Speaking on campus and the ctrl-left

Update: the full text of the speech is now online on its own post.

My university is home to a controversial Confederate War memorial.

It is a bronze sculpture of a college student carrying a rifle, commemorating the students at my university who left their studies and went to fight in the American Civil War for the Confederacy. On the base are three inscriptions, the middle of which shows the student in class, hearing the call of a woman representing duty urging him to fight. The side inscription speaks of honor and duty.

The statue has always been controversial, but recent events have brought the controversy back.

The university is holding an open panel, inviting the general public to share their thoughts. You just had to register, and the first 25 get to go.

Well, I have some thoughts on the monument, and I wanted to share them. So I signed up, and I wrote a speech (exactly 3 minutes in length), and I’ve been practicing it. On Wednesday, I anticipate getting to deliver the speech.

I would be pretty foolish to not be worried. Actually, on an issue this incendiary, I am pretty foolish to want to speak out at all.

For starters, there’s a chance my talk could anger white supremacist groups.

I am a white man with pale skin and reddish/blondish hair. I am married to a beautiful woman from Costa Rica, with caramel skin and these gorgeous black eyes you can just get lost in. We don’t have children yet, but we are both excited to meet them. I know they will be beautiful, like their mother. I hope my daughters look like her, with her dark skin and dark eyes and her raven black hair.

If you listen to what white supremacist groups actually say these days, then you’d know this is their raison d’être. They refer to it by the moronic title “white genocide” — the “diluting” of the “white race” through marriage of white people with people of other races.

Me and my family are the main thing that white supremacists march against.

In the speech I have planned, I think I make it clear that I consider the cause of the Confederacy in the American Civil War to be an unworthy cause — it was certainly not worth the lives of the men who died for it.

That might anger white supremacists, who would already have reason to despise my family.

But, I’m not afraid of angering white supremacists; they’re evil, but they don’t frighten me. Because I know they are a powerless group of isolated and outcast individuals with little to no social standing in their own communities, who are resorted to anonymous online forums for human contact. They are pathetic, and I’m not enough of a coward to shrink away from shadows in a basement.

White supremacy is, of course, evil. It cost me nothing to say that, and means nothing when I do say it, as everyone either agrees with it already, or is a white supremacist and doesn’t care what society thinks about them.

White supremacy is also stupid. It is lazy thinking. It is the kind of mental shortcut that the feeble-minded rely on. It is the sort of excuse that the weak-willed cower to, lacking the testicular fortitude to face their own inadequacies. It’s the kind of pseudo-intellectualism the internet is famous for, citing poorly analyzed statistics, when all it would take is meeting one normal, middle-class African American to see the fatuity of it all — that blacks and whites are the same race, because there is only the one race of Adam.

My comments might make them mad, but what are they going to do? Make memes about me?

There is also a chance my speech could anger Progressives on the ctrl-left. Actually, probably a much bigger chance. And that does scare me.

It scares me so much that I’m actually considering if I even want to speak at all. I have a speech written, and I’ve been practicing it, and I’ve shopped it with a number of friends, and I’ve made edits and timed it perfectly. But I’m thinking of not doing it at all.

I’m afraid of what the ctrl-left could do to me.

What is the ctrl-left? The label is a take on the alt-right designation, though the ctrl-left have been around for a lot longer. Maybe since the Bush administration. They are a political activist class — that is, they are a class of people with nothing else to do but be politically active. They are employed in universities, shutting down conservative voices. They are employed in news stations, selectively editing narratives and choosing which stories to give press time. They are employed at online opinion magazines, and spend all day opining on politics and culture. They are employed in Starbucks, and then spend 14 hours a day on twitter and tumblr investigating the lives of people they disagree with, trying to have them removed from their jobs, or shut down their youtube, facebook, or twitter to prevent them from sharing in electronic public forums. They are employed in tech companies enforcing “community standards” with bans and post removals, which on platform after platform seems to conveniently mean removing opinions on the right of American politics.

