Just 20 years ago, maybe less, the slogan of the Zeitgeist was “dissolve your boundaries.” Today, in multiple contexts, it is “build a wall.” In the wake of Charlottesville, of similar events leading up it and of more extreme events that will undoubtedly follow, it’s crucial to study this progression from dissolution to segregation.
The borders of all categories have thickened. Apparently more important than the kaleidoscopic inter-swirling of all possibilities (see Finnegans Wake) is the almost frantic assertion of identity and separation. Fundamentalism -- of religion, of ideology, of nationality, of race, of style, of preference -- is an obvious manifestation of this, but the tendency really permeates all of culture. The post-post modern is the revenge of the line. Apartheid has become universalized, internalized.
Things have become so inverted, so convoluted, that the far right, in troll/hipster drag and rebranded as the alt-right/alt-lite (-light), now promotes itself as the counterculture. A counterculture is very different than a mere sub-culture. The latter is simply a group of people distinguished by fashion or belief or background or lifestyle who live more or less in tolerated co-existence with the dominant culture.
The counterculture, on the other hand, exists to oppose and even overturn the dominant culture. Sub-cultures, because of their fringe or marginalized status, may eventually join the counterculture, but in general they are more or less content to stay on the margins without seeking revolutionary change.
The alt-right argument is essentially that the counterculture of the 1960s, which was in every respect liberal, has (since when exactly?) become the dominant culture. It is now conservatives and people on the right in general who are the cultural revolutionaries.
The dominant culture, the argument goes, has become so liberal, so politically correct, so intolerant of traditional values, so globalized, that it is only the right that offers any sort of genuine alternative. It is now the right -- and more accurately the hardcore far right -- that is truly different, that is edgy, that is new, that is hip. Everything else is awash in and captured by identity politics; paradoxically puritanical and utterly degenerate, riddled rotten with hypocrisy.
But while there is some legitimacy in its critique of the dominant “liberal” culture, and this needs to be examined closely, it is entirely inaccurate to call the alt-right a counterculture. The alt-right argument goes very wrong, and misleadingly so, with its first premise. This, intentionally or not, consists of a mistaken view of the original 1960s counterculture.
An authentic counterculture (regardless of inevitable Agency infiltration and misdirection within it) did emerge in the 1960s; and it can be called authentic not because it was liberal, but because it was anti-war, anti-corporate, anti-imperialist, anti-police state and opposed to anything that would seek to place bounds on the limits of consciousness. And in fact it was largely directed against an Establishment that fashioned itself as being liberal.
This counterculture -- despite going on to immensely influence popular culture and bring about clear reforms -- largely failed in its main objectives. Corporate capitalism, war, imperialism, the dulling of consciousness, imbalances and inequalities of all sorts, have continued and have greatly outpaced anything present in the 1960s. Only the image of the 1960s counterculture succeeded, and this only because it was so effectively co-opted and exploited by capitalism.
More flexibility in fashion and in lifestyle, more tolerance of the “rights” of marginalized groups, became accepted and even encouraged, but none of the deeper and more structural concerns -- which were the central focus of the counterculture -- were ever addressed. The military-industrial-entertainment complex, the principal enemy of the counterculture, is bigger and more powerful than ever.
And while large numbers of former members of the counterculture have indeed sold out and become the tools of the Machine, the counterculture did not become the dominant culture. It was smashed into a thousand pieces and its veneer was used to paint over the existing culture of death.
So when figures of the alt-right (and there really is no alt-right/alt-light distinction as I’ll explain below) like Paul Joseph Watson claim that their movement is the new counterculture, they are most likely attempting to deliberately deceive.
The corporate/war culture of the 1950s and before was not overthrown or even halted in the 1960s, and the Leviathan has grown far more powerful today. The alt-right poses no threat to this dominant culture and offers absolutely no alternative to it. It is only opposed to the politically-correct, social-welfare, humanitarian-intervention veneer that society has been whitewashed with since the 1960s.
In this sense the alt-right is refreshing to many. People are understandably sick of the hypocritical facade. It’s better to be oppressed by a crook who admits that he is a crook than one who tries to make you think that he is your friend. Bad cops are always easier to stomach than “good” cops.
