The Intellectual Origins Of The Alt-Right

Roman Dmowski writes: The 9/11 attacks found only two groups with a coherent explanation and proposed strategy: paleoconservatives, who suggested a limited punitive campaign coupled with immigration restriction, and the neoconservatives, who supported an ambitious and “idealist” campaign deliberately designed to destabilize the Middle East and usher in democratic change. The latter won out, but the Iraq War’s results proved lacklaster at first and eventually turned into an undeniable quagmire. Similar results transpired in Afghanistan. The disaster of Arab Democracy appeared in full flower in the Arab Spring, where relatively stable and friendly (or at least manageable) regimes became increasingly hostile, such as Egypt and Libya. And attacks in Boston, Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Chattanooga were reminders of the importance of immigration restrictions, particularly of Muslims, to any effective containment of the Islamic extremist threat.

The failed campaigns of McCain and Romney also suggested something out of kilter about the Republican message. The prior emphasis on free market capitalism appeared increasingly tone death to the realities of globalization, where immigration and off-shoring rendered a great swath of the economy net losers, especially among the working class. The 2008 economic crisis rendered many once middle class people impoverished, and their own struggles were easily contrasted with the continuing big bonus culture of Wall Street, who obtained massive government assistance to keep their speculation going. Further, there are cultural factors: the decline of marriage and the increasingly Darwinian dating scene, the harsh suffocating effects of political correctness, perennial racial tensions exacerbated by Obama’s leftist message, and the realization among Baby Boomers, who did so well in the 80s and 90s, of their fragile economic position, coupled with the change in the texture of everyday life wrought by immigration and cultural leftism. These changes to the country have all conspired to bring about a strong feeling of dissatisfaction. The Republican Party’s continued embrace of neoconservative foreign policy also fell on increasingly deaf ears, made wise by the unfulfilled promise of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Finally, the occasional pushes of the GOP’s establishment wing for immigration amnesty, first by Bush in 2005, and then later during the Obama years, added alienation to this dissatisfaction, and amnesty was for many the last straw.

The Alt Right emerged from a combination of these structural and intellectual factors. All of the changes above made core Republican voters–middle class whites–more nationalist in tone and orientation. At the same time, the declining intellectual integrity and influence of the Right’s flagship publications have left lacunae that have been filled from a combination of samizdat sources, ranging in quality, but all of which have been magnified in influence by the weakening power of gatekeepers. On Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and numerous blogs, wide-ranging “forbidden” ideas have gained currency, including the Mens’s Rights Movement, the nationalist views set forth in Richard Spencer’s Radix publication, the race realism of American Renaissance magazine, Steve Sailer, and Vdare, foreign policy skepticism, and anti-feminism. These heterodox ideas have been further amplified by internet-savvy, alienated, and undeniably mischievous young activists, who are also energetic and sharp, and have been behind such diverse phenomena as the “chalkening,” #gamergate, and #NROrevolt.

Ironically, the increasingly ideological and unrigorous laundry list of official “conservatism” propagated by National Review and the mainstream Republican Party, is less intellectual than ever. The often Catholic intellectual forbears of Reagan’s New Right views are now unread and forgotten for the most part, including by the Alt Right. Instead, we have ended up with the shrill John Podhoretz and unserious Jonah Goldberg, whose main influences appear to be pop culture, in which both are immersed. The new leadership, often Jewish, is frequently reflexively hostile to the ethno-nationalist strains of conservatism that existed even in the very recent past. Further, the devolution of National Review–which has purged such stalwarts as John Derbyshire and Peter Brimelow for their “politically incorrect” musings on race–is engaged in purges on explicitly liberal grounds.

The early National Review did not represent nearly as dramatic a break with the Old Right of H.L. Mencken, Robert Taft, and the American Mercury magazine. Just as the Cold War created a new phenomenon–Soviet sponsored aggressive international socialism– that supported abandoning the traditional isolationism of the Old Right, the new phenomena of globalization, mass immigration, and crony-capitalism collectively demand the revival of the national unit, as well as a privileged position for its core historical demographic (white people), as an adaptation to new circumstances.

Like the occasional New Right thinker such as Erik von Kuehnelt Leddihn, the Alt Right has a more continental and authoritarian view than the classically liberal free market views of the New Right. But even this distinction can be overstated. Reagan embraced the Chrysler bailout and pushed for increasing exports to Japan. Further, Reagan continued the Nixon realpolitik rapprochement with China to weaken our number one foreign policy threat, the Soviet Union. Reagan had the good sense to withdraw from Lebanon after the Beirut Barracks Bombing. No one thought, as many Republican leaders do today, that we were honor bound to stick around the Middle East for 15 years pursuing the impossible, as we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, our ties to Israel made sense when the Soviet Union went “all in” for Arab Nationalism after 1967, but have become less useful, and positively dangerous in certain cases, after the end of the Cold War.

The modern Republican Party’s “True Conservatism” is an ideologically rigid series of positions on taxes, trade, and foreign relations that proponents imagine, but do little to prove, is coextensive with the interests and flourishing of the American people. Indeed, in characters ranging from Rubio to Jeb to the annoying Kevin Williamson at National Review, we see passionate support for jobs-destroying trade policy and fomenting unnecessary conflict with Russia and Assad’s Syria. We also see a fever pitch of opposition to Trump, who has not signed on to this ossified political ideology, but whose patriotism and right-leanings are undeniable.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Alt Right. Bookmark the permalink.