The ctrl-left, in essence, want to control what you are allowed to say, and punish you when you say what you are not.

The most recent explosion of this movement has been in antifa, the group of emotional children using acts of literal street violence to suppress and silence dissident voices in the public sphere — which is to say, they are a group of fascists. These jackbooted thugs have been taking to the streets, punching people in the face, smashing up their campuses in temper tantrums, setting fires, and generally acting exactly like the goosestepping authoritarians they are in order to stop people from saying anything that they don’t think people should be able to say anymore.

This latest expression of the ctrl-left doesn’t particularly worry me. I can take physical violence. I can take being punched in the face, or maced, or beaten with a club. I would consider it an honor, actually. Make my day.

What does worry me are the online Social Justice Warriors in the ctrl-left who have nothing better to do with their lives, apparently, than to seek new ways to punish people for wrongthink.

I work in academia. Tenured professors cannot get fired for refusing to attend their own classes for two years, but tenured professors have been fired for daring to injure the precious emotions of the ctrl-left. I’m a mere, lowly teaching assistant. I could lose my job, or be dismissed from school. I could be made unhirable in colleges and tech companies.

If my speech offends the wrong person, they could look to dig up all kinds of stuff on me.

It wouldn’t even be very hard to dig up stuff on me. For most of my life, I was a pretty terrible jerk. Just ask anyone who knew me in high school. Since high school, I have been slightly tolerable. If you had nothing to do but look for reasons to say crap about me, you could find crap to say about me. And the ctrl-left has absolutely nothing else to do.

But even if they can’t find dirt on me, the very act of disagreeing with their orthodoxy is a firable offense. They have power in universities and companies to crush whoever displeases them; and not only do they have it, but they use it.

I know this, so I generally go about my day and just grit my teeth and keep my mouth shut. My fellow students don’t have to keep their mouths shut, because they affirm the accepted dogmata of our thought guardians.

I let them talk and express opinions I disagree with and laugh at people who think the exact things I think and endorse ideologies I completely reject and say nothing, because I just want to get out of here alive, get my PhD, and maybe once I have a job I can rely on, maybe then I’ll be able to breathe again.

And the crux of the story is that I’m just sick of it. I am sick and tired of shutting up. I am done with being expected to receive with full docility the ramblings of this tumblr magisterium. I’m tired of feeling like I can’t speak my mind without retaliation and blowback, while others can express their politics unafraid.

I’m done. I’m done being shut up.

Realistically, I can probably expect nothing. I’m probably over-worrying myself. It’s unlikely anyone will really take notice. It’s an indoor event with a few dozen speakers, and who really wants to attend a meeting like that unless you’re speaking? Local news might pick it up, and they might run two seconds of my three minute speech (probably selectively edited to make it sound like I’m saying something completely opposite of what I’m saying), and then that’s probably it. Maybe some person I know might notice and say something, maybe a student would say they heard I spoke or something, but that’s about it.

In a rational universe, maybe that’s all there needs to be about it. I can just say what I think, people can hear it and agree or disagree with it, we can have back-and-forth, and then we go on our merry ways.

But this is not a rational universe, so who knows what I can expect.

(Authors’s Note and General Disclaimer: These are not the only two groups of people with opinions in this country. There are people opposed to the monument who are not part of the ctrl-left and who want civil dialogue and peaceful protest to lead the change. There are people in favor of the monument who are neither white supremacists nor part of the alt-right, and who want all people to be treated with the dignity due all human individuals. There are people on the left who also champion free speech, such as the ACLU, because free speech is not a partisan concern but the birthright of humanity. I know these people exist, because I know them; they are my family and friends and neighbors. With all of these people, I hope to see the American spirit of passionate but nonviolent engagement in the marketplace of ideas continue to drive political discourse. To the ctrl-left and alt-right, I pray that God has mercy on you and grants you repentance from your hatred, violence, and folly.)

