To spot a would-be autocrat, look for someone who undermines language.
America’s Delusional Elite Is Done
A response to Michael Anton.
I want to thank Claremont for the opportunity to reply to Michael Anton’s review of my book Bronze Age Mindset. Since at least 2015—but in fact from before Trump ever came along—there has been a tremendous intellectual disturbance or ferment online, among both the right and the left, that has escaped the notice or surveillance of the mainstream media, the literary and pundit-political establishment, and all those who imagine themselves gatekeepers of public taste and opinion. Trump’s campaign beginning in 2015 brought this countercultural phenomenon to view of the authorities, who have been struggling to understand it and contain it ever since.
What are the “crazy Pepe frog people” online all about? The terms “altright” and “altleft” have been designed as catch-all categories to describe what is going on, but they’re misleading. There have been a few inadequate attempts to understand this phenomenon before Anton’s article: for example Angela Nagle’s book Kill All Normies, or a few articles by lesser-known journalists. But Anton’s review of my book is the first big attempt, as far as I’m aware, to really try to understand what’s going on from a sympathetic point of view; which is to say, non-polemically and without the ulterior intention of getting us censored or of bringing the weight of the national security establishment on our backs. I think Anton, whatever our disagreements—and they seem to be considerable—must be praised for realizing that the phenomenon in question isn’t going away and cannot simply be suppressed, but must be understood.
What you are witnessing, I would like to tell the readers of Claremont, is the unraveling of the postwar American regime—or what is mendaciously called by its toadies the “liberal world order”—in a way that is far more thorough than the disturbances of the 1960’s, and with consequences that will be far more dire.
The “Altright”: What Is Really Going On?
Mike Anton’s review is like crisp mountain air and a respite from the atmosphere of hysteria and denunciation that dominates the polite and educated sectors of American society since 2015. In academia, where the consideration of ideas, of unusual points of view, of political matters, is supposed to proceed objectively and by calm reason, the hysteria is in fact much more intense than in American society at large. This is true even among Mike Anton’s and Claremont’s own “sect,” that of the Straussians, which were supposed to be an exception.
Many I’ve met who call themselves Straussians were reduced to sputtering indignation by the arrival of Trump, incomprehension of what was going on, and desperation that the grift industry that has grown around such people as Bill Kristol was going to come to an end. Many of the younger Straussians are fanatical believers in the public religion of the regime—they’ve internalized “antiracism,” hysteria about “anti-Semitism,” and similar taboos—and their own professors are scared to tell them otherwise even in private. They are regime toadies and kapos, much like the journalists attacking me; or in the case of the older professors, they are simply scared into silence—often shamefully, and failing to make use of their tenure.
It is a great credit to Anton and to Claremont that they have the courage to try to understand this countercultural moment in a spirit of objective consideration, not emotional denunciation.
If I want to emphasize one thing here in my response: I must correct the impression Anton gives in his review—flattering to myself though it may be—that Bronze Age Pervert is the engine of the online disturbances that have been loosely called the “altright” since 2015. In some sense I feel bad because my book has made it easy for Anton and for the audience of Claremont, or otherwise for mainstream and traditional conservatives, to try to cordon off this phenomenon into one that is easier for them to understand: that of “right wing nihilism,” or the “return of Nietzscheanism.”
Nietzsche, maybe more than Marx, is the big bogeyman of the traditional conservative and classical liberal: Nietzsche’s evil influence, the return of “neopaganism,” of “right wing atheism,” is said by some, including Allan Bloom, to be the driving thought even of the modern new left. So here then, you may think, finally is a chance to confront an old enemy that has returned unmasked.
The outrageous Bronze Age Pervert may not be a Nazi, but he’s an unapologetic “German nihilist” of the old kind, and the internet has given him free hand to corrupt the youth. Who knew that if you merely represent the thought of Nietzsche or Schopenhauer in a fun way it would find such an audience? Some things, it seems, are always green.
You could be led to think so, and indeed there is much in my book that exists entirely within that tradition—but you would be wrong. The phenomenon you fear would have happened, and would continue one way or another, with or without me. It is important to understand what it is, something Anton only just touches on in his review.
