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By Attacking Western Civ, the Left Empowers the Alt-Right

Donald Trump’s speech in Warsaw last week defending the achievements of Western civilization was met with an astonishing response on many quarters of the Left: That his remarks amounted to an endorsement of white nationalism or the alt-right.

In the Washington Post, our own Jason Willick takes apart this reaction—showing that it is not only logically indefensible, but that it is deeply destructive to liberalism itself. A taste:

What is at stake now is whether Americans will surrender the idea of “the West” to liberalism’s enemies on the alt-right — that is, whether we will allow people who deny the equal citizenship of women and minorities and Jews to lay claim to the legacy of Western civilization. This would amount to a major and potentially suicidal concession, because the alt-right — not in the opportunistically watered-down sense of “immigration skeptic,” or “social conservative,” but in the sense of genuine white male political supremacism — is anti-Western. It is hostile to the once-radical ideals of pluralism and self-governance and individual rights that were developed during the Western Enlightenment and its offshoots. It represents an attack on, not a defense of, of the West’s greatest achievements.

If free societies are going to survive this period of economic dislocation and political upheaval, their elites will need to offer a robust defense of the Western political tradition. The left’s response to Trump’s address in Warsaw suggests that it is not up to the task.

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  • Andrew Allison

    The implicit suggestion that defending the achievements of Western civilization is bad is indefensible; as is the suggestion that the alt-right denies the equal citizenship of women and minorities and Jews. Can you provide a single piece of evidence to support these outrageous suggestions? Of course, this has to be the narrative in order to get published in the WaPoo, but really!

    • Tom

      Have you actually looked at the alt-right? Also, where did you get the idea that the author was saying that defending the achievements of Western civilization is bad? He was saying the opposite of that.

      • Andrew Allison

        The problem, as nicely illustrated by your comment, is that the alt-Right is anybody who doesn’t agree with you (and Willick).

        • Tom

          I’m not sure how you derived that idea from my comment, but I’m going to assume that it’s from the same headspace that seems to think that Willick is against the idea of defending Western Civilization. Or perhaps I misread your comment.

          • leoj

            He’s not saying that defending the achievements of Western Civ is bad. Just the opposite – he says it’s indefensible. The problem he is pointing to is with the definition of ‘alt-right,’ a moniker which is used quite often as a cudgel to beat people for straying from certain well-worn habits of thought rather than as a name of a well-defined political position. The people carrying the cudgel are often the same ones who decry Western Civ. The problem he is raising to Willick – and in my opinion it is a valid one – is that this sort of split-the-difference, pox-on-both-of-your-houses centrism doesn’t work in this case because the terms on both sides are not equal. We have a much better idea of what is meant denotatively by Western Civ than we do of alt-right which surely includes all the nasties, but surely a lot more besides.

            From your comments I have a picture of you as a nevertrumper, classical liberal who nods along with Hayek’s stance against (continental) conservatism. This is a perfectly reasonable position and I am sympathetic to it. But it should attempt to understand those “conservatives” (even if they are ‘anti-western,’ which in this context really just means anti-Anglo-American) for what they are. Some harken back to the Nazis and some don’t. In Germany, the so-called konservative Revolution included many different perspectives and sorts of people, including Jews. It’s true that it was oriented more towards men, but then this was the generation of the “fatherless society.”

          • Tom

            The thing is that I don’t think the Venn diagram for “continental conservatives” and “the alt-right” is a single circle–and neither, I think, does Willick, given this quote: “because the alt-right — not in the opportunistically watered-down sense of “immigration skeptic,” or “social conservative,” but in the sense of genuine white male political supremacism — is anti-Western.”

            The genuine alt-right isn’t that big a tent, despite leftist attempts to try and claim that anyone to the right of Marco Rubio is a member. Frankly, the Left’s efforts in this regard remind me more than a little bit of the precursors to the alt-right’s attempts to claim that the Civil Rights movement was Communistic–a comparison I suspect neither group would particularly like.

          • leoj

            The Left’s efforts and yours and Willick’s are quite similar in that both are interested in defining an ideology so as to render it morally out of bounds. As if by definition, the genuine alt-right is evil, so then the real question concerns not a political ideology per se but our definition of evil. The argument you have with them is about where to draw the lines, not the value of what lies beyond them. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing that, of course, my only complaint is that such boundary drawing is being done too quickly, before it is legitimate to speak of a ‘genuine alt-right.’ For this reason it is not entirely accurate to note that the Venn diagrams are not coextensive. In one sense, this is incontrovertible. It fails to take into consideration, however, that there is a lot of intellectual ferment on the right and there is a search of sources. The difference in attitudes I am suggesting is that we do not concede that any deviation on the right from the Buckley-Kirk consensus be deemed racist, antisemitic, etc. and therefore evil. The attitude I am suggesting is genuinely pluralist.