Do the American Alt-Right’s Ideas Have European Roots?

That’s what a recent essay in Foreign Affairs suggests. Political scientist George Hawley writes,

Image result for alt-rightThe [alt-right] is disorganized and mostly anonymous, making it difficult to study systematically, and until recently its definition was up for grabs. Throughout 2016, the term “alt-right” was often applied to a much broader group than it is today; at times, it seemed to refer to the entirety of Trump’s right-wing populist base. Since the U.S. presidential election, however, the alt-right’s nature has become clearer: it is a white nationalist movement that focuses on white identity politics and downplays most other issues. As the alt-right’s views became better known, many people who had flirted with the movement broke ranks, leaving it smaller but more ideologically cohesive.

Some have argued that the alt-right is simply the latest iteration of an old, racist strain of U.S. politics. And indeed, as a white nationalist movement, the alt-right’s ultimate vision—a racially homogeneous white ethnostate—is similar to that of earlier groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations, and the National Alliance. Yet the alt-right considers itself new and distinct, in terms of both style and intellectual substance. Stylistically, it has attempted to distance itself from the ineffectual violence and pageantry of what it derisively calls “white nationalism 1.0,” instead preferring a modern aesthetic that targets cynical millennials on social media and online message boards. And ideologically, the movement represents a break from American racist movements of the past, looking not to U.S. history but to the European far right for ideas and strategies.

White nationalists like Richard Spencer draw on ideas from the European New Right:

The ENR first emerged in France in the late 1960s, at a time when the radical left was at its apogee and the country looked to be on the brink of revolution. In 1968, a group led by the young right-wing journalist Alain de Benoist founded the Research and Study Group for European Civilization (known by its French acronym, GRECE). This new think tank sought to provide a philosophical foundation for a new political order, one that rejected liberalism, communism, and the excesses of fascism.

The ENR was an unusual amalgamation of ideas from the beginning. Although it repudiated fascism and Nazism, the ENR drew inspiration from many of the same intellectual sources. Particularly important to the ENR were the so-called conservative revolutionary writers of Weimar-era Germany, including the legal theorist Carl Schmitt and the historian Arthur Moeller van den Bruck. Like these figures, the ENR envisioned a new path for Europe that rejected both Soviet communism and Anglo-American liberalism.

The ENR flirted with, but eventually rejected, a politics based on overt racism. Instead, the movement grounded its arguments in culture. ENR thinkers rejected the idea that all human beings are generally interchangeable and posited instead that every individual views the world from a particular cultural lens; inherited culture, that is, is a vital part of every person’s identity. They further argued that all cultures have a “right to difference,” or a right to maintain their sovereignty and cultural identity, free from the homogenizing influence of global capitalism and multiculturalism. The right of cultures to preserve their identity in turn implied their right to exclude or expel groups and ideas that threatened their cohesion and continuity.

…Yet the ENR also used left-wing theories and rhetoric. It adopted the New Left’s opposition to global financial capitalism and borrowed arguments about cultural particularity from anticolonial movements, concluding, for instance, that European colonial projects had been a mistake and that the United States was trying to Americanize every corner of the globe, destroying distinct cultures along the way. The ENR even supported anti-American populist uprisings in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa…The ENR was also strongly influenced by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, whose views on metapolitics and cultural hegemony contended that a political philosophy will attain lasting power only after it has won the battle of ideas, at least among elites. The ENR was pro–environmental conservation, as well.

Mainstream American conservatism paid no attention to the ENR, while even the “radical right in the United States…showed little awareness of the ENR until quite recently. This was also understandable, given the language barrier—the writings of de Benoist and others were mostly untranslated—and the ENR’s lack of interest in U.S. domestic politics. De Benoist’s careful avoidance of transparent racism also put him at odds with white nationalists in the United States, who wore their racism on their sleeves…Institutions affiliated with the alt-right are now working to translate books from ENR thinkers into English. The publishing company Arktos Media has put out a large catalog of these translations and is now part of the recently formed AltRight Corporation, which has become a significant hub of alt-right propaganda. Arktos has published works by de Benoist and Faye, the French-German ENR ideologue Pierre Krebs, and earlier right-wing radicals such as the Italian philosopher Julius Evola.”

