Over the past year, I have spoken with—and thought about—a particular demographic that should be open to White Nationalism, but which largely has not been: conservative Gen-Xers. They tend to reject White Nationalism as being un-American, as immoral, and most prominently, as comprised of losers and failures.
I even wrote an experimental criticism of White Nationalism, a sort of “what would a smart Gen-Xer say to condemn White Nationalism?” This is what I came up with:
I remember Douglas Murray once expressing concern over how it often seemed that only the far-Right extremists had a sensible understanding of Islam.
Now Murray himself is not a “far-Right extremist.” A self-described “small-c conservative” who penned a book called Neoconservatism: Why We Need It is about as moderate of a Right-winger as one can get — indeed, many people would not even classify him as Right at all, but as a Trotskyite Leftist (neoconservatives being intellectual descendants of Leon Trotsky). He disagrees in principle and in policy with much of the far-Right in Britain, and if it weren’t for the issue of Islam, he probably would have no association or interest in them whatsoever. Nevertheless, he is right to point out that the majority of the Left has — as Sam Harris described in the most memorable Bill Maher interview of all time — failed on the question of theocracy. When it comes to Islam, it’s groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party, or it’s short-sighted virtue signaling until we die.
As a nationalist with libertarian sentiments, I find myself feeling a great deal of empathy for Murray. In Europe, the mainstream can’t even figure out Islam. But Islam is not a problem in America — not really. Our problem is race. And in America, it has often seemed to me as if the only people talking sensibly about race are on the far-Right.
To begin with, they’re right in the science, which is fairly overwhelming. There are significant biological — not cultural — differences between different groups. Philippe Rushton, Charles Murray, Helmuth Nyborg, and Linda Gottfredson are all serious scientists who, in combination, present an overwhelming case that we are not at all blank slates, and that certain populations have particular propensities that others lack. It is not an accident that East Africans just happen to keep winning marathons, or that West Africans keep winning all the sprints, or that Asians keep winning the math competitions. Genetics play a role in the skills and attributes we are likely to inherit, and our race is the broad-level determining factor for our genetics.
Moreover, the far-Right is correct about the effects of diversity. In the academic world, Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone is the go-to case for the negative effects of diversity and multiculturalism, which include decreased social trust and subsequent isolation. The less homogeneous a society becomes, the less it will feel like “home” to those who live there.
In combination, the realities of race and the negative effects of diversity have given rise to a growing movement for White Nationalism. Here, the definitive book to read on the subject is Greg Johnson’s White Nationalist Manifesto.
However, I have noticed a substantial number of Americans (typically Gen-Xers) who are smart, who accept the realities of race, and who understand the negative consequences of diversity, who are politically Right-of-center, who have no qualms about cutting against the social grain, and who have a personal stake in America’s future. In short, they hold all of the basic beliefs which seem logically to lead to White Nationalism . . . and yet they reject White Nationalism.
It is a little strange, because in their beliefs, these Americans are already most of the way to White Nationalism. But for them, a line is crossed somewhere between Donald Trump and Richard Spencer. More curious still, none are quite able to say why. One said the problem was that White Nationalists are “losers.” Another, that they were intolerably racist, despite being otherwise open to talk about racial differences. Yet another, that they were control freaks who had no sense of fun. Another argued that “White Nationalism” is incoherent, a logical contradiction, since nation is a subcategory of race. Why this is considered a rebuttal, rather than an even more extreme version of ethno-nationalism, is unclear.
However, the fact that they seem unable to give a coherent answer does not mean that there is no answer. Something about the concept of White Nationalism seems to cut against what the majority of intelligent, conservative Americans value, and values can sometimes be difficult to name. Fair enough; that’s what we have philosophers for. So what is the name of the American value which White Nationalism contradicts?
Ironically, it is identity.
The first white Americans to arrive here were a motley crew of religious misfits, indentured servants, fur-traders and soldiers; people who did not feel a particularly strong sense of identity with their home country, and whose response was: “Well, I guess I’ll move West and make my own place.”
