A Late Encounter with the Enemy

There has been much written about the inexplicable emergence of Donald Trump as the Republican frontrunner in 2016. Not surprisingly, people want an explanation for his popularity. It’s not simply that Trump is a dark horse, it’s that neither his campaign nor his constituents line up with what is considered conservative. A Trump victory at this point might upend the entire political balance, perhaps even creating a new ideological force in American politics.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames

Trump lives…..

One article that has gotten all too little attention is Michael Brendan Dougherty’s piece on a late political activist’s influence on the Trump campaign. That activist, a man by the name of Sam Francis, advised the 96′ Buchanan campaign to make a wholehearted appeal to nationalism in order to further woo the then unaffiliated white working class. A strategy that was ultimately rejected by Buchanan himself. Says Dougherty:

To simplify Francis’ theory: There are a number of Americans who are losers from a process of economic globalization that enriches a transnational global elite. These Middle Americans see jobs disappearing to Asia and increased competition from immigrants. Most of them feel threatened by cultural liberalism, at least the type that sees Middle Americans as loathsome white bigots….

What is so crucial to Trump’s success, even within the Republican Party, is his almost total ditching of conservatism as a governing philosophy. He is doing the very thing Pat Buchanan could not, and would not do. And in this, he is following the advice of Sam Francis to a degree almost unthinkable.

It’s a good explanation of the Donald’s appeal. But the presence of Sam Francis’s ideas in the Trump campaign – paired with strange tweets by Trump himself – have much darker implications for state of white identity in America than might be gleamed from Dougherty’s article.

Almost a decade ago, as part of an early college interest in fringe ideas, I came across Francis’s name associated with the then emergent “paleocon” movement. At that time older conservatives like Pat Buchannan were looking for a platform to advocate protectionist and isolationist ideas, contrasting the then dominant neocons. However, Sam Francis took that project one step further.

Working for far-right publications such as the Occidental Quarterly, Francis advocated a wholesale return to ethnic and racial monoculture. Part nostalgia, part crypto-racist tirade, Francis became known as a stepping stone between conservatism and racial nationalism. By the time I came across his work in 2005 he and his like-minded contemporaries had formed a small but prolific online band. This was the beginning of what would later be known as the alternative right.


Sam Francis, a founder of the alt-right

At the time it was community of refugees: people who had grown up appreciating the solidarity, familiarity, and racism (through not the rank bigotry) of an earlier white America.  To the followers of Francis, the United States had been betrayed by the 1965 immigration act and could only be restored by its total reversal. How this was to be accomplished was never addressed. And while these people certainly weren’t skinhead Nazis, their contempt for non-white and non-Western immigrants was palatable.

Truth be told, I found this movement fascinating in a dark way. As a millennial educated in a progressive public school, I had been warned of evil white racists dedicated to excluding minorities. In the real world these maleficent forces were ever absent. But here at last, in a bizarre corner of the internet, were the true enemies, the racists against which all multicultural piety had been raised against. Like an old soldier stationed in a remote garrison finally catching sight of the enemy’s banner, I found arguing against the alt-right perversely exhilarating.

However, as a nefarious adversary to multiculturalism, the movement was somewhat underwhelming. Certainly the alt-right had its intellectuals, some were even talented. But those who could think and write seemed pathologically obsessed with “race realism” -the idea that racial groups have distinct and immutable physiological differences. Not unlike the modern new-atheists, alt-right thinkers were ever convinced that they had “cracked the code” and unmasked the fraud of modern liberalism. While congratulating themselves on being “brave enough to see the truth”,  they underestimated the uncertainties in the science and over-estimated its potential impact on modern society.


 A late encounter with the enemy…

But the fledgling alt-right movement had bigger internal problems yet. Composed mainly of old baby-boomers, the community was aging fast. And while each of the cohort thoroughly denounced laws they saw as leading to America’s decline, they didn’t seem to have a single plausible policy proposal. Later that year, when I heard Sam Francis had died, I considered the movement all but ready for the dustbin of history.

More fool I. Now, a decade later, the movement is alive and thriving. The very web communities I wrote off as aging and stagnant in 2005 are, in 2016, filled with enthusiastic young voices using real names and faces to espouse explicit racial nationalism. Some can even write societal critiques that are genuinely thought provoking . Whatever happened to the alt-right, its decline was my own wishful thinking

Of course, it is always hard to gauge the relative popularity of an online community. As seen from Tumblr, it’s all too easy to mistake the ardor of core members with general political strength. But as the Trump candidacy has itself demonstrated, America seems ripe for such a movement. The alt-right knows this and ultimately the Trump campaign might be just the beginning of a larger crisis in white American identity. Contemporary liberalism ignores the phenomenon at its peril.

