Origins of the alt-right, Part 2: White supremacy is deeply enmeshed in our culture

We can't expel alt-right racists as heretics and renegades, when the yearnings they express are found everywhere

Published December 10, 2017 8:00AM (EST)

Loyal White Knights Grand Dragon Will Quigg shouts to protestors during a "White Pride" rally (AP/Mike Stewart)
Loyal White Knights Grand Dragon Will Quigg shouts to protestors during a "White Pride" rally (AP/Mike Stewart)

Read the first part of this essay here.

For Christian "dominionist" theology to take over our political system, it need not operate through explicitly religious-minded political leaders. Consider the case of Donald Trump. It can have interesting links with white supremacy -- at times coming close to it, at times maintaining a certain distance. Regardless, we cannot pretend this is a marginal movement, a heresy or a cult, and look toward censuring (or censoring) various forms of charismatic or outrageous political behavior when pragmatism (consider again the example of David Duke, as discussed in Part 1 of this article) might be the way to heaven on earth -- which is no longer even called as such by many.

In the same vein, the current alt-right does not feel the need to explicitly name the antichrist, as has historically been true of white supremacist movements. To refuse to accommodate to the modern era — as an alt-righter like Andrew Anglin or Richard Spencer does — by, for example, not accepting the melting pot or multiculturalism, is to elevate the crusade of hate to a very general level, almost to the point of plausible deniability.

This is an intelligent strategic move, as we can see from the discourse of Jared Taylor, who takes his cues from David Duke, or among many "alt-light" activists — such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Stefan Molyneux, Sargon of Akkad, etc. — who present themselves more in a “libertarian” vein. The Jew is not the antichrist (or at least they don’t often say so in public). To a large extent, neither is socialism, which was the case for many decades among American Dispensationalists and various premillennialists. Hyperpatriotism, operating according to hatred of Russia, has passed its sell-by date too.

What remains as the antichrist today is what occurs after the victory of neoliberalism and the end of the Cold War: The world peace that was the dream of the Enlightenment, derived from a global dispensation of universal tolerance; that is now the antichrist, and it is how we can understand all the fulminations of the Alex Jones conspiracy cabal against the “globalists.”

Contemporary culture is dangerous, according to the alt-righters, because it offers multiple avenues to seduce unsuspecting whites into modes of thinking that lead to the present manifestation of the antichrist. The alt-righter today is not a puritan; he never was. But he is concerned about the seduction offered by the antichrist, so modern culture must be his enemy No. 1. It's difficult to kick modern culture out the door, however, which is why the paradigmatic Aryan family of hate, cut off from American popular culture and living according to an unforgiving creed of intolerance and hatred, is so rare and hard to find. Again we would be mistaken if we look for evidence of this extremist American family, the most heretical of the heretics, for some understanding about the true strength of white supremacist sentiment.

It is here that online culture becomes important. We can see this in the presentation of leading alt-right sites such as The Right Stuff, or the YouTube productions offered through such media companies as Red Ice, but also in the more widespread, not specifically white supremacist-identified, online racist culture. Racist video games are a part of this, as are white power social networking sites. has long offered “Town Hall Talks” among its leaders and followers. Black metal music is another way for Aryan haters to feel connected.

Again, the false distinction between orthodox and heretic must be erased: So widespread is the culture of “hate” that this term has become meaningless, and more often than not signifies a descent into hatred of the crusader against hatred — namely, the liberal investigator and enforcer of the orthodoxy. The language, for example, that Aryan supremacists use these days to construct zones of virtual therapy for their aggrieved selves is derived mostly from the liberal legacy of identity politics.

The point is that hidden spaces and open spaces, rituals and parties, performance and symbol, spectacle and isolation, virtuality and reality, all have become confounded in an intermingled matrix where a larger philosophical truth unites both sides of the hate divide. If on either side we see the “white race,” either as liberal enforcer or heretical denier, then it is a game being played to no one’s advantage but the white race, regardless of the outcome of the so-called race war. In any case, is there such a thing as a race war going on today? Can we be so sure? Who is resisting, and what exactly is being resisted? Are we clear about the terms of resistance, and when will we know the resistance is successful?

