 

Here, I must pause to say that I reject Mr. Roebuck’s assertion that diversity, tolerance, compassion and multiculturalism are undeniably bad or even necessarily incompatible with traditional values. I would agree, however, that certain agendas designed to advance these “liberal” values have negatively impacted our society. The best example of this in my mind is political correctness. However, I would argue that political correctness is not a true liberal policy (according to the dictionary definition) in that it serves to inhibit the freedom of thought and expression. Again, we run into a problem of definitions because I would guess Mr. Roebuck would define a liberal as a person who believes political correctness to be a good thing.

 

Mr. Roebuck then discusses what he believes to be wrong with liberalism. His first critique of liberalism centers on the issue of race.

[Liberalism] promises good things but it mostly delivers bad things. And the good it delivers is mostly pleasant distractions that occur before the evil that is liberalism’s real consequence develops fully.

 For example, the diversity that liberals love results in, among other things, mass immigration by non-white peoples whose ways of life are radically incompatible with our traditional American way of life. The immediate results include lots of ethnic food and music, which are pleasant diversions for many people. But the long-term result is hostility and conflict, as incompatible people fight over resources and how society should be organized and governed.

 

My reaction to this argument is to say that America has always been a diverse culture relative to other places in the world. At one time Irish, Italians and Eastern Europeans were considered radically incompatible and ethnic but over time were assimilated and became part of American culture. I do think there is a reasonable argument to be made that immigrant cultures that refuse to assimilate are a threat to peace and national identity. But I am suspicious of the proposition that what is considered to be ethnic now is absolutely a threat.

 

Liberalism says that nobody should be a racist. Racists are to be harassed out of existence… But the harassment of racists is only carried out against white racists. Nonwhite racists are excused because (so they say) they are only responding to centuries of oppression by white people and therefore it’s not really their fault. And whites are punished not just when they’re mean to nonwhite people, but even when they just act like normal people everywhere have always behaved until approximately the middle of the Twentieth Century: Preferring to associate mostly with their own kind and wishing that their nation would not be transformed into a radically multicultural pseudo-empire.

 I think this is partially a fair point. If we reject racism as a culture then all forms of discrimination by race should be rejected. This is only fair and logical. Again, it is the warped politically correct strain of “liberalism” that seems to be at fault in my mind. But I do absolutely reject the notion that United States of America should reject its non white citizens or demote them to a second class. I do believe that all legal citizens should be treated as full citizens by law regardless of race, sex or religion. If that makes me a perverse, blasphemer who rejects the laws of God and nature in the eyes of Mr. Roebuck or those of his ilk then so be it.

 

Mr. Roebuck’s second critique of liberalism centers on the issue of religion. On this subject he starts out by saying:

[L]iberalism rejects the God of the Bible … which always leads to a false understanding of how reality operates. Since God is the Supreme Being and the ultimate Author of all that exists, rejecting God causes man fundamentally to misunderstand all of reality.

 

From the outset I find his assertion to be overly broad and therefore a misunderstanding of reality. Specifically, some liberals reject the God of the Bible and some do not. In the same respect, some conservatives reject the God of the Bible and some do not. Moreover, some liberals and conservative were brought up in other faith traditions such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. With the possible exception of Islam these faith traditions also reject the God of the Bible. Does this rejection make them all liberals in the eyes of Mr. Roebuck? In other words are all non Christians by definition also non conservative? Or is he saying that rejecting the God of the Bible is a quality shared by all liberals but can also be a quality that a conservative might also have? 

… They deny that God exists, or they act as if He is unknowable. Or perhaps they believe that God is the Great Liberal in the Sky, weeping over racist police and global warming, and pleading with us to be more tolerant and inclusive. By redefining God, the liberal denies God.

 So here again we run into the problem of common definitions. I do not know whether Mr. Roebuck is defining a liberal as someone who fits this definition or whether he is saying that these qualities naturally flow from the liberal world view. If he believes the former to be true then I would think many people who fit the classical definition of liberal would not fall under this definition. If he believes the latter I simply do not believe this to be true and I cite myself to be an example.