The “altright” doesn’t exist and has nothing to do with the media representations of it—really attempts to redefine it and control it—as a form of “white nationalism,” “skinheads,” the various public figures they’ve tried to anoint as its leaders (only to make them ridiculous and tear them down), or even—and here is what is crucial to understand—just “white males” or the just “right wing.” The same phenomenon is taking place on the left, and there is much more crossover than older people realize: there is much more involvement also by nonwhite youth and particularly by Latino, Asian, and multiracial youth in this phenomenon than people want to admit. I’m not saying this to run away from a charge of “racism,” but to try to show you that you can’t, and won’t be able to, contain what is happening now by typecasting it as an “angry young white male” thing. That is wishful thinking on your part, if you believe it.
What is going on now is a widespread rejection of the ruling authorities and their beliefs, on the part primarily, but not only, of the American youth at large. This is similar to the rejection of communism by dissidents and youth in the Soviet bloc in the 1970’s and 80’s, and driven by similar causes.
Since 2013 at least, an entire social biome of communication has emerged online outside the control and view of authorities—a space where youth developed a highly individual form of visual communication in images and memes that evolve upon each other, and that present rather high barriers of entry to outsiders. Readers of Claremont must understand: my book is only one part of this “biome” that has surfaced to public view. The reach of this online counterculture is far beyond any one political or ethnic group, but has spread into youth pop culture at large by now.
Insofar as my book is representative of this phenomenon, it is only in the sense that unvarnished, unedited Nietzscheanism, “right wing nihilism,” has been one of the opinions absolutely forbidden by the postwar liberal world order. It has resurfaced in the space of freedom provided recently by the internet, and has spread there with some speed, the way it always will when it is not repressed. But it is hardly the only view present in this world, or even the dominant view. Nor, as I keep repeating, is this phenomenon—I lack a better word to call it—reducible to any view or set of views, but it represents rather a youth counterculture that has rejected the controlled, staged, edited and therefore mendacious form of public discourse that dominates America and the West right now.
Those among you who chose Trump because at least here was a man who wasn’t a marionette stuffed full of consultant-approved public relations talking points should be able to sympathize. It is the same, but on a much bigger scale.
Eliminationism and Capitulationism
The failure of the conservative establishment to address the insanity of the new left is the chief negative cause of the phenomenon or movement in question. The new left has alienated large swathes of younger men especially who otherwise would have been sympathetic to its causes. Many voted for Obama and were very much of the “green” faction for example. They weren’t doing so because they were antifa or communists or radicals—in temperament, background, profession, many would have probably been young Republicans before George W. Bush—but did so because the Republican party of the time, the party of Romney and Paul Ryan, was bankrupt in ideas and spirit and had nothing to offer. Obama was promising accountability for the extremely destructive financial crisis of 2008 and for the Iraq War before that. But he didn’t deliver; he became instead a protector of a corrupt ruling class, and a racial demagogue.
The anti-male and anti-White rhetoric of the new left is extreme. The racial attacks on whites in particular approaches exterminationist propaganda seen only in, e.g., the Hutu against the Tutsi in 1990’s Rwanda.
For anyone who doubts this, consider the following few examples, which are far from complete:
A columnist for the Huffington Post, a major leftist publication, wrote an article titled “Towards a Concept of White Wounding,” apparently calling for racial violence.
The New York Times hired a columnist who had repeated vulgar racial attacks on whites, calling “whiteness” “awful,” whites “only fit to live underground like groveling goblins,” expressed great joy at “being cruel to old white men,” and declared that whites will be “extinct soon.” The Paper of Record stood by her when these attacks were exposed, and only quietly let her go recently when she supported a boycott against her own employer.
Symone Sanders, currently a senior adviser to Joe Biden and previously the national press secretary for Bernie Sanders, mocked a disabled white teenager who was tortured on camera in 2017 by a black mob screaming “Fuck Trump! Fuck white people!” and otherwise called cases of antiwhite political violence “a protest.”
