The full history of Paul Gottfried, conservatism, and the alt-right offered at the link below is significantly longer than the excerpt presented here. It’s well worth the read if you care to understand where Richard Spencer came from and how the alt-right evolved.
This excerpt has 1250 words, which is about twice as long as most posts.
Excerpt from (Jewish) Tablet Magazine
Gottfried doesn’t resolve the alt-right’s contradictions so much as he embodies them. He’s a sniffy traditionalist, a self-described “Robert Taft Republican,” with a classical liberal bent, and a Nietzschean American nationalist who goes out of his way to exaggerate his European affect. He opposes both the Civil Rights Act and white nationalism. He’s a bone-deep elitist and the oracle of what’s billed as a populist revolt. “If someone were to ask me what distinguishes the right from the left,” Gottfried wrote in 2008, “the difference that comes to mind most readily centers on equality. The left favors that principle, while the right regards it as an unhealthy obsession.”
Inequality is the alt-right’s foundational belief. In this view, there are inherent, irreducible differences not only between individuals but between groups of people—races, genders, religions, nations; all of the above. These groups each have their own distinctive characteristics and competitive advantages; accordingly, inequality is natural and good, while equality is unnatural and therefore bad and can only be imposed by force. In practice, it is typically a belief in white supremacy and a rejection of universalism.
To the ancient idea that the world is ordered by natural hierarchies the alt-right adds new wrinkles. It shows a nerdish enthusiasm for data-driven attempts to classify group cognitive abilities, an update on the social Darwinist “race science” popular before WWII that often resolves into a genes-are-destiny outlook. It also embraces concepts from the controversial field of evolutionary psychology, which attempts to explain the behavior of groups in terms of Darwinian natural selection. Because equality is both impossible and a kind of civic religion as Gottfried sees it, government attempts to enforce it are only pretexts for the state to increase its power and reach.
Railing against meddling bureaucracies and the threats they pose to liberty is a staple of conservative politics, but Gottfried’s arguments are more esoteric and more radical than anything you’d hear at a tea-party convention. Condensed, Gottfried’s theory holds that America is no longer a republic or a liberal democracy—categories that lost their meaning after the postindustrial explosion of bureaucratic apparatuses transformed the country into a “therapeutic managerial state.” Today, we are ruled by a class of managers who dress like bureaucrats but act like priests. This technocratic clerisy justifies its status by enforcing Progressive precepts like multiculturalism and political correctness, which pit different groups against each other as if they were religious edicts. As Gottfried tells it he was banished from the mainstream of political discourse for rejecting this liberal catechism. Now, versions of the same ideas that Gottfried says got him banished will be gospel in Trump’s White House.
“I view it as a partial vindication,” he told me just over a month before the presidential election, about the rise of the alt-right. “Much would depend on what Trump would do if he became president.”
n his book Fascism: The Career of a Concept, Gottfried argues that Spanish and Italian “generic fascism” belonged to a different genus than German Nazism. Hitler, the argument goes, was not really a fascist in the generic sense, but a far-right counter-revolutionary response to Stalin. A few years ago this might all have been interesting enough, grounds for contentious but seemingly abstract historical debates. Today, it’s clear that it also serves a political purpose. It takes away the power of “fascist” to stigmatize far-right politics. At the same time, it also helps to rescue a whole host of concepts tainted by association with fascism, like ethnic nationalism and “race science,” making it safe again for the right to openly advocate them.
Trumpism has revived a longstanding disagreement between the paleos and neocons over the basis of nationhood. Where neocons subscribed to the “propositional” nation, in which national identity is a function of political principles and creed, the paleos took a different view. They argued that nations were defined by the specific cultural and historical heritage of their founders. So “Americanness,” for instance, is not established by political ideals as much as by the legacy of Protestant English settlers from whose characters and milieu those ideals emerged naturally. The implications for immigration policy are clear—the more new immigrants’ backgrounds differ from the culture and belief of the original English settlers, the more they will transform Americanness. Some paleos like Gottfried framed this idea in cultural and civilizational terms, while others, like the influential Samuel Francis, advocated explicitly for white nationalism.
Spencer had moved toward the revolutionary wing of the new movement by 2010 when he created the website Alternative Right, which helped shape and popularize the loosely-knit alt-right movement. In the early 2010s, Spencer’s site and a handful of other influential outlets defined the aesthetic and political motifs of the current alt-right. A mix of shock-and-meme culture, metapolitics, right-wing social values, and anti-bourgeois posturing, it appealed to an audience of young reactionaries. It gave them something to do with their vast amounts of time online and sharpened their “fuck the normies” rage to a radical edge. Ethnic identitarianism anchored that rage and defined their enemies. Appealing to the nerdier inclinations of these adherents, the racial mythos was complemented by the biological determinist part of the program with its strong data bias. If, in a sense, white-nationalist identity politics was just another form of the left-wing identity politics that they claimed to despise, so be it; let the minorities and liberals have a taste of their own medicine.
“American society today is so just fundamentally bourgeois,” Spencer told me over the phone. “It’s just so, pardon my French … it’s so fucking middle-class in its values. There is no value higher than having a pension and dying in bed. I find that profoundly pathetic. So, yeah, I think we might need a little more chaos in our politics, we might need a bit of that fascist spirit in our politics.”
The fight over the degree of adherence to white-nationalist doctrines was an open one within the alt-right. “The Alt-Right Means White Nationalism … or Nothing at All” read the headline of an August 2016 editorial by Greg Johnson, editor of the influential alt-right publication Counter Currents. Johnson was responding to attempts to redefine the movement away from that position by people like Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart journalist who insists he’s only a fellow traveler and not a member of the alt-right. “Milo seems to be defining European identity as hyperliberalism,” Richard Spencer tweeted in June. “This leads nowhere.”
While Gottfried calls Yiannopoulos his favorite figure on the alt-right for his opposition to government-led social policy and political correctness, this puts him awkwardly in the position he once accused the neocons of occupying—diluting the authentic core of right politics. “I am not beloved by the alt-right,” Gottfried told me. “I’m sort of somebody who remains aloof.” He has some hope for “collaboration among all the elements of the dissident right,” but within limits. “Where I would draw the line personally is white nationalists. They are not people I would want to include in my alliance. They sometimes say outrageous things and they are sitting ducks for the Southern Poverty Law Center and other leftist groups.”