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A Review of Proud Boys & the White Ethnostate

[1]3,833 words

Alexandra Minna Stern
Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right is Warping the American Imagination [2]
New York: Beacon Press, 2019

I never really saw the wisdom in how the Left typically ignores Dissident Right ideas until reading Alexandra Minna Stern’s Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right is Warping the American Imagination. More a tactic than an act of cowardice, completely disregarding enemy ideas and smearing their adherents certainly is safer than attempting to refute these ideas and failing. But I never realized how powerful this tactic is until reading Stern, who deviates from this practice and comes off the worse for it. Whether she realizes it or not, Proud Boys elevates the Dissident Right to proper levels of discourse, but makes only halfhearted efforts to refute it. This, ultimately, serves the very movement she wishes to impugn. Perhaps she thinks Dissident Right ideas are so self-evidently bad that they refute themselves. Perhaps she finds them icky. For committed Leftists, either will be the case. But for anyone whose mind is not made up, Proud Boys offers an excellent introduction to the Dissident Right and White Nationalism. It’s succinct, well-written, and covers everything from the intellectual underpinnings of the movement, to the last few decades of its history, to the latest in ephemera and gossip. It’s also surprisingly accurate. Of course, Stern sprinkles anti-white sermonizing throughout, but thankfully leaves most of it for her insipid ten-page conclusion. Someone wanting a primer on today’s Dissident Right could do a lot worse than Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate.

Stern begins by citing her concern over the rise of the Dissident Right (which she somewhat anachronistically refers to as the “alt-right”) and its perceived crystallization in the form of President Donald Trump. She sees the Dissident Right as a threat, and states that her aim is to “deconstruct the prevailing set of alt-right ideas, to trace their genealogies, flesh out their meanings, and explore how they endanger equality, diversity, and inclusion in twenty-first century America.” She also claims to be a scholar, but in this effort she is nothing more than a polemicist serving a political agenda. A real scholar would have made an honest attempt to refute not only Dissident Right ideas but also the opposing Leftist ideas in an effort to arrive at a greater understanding. Stern, however, operates from a glib “Left good, Right bad” framework, and does little to support either postulation. This makes Proud Boys smugly superficial and impossible to take seriously regarding its intended purpose. But its unintended purpose is another matter.

To her credit, Stern does not stoop to slander or hyperbole. She also notes the clear distinction between the old and new of White Nationalism. Many of these new White Nationalists, according to her, have cleaned up their image, behave with class, and strive for intellectually consistency. See if anyone here can object to the following passage by Miss Stern:

Increasingly white nationalists, as they tacitly take white exceptionalism for granted, contend that white supremacy is bad for all ethnoracial groups; it is a disharmonious arrangement of white dominion over mixed-race populations that, given unfolding demographic patterns, will hasten white dispossession and extinction, and turn whites into shunned, persecuted minorities. White nationalists assert that they want a separate homeland not to reign with an iron fist over racial and ethnic minorities but to shore up and shelter their own.

So what exactly is wrong with this? Nothing. In fact, Stern offers so many perfectly reasonable and innocuous examples of White Nationalist and Dissident Rightist thought that to save time and space I would write “WWWT” in the margins instead of “What’s wrong with this?” Yet to paint White Nationalists as not merely wrong, but pernicious (in typical Leftist fashion), Stern often frets about how these reasonable and innocuous ideas may harm non-whites while completely ignoring how they may help whites (as if one by definition outweighs the other). She also uses the word “dehumanize” a lot – for example, the idea of a white ethnostate is “particularly dehumanizing to Latina/os.” Yet never does she consider how multiracialism or multiculturalism dehumanizes white people. Never does she realize how she herself dehumanizes white people when she utterly dismisses their attempts to act according to their own group interests while failing to dismiss Hispanics, blacks, Muslims, and Jews for doing the exact same thing. Stern’s anti-white racism is fairly boilerplate for a Lefty, however, appearing mostly in offhand comments. Rarely is it forceful or fleshed out; if anything, it comes across as lazy. For example, the “alt-right,” according to Stern, is “anathema to the values of equality, justice, and democracy” and exists in “the dark corners of the ugly, unmoderated virtual realms of Gab and Bitchute.” Not exactly incisive, is it? This makes Stern’s contrarian attitude fairly easy to overlook while appreciating all the inadvertent good Proud Boys does for the Right.