The New York Times—again, hardly an unknown blog—published an opinion column by Michelle Goldberg with the eliminationist title “We Can Replace Them,” ostensibly against “white nationalism,” but in fact directed against a demographic white majority as such, which the author seeks to replace with nonwhites for what she imagines to be political advantage.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, a major organ of the Left that pushes the security establishment’s Russia Hoax conspiracy theories, called this summer for “a literal or figurative war” on whites and a “race war” that the DNC must be willing to get “Lincolnesque” about.
Major leftist and establishment media such as Newsweek publish cover stories titled “Is Your Baby Racist”; major publishers promote books titled White Fragility, or The Dying of Whiteness, and CNN—not white nationalist outlets—runs graphics on “The Vanishing White American.”
Again, all this is par for the course these days; as everyone knows, state-funded universities routinely hold “white privilege” seminars and orientation sessions, promoting a concept the plain meaning of which is to dispossess people of property and civil rights based on their biology.
This “Interahamwe Left” should have been opposed by mainstream conservatives and even classical liberals, and it is indeed possible to oppose this vicious and exterminationist hatred on purely liberal and racially egalitarian grounds. But this didn’t happen, which puts the lie to the claims that traditional conservatives care about equality under the law or about any of the ideals they claim to espouse. Instead, we see the absurd phenomenon of conservatives who joined in this hatred.
National Review of all places has repeatedly published eliminationist rhetoric, the most notable example being Kevin Williamson’s notorious piece arguing quite plainly for an end to the white working class. Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol are both on record either objecting, in far leftist style, to the concept of “whiteness,” or otherwise arguing for its demographic replacement. Marco Rubio’s top advisors have called for the same. In the summer of 2015, long before there was any significant “altright” “Pepe” antisemitism or “trolling” of neocons, Jennifer Rubin, Max Boot, and Bill Kristol, all supposedly “on the right,” engaged in vile racial language—“rednecks,” etc.—to describe Trump supporters. Little remembered is John McCain slandering his own constituents in Arizona, in the most vulgar terms, which preceded Trump’s rhetorical reprisals.
Whether out of loyalty to the generally leftist social sphere in which the conservative intellectual establishment lives, or out of simple fear, mainstream and traditional conservatives have completely discredited themselves by failing to oppose the violent racial hatred and other forms of unprecedented insanity coming from the new left.
I haven’t even yet touched the conservative powerlessness when it came to stopping the destruction of the family; or the new push for the sexualization and grooming of children on behalf of transsexualism and other supposed “sexual identities.” This one crucial matter extends the appeal of the “frog people” far beyond that of any one racial or ethnic group.
Conservatives pretend to be able to recruit Latinos to their cause with the degraded ideology of Jack Kemp but Latinos see David French call forced “drag queen” visits for schoolchildren “part of free life,” and want nothing to do with it. We are far better at recruiting Latinos, and as the example of Bolsonaro among many others shows, this new, energetic and popular form of the right is a Latino movement, and it is the future.
If we listen to the rhetoric of the left, we can only guess that further restrictions of speech and life, both de facto and de jure, are coming. What is the conservative plan to deal with any of this? The “youth”—but not only the youth, and certainly not only the white youth, although they are the most affected—has seen only capitulation from the conservative establishment, or otherwise outright collaboration. What vision of life do mainstream conservatives have to offer?
Many seem to think that success for example in a white collar job is the key to solving this problem of discontent with the new American regime. But strangely enough today it is the large corporations, Big Tech, high finance and other white collar institutions that promote the most restrictive and aggressive leftism. Conservative ideology, especially that pushed by the incompetent but much-hyped Paul Ryan, rather slavishly seems to serve and support the large monopolies that promote mass immigration, mass surveillance, and the most bizarre type of speech restrictions, not only on its own employees, but now on American society at large. Many are unapologetically censoring Americans and otherwise abusing their civil rights on behalf of foreign powers—Russia, however, generally not being one of these.
And so to sum up the reasons “this frog thing” is going on: because of the smothering restrictions on speech and life, because of absurd, violent and eliminationist rhetoric, many are reasonably reacting and seeking for guidance outside a conservatism that fails to offer any meaningful opposition. This explains in large part the chief negative cause of the phenomenon Anton is trying to explain.
