(Op-ed) By Jack Neison
Morality is a subjective preference; still, if one is to reach their preferred objectives or ends, then certain means to those ends are more rational than others. For instance, if my goal is to become a professional writer, then the rational means to this end would be writing regularly and seeking publication, either through a publisher or by way of self-publishing. If I never write and instead spend all of my time playing video games, then it is irrational for me to expect to become a professional writer. If I write but never seek publication, then the same conclusion can be drawn. The same principle applies to political goals. If I have a sociopolitical goal in mind, then there are going to be rational and irrational means to these ends. If one’s goal is to establish a coherent sociopolitical theory, then one of his primary goals likely should be to make his means and his ends consistent.
In today’s political environment, there are two fringe groups that seem to be making quite a few headlines, not because either has established any sort of coherent sociopolitical theory, but actually because of the opposite. These two groups are antifa (“anti-fascist action”) and the alt-right (“alternative right”). These two groups are violently opposed to one another, yet their actions seem to indicate that they are actually mirror images of each other, with the one being necessary for the existence of the other, and vice versa.
The “alt-right” is a rather big tent, but there certainly are people underneath that big tent who could easily be described (or self-identify) as fascist, neo-nazi, white nationalist, etc. “Antifa” is also a rather big tent, but there are certainly people underneath that big tent who could easily be described (or self-identify) as Marxist-Leninists, Maoists, critical theorists, etc. The purpose of this essay is not to discuss the beliefs of anti-establishment conservatives or paleoconservatives, III%ers, “patriots,” right-libertarians, progressive liberals, social democrats, anarcho-communists, or anarcho-syndicalists, but to provide these particular groups with an appeal to reason that might persuade them to be a bit more discriminatory regarding the company they choose to keep. In the aftermath of the chaos that occurred in Charlottesville, VA recently, it seems apparent to me that the media wants all of us to choose a side here, even if no reasonable individual is likely to wantto ally themselves with the more fringe elements of these two sides. To be sure, the “liberal elite” within the media are pushing this divide and conquer strategy which will ultimately do nothing but eliminate reasonable people from public discourse, but I also see an issue here with unholy alliances that otherwise reasonable people have made that will ultimately render them zero benefit. As hyperbolic as it may sound, I firmly believe that should the human species continue to thrive, or even survive, one of the reasons will be because we successfully kept both the alt-right and antifa from ever achieving any sort of political power.
First, it must be understood that the fringe elements of either group carry with them some easily refutable beliefs. The “race realists” on the alt-right, for instance, tend to use statistics regarding average IQ differences between races and crime rates in order to draw white nationalist, or even national socialist, conclusions. The left, meanwhile, generally disregards these factsrather than facing them head on and debunking the conclusions drawn from them based upon the data that is available. This is, in my opinion, a horrible mistake by the left, as it inadvertently provides justification for the conclusions drawn by the “race realist.” What the left should be doing, in my opinion, is accepting these average statistics regarding crime and IQ as the statistical facts that they are, then questioning why these statistics are what they are, and challenging the non sequitur conclusions that the “race realists” draw. I have my own criticisms of “race realism” that I consider to be adequate for debunking the nonsensical conclusions of the “race realists,” but I will leave those criticisms for another essay entirely. My only point here is that it would serve the left far better to use the facts as the “race realists” present them in order to debunk their idiotic conclusions rather than simply rejecting them based upon emotion. The emotional rejection of these facts will simply lead the “race realist” to state, “Oh, so you think facts are racist,” then strut off as if he is some sort of master debater without ever having his idiotic world view challenged. In my opinion, this is precisely the way in which the authoritarian left has thrown fuel on the fire that is the alt-right.
Furthermore, it would also serve the left’s cause much more to actually engage in these discussions and debates instead of simply brushing people off with pejoratives like “racist.” Probably the best way in which one can illustrate this to himself is to put himself in the shoes of a more reasonableconservative. If I were to put forth an argument for conservative politics that was completely indifferent towards race and had nothing to do with the political ideology of fascism, yet still be labeled a “racist” or a “fascist” by those who disagree with me, then I am far more likely to show sympathies towards actual racists and actual fascists, as I know that I will be labeled as such simply for disagreeing with leftist talking points. Labeling someone an extremist simply for having views that are slightly to the right of yours does nothing to fight extremism; instead, it makes the extremism in question far more prevalent. In this manner, the fanatics on the left have done quite a bit to provide justification for the alt-right, and considering that the views of the alt-right certainly fail to justify themselves, this is a serious problem.
