Reading Recommendation on the Roots of White Nationalism in the Current Debate

Two key questions about the Trump candidacy are:  what does it say about the Republican Party/conservative movement, and where does the party/movement go from here? Along these lines is a lengthy piece in the The Guardian that I would recommend: The dark history of Donald Trump’s rightwing revolt.

The piece focuses on the division between establishment conservatives and the white nationalist faction that is currently asserting itself (as well as a deep dive into some of its historical sources within the broader movement). Much of it is about some fairly obscure figures, although their connectivity to major conservative figures like Buckley and Buchanan are noteworthy.  It is worth a read in any event.

The piece is difficult to excerpt or easily summarize, but I will note the following passage from towards the end of the piece:

Of all the forces unleashed by the rise of Trump, the one that may pose the greatest threat to the relevance of the conservative intellectual establishment is the gleefully offensive movement known as the alt-right. Nurtured by online forums such as Reddit and 4chan, along with white-nationalist standbys such as American Renaissance, the alt-right has become a vehicle for the simmering anger of mostly white and mostly young men – with strong links to the earlier varieties of racialpolitik promoted by Francis, who is sometimes cited as a founder of the alt-right. Mainstream conservatives have reacted with shock and horror to this development. “The nasty mouth-breathers Buckley expelled from conservatism have returned,” declared a typical response from Commentary, one of the major journals of the establishment right.

But the new iconoclasts of the alt-right can’t be purged from a conservative movement they have no desire to join, especially when they can reach an audience of millions on social media. If there is an heir today to the young William F Buckley – who launched his career with exuberant attacks on the hypocrisy of the liberal establishment and managed to make conservatism look like a stylish rebellion against the powers-that-be – it might be someone like Milo Yiannopoulos, a professional provocateur who has become a spokesman for the alt-right. At one typical event this spring, Yiannopoulos, who refers to Trump as “Daddy”, delivered a lecture with the title Feminism Is Cancer after being ushered into the auditorium on a throne held aloft by students wearing “Make America Great Again” hats. Yiannopoulos’s critics are rightly concerned that his main agenda is promoting himself, but Brand Milo is a booming business.

The piece is not about the alt-right, per se, but they are, in some ways, the culmination of the strains of thought discussed in the piece.

The notion, by the way, that Milo Yiannopolous is the Buckely for a new type of conservative is a pretty disturbing one.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Kylopod says:

    I mentioned it last week, but for a lengthy history of white nationalism in this country (including discussions about Buchanan, Sam Francis, and Jared Taylor), see Leonard Zeskind’s 2009 book Blood and Politics.

  2. Jenos Idanian says:

    I’ve been wondering why the sudden explosion of interest in the “alt-right” kooks, who are a truly trivial number and remarkably ineffective. My current theory is that it is a diversion from their counterparts, the “alt-left,” which is becoming more and more the mainstream left. And unlike the alt-right, they have a substantial record of using violence to achieve their political aims. See “Black Lives Matter,” the Occupy movement, and the psychos who have been openly assaulting Trump supporters at rallies.

    If you focus all the attention in the mote in someone else’s eye, you can pretend to not notice the beam in your own.

  3. @Jenos Idanian: When a major US party candidate employs as its “campaign CEO” someone who has worked to mainstream the alt-right, it is no longer a mote.

    Further, whether you want to admit it, or even understand it, Trump is popularizing much of the white nationalism of the alt-right and helping to make it part of everyday politics.

    Of course, the work of Pat Buchanan fits in this tradition, as does recent work by Coulter.

    I really note this for other readers who might wish to further explore these connections.

  4. @Jenos Idanian: Put another way: “the sudden explosion of interest in the “alt-right” kooks” is because of Breitbart, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump.

  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I hope it would go without saying, but since it might be necessary downthread (or somewhere else here), every single LGBT person that I know personally (including myself) or who is an online acquaintance is absolutely appalled by Yiannopolous, who has not displayed a single lick of interest in understand LGBT history in 20th and 21st century in the United States, or how said history fits into modern US politics.