For one thing, pretty much every neologism and key reference point commonly used in the Dissident Right finds space in Proud Boys. Now people unfamiliar with the topic will be able to use terms such as “ethnostates,” “Hailgate,” “cuckservative,” “normie,” “fashy,” “the Fourteen Words,” “the Great Replacement,” “R/k selection theory,” “LARPing,” “Kali Yuga,” and many others in conversation. Stern’s first chapter deals with another common term: “red-pilling.” After explaining the term’s source from the movie The Matrix and through its early usage in the manosphere, Stern discusses how dissident celebrities such as Stefan Molyneux, Bre Faucheux, Jazzhands McFeels, and others dispense red pills to as wide an audience as Murray and Hernstein’s The Bell Curve did over a generation ago. From here, she accurately describes the Dissident Right’s primary objective as being “the conversion of whites-in-waiting to their side.” Metapolitics, in other words.

But what is metapolitics? Stern, thankfully, gives us the answer through a few snappy passages on the European New Right and the works of philosophers Alain de Benoist and Guillaume Faye. It’s nothing terribly deep or original. At the same time, however, Stern offers no resistance to their ideas, namely identitarianism and archeofuturism. How great is that? Then come the Americans, with Counter-Currents appearing front and center. Stern clearly did her homework when it comes to the North American New Right and has read lots of Counter-Currents articles, such as Margot Metroland’s “The Metapolitics of Taylor Swift [3],” Buttercup Dew’s classic “Skateboarding and White Identity [4],” John Morgan’s “What Would Evola Do? [5],” and my very own “On Vetting and Entry into a White Ethnostate [6],” to which she dedicates over three pages (!). She discusses our books, too, such as F. Roger Devlin’s Sexual Utopia in Power [7] and James O’Meara’s The Homo and the Negro [8]. At least according to her index, Stern mentions Counter-Currents’ editor Greg Johnson on twenty-four pages of her book, which is second only to Donald Trump. She quotes Johnson often and, as with de Benoist and Faye, prefers to let his ideas stand more or less uncontested:

Whereas the French New Right was uninterested in political power, American white nationalists often see metapolitics as pre-political. Writes Johnson: “It is too soon for White Nationalist politics. So in the meantime, we need to focus on metapolitics, which will lay the foundation for the pursuit of political power.” Alt-righters espouse two prongs for building and expanding “soft power.” The first is propaganda or “articulating and communicating our message”; the second is community organizing or “creating a community that lives according to our philosophy today and will serve as the nucleus of the new political order we seek to build tomorrow.” Identified strategies for effective messaging and community building are negative and disruptive tactics like trolling; the creation of cultural spaces like publishing houses, websites, and musical bands; and the reclamation of “turf from the Left” such as unions, environmental organizations, and media. With this plan of engagement on various levels, the alt-right wants to build up a rivaling “soft power” exclusively for white people that will permeate all the contours of daily life.

So basically, this “alt-right” Stern speaks of is pretty eloquent and wishes to compete honestly, equitably, and peacefully in the grand philosophy bazaar – yet somehow she wants us to believe that they’re the bad guys. I always thought the bad guys lied, cheated, and were violent. Who knew?

In her chapter called “Back to the Future,” Stern gives her readers an idea of how time is perceived by some in the Dissident Right. Of course, she discusses how dissidents these days see the clock ticking to the point where whites will lose their majority in the United States and in the West more generally. Another chronometric concern of the Dissident Right involves the aforementioned archeofuturism, which rejects the progressive idea of linear history, and “depicts a future of technologically enhanced primordialism.” Stern then offers a crash course on Savitri Devi, René Guénon, and Julius Evola. She points out how Savitri Devi’s The Lightning and the Sun [9] identifies three kinds of men, the most potent of which are men against time (and the greatest of these, of course, being Adolf Hitler). While offering a brief biography of Savitri Devi, Stern reveals her ignorance by referring to her subject as “Devi” as if this were her last name (which was Mukherji) rather than a title, since Savitri is a Hindu goddess. (Thinking that her last name is “Devi” is rather like thinking that Saint Paul’s first name is “Saint.”)