If the puritans and the mountain men had anything in common, it was this spirit.
American identity revolves around this spirit of independence — not necessarily the spirit of the loner, but of those who, together, hope to shrug off the confines of the developed society from which they came and to make it on their own. In the wilderness, if necessary. By its nature, such an identity shuns old heuristic standards for group identification, preferring in its place the acknowledgement of a shared nature.
Curiously enough, it is the Germans who give us the best analogue for this kind of thinking, specifically in the realm of dogs. Unlike every other dog breed, the official standard of the German Shepherd Dog gives no concrete physical description in terms of color or weight or even of a noteworthy characteristic shape. Rather, it aims at a general nature, something that — in theory — any number of dog breeds could contribute to:
The first impression of a good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well-muscled animal, alert and full of life. It is well balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth curves rather than angles. It looks substantial and not spindly, giving the impression, both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living. The ideal dog is stamped with a look of quality and nobility – difficult to define, but unmistakable when present. Secondary sex characteristics are strongly marked, and every animal gives a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its sex.
Is it likely that a Chihuahua might be chosen by a GSD breeder for beneficial character traits? It seems improbable. Nevertheless, there is speculation that the first German Shepherd Dog — Horand von Grafrath — was not actually a pure dog, but part-wolf. In any case, there is something anathema to the original purpose of the creation of the breed to lay out biological standards (weight, color, etc.) for what is, and is not, a German Shepherd Dog. Ironically, it has been the American interest in maintaining a particular shape and color pattern that has led to a dilution of the classical GSD character among American-bred animals, and a disconcerting rise in hip dysplasia problems.
For humans, America was a self-selecting character sieve. Those who came were, generally speaking, those who wanted to come. Those who found that they actually preferred European civilization often went home. When things got too civilized on the East coast, Americans continued to move West, away from civilization, away from the state. In such a situation, whether your neighbor shared your ancestry and culture was somewhat irrelevant, because (1) both of you were fleeing from your home civilization, (2) you have bigger problems to worry about, like getting food and staying warm, and (3) racial and cultural identities are distractions from what really matters, for survival and for taste: the American character. Difficult to define but unmistakable when present.
This is not to say that there will not be patterns visible in which races and populations are more American. But the selective process is an organic, evolutionary one, not a top-down plan. In this regard, the German Shepherd Dog actually departs from the more organic patriotic American “breed description,” which was not designed by a German ex-cavalry captain, but emerged from the self-selected departed and from the land itself.
In White Nationalist circles, this peculiar kind of anti-racist sentiment among even racially aware Americans is usually attributed either to Jewish cultural intervention, or to “pathological altruism,” the belief that whites are just so generous that they will give away everything they have to the point of extinction. Although there may be some truth in both claims, I don’t believe either is adequate in explaining the conflict between the American identity and the White Nationalist one.
Beginning with the latter explanation, pathological altruism simply doesn’t capture the American spirit. While it seems to apply to certain European countries (Nordic ones in particular), America’s meritocratic basis for accepting those of other races and nations cuts in both directions. The American ethos holds that those who do not work, or do not work hard enough, have earned the right to beg on street corners, or even to starve in the wilderness. Character is not merely a standard for inclusion, but also for exclusion, and globally speaking, far more people fall into the latter category than the former.
As far as Jewish cultural intervention is concerned, it is clear that as with every other foreign nation, native group loyalties can compete with and threaten the dominant, ostensibly shared identity of America. Israel has definitely had a heavy influence on American politics, comparable to that of Russia or Saudi Arabia. However, it is equally true that certain Jews are American, in the sense that they embody the American ethos and spirit. In the Libertarian world alone, Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand come to mind. Perhaps more importantly, the evidence of this American spirit both predates Jewish involvement in America, and presently exists in places beyond the influence of Jewish cultural narratives, implying that it did not originate with Jewish cultural influence.
Allow me to extend two examples to illustrate my case — an old one, and a new one.
