Some Observations From the Man Who Created Alt-Right
An intellectual movement that Democrats want to use to smear Breitbart and Trump.
Editor’s note: Frontpage’s recent article by Matthew Vadum, The Alt-Right is Coming! Hillary Shrieks, exposed the dishonest nature of Hillary’s and the Left’s slanderous attacks on Trump, Breitbart and the “Alt-Right,” revealing that the situation is far more complicated than their smear campaign would suggest. For instance, Clinton and leftists blame individuals such Richard Spencer for the Alt-Right, but it was Dr. Paul Gottfried, Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, who actually invented the term for the movement. Below we are publishing Gottfried’s account of the narrative to help clarify matters for our readers.
Last week I was reminded by a call from Associated Press that I had invented the term “Alternative Right.” When I asked about how I had accomplished that, the woman on the other end of the phone referred to a speech I had given in November 2008 in which I urged the creation of an “Alternative Right.” The same caller said that I was considered the “godfather” of what had become Altright, something that the Democratic presidential candidate would be denouncing later in the week. Thereupon I tried to explain in what modest ways I may have inspired the movement that Hillary was about to go after (namely, in a quadrennial ritual in presidential races in which the Democratic candidate accuses her GOP rival of being the second coming of Adolf Hitler).
I pointed out that Altright authors, some of whom I knew, shared my revulsion for the neoconservatives and deplored their influence on the American Right. I also noted that Altright publicists believed that modern liberal democracies had become dangerously fixated on promoting equality; and I’ve made this observation repeatedly in my books. Finally, as someone who had published entire works on the European Right in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (and most recently a book on the career of fascism as a concept), I had provided the Altright with food for thought. This was the case, even if the writers in question didn’t bother to look at my qualifying phrases.
Except for being a very occasional contributor to vdare.com, I am not exactly part of the Altright stable of writers. Recently I expressed interest in an email in writing for Breitbart, which is rumored to have some connection to Altright. Alas, I may have to wait until Hell freezes over before hearing from this website. More importantly, I couldn’t recall until a few days ago that I had spoken to fifty attendants at the H.L. Mencken Club eight years ago on the subject of the “Alternative Right.” I am president of the Mencken Club, and in November 2008 gave an inaugural address, in which I called for an “Alternative Right” to combat the high degree of neoconservative control over the intellectual Right.
This speech may have been a rousing affair, but until someone in the national news service retrieved it a few weeks ago, I had forgotten about my oration. Although I still support the project mentioned in that speech, I’ve never had the means to bring it about. Indeed, I’ve been largely marginalized by both the entire Left and most of the Right since the late 1980s. My works (perhaps we should look at the bright side) do get read but mostly in translation in Poland, Russia, Romania and other Eastern European countries. To link me to the Altright may be more of a stretch than the person from AP was aware of.
When she asked me whether I belonged to the Altright, I denied it. The reason was certainly not that I feared that an affirmative answer would cost me my standing as a political theorist or journalist. I have no high status to lose and am now too old to acquire one. The plain truth is I don’t have much association beyond a genealogical one and my friendship with some of its contributors to the present Altright. Some of what I see on its websites closely coincide with my views. And (no I won’t hide this) I am ideologically closer to Altright commentators than I am to the Never-Trumpers or to the contributors to most establishment Republican websites. Jared Taylor, Peter Brimelow, Steve Sailer and John Derbyshire are all brilliant thinkers and writers, and I wouldn’t deny that I’ve benefited from their luminous insight. Next to them, such conservative intellectuals (by current media standards) as Max Boot, Rich Lowry, the perpetually pouting Ben Shapiro and Jonah Goldberg read like community college drop-outs.
