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Whither the Ex-Alt-Right?

The alt-right may not be completely over, but with Charlottesville’s death toll, it is hard to see how the “movement” will keep growing. Until now, the alt-right managed its rapid growth largely by always avoiding being very specific about its true goals. Through an endless parade of nonsensical memes, trolling journalists, and welcoming in any white boy so long as he was really angry, the alt-right artfully avoided ever saying what it was really about.

Is it that they want to make America great again by bringing it back to the 1950s that Pat Buchanan imagines? Or do they want the country to collapse into a race war so whites can finally rise above and be free? Do they want a democracy, but just for white people, or are they genuine fascists? Should the US stop fighting all these wars for concocted by Jews and go full isolationist? Or should whites go and conquer the planet to make James K. Polk proud? On a more superficial level, are jokes about putting Jewish journalists in ovens funny because upsetting Jewish journalists is funny, or are those jokes funny because “normies” don’t realize they aren’t jokes?

This mystique—lacquered in irony, dapper suits, and academic prose—doesn’t matter anymore. When the alt-right put its money where its mouth had long been and organized a massive, open-air rally with a specific political aim, it ended with one of them driving his car into a crowd of protesters. A crowd of unambiguously peaceful protesters at that, not even the almost universally despised antifa—and the woman who died was white to boot. The people who descended on Charlottesville were not there to have the mythologized “civil discussion” about how race and IQ correlate. They were not there to express reverence and spiritual connection to their ancestors either. They all came to Charlottesville to prove that 4Chan could come alive and fill the streets. Then one of their people killed a white girl with his car.

They will of course counter that this was just one guy out of hundreds, maybe even thousands. They say they disavow violence, never knew the killer, mourn for the murdered, etc. But rest assured that there is not going to be another event like Charlottesville in quite some time. That’s because the organizers and leaders of the alt-right know they cannot guarantee a similar murder won’t happen again. Charlottesville was as much a new experience for the alt-right’s leadership as anyone else, and they have learned that their own people are cable of committing the most atrocious acts a liberal imagination can conjure up.

Really, if it were the case that every alt-rightist were a homicidal maniac, Charlottesville would not be a problem for them. Instead, the problem is that the (relatively) normal people who are a part of the alt-right (including the ones who were part of the rally in Charlottesville) now know, without a doubt, that the maniacs are among them. Everyone in the alt-right now knows that they aren’t capable of detecting and kicking out murderous sociopaths who like the same podcasts and memes as they do. It is that fact, more than anything else, that is bringing an end to the alt-right.

What do you do once you’ve realized the political movement you are a part of can easily mask and absorb killers? The rush of self-doubt must be palpable. It certainly makes the arguments about “irony,” “free speech,” and “edginess” much harder. The audience hearing these arguments is clearly less impressed than ever, as Silicon Valley has started shutting down alt-right websites.

I don’t bring this up to dance on the grave of the alt-right. If only it were so simple. I bring it up because in the near future a lot of alt-rightists are going to be looking for a new home. The maniacs and diehards will stay put, but what about the rest of them? What about the ones who were fed-up with the Tumblr-ification of their colleges and made a really bad choice at age 20? How about the guys who didn’t want to end up like their washed-up dads in the Rust Belt and got seduced by a confident new political force promising them glory? For the record, I am not saying anybody who joined the alt-right for any reason was justified in so doing. What I am saying is that humans, even good ones, are capable of making really bad decisions—especially when their own circumstance is a bad one.

Humans are redeemable: alcoholics, cheats, thieves, even alt-rightists. After all, if the alt-rightists never change their minds, than there will always be an alt-right—not something anybody wants. But how on earth could a leftwing movement absorb the refugees from a collapsing movement that is so evil? One way or another, I think we might be about to find out.

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