Other than affinity towards their “tribe” (as they call it), the alt-right can be be categorized by what they are against: multiculturalism, feminism, immigration and political correctness…especially political correctness. It is this latter characteristic that defines their infantile rants and behaviors.
In effect, they are nothing more than childish Internet pranksters who like to throw rhetorical Molotov cocktails and hide behind the anonymity of cyberspace. They are the 400-pound shut-in sitting with a laptop in their basement believing they are at the vanguard of some new intellectual movement in conservatism. Some of their leaders dress up their language more reminiscent of those they abhor- the intelligentsia that occupies academia. In order to justify their behaviors, they have to “intellectualize” their rhetoric.
They actually stand opposed to true conservatism and represent a cyber-populism because they live in a bubble of virtual reality. Their home is not in academia or politics where the real power is to which they aspire, but in the fake reality of the echo chambers of websites, blogs, chat rooms and message boards. They are likely the ones who honestly believe they lost a “friend” because they were “unfriended” on Facebook.
True conservatism is an appeal to the aspirations of our Founders, not destroying the political order and remaking it in their perverted image of xenophobia and racism. True conservatism believes that individuals possess the right to life, liberty and property and freedom from the restrictions of arbitrary force. This means freedom of oppression from the government. Yet, the alt-right views these Enlightenment thoughts as quaint and unrealistic. To the extent they rarely endorse these ideas, they are bastardized to their own designs. They, in fact, love the authoritarian leader.
Part and parcel of true conservatism is an emphasis on tradition and order and the rule of law. The alt-right cannot violate the law in the real world, so they do it in the fake world of the Internet. In their infantile manner, they find gleeful satisfaction in using the N-word in their chat rooms, but lack the balls to say so in an African-American community. They can dally in anti-Semitic rhetoric provided there are no Jews within earshot. In effect, they are cowards. At least the KKK and the Nazi Party held rallies and said these things in public…that is, the real world.
Unlike true conservatives, the alt-right is actually anti-Christian. They may support Christendom because it united the European continent, but certainly not Christianity. Ask any “leader” on the alt-right and most will describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or “lapsed Christian.” Some even describe themselves as “pagan.”
In searching the roots of the movement, it was until this year an underground movement of isolationism and gathered more adherents in response to the invasion of Iraq. They are also suspicious of free trade deals and believe that big business interests often conflict with higher ideals. Unfortunately, those “higher ideals” extend no further than a racially homogeneous society.
Their’s is a pseudo-intellectualism that borders on the infantile. They are like the child who instinctively pulls away when presented with new food. They are like the brat who doubles down on their bad behavior when a parent tries to correct it. They claim to base their ideology in “radical realism.” Everything is questioned from the perspective of whether it is true or not. Often that translates into, “It’s all a bunch of bullshit.” Hence, even objective fact becomes “bullshit.”
They’ve adopted the language of sociologists and describe all interactions as those between “in-groups” and “out-groups” and the struggle for dominance. Politics is the struggle for dominance between the groups. And in order to achieve and maintain dominance, they resort to Nietzsche’s “will to power.”
To the extent that they do profess some unifying ideology (other than racial homogeneity), they illustrate vividly that they are an anti-intellectual movement within conservative circles. They appeal to the heart, not the mind. Perhaps they know that and it is the reason they seek to destroy, or in terms Nietzsche would approve, “destroy all idols.” It is also why they resort to infantile, reactionary methods.
Take the case of the attacks on free speech on college campuses. To the intellectual conservative, we would rather explain that free speech is for all, not just those with whom we may agree all the time, or that which is “acceptable” to the gatekeepers. College campuses are supposed to be bastions of free speech, as is politics, and some may not like what they hear, but that in no way means the speaker should be stifled. It is an intellectual argument based upon our founding principles. To the alt-right, the solution is the more childish- take a dump on the subject and yell fire in a crowded theater. Mischief is their method.
And to show how stupid they are, they concentrate on the trivial. It was conspiracy theory enabling websites like Breitbart that pedaled in birtherism and now Hillary Clinton “healtherism” while ignoring the vastly more important reasons to reject Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton. But, those other reasons appeal to the intellect, not the heart.
Additionally, the alt-right has proven themselves to be terrible in the real world of politics other than Trump. Their shortfalls are explained away as being a rigged system and the only way to get rid of a rigged system is not through reform, but through it’s destruction. Think of all the politicians the alt-right has taken down and the list is not long. Look at the list of politicians the alt-right has endorsed or supported and it is not long. If he wasn’t so damn scary, Trump would be a laughing stock.
Their movement is not even new. If we accept their poster boy’s definition- that of Steve Bannon- of the alt-right, it is just a retread of Pat Buchanan’s anti-free trade, anti-immigration, anti-foreign policy screeds of the past. How 1992 of them!! It is paleoconservatism, but they wouldn’t know what the term means. In the end, the description offered up by Milo Yiannopoulos says it best:
Young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies, they have become public enemy No. 1 to Beltway conservatives…. The alt-right has a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.
In other words, mischief for the sake of mischief directly from the mouth of one of the alt-right’s babies. And they have no power other than that which exists at their fingertips and the click of a mouse. For this, they receive attention and speeches about them from the likes of Clinton which only drew more attention to an attention-seeking child.
In fact, they are a growing band of Internet sycophants. They attempt to overthrow conservatism to replace it with a fantasy and then dare to say that their beliefs are rooted in “radical realism?” They cannot even distinguish reality from fantasy.
Conservatism and the Republican Party have confronted nonsense like this before. Conservatism is the first target of the alt-right and contains a who’s who of those purged and their progeny by William F. Buckley in the past. The problem today is that we do not have anyone with the intellectual stature or the stamina of a Buckley to lead the purge. The alt-right actually rejects a central tenet of American conservatism: our exceptionalism. They do not view America as an ideal or as being founded on an idea, but by a people…a white people. True conservatism does not see individuals as “tribes,” but each person with inherent worth equally worthy of realizing the American dream. The alt-right is the antithesis of this because in their fantasy, it is just not “real.” To them, this is a “blood and soil” country, just like every other country, not an idea country.
Just as Buckley realized that the John Birch Society and it’s followers were being used by the American Left to paint conservatives, the same thing is happening now with respect to the alt-right. That is, they are tarnishing conservatism to further their own misguided agenda, whatever that is.
The solution is threefold. First, there must be relentless education that reminds the media that the alt-right is actually an anti-conservative phenomena. That means entering Leftist websites and countering their painting of conservatism by the alt-right.
Second, to deal with children, sometimes you have to get on one knee to talk to them. Entering the world of the alt-right- the Internet-, reverse trolling is a good tactic. Use their tactics against them. For example, one of their websites actually had rules for trolls: comment only in the most popular comment threads, only respond twice and move on, etc. A well-placed comment extolling the virtues of Jeb Bush, Eric Cantor or John Boehner will keep them busy for days. In fact, inundate them with articles about how great Boehner is and see where it leads. Use links and articles to prove your point. But, don’t expect instant results. These children have been at it longer and will just shut you down if you overplay your hand. Remember- you want to return and return again and again to have an impact. Eventually, they’ll implode in an Internet temper tantrum which is what you want.
Third, on a whole other level, they must be marginalized. While confronting them in their world, ignore them when they come into our world. They love the publicity and the notoriety. Remind them that when they do break through, they are now “establishment.” What better way to fight the “anti-establishment” than labeling them “establishment?” To the alt-right, that is the ultimate insult. Then perhaps they will remain the insignificant force they were before 2016 and return to the fake world of inside jokes and frog-based memes.