After chatting with Brett Stevens on Twitter, this is my attempt to move beyond the recent tiff and explain why White Nationalism 1.0 failed and how the Alt-Right is moving beyond that now. I’ve outlined the external and internal factors that held the movement back:
Here’s a summary of the most important external headwinds which held White Nationalism 1.0 back followed by how this changed in the Barack Obama/Donald Trump era.
The Cold War
The Cold War with the Soviet Union that was the driving force behind many of these undesirable racial and cultural changes in the West. For decades, anti-communism was the glue that held together the diverse factions of the Right. The specter of nuclear war with the Soviet boogeyman ensured that foreign policy took precedence over domestic policy in the United States.
Historically speaking, conflict with a European opponent has always driven bouts of racial egalitarianism in the United States. It happened in the aftermath of the American Revolution (Britain), the Reconstruction period (the Confederacy) and the Second World War (Nazi Germany). Usually, these episodes are followed by a longer period of retrenchment (the Antebellum era and the Jim Crow South), but the Cold War stretched the last major conflict out for two generations.
Trust In Institutions
The Greatest Generation which enacted the sweeping changes of the 1960s overwhelmingly trusted the federal government. They had beaten the Great Depression, the Axis Powers and were racing the Soviets to put a man on the moon. There was this naive mindset at the time that America could do anything. This is how we got the War on Racism, the War on Drugs and the War on Poverty.
In retrospect, this was an unusual period in American history when the mass media had been concentrated in a few hands and was trusted because journalists were considered to be objective. The anchors of the Big Three networks had a degree of authority which doesn’t exist anymore. The introduction of cable television, the rise of talk radio and finally the internet has changed the media landscape. A handful of elite media executives no longer have the power to control the narrative.
The Greatest Generation and Boomers
The Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers grew up at a time when their formative experiences in life were shaped by conflict with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and later the Civil Rights Movement. They grew up under a very different media landscape than their children and grandchildren.
Costs of Diversity
The United States was 88.6% non-Hispanic White in 1960. It was 61.3% non-Hispanic White in the 2010. The costs of diversity weren’t readily apparent to most White Americans in the 1960s. The issue simply wasn’t “baked” yet. For many decades, the Baby Boomers were able to navigate around the racial issue by moving to lily White suburbs, but this is increasingly unaffordable for Millennials.
The postwar boom combined with immigration restriction had created flush times in an the United States by the 1960s. This was the context of the social experiments of that transformative decade. America was overwhelmingly White and was rich and naive enough to be more generous on race.
It took decades for neo-liberalism and globalization to take its toll on the middle class. This was punctuated by two periods when Americans began to feel better about the economy under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Today, the average American middle class and working class household has the same income it did in 1997 and 1996 respectively. The benefits of the economic growth of the last twenty years have accrued to only the upper class.
The Opposition’s Extremism
The Left used to have a different message on race and culture. It was about everyone having equal rights, happy talk about colorblindness and minorities sharing in America’s prosperity. This was the message that White America was sold on during the Civil Rights Movement. It was a time when MLK and his fellow black reverends were still imbued with the moral authority they lost in later decades. The Jamelle Bouies and Ta-Nehisi Coates will never be able to play the race card as effectively as their predecessors.
The Republican Party was a far stronger institution before W. and the neocons got behind the wheel and wrecked the country in the Iraq War. There were far more voters from the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers who brought up in the aforementioned media landscape. They are dwindling every year and many of the changes we see going on today is due to generational turnover.
The conservative movement was also far stronger and more dominant than it was in the past. It was easier in the old days for William F. Buckley and National Review to purge rightwing dissenters because publishing and the distribution of ideas was so much more expensive.
The SPLC has cheapened the “hate group” label by being so promiscuous with it. It is no longer the deterrent that it was in the past. Few people on the Right trust the SPLC or the mainstream media anymore and they are unlikely to recover that prestige.
The whole structure of politically correct taboos that has controlled discourse and narrowed the range of “respectable” behavior on the Right for two generations has similarly been cheapened and weakened through overuse. For the woke progressive, there is no difference between Ben Shapiro and Hunter Wallace. We’re all racists, Nazis, white supremacists, evil haters, etc., etc.
The White Majority
The White majority was much stronger in the past. Republicans didn’t need to win 60% of the White vote to win the presidency. Because Whites are now such a smaller part of the electorate and our share of it has grown over time, we have more leverage now than our predeccesors.
Failure of MLK’s Dream
There was a time in the early years when it was still conceivable that could achieve racial equality and live in a colorblind society, but this fantasy is much less plausible fifty years later.
For many years, Antifas were able to use violence, doxxing, no platforming to discourage our organizing. The more violent groups were also subjected to government crackdowns and SPLC lawsuits.
Until the Barack Obama presidency, White America was able to pretend that it was “progressing” toward a post-racial society which would fulfill MLK’s Dream. Black America could entertain the fantasy that a black president could change their circumstances. In hindsight, the Obama presidency was a destabilizing time that shattered many illusions which had held sway in previous decades.
Donald Trump was the rock that White America finally threw through the glass window of the status quo. The 2016 election severely weakened all norms and institutions in ways that will have long consequences. We can see this playing out with the mainstream media which has lost its ability to police the narrative and control discourse and by extension shape the nature of our politics.