    He is especially despised among those of us who were adults before antiretrovirals to treat HIV became available in the mid 1990s and the disease started to become a manageable condition instead of a death sentence, before DADT and DOMA, before Lawrence v Texas. He’s pretty much a textbook Know Nothing.

  6. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: One interesting point:

    1) One element often ascribed to the “alt-right” is anti-Semitism.

    2) Andrew Brietbart was not only Jewish, but a proud Zionist.

    OK, I fibbed. Another interesting point:

    Every single ethnic group is encouraged to take pride in their heritage — except one. One group is told they they — and they alone — need to “check their privilege.”

    Ever think that they might not entirely appreciate that advice?

  7. Gustopher says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Occupy and Black Lives Matter are both nonviolent.

    BLM, in particular, is attempting it take a violent situation, and make it nonviolent. The riots after police shootings are the result of years of complaints being ignored, and what protests there were being relegated off to nowhere land, where they will neither offend nor be noticed by good hard, working white folks. BLM is attempting to redirect the anger of justice being denied and channel it into the political process.

    There is no alt-left — the far reaches of the left don’t coordinate, and simply aren’t an organized movement. There are some 9/11 truthers, but they are mocked — unlike the Birthers and the Obama-is-a-secret-Mooslim folks who have been embraced by the Republican Party and given a significant voice and platform.

    And, for the record, I do not support attacks on Trump supporters. I’m not saying that the Trump supporters do not deserve to be attacked, mind you, just that the few incidents that have occurred are neither sanctioned nor supported by the vast militant left who plan on making a single, bold, surgical strike to remove that cancer from this nation. Not that such a plan exists. But, if it did, these few random bad actors are getting ahead of themselves and are in no way affiliated with the coming onslaught us.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Also, references to Paul Krugman’s Army are a joke. We are NOT planning on overturning the election and sweeping up everyone who went into a Trump rally and shoving them into forced labor camps while wearing these t-shirts

    http://www.cafepress.com/mf/3734653/pka-ash-grey-tshirt_tshirt?shop=ninjasfordean&productId=9397837

    I mean, we have all the graphic designers on our side, so the t-shirts would be a lot better.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    The notion, by the way, that Milo Yiannopolous is the Buckely for a new type of conservative is a pretty disturbing one.

    I realize that standards have dropped, but this is quite a steep decline…by the way, it is so cute, as well as disingenuous, to equate the alt-right with BLM or the Occupy Movement…nice try though…

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Jenos Idanian: And which ethnic group is that, specifically?

    (Hint: If you think it is “White” you’re going to have to define who belongs to the ethnic group White and what makes White a separate ethnic group from the Scots or the Welsh or the Irish or the Norse or the Dutch or the Germans or the French or the… )

  11. Kylopod says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    One element often ascribed to the “alt-right” is anti-Semitism.

    It’s complicated. White nationalism (which the alt-right is simply the latest incarnation of) is traditionally very anti-Semitic, but in recent decades there’s been a downplaying of it in some circles–partly due to a decreasing interest in hating Jews compared to the “hotter” prejudices of the day such as Islamophobia and Latino-bashing, and partly due to an attempt to move WN more into the mainstream and build alliances with other sectors of the right, including the Jewish Right and pro-Zionist Right. One of the most prominent white nationalists today, Jared Taylor, has been noted for a lack of anti-Semitism (though he places himself heavily in the company of anti-Semites, and he has occasionally expressed ideas that, to my mind, are at least tacitly anti-Semitic). There are even some Jews involved in white nationalism, such as astrophysicist Michael Hart, CUNY professor Michael Levin, and VDARE’s Marcus Epstein (who is half-Jewish and half-Korean).