 

He proceeds from these faulty assumptions to say:

… Atheistic man can still …  have a basically accurate understanding of the physical world. But without acknowledging God, atheistic man cannot know the true purposes of things, nor can he know their ultimate causes. … True purposes and ultimate causes cannot be known by scientific investigation because they are non-physical… Under atheism … science for the liberal is the only source of certain knowledge. Therefore liberalism regards proper purposes and ultimate causes as opinions rather than facts.

 Here Mr. Roebuck seems to be using the words “liberal” and “atheist” interchangeably. I assume he arrives at this equivalence based on his assertion that defining God as something other than the God of the Bible is the same thing as denying God entirely. He then concludes that such a person necessarily regards purposes and ultimate causes as opinions rather than facts. This strikes me as a circular and self-fulfilling prophesy. The belief that the God of the Bible defines proper purposes and ultimate causes is a fact is a belief. It is a fact that not everyone holds this belief to be true. A fact must be proven to be a fact. It is not made a fact simply because Mr. Roebuck declares it to be a fact. However, by rejecting Mr. Roebuck’s “logic” on this subject automatically makes the person who rejects that “logic” a liberal and an atheist regardless of whether they actually believe in God or conservative political principals.

 

He continues: 

And if they are opinions then they constantly change. That’s why liberals are always fighting to change the way we live: No-fault divorce. Same-sex marriage. Transgender rights. Open borders. Reducing our carbon footprint.  What was the right way to do things yesterday is not necessarily the right way today, and who knows what it will be tomorrow?

 It is true that opinions can change. Beliefs can also change. They change based upon newly discovered evidence. Something believed to be fact today can be disproven because of newly discovered evidence tomorrow. This is logic not liberalism. Mr. Roebuck views his moral beliefs (e.g., same sex marriage is wrong) to be a fact the same way he views scientific knowledge (e.g., global warming is a hoax) to be unchangeable facts presumably even in the light of newly discovered evidence that would tend to disprove it. Mr. Roebuck started out by saying that liberalism “rejects the God of the Bible … which always leads to a false understanding of how reality operates.” Based on this statement I assume Mr. Roebuck values understanding how reality actually operates as important. It would seem to me that rejecting the way reality operates despite evidence to the contrary also constitutes rejecting the way reality operates. Therefore to reject change simply because it is different than what was once believed to be true would also be a rejection of God who is the true cause, author of reality, and source of purpose.

 

He concludes by saying:

 

Under liberalism, there is no such thing as a stable, unchanging order of the world. But a human society can only work if the people are in basic agreement about the true purposes and the ultimate causes of things. That way they can trust one another and believe that life makes sense. Stripped of this trust and belief, liberal society eventually and inevitably descends into conflict and chaos. And in contemporary America we have the added pressure of mass immigration which is Balkanizing us into mutually hostile tribes.

 My reaction to this is to say that there has never been a “stable, unchanging order of the world.” To believe so would also be a failure to understand reality. This rather basic observation of reality does not in and of itself make me a liberal. I would venture to guess most reasonable conservatives would agree with me on this. Moreover I see no reason why two people who believe different things cannot peacefully coexist. Nor do I see America necessarily descending into conflict and chaos. We do find ourselves in a period of history where demographics are changing. Although unsettling to some to reject this would seem to me to be a false understanding as to how reality operates.

 

Finally, Mr. Roebuck declares, “Let us therefore oppose liberalism and understand the world as it really is. That is the purpose of this series of posts.” I understand this to be the spirit of the Alt-Right. That is, inherent to its philosophy is a rejection of tolerance (as previously stated) and an unwillingness to compromise or even coexist with those who might disagree with them. It seems to me that this does represent a new development in American society. This mindset is reflected by the policy Mr. Roebuck articulated regarding the comment section to his post:

 

About comments:  Time is precious so incoherent comments will not be posted or, if they get through moderation, will summarily be deleted. I also subscribe to Bonald’s maxim that friend/enemy is a basic social distinction. Therefore comments which seem indicate you’re an enemy will suffer the same fate. If you want to be heard, be clear and don’t come across as an enemy.

 Much like Mr. Roebuck’s definition of liberalism, his definition of hostile (at least directed towards himself) seems to be whatever he decides it to be. Hostility, it would seem is another intrinsic quality of the Alt-Right. This hostility is reflected in their distrust of “the other side” and to a certain extent by their refusal to abide by standard definitions. I assume this is because they feel the standard definitions have been corrupted by liberalism, a category I have no doubt Mr. Roebuck would label me with despite (or because of) its murky definition as seemingly viewed by the Alt-Right.

 

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Attempting To Understand the Alt-Right Part I

  1. Terry Morris

    The Orthosphere is better described as a Traditionalist site, not as “Alt-Right” or part of the alt-right movement. However, the Orthosphere contributors and regular commenters are not, by and large, openly hostile to the alt-right. But it’s a mistake to think you’ve gained insights about the alt-right movement by “unpacking” Mr. Roebuck’s post. To give you a typical example of where Orthosphereans and alt-righters differ, Orthosphereans have never been terribly excited over the prospects of a Trump presidency; we have never thought of Donald Trump as “our Julius Caesar.”

    If you want to better understand what Traditionalists are referring to when we use the term “liberalism,” I would recommend reading Zippy closer. As far as the dictionary definition is concerned, it’s fine as far as it goes, but there’s much more to it than that and unpacking it (to borrow your word), or learning how to detect it in all its subtle forms, literally takes years of study and practice. I would also recommend digging into the VFR archives on the subject. And by all means keep reading the Orthosphere where the subject comes up frequently and we all speak to it often.

    • Thank you Terry. I’m always open to broadening my understanding.

      • Terry Morris

        You’re very welcome! Thanks for hosting my comments and criticisms! Speaking of which, may I also point out that your criticism of Alan’s comment policy is, in my informed opinion, a bit out of place? There is some background to that that you are missing. Part of which involves the same poster you yourself have jousted with over his often incoherent communication style. Alan is just trying to avoid going off into weird tangents that have nothing to do with his post, as certain commenters seem wont to do from time to time and all too frequently.

      • My criticism was based upon my initial impression which could of course be inaccurate but it was also based on the fact that he deleted what I intended to be a neutral comment. That said, I know intentions are very often misinterpreted in comment sections.

  2. Terry Morris

    Winston, I think that perhaps Lawrence Auster wrote hundreds of articles on the subject of liberalism – what it is and is not, why it is self-destructive and dangerous, how to counter it, and so on – *from a Traditionalist perspective*, as opposed to an alt-right perspective.

    Here is one such article in which Mr. Auster defines and explains the U.E. (unprincipled exception) which I think is helpful in distinguishing Traditionalists from the broader alt-right movement, of which Traditionalists are not really a part except in supetficial ways, as I said.

    http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005864.html

    Indeed, the alt-right often criticizes Traditionalists for our ineffectiveness in countering liberalism. The basis of their complaint against Traditionalism as such is that it is unwilling to cross certain boundaries alt-righters have no qualms with crossing. E.g., using crass language, trolling liberals and that sort of thing – basically fighting fire with fire. Whereas Traditionalists would criticize alt-righters for attacking liberalism on the perimeters and not attacking it at its core (see Zippy); a kind of treating the symptom and not the disease.

    In any case, all of this is not to engage you about the definition of liberalism, why it’s good or bad or anything like that. It is given in the spirit of helping you to understand where Traditionalists are coming from on the subject, and differentiating us from the alt-right of Richard Spencer. Hope that helps!

  3. Pingback: Rewording the “Basic Guide, Part I,” and more about the Definition of Liberalism – The Orthosphere

  4. Alan Roebuck

    As I posted at https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/rewording-the-basic-guide-part-i-and-more-about-the-definition-of-liberalism/ (Sorry for the clumsy link), I’m grateful to the critics for their comments about my post. I stand by my basic position but your comments helped me to see where I needed additional explanation to make my positions more clear. I have accordingly reworded most of the passages you cite here.