The election of Trump, far from indicating widespread support for any particular policies, was an expression of mass revulsion against the sham. And the alt-right is right to expose this sham. But they are, most adamantly, not in any way apart from it. They want to return to the good old days when the iron hand wasn’t cucked into wearing the silk glove. This is all that is going on.
When the system enters into a period of crisis, as it did in the 1930s, as it did in the 1960s, and as it has been in since 2008, it chooses from a handful of available strategies. If the crisis is primarily economic, like it was in the 1930s, it seeks either to cut off slack (namely reforms won the people in previous struggles) by implementing austerity programs or, if the movement against it becomes too powerful, by preempting revolution with the introduction of “reforms” and “benefits.”
And likewise, if the crisis is primarily cultural, like it was in the 1960s, it seeks to co-opt and direct any authentically revolutionary elements to consumerism and empty platitudes. And when the crisis, as it has been since at least 2008, is in nearly equal measure economic and cultural it deploys all of the above. And in all cases it does what it is the very best at: dividing and conquering.
Since 2008, or perhaps 2001 yet stemming back for decades, the internationally-coordinated response from the global 0.001% has been a combination of austerity, fear, hyper-consumerism and constant distraction.
The articulated goal worldwide is the “Chinese model” -- police-state capitalism with constant intervention in the markets by the central government, which in turn justifies its repressive actions through the use of nationalist propaganda. It is basically a historical truism that when a state goes into crisis that it seeks by propaganda to direct the anger of its people outward in order to deflect anger away from itself. But if a viable outside enemy is unavailable, it far prefers civil war to social revolution.
And another historical truism is Walter Benjamin’s often bandied about insight: “Behind every fascism, there is a failed revolution.” This entirely explains the rise of the alt-right and similar “nationalist” movements globally. The system, which is global and which cannot be accurately termed as being either capitalist or socialist -- it is corporatist -- has reverted from a “globalist” phase back to a “nationalist” phase.
At the risk of war and social breakdown it has largely abandoned its public affirmation of a globally-integrated, corporate-dominated, common market -- although this agenda also creeps forward -- and has subtly promoted the idea of national determinism in order to ward off complete collapse and/or revolution.
The only nationalism that is not acceptable to the global order, whether it is labeled as left or right, is in the rare case when a government truly attempts to sever itself from central bank-controlled, international corporatism. This is not the “nationalism” of Trump or the “nationalism” of Brexit. These two are fully accepted, quasi-fascist stopgap responses to the global crisis.
In this atmosphere of crisis, the function of the alt-right is obvious. To amass and enforce public support faux-nationalist governments need “grassroots” movements to provide the illusion of popular support and to bolster their propaganda. If these movements are even more reactionary than the official line then so much the better. The government appears reasonable in comparison. But these movements like the alt-right have a much bigger purpose. They exist to identify and to begin the persecution of potential scapegoats.
When MAGA inevitably fails -- and inevitably it will simply because it has no intention or possibility of addressing the massive debt and inequality at the heart of the present crisis -- then the alt-right will already be there to point out who caused the failure.
As pawn-level fascists have always argued at such times, the economic, cultural and social collapse to come will be the fault of Antifa, BLM, third-wave feminists, SJWs, entitled millennial snowflakes, illegal immigrants, transsexuals, communists, Muslims, the Jooooos... The aims of the alt-right are very clear: demonize these groups and more in the eyes of the public, increasingly present themselves as the more reasonable, more hip, more fun alternative, and to push for increased state repression of the above “terrorist” groups. All of this is occurring right now.
The rise of the alt-right appears to be part of a very insidious agenda. Websites that were once interested in all aspects of marginalia -- psychedelics, the occult, synchronicity, living off the grid, alternative energy, space aliens, the paranormal, conspiracy, higher consciousness, anti-police state, alternative history, Forteana, organic food, non-allopathic medicine, radical politics, general weirdness -- now have white nationalism as their primary focus.
Red Ice is the obvious case study of this, but this trajectory, while maybe not as extreme, has been taken across the board. Even big conspiracy sites like Infowars, while never remotely liberal or left, have shifted from being anti-“NWO” to being anti- “leftist.” Somewhere along the line “beyond left and right” came to mean “against the left.”