Competing with the progressive notion of linear time is Guénon’s cyclical understanding of history, in which golden ages inexorably descend into silver and then bronze, and then finally into dark ages, after which they are reborn. According to Stern, Evola fleshes out some of Guénon’s ideas and “lays much of the blame for this retrogression on women who sullied the warrior and priests castes, making them too weak to exert anything resembling true masculine vigor.” The supposed misogyny of the Dissident Right is a topic Stern returns to many times in Proud Boys.

In a clever conceit, Stern then links Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan to this concept of cyclical time and claims that it

. . . summons and invents the memory of an idealized past and encourages nostalgia for an earlier era in America, certainly before 1965, or before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, or better yet as far back as the 1790 Naturalization Act, when only “free white persons” of “good character” qualified for citizenship.

See what Stern is doing here? In her languid denunciation of the Dissident Right, she’s telling the world that, according to the 1790 Naturalization Act, the Founding Fathers of the United States were White Nationalists. This is a bell many of us have been ringing for some time now [10], and it is gratifying to see it now being rung for such a wide audience. Thank you, Miss Stern.

We should also thank her for referencing the French and Haitian revolutions as positive events in history that the Dissident Right would do well to remember. Her seeming indifference to the death toll caused by those two unmitigated disasters reveals how limited her perspective is when compared to the people she presumes to criticize. This should be glaringly obvious to anyone with a basic grasp of history. Again, thank you, Miss Stern.

Her third chapter, “Whitopia,” publicizes the idea of the ethnostate and spills much-needed ink on the topic of Wilmot Robertson, who wrote the seminal books The Dispossessed Majority and The Ethnostate and ran the Right-wing magazine Instauration from 1975 to 2000. It also offers a quick survey of the white ethnostate in fiction and speculative thought: New Albion, Ozarkia, Gulflandia, Cascadia, and Ecotopia, to name a few. Who knew there were so many? As expected, Harold Covington’s Northwest American Republic novels get a mention as well.

But how can this mythic white ethnostate be achieved? Fortunately, Stern offers up one of Greg Johnson’s best articles for a workable and peaceful solution. How’s that for free press?

In the essay “The Slow Cleanse [11],” Johnson contemplates how to create “homogeneously white homelands where our people can reproduce and fulfill our destiny, free from interference of others.” Reflecting the sanitized approach of the alt-right elite, Johnson rejects the bellicosity of Aryan insurgents drawn to schemes like the four-phase Butler Plan, which exhorts that “acts of insurrection and guerrilla warfare must take place, actual and serious physical damage must be inflicted on the enemy.” He disdains groups like the Northwest Front, based in the white nationalist hotbed of rural Washington, which abides by the Butler Plan and adheres to the Fourteen Words, devised by the late David Lane of the white power group the Order: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” Race wars are déclassé; the alt-right should not be “seduced by these apocalyptic scenarios about race war and cataclysm.” The road to the ethnostate runs not through Aryan Nations compounds like Ruby Ridge or Hayden Lake in Idaho but through Lake Wobegon, once denuded of liberals, Jews, and lingering nonwhites.

Stern then does the Dissident Right the favor of describing how Johnson stringently adheres to high ethical standards:

Johnson suggests that most whites would find such a gradual plan of “ethnic cleansing” morally acceptable. He also believes it would work: “Such policies would create entirely white homelands within a few decades” and be “consistent with the human rights of all parties.”

If only the fondly-remembered Robespierre or Toussaint L’Ouverture had been so nice!