    Of course, sometimes conflict breaks out between these sorts of people and the more traditional, overtly anti-Semitic WNs.

    https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2006/schism-over-anti-semitism-divides-key-white-nationalist-group-american-renaissance

  12. Gustopher says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Every single ethnic group is encouraged to take pride in their heritage — except one. One group is told they they — and they alone — need to “check their privilege.”

    That reminds me of a video I saw the other day. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2zMzeKBEvaQ

  13. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: and by “reminds me”, I mean, it’s the same thing as gets said at the one minute mark.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Let’s put it this way: for much of America’s history any of the disadvantaged groups would have gladly changed places with the pasty young white male group that you are banging the drum for simply because the default chances were so much better.

    Do you honestly think that in 1950 you would have been offered the same chances in employment and the ability to get ahead if you were a) female b) black c) Asian?

  15. @Jenos Idanian: Ok, I will assume that you really don’t understand my point or simply don’t have the facts (and, again, for anyone out there who might be confused).

    1. Andrew Breitbart founded a news site called Breitbart. Andrew died in 2012. The web site lived on. Hence, any present tense reference to “Breitbart” after March 1, 2012 was to the web site, not to the person.

    This also means that whatever Andrew thought about antisemitism, or other issues, is largely moot.

    2. Stephen Bannon became executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC after Andrew’s death in March of 2012.

    3. While Bannon was in charge of the Breitbart news outlet, that outlet hired Milo Yiannopoulos in 2015 to be an editor and columnist. Yiannopoulos is a self-proclaimed spokesperson/leader for the alt-right movement. It likewise employs Allum Bokhari who is also identified with the movement.

    4. Bannon is now the CEO of the Trump campaign.

  16. Not to mention, by the way, that Breitbart under Bannon has been sympathetic to the alt-right and has certainly published stories of interest to those sympathetic.

  17. @Jenos Idanian:

    Every single ethnic group is encouraged to take pride in their heritage — except one. One group is told they they — and they alone — need to “check their privilege.”

    I’ll bite: what aspect of white culture do you feel is being suppressed? What is it about whiteness that is getting the shaft?

    (And, of course, @Gromitt Gunn makes a good point as well).

  18. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’ll bite: what aspect of white culture do you feel is being suppressed? What is it about whiteness that is getting the shaft?

    I didn’t say “suppressed,” and I didn’t say “getting the shaft.” Those are your words, and your concepts.

    First up, I had a response ready for being called a racist and white supremacist, and I had a nice little response planned out for that. I am partly annoyed that I didn’t need to use it, partly pleasantly surprised. But I’ll keep it handy.

    Secondly, I try to understand others’ positions. Especially when I disagree with them; it’s easier to argue with them when I already know their points. I have a special dislike for the out-and-out white supremacists, and consider myself living proof of some of their arguments. (No, I’m not going to share personal details with people here. Deal with it.)

    Anyway, let me first say that I have no interest in ethnicity — mine or any one else’s. If anything, I’m slightly suspicious of it, as it smacks of tribalism.

    But let me say this: the most common usages of ethnic identification among whites is 1) related to their European origins, and 2) usually used humorously or denigratingly. Italian? Pasta and organized crime. Scots? Kilts and golf and sheep. Irish? Drinking and fighting. German? Precision and efficiency and Nazism. French? Wine, romance, and cowardice.

    I am not saying this is a good thing, a bad thing, or an irrelevant thing. But it is a thing. That is not disputable.

    I make an effort to judge others as individuals, and I resent when others insist on lumping me into some category or other — especially when it’s a group that I have been assigned to through factors over which I had no say. (I’ll occasionally respond by saying that, today, I am self-identifying as a black lesbian, and their attacks on me are racist, sexist, and homophobic.)

    But back to my point about trying to understand their arguments — I don’t have to agree with them to recognize that some of the things they say are correct. Whether or not they are actual grounds for complaint is something else entirely, but as noted above, when they say that their ethnicity is singled out for (to coin a phrase) “separate and unequal” treatment, they are correct. And insisting that they are wrong and stupid and hateful for even bringing it up only reinforces their feeling of being singled out — as I said, the fact they are bringing up is indisputable.