Scholars like Theodore W. Allen have made landmark contributions to understanding the nature of the invention of the "white race." An important aspect that is often forgotten today is the class dimension in the emergence of race consciousness, which explains, for example, how white indentured servants could be set off against African-American slaves. We also know how different ethnic groups turned themselves into “whites” in order to fully participate in the capitalist order, as was the case with the Jews and the Irish — and will perhaps be the case one day for Mexicans and other Latino immigrants.

I would suggest, however, that the invention of the white race goes on relentlessly in the present, and it is just as apparent in the fabulous imaginaries of today’s alt-right as in the heralds of the liberal heaven-on-earth with its race dissolution (or what the capitalists like to call “color-blindness”). Both sides are historically invalid, historically illiterate, historically blind. To think about race, or white supremacy, makes us not want to think about class. To think about the advantages, real or imagined, accruing to the majority or minority because of race alone makes us not want to think about the mutinies we are failing to undertake.

Adolf Hitler, of course, is the great bugaboo for the liberal side of the crusaders; this is how we seek to “defeat” today’s alt-right, by raising the specter of Hitler at every opportunity. James M. Rhodes, in "The Hitler Movement: A Modern Millenarian Revolution" (1980), writes that the Hitlerites, following Hegel’s "The Phenomenology of Spirit," transferred the concept of a dialectical self "from the domain of spirit to that of psychology, [so that] a dialectical self can be further defined as an insecure person who fabricates pleasurable self-images and demands that other people support these pretentious self-descriptions with servile praise.”

To construct this worthy self, where subject and object are unified -- what one experiences as the self and what one sees in the world around it -- the Hitlerite, according to Rhodes, constructed these imaginaries: “the Cultural Redeemer, the White Knight, the Glorious, Sacrificial Hero, the Daredevil, the Self-Made Man, the Unsung, Sacrificial Hero, the Virtuous Person, [and] the Member of the Elite Group.” All of this leads to recognition — recognition perhaps denied in the economic sphere but reclaimed in the psychic sphere.

All these truths about the insecure Hitlerites, faced as they were by an unrelenting modernity, apply to the alt-rightists and Trumpists today as they seek to see themselves as heroes in their own world, and psychically and physically to purge the world of those (minorities and multiculturalists) opposed to their unity of self and object. But more important, every single one of these imagined fabulations applies to the side opposed to the alt-right today as well; in fact, such liberals explicitly consider themselves the cultural redeemers, allied against the deplorables. The same psychic apparatus — which seeks to avoid acknowledging the division between self and object — defines both groups. Once again, it is not possible to tell the heretic from the orthodox.

To elaborate this point further, we can think of Hillary Clinton as a “patriot-technocrat,” in the way Walter Laqueur, in "Black Hundred: The Rise of the Extreme Right in Russia" (1993), describes the post-perestroika Russian leader Sergei Kurginyan: “He proposed perestroika on the basis of a monastic-ascetic metareligion combining spiritual communism with Christianity (both fundamentalist and Teilhardian), Russian patriotism, anti-Westernism, Third Worldism, and generally speaking, the consolidation of all healthy forces in society.” (I think this is very close to Ben Klassen’s organicist view of the relationship between white racism and capitalism.)

With Hillary Clinton, we can substitute neoliberalism for perestroika, capitalism for communism, American for Russian, anti-fundamentalism for anti-Westernism and globalism for Third Worldism, and you may be very close to what she actually represents: A meta-religious concoction that cannot possibly defeat white supremacy, because it is white supremacy of a kind, laced in American garments, and no less true for that reason. I would say that the last 25 years of the Hillary wing of the Democratic party are as much an attempt to consolidate the forces of the right — and even the far right — as what we lately tremble at in the name of the alt-right.

The alt-right — as was true of Hitler and his movement, or lately the extreme right in Russia — is traditionally fond of the occult; the occult gives the leader the power to cleanse the body politic of the pests, the rats, the unclean ones who disrupt the imagination of purity that the elect are forever seeking to consolidate.

The alt-right has a tremendous fear of the “globalists” in control of all the data they need to manipulate every aspect of the white race’s existence, down to their most trivial consumer choices: Think of it as the Mark of the Beast manifesting in the supercomputer or the dream of artificial intelligence, which to the alt-right, beholden to old-fashioned patriarchy in their self-presentation, is the ultimate nightmare. Scientific capitalism, of the highly technocratic variety, becomes for the alt-right an occult force it must contend with, comprehend for the benefit of its followers and ultimately defeat.

