When Hunter Wallace and I were organizing demonstrations at a break-neck pace all over the South in 2013 – 2015 there was really nothing like it on this side of the Atlantic. I had recently returned home to Dixie after living several years in Spain and dreaming of recreating the best aspects of the growing and well-organized nationalist movements of Europe in my country. At the time Southern Nationalism was going nowhere and was stuck in an approach which looked like it belonged in 1980, not 2013. We had almost no social media presence and our few demonstrations mostly blurred into the “Heritage Not Hate” crowd’s efforts to temporarily save Confederate flags. Hunter and I both had spent a lot of time observing and participating in Right-wing, pro-White circles in the South and happened to find each other and a small group of motivated, like-minded young men at a time of great opportunity.
The movement was basically dead after two terms of George Bush’s post-9/11 neoconservative administration followed by the rise of Barack Obama and the Ron Paul/libertarian/Austrian Economics reaction (which seemed to dominate the Right during the Kenyan-in-Chief’s first term). We had an unpopular (at least in Dixie) Black US president and a terrible economy. The conditions were ripe for a populist-nationalist movement. But the Right was confined to a self-imposed exile of economic debate and discussions of constitutionalism (especially within the context of the Tea Party movement‘s opposition to Obamacare and massive corporate bailouts). A golden opportunity was being squandered, we believed.
We made a number of changes with the support and advice of Dr. Michael Hill, president of the League of the South. Despite opposition from some older members of the League we pushed forward and built up a strong constituency within the group that sought to modernize, energize and expand the movement. We transitioned away from the Confederate flag debate and the “Heritage Not Hate” movement in order to promote a message of economic nationalism, immigration restrictionism and self-determination. We adopted the Southern Nationalist Flag and made it our main symbol for public activism to distinguish ourselves as an ethno-nationalist political movement of the present rather than a Southern heritage preservation club. This banner was attacked by the SPLC and a small number of SNs as the “Cushman Flag” but most in our movement quickly embraced it. And, in a move which predicted the rise of Alt-Right aesthetics, we worked with Patriotic Flags to adopt a black polo shirt as our official attire. This was an effort to improve our image and make us look like a serious nationalist organization. We also focused heavily on podcasts, videos, blogging and social media to organize and promote our message.
These aesthetic changes and technical modernizations were accompanied by a shift away from constitutionalism, Jeffersonianism and libertarianism in general. Though many of us came out of that tradition at some point in our development we trended strongly toward ethno-nationalism, and White racial advocacy. We spent our time writing about Fire-Eaters and figures from the Southern romantic-nationalist era (1820s through the 1860s) rather than Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other Southern figures from the US Lockean-federalist era. Over time we embraced an expectedly pro-White message that left behind some older libertarian-leaning supporters and won us many new, younger supporters who were more motivated by stopping mass immigration than balancing the budget or eliminating the Department of Education. In general, one could say that we sought to present a professional, polishes image, employ the latest technology and strengthen our ideological position.
I was enthusiastic about our potential. We went from having almost no events to the point where it seemed that every weekend we had something taking place somewhere in Dixie. These (often small but sometimes larger) demonstrations were often led by young people and we were