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Alt-right post-mortem

In the 2010s, there were two movements on the radical right, the alt-right and neoreaction—the former could be characterised as “populist racial nationalism” and the latter “technocratic elitism”. One was for the masses, the other was for the intellectuals.

The alt-right failed due to incompetent leadership. That might seem like a bold and reductive statement, but explanations are usually monocausal. When people say, like in a school history essay, “there were diverse and multiple factors that led Henry VIII to dissolve the monasteries” they haven’t really thought about the problem very deeply and are in “regurgitation mode”.

Schools and universities tend to teach students to regurgitate lists “four reasons why the Versailles treaty failed” because schools and universities work by committees and consensus—hence people have to give deference and credence to whatever theories various storied profs have developed; it’s just how the game is played—so you end up with “complex, multi-variant factors”.

It’s bureaucrat mindset: we live in a leftist world where it’s low-status to attribute social movements to individuals—whether great men or foolish men. It’s forbidden to say, “Napoleon was responsible for the victory at Austerlitz.” You have to go into some long discussion as regards the state of the French horseshoe industry at the time and “socio-economic push-pull factors in the French countryside”—because it’s social history that counts, the “people’s history” (and perhaps technology as well). Napoleon doesn’t count.

The alt-right failed due to incompetence over two issues: “heil gate” and Charlottesville. The man responsible for both events was Richard Spencer, because Spencer was the de facto leader of the alt-right—he “owned the brand”, he was the brand. You can say it was “distributed, we didn’t have leaders”—but that’s a leftist attitude “no one was in charge”.

Of course, no one was in charge of whether or not an individual identified with the diffuse brand, just like the CEO of Nike isn’t responsible for everyone who wears his sneakers—and is proud to wear the sneakers and promotes the sneakers to his mates. But the CEO of Nike is ultimately the leader of Nike, the brand, and if he screws up the brand enough all the “little Nikes” don’t matter.

Both “heil gate” and Charlottesville were avoidable for anyone who knows the slightest bit about how radical right politics (even from the outside) works—and, in particular, radical right street politics. If you have a large event and you use a lot Hitleresque rhetoric like Spencer did then, even dropping “hail our people”, then someone will do the Hitler salute or shout “Heil Hitler!”.

Spencer might have the self-discipline to play this cock-tease semi-Hitler game with the left, right down to the fashy haircut, where he riles them with deniable Hitlerisms—but he should have known, if competent, that the type of people who followed him wouldn’t necessarily have the discipline not to do “unironic Hitlerism”. He ran a movement bound to attract non-conformist, possibly anti-social, ethnocentric young men—not Duke graduates at a cocktail party running witty repartee (if such things do indeed happen at Duke). So the likelihood they wouldn’t “get the joke” was high—and Spencer didn’t realise that.

The same is true, even more so, for Charlottesville. For decades the radical right has marched in various countries around the world—and the left has turned up and there has been a street fight. It’s almost a staged ceremonial battle at this point, or a tourist attraction—like changing the guards at Buckingham Palace. So, again, take the radical right to the streets and you will get violence—people will probably be injured, possibly killed (as happened at Charlottesville).

This is predictable and it alienates the moderate people you want to win over—due to the aesthetic presentation of the radical right as ethnocentric and masculine they will always look like the aggressors no matter what the actual facts are. Hence the “street march” is always a losing proposition—and some people in France and Britain realised that in the 1980s, and that’s why British radical right formations like the BNP abandoned marches altogether by the 1990s (their decision to do so coincided with their electoral success).

As noted before, Spencer made these unforced errors that trashed what was a vital retro movement that harked back to 80s pastel aesthetics with a masculine Robocop sensibility that felt fresh and new and turned it into “another skinhead street melee” (as we’ve seen a thousand times before, from the 1930s to the 1980s). At that point, everyone turned off—because they just thought “oh, it’s that thing—it was that thing all along; it’s skinheads with safety pins through their noses and tattoos that say ‘blood & honour’—no thanks!”.

Spencer made these errors because he’s a narcissistic guy who lives in a bubble. Hence things that were obvious to anticipate were obscure to him—he can only copy. Hence he tried to copy high-status Washington think-tanks, the result being “heil gate” at an event sponsored by his “think-tank”; and he also tried to copy the old rightist strategy of “street marches”. Neither strategy gels—it’s bow-ties and nerds in Washington or “blood & honour” tattoos and tiki torches, you can’t have both (and, in fact, neither will grant you power in contemporary America—or any Western country).

When these unforced errors were made, the alt-right deflated because it went from “mysterious, exciting, wave of the future” to “known quantity”—same old shit we’ve seen from mainstream politicians, from the radical right playing at mainstream think-tanker politics, and also the same old street marches and brawls with the left. The real battlefield was, of course, online—that’s where the excitement was (Pepe, vapourware aesthetics, Trump on Twitter); and a competent leader would have seen that and fought today’s war, rather than yesterday’s war (street brawls meant something in 1928; think-tanks meant something in 1982).

Of course, as with all such situations, what made Spencer a success was also what destroyed him. It was his narcissism that helped him to see how “alt-right”, like “alt-pop” or “alt-comix”, could be a going proposition and speak to a youthful rebellious sentiment in the West—hence he snapped up the domain; and it was his narcissism that let him play with “fashy” aesthetics to infuriate/tease the left.

Yet once he had a movement under him with real steam in it, he didn’t know where to take it or how to develop the energy—so he just fell back on what people had done before, even though that had demonstrably failed, because all he knew was how to copy high-status things; just like he flitched “alt-right” from “alt-comix” (from the hipsters, effectively).

“Okay, Napoleon, if you’re so smart, what would you have done?”. I’m not a Machiavellian, otherwise I wouldn’t run this website—I’m indiscreet and say what I think and feel, I’m not a politician (I’m not into image management). So I’m not a leader, I give too much away—I’m too crazy and impulsive and I also make myself vulnerable (a leader can’t do that, because people look to him to be strong in all circumstances). Yet I understand how to think in a Machiavellian way.

So I can tell what I would have done if I had been a Machiavellian in that situation: kept it online—that was where its strength was, “online” is reality today anyway. Even if you don’t know what to do to win, you know what it looks like to lose—so, at minimum, don’t do that (don’t break out the tiki torches, don’t hold the think-tank rally). If the alt-right was still online only, it would still exist and still exert a large psychic influence—being a perpetual nightmare for the left—and politics is ultimately about the psyche, just like sex.


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May 30, 2023

Meanwhile, those associated with NRx are busy trying to be Twitter famous and "redpill the normies." You'll see them regurgitating decade old Moldbug talking points to frustrated Trump loving boomers so they can grift their substacks, podcasts, or Gumroad subscriptions. This courting of the masses goes against the central idea of NRx, so they are all total frauds and hacks. I'm so annoyed by it all I just stopped using Twitter entirely. There is nobody worth "following."

May 31, 2023
Replying to

"...but if anyone were doing that wouldn't it be the people who created these ideas from the very start, those who we know are not doing that?"

No. Why on Earth would you expect that?! Let's look at one very obvious example- Marxism. Neither Karl Marx or Friedrich Engels ever did anything towards the practical imposition of change. Those who carried the torch never even corresponded with them, and made all sorts of amendments to the core ideology. Roman Catholicism is yet another example. Machiavelli, too.

It's not clear who you are referencing, but I'll take a guess: Thirty seconds of listening to Curtis Yarvin should make it perfectly clear that he was never going to lead anything…

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