          • Tom

            Oh come now. Surely you would concede that collectivism is a form of evil?

          • leoj

            Collectivism or community? Sure, I’ll concede that collectivism is evil if you will also offer an encomium to community.

          • Tom

            Community? Sure, yeah. Community’s great. No man is an island, after all.

        • LarryD

          The Left’s criticism of Trump’s Warsaw speech basically define the Alt-Right as anyone who is publicly pro-family; pro-Western Civilization, all Christians, and all immigration skeptics. In short, most Americans.

  • Tom

    The answer, fortunately, is that there are enough people who are not rightist or leftist collectivists to keep the rightist collectivists from taking over the idea of “The West.”

  • KremlinKryptonite

    The far left, calling themselves progressives today, forget that it was ultra-far left violence and excess that made fascists seem a legitimate alternative, and the only way to stop communist violence. This was true in Italy, but especially in Germany. The fascists went from being the laughingstock of the nation to powerbrokers within a decade.
    Perhaps the most troubling connection to today’s far left is the hatred of police. The Communists in Germany routinely killed police officers and advocated killing their families. And here was a man named Adolf Hitler with his followers defending traditionalism, and telling the police that he’s on their side.

    That turn of events really took hold after Hitler was released from prison and after he published his book. It’s arguably far more consequential than the great depression was in helping the NSDAP win seats.
    And sympathetic lawyers, like Roland Freisler (who had flirted with Marxism a few years earlier), made their decision and became full fledged Nazis at that point, and helped Nazi thugs and assassins escape prison or get lenient sentences by building connections within the judiciary.

    • TPAJAX

      It’s all very amusing really. Even if the implicit assumptions and suggestions about the alt right are 100% accurate that they are all Nazis and wish they had a time machine so they could kiss Mussolini and Hitler…then all of the implicit assumptions and suggestions are clearly correct about “progressives.” They are carrying anarcho-communist flags and want to put everyone that disagrees with them in death camps as well. That’s the most interesting part. It doesn’t matter if you go too far right or too far left. Both end up with death camps and millions dead.

    • Andrew Allison

      One look at what’s happening on campuses across the nation and the “resistance” movement tells us who the real fascists are.

      • Mackalia

        Wouldn’t they be more in the “Maoist” camp rather than the fascist camp? Just trying to straighten out our terminology here.

        • Andrew Allison

          It depends upon how you choose to define fascist. The preferred definition of the left is, amusingly, Orwell’s: “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable”. Replace “not desirable” with “whatever I disagree with” and you have it. It’s also very Orwellian that those calling the right Fascists are actually the ones adopting Fascist tactics.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Western Culture built Modern Civilization, Leftist Culture had NO part in the development. In fact, Leftist Culture is responsible for the murder of over 100 million people last Century, has caused untold pain and suffering, and most recently it destroyed Venezuela. Leftist Culture can only survive as a Parasite on Western Culture’s Modern Civilization. The Proof of this is evident in the demise of those Nations that have been dominated by Leftist Policies. Examples: Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, North Korea, Cambodia (Killing Fields), Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, China (Up-lifted by foreign investors = Parasite) none of which can be called self made successes.

    Some Cultures can add on the Ideals of the Enlightenment that are responsible for most of the Western Culture’s success in building Modern Civilization (Japan, South Korea, etc…). But, Leftist Culture and Islamic Culture are 2 cultures that are incapable of assimilating the Ideals of the Enlightenment.

    The we have American Culture as a subset of Western Culture. American Culture is Mankind’s “Bleeding Edge” Culture, as measured by the success meter. In 2 centuries, America went from 13 colonies, to the sole Super Power. And while Leftist Culture has done serious damage to that record of success. America in promoting Trump, is fighting back against the forces of Evil Parasitic Leftist Culture. At this time the Europeans are failing the test, but I expect that to change as Nationalist Parties slowly gain support. There’s no hiding the economic failure, Muslim Terrorists and Rape gangs, and paper tiger militaries.

