Hawley’s MAKING SENSE OF THE ALT RIGHT Tries To Be Objective—But Fails
Young political scientist George Hawley, [Email him]came to prominence last year with a sizable book on Right Wing Critics of American Conservatism (reviewed for VDARE.com by Paul Gottfried). That was good preparation for his new, shorter and more popular book Making Sense of the Alt-Right. Hawley has clearly made a sincere effort to treat his subject matter objectively, but I cannot agree with one of the book’s blurb writers, Berkeley’s Lawrence Rosenthal, who credits Prof. Hawley with “understand[ing] alt-right thinking from the inside.”
All political movements consist of a small, hard core and a larger, softer and fuzzier periphery. Understanding a movement is mainly a matter of understanding its core. Hawley, however, devotes most of his book to the more visible and vocal but less important periphery of the Alt-Right: young men who post frog memes and “troll” liberals over the internet.
It is certainly significant that there has now arisen a widespread (largely male) backlash against the nannyish condescension of the Sensitivity Commissars; some of us had been wondering why this took so long to develop. But the Alternative Right existed before these young men discovered it, and they do not define it.
Everyone I spoke with had heard of the Alt-Right, and many expressed sympathy and even enthusiasm for the movement. But to my surprise, there was a nearly unanimous insistence among the attendees I spoke with that the Alt-Right has “nothing to do with race.” They described it as an irreverent assault on political correctness.
At the core of the Alt-Right are a set of ideas. These include (but are not limited to) the recognition that
- all human beings are to a significant degree the product of their biological inheritance, and this limits what each individual can become or achieve;
- humanity’s biological inheritance includes differences between races which evolved in different geographical regions; such differences cannot be eliminated by law or social policy (this is called “racial realism”)
- European-descended people, like other human groups, have interests which they may legitimately defend and promote (this could reasonably be described as “white nationalism” although American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor now thinks this term is hopelessly smeared and favors “white advocacy,” );
- public discussion of ethnopolitics, i.e., the intersection between politics and the ethnic interests of particular groups, is legitimate and must not be censored—even when Jews are the subject.
Prof. Hawley says little about any of these ideas except to characterize them as racist. He’s not as nasty about it as some writers, and even expresses reservations over employing the term, but concludes that “in the case of the Alt-Right, there is no other appropriate word.”
I disagree: the Alt-Right can be more fairly and accurately be described as combining racial realism with white advocacy.
Prof. Hawley is correct to be suspicious of racist: it is not a normal word, but belongs to a peculiar, highly problematic type. A word like elephant is unproblematic because it refers to a well-defined set of beings in the objective world, with no implied blame or praise, and little room for debate about whether an individual animal is or is not one. Racist, on the other hand, is what Richard Weaver called a devil term. Different ages had other such terms, like heretic and atheist.
A devil term is a noun whose connotations have run away with its denotation: in other words, the sense of moral opprobrium (the negative connotation) attached to it has totally displaced any function it may once have had as a way of referring to a class of objects in the objective world (its denotation).
Historically, racist has referred to the believers in a theory that culture and history are entirely determined by biology; later, to persons who dislike those of other races; still later, as VDARE.com’s Peter Brimelow likes to say, to anyone winning an argument with a liberal. The French have a wonderful expression for this process: dérapage sémantique, a semantic skidding-out-of-control. The end result is a word which only serves to abuse, and is useless for referring.
Such words have no place in serious discussion. Trying to talk about race when one’s entire conceptual palette consists of dividing people into racists and non-racists is like trying to perform brain surgery with an icepick. Informed discussion of race and racial differences at the present day normally involves some grasp of standard distributions and deviations, kurtosis, correlation coefficients, r/K selection theory, and other specialized concepts. These terms may sound intimidating to outsiders, but are more easily grasped than the technical vocabulary of plenty of other disciplines. The point is that, as with any other subject matter, there are things you must be willing to learn at the outset if you hope ever to be able to discuss race rationally.
Prof. Hawley’s description of the Alt-Right as racist (as well as anti-Semitic) reveals precisely a failure to grasp his subject matter from the inside. Jared Taylor gets at this point in a passage Hawley quotes from a private interview:
I think my views on race differences are not an “alternate” view, in the casual way that a Merlot may be an alternate to a Cabernet. They are true, and the egalitarian view is false. Truth is no more an “alternative” to falsehood than health is an “alternative” to sickness.
What appears to uninformed outsiders as a contest between racists and nonracists is really the difference between those who have learned something about race and the larger group of persons who have not. Unfortunately, the latter group is currently making the most noise. Imagine the chaos if this were the case with medicine, or law, or the natural sciences! Fortunately, these subjects have not (yet) become the focus of any political ideology.
Prof. Hawley is beholden not merely to fashionable devil terms, but to the popular fallacy that equates recognition of racial differences with hate. According to anti-racists, those who recognize that American blacks have a lower IQ than whites must hate blacks. According to this line of reasoning, since domestic cats have an IQ of around 20, those same people must be simply boiling over with hatred of cats.
I needn’t belabor the point: the fallacy is obvious, but the unwary public can be made to accept almost anything that gets repeated often enough.
This is no excuse for a political scientist, however.