    You wanna defeat their arguments? Start off by not making obvious lies or ignoring what they say. Start off by saying that yes, that is true — but it’s not really important, and then make your points.

    But that’s all based on the notion that you’re interested in dialogue, in addressing their issues and finding some kind of common ground. If, instead, you’re more interested in “virtue signaling” (a recent term that is becoming more and more useful) and showing your compatriots that you’re so morally and intellectually superior that you treat such people with the contempt and loathing that they so obviously deserve (and I think that applies to a lot of people who comment here), then don’t be overly surprised if that contempt and loathing is returned.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    First up, I had a response ready for being called a racist and white supremacist, and I had a nice little response planned out for that. I am partly annoyed that I didn’t need to use it, partly pleasantly surprised. But I’ll keep it handy.

    If you don’t want people to think that you’re a racist, perhaps you shouldn’t be parroting the language of racists.

    For example, when you write this:

    Every single ethnic group is encouraged to take pride in their heritage — except one. One group is told they they — and they alone — need to “check their privilege.”

    That’s really just a shade away from this excerpt from a video on “Anti-Racist Is Code For Anti-White” and “The White Genocide”

    Black pride is seen as good and healthy and normal. Asian pride is seen as good and heathy and normal.

    But if I show pride in my race, the white race, I’m said to be a nazi who wants to kill 6 million jews.

    I don’t know whether you’re a racist, or just hang out with racists, or are just playing games, but you post stuff that sounds suspiciously like the white-nationalist alt-right posts, stopping right before the punchlines. You make false equivalences between Black Lives Matter and the White Nationalists, and try to normalize the edges of the far right .

    I don’t know whether you’re a racist, but you sound a lot like people I do know who are racists. (Perhaps you are my father or my brother… able to switch seemlessly from mocking white supremicists to repeating the exact same things white supremecists say, never noticing). To an extent, it doesn’t matter — I’ve long ago stopped taking you seriously. I suspect you’re mostly just having fun being contrarian, honestly.

  20. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Gustopher: If you don’t want people to think that you’re a racist, perhaps you shouldn’t be parroting the language of racists.

    So you’re not interested in understanding the arguments of the racists, as to be better prepared to argue against them; you’re happier just proving to others that you’re not a racist yourself. Got it.

    To an extent, it doesn’t matter — I’ve long ago stopped taking you seriously.

    Sadly, I am lousy at keeping track of who not to take seriously. Among commenters here, I consistently remember two, more often than not recall a third. Others come and go as they remind me. You’re not on that list. I will make a point of trying to remember you belong there, too. (I’ve considered making a list of “commenters I should just ignore,” but there’s something about that notion that offends me slightly.)

    I’ll also quibble with that unattributed quote of yours. “Asian pride” doesn’t strike me as a thing akin to “black pride.” Asians, by and large, are not seen as disadvantaged and in need of self-esteem boosting. Hell, colleges are being exposed as discriminating against Asians because they are so successful.

  21. @Jenos Idanian:

    “Asian pride” doesn’t strike me as a thing akin to “black pride.”

    Why might that be the case?

    You said you want to understand, here is a good place to start.

    Another place to start is to understand how the usage of “white” is a privileged one in the following examples (as it almost always is) while “black” and associated terms was not: click.

    The reason why “black pride” is a thing and “white pride” is a problem has a lot to do with history that you seem to be ignoring.

  22. @Jenos Idanian:

    Every single ethnic group is encouraged to take pride in their heritage — except one. One group is told they they — and they alone — need to “check their privilege.”

    Also: this is not true. There is plenty of pride in Italian, French, Irish, German, British, Swedish, Spanish, etc. food, history, language, etc.

    And, of course, “white”=”normal” or the default setting in just about every cirsumstance.

    You claim to want to understand, then try and understand.

