We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the fateful Unite The Right Rally, at which the violence that took place was all blamed on the “Alt-Right”, leading to much persecution (deplatforming, firings, conferences cancelled) of people identified with that movement. It’s been said repeatedly that the Alt Right is dead or dying—but it can’t be, if Conservatism, Inc is still trying to kill it.
It seems that Jonah Goldberg has time left over from beating up on Trump and refurbishing his credentials as a leading “conservative” Never-Trumper to hobnob with House Speaker Paul Ryan at Jonah’s stamping grounds, AEI. The two of them agreed recently that the “Alt-Right is about “identity politics.” In what appears to be a mutual congratulation session, the interlocutors proclaimed that “conservatives must reclaim “hijacked” terminology.”
“Intellectually do everything you can to defeat the alt-right,” Ryan said Thursday in an interview with Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor at National Review and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where the interview was held.
“It is identity politics, it is antithetical to what we believe, and it’s a hijacking of our terms, just like the progressives hijacked the word, ‘liberalism,’ the blood-and-soil nationalists of the alt-right have hijacked things like ‘Western civilization,’” Ryan, R-Wis., added.
“So we have to go back and fight for our ground and re-win these ideas and marginalize these guys as best we can to the corners.
Paul Ryan: ‘White Identity Politics’ of Alt-Right Isn’t Conservatism, but Racism, by Rachel del Guidice, July 19, 2018
But there was absolutely nothing in this interview that leads me to believe that the Alt-Right, or what it’s imagined to be in this interview, “hijacked” anything from the Right—if that Right is represented by Goldberg and Ryan. In fact, I can’t imagine how Ryan, who is a very centrist politician, or Goldberg, who seems to be a badly-educated Leftist in all but name, have any better claim to the “conservative” label than those on the Dissident Right whom they’re laboring to marginalize. Having these characters define the legitimate Right is like asking zealous vegetarians to judge the quality of meat dishes in a cooking contest—or having Hillary Clinton give out prizes for feminine charm.
Of course, I have my own horse in this race, if only by association. George Hawley explains why in Making Sense of the Alt-Right, his balanced, book-length examination of the Alt-Right: “There are only two people from the paleoconservative movement associated with the Alt-Right in any meaningful way. The first is Paul Gottfried…” (The second: the late Sam Francis.) Although I don’t classify myself as part of the Alt-Right, Hawley notes that my scholarly work certainly influenced many people on the Alt-Right—especially his [my] books and columns critiquing the conservative movement.”
George, to his credit, does dissociate me from some of the more unsavory positions attached to the Alt-Right. He points out that I am “not an anti-Semite,” which (apart from the fact that I am Jewish) is certainly true providing one accepts H.L. Mencken’s definition that “an anti-Semite is someone who dislikes Jews more than is absolutely necessary.”
George also correctly notes that I “reject white nationalism,” for all the good it’s done me in winning favor from the obsessively virtue-signaling members of Conservatism Inc.
My own relations with the Alt-Right took a noticeable plunge from about the time that the Left began smearing Donald Trump as the voice of the Alt-Right. That was also around the time that Richard Spencer began identifying his movement more explicitly with white nationalism. Then last year came the clash at Charlottesville. This brought news coverage that was less than objective. In its wake, I found that I had to protect myself against a Canadian celebrity who claimed in the National Post that I was the spiritual force behind a neo-Nazi riot. Never mind that said riot took place when well-armed “Anti-fascists” attacked right-wing demonstrators who had a legal right to assemble; and after the police failed to protect those who were exercising their legal right.