The Internet itself, in providing a space for thought and speech outside the tightly controlled and fake media and academic machine, has provided the positive cause. These thoughts and words extend well beyond “Bronze Age Pervert” or my book, and would exist regardless.
But Anton chose to review this counterculture in the context of my book. And insofar as he addresses the content of my book, and my intention, I find it to be in large part a good and fair review.
If I would have emphasized anything else to people who had never heard of my book, it is that it deals with a large range of topics, from history to literature to my own personal experiences. It is a book written primarily for fun and entertainment: it’s not a philosophical treatise, and it’s not a political manifesto. I wrote it in a mood of revelry and laughter, these being the sentiments principally to be found also in the phenomenon of dissent that Anton seeks to understand.
“Americanism” is Long Dead
The media adopts humorlessness as a strategy and pretends to see policy proposals when we engage in fun and trolling—you have doubtless seen this many times when they misrepresent Trump’s humor. They distort what is primarily a movement of irreverence and satire, and if there’s anything I wish to add to Anton’s review of my book proper, it is this: it is a book of laughter.
Now it is true that both Nietzsche and Machiavelli—who Anton states (correctly) are big inspirations for my book—said that the best philosophy should be able to be comedy and laughter as well. But I think I’ve stated my ideas there in the way I want them to appear, and don’t want to elaborate much more on them as such. I will add only that Nietzsche says somewhere that it is the duty of a philosopher to promote precisely those virtues or tendencies of spirit that are most lacking in one’s own time, and even to exaggerate them in the reader, much like a pianist will practice on a piano with heavier-than-normal keys. Of course to be able to do this, you have to have the courage to stand against the religion of the time, which almost no one ever does.
The mention of the religion of our time, which one might think is the unquestioned and absolute worship of human equality, brings me to Anton’s challenge at the end of his review: Anton rightly says that in calling my own book an exhortation and not philosophy, I give myself a pass from dealing with the timeless questions of the best regime; of how honors, goods, and offices are to be apportioned under the best government.
If I read him right, he seems to think that the American regime is the best, especially that conceived by the Founders. He may or may not be right, but he should admit that this form of government would today be called white supremacism or white nationalism, as would Lincoln’s later revision of it, as would indeed the America of FDR and Truman, not to speak of Theodore Roosevelt. Regardless, even the reestablishment of the America of the 1970’s or 80’s is less likely than conservative intellectuals think.
The problem Anton or other conservatives must face isn’t that my audience, or the “youth” in question doesn’t accept the principles of the American Founding, but that the left and thereby a large part of the establishment rejected these principles long ago. The left has been saying exactly what they plan to do for decades. They want to destroy your country, instill a death wish in the white population, set majorities against market-dominant minorities, atomize everyone: the British plan in Malaysia and a few other places but now applied domestically within a country.
But the conservatives didn’t do anything, or anything effective, to counter the left—this is the problem. Many conservatives would rather blame people who point out the left’s explicit intentions. If Hillary Clinton says that Merkel is her role model a year after Merkel made the youth of Germany a minority in their own country, and if we point this out and support any candidate who might prevent this unprecedented madness, it is mainstream conservatives who call us Nazis and worse simply for pointing out the left’s stated goals.
I would be ready to concede that I wouldn’t have an audience, or a much smaller one, if this was the America of the Founding or even that of the 1980’s. Your problem isn’t my audience, but that your analysis and words and ideas are so far from reality that you don’t even see the reasons why I have this audience in the first place.
The left completely abandoned Americanism in the 1960’s; at this point they’ve also abandoned biological reality. Vitalism is all that is left against their demented biological Leninism. Encouraging health, normality, and physical nobility against their celebration of deformity, obesity, and sexual catamitism must be one of the basic functions of conservatism in our time. It is one of the reasons my message is powerful among many who are fed up with the left’s gospel of wretchedness: what is your plan to take that on?
There is a point at which, if you believe in the reality of nature, you must be ready to talk about actual nature as it exists in the world and not just “Nature” as a safe abstraction.
If indeed the religion of our time is the belief in unquestioned human equality, the revolution in the biological sciences, genetics, and population genetics currently taking place will soon completely cut off its legs, even in public. In large part this has already happened, and no one believes in any real biological human equality any longer.