The Alt-Right accepts a set of empirically well-justified beliefs about the nature of human beings which happen to be denied by the ideology of the regime currently in power. How people in the Alt-Right may feel about various ethnic groups is beside the point. I suspect the movement’s opponents fail to grasp this because their own political beliefs are largely based on sentiment, but the same is not true of everyone.
Some on the periphery of the Alt-Right like to shock outsiders (“normies”) with coarse talk about various ethnic rivals of whites. Young men who have been subjected all their lives to solemn finger-waving from prune-faced prudes over “racial insensitivity” eventually discover that rebelling through open racial mockery is a hoot. You can blame the sensitivity commissars for that, not the Alt-Right.
Unfortunately, the market for adolescent trash-talking is larger than that for informed and honest discussion of racial realities. This is why The Occidental Observer and American Renaissance are not the most popular websites associated with the Alt-Right.
(VDARE.com, by the way, is a forum open to all who deplore America’s post-1965 immigration disaster, and as such is not an Alt-Right site, although open to Alt-Right authors. Hawley grudgingly acknowledges this).
It is not beneath Prof. Hawley to conjure up the straw man of an absolutely racially pure state in order to frighten his readers:
The alt-right is clear in its belief that non-whites should be excluded from majority-white countries precisely because they are non-white. […] It wants non-whites out of the country, even if they can trace their ancestry back to the colonial period.
Everyone in the Alt-Right understands that numbers matter. Plenty of us might not be involved in racial advocacy if we were still living in the America of c. 1950, even though the population was ten percent non-white, because the white majority did not then appear to be under threat. What we face today is the prospect of becoming an ever-dwindling minority ruled over by groups which have been systematically encouraged to resent us.
Already we are being ruled by what Kevin MacDonald has aptly termed a hostile elite (although it includes plenty of white collaborators). Under these conditions, it is neither fair nor realistic to speak of the white resistance as if we were preparing to chase down the last octoroon for forced deportation.
Prof. Hawley also has a weak grasp of the Alt-Right’s criticism of the conservative movement:
The Alt-Right rejects the major premises of the conservative movement: moral traditionalism, economic liberty and strong national defense. You will have a hard time finding anything about the constitution, you will see no demands that liberals “support our troops,” evangelical Christians are more likely to be mocked than defended, and bald eagles and American flags are few and far between. The Alt-Right […] is totally distinct from conservatism as we know it.
First, we must distinguish, as Prof. Hawley fails to do, between conservatism, which is a timeless disposition, and the Conservative Movement, known to VDARE.com as Conservatism Inc., which is a present-day Washington racket.
The Alt-Right’s condemnation is focused on the latter. Our principle criticism is that it is cowardly and overly concerned with appearing respectable in the eyes of those who hate it. Mike Anton, the author of the celebrated essay “The Flight 93 Election,” aptly characterized the Conservative Establishment as the “Washington Generals of politics,” whose job is to lose graciously while allowing its enemies to determine the direction of the nation. It’s not bad work if you can get it, but it does nothing to protect the white Americans who constitute its base of support, and today’s “conservatives” actually take pride in this fact.
The Alt-Right does not reject “moral traditionalism, economic liberty and strong national defense.” We are realists about sex as well as race, and thus necessarily opposed to feminism. The best sexual arrangement for the perpetuation of our race is obviously stable heterosexual monogamy. Many of us feel that the Conservative Movement over-emphasizes economic issues, but nothing in our core beliefs is incompatible with economic freedoms.
Similarly, our beliefs dictate no systematic defense policy, but most of us think the best way to “support our troops” is not to sacrifice them pointlessly in wars not in America’s interest. When a vocal minority assures us that our nation’s well-being depends on tying its fate irrevocably to that of a small country halfway around the globe which is hated by much of the world—and when that same vocal minority turns out to be cousins of those ruling the said small, distant country—the Alt-Right reacts with suspicion.
The Alt-Right does not “hate” the U.S. Constitution, as American Conservative Union Executive Director Dan Schneider stupidly told a CPAC audience, but does understand that it is less important than the particular people it was meant to serve. From our point of view, the most important words in the Constitution are for ourselves and our posterity.
It matters little to us whether those who inherit America from its European founding population govern themselves according to Madisonian principles. Such a supposition is ridiculous in any case: Third World immigrants do not care about limited government, the separation of powers, or the Founding Fathers whom they view simply as a bunch of dead white guys. The Conservative Movement may talk more about the Constitution than the Alt-Right, but in refusing to confront the race issue they are ensuring its eventual irrelevance.
Personally, I do not think there is anything wrong with the Constitution that the repeal of a few of its latter-day Amendments could not fix.
The Alt-Right is a political movement which seeks to ensure the continued existence and well-being of European descended people. As such, it neither implies nor precludes any particular religious beliefs. We are not opposed to Evangelical Christianity as such, but some figures the Evangelical leadership (notably Russell Moore [Email/Tweet him]of the Southern Baptist Convention) are our declared enemies and we treat them as such.
Prof. Hawley displays no awareness of the most important Alt-Right-compatible Christian website: faithandheritage.com
Prof. Hawley is correct that frogs tend to outnumber bald eagles on our websites. His book also stands head and shoulders above its rival for popular favor, Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle, a conventional Leftie for whom everything outside the Cultural Marxist paradigm is terra incognita.
But Making Sense of the Alt-Right cannot be recommended as an informed summary of Alt-Right thinking.