The same criticism can be made of the alt-right, of course. When someone incorrectly labels you a “racist,” what good does it do to confirm their assumptions by acting in a racist manner or saying blatantly racist things? While it is certainly true that many on the left speak from an overly-emotional state of mind that can often be quite comedic as leftists are often parodies of themselves, it would serve the more reasonable right-wingers well to actually explain why their positions aren’t racist or fascist rather than simply going with it for the sake of “triggering” the “leftist snowflakes.” Acting in an openly racist manner will do nothing but attract violent opposition to your cause.
The bottom line for either side here is that, if peaceful understanding is truly your goal, then calm, rational, open discourse is the most reasonable means to meet your objective. Being overly-confrontational, or edgy for the sake of edge, does little to help your cause. Neither does baiting people into violent actions against you. Neither does using hyperbolic pejoratives in order to dismiss someone else’s views, or attempting to deplatform your political opponents at venues to which they have been invited. Finally, acting violently towards your political opponents simply because they are your political opponents a good way to lose the sympathy of people who might otherwise be sympathetic to your cause. Simply put, the extremist elements of both antifa and the alt-right have practiced these sorts of tactics, and so the reasonable man is stuck in the middle hoping that they’d just kill each other off instead of either achieving any sort of political power.
As an individualist anarchist, I have seen both sides of this coin. Even to the right-libertarian who associates with the alt-right, I’m degenerate commie scum. Even to the anarcho-communist who associates with antifa, I’m a neo-nazi. How I managed to become both a neo-nazi and a commie, I’m not sure, but I assume it must have taken some careful planning on my part; I just wish I could remember coming up with such a careful plan.
I don’t think the problem here is that there are no reasonable people associated with either group, but that those otherwise reasonable people have surrounded themselves with extremists, and so they are quite likely to be pushed to the extreme themselves. Because I did spend quite some time associating with right-libertarians due to my individualist inclinations, I can see a couple of examples of this push to extremism. Christopher Cantwell, for instance, while always having anger and substance abuse issues, was once a relatively reasonable individual who I wouldn’t have considered a racist. In fact, there were many times in the past in which he worked directly with, and got along with, black libertarians. One could easily argue that his racism existed prior to his move towards white nationalism, and that certainly could be the case, but his open calls for a white ethnostate never occurred until his push to the extreme right. As someone who, for a time, did follow the guy relatively closely, I can say with confidence that his push to the extreme right was two-fold: first, it was his disgust with the progressive agenda and the tactics they used (which I generally also find disgusting); second, it was his rage towards the left and their shitty tactics that led him to surround himself with actual right-wing extremists, and those extremists pushed them further towards their cause. (footnote: Interestingly, in a recent interview with Karen Straughan, which happened to be his last public statements before turning himself into police, Cantwell claimed that he wished “someone would give me a reasonable argument so I could be an egalitarian, but no one ever has.” The hypocrisy of this statement is brilliant, as Cantwell has been known to block anyone who disagrees with him on social media since well before he began associating himself with the alt-right. In my opinion, the man is simply a thin-skinned pseud-celebrity who wants a paying audience who will live in his echo chamber with him; I really don’t think he’s interested in having his ideas criticized.)
Richard Spencer was once a Ron Paul supporter, and while I have many disagreements with Paul, I do not consider him to be a right-wing extremist or a white nationalist, even if he has a history of associating with people he probably shouldn’t associate with. The questionable associations of Ron Paul are generally the same questionable associations of Murray Rothbard, which makes sense from a contextual historical analysis of either man. Still, I usually do my best to refrain from accusing anyone of being guilty by association, as I would prefer to criticize the words and actions of the individual himself rather than claiming he’s guilty based upon the words and actions of those he’s associated with. Considering that Paul has been open about his criticisms of Trump and the alt-right, I refuse to label him as an alt-right hero, even if there are certain alt-righties who do consider him to be one. Spencer, when associated with Paul back in 2007, was more of your run of the mill right-libertarian than he was anything resembling what he has become today.
