Jewish Perspectives On The Alt Right

I argue with Yonasan, an Orthodox Jew in New York.

Pete*, the professional philosopher, says:

Hi Luke,

I’ve been listening to most of your streaming stuff the last few weeks. Really excellent! I especially loved the one where you were calling for a new alt right focused on spiritual and moral things. I couldn’t be entirely sure that you were serious, or how serious you were. (Is that something about your personality or persona?) But I chose to take it straight. Thought that was very inspiring. I now understand better your position within the alt right, or not within it perhaps but involved with it somehow. You have a gift for re-framing and re-orienting the alt right perspective so that it becomes far more reasonable and powerful. I’m sure it’s been helpful for people in the movement who aren’t hellbent on destroying themselves. The recent debate with that Orthodox guy in New York was interesting. For me it seemed like he was not very honest or serious–a lot of really strained reasoning from him, much of it seemed to be just for the sake of needlessly complicating or confusing matters. (Confirming some negative stereotypes about Jewish high IQ cleverness, legalism, indifference to principles and truth. Of course I know NAXALT, but…) By contrast you were a great debater: very clear, straightforward, focused, always returning back to your fundamental claims and evidence. Maybe you should do more debates?

One thing that came up repeatedly in that debate, which I wish you’d have pressed a bit more: it might be true that there is no single ‘white’ identity, or that white people historically tended to identify on national or religious grounds rather than just whiteness; but this definitely does not imply that the white race, or white identity, is not an essential important ingredient in the various national or cultural identities of white peoples (e.g., the Scots, the French, the white Americans).

Your Jewish interlocutor seemed to be arguing roughly this: since (a) whiteness alone was never sufficient for being a member of any particular culture or group that people cared about (e.g., being American) therefore (b) whiteness is not even necessary to these cultures and groups, and therefore (c) whiteness has nothing to do with American culture or national identity. At least that was my impression. But that reasoning is just illogical. From the fact that whiteness alone is not sufficient, or not the whole of any one of these white identities, it doesn’t follow that it was never necessary for such identities. (Analogy: being human is not sufficient for being French; no French person ever focused on the fact of his humanity as the essence or whole of his cultural or national identity; but it doesn’t follow that non-humans can be members of the French culture or nation!) On this point, I felt like you were letting him get away with some real bullshit, wished you’d nailed him on the basic logical issue.

It was also ironic to hear the Orthodox guy reciting SJW-type objections to the ‘construct’ of the white race. Wouldn’t all these objections apply more clearly and forcefully to the ‘construct’ of Jewishness? (For example, that some Jews are more closely related biologically to some non-Jews than to their fellow Jews, that historically Jewish communities thought of themselves as something other than just ‘Jewish’, etc.)

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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