Trying to Make Sense Out of the Alt-Right

“It’s not a coherent intellectual movement, but simply a refuge from the endless assault on ordinary people, who see their traditions, their customs, their ancestors, and their progeny being ground up in the meat grinder of technocratic managerialism. The alt-right is not offering anything but shelter from the storm – for now.” Cold Fury

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By Tom Pauken l September 12, 2016

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They are generally young white males. Media savvy, they have effectively used the Internet to challenge the elites of the cultural Left and the establishment Right, which they call “Conservatism, Inc.” As a recent article in the Washington Post by Caitlin Dewey noted, “There isn’t a cohesive or overreaching philosophy here … There’s an overwhelming frustration with concepts like feminism, multi-culturism, political correctness and (especially) white guilt/privilege.” In particular, they are fed up with what they perceive to be a prejudice against white straight males in academia, the mass media, the Hollywood culture, and even corporate America.

And, they have found a champion in their opposition to political correctness in the person of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Many of them have become unabashed Trump supporters.

A few weeks ago, most Americans had never even heard of the term “alt-right,” until Hillary Clinton attacked them in a campaign speech by calling them all “racists.” As one who has been around the political world for most of my adult life, my immediate reaction was that the Clinton campaign had targeted the alt-right in order to smear Steve Bannon, who had recently been named Donald Trump’s Campaign Chairman. Bannon has been the CEO of Breitbart, a pro-Trump conservative website known to be friendly to many writers who identify with the alt-right.

In any event, Hillary put the alt-right on the map. As a longtime traditional conservative, I was vaguely familiar with the term; but I didn’t realize that the alt-right had such a major presence on social media. I also discovered that the neo-conservatives, who were a prime force behind the “never Trump” movement didn’t like the alt-right bunch any more than they liked Trump. In fact, neo-conservative hitman Matthew Continetti, Bill Kristol’s son-in-law, wrote a lengthy diatribe in Commentary magazine accusing them all of being “racists” and “anti-Semites.” The article was entitled, “The Coming Conservative Dark Age.”

While some like Hillary Clinton and the neo-conservatives define the alt-right as just a bunch of racists, others like Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post see it as an “insurgent, Internet-born identity movement” composed of many different groups but hard to define. Conservative journalist F.H. Buckley makes a similar point in the American Spectator, “A few seem to be racists, most decidedly not…. they are nationalists.”

The self-identified alt-righters align themselves with Donald Trump on a number of issues. They oppose the endless wars in the Middle East, seek to end Muslim immigration to the U.S., demand that we get control of our borders, have no love lost for Wall Street and globalism, and want to preserve our cultural identity as a people.

One alt-right activist, who goes by the moniker “Cold Fury,” puts it this way: “It’s not a coherent intellectual movement, but simply a refuge from the endless assault on ordinary people, who see their traditions, their customs, their ancestors, and their progeny being ground up in the meat grinder of technocratic managerialism. The alt-right is not offering anything but shelter from the storm – for now.”

The young man’s reference to being ground up “in the meat grinder of technocratic managerialism” sounds like it could have been written by the late James Burnham, a senior editor of National Review and, the author of The Managerial Revolution and Suicide of the West (both books are relevant to the crisis the West faces today). Or, it sounds like something Sam Francis might have said. Francis was a conservative writer who much admired the views of James Burnham. In fact, in another article in the Washington Post entitled, “A Primer on the Alt-Right” by Dave Weigel, it lists the late Sam Francis as one of the most influential figures that inspired the alt-right movement. Francis was on the editorial staff of the Washington Times until he was fired in 1995 at the instigation of a neo-conservative clique.

Former Reagan official Paul Craig Roberts came to Francis’ defense but it was to no avail. Roberts wrote at the time: “In typical Beltway conservative fashion, the Washington Times management fell all over itself to placate the outrage of critics who are the mortal enemies of real conservatism by throwing Sam to the wolves – for daring to speak his piece and (worse) for daring to espouse authentic conservative views, which it was clear were becoming heretical. Of course, they didn’t put it that way. What they did say was that Sam was ‘insensitive’ and (no surprise) ‘racist.’”

Speaking of Francis and his firing by the Washington Times, Dave Weigel of the Washington Post wrote, “Subsequently he (Sam Francis) became a sort of martyr for nationalist writers and thinkers. Throughout his career, he argued that cultural liberalism was not as popular or inevitable as its promoters claim.” Sam Francis finished out his career as a regular columnist for Chronicles, a paleo-conservative magazine.

Yes, there are those on the alt-right who are “white supremacists,” but Sam Francis himself was not. As he pointedly said when accused of being a “racist,” “I don’t believe that one race is better than another.”

Europe is in the process of committing civilizational suicide. The U.S. will soon follow, if we don’t change course. The title of James Burnham’s book, Suicide of the West is an apt description of what is taking place in America today, and will become even more pronounced if Hillary Clinton is elected in November.

The Establishment Right – which the alt-right calls “Conservatism, Inc.” – has been run by the neo-conservatives and corporate liberals like Karl Rove since Reagan left the scene. To the alt-right (and to many of us who call ourselves traditionalist conservatives), that hive of faux conservatives has “nothing to offer” after 25 years of failure to stop the cultural left.

It is time to put America first and build a new conservative coalition of serious people to take on the cultural left. Hopefully many on the alt-right will be part of that effort.


Tom Pauken served on President Reagan’s White House staff and was Director of the Action agency in the Reagan Administration.

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