Presently Alex Jones and co. are only slightly more bonkers than the Trump White House. Muslims -- and actually fake jihadist Muslims -- are no longer portrayed in Infowars analysis as being merely the patsies of U.S., NATO and Israeli Intelligence. Instead, they are presented as being real Muslims who are seeking shariah law and a global caliphate. Old Neocon rhetoric that was once exposed as divisive bullshit is now re-embraced under the auspices of making America great again. China and Russia have become the enemy again. Israel and Saudi Arabia are no longer that bad.
It is the Muslims and the leftists and (for a growing segment of the alt-right) the Jews that want to destroy our Western way of life. Every attack on a concert, or a restaurant or other public spaces is no longer instantly labeled a false-flag event, purely manufactured and carried out by intelligence agents in order to advance the rise of the police state, but are condemned as yet another Muslim outrage aimed at destroying our civilization.
This new Prison Planet line is far more compatible with the current pro-Trump ethos of the alt-right. And while evil Muslims commit atrocities at pop concerts their allies -- radical leftists -- take even more cunning aim at Western values. These Social Justice Warriors strike with vicious malice and the intent to eradicate any of the last vestiges of white, male, heterosexual, bourgeois, traditional, Christian society. These two especially -- Muslims and leftists -- are, in the final reckoning of the Infowarrior, the real enemies. The NWO was just a code-word for these scum.
And this is basically, to a greater or lesser degree, what one finds today in online “alternative” opinion. From Henrik to Milo to Jordan Peterson to the Proud Boys to 4chan to Tucker Carlson to Roosh to Stephan Molyneux to Jay Weidner to Jan Irvin to Lauren Southern to Stormfront to John Lamb Lash to the New Atheists to anti-feminists to larp nazis and even to more cautious internet celebs like Joe Rogan and others the same themes recur endlessly.
These, supposedly our new countercultural heroes, fit hand in glove with the perpetuation of the flailing Empire, now under MAGA auspices. Obviously, there are differences of all sorts between them -- they are brought together as more of a spectrum than a political faction or party -- but they are united by a common outlook: that to be a “rebel” these days is to be anti-leftist, and that the problems of our society boil down to a single ideology of evil -- cultural Marxism.
Cultural Marxism, in these circles, is viewed as being even more of a menace than radical Islam. In fact, the latter is almost depicted as being the creation of the former. But what is cultural Marxism? There are several answers available. Nearly everyone, not only those on the right, agree that it originates from the Marxist philosophers of the Frankfurt School in Germany. For the far right and the alt-right, though, cultural Marxism has a very specific design and purpose.
It was created by Jewish intellectuals in the first half on the 20th century, as part of an on-going Jewish conspiracy stretching back for centuries, with the expressed desire to destroy the white family, the white race and white civilization itself by promoting state-controlled education, multiculturalism, “human rights,” “environmentalism,” feminism, homosexuality, transsexuality, socialism, anti-gun laws, New Age spirituality, etc. The alt-right, which is just a rebranding of the old far right, expresses its opposition to this conspiracy very succinctly in its infamous 14 Words:
We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.
However disturbing and paranoid this may be, at least it is a coherent ideological statement. Leaving aside for the moment the impossibility of trying to define the White Race, at least the alt-right and its allies are presenting a clear goal. Not so the “alt-light.”
The alt-light -- distancing itself from the heil-Hitlering minions of Richard “punch’im-in-the-Dick” Spencer and his ilk -- likes to portray itself as the real protector of Western values like Free Speech and Rationality, values that are inclusive of everyone regardless of sex, race and creed. Even raging homos like Milo are welcomed by this hip and plucky bunch.
Yet the alt-light also believes the West has been infected by Cultural Marxism, and CM for the alt-light has exactly the same goals as it does for the alt-right. The only exception is that the Jews are not viewed as being behind the plot, or at least this is not openly admitted. But then who is it that wants to destroy Western (the alt-light shies away from calling it “white”) civilization and all of its institutions including Christianity and the family? It’s the Cultural Marxists, of course; the globalists, the leftists.
In other words, the members of the alt-light, unlike their alt-right brethren, really don’t have an answer to this question. And, quite logically, the alt-light has been challenged by figures in the alt-right for not addressing the “Jewish question.”