At this point I can hear the objections from my more level-headed readers. Why should we worry about this fringe movement? Won’t discrediting such explicitly racist ideas be easy in the modern progressive age? Well, to tell you the truth, I am not sure.

Fundamentally, the power of the civil rights movement derived from a core moral appeal to egalitarian justice. It was the Christian principles laid out in King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail that forged America’s commitment to integration and its subsequent rejection of racism and white ethnic nationalism. But such old-fashioned moral infrastructure has now been deliberately undermined by generations of progressive identity politics. When appeals of to specific racial interests become explicit, can poorer whites be long maintained in the belief that their own group interests are illegitimate?

Even the language used to identify bigotry has been fundamentally cheapened. Under white-privilege theory, the definition of “racist” now seems to include most every person of European descent. Not surprisingly the term no longer has the same impact. Even I find myself reacting to it less and less. When I was young a “racist” was a person who maliciously harmed his fellow citizens, today it’s the frat boy down the street who threw an insensitive party on Cinco de Mayo. As when an antibiotic is overused, it is only a matter of time until a resistant strain emerges.

We have a tendency to believe our own propaganda. As such symbolic preparation for an old enemy is often misguided and fundamentally ineffective. As the French discovered about the Third Reich and the Chinese discovered about the Golden Horde, highly publicized defensive structures have a tendency to be naive. The idealistic demonization of a foe prevents the very understanding necessary to confront him in reality.

I shouldn’t overstate the case. Even in its reinvigorated form, the alt-right is a disorganized trainwreck. Yet, looking at it again, it’s hard not to recognize it as a malignant tumor steadily growing in one of modern culture’s largest blindspots.

We should be vigilant. If careless liberal America might yet be shaken to its core by a late encounter with the enemy.


7 thoughts on “A Late Encounter with the Enemy

  1. DD;

    Well, thanks for the linkback! Always appreciated.

    I am not sure, however, why the alt-right should be the “enemy”. We are, as I see us, people who have decided that we must respond to the world as it actually is, not as we wish it was.

    For example: I wish that all groups of people were equal in all categories of endeavor. Really, I do! Not only was I raised with the same inspiring rhetoric about equality that you were, but I am not a sadist and have no desire to see others suffer or fail in life. But that’s simply not what an enormous quantity of (easily Google-able) data tells us. You say that there’s “uncertainty” in the science behind this, and you’re correct. But I also can’t help feeling that you’re also being a little bit disingenuous here. As I’m sure you know, there are two propositions that are very different from each other. One is “uncertainty exists” and the other is “enough uncertainty exists to call the fundamental truth of the proposition examined into question. After all, there’s uncertainty about everything in science other than the laws of physics. And even those have some uncertainty left in them – we of course know that gravity works, and have a pretty solid understanding of how it works, but our best scientists still really can’t quite explain why it works. But does the fact that uncertainty exists when it comes to gravity mean that it’s not a bad idea to jump off the top of the Empire State Building?

    Of course not. While accepting that a certain level of uncertainty will just about always exist, you go where the data tells you, and you set policies appropriately. That’s the reason why I don’t jump off skyscrapers, and also why I don’t support policies that are based on wishful thinking and soaring rhetoric about human equality instead of hard data (including learning from history).

    We could say similar things about my attitude toward government. I grew up with endless rhetoric about how I was free in a democracy because the people were in charge. Well, to quote the great philosopher Bane: “Do you feel in charge?” I sure don’t. I eventually came to the conclusion that a one in 220,000,000 share in deciding which one of two sets of politicians went to Washington was not really what made someone free (especially when the decisions of those politicians are routinely overturned by unelected judges of simply ignored by the vast unelected bureaucracy). Eventually I decided that what I wanted from the government were decent laws, and that how exactly they were made and who exactly made them was not a terribly important concern. Emphasizing process over product – the method by which laws are made instead of the quality of the laws themselves – is boob bait for bubbas.

    That government which gives me good laws is good; that government which gives me bad laws is bad. If it’s run by a Senate, or a king, or a Caesar (Yes, I know that Augustus was a Caesar. But so was Constantine), or a Generalissimo, that means precious little to me.

    All of which I consider eminently rational – a response to the world as it is, not as a heart-stirring 4th of July parade makes it seem.

    Anyhow, I recently did an extended interview that explained my ideas in pretty extensive detail. Please feel free to have a look:

    Thanks again for the pingback!