The respective cases of Cantwell and Spencer do beg the question: does right-libertarianism naturally lead to the more extremist views of the alt-right? I think the answer is ultimately dependent upon the individual in question; however, the answer is a resounding yes in many cases, and this fact is rooted in the paleolibertarianism of Rothbard and Lew Rockwell. In the early 1990s, both Rothbard and Rockwell were very open about the alliances they were seeking to make with southern racist groups, and considering that these are two of the most respected thinkers in the history of the anarcho-capitalist ideology, this alliance that they purposely sought out should not simply be brushed off as unimportant. When speaking with anarcho-capitalists who are not racists and have no sympathies for white nationalism or fascism, I usually make it a point to express these facts and warn against strange bedfellows and deadly alliances. As I’ve argued in other essays, paleolibertarianism has done far more to harm the modern libertarian movement than it has done to help it, even if numbers did grow as a result of it (and we don’t know the latter to be the case, anyway; it’s likely that paleolibertarianism brought plenty of right-wing racist types under the big libertarian tent, but in doing so it also alienated left-libertarians who want to have nothing to do with such associations).
While the right-libertarian alliance with the alt-right is one thing, the left-libertarian alliance with antifa is…basically the same thing. The primary difference between the two is the fact that the libertarian left and authoritarian left have a much longer history than the libertarian right and authoritarian right, as the “libertarian right” didn’t exist until the 1950s, whereas the “libertarian left” has existed as long as “left” and “right” have been used as political descriptors. In my opinion, a self-proclaimed anarchist who allies himself with a Maoist is probably dumber than a self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist who allies himself with fascists. Granted, they’re both insanely stupid, as both the authoritarian left and the authoritarian right would sooner have you put to death than even listen to your arguments for dismantling the state monopoly; however, left-libertarians actually have political and social history to prove this to be the case. Anarcho-communists, anarcho-collectivists, and anarcho-syndicalists played very important roles in the Russian Revolution, as they were all direct promoters of worker ownership. After they helped the Bolsheviks achieve political power during the Revolution, the Bolsheviks paid them for their revolutionary services by either sentencing them to death or sending them to the Gulags. Furthermore, the Soviets acted as turncoats during the Spanish Revolution, and played a hellish role in destroying the only real functioning anarchist society that we have seen in modern times. As an anarchist, the only reason I can see for allying myself with Marxist-Leninists, Maoists, and progressive liberals would require that I have no understanding of the history of anarchism. Rather than being sympathetic thinkers who care for the working class and want to help them, these are actually opportunists who see the plight of the working class as a means by which they can, and will, grab state power and always refuse to relinquish it. Anarchist history, with all of its nuance, considered, these authoritarian leftist probably ought to be trusted less thanany neoreactionary. Generally speaking, neoreactionaries are dimwitted useful idiots, and so they’re easily disposed of intellectually. The authoritarian left, on the other hand, are master manipulators who are very adept at convincing other people to do their bidding for them, and very recent European history has proven this.
Should one be feared more than the other? Probably. Because of their ability to manipulate well-meaning individuals, I fear the authoritarian left more than I fear the authoritarian right. Is one more dangerous than the other? I suppose that depends upon individual circumstance. In a one-on-one fist fight, I’d prefer to take on an antifa than a person associated with the alt-right, as those associated with antifa don’t seem to know the basic physics behind throwing a solid punch. Should we fear one gaining political power over another? No. Should either take political power, it will be a threat to the well-being of humanity as a whole, therefore both should be opposed by anyone who wants humanity to thrive. Both base their ideologies upon the shaky foundation of identity (which is not static), and both are more than willing to use violence to meet their “peaceful” ends. This clash before us is simply one wannabe tyrant attacking another wannabe tyrant, and I have zero respect for either. Frankly, if humans want peace and equality, then they need to stop acting like tyrants towards one another.