In a piece I wrote for the Federalist in 2016, I worried about the rise of white identitarianism inside the alt-right. I pointed out that, though I understand some of the complaints self-styled alt-right spokespeople proffer — and even support them ideologically on things like immigration reform (I favor a moratorium), an end to racial and sexual preference as part of official government policy, an end to protected classes and to the rise of intersectional hierarchies that give us the tyranny of the “victim” mob, etc — many who were proclaiming themselves part of this movement were, once you got beyond what were certainly reasonably debatable, if not outright demonstrable, grievances, nothing more than another victim collective. And as I pointed out in my piece, collectivism is leftism, and there’s a reason Nazism was a national socialist movement.
I wanted no part of white identitarianism for the same reason I spent 15 years on protein wisdom railing against identity politics as a mechanism of cultural Marxism. I’m all for freedom of association; but I reserve the right to criticize why some people choose to constrain their circles.
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Americans are, historically, individualists, not in the purest Ayn Rand atomized iteration — we after all built a system based around ordered liberty and local community — but rather under law and using as the offshoot of the American proposition the Natural Rights of individuals, who collectively make up we the people.
I felt that white identitarianism, which was supposedly to be ushered in by Trumpism, was just another collectivist idea that was in no way conservative in the American sense of the term. And 7 years later — post Trump — I haven’t changed my thinking.
Trump himself, as it turned out, rejected white identitarianism in policy; which is why supposed alt-right heroes like Richard Spencer returned to the party of the KKK in 2020, and why I was more than happy to vocally support Trump throughout his presidency and when he ran for re-election. He surprised me. There were policies I disagreed with, of course, and I said so. But for the most part he was a successful chief executive whose loss in 2020 left a lot of good ideas on the table.
The truth is, it is progressive Democrats and the left whose open racialism is a far more serious concern to the country than fringe white supremacist organizations the mainstream media likes to hang like nooses around the necks of conservatives. And yet it is conservatives who, by their very political worldview, reject the collectivism necessary in any identity politics scrum: being the lowest, most hurried carving on the intersectional totem pole — which is where the alt-right racialists are situated — may compound their grievances and justify their complaints; but it doesn’t make them conservative, or place them on the right, “alt” or otherwise. Are whites now a demonized class? In many ways, yes. Is the best way to fight that to engage in competing identity politics? I don’t believe so: Not only won’t we win, but even if we do, we’ve granted permanent legitimacy to simple tribalism, and the social compact is perhaps then damaged beyond repair. Individual autonomy is the key to the American experiment.
With this in mind, I today watched a Netflix series called “Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies, and the Internet.” The series is produced by Ron Howard, whose largely predictable and anodyne Hollywood liberalism metastasized into full-blown rube hatred during Trump’s presidency. So I went into the series knowing to expect at least a small dose of virtue signaling and hamfisted liberal sermonizing.
Episode 3 of the series purports to examine the alt-right, Neo-Nazism, and hate speech, focusing largely on a former higher-up in a white identitarian group she’s since left. And while the episode shows the very nasty racialist side of such political movements, it has as its clear objective the desire to conflate such fringe collectivist white supremacist ideology with America First conservatism (which — both unfortunately and unseriously, and often with profound cynicism and staggering dishonesty — has brought along many establican “conservative” pundits, who’d rather vote for Joe Biden than allow the left to tether them to Neo-Nazism, however disingenuously).
Of course, this conflation is intentional and political: there is nothing inherently fascist about America First conservatism. Similarly, there’s nothing inherently collectivist about it, either, save for its desire that its own citizens take precedence when representative government is presumed to be functioning effectively and as intended. And this isn’t collectivism in any real sense, as anti-Nationalists like to claim it is; it’s citizenship. It’s a shared legal category, not some immutable trait. It’s constitutionalism and a demand for protected sovereignty, both for the country and of the individual within the legal framework laid out by the Founding fathers and, later, SCOTUS precedent and the amendment process to the Constitution.
And yet this episode of Opie’s newest TV opus connects white supremacy to conservatism, and depicts a rejection of conservatism as a concomitant Escape from Hate. All violence depicted is perpetrated by “the right”; images of Charlottesville are juxtaposed with images of January 6; the heroes are the leftwing doxxers who fight the haters, or the brave, diverse crowd who stand as a bulwark against rancid conservatism.
The protagonist — who during her online phase went by “Norah Fox” as a member of the group Identity Evropa, where she ultimately became a leader of the women’s arm, and later a popular recruiter — is herself a living metaphor for the episode’s narrative arc and heavy-handed message: she is redeemed by her rejection of the movement; and she is cleansed by engaging in a narrativized struggle session in which she is gently guided by the interviewer, with a gloss on both her redemption and on broader social issues of free speech (and why it must necessarily be policed and constrained) provided by several supporting players: a former FBI agent who bemoans the traditional “whiteness” and “maleness” of the agency; tech writer April Glaser; and New Yorker staff writer Andrew Marantz, this last of whom is promoted as the intellectual anchor and living conscience of the film, a role he seems to relish.