  2. Hello AntiDem thanks for the reply,

    Perhaps I was a little hard using the word “enemy”. I needed the term to keep with the military metaphor that I had running through the article. Perhaps “adversary” might have been a better term. I should start by saying that I admired several of the articles on your blog. The “Chipotle Effect” and several other pieces you wrote about traditionalism were quite insightful.

    As way of introduction, I should admit that I am not a progressive but rather a run-of-the-mill orthodox Catholic. As such, I might be somewhat more disillusioned than you might imagine.

    For instance on “race realism”, I have read the “Bell Curve” and “An Unfortunate inheritance”. I understand the arguments involved but the existence of a few phenomenon (the Flynn effect for instance) leads me to take the findings with a grain of salt. Overall, I typically have a strong Bayesian prior that recommends agnosticism when it comes to social science (and this includes race realism). I have adopted this stance from an understanding of statistics and having read a great deal of shoddy work in this field. My skepticism has always served me well. However, this is not really my main problem with “race realism”

    The big problem with race realism is that it is effectively morally irrelevant. Personal IQ doesn’t not change the moral responsibility we have to other people and the obsession with intelligence misses what’s really wrong with our current society. The foundational problem with modernity is a moral decline and forgetfulness, a decline manufactured by people with uniformly high-IQs. As much as I would like to revel in the hubris of our progressive elites, I really doubt that the source of their failure is mis-estimating a 20-year projection of the nation’s average intelligence.

    I think we might also fundamentally disagree about the role of democracy and “the process” . We are not a democracy, we are a republic. As such, the people are not “in charge” but rather really only exercise the privilege of a veto over their leaders. Now I agree that democracy is not some magic box that generates just decisions (I could easily imagine a monarchy more just than our present system), but the process of law making, its consistency and its legality, is critical. Following a correct process – namely the law – is the exact line that separates a constitutional republic from mob rule, and a legal monarchy from pure despotism.

    One of the essential pieces of Christian and natural law ethics is that the end does not justify the means. I would hold to this as a core moral principle regardless of the ruling body that governs. It’s morality – not race, not authority, not power – that should be attempted. All else is ephemeral.

    Cheers, The Distributist

    • DD;

      Your doubts on race realism might be a bit more understandable if the IQ test information we have was the only data point available to us. But in fact it isn’t, and what we see there lines up very neatly with other data points like SAT, GRE, and ASVAB scores, as well as with real-world academic performance. At some point, if every test you run keeps giving you an answer you don’t like, you have to give up on the idea that there’s something wrong with the test.

      You seem to be conflating two things that are similar, but critically different. One is what we’d like to see from any particular group of people. The other is what we can realistically expect from them with the knowledge we have about them. The difference is that the former is an “ought” and the latter is an “is”. Oughts are great – we need them to keep us headed toward moral goals. But we ignore the “is”es of the world at our peril. Put another way, we must base public policy on reality instead of on wishful thinking or stirring rhetoric. Failing to do so has serious real-world consequences. For example: we have, as a nation, spent the last half century, and trillions of dollars, trying to solve the problems of the black ghetto. By any reasonable metric, we have failed miserably. In fact, several important measures of the health of the “black community” (a 72% illegitimacy rate *on top of* a 52% abortion rate for black pregnancies comes to mind) are in fact significantly worse than they were when we started trying to make them better. This suggests a set of public policies that are based on a picture of the world that is fundamentally non-reality based. Not good.

      You seem to be implying that concerns about the misbehavior of many low-IQ people should somehow be invalidated by the fact of the misbehavior of a few high-IQ people. Of course, I disagree. As for “our progressive elites”, what percentage of them would you say are Jewish? Yes, I went there – but we need to. One can’t expect Christian values to be upheld by non-Christians, after all – that would, in fact, be a ridiculous and unrealistic expectation. Here again, we need to deal with reality. Maybe letting people from an alien thede who don’t share our values get into a large number of positions of power in terms of shaping our culture really wasn’t such a good idea after all.

      Keep in mind, I say this with no hate in my heart. I would find it curious if Israel decided to let a bunch of Roman Catholics into positions of cultural power in their society, and would think it a bad idea if their goal was for that society to retain a distinctly Jewish character. Then again, I do not see every person from every group as equal or interchangeable. I see them as they are, not as I wish they were.

      Democracy, republic – a distinction without a difference. Demagogues pander to King Mob for power, and drain the public fisk to buy votes en masse. That’s the reality of the situation. There’s a reason that Moldbug came up with the term “demotism” as an umbrella under which we throw all of these systems, which all suffer from the same faults, their protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

      You say the process is critical. I say that the only valid way to judge a process is by the products it creates. If the products are good, then it’s a good process. If the products are bad, then it’s a bad process. We all accept that every so often even a good system can make a mistake, but if you have a process that consistently generates bad products, then there is no justification for calling it a good process, no matter what your high school civics teacher told you.