While the alt-right is openly anti-Semitic, the alt-light -- likely for recruiting purposes -- keeps its crypto-anti-Semitism to itself for the time being. Yet its ideology of anti-Cultural Marxism (read anti-semitism) is essentially the same as it is for anyone else on the far right. The alt-light/lite remains, as it always was, a part of the alt-right. (And now, post-Charlotteville, the frantic attempts by the alt-light to distance itself from the alt-right are even more laughable. The exiting rats are now flailing and drowning.)
But what is Cultural Marxism? Does it exist as anything other than a xenophobic fever dream of the far right? Yes it does. The Frankfurt School most certainly did exist and it still has a significant influence on culture. It can be traced back to World War One. The huge question following the war for Marxist intellectuals was how was it possible that working men, by the millions, signed up -- and they were not generally forced -- to kill and be killed for the cause of bourgeois nationalism and imperialism?
A good question! Why, instead of actively striving for the international social revolution that would lead to complete liberation, would workers actively become the fighting fodder of their oppressors? Why, instead of turning their guns on the bosses, did they actually fire them at each other? The conclusion, reached in retrospect by these intellectuals, was that the workers were not yet ready for revolution. They were too conservative, too hampered by old traditions, too bourgeois, to realize their own interest in social revolution.
So these Marxist revolutionaries -- Adorno and Horkheimer and later Herbert Marcuse and others -- realized that two things must change: conservative traditions must be eroded and a new revolutionary class or classes must be fostered. As white, male workers were too privileged, or at least too convinced of their “privileges,” under capitalism a new and more marginalized “proletariat” needed to be found.
This new revolutionary class was readily available. Women, minority groups, colonized people, homosexuals, bohemians, students, dropouts of all sorts were being sidelined and alienated by global capitalism. Thus, during the revolutionary explosion of the 1960s and early 1970s it was these groups, and not generally the working class, that found themselves on the front lines of the struggle. The counterculture formed and the era of identity politics had begun.
Notice that there is no elite Jewish plot involved here. There did exist a plan for revolution and social reorganization, but, it can be argued, the plan was for a legitimate revolution against an economic system that would happily and efficiently slaughter millions in imperialist wars.
As explained above, however, this revolution also ultimately failed. Capitalism once again out-maneuvered its resistance. The truly revolutionary aims of the counterculture were quashed and what remained were “identity politics,” a cluster of reform movements whose aim was and is to achieve equal rights and even privileges for marginalized groups within capitalism.
This has become more or less the official position of liberalism, represented by the campaign of Hillary Clinton, and it is these reformist identity political groups and their allies which are now the chief targets of the alt-right, now ironically representing marginalized white working-men. Missing on both sides of this dichotomy is a revolutionary critique of corporate capitalism. Cultural Marxism, if it exists at all, has been fully co-opted by the system. The alt-right boxes a shadow.
What is really destroying families, traditional cultures, the environment and the social fabric is corporate capitalism. When the same handful of global companies is selling the same products in cities and towns across the globe to people who are wearing the same fashions and absorbing the same mass media as everyone else, then it is ridiculous to speak of preserving national cultures.
Japan, for instance, is championed by members of the alt-right as a country that has resisted globalism with strict immigration and the promotion of national pride. If these people actually lived in Japan, though, they would soon find out the Japanese economy is dependent on the wage slavery of millions of salarymen and women who work long overtime hours in transnational companies, who hardly see their families, and who are in real danger of mental and physical breakdown and/or suicide.
Japan, swamped by debt and lacking resources, is hyper-dependent on global capitalism. An even stricter immigration policy, because of the demographic decline, would actually make the situation worse. Japan, like every other country today, needs a genuine social revolution, not alt-right horseshit.
And similar misconceptions abound everywhere. Scouring the web after Charlottesville, the doublethink of many in “alternative” circles is quickly evident. It goes something like this:
We are opposed completely to the Empire in all of its forms (although we support President Trump in his struggle against the “Deep State”). We think that the street battles occurring recently are part of a colossal divide-and-conquer psyop (but there is no possibility that the psyop also envelops people who condemn both sides). And we do think that both sides are wrong (but Antifa and BLM are actually much worse).
