FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

More articles by:

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail