Friday, August 26, 2016

The Speech That Launched the Alt-Right Movement

By Robert Wenzel

At the 2008 Annual Meeting ( November 21-23, 2008) of the H.L.Mencken Club, a speech was delivered by the scholar Paul Gottfried. In the speech, he called for a united front among "post-paleo" conservatives to battle neoconservatives and establishment conservatives.

He said in part:
We have youth and exuberance on our side, and a membership that is largely in its twenties and thirties. We have attracted beside old-timers like me, as I noted in my introductory paragraph, well-educated young professionals, who consider themselves to be on the right, but not of the current conservative movement. These “post-paleos,” to whom I have alluded in Internet commentaries, are out in force here tonight. And they are radical in the sense in which William F. Buckley once defined a true Right, an oppositional force that tries to uncover the root causes of our political and cultural crises and then to address them.

And when I speak about the postpaleos, it goes without saying that I’m referring to a growing communion beyond this organization. It is one that now includes Takimag,, and other websites that are willing to engage sensitive, timely subjects.

A question that has been asked of me and of others in this room is why we don’t try to join the official conservative movement. This movement controls hundreds of million of dollars, TV networks, strings of newspapers and magazines, multitudinous foundations and institutes, and a bevy of real and bleached blonds on FOX-news. This is not even to mention the movement’s influence on the GOP, the leaders of which dutifully recite neoconservative slogans. To whatever extent the GOP still has something that can be described as a “mind,” it is what neoconservative surgeons have implanted.

Why then don’t the post-paleos ask to be admitted to this edifice of power? Even as the beneficiaries of second- or even third-rung posts, our younger members would be better off financially than they are in their present genteel, hand-to-mouth existences. It is easy to imagine that even the secretaries at AEI, Heritage or The Weekly Standard earn more than many of those in this room. Movement conservatives certainly have the wind in their sails; and perhaps most of us have been tempted at one time or another to join them in order to benefit from their considerable wealth.

Allow me to suggest two reasons that most of us have not gone over to the Dark Side. One, that side will not have us; and it has treated us, in contrast to such worthies as black nationalists, radical feminists, and open-borders advocates, as being unfit for admittance into the political conversation. We are not viewed as honorable dissenters but depicted as subhuman infidels or ignored in the same way as one would a senile uncle who occasionally wanders into one’s living room. This imperial ban has been extended even to brilliant social scientists and statisticians who are viewed as excessively intimate with the wrong people, that is, with those who stand outside the camp that the neocons occupy and now share with neo-liberals and the center-left. I suspect that most of us, including those who belong to my children’s generation, would not be trusted even if we feigned admiration for Martin Luther King, Joe Lieberman and Scoop Jackson and even if we called for having open borders with Mexico and for attacking and occupying Iran. Even then a credibility gap would be cited to justify our further marginalization.

But there is another factor, beside necessity, which keeps us where we are. We are convinced that we are right in our historical and cultural observations while those who have quarantined us are wrong. This is indeed my position, and it is one that the officers of this organization fully share. But to move from theory to practice, there are two counsels that I would strenuously urge. First, we must try to do what is possible rather than what lies beyond our limited material resources. What we can hope to achieve in the near term as opposed what we might able to do in the fullness of time is to gain recognition as an intellectual Right—and one that is critical of the neoconservative-controlled conservative establishment. Although that establishment does permit some internal dissent, and has even provided support for a handful of worthwhile scholars, it is at least as closed as were the Communist Parties of Eastern Europe before the collapse of the Soviet Empire. But unlike that now vanished domination, the neocon media empire is not particularly porous, and with the help of the Left, it is more than able to keep out of public view any serious challenge from the right. It is precisely our goal to become such a challenge. And it is my hope that a younger generation will acquire the resources to do so and will know how to deploy them.
And, so, while  Gottfried never used the term "alt-right" in the speech, the sperm had hit the egg.

The next step in the embryonic development of the movement came about when Richard Spencer, then managing editor of TakiMag. chose to publish the speech at the Taki website. He titled the speech,  The Decline and Rise of the Alternative Right.

The movement had its name. Spencer went on to start  a now defunct website called Alternative Right.

Jesse Walker informs:
Early on, some writers used the phrase in that broad sense, roping in everyone from young Buchananites to the Ron Paul movement. But by the time Spencer started a site called Alternative Right, the easiest definition of "alt-right" was "the stuff Richard Spencer believes." And more and more, Spencer's politics were not just post-paleo but explicitly white nationalist.
The movement has continued to shift in its core direction. Walker again:
The meaning mutated again when the phrase caught on in some neighborhoods of 4chan, an online haven for pranksters who enjoy being offensive for its own sake; the connotations of "alt-right" now included a bunch of 4chan memes and inside jokes, and at times a dose of irony. (While most alt-rightists are completely serious about their politics, with the channer component it isn't always clear if someone believes what he's spouting or is trolling you.) Since then the alt-right's boundaries have grown only blurrier....  In the last year I've seen all sorts of online subcultures described as alt-rightists, whether or not the designation makes sense. Vox's "explainer" on the alt-right devotes a couple thousand words to neoreaction and a couple hundred words to Gamergate; Spencer is mentioned just once.
In any event, the core of the alt-right tends to like Trump, and there are people on Team Trump who like them back. Notably, there is former Breitbart chief Steve Bannon, recently hired as Trump's campaign CEO, who has called Breitbart "the platform for the alt-right." Bannon definition of "alt-right" might not be the same as Spencer's—he says he sees the central idea just as nationalism, not racial nationalism—but like I said, the meaning tends to drift.
As for Gottfried, the Horace Raffensperger Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, he has said nothing publicly about his view on the alt-right movement, though, he is a Trump supporter and has with Walter Block formed Scholars for Trump.


  1. I think it's a mix of social conservatives, Trumpers, and white nationalists. People are sick of the SJW nonsense, the crime, and the riots and some end up in the alt-right.

  2. I did not state Gottfried was directly involved in the alt-right. I said his speech launched the movement.

    Indeed, I close by saying he "has said nothing publicly about his view on the alt-right movement."

    While there are anti-semitic elements within the alt-right movement, it is more a white nationalist group with anti-politically correct stances.

    Milo is not a Jew.