Flat White

You keep talking about that “Alt-Right”. I do not think it means what you think it means

19 December 2016

7:20 AM

19 December 2016

7:20 AM

pepenaziIf the manifold half-truths strewn throughout Michael Davis’ apologium for the alt-right constitute an offense against objectivity, surely the derivative nature of his writing is a crime against originality. His article “Everything you wanted to know about the Alt-Right” is simply an ersatz regurgitation of an equally disingenuous column penned last March by Trump-aficionado Milo Yiannopolous.

But where Yiannopolous at least manages to deliver his farrago of falsehoods with a flash of panache, the Davis knock-off is a pedestrian exercise in truculent posturing and transparent prevarication. This aspiring enfant terrible of the alt-right is little more than an inferior peddler of second-hand and second-class intellectual knavery.

By way of example note Davis’ trifling portrayal of Richard Spencer, the self-avowed white nationalist who is a major player in alt-right circles. Spencer is unabashed about his yearning for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” that would purge non-whites (Jews-included) from the racially pristine North American commonwealth of his dreams.

A fortnight after Donald Trump’s victory at the polls, Spencer addressed a conference in Washington D.C. attended by several hundred fellow-travelling devotees of Caucasian purity. “America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” he fulminated from the podium. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance and it belongs to us.”

If those sentiments weren’t noxious enough, Spencer concluded his speech with a stem-winding peroration of “hail Trump; hail our people; hail victory!” His audience responded with a standing ovation and a ‘Nazican wave’ of Hitlergrußßen – those straight-armed salutes last seen at the Führerbunker in May 1945.

This then, is the “Richard Spencer thing” that Michael Davis derisorily depicts as nothing more than “tasteless jokes [that] prompted a few audience members to throw up Hitler salutes.” There’s no reason for concern, Davis loftily informs us, over “six pasty dorks in a DC hotel room getting carried away by a shock-gag”.

But there’s nothing flippant nor frivolous about the sincerity of Richard Spencer’s ideological agenda. And if the Jewish people have learned anything from the annals of the last century, it’s to take anti-Semites at their literal word. After all, the last time a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of Jews was seriously considered, the agenda began with Adolf Eichmann’s “Madagascar Plan” and ended at Treblinka.

All very interesting – I hear you say – but what does this neo-Nazi nastiness have to do with the alt-right? The answer to that query is found in the following passage from Milo Yiannopolous’ aforementioned article – “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right”:

The media empire of the modern-day alternative right coalesced around Richard Spencer during his editorship of Taki’s Magazine. In 2010, Spencer founded AlternativeRight.com, which would become a center of alt-right thought.

In other words, the intellectual godfather of the alt-right is an unabashed white nationalist who exhibits an abiding fondness for Hitlerean phraseology and race theory. And it’s this confluence with neo-Nazism that creates a real problem for Michael Davis, who admits to “milling about” Australian alt-right circles for years. Hence the rose-tinted portrayal of Richard Spencer that bowdlerises his Sieg Heiling propensities. And hence Davis’ pathetic attempt to convince all and sundry that alt-righters are “not nearly so bad as everyone makes them out to be.”

No, in actual fact they’re worse.

But it’s not only racial chauvinists of the cruder goose-stepping variety whom Michael Davis seeks to rehabilitate through sins of exculpatory omission. Turns out he’s also keen to deploy his obfuscation skills – such as they are – in aid of a more intellectually sophisticated class of bigot.

To this end, Davis assails establishment conservative icon William F. Buckley’s “disagreeable habit” of shunning ultra-rightwing voices like opinion columnist Joe Sobran. Never mind that Sobran got the sack from Buckley’s National Review magazine on account of his bizarre penchant for Holocaust-denial. A typical Sobran column, entitled “For Fear of the Jews”, heaped praise upon the Institute for Historical Review, a conclave of Nazi apologists who preach that: “alleged homicidal ‘gas chambers’ are nothing but a tall story of wartime”.

And what of those historians and Holocaust survivors who’ve attested to the factual truth of Hitler’s campaign to extirpate European Jewry? In the world according to Joe Sobran they should be written off as “raving, hate-filled fanatics.” Takes one to know one.

Yet none of this sordidness rates a mention in Michael Davis’ sanitised account of Sobran’s ideological “excommunication” from mainstream conservatism. And like some sort of wannabe intellectual Johnny Strabler, Davis appears to derive puerile pleasure from the ‘thumb in your eye’ recklessness of the alt-right’s rage against the conservative machine:

Each of the above heretics [Sobran, et al] carried on with their career and built a new retinue of followers who had no desire to join the Conservative Movement.

To which I reply: don’t let the door smack your ass on the way out.

The alt-right assumes all the wrong positions for some of the right reasons, most notably in opposition to Leftist politics of identity and minority group grievance that tarnish our public discourse.

Our media, universities and – increasingly – our private business sector abound with self-righteous declarations of war against the chimera of ‘white privilege’ and ‘institutional racism’. Our children are taught that people should be regarded, not as individuals, but as members of racial, ethnic or gender collectives. Persons of Caucasian ancestry born in the 21st century are told they bear inexpungible guilt for sins committed by Jim Crow segregationists and Confederate slaveholders. And those who dare dissent from these progressive dogmata are tarred all the various “isms” that the Left routinely wields as polemical cudgels to bludgeon errant souls into compliance with the diktats of political correctness.

Meanwhile, the world as we know is being radically reshaped by the decline of a welfare state system being driven to collapse by its internal contradictions. This is not the place for a lengthy disquisition on the causes and consequences of an entitlement culture in which politicians purchase popularity by signing cheques their national balance sheets can’t cash. Suffice it to say that decade-upon-decade of fiscal profligacy has yielded a bitter harvest of sustained economic lethargy.

And just as the political establishment has proved impotent in arresting this slide into fiscal ruination, parties of the centre-Left and centre-Right have also been utterly inept at addressing its social consequences. From Washington, through Westminster and on to Canberra, governments have failed to demonstrate the intestinal fortitude requisite for decisive remedial action. Instead, all we get is more of the same feckless Keynesian policies that exacerbate the problem rather than resolve it. This failure of will has generated widespread popular disaffection, triggering centrifugal pressures that have hollowed the political centre while fuelling the growth of extremism at both ends of the spectrum.

A virtuous response to this autopeotomy of the centre-Right would mandate a return to modern conservatism’s first principles. These include renewed fidelity to the proposition that the individual liberty enjoys a rebuttable presumption of primacy over coercive state power. They also entail a Macaulay-esque rebirth of confidence in the moral foundations of an English common law democracy that includes a willingness to defend our civilisation against those who seek its destruction.

But the denizens of the alt-right have chosen a path that is insidious by virtue of being invidious. After years of copping Leftist abuse for guilt-by-racial-association, they’ve moved to beat progressives at their own game by counterpoising white nationalism against Black Lives Matter. Alt-righters have thus followed the pied piper of racial animus through the ideological looking glass into a house of mirrors that’s transformed them into a doppelgänger of what they so ardently detest.

There’s no difference in practical substance or moral principle between the Black separatism of Louis Farrakhan and Richard Spencer’s plans to establish “an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans”. At the end of the day they’re both pushing mirror-image versions of the same totalitarian agenda that – when stripped of euphemism – is a recipe for race war.

So when Michael Davis petulantly announces a disassociation of the alt-right from conservatism, he couldn’t be more spot-on. The only apposite rejoinder is adapted from that classic 1961 single by Ray Charles and Margie Hendricks – hit the road, Mike, and don’tcha come back no more.

Ted Lapkin served as a ministerial advisor in the Abbott Government.


Illustration: Flickr

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