      The founding fathers said that they designed in safety systems which would keep us away from disaster. So did the men who built Chernobyl. Both were wrong.

      “The ends don’t justify the means” is an old saw that was always too broad to be valid. If ends never justified means, we’d literally all never do anything, because just about everything we do is a means to some end. For example – I work so that I can earn enough money to live indoors and have food and electricity. Does the fact that my job is a means to an end make going to work immoral? Of course not. A more accurate, but less lyrical formulation of that idea is that ends only justify means up to a certain point. To bring this back to the subject of democracy, I have to say that I see nothing in Christianity that requires me to believe that democracy in and of itself is a moral good. In fact, I’ll remind you that the one and only example of democracy in action in the entire Bible is when the crowd voted to crucify Jesus, and that to this day, thousands of years later, Christians still curse the name of Pontius Pilate for not having overruled them.

      • AntiDem,

        I think that I can see the core disagreement. It starts with our disagreement over “The End Justifies the Means”. I probably don’t need to explain to a person of your education that this phrase is hardly a new age bromide, in fact, it derives from Thomas Aquinas (pray for us). Of course, in its crudest form “the end justifies the means” is silly, but with several of Aquinas’s famous “saving distinctions” it’s a crucial point about fundamental moral priorities.

        To use a use a manufacturing analogy. Suppose I ran a business that made widgets. As such I might have two main objectives 1. to make sure that I profit on each widget, and 2. to make a lots of widgets. Superficially, both of these objectives are essential. However, if we look closer there is a clear difference. Without the fulfillment of objective 1., objective 2. is totally useless, worse than useless in fact, it’s actively harmful! Like the old joke, you can’t make a defunct product and then recoup your expenses in volume. In this case the end does not justify the means.

        Of course this is just a specific case. But on further examination this specific case is directly analogous to how “the end does not justify the means” typically appears in moral questions. What is the purpose of humans ethics? To bring people to holiness and thriving. It therefore does no good towards that end to debase ourselves morally for the purposes of succeeding at a practical task, no matter how that task would increases our prominence. It would be the equivalent of a business owner making a glut of unprofitable widgets.

        To use another turn of phrase from the Angelic Doctor, the main problem I have with the alt-right (at least insofar as I understand it), is that it does not put first things first. I think the main problem is that your movement has several priorities upside down.

        Humans have a number of primary moral responsibilities and loyalties. The first is our loyalty to God (morality), only after that comes our neighbors (through here there are some distinctions among the people in this category). Among humans, we have a primary loyalty to our family, to those to which we have sworn devotion, and to the guests that we care for. These are humanity’s most primal ad sacred commitments to which no political or earthly authority may violate or usurp.

        Only AFTER these priorities are accounted for can humans claim to be loyal to a nation, race, or political party. And to the extent that ANY of these groups violate the sanctity of the previous commitments, those groups are evil. To me this is a core understanding how humans should interact with a collective.

        I don’t know if you were in the like livestream between Millennial Woes and Sargon of Akkad, but I am about to re-make Sargon’s main argument right now.

        It is not that I think it’s implicitly evil (or not good) to be loyal to a nation or even to a race. In fact, I could easily imagine another world of well-delineated ethno-states where individuals felt a strong SECONDARY loyalty to their ethnic groups and the nation-states that supported them. In this hypothetical world, some emotions and sentiments, considered racist in our universe, would simply be an just expression of what Roger Scruton calls Oikophillia (the love of home). Certainly nothing wrong with this.

        BUT WE DONT LIVE IN THIS HYPOTHETICAL WORLD. In contemporary America people share many primary loyalties across racial and ethnic boundaries. I know deeply devoted religious interracial couples with many children. I just returned from retreat with young devoted conservative nuns. A community comprised of women who had shared solemn vows and spent years cloistered together was nonetheless a solid mix between Asian and Caucasian. And here lies the problem.

        In this specific world, in this specific time, in this specific nation, fomenting explicitly racist attitudes will result in the disruption and weakening of the primary loyalties that we owe to our closest kin, guests, and consecrated brethren. To do this without a specific moral imperative would be evil. Nations and races (despite whether they have some endemic genetic basis) are temporal. I know this because I read history and I know migration and wars frequently create new ethnic and racial groups through mixture and isolation. So practically speaking, all racial-nationalism is attempting in modern society is to place a temporary good (the ethnic group) before and eternal one (our vows and families) . No good seems likely to come of this.

