NYT: What the Alt-Right Really Means

Christopher Caldwell, of The Weekly Standard, is a #NeverTrumper and, it is fair to say, not a fan of the Alt-Right. So, naturally, the NYT gives him ample space in their Sunday edition to write about that (“What the Alt-Right Really Means”). That’s the NYT’s idea of political diversity.

The piece is accompanied by a photo of a young white man with his hand across his heart, over a t-shirt which reads “White Male”.

Caldwell starts off, of course, with the recent Richard Spencer “Hail Trump!” brouhaha, then discusses Steve Bannon’s past comment of Breitbart.com being a ‘platform for the Alt-Right’.

Perhaps we should not make too much of this. Mr. Bannon may have meant something quite different by the term. Last summer “alt-right,” though it carried overtones of extremism, was not an outright synonym for ideologies like Mr. Spencer’s…

I sense a ‘but’ coming…

But in late August, Hillary Clinton devoted a speech to the alt-right, calling it simply a new label for an old kind of white supremacy that Mr. Trump was shamelessly exploiting.

Groups such as Mr. Spencer’s, which had indeed rallied behind Mr. Trump, were delighted with the attention. Mr. Spencer called the days after the Clinton speech “maybe the greatest week we ever had.” While he does not consider either Mr. Trump or Mr. Bannon alt-right, Mr. Spencer has expressed hope that the press’s describing them as such will help his own group grow.

In the piece, Caldwell occasionally references salient aspects of the Alt Right phenomenon:

The alt-right is not a large movement, but the prominence that it is enjoying in the early days of the Trump era may tell us something about the way the country is changing. At least since the end of the Cold War, and certainly since the election of a black president in 2008, America’s shifting identity — political, cultural and racial — has given rise to many questions about who we are as a nation. But one kind of answer was off the table: the suggestion that America’s multicultural present might, in any way, be a comedown from its past had become a taboo. This year a candidate broke it. He promised to “make America great again.” And he won the presidency.

Mr. Trump’s success is bound to embolden other dissenters. This could mean a political climate in which reservations about such multiculturalist policies as affirmative action are voiced more strenuously. It could mean a rise in racial conflict and a platform for alarming movements like Mr. Spencer’s. More likely, it is going to bring a hard-to-interpret mix of those things.


That the Overton Window moves towards the Alt-Right, even a little bit, is a good thing. It is especially a good thing if you value true exchange of ideas and hypotheses, unbeholden to political correctness.

Caldwell makes passing reference to the big players in the room:

There are many such groups, varying along a spectrum of couth and intellect. Mr. Spencer, who dropped out of a doctoral program at Duke and worked, briefly, as an editor for The American Conservative, has his own online review, Radix Journal. The eloquent Yale-educated author Jared Taylor, who hosts the American Renaissance website and magazine, was at the conference, too. Kevin MacDonald, a retired psychology professor whose trilogy on Jewish influence is a touchstone for the movement, also came. There were cheers from the crowd at the mention of Andrew Anglin, who runs a neo-Nazi website called The Daily Stormer, but he was not there. Neither was Greg Johnson, whose online review Counter-Currents translates right-wing writings from various European languages.

Wow, that is probably the first (and likely only?) time that KMac has not had the adjective ‘anti-Semitic’ placed next to his name or trilogy.

The following passage, however, is a howler:

There is no obvious catchall word for them. The word “racist” has been stretched to cover an attitude toward biology, a disposition to hate, and a varying set of policy preferences, from stop-and-frisk policing to repatriating illegal immigrants. While everyone in this set of groups is racist in at least one of these senses, many are not racist in others.

So, let me make sure I’ve got this right… Believing in the concept of human biodiversity is ‘racist’? Stop and frisk policing, which was quite successful in liberally-run NYC, is ‘racist’? Repatriating illegal aliens (in other words, simply enforcing existing U.S. law) is ‘racist’?

Mind you, Caldwell is a featured writer in one of the two big ‘conservative’ magazines in America.

After citing the small number of mobilized Alt Right activists, that is, the number that show up to conferences or that would be able to take part in a march of some kind:

Even so, this more narrowly defined alt-right may be a force. In the internet age, political consciousness can be raised not just through quarterlies, parties and rallies but also through comment boards, console games and music videos. The internet solves the organizing problem of mobs, even as it gives them incentives not to stray from their screens. The adjective “alt-right” does not just denote recycled extremist views — it also reflects the way those views have been pollinated by other internet concerns and updated in the process.

The final two paragraphs ties in Carol Swain’s opinions, which is also good. A few years ago, I read Swain’s The New White Nationalism in America and found it to be a surprisingly objective depiction of the sociological attitudes underlying a gesticulating white identity-politics in the making. Swain actually grants that there are double standards on issues like affirmative action (e.g, why are Hispanics, who were never slaves here in the U.S., entitled to the benefits of affirmative action?):

The Vanderbilt University political scientist Carol Swain was among the first to describe the contours of this worldview. In her 2002 book, “The New White Nationalism in America,” she noted that young people were quick to identify double standards, and that they sometimes did so in the name of legitimate policy concerns. “I knew that identity would come next,” she recalled. “It had to come. All they had to do was copy what they were hearing. The multiculturalist arguments you hear on every campus — those work for whites, too.” Mr. Spencer, asked in an interview how he would respond to the accusation that his group was practicing identity politics in the manner of blacks and Hispanics, replied: “I’d say: ‘Yuh. You’re right.’ ”

Professor Swain’s analysis does not just pertain to radicals. It is a plausible account of what is happening in the American electoral mainstream. The alt-right is small. It may remain so. And yet, while small, it is part of something this election showed to be much bigger: the emergence of white people, who evidently feel their identity is under attack, as a “minority”-style political bloc.

Does a profile like this help or hurt the Alt-Right? Does the very fact that sites like AmRen, Radix Journal, and Counter-Currents get mentioned (and thereby getting potential new eyeballs, which is a positive thing) more than offset the negative MSM framing of what the Alt-Right is?

Time will tell.

This entry was posted in Alt-Right, NYT. Bookmark the permalink.