Let me go further. At their best, Altright commentators offer a welcome contrast to what Peter Brimelow styles “conservatism, inc.” They are a breath of fresh air for anyone like me who occasionally forces himself to look at the centrist bilge, ostentatious beating up on Confederate symbols and the shilling for multinational corporations that I encounter on the respectable (non-right) Right. I need hardly add that next to the Never Trump crew laboring directly or indirectly to elect “crooked Hillary” as our next president, my Altright acquaintances are exemplary defenders of the American republic. And here I won’t bother to draw already meaningless distinctions between those neocons and establishment Republicans who, like Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Brent Scowcroft and Richard Armitage, are working actively for Hillary’s election and those who like Bill Kristol, Guy Benson and Eric Erickson are energetically sliming Trump whenever they can create the occasion. The two groups are hoping to produce the same results. As someone who despises his pretensions, I read with revulsion Max’s ingratiating comment to his leftist buddies: “I am literally losing sleep over Donald Trump. She would be preferable to Trump.” I trust that Max will be suffering insomnia big-time for the next eight years.
Unfortunately there is this hitch among representatives of Altright. At least some of them show tasteless prankishness and a tendency to say outrageous things just to shock. I told AP that there are “moderates” on Altright; and they are the ones who construct the convincing arguments. Unfortunately our leftist (indeed Cultural Marxist) media are more interested in embarrassing the entire Right by quoting the nuttiest remarks made by those identified with the Altright than they are in noticing inconvenient truths. And it’s obvious to me that statements that come out of Altright, intended to unsettle blacks, Hispanics, and Jews (but kindly note never the gay lobby), are counterproductive. They do nothing to enhance the credibility of this oppositional force. For full disclosure: I know well perhaps the most controversial member of this group, Richard Spencer, and once enjoyed a close personal relation with him. Richard has a charismatic presence, in contrast to the nebbishes for Hillary; and he possesses the self-confidence of a genuine leader. I fully share his contemptuous attitude toward multicultural totalitarianism, and unlike conservatism inc. Richard is fearless in going after our self-appointed thought censors. But I wish Richard would think more often before he blurts out reckless indiscretions. Shocking one’s listener has its limits, certainly in terms of traditional standards of taste. There is merit in what the Delphic Oracle taught: “Nothing in excess.”
Admittedly black race hustlers and feminists say far more horrible things than Richard, and they get away with them. But the first thing that a serious Right must learn is that it’s not competing on a level playing field. What Trump describes as the “lying, crooked” media have been fixing the field to their advantage for decades. The clients of the multicultural Left can hurl obscenities at white people and burn America flags and have their misdeeds hidden or excused. The other side, very broadly understood, will be tarred with charges of bigotry, no matter how obsequiously it “reaches out.” This unfortunately is the way things are, and those in Altright with loose tongues who enjoy shocking should at least recognize that they will never be in a position of power or influence unless they practice verbal restraint. And even if they learn to do that, they will still have a long row to hoe.
On a more optimistic note: the beginnings of an effective post-neoconservative Right may be taking shape in the form of the Trump movement. At least some of the neoconservative camp has split off from the center to join with the Old Right, younger West Coast Straussians, paleolibertarians and the Altright to support Trump’s candidacy. This is the most promising attempt to create a post-neoconservative Right that I have seen since being exiled from the conservative movement eons ago. I’ve no idea whether the center will hold in what is still a loose, ad hoc alliance. But I welcome its emergence in the last few months. Often in politics, it’s the enemy that unites, and in this case those whom circumstances have brought together, have chosen their adversaries well. They are facing with very limited resources, the ultimate traitors to the Right and to an America that should be spared Hillary’s picks for federal judgeships and her refusal to fight specifically Muslim terrorists.
Postscript: The shamelessness with which the establishment plays the “prejudice” card was on display again Saturday morning, when we were greeted with new evidence that Donald Trump is a prejudiced candidate. It seems that Trump’s campaign manager Steve Bannon may (or may not) have said, depending on whether one believes his former wife, that the Jewish kids at the private school that their daughter attended were “whiney brats.” Is this supposed to prove a Nazi mentality? Really! My Israeli son-in-law has said worse things about my grandchildren’s classmates. This latest charge of bigotry hurled at Trump by the biased media, including (to their shame) the establishment GOP Fox-news webpage, was clearly generated to divert attention from Hillary’s ongoing scandals.