Hawley notes that “it would be an exaggeration at this point to speak of a unified, global far-right movement. Yet members of the radical right on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly adept at borrowing each other’s ideas and learning from each other’s successes and failures. Those who study these phenomena must maintain an international perspective. If a right-wing idea, tactic, or meme proves successful in one context, it will probably appear in others.”

Still Crying Wolf

Hitler and the Nazi’s have long held a quasi-mythological status in the American psyche. I do not know when this began, but it has simply been a fact for my entire conscious life. I can only imagine that, in centuries gone by, Satan and his devils filled the niche in the collective social consciousness that Hitler and his Nazis serve today.

Deep down, the people of all Western democracies wonder if their nation could–given the right historical circumstances–follow in the path of Nazi Germany. And all the citizens of these nations have wondered–at least at some point in their lives–if they would have had the courage and the foresight to have opposed Hitler’s rise. Because everyone wants to believe in their own heroism, and because the only evidence that they would have opposed the last Hitler is to oppose the next Hitler, there’s latent desire for someone to fill that role, just so that they could prove to themselves that they would pass the test.

This is related to what Scott Adams had in mind when he wrote his blog post: Be Careful What You Wish For (especially if it is Hitler).:

But lately I get the feeling that Trump’s critics have evolved from expecting Trump to be Hitler to preferring it. Obviously they don’t prefer it in a conscious way. But the alternative to Trump becoming Hitler is that they have to live out the rest of their lives as confirmed morons. No one wants to be a confirmed moron. And certainly not after announcing their Trump opinions in public and demonstrating in the streets. It would be a total embarrassment for the anti-Trumpers to learn that Trump is just trying to do a good job for America. It’s a threat to their egos. A big one.

And this gets me to my point. When millions of Americans want the same thing, and they want it badly, the odds of it happening go way up. [emphasis original]

Adams hastened to clarify that he wasn’t “talking about any new-age magic.” Instead:

I’m talking about ordinary people doing ordinary things to turn Trump into an actual Hitler. For example, if protesters start getting violent, you could expect forceful reactions eventually. And that makes Trump look more like Hitler. I can think of dozens of ways the protesters could cause the thing they are trying to prevent. In other words, they can wish it into reality even though it is the very thing they are protesting.

I don’t agree with Adams on a lot of thing, even here. I don’t, for example, find the idea that “Trump is just trying to do a good job for America” to be credible. It seems clear to me that Trump is just trying to do a good job for Trump. However, I do think he’s right that the anti-Trump movement has become so invested in their own narrative of manning the barricades in a last-ditch defense against tyranny that they kind of need Trump to come through for them. Everybody wants to be a hero and so, deep down, everybody wants their enemies to be villains.

This is all a little bit abstract, however. Adams tries to make things concrete with his example of protesters going overboard, but there’s a much better example of how this can play out. It comes from Damon Linker’s piece: America’s spies anonymously took down Michael Flynn. That is deeply worrying. Linker makes a couple of vitally, vitally important philosophical points, like this one: “In a liberal democracy, how things happen is often as important as what happens. Procedures matter.” Along those lines, he points out that–even though the resignation of Michael Flynn is a good thing–the fact that he was essentially removed by intelligence professionals as part of a “soft coup (or political assassination)” is a serious concern. In particular:

The chaotic, dysfunctional Trump White House is placing the entire system under enormous strain. That’s bad. But the answer isn’t to counter it with equally irregular acts of sabotage — or with a disinformation campaign waged by nameless civil servants toiling away in the surveillance state.