In 1826, James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans: A Novel of 1757. As the title implies, the time of the writing predates serious Jewish intellectual participation in the American culture, and Cooper is himself, of course, an English-descended American. The book is worth reading even if you have seen the movie. What makes the book interesting to the subject at hands is that while the characters variously overcome their own racial prejudices, the subject and significance of race is not dodged. Indeed, the title of the book would be of little importance if race did not matter — why, after all, would we care about the last of the Mohicans if the Mohicans were just like everyone else?
Alice, one of the daughters of the English commander Munro (who is clearly identified as a Scotsman), holds prejudices against the Native Americans as a group, but has only positive, almost flirtatious things to say about the young Mohican, Uncas. When commander Munro learns of Major Duncan Heyward’s desire to marry his daughter Alice, he is shocked that the young Major would be willing to wed the racially impure product of an affair, rather than his pure-blooded daughter Cora, although he is happy and readily agrees. Even the French are given a positive representative in the form of General Montcalm, who is gracious and polite even in victory.
But not every group is depicted in such a positive light. The Indian nations are not thought of as a single group, and while the Lenape and Mohicans are generally acknowledged to be a noble and honest people, the Mohawks are looked on with suspicion (perhaps because they are allied with the French), and the Hurons are hated with open contempt. The English scout Hawkeye and his Mohican friends call them “a thievish race.” The acts of Magua — a Huron-turned-Mohawk, and the primary antagonist of the tale — bear out their opinion, which seems to be based not upon preconceived notions, but on experience.
The English themselves are not held in low regard, as the English scout Hawkeye is in many ways the hero of the story, and among the more noble characters. But while Cooper acknowledges general trends among groups, he also acknowledges the exceptions in the character of David Gamut, a well-meaning but bumbling and relatively worthless compatriot. From the comfort and familiarity with which he is treated by Cora and Alice, it is safe to assume that he is of English descent.
If The Last of the Mohicans is any measure of racial attitudes in 18th and 19th century America, then it is clear that there is a historical precedent for understanding and even appreciating racial differences, while simultaneously acknowledging the dangers of cultural conflict, and yet not falling into surface-level heuristics about who can and cannot be an American.
Fast-forward about 200 years. In May of 2018, Chuck Palahniuk published Adjustment Day, a novel which was reviewed not once, not twice, but three times on the White Nationalist webzine Counter-Currents . . . with some additional commentary by Greg Johnson. (O’Meara’s review is, in my opinion, worth reading as an exemplar in style for book reviews in its own right). Surely such a well-liked book coincides with the interests of White Nationalism then?
Yes . . . and no.
The story acknowledges much of what White Nationalists have to say, about men, about racial differences; really, about differences in general. It describes how terrible it is that blacks be held to the standards of whites, and vice versa. Same with gays and straights. After the “adjustment day,” in which the majority of politicians, journalists, and academics are butchered for their role in the present society, three different ethno-states are established: Caucasia, in what was once the North, Central, and Western regions of the United States; Blacktopia, in what was previously the South; and Gaysia, established in place of California.
Yet these separated ethno-states are not utopian. They’re not even better. Caucasia is a lame Renaissance fair. Gaysia is a totalitarian mess, where gay people are forced to try to conceive in order to keep their population afloat over time via exchange with the gays from Caucasia and Blacktopia. Blacktopia, miraculously, actually is a kind of utopia, literally running on music-magic. While Caucasia and Gaysia are things that whites and homosexuals might read about and reject, Blacktopia is the sort of place that blacks will read about and can’t accept, even if it sounds nice. It just isn’t going to happen.
The story ends with a Motley crew of characters — some from each of the three regions — meeting around a campfire in the borderlands, a no-man’s-land wilderness between Caucasia, Gaysia and Blacktopia (Texas?) filled with wolves, bears, and poisonous snakes. They don’t seem to have a plan, except they know they don’t want to live in their home countries. They traveled across the wilderness to try to make it on their own . . . together.
These are Americans.
For it to mean something to be American, of course, some people have to be un-American.