In short, there is a widespread fear on the web to not be duped. It is better to not pick a side then it is to support a group, however close its purported ideology may match personal convictions, that might actually be part of a Soros-funded psyop. The threat of capitalist financiers and manipulators is real, but so is the threat of paralysis when it is concluded that everything is part of a Soros-inspired plot.
Soros is a symbol which functions for the “right” like the Koch Brothers as symbol functions for the “left”. Soros provides funding to left groups thereby compromising their legitimacy for people more aligned to the right. And the Kochs provide funding for right groups thereby compromising their legitimacy for people more aligned to the left.
Each side then accuses the other as being covertly acting in the interests of shady billionaires, and no sharing of viewpoints is possible. Each is seen as being part of a sinister plot against the other. The two sides are in this way, among many other ploys, kept completely isolated from each other. Not the 99% against the 1%, but the 49.5% against the other 49.5% (although these percentages are in constant flux).
This did not have to be the case. There were a number of times when a wider anti-authoritarian and ant-imperialist movement that was authentically inclusive was nearly forged over the last 20 years. Not everyone on the “left” or the “right” have authoritarian and statist inclinations. Most, I’d argue, do not.
One of the first high-water marks was in the anti-globalization movement of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. This was a massive international movement that was starting to pose a serious threat to global corporatism. It was building to a intense culmination point -- a rally and march on Washington DC that would have included thousands of group and unions, which was scheduled for the end of September, 2001 in the midst of economic recession.
9/11, of course, directly caused the cancellation of this march, but it also effectively ended the movement. The War on Terror became the focus of the Empire and its media outlets, and xenophobia, fear and war became the norm. Even here, though, there was still a glimmer of hope. More and more people began to seriously and actively doubt the official story of what happened on that day. Many of these doubters were former anti-globalization activists.
There was a opportunity for the movement to be reborn by taking a much deeper parapolitical turn in its analysis, to discover how the system frequently uses conspiracy to protect its structure and deflect crisis. It would have only taken Noam Chomsky to say that it was a legitimate perspective to doubt the official story of 9/11 in order for this movement to crystallize. Chomsky, limiting his methodology to the analysis of public documents (and I don’t believe he had more sinister aims in mind), did not do this.
Instead, the remnants of the anti-globalization left largely followed Chomsky’s lead and adapted the “blowback” thesis for 9/11. This move, I think, alienated hundreds of thousands from the left. These people, sent adrift as I was, scrambled to find answers elsewhere and it didn’t take long to find them. They were discovered in the old conspiratorial right and in its new media incarnations.
How many people were driven directly, and seemingly paradoxically, from Chomsky to people like Alex Jones and beyond from about 2002 to 2006 just because the left had no good answer of what really happened on 9/11?
A leftist answer was there, from rare critics like Peter Dale Scot, but it became totally overshadowed by the onslaught of conspiracy theories from the right. And once people became convinced that the government and the media was lying about 9/11 -- that it seemed unavoidable but to conclude that the government murdered its own people either indirectly or directly -- then it became possible that all conspiracy theories could be true. All needed to be investigated “independently.”
And what or who was really behind these conspiracies? The CIA? The Deep State? The NWO? The aliens? But the hard right already had a well-worn track in place to direct researchers to the real culprits: the Jews.
This, I think, is the real origin of the alt-right, long before it had taken on that name. It consisted of mainly online researchers, many once affiliated with the anti-globalist left, who were directed through the rabbit hole straight to the clutches of the already deeply paranoid and anti-Semitic hard right. The popularization of the critique against Cultural Marxism began at this point.
But even with this ominous turn the development of a widespread anti-authoritarian and inclusive opposition was still possible. The original Tea Party, formed by followers of Ron Paul in 2007, was libertarian, anti-war and anti-corporate. It was open to an alliance with like-minded progressives on the left and for a short time this looked possible.
Quickly, though, this became unrealistic. Leftists became convinced that the Tea Party was a Koch Brothers plot (see above), and they seemed to be proved right when the Tea Party was entirely absorbed by the Republican Party and shorn of its anti-war and anti-imperialist elements.