As Eli Lake of Bloomberg News put it in an important article following Flynn’s resignation,

Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do. [Bloomberg]

Those cheering the deep state torpedoing of Flynn are saying, in effect, that a police state is perfectly fine so long as it helps to bring down Trump.

I haven’t had an awful lot to say–on my blog or even to friends and family in person–about Trump since the election. This is why. I haven’t figured out a good method of opposing Trump that doesn’t feed into the larger pendulum-swinging crisis in American politics. A lot of the opposition to Trump–both before and especially since the election–has been not only hysterical and unprincipled, but deeply, seriously dangerous. The reality is that at this point opposing Trump–in most places and for most people–is not an act of courage or bravery because it doesn’t carry any substantial risk. Take Attorney General Sally Yates. She was lauded as a hero because she ordered the Department of Justice attorneys not to defend Trump’s immigration executive order and was subsequently fired. Her opposition to the executive order is laudable, but there’s not even a glimmer of heroism in how she went about it. She was a political appointee on her way out anyway. Her grandstanding cost her literally nothing and earned her endless applause and praise. Heroism has certainly never come cheaper than that.Whether it’s violent protests at Berkeley, punching Richard Spencer, or applauding the growth of an unaccountable police state (see above), the anti-Trump movement is increasingly dominated by a radical fringe hellbent on racing Trump down the downward spiral of dishonesty, hysteria, and extremism.

I believe in defending our nation from Trump’s cavalier disregard for law and principle. But I also believe in defending our nation from the escalating cycle of co-dependent extremism. Journalists, who fall over themselves to run 16 fake anti-Trump news stories in the first month of his presidency, are making King Pyrrhus proud; even if they win they will find they have shredded the last vestiges of their credibility in the process. It’s time to reiterate that one Nietzsche quote everyone knows:

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.


Maybe Trump is the next Hitler, but I doubt it. He’s probably not the next Stalin or Mao or Mussolini either. He doesn’t have the commitment, the talent, the opportunity, or the ideology to pull it off. But if we keep pushing the pendulum further on every swing with escalating hyper-partisanship and if we sabotage our own institutions–from the civil services to the mainstream media to expectations of basic decency–we will find that on the day when an American Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Mussolini steps up onto the stage, we will have ripped all of our institutional safeguards to shreds already.

Trump got elected because the American right keeps crying wolf when it comes to illegal immigrants and terrorists and because the American left keeps crying wolf when it comes to fascism and bigotry. Neither side has learned their lesson. And so the crying wolf continues. The reality is, we haven’t seen the wolf.


How Breitbart sees the Alt-Right.

My skepticism of media narratives has reached (possibly) an all-time high, so lately I’ve been trying all the more to read about a given topic from multiple sources, including those I disagree with, just to have an idea of what all sides are saying. There have been plenty of cases where I’ve found information that paints a different picture than current conventional wisdom does. But I have to say, so far, the topic of the alt-right isn’t one of those cases.

I realized pretty much the extent of my knowledge on the alt-right were the angry statuses from Facebook friends and headlines from (mostly left-wing) media that I skimmed. Even right-wing sources have spoken against them, so I’ve really only heard one narrative about this group: they’re racists, white nationalists, and probably Nazis.

But I know there are people out there who don’t agree. Steve Bannon, former chief editor of Breitbart and Trump’s incoming chief strategist, has specifically rejected the idea that he’s a white nationalist, but simultaneously explains Breitbart is the platform for the alt-right. These two ideas aren’t technically incompatible–for example, he could be against white nationalism but pro-free speech. Still it seems incongruous that someone who says he rejects white nationalism would be proud of hosting a platform for white nationalists, so to my mind these two statements implied that Bannon does not think the alt-right are white nationalists.

So what’s the other narrative here?