    (And you are correct about one thing: this conversation is not the best way to convince rural whites with prejudices ideas to change their minds, but that is not the purpose of this conversation).

  23. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: So, according to that link, “separate but equal” was inherently unfair, because “separate” was innately unequal. Got it. Hell, got it decades ago.

    But it’s OK when it’s chosen by the minority, to exclude non-minorities. That’s where they lose me. So when I see things like “preferences given to persons of color,” or hear about colleges holding special programs “for women and persons of color only” and the like, I shrug cynically at the logic of “fighting discrimination by discriminating.”

    I consider myself a classic liberal on matters of race. I define that as someone who holds two principles on the matter:

    1) Dr. King’s statement that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I take that as not being judged by the color of their skin for good or bad. I see no inherent vice or virtue in race. As far as I’m concerned, being prejudiced in favor of one race is just as bad as being prejudiced against one race, as the effects are essentially the same. It’s the mathematician in me — in a college admission test, what’s the net difference between “giving minorities an extra five points” and “taking away five points for not being a minority?” Absolutely none. But the former is considered virtuous.

    2) The “corruption of blood” principle cited in Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution. I will not hold someone accountable for the actions of their ancestors (or give them credit for same). I see that as akin to racism, as it is blaming them (or giving them credit for) something over which they have no volition.

    This is the point in the discussion where I’m condemned as naive, if not deliberately so, for refusing to recognize how things really are, and how that the reality is so bad that we need to go to extraordinary measures to bring about True Social Justice. (I also have an instinctive revulsion to any kind of modifier to “justice,” as it almost inherently results in injustice. But that’s another issue entirely.) How, by taking a “too simplistic” approach to racism, I’m practicing a most insidious form of racism, and I’m held in less respect than an average Klansman, because at least they are willing to admit that they are racists. (I also reject Kafkatrapping.)

    So I’ll cop to having a “naive” view on racism. But I think I’m in pretty good company, and I have no interest in getting a more “sophisticated” attitude on the subject. “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

  24. @Jenos Idanian:

    Got it. Hell, got it decades ago.

    No, you don’t. If you did, you would understand that the issue goes well beyond understanding that white and black water fountains were wrong. One has to also understand the long term implications of decades (really, centuries) of such policies. You would also be able to understand the broader context and not say thing like: :

    Every single ethnic group is encouraged to take pride in their heritage — except one. One group is told they they — and they alone — need to “check their privilege.”

    And, as usual, you can’t stay on topic. Your initial complaint was that we can talk about black price, but not white pride. We were not talking about affirmative action. (Although, on that topic, if you can’t understand how systematic discrimination that existed in living memory might not need some rectification, then again: no, you don’t get it).

    Back to white v. black: if you can’t understand how systematic racism and a history of servitude might have sparked a need for an extolling of black pride then, again: you don’t get it. Also, consider that part of the reason whites can celebrate Irish, German, etc. pride and African-Americans can only celebrate linkages to a continent is because due to slavery they don’t really know where their ancestors are from, hence “black” pride.

    So I’ll cop to having a “naive” view on racism.

    Indeed.

    I have no interest in getting a more “sophisticated” attitude on the subject.

    That might could be your tagline in these conversations. (Infofar as I would take out your sarcasm and adopt the plain meaning of the words).

  25. @Jenos Idanian: @Steven L. Taylor: BTW, I note that you have not responded to the basic facts that ought to stop you pretending like the discussion of the alt-right is somehow a fringe notion.

  26. Kylopod says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Dr. King’s statement that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    Here is another quote from Dr. King:

    Where do we go from here? First, we must massively assert our dignity and worth…. And with a spirit straining toward true self-esteem, the Negro must boldly throw off the manacles of self-abnegation and say to himself and to the world, “I am somebody. I am a person. I am a man with dignity and honor. I have a rich and noble history, however painful and exploited that history has been. Yes, I was a slave through my foreparents, and now I’m not ashamed of that. I’m ashamed of the people who were so sinful to make me a slave.” Yes, yes, we must stand up and say, “I’m black, but I’m black and beautiful.” This self-affirmation is the black man’s need, made compelling by the white man’s crimes against him.