The next near-breakthrough point came in 2011 with the Occupy movement. Many of the predecessors of the anarchists on the “left” and the libertarians on the “right” now battling each other at contrived “Free Speech” rallies, were once sitting together in parks and public centres across the US and the world genuinely trying to reach a consensus by which to combat the elite 1%.
In many ways the analysis in this movement was deeper, and therefore more threatening to the system, than the anti-globalization movement. A combined structural and class/conspiratorial analysis was in the process of being developed in the context of prolonged economic recession, but without antisemitic or exclusionary overtones. Each “side” was learning from the other. The Democratic Party dreamed of transforming Occupy into its own private Tea Party, but this was firmly resisted. Only violent suppression by the cities, directed by Homeland Security, stamped out the movement.
With the rise of Trump -- a billionaire media figure posing as an anti-establishment counter to Clinton, but in truth the perfect candidate to further divide the population in a time of ongoing crisis and revolutionary potential -- all possibility of reconciliation of the anti-authoritarians on the left and right vanished.
Libertarians and anarchist capitalists became pushed to the hard right, to the point where they have begun to violently defend the “free speech” of racist and truly fascist assholes on the right, and often mutating into members of the alt-right proper. And anarchists and other anti-authoritarians became pushed more deeply into the ranks of statists concerned primarily with identity politics. This is basically where things stand at present. Battle lines have been formed. Everyone is urged to choose a side.
And is there a choice? At first glance the answer is absolutely no. Both camps are deeply flawed. Both are violent, exclusionary and plain ugly. It is easy to conclude that we are being set up to fight each other, largely because this is certainly the case. Again, the system much prefers civil war to social revolution.
This last point is key, however, as truly only one side -- however flawed -- is even advocating revolution, only one side is inclusive and open enough to allow for the broad working-class base needed for a revolution. The alt-right wants to return to a time where, to paraphrase a poster on the GLP forum, “the blacks stop being uppity, women return to the kitchen and the faggots go back in the closet.”
There is much to criticize about the tactics of Antifa, but the overall sentiment of anti-fascism should be embraced wholeheartedly. Punching Trump supporters in the face for being "Nazis" is stupid and counter-productive, but recognizing the Mussolini-like politics of the Trump regime is essential analysis. Trump, however much this image of himself is propped up, is NOT a defender of the people against the Deep State. His administration, like the fascist and Nazi governments of the past, is the perfect response of the corporate system to deep economic and social crisis.
There is a definite rift in the US ruling class, with a sizeable and influential faction attempting to cling on to pre-crisis globalism, but with the deepening of this crisis this rift will likely be bandaged over. Preserving the failing boundaries of Empire will once again be the predominant concern of the entire ruling class.
In this crisis, there can be no alliance with the alt-right for people who actively seek genuine change and liberation. The alt-right is the on-the-ground fascism that aims to replace revolution. It acts as the civilian shock troops for the proto-fascist regime in power. It must not be allowed to portray itself as revolutionary or countercultural. Its aims always are to build walls, not to dissolve boundaries.
But to stop the flow of truly concerned people of anti-authoritarian/anti-imperialist bent into its camp, the "left" also needs to radically change. The emphasis needs to be once again on structural and revolutionary change. Identity politics, which however always needs to be kept in mind, must take a back seat to the goal of recreating a truly international and revolutionary opposition to the corporate empire and the 0.001%.
It should not even need to be stated, but any effective movement against corporate capitalism must completely sever any links that it has to the Democratic or any other neo-liberal party, to the corporate media or any "alternative" media that functions only as its mirror, to the funding of financiers however indirect, to the promises of the pharmaceutical companies or other multinational conglomerates, to any bonds of national patriotism or global governance, to any divisions of race, sex, creed or preference, to the culture of ceaseless consumerism and endless waste and destruction.
The existing movements on the "left", now on the street, may be far from this presently, but there is literally no alternative elsewhere. The choice not to choose has been taken away from us. To be inactive is to invite reaction. Yet there is a non-duality of dualism and non-dualism. The "left" needs to be completely transformed and the alt-right needs to dwindle into nothing. Civil war must be avoided at all costs and social revolution, in the most profound Blakean sense, must be our only aim. Only in this effort will a real counterculture emerge again.