    I want to make one specific point here about your criticism: I (and the Orthosphere) do not hold freedom, equality, diversity, tolerance and compassion to be simply bad. Sometimes they’re good. What’s bad is for them to be elevated to society’s most important ethical principles, and for them to be interpreted as liberalism does, so that, for example, refusing to bake a cake for a “gay wedding” and not wanting tens of thousands of Syrian refugees become acts of wickedness.

    And we of the Orthosphere are not (capital) Alt-Right. We’re (lower case) alt-right. That is, we’re part of the non-respectable, non-establishment Right, but we’re too Christian and not mean enough to be full-blown Alt-Right. But we have generally friendly relations with the non-lunatic Alt-Right.

    Also, I don’t see you as an enemy. An enemy would simply call me a “Nazi poo-poo head,” or something similar, whereas you took the time to try to understand my position and offer a fairly rational evaluation.

    So I see you as an opponent, but not an enemy.

    And I don’t remember deleting a comment made by you. Maybe it somehow slipped through the cracks. It was “the Father of Thor” whom I most had in mind when making my comments policy (along with a few of the Orthosphere’s in-house Catholic zealots).

  5. Thank you for the clarification. It’s all a journey and I am certainly getting an education.

    • Terry Morris

      We’re all getting an education. Each of us is at a different level of understanding about the various issues we discuss, but as Kristor has pointed out numerous times, while we can know truth, (big-T) Truth in this life is fleeting.

      I was fortunate enough to have many, many e-mail conversations with Mr. Auster during the last seven or eight years of his life, and one of the things he would remind me of from time to time is that, “well, Terry, we’re all just trying to figure things out.” Quite so!

      I would say that Mr. Auster had a lot more figured out than I will likely ever figure out. Which can be considered good, or bad, for me, depending on how you look at it.

      So education is lifelong. It’s a bit humorous in a sense too – the more we try to escape or avoid learning by various means, the more it seems nature gets the last word and teaches us in spite of our incorrigibility. Little bit of irony and poetic justice there, if you catch my drift. Best to make a conscious effort to learn as you have, Winston. There is something virtuous, noble, respectable, and of course humble in that.

  6. Pingback: Attempting to Understand the Alt-Right Part II | Winston Scrooge

  7. Terry Morris

    I noticed this initially, but chose not to mention it at the time:

    “My reaction to this argument is to say that America has always been a diverse culture relative to other places in the world. At one time Irish, Italians and Eastern Europeans were considered radically incompatible and ethnic but over time were assimilated and became part of American culture.”

    Whenever these sorts of arguments are made, I almost always recur to Washington’s “indescribable regret” that so many of American youth were (at his time) seeking the ‘higher branches of erudition’ in countries ‘not congenial to Republicanism.’

    As I have pointed out numerous times over the course of 20 years or more, General Washington’s concern is no longer applicable *since* we now take it upon ourselves to invite non-congenial forms of Republicanism into our higher branches of erudition. With a kind of vengeance.

    Now, it’s neither here nor there whether or not Republicanism is a legitimate form of government (different discussion). The whole problem I’ve been at pains to point out all these years with regard to so called “assimilation” of cultural incompatibles (more or less), is that, ultimately, *acculturation* becomes “assimilation” in a ‘diverse’ culture which celebrates and encourages *more and more diversity*.

    • That’s a valid point Terry. But we’re going to need more immigrants in the coming decades or we will face a severe labor shortage. The US is at an advantage over other advanced countries in this regard because we are so much better at assimilating different cultures for better or worse.

      • Terry Morris

        Well that’s what we’re told, yes. If it’s true that we will face a severe labor shortage in the future if *something* isn’t done to prevent it, then we should probably rather stop aborting and stop contracepting first, before we consider bringing in more immigrants and further watering down the Republic.

        You can’t arbitrarily change the ingredients of a cake and expect it to turn out the same as the cake your grandmother won the blue ribbon at the county fair with.

      • I hear you. We shall see how this all turns out one way or another.

      • Terry Morris

        “With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people–a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.”

        -John Jay (Federalist #2)

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