I got a lot more information by reading “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” by Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos (Breitbart). They break the alt-right into four groups (their labels, my paraphrases):

  1. The Intellectuals – people who pride themselves on thinking only rationally, which in this case means stripping away “self-censorship, concern for one’s social standing, concern for other people’s feelings, and any other inhibitors to rational thought.”
  2. Natural Conservatives – people primarily concerned with preserving their homogeneity, stability, and hierarchy, specifically with preserving their own tribe and culture (western European culture).
  3. The Meme Team – trolls. People who take great joy in being as offensive as possible, getting media to write articles about their offensiveness, and laughing about it.
  4. The 1488RS – Nazis. “14” for the 14 words “We Must Secure The Existence Of Our People And A Future For White Children” and 88 because the 8th letter of the alphabet is “H” so it’s “HH” which is “Heil Hitler.” Yes, I’m serious.

I expect these four categories crossover, but that’s how the authors compartmentalized the movement.

While this article gave me a much more detailed picture of what “alt-right” is supposed to mean, I can’t say it did much to undermine the narrative that the alt-right is comprised of racists and Nazis. I’m sure not literally everyone who associates with the alt-right is a racist, but that’s a pretty low standard. Anyway, brief thoughts on three of the four groups:

The Intellectuals: I’ve spoken with plenty of people who make no distinction between honest/blunt/direct and rude/cruel/offensive. That’s what the description of The Intellectuals sounded like to me. I understand the argument that we shouldn’t be so concerned with offending people that we become unclear or even dishonest. We shouldn’t sacrifice truth in the name of deference. I agree with that. But I firmly believe it is possible and preferable to express our views both honestly and kindly. It’s hard to be patient with people who try to excuse cruelty in the name of truth telling.

The Meme Team: Society should ignore The Meme Team entirely. Don’t feed the trolls. …But I know we won’t ignore them. It seems like trolls always get fed.

The 1488RS: They sound awful. So awful, in fact, that the rest of the alt-right (according to this article) also wishes they would go away, and feels they give the alt-right a bad name (not wrong there). In a sense I feel about the 1488RS the same way I feel about The Meme Team. The former aren’t trolls in that they are apparently sincere, but either way I worry that giving them attention gives them strength. As of right now there are very few Nazis in the country, and I’d like it to stay that way.

To some extent I feel that way about the whole alt-right movement: I’m worried that we (the rest of society) are growing and sustaining them by giving them such disproportionate attention. When Hillary Clinton decided to do a speech condemning how Trump has been embraced by the alt-right, they were thrilled. The WSJ quotes Richard Spencer, alt-right founder, saying,

“When your movement is going to be mentioned by name by the presidential candidate leading in the polls, you can safely say that we’ve made it. Our fundamental obstacle was people having no idea who we are.”


The Natural Conservatives: I saved this group for last because it’s the only one I found interesting. A lot of the description sounded exactly like white nationalism to me, but I was struck by this passage:

The alt-right’s intellectuals would also argue that culture is inseparable from race. The alt-right believe that some degree of separation between peoples is necessary for a culture to be preserved. A Mosque next to an English street full of houses bearing the flag of St. George, according to alt-righters, is neither an English street nor a Muslim street — separation is necessary for distinctiveness.

Some alt-righters make a more subtle argument. They say that when different groups are brought together, the common culture starts to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Instead of mosques or English houses, you get atheism and stucco.

Ironically, it’s a position that has much in common with leftist opposition to so-called “cultural appropriation,” a similarity openly acknowledged by the alt-right.

This passage caught my eye because I wondered if there really is a parallel here between the left’s condemnation of cultural appropriation and the alt-right’s desire to keep western European culture separate from other cultures.

First of all, to be fair, I have a lot of left-wing friends who have turned a skeptical eye toward the concept of cultural appropriation, wondering if it goes too far. For example, they generally do frown upon white people dressing as nonwhite caricatures for Halloween, but they aren’t convinced it’s wrong to do yoga as a form of exercise. They reject mocking and taking credit for aspects of other people’s cultures, but they embrace enjoying and appreciating those same aspects. I don’t think that’s inconsistent.