Gender seems to be an even bigger hang-up for Stern than race. In her dissertation on the “alt-light,” she recognizes that many of these centrist figures hide under the banner of civic nationalism in order to avoid discussing race. Here is where we read about the Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes, Jordan Peterson, Milo Yiannopoulos, Stefan Molyneux, and others who can be viewed as anti-feminist and pro-Western rather than explicitly pro-white. Masculinist author Jack Donovan and his The Way of Men [12] also does not escape mention. Stern dedicates three long paragraphs seemingly to pay homage to Donovan’s not unreasonable ideas on how men these days “are being bled dry of their masculine vitality.” Again, she gives us no reason to oppose such ideas.

Knowing, however, that the Alt Lite is not as uptight about race as the Dissident Right is – and also knowing how ambivalent both groups are regarding the question of homosexuality – Stern still needs to find that one noose with which she can hang both of them together. In one of the more bizarre turns in Proud Boys, she announces quite risibly that she has found it in – you guessed it – transphobia:

What is resoundingly clear is that transphobia sits at the embroiled crux of the alt-right and the alt-light, a reflection of near pathological uneasiness with gender nonbinariness. The alt-verse wants nothing more than containment and order. Within a cisgendered system, at least gay identities and bodies are stable. The alt-verse can tolerate a person who is born with XY sex chromosomes and unambiguous male genitalia who can be considered 100 percent male, even if he prefers the company of other men. What most unsettles the alt-right and the alt-light together are gender nonbinariness, gender fluidity, and transgender bodies.

This is so far out of left field that it is difficult to produce a response that isn’t sarcastic or mocking. The short answer is no. “Transphobia” does not sit at the “embroiled crux of the alt-right and the alt-light.” Transexuality, while not condoned, does not play an important role in the thinking of anyone in either of these factions. Rather, they (along with most of humanity) simply do not wish to indulge the mentally ill with their delusions. This is not a political position. It’s one of perfect common sense. A person who “identifies” as one of the now fifty-seven-and-a-half genders and demands special treatment for it would be just as ridiculous as Peter Dinklage suddenly “identifying” as a six-foot-ten black man and then suing the NBA for not giving him a look.

As with transsexual issues, Stern also ventures out of her anti-white comfort zone with women’s issues. Like many on the Left, she makes hay about how so few of the leading lights in both the Dissident Right and Alt Light are women. In her chapter “Living the Tradlife,” Stern explores the struggles of Bre Faucheux, Tara McCarthy, Lana Lokteff, Faith Goldy, and Lauren Southern as outspoken, high-profile women on the Right. Instead of the neutrality or sluggish denunciations found in the rest of the book, here Stern actually generates some sympathy for these women. She shares Faucheux’s unhappy story of her exile. She gives Faith Goldy a fairly upbeat treatment, seemingly praising her for practicing what she preaches and for coming in third in her bid for the Toronto mayorship. Rather than pursue the standard feminist line of inquiry, Stern also seems to accept that both men and women in Rightist circles embrace the traditional arrangement of the sexes. She uncritically quotes Jared Taylor and Paul Kersey when they said as much in one of their American Renaissance podcasts. If there is a villain here, it’s the Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) movement, or pick-up artists such as Roosh V, who have more antagonistic attitudes towards women. And from a Dissident Right perspective, this is perfectly fine, since neither MGTOW nor Roosh can reliably be called Right-wing. Stern concludes that “as wobbly as their position may be, they [alt-right women] inarguably are one of the movement’s greatest assets.”

Yes, and the other “greatest asset” of the movement is its men – but let’s not look a gift horse too closely in the mouth, shall we? When an enemy pays you a compliment, even one as clumsy as Stern’s, it’s best to say thank you and move on.