In fact, while the other two talking heads are largely forgotten, Marantz is particularly egregious in his role as expert. Like some armchair anthropologist, he pontificates on the right and what he feels is its dubious claim to free speech, often as anti-feminist or anti- “diversity” social media posts flash across the screen, alongside Nazi clips and footage of synagogue shootings. Such speech — the kind offered up by the white identitarian collectivists, which the episode tethers to legitimate matters of policy and culture — Marantz argues, “shouldn’t be allowed to take over the internet,” though he neglects to note how that might happen. He counsels protections from such hateful rhetoric, calmly arguing for censorship while at one point calling “counter-protesters” from BLM and Antifa the “good guys.” He drips of elitism and is an objective correlative for the kind of polished leftist academic posturing so often tied to coastal intellectualism.
This type of propaganda — in which the sometimes overt argument seems to be that some Americans’ free speech is more equal than others — is so obvious as to be insulting. And ironic, to boot: because what we have here, when we look carefully at both the “alt right,” and the leftist critique of them, are competing fascists arguing over whose fascism is more politically and socially compelling, and whose racism is more bracing and moral.
I rather doubt this is the takeaway director Brian Knappenberger was hoping for.
Regardless, today one feels compelled to remind people what the left is all about: power, control, authority. It is they who operate institutionally as do the white identitarians they seek to distinguish themselves from while herding them into the conservative tent. Like the vulgar diktats of the white supremacist hierarchy, where women are to know their places, the more polished cultural Marxists presume to decide who can speak and what it is that comes to count as socially — and, as we’re beginning to see, legally — approved speech. Both sets of would-be fascists require ritual denunciations and scapegoats. And that’s because such things are a hallmark of collectivist ideology.
The episode title is “I Am Not a Nazi.”
And if you’re an actual conservative, the happy truth about that is, you can’t be.
Saying the same for leftists, however? Well, you don’t need to wear a Swastika or carry a White Power flag to demand certain ideas be purged and their purveyors presented as subhumans who represent a real “danger to democracy,” as Andrew Marantz pretends to worry.
In fact, as the episode makes clear to the discerning viewer, all it takes sometimes is making a Netflix episode or appearing as an armchair anthropologist who looks at the behaviors of “the conservative” just as those he criticizes do the behavior of “the Jew.” The flag you carry may claim you’re an “anti-fascist.” Or maybe you hide behind a rainbow or a black power fist. But it’s all of a piece
I’ll say it again: there’s a reason it was called National Socialism.
I am not a Nazi. But they do exist. And we should despise the aggressively statist worldview that drives them regardless of how they look or how polished they appear. This includes those who make Netflix series or write for the New Yorker, too.
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The committed “alt-right” identitarian leftists will hate this essay. They’ll commence w anti-Semitic remarks, bc “the Jew” as a species is their enemy. I — a committed and vocal conservative Constitutionalist — am their enemy. Why is that?
In engaging me so they’ll prove my point and out themselves. They can’t help it: it’s an opportunity to say “kike” without getting sideways looks. It empowers them.
Please note that much of this will happen on conservative sites who use Disqus. This is where the white identitarians who pretend to be conservative coalesce.
They’re frauds. Leftists who “gotta get mine.”
I own them.
"Dopy Opie" (reference to a classic Andy Griffith Show episode) - they surely got that one right all those years ago. I really liked Ron Howards acting career, loved some movies he directed (Splash in particular), and he was in 'The Shootist' - John Waynes last move. But to call the 'Lefty Land' he has drifted into anodyne, infantile and hackneyed, that is an understatement. That is letting him off too easily. Ron Howard seems to 'hate' all with the temerity to disagree with his clueless narrative. Buy I guess that is what one must do to survive in Hollywood. Like many 'leftist' - projection seems to be a big thing for him. I hate to break it to 'Opie,' but 'fascism' was and is a 'leftist phenomenon - a Marxist heresy if you will. Communism and Fascism, fraternal twins, much different 'means,' but the exact same 'ends.'
You see, Mr. Howard is part of the 'leftist chorus' called the 'Gleichschaltung.' And yes, there are some real 'White Supremacists' out there, but one could get them all into a medium sized auditorium, and they are universally reviled. But as they really don't exist in any meaningful sense, Leftist Progressive like Mr. Howard just have to 'make them up.' Far out man. And I still love the Andy Griffith Show. Yep, Opie was the same age as me. Sad. All the best. But hey man, he got to team up with a young Morgan Brittany, before she changed her name, in a classic AGS episode. It's just sad, as a kid, I really identified with Opie Taylor - oh well.