  27. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I have no interest in getting a more “sophisticated” attitude on the subject.

    “I am not merely ignorant, I am PROUDLY ignorant, and wish to remain so regardless of any attempt to educate me.”

  28. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Mikey: Speaking of “ignorant,” I did not say I was not interested in understanding that perspective, I said that I was not interested in adopting it.

    I like to think I have a fairly good understanding of it. For many, they’ve invested a great deal into fighting racism, and in being seen as fighting racism, so by God they’re going to find it and be seen as fighting it, even if they have to make it up.

    See “virtue-signaling.”

  29. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I like to think I have a fairly good understanding of it.

    I’m sure you do, bless your heart.

  30. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: BTW, I note that you have not responded to the basic facts that ought to stop you pretending like the discussion of the alt-right is somehow a fringe notion.

    That’s because, as I have said before I see the “alt-right” as the latest attempt to gin up some kind of right-wing boogeyman. It serves the purpose of 1) tarring all conservatives with the taint of the few, and 2) diverting attention away from the extreme left-wingers that really deserve scrutiny.

    I had a response to the above silliness that the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements were peaceful, but it got consumed by the Moderation Monster. But as far as the “alt-right” goes, they have as much right as any American to organize and get involved in the political process, and I will deal with their ideas and actions as they come up. They have lots of ideas; I will neither embrace or reject them out of hand. They might have a good idea or two, and I don’t really care where good ideas come from.

    On the subject of political violence and Trump supporters, the postulate put forth is that they are innately inclined towards violence, and Trump is egging them on. I look at that with one key indisputable observation: there have been more physical attacks against Trump supporters than there have been by Trump supporters.

    That leads me to the following observations:

    1) No one in their right mind is going to deliberately make an unprovoked attack against someone that they perceive as inclined towards violence. At least, not the “cheap shot” kinds of attacks we have seen so far. The risks are too great.

    2) People inclined towards violence would welcome such attacks, as it would give them a legally and morally justified excuse to get violent in return.

    You don’t play “the knockout game” with cops. The chess team does not try to give wedgies to the rugby squad. You don’t walk into a bar near Camp Lejuene and try to light a Marine Corps flag on fire.

    (Well, if you’re a masochist, you might do those things.)

    Likewise, if you’re worried that Trump supporters are violent psychopaths just looking for an excuse to get all medieval on someone’s ass, you don’t sucker punch them and give them that excuse.

    This happens every election cycle. Someone or some group on the right is suddenly The New Hitler (or The New Nazis), and All Decent People are suddenly called upon to denounce them. And if you’re not quick enough or enthusiastic enough in that denunciation, You’re Just As Bad As They Are, if not actually One Of Them Yourself.

    And, oddly enough, almost no one is ever quick enough of enthusiastic enough. Trump said he didn’t like David Duke several times, but once he didn’t put enough effort into it, so it sticks.

    Screw that. I ain’t playing that game any more.

  31. An Interested Party says:

    …tarring all conservatives with the taint of the few…

    Except, of course, for the fact that the campaign manager for the GOP presidential nominee is a prime member of the alt-right…quite the taint, that…

  32. @Jenos Idanian: As usual, you do not actually respond to what is said to you, but instead shift to some related something so that you can appear to be on topic.

  33. @An Interested Party: Indeed: Trump is rather clearly empowering the alt-right and it is pretty clear, but alas, this apparently does not matter to some people.

  34. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Steven, you are doing real yeoman’s work here, and I commend you for it.

    I think that your patience in engaging people like Jenos in the way that you do is a reflection of how you have to approach teaching undergraduates in your discipline. As an Accounting professor, I get to just says “No! Because that’s not US GAAP!” and move on when someone gets obtusely feisty in my class. 😉