        Of course, this is a practical objection at its base. If you were convinced that the world was on the verge of a massive race war that would tear these bonds asunder anyway, there might be a caveat. But it would take a lot more evidence to prove to me that such a dark end was inevitably in store for us. Certainly the shorter path to community would be to found modified ethnic identities from where our populations stand.

        We traditionalists – and here I am assuming that we both consider ourselves traditionalists of a sort – face a huge problem in the spectre of modernity. And though you and I might disagree about the role of certain ethnic groups, this spectre was built and driven mainly by people of my own race and nominal culture. I can’t imagine preferring a world of relativistic, hedonistic, technocratic, utopianism filled with white people over a mixed community of religious souls who still believe in truth, beauty, and goodness. Something tells me you that you would prefer the later scenario as well. For my purposes this makes the alt-right project foolish, although it is still hard to tell if the foolishness is of a practical variety or a spiritual one. Not to pass judgement.

        Cheers, – The Distributist.

  3. DD;

    I have no use for “a world of relativistic, hedonistic, technocratic, utopianism” myself. Is there a reason why re-Christianizing white people is an option that’s off the table? It would be difficult, sure. Most worthwhile things are. If I wanted “easy”, I’d still be a mainstream Republican.

    I repeat: Public policies based on wishful thinking instead of on reality cannot lead to good outcomes. You say that no good can come of “fomenting explicitly racist attitudes”. I counter, again, that we have been trying an approach based on egalitarian attitudes for half a century now, and it has been a visible, measurable, disastrous failure. And it hasn’t only been a failure in terms of lifting blacks out of poverty, either. Race relations are as bad as or worse than they have ever been. Fifty years ago, angry blacks burned down Newark and Watts. Today they burn down Ferguson and Baltimore. Am I supposed to think that this represents progress?

    Check out the (easily Google-able) FBI statistics on black-on-white crime. What they tell me is that we are already in a low-level race war, and have been for years. The mainstream media, for reasons good or bad, assiduously avoids covering it, but that doesn’t stop it from existing. Stories of interracial atrocities regularly leak onto alternative news sites like Drudge or Breitbart; whites read them, and quietly (for now – but for how much longer?) seethe.

    There seems to be a hopeful attitude out there of “we’ll muddle through somehow”. Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy. Saying that “we’ll muddle through” implies that there is something to muddle through to. What? How are we going to do it? Not by doing what we’ve been doing for the past half century, that’s for sure. I refer you to Einstein’s definition of insanity.

    You say that “I read history and I know migration and wars frequently create new ethnic and racial groups through mixture and isolation”. Blacks have been in America, as they incessantly remind us, through “400 years of oppression”. If they are successfully assimilable into the larger white culture and capable of adopting its norms, I do not see much real-world evidence for it. Some individuals – the vaunted “Talented Tenth” – may be able to, but as a group, no. Again, this experiment has actually been run, in the real world, and there’s been plenty of time to see what the results have been. They are what they are, not what we wish they were. We must act accordingly.

    If all of what I have said has hurt the feelings of some genuinely good and decent people of other races, then I am truly sorry for it. But, as the saying goes, “emotions are not tools of cognition”. Basing public policy on emotion instead of reality is a recipe for disaster. Not only that, but it seems to inevitably bring us leftward creep, as with the gay “marriage” debacle. Clear-eyed rationality is where it’s at. Let us march forward with the Bible in one hand, and a spreadsheet filled with hard data in the other. All else is lies, fallacy, self-deception… and the seeds of disaster.

  4. AntiDem,

    It looks like your objection to my desire for a traditionalist multi-racial community is purely practical. You might be surprised but I understand your skepticism. Making a high trust community in a multiracial society is hard work, and diversity is an additional constraint on the process. However, from my point of view, your vision of of a uni-cultural nation-state exceeds my own in ambition by orders of magnitude. I don’t think I need to tell you about the forces that are arrayed against you. When the powers that be finally figure out that your movement is more than a bunch of unemployed white men in their parents basement, all of your bibles and spreadsheets won’t help you against the amount of force they will rain down on your cause.

    Perhaps I should end my role in this conversation with a question. If we succeed in creating a conservative traditional multi-racial community would you be interested in participating? Could your own racialism be overcome if the traditionalists in this country got their act together and demonstrated their long-term viability? If so, I suppose the ball is in our court.

    If not, we must part ways. Insofar as you are interested in creating a peaceful separatist community of whites in this country, I wish you the best of luck. Insofar as you are interested in fomenting attitudes that will tear traditional multi-racial families and communities apart, I will have to oppose you. I suppose history will demonstrate which of our approaches is the most “practical”

    – The Distributist

  5. Pingback: The Mirror of the Arbitrary Standard | The Distributist

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