There is a lot of silliness and stupidity on the subject of immigration and American identity. Civic Nationalists and anti-nationalists alike (if there is a difference) are inclined to say that “we’re all immigrants,” as though all reasons for moving to a place are equivalent in the sorts of people they select for. They are not. The early puritans and mountain men who came over here were departing civilization to the wilderness, in part to be left alone. The majority of migrants coming into the United States today, by contrast, are moving here not to escape civilization, but to benefit from it. It is not an unreasonable concern — or even a particularly racial one — to think about the difference in spirit between the sorts of people who came to America in the 17th, 18th, and even 19th centuries, and those who have arrived in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Among those who have come for un-American reasons are a number of white people, even of English and German descent. Are these people American?
Being an American is about embodying a certain ethos: the ethos of those who created this country. Despite significant cross-over in terms of beliefs, White Nationalism is, and always will be, un-American. It is un-American because its notion of identity is antithetical to the American spirit, and accepting the White Nationalist’s view would require America to abandon its own identity.
Like many doomed ideologies, the problem with White Nationalism is apparent in its name. The final measure of an American has never been their race, even when race is acknowledged as a relevant factor. Being an American has everything to do with your way of being, and the homogeneous American society is alike in this spirit. If it happens to be homogeneous in color too, it is interesting, but of less importance.
In short, the problem with White Nationalism is simply that it is un-American. The claim feels hollow, as the charge has been heavily abused and diluted to the point of cliché. But in the case of White Nationalism, where the aim is clarification of identity, the allegation is uniquely apt because the proposed method of delineating “us” and “them” is anathema to the American nature, to the American identity. Despite getting so much right, White Nationalism is doomed to fail because in its pursuit of a stable and homogeneous identity, it fails to acknowledge the preexisting identity they are unwittingly attempting to replace, which is racially specific in origin (English/Germanic) but is not racially exclusive in practice.
I have to admit, I was kind of proud of myself, as the criticism is stronger than any other I’m aware of. It sort of coincides with Ryan Faulk’s rejection of White Nationalism a few months ago, in favor of a kind of civic nationalism: “You tell me, how does ‘American Conservative’ not function as an ethnicity, as far as I can see, a more vital and robust ethnicity than ‘White American’?”
At the heart of Faulk’s criticism appeared to be a despair over the lack of white self-awareness and long-term interest in survival. Why stand up for “white people” when white people clearly have no interest in standing up for themselves? The stronger form of this argument is that “white people” are not actually a coherent nation, making “White Nationalism” an incoherent proposition and a doomed endeavor. The evidence for this being in the black-pilling division among white people, and the observation Faulk opens his video with: that whites are “not all that politically exceptional”; about as susceptible to liberal nonsense as any other group.
To illustrate the point, Faulk described in detail how whites support Left-wing social policy, broadly oppose free speech, and that when you get down into the details, there is very little that is relatively politically redeeming about “white people” as such. Rather, the “nation” with whom he identifies is a North Seas regionally-specific subset of whites—and more precisely, their values—whom he believes to be responsible for the benefits of first world civilization and the industrial revolution, and whose genetic and cultural impact we see in the “American Conservative” population. On these grounds, Faulk rejected White Nationalism in favor of “American Conservative” nationalism.
As for whether or not “whites” are a nation, the majority of White Nationalists advocate nationalism for all people. “White Nationalism,” generally understood, is thus largely a repudiation of the unique moral condemnation of nationalism for white people, and not a call for the breaking down of these national divisions among white people. For example, it is fine for Japan to be for the Japanese, or Sudan for the Sudanese, but modernity does not permit France to be for the French, or England to be for the English. White Nationalism in general is not a pan-racial imperial project, but about securing “France for the French,” and “England for the English.” In America, “White Nationalism” means having a homeland for the posterity of the American Colonists, who were predominantly English and German.
But this is the less compelling argument that the Alternative Hypothesis makes.