The only form of occult power the alt-right can see itself in possession of, to defeat this other (globalist) occult force, is the image and power of the white race itself. Whiteness is its own occultism, in fact the highest form of occultism. Of course, the liberals fighting this occult whiteness — think of Ta-Nahesi Coates’ recent misguided article in the Atlantic — are the greatest builders of this white occultism, ascribing to it magical powers that even the alt-right might be ashamed to claim for it.

In an earlier time, in the 1930s, with the American Silver Shirts or the German American Bund, with Hitler’s example to serve as inspiration, the occult was not so easy to grasp. It has taken 80 years of conspiracist thinking, emanating from all parts of American popular culture, to dissolve the distinction between history and fantasy, truth and reality. Thus we have the millennial (and millennialist) mindset at last come to fruition in the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, which explains to me why the alt-right is the perfect vehicle for this end-time vision that so suits our psyches.

The more the dialectical self, as described earlier, is widespread or diffused among the population, the less need there is for a charismatic dispenser: Which is where we are today, because instead of a single white supremacist leader (a Father Coughlin or George Wallace or even Donald Trump), we have many individuals seeking to ward off doomsday coming through enslavement to one-world government, millions of small prophets instead of just one or a few.

Again, for the alt-right, what is the parasitic capitalist? Why are they not parasitic, by what decree or force do they claim true individualism, the work ethic, personal responsibility? How can they condemn all of popular culture (or certain aspects of it, as does Milo Yiannopoulos with his crusade against political correctness), and yet imagine that their adherents can remove themselves from its taint? How can revolution emanate from such mundanity? Is it the new romanticism? Is the alt-right the new mysticism?

It certainly doesn’t seem that way to me, despite alt-righters' undoubted aim to bridge or heal the divided self. The self, they think, will be sutured not by thirsting for absolute meaning, as was true of the Hitlerites, and perhaps not even via the resurrection of the complete Volk, but by conquering public opinion, by removing the monopoly of liberals on popular culture, by freeing the white slaves from the globalist masters. The anomaly that this is the game the globalist masters might be playing after all, and that alt-righters might not have any true agency in the end, doesn’t seem to have struck them; or perhaps it does, but it is the only way to approach the uninitiated.

I will conclude with the thought of two seminal white supremacists of the era before the rise of the alt-right, George Lincoln Rockwell of the American Nazi Party, and Francis Parker Yockey, author of "Imperium" (1948), a most influential text for American white supremacists.

Rockwell writes, in "White Power" (1967):

The White Race was once the policeman of the world, and the world was orderly. Compared to the bloody upheavals of today, it was also relatively peaceful.

Unless the White Race can find the leadership, the wisdom, and the will once again to police the world, the planet will continue in the grip of increasing chaos and terror, until the jungle reclaims the survivors hiding in caves and holes like frightened beasts.

Only a united White Race, supremely conscious of its natural destiny, a destiny bequeathed it in the gift of superior birth, as a master race, a noble race able to create the wonders of Western Culture — only such a united race can muster the will and the strength to restore order to a world in the process of suicide and disintegration.

This, in fact, is the worldview of Stephen Miller, Trump’s most important adviser, the 32-year-old unmitigated white supremacist who presumably authored Trump’s Warsaw speech along very similar lines. Consider the extreme insecurity, or masochism if you want to follow the Satanist Anton LaVey’s line of thinking, revealed in the above passage, and in Trump’s promise to “make America [i.e., white America] great again.”

But is there not, after all, a high romanticism to this same alt-right movement? Consider the words of Yockey, in "Imperium":

In the 20th century, when the Rationalist type of ideology had been discarded by the advancing Western Civilization, the American universalizing of ideology turned into messianism — the idea that America must save the world. The vehicle of the salvation is to be a materialistic religion with “democracy” taking the place of God, “Constitution” the place of the Church, “principles of government” the place of religious dogmas, and the idea of economic freedom the place of God’s Grace. The technic of salvation is to embrace the dollar, or failing that, to submit to American high-explosives and bayonets.

As usual, the cultic milieu is at war with the cult’s own foundations. It is impossible to tell the heretics from the puritans. The latter passage might well have come not just from a liberal globalist but from a high romanticist of the anti-globalization type today, Yet it comes from a foundational text of 20th-century white supremacy. We will not be able to easily push away the alt-righters as heretics and revolutionaries; they are not.

By Anis Shivani