At the same time, there are voices on the left that take a much broader approach to cultural appropriation, such that the concept includes actions such as eating Mexican food without being interested in Mexican people as a whole, wearing cornrows or dreadlocks, or buying into Disney’s version of Pocahontas. This understanding of cultural appropriation doesn’t require purposefully mocking or taking credit for aspects of other peoples’ cultures; it includes any time the dominant culture (usually white people) can enjoy aspects of other cultures without having to understand, acknowledge, or navigate the more complicated realities those peoples have lived with or currently live with.

It seems to me that even this broadly applied definition of cultural appropriation is distinct from the cultural preservation the alt-right’s Natural Conservatives are talking about. The left is concerned about embracing aspects of other peoples’ cultures without realizing how that embrace can affect those people. This isn’t about trying to ban yoga–it’s about yoga becoming so ubiquitous people don’t even realize where it originally came from. In contrast, the Natural Conservatives are concerned with their culture being condemned and erased. As the article puts it:

[The regressive left] is currently intent on tearing down statues of Cecil Rhodes and Queen Victoria in the UK, and erasing the name of Woodrow Wilson from Princeton in the U.S. These attempts to scrub western history of its great figures are particularly galling to the alt-right, who in addition to the preservation of western culture, care deeply about heroes and heroic virtues.

Here the examples are about specific icons, but there are other factors that play into this fear of cultural erasure. For example, both the alt-right and the right generally are concerned about the rise of secularism and the anti-religion (especially anti-Christian) sentiments that accompany it. Steve Bannon talks about that a lot in this extensive 2014 interviewGlenn Beck does too in this 2012 piece, and here is The Federalist talking about the issue this year, 2016. Related but perhaps more specific examples include the now taboo views that marriage is between a man and a woman, that there are only two genders, and that those genders are different in meaningful and predictable ways.

To be clear: I’m a pro-gay marriage secularist, so, even though I am a conservative, I personally don’t share the feeling that my culture is under attack in these specific ways, because I don’t share those particular views. But I can empathize with how those who have held those views their entire lives would feel that way, especially with how relatively rapidly some of these changes have happened and how aggressively (conservative) dissenters are berated. Charles Camosey, a #NeverTrump conservative, expressed the sentiment well:

People like this fellow are tired of those who think they are better than the great religious unwashed, putting “religious liberty” in derogatory scare quotes. They are tired of being reduced to a lazy caricature, particularly when it involves historical references to the supposed inherently violent nature of religious traditions. They are tired of being called bigots and homophobes for having a position on marriage that President Obama had in 2012.

However, much as I empathize with the desire by many to preserve cultural conservatism, and much as I reject the equivocation of any such desire as inherently racist, I do think the description of Natural Conservatives sounds bigoted, and I find it alarming. For example:

While eschewing bigotry on a personal level, the movement is frightened by the prospect of demographic displacement represented by immigration.

If I’m understanding right, this argument against immigration is not about national security or economics–it’s about culture, and not wanting immigrant culture to mix with western European (or American conservative white) culture. Is that not the definition of white nationalism?

And here:

The really interesting members of the alt-right though, and the most numerous, are the natural conservatives. They are perhaps psychologically inclined to be unsettled by threats to western culture from mass immigration and maybe by non-straight relationships. Yet, unlike the 1488ers, the presence of such doesn’t send them into fits of rage. They want to build their homogeneous communities, sure — but they don’t want to commit any pogroms along the way. Indeed, they would prefer non-violent solutions.

I would hope nonviolence would be more than a mere preference. I did not find that passage at all comforting, especially since the authors later suggest that if the Natural Conservatives can’t find a compromise with the left, they will turn to the 1488RS for “solutions.”

Moreover, this Breitbart article is easily the gentlest description I’ve seen of the alt-right. The piece came under fire for underplaying the nastiness of the movement, drawing criticism from not only anti-racists but also neo-Nazis who likewise felt they were being whitewashed. It says a lot that a piece that favorable is still unnerving.