Stern also relays a story from a North Dakota opera singer who shared with Lokteff her harrowing, red-pilling experiences in an Islamicized Germany on an episode of Radio 3 Fourteen. Pardon the length, but not only is the story fascinating, so is the way in which Stern, an ostensible Left-winger, tells it:

In the early 2000s, she moved to Heidelberg, Germany, to study and perform classical music. There she witnessed firsthand the ravages of liberalism, globalism, and multiculturalism. She recalls that the city she initially moved to was a safe place where she could bike carefreely at 3 am. But it morphed, seemingly overnight, into a danger zone teeming with North African and Muslim migrants. She started fearing for her safety as a “blond, blue-eyed, Scandinavian woman.” However, it was verboten to talk about the “invasion” among her music circles, as most were devout “lefties.” These factors prompted her to return to her North Dakota homeland, where she got married and is raising a white family. Reflecting on her time in Germany, she recollects being an assistant at an integrative health clinic for a doctor who identified himself as a proud descendent of a physician active in the Third Reich. Her boss did not hesitate to air his views about foreigners and changes afoot in German society. At the time she silently branded him a Nazi, but she later remembered their conversations and decided he was right all along about the imperative to preserve white European racial purity against black and brown migrants. In retrospect, this right-wing physician handed her the red pill, which she later swallowed, enabling her to envision, in her words, a “brave new world” of white nationalist possibilities.

Once back in North Dakota, this singer embraced the white settler colonialist tradition of the American West. From her perspective, her ancestors fought, struggled, and tamed the Plains West, triumphs that should prompt celebration, not induce white guilt. According to her, the multicultural agenda makes white people rootless, with no knowledge of their family history or ancestral lines. She closed the conversation by fretting about the increasing number of Somalis and North Africans being placed in Fargo by Lutheran Social Services and touting the aesthetic superiority of her blue-eyed Scandinavian husband and similarly “gorgeous” son. She and Lokteff both assert that “ideal beauty” is Northern European; since the majority of the world has brown eyes, blond hair and blue eyes are rare and exceptional – even more reason to fight against white genocide.

How can one not be moved by this? Even the most hardened, white-hating Leftists would have to scramble to put a negative spin on it. If Stern’s goal was to prove “how the alt-right is warping the American imagination” then why include such an evocative story from such a perceptive woman? I’m sure she could have found an ugly, hidebound rant somewhere. But no, she gave us this. It’s like she’s handing out free cookies.

From a readability standpoint, as well as from a Dissident Right standpoint, Stern is at her best when she doesn’t engage too much with her subject matter. She has a gift for summarizing ideas and events as well as collating it all into an entertaining read. In many ways, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate amounts to a 186-page advertisement for the Dissident Right. She presents it in all its multifaceted glory, and for the most part eschews smearing its leading lights. If anything, she depicts them as honest and honorable – if also wrong and racist (or perhaps “wracist”). While reading Proud Boys, I was actually disappointed when important individuals weren’t mentioned, such as Sam Francis, Ricardo Duchesne, and Frank Salter. Inexplicably, Stern also avoids discussing some of the more embarrassing moments the movement has endured in the past few years. Yes, she riffs on Charlottesville, recalls Richard Spencer’s cringey downfall as an Alt Right leader, and covers the Counter-Currents feud with Arktos in rather unflattering detail. But there was so much more bad stuff she could have included and didn’t.

If I were a Dissident Right mole working in the mainstream media, I’d write a book very similar to Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate.

Despite this, Proud Boys remains a tendentious work of enemy literature. Stern has no respect for white identity or White Nationalism, while she simultaneously sanctifies non-white identity and non-White Nationalism. She adheres to the typical hypocrisy of the Left: pretending to be anti-racist while practicing racism. She claims to support inclusion, but would rather exclude a healthy white populace from her utopian, mocha-brown, gender-fluid future. Her problem is that she doesn’t do any of this very well. She encapsulates the many scintillating ideas of the Dissident Right in the wet paper bag of hackneyed cultural Marxism, and so shouldn’t be surprised when the bottom falls out of her book. She also has a naïve lack of fear of these ideas, and so decided to air them rather than ignore them and hope they go away. This has proven to be a great blunder, since by airing these ideas, her considerable readership will now feel the power and persuasion of the Dissident Right.

Spencer J. Quinn is a frequent contributor to Counter-Currents and the author of the novel White Like You [13].