    • Mackalia

      In Europe they are doing a very good job in trying to suppress all dissenting views though (which are really just the typical views held by the majority of Americans). I was really shocked and disgusted after reading Douglas Murrays book “The Strange Death of Europe”, about the human trafficking and rape cases in Rotherham England, where the authorities knew what was happening but for YEARS did not bring it to light for fear of being seen as racist! (I’m not even talking about Muslim girls, these were white children being victimized by immigrants from Somalia and other African countries)

      Let that sink in…. They would rather have a whole community of girls be kidnapped, raped, gang raped, branded and sex trafficked rather than be viewed as a racist!
      Wow… just… wow! I’m not sure to what extent that kind of thing is going on in our own backyard but we do know that thousands of girls in Michigan have been subjected to FGM under the guise of Islamic religious freedom and that’s bad enough.

      What I’m saying is that I think our problem lies more with the cultural gate keepers rather than the government. We can’t vote out MSM reporters, SJW mobs, academics who profit in the circular dead-end philosophy of intersectionality and the like. And when the mainstream left demonizes Ayaan Hirsi Ali but glorifies Linda Sarsour (Bernie Sanders et. al) than I think we can safely say we’re in serious trouble over here.
      The only help Trump will be is in acting like the Trickster Catalyst he is and giving the elites a mirror in which to view themselves. Except they’re not taking the challenge, they’re doubling down. The result won’t be pretty.

  • WigWag

    It must be a thrill for Jason to be published in the Washington Post.

    Congratudolences!

    • Andrew Allison

      Some might consider it a sell-out.

      • WigWag

        Disagree. Jason’s a talented, young budding journalist and commentator. Of course he wants to play in the big leagues. Anyone would. Kudos to him.

        • Andrew Allison

          Sorry, but if you’ve been reading his posts for the past year, you should be aware of the constant snide remarks and commentary regarding the President and, since January, his administration. The comments (not mine) to most of his posts support my opinion that he’s a bigot (I use the word advisedly in its dictionary sense of “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions”.

  • FriendlyGoat

    The more we define what we are trying to preserve in the West before sallying forth to defend it, the better off we shall be. The only way ideals are hijacked by bad actors such as Marxists, nationalist racists or Islamists is if we are fuzzy on what the ideals are to begin with.

    In the Post piece, Jason included this:
    “Liberalism is an ideology — defined by, among other things, freedom of religion, the rule of law, private property, popular sovereignty and equal dignity of all people.”

    That’s fine, but if we don’t want to confuse ourselves or others, we need to keep working on the complete list of “among other things” so everyone knows the full detail of what is included or not included. Seriously, “freedom of religion” needs expansion, for instance. Does that mean freedom from religion for those who choose not to have a religion and choose not to be harassed by other people’s religion? Does it mean all religions are considered to be of equal validity or benefit? Does it mean, as some imagine, that “Congress shall pass no law,……” but states can?

    That “equal dignity of all people” thing is really cool, but of course was not realized widely on a practical scale even in America until the “radical 60’s” with Kennedy/Johnson, a Dem Congress and that leftie bench of Supreme Court justices—-and it’s still merely a fragile work in progress. So, Mr. Trump, please spare us vague generalizations and drill down to specifics we can count on. Ditto TAI, okay?

  • jsdozcn9

    You should to use darker text for quotes. Many people with poor eyesight, the elderly, the visually impared, can’t read low contrast fonts.

    https://www.wired.com/2016/10/how-the-web-became-unreadable/

    ” How the Web Became Unreadable

    But if the web is relayed through text that’s difficult to read, it curtails that open access by excluding large swaths of people, such as the elderly, the visually impaired, or those retrieving websites through low-quality screens.”

    .

  • Gary Hemminger

    Is this some kind of binary world we live in where the only choices are alt-right and lefty progressive? I think not. I am neither of these beings and I think both of them are reprehensible. To these binary beings, evidently if you aren’t one of them, you are the other. Well I say to heck with that. I think the alt-right are a bunch of idiots and the lefty progressives are a bunch of wierdo’s. I can support western civilization and all its symphonies and not deny equal citizenship to men and woman and jews. In other words I can walk and chew gum at the same time. The alt-right and the lefty progressives clearly cannot. Both sides are mentally unfit for anything save the funny farm.

  • Beauceron

    What has increased the power of the so-called “Alt-Right” (Does anyone know what that even is at this point? It has morphed from a mixture of the Buchannan-esque paleo-conservatives, to neo-Nazis, to, now, anything the Left doesn’t like– we’re all Alt-Right now. It’s the new “Neocon”) is the media itself. As far as I can tell, they were a small, fringe movement on the right with little power and no influence. Now they’re running the White House and under every bed. All of middle America is filled with Alt-Right white supremacists just waiting to bring back slavery. Everyone at a Trump rally is Alt-Right and anyone who supports freedom of speech for anyone not on the left is alt-right.