Here’s a brief list of some of the most important internal factors which prevented White Nationalism 1.0 from achieving its goals:
White Nationalism 1.0 was a much smaller movement and disproportionately attracted an audience of edge cases. These people are extreme non-conformists and expressive individualists. This stratum of the population is always found at the fringes of society and have a personality type that is resistant to social conditioning. The same characteristic that initially opened their minds to our message holds back the larger social movement when they reach a critical mass.
There are legions of these ornery people out there who are naturally disagreeable and incapable of finding common ground and working with others to advance a common purpose. They are a familiar figure in all marginalized extremist movements. The low trust, anonymous nature of online messageboards is the perfect breeding ground for their worst tendencies.
These gadflys are commonly found engaging in shit stirring and crank spiraling and the distractions they create prevented White Nationalism 1.0 from moving forward. Some common examples of this are unfounded accusations that various people in the movement are secret Jews or homosexuals or enemy agents and other types of conspiracy theories.
In many cases, the message of White Nationalism 1.0 was simply too extreme. Many of these people were just unable to communicate with their peers. Their message and presentation was stupid, vicious, crazy or ugly. It was easier for the opposition to brand these people with stereotypes and marginalize them. They responded to their rejection by seeing themselves as part of a chosen few.
We didn’t use the term at the time, but White Nationalism 1.0 could be a “black pill” for its target audience. The chaos and dysfunction created by all the edge cases led to a negative atmosphere. In turn, this led to years of stagnation which led to many people getting demoralized and dropping out of the movement while others were deterred from becoming more active.
As Brett Stevens has pointed out, many of the people who were willing to step forward and become public leaders of White Nationalism 1.0 weren’t the best people.
The violent wing of White Nationalism 1.0 would periodically lash out in mass shootings. Usually, this accomplished nothing but creating a wave of negative publicity for the movement.
White Nationalism 1.0 was far too focused on violent, apocalyptic scenarios in the distant future. It thought much less about the here and now, how to create a bridge between the present the future, the small steps that need to be taken to get us on the path to achieving our goals. “Naming the Jew” became a fixation for many of these people. What do you do after the Jew has been named though?
I agree with Brett Stevens that White Nationalism 1.0 was too narrow. The message often never got beyond a desire to be rid of all the Jews and non-Whites. Even if that were accomplished, many of these people failed to realize that it is the nature of liberal democracy itself which leads to this outcome. The system naturally exhausts, disintegrates and perverts its host culture. The presence of Jews exacerbates its worst tendencies and acts as a catalyst that accelerates the timetable.
Failure To Exploit The Internet
The internet was a great new tool, but it was misused in its earliest years. The rise of online forums was a double-edged sword. It brought countless new people into the movement and successfully educated them in our beliefs and values, but it also gave them a safe outlet for role playing. White Nationalism 1.0 never got beyond shitposting on forums and remained bottled up online.
I think the biggest error of White Nationalism 1.0 was prioritizing politics. This ossified over time into the strategic division between mainstreamers and vanguardists. The mainstreamers believed in ultimate political victory through winning elections while the vanguardists believed in either violent revolution or creating small groups of the chosen few and waiting for the collapse of civilization.
Neither of these strategies worked because politics is downstream from culture. The mainstreamers were always politically marginalized and contained by the dominant taboos. The vanguardists were either perceived as destructive when they lashed out in violent acts or they spent all their time preaching to the choir which limited their influence and effectiveness. Both groups took White identity and various other cultural assumptions for granted which were no longer shared by their target audience which had become a herd of pleasure seeking, deracinated individualists.
The upshot of this analysis is that previous generations of White Nationalists were held back by external forces which are generally no longer operative. These external forces deformed the internal nature of the movement mainly by restricting its ability to disseminate its message to a wider audience and through the type of leaders it produced. In the wake of Barack Obama and Donald Trump though, we are living in a different time now although many White Nationalists still haven’t realized it.
Fundamentally, White Americans are far more partisan and polarized now than was the case in the past. The Mainstream Media, aka the Fake News Media, has lost the confidence of the people. The government is widely distrusted. Islam has become the new external threat. The Republican Party is internally weak and vulnerable to populist challengers because it has absorbed so many former working class White Democrats and Independents. Conservatism is extremely weak after failing to achieve its goals. The decline of the White majority has given us greater political leverage. The reigning taboos have been weakened as the opposition has become more extreme, the pressure on the White majority has increased and the enforcers of those taboos have lost the legitimacy that they enjoyed in the past.
The biggest change is the rise of social media. Culture doesn’t come down to us vertically through narratives on television anymore like it did with the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers. It is created organically and horizontally through networks. I get my news through interacting with my peers on Twitter and Facebook rather than through passively reading the local corporate owned print newspaper. The smartphone and crowdfunding has leveled the playing field in journalism and activism.
This is the right time. The social order is ripe for a challenge to the status quo on race and culture. We have all the tools we need now for it work. The way we are going to do this is by creating a turbocharged, highly active cultural vanguard to break the dominant taboos in giant social media spectacles. The demise of political correctness will be livestreamed. We do need to do a better job though of articulating our greater overarching vision of a new social order to replace the one that is failing. We have to vanquish this beast though before political change will become possible. The culture war is already churning in the bowels of cyberspace and the goal of our activism will be to bring it to the surface.
As we get the ball rolling, the internal factors mentioned above which held White Nationalism 1.0 back will begin to fade. Truth be told, they were already fading. We’re seeing the Alt-Right getting active on the streets which wasn’t the case three years ago. This is shifting into the real world now and that will create stronger bonds as people get to know each other and work together in real life. It will be a fun, positive atmosphere that the disaffected will want to join and participate in.