I’m aware that the doctrine Anton refers to, that of the Founders or even of classical liberalism, doesn’t promote an idea of absolute biological human equality, or also “equality of outcome.” But the ideology of the present regime does…in rhetoric if not in practice, and claims that any outcome that leads to group stratification is not organic but must be the result of convoluted conspiracies (“white privilege”). This puts Anton and the classical liberal in a difficult position.
It appears that the previous order was based not just on abstract ideas about rights or justice, but on a very old and firm and very Anglo culture of fair play. And on an agreement that it was not the role of the ruling class to mobilize and demagogue the lower classes against the middle. That’s all gone now, so what is the lover of the Founders’ vision to do?
We are now faced with a left that has embraced a dialectic of racial and class destruction in a context where belief in absolute human equality is professed at the same time that no one believes in it anymore. I don’t see how the vision of the Founders, widely dismissed as white nationalism even by “conservatives” when presented with its reality, has more political potential in our situation than Bronze Age perversion would.
Reality, Not Regime Change, Is the Point
In any case, I find Anton’s demand that I engage in a debate about the rightness or wrongness of the ideas behind the American Founding rather unfair and, for the reasons stated above, somewhat besides the point. If my book doesn’t speak about forms of government it is because that’s not its intention, nor my aim right now.
When Andrei Sakharov or Solzhenitsyn were dissidents against the Soviet regime, when other dissidents wrote their samizdat, would it have been fair to ask them for a complete and total accounting of their vision of the best form of government? The opposition to Soviet tyranny sought regime change, and it would have been unfair and even senseless to demand of them a precise accounting of, say, their vision of what a post-Soviet division of powers or notion of rights might look like. Dissent against the Soviet system united liberals, reactionaries, the religious, the secular, monarchists, ethnonationalists, cosmopolitans, Russians, Latvians, Bashkirs, and any other things besides. They all had one immediate aim.
The purpose of my book is to provide samizdat in the tradition of what Solzhenitsyn was doing in the Soviet Union and to bring into view, unapologetically, the reality of nature that is denied by our regime; a reality that it seeks to repress, increasingly with coercion and violence.
If you fail to see that you live in the Soviet Union of the 1970’s or 1980’s, or rather something slightly even more repressive than the Eastern Bloc of that time, it may be you don’t know about the threats, financial ruin, and mob violence that Trump supporters and anyone really who steps out of line has been subject to since at least 2016—but actually since some time before that.
To give just one egregious example, there is a group, Hamilton 68, that is a plain front for the American security state establishment, dedicated to calling Americans who criticize the state of things Russian agents, and to forcing their identities to be revealed so as to subject them to violent harassment and physical attacks. This is the same function that the figure of the sycophant had in ancient Greece. These attacks are carried out by so-called “antifa,” but what in fact appears to be the establishment’s paramilitary force—the last Democrat vice presidential candidate’s son was a violent member (an impossibility as a “coincidence” for anyone remotely familiar with how Washington DC works)—abetted by police “stand-downs,” as at San Jose in 2016.
This kind of state-supported mob violence is beyond what existed in say, the Czechoslovakia, Poland or Yugoslavia of the 1980’s. But it is supported even by major Republican Senators like Marco Rubio, who have openly excused antifa mob violence for political purposes. Mitt Romney has romanticized them as well. This doesn’t even begin to cover the financial ruin that regime critics face which, again, exceeds the punishment meted out to average dissidents in the Eastern Bloc by the 1980’s, both in frequency and intensity.
The people targeted by Hamilton 68, CNN, and similar “private” organs for this kind of vigilante mob violence and harassment aren’t just “skinheads,” but include, e.g., grandmothers from Florida who happened to support Trump on Facebook in 2016.
It is, I repeat, the tyranny of our time that my book seeks to oppose, and it is written in the spirit of Solzhenitsyn, one of my heroes, who stood against a similar tyranny.
My response to Anton’s challenge regarding the best regime is that my book isn’t intended to provide a complete elaboration of this alternative or a philosophical treatise regarding the best form of government. I would indeed be happy with a state of things where that frank discussion could be carried out, even in private. That isn’t the America or the West of today.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.