    I think the Alt-Right, as currently constituted, is almost entirely a Leftist concoction. The Left needs an enemy–and they need a bad one to justify all the bad stuff they want to do. So they made one up.Everyone is saying Breitbart is an alt-right site. If you say that you have spent no time looking into the alt-right.

    If you want to know what the Alt-Right is, go read Radix or The Right Stuff. Those are Alt-Right sites as I understand the term.

    • The Puppetmaster

      Nobody on the alt-right wants to bring back slavery, that would require close association with negroes.

    • Mackalia

      I agree completely. From what I could find in my own research only a small bit of the Alt-Rightist are religious, for the most part they’re either contemptuous of religion or agnostic about it. Some are traditionalists and some are not. But even under the rubicon of alt-right there’s still a pretty big tent. Breibart isn’t really in this category at all, that sites pretty much just full of Trump apologists.
      In addition to your Alt-Right sites check out:
      http://neoreaction.net (probably the most definitive of the movement) and
      http://www.socialmatter.net

      Be careful though, this can definitely lead you down a rabbit hole for sure.

  • The Puppetmaster

    They’re not going to stop because the radical left equates Western civ with White people (and to be fair, the two are inextricably linked). So that’s the fight, if you’re for Western civilization, you’re for White people and against the left.

  • Mackalia

    I think part of problem is we need to clearly define the terminology of these movements. It’s seems as though we are currently undergoing a fairly significant realignment and the terms that we have used for decades to define certain schools of thought or political parties or what-have-you have gotten so misused that they are warped beyond comprehension.

    Of course in my mind this goes back to the “progressive era” (the original one) where certain people in both parties took on the moniker of the “Progressive”. It turned out that movement had a very ugly undercurrent pushing for eugenics and such, that they tarnished their name and so became “Liberals” once again. Unfortunately for the real liberals (henceforth called classical liberals) the progressives (or the regressives) in their party polluted the whole system with their anti-democratic, authoritarian ideas. Today this arm of the movement are the SJW’s, every writer for Slate, Vox and Huffpo, the Guardian et. al.

    So, conservativism has become an unconfortable cramped home for the political orphans in America. That’s why I think we need to be very specific in defining the movements we’re talking about. The “Right” and everything under this tent likely too broad on the political spectrum right to have any use. The Overton Window has shifted pretty far left (culturally, not politically) so that what was once Center seems far right.

    The Alt-Right specifically is very undemocratic, and is actually not a fan of the Am. constitution itself. They are even ok w/ monarchism so long as it takes their form of government. To them democracy is a gigantic failure. But (excluding the neo-nazis and not sure if they’re Alt right) I haven’t read any of this school of thought that want to kill other races and such. It seems they just want exactly what black separatists want, their own space. They do have extremely egoistic views of their own IQs though. They believe IQ and intelligence is everything.

    BTW, contrary to MSM thought Steve Bannon is not alt-right. He is actually more of a paleo-conservative in the tradition of Pat Buchanan (actually exactly like Pat) so unless the likes of Pat Buchanan and at least 1/2 the bloggers of the American Conservative are considered alt right suddenly then you can’t put Bannon in that box. I think we need a lexicon somewhere, like a wiki-glossary that gets updated frequently so that we’re all on the same page w/ labels and words.

  • Boritz

    The Right vs. The Alt-Right.

    The Right is composed of Republicans who in 1996 when Bob Dole was nominated, in 2008 when John McCain was nominated, in 2012 when Mitt Romney was nominated, and in 2016 when the party big shots spent >$100Million to attempt to nominate Jeb Bush offered this prayer:
    Lord, for what we are about to receive please make up properly grateful.
    The Alt-Right thinks all of that was a very bad idea and are ingrates in regard to those candidacies as well as that of W who like his father didn’t do much more for conservatives than the others named.

  • ATBOTL

    “…white male political supremacism — is anti-Western.”

    This claim is a logical absurdity. Western civilization is the civilization created by white people. To say that having white people control historically white cultures is somehow against those culture’s own values makes no sense. The claim relies on denying cultural identity to white people — saying white people’s cultures belong to everyone while accepting than non-white cultures are owned by their traditional practitioners.

    How would TAI’s editors react to the claim that “Jewish male political supremacism — is anti-Israeli?”

    They sure wouldn’t praise that statement like they praise the claim that white people have no ownership of their own culture.

    We all see the double standard here. This is a text book example of neoconservative style cultural Marxism: Claiming that “Western culture” simply means liberalism, that it has no identity and is not the product of any particular people.

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