George Hawley: Making Sense of the Alt-Right

Greg Johnson has a review of George Hawley’s much-anticipated new book Making Sense of the Alt-Right. Hawley is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, and no fan of the Alt Right per se, but his recent books have been penetrating and fairly objective attempts to understand today’s dissident right and its paleoconservative intellectual forebears:

In his Conclusion, Hawley deals with the future of the Alt Right. He discusses the threats of deplatforming and doxing, arguing that short of a total shutdown of the Internet, the Alt Right will be able to propagate its message. Doxing, furthermore, is ultimately self-defeating, because it turns people from secret, part-time activists to open, full-time activists — although it does intimidate many people from getting involved. Thus Hawley is confident that the Alt Right will remain an online presence.

But he is quite blunt that there is a big difference between being an online nuisance and having real political power. To actually change political policy, the Alt Right will have to attain “a level of seriousness and organization it has not yet displayed” (p. 172). Although Hawley expresses some hope for the Alt Right corporation, his book was obviously sent to press before its failure became obvious. It is now clear that the tendency of the Alt Right since Trump’s election has been toward self-marginalization, Right-wing sectarianism, and purity spiraling. But even if the Alt Right remains marginal, Hawley recognizes that as the conservative movement continues to decline and the charge of racism loses its sting, “zero-sum identity politics may become the norm, and the Alt-Right will be on the periphery, pushing racial polarization at every available opportunity” (p. 175).

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