Faulk says that while White Nationalists see other nations clearly, they look at themselves through idealistic, rose-tinted lenses. White nationalists see “whites” as a kind of superior group, possessing a romantic-sounding “Faustian spirit” and creating civilization and so on, and are worth rallying around politically because of their superiority. This point sounds very compelling because we’re all familiar with degenerate whites, “white trash,” and the worst and most embarrassing elements of our own group. Moreover, we are all familiar with some number who do seem to embrace White Nationalism on the basis of a perceived superiority (needless to say, these two groups substantially overlap). Others have abandoned White Nationalism for such things. Faulk even observes that whites, as a group, appear to lack the will to survive. Why intertwine ourselves with these sorts when we could align ourselves with all that is good and admirable about white society – the qualities, in other words, without the people?
This Platonic temptation, however, puts the cart before the horse. It mistakes the means of politics with the ends, and walks right back into the idealistic trap he believes he is walking out of by abandoning White Nationalism. Let me try to illustrate with an analogy.
Imagine that you are sitting around the dinner table with your family. Someone had a rough day at work. Someone else isn’t feeling well. The dinner is okay, but someone forgot to put spoons out for the soup. You have to go get them. Over the course of the meal, a minor disagreement erupts into a major argument, and someone storms off and slams the door behind them.
This is clearly a dysfunctional interaction, and yet, most of us have experienced an event like this in our own personal lives, at least once or twice. Families are stressful and sometimes embarrassing. People make mistakes, lose their jobs, get addicted, lazily sit around, and cause problems.
Why not walk away and choose a new family that is more functional?
The same argument can be made of marriage too. In moments of particular stress, it may certainly be tempting to simply divorce your spouse and find someone easier to get along with.
Ryan Faulk wants to live in a nation that he can be proud of, and understandably so. We all do. However, the pursuit of this kind of noble nation by redefining our national identity is an abandonment of our own obligations to our spouse, our family, and our nation. Like civic nationalists generally, Faulk mistakes the virtues that are useful for achieving more harmonious socio-political order with the people who are objects towards which virtues may be directed. If you abandon the objects of virtuous action, how can you demonstrate virtue? In the same way, how can you find a virtuous, conservative home-nation if everyone adheres to the same tendency to drift and search for a new nation? A new family?
This is a subject which Christians have a better answer for than non-Christians:
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
Now I am not a Christian myself, and I do not believe it is right and moral to love our enemies (the context of this verse). But everyone understands that love is not merely a feeling, but an action and a duty. We are supposed to love our family even when we don’t feel like it. Even when they are embarrassing to us, or when it is inconvenient or painful.
The same is true of our nation. A nation is not comprised of the virtues we project onto it (industriousness, social trust, etc.), any more than a family is comprised of “communication,” “appreciation,” and “family time.” Both are composed of people, and whatever virtues they happen to possess are a secondary feature, of secondary importance. “American Conservative” does not function as an ethnic stand-in for the same reason that “timeliness” does not function as a stand-in employee, or the concept of “love” does not stand in for a flesh-and-blood spouse. “American Conservatives” is not so much a group of people as it is an idea. You may as well simply identify with “mammals,” as some misanthropic dog-lovers do. Dogs are less demanding, bred as they have been for the purpose of pleasing humans. But it’s a cheap and empty stand-in for the love of your own kind.
I understand the Gen-X frustration with loving your nation that seems not to love you, or itself. But let’s return to our analogy for comparison. Imagine saying that there was no point in loving a family member because they were addicted to a harmful substance. “What would be the point of loving them when they clearly don’t love themselves?” we might ask. This question makes the mistake of thinking that our obligation to love them is about our own interests and sense of pride. It is not. Our obligation to love our family and our nation does not come from self-interest. It is an expression of gratitude for our own existence and for what we have inherited, which we, as individuals, did not produce.
As we did not choose what we have inherited, so we do not get to choose our identity. We can no more declare ourselves to be “North Seas European, but not white trash” than we can say that we identify with the good qualities of human nature generally, but not the bad. All identities come with pros and cons, and to abandon your identity in favor of an idealized civic identity (a Platonic, imaginary identity) is simply to chase around after the apparently greener grass on the other side of the fence.
In Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations, the protagonist—an orphan named Pip—decides that he wants to be a gentleman, rather than a rough and common blacksmith. His motivation is a beautiful young girl, Estella, who is contemptuous of the lowly and ordinary world from which Pip came. And he is fortunate—he is chosen by a mysterious benefactor to become a gentleman, only to discover later that his mysterious benefactor was not merely a rough commoner, but in fact a broken criminal, whom Pip helped when the man was starving and freezing… and whom is later discovered to be Estella’s father.
I do not bring up this literary allusion simply for its emotional power. The fact is that North Sea Europeans were not always dominant in history. The Indians, the Chinese, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Mayans, the Incas, the Greeks, and the Romans all, at various times, had substantially superior civilizations to anything in Northern Europe—all of this, of course, long before the Industrial Revolution. The point is that beautiful and good things can and do come from humble beginnings. But it takes commitment. It takes loyalty. And above all, it takes faith.
Just like in marriage.
I sympathize with Gen-Xers, who have been taught since childhood to embrace the qualities of America—the land of the free, and the home of the brave. Perhaps this was because Gen-Xers also experienced the abandonment of real people—their boomer parents. It is easy to see how such an abandonment may lead to a distrust in people, and a preference for abstract values. Untrusting of their family and their nation, they embraced the spirit of America; the German Shepherd breed description of America, featuring Hawkeye and Palahniuk’s motley crew, rather than the people being described by that spirit. Reality can let you down, while ideals remain invincible, untouched; a bastion of identity that cannot be touched by neglectful parents, a corrupt government, a selfish and ungracious society, or a country with no apparent future.
But choosing to identify by your values is no less crazy than choosing to identify as a trans-human goat-whale, and it is no less neglectful than working extra hours so you can drive a Porsche, rather than spending time with your increasingly cynical and nomadic Gen-X children.
For the same reasons, White Nationalists should not be too hard on Generation X. The point is not to condemn people for abandoning those they love (that is, after all, the problem), but to remind ourselves and each other of why it all matters. That why is not the qualities we admire in ourselves; that is simply a recipe for narcissism, loneliness, and stubborn conceitedness. The reasons are other people, who are the grounds for those qualities being good or bad anyway. Of what use is an industrial revolution if you’re all alone? Of what use are manual competence, courage, honor, loyalty, strength, beauty, wisdom, and self-discipline if you have no lineage, no nation, no family, and no future?
Rejecting White Nationalism because it is allegedly comprised of failures and losers is a curious kind of moral confession – it is good to abandon people who are inferior to you. But the White Nationalist crowd—if it is indeed composed of losers and failures—is hardly alone in this regard. America is full of losers and failures. The Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian parties are all full of weirdos, eccentrics, loners, cynics, and the depressed. To reject your nation, or your family, or anyone, simply because of your assumptions about their trajectory, is to concentrate on the finger and miss the moon. It swaps in an abstract description in place of a real identity.
White Nationalism is not about promoting white identity because it is superior. Rather, it is about accepting your identity, and loving yourself, your family, and your nation, regardless of how high or lowly they may be. Because ultimately, that is how identities become strong—be they families, marriages, tribes, or nations. For this reason, White Nationalism is not morally lacking, but is in fact morally superior to civic nationalism, which all but requires the civic nationalist to abandon his own family and countrymen if they don’t support the his particular beliefs. It is moral, and it is American in the real sense of the term, rather than in the abstract sense—conforming to descriptive values arrived at ex post facto. The American ethos cannot be “more American” than the people from whom the ethos was distilled. And finally, White Nationalism is not composed of losers and failures, at least not any more than any other group. But the truth is, there are losers and failures in White Nationalism, just as there are in any group. The question is not “what is the winning side?” but “how do we become the winning side?” Only through commitment to, faith in, and hope for itself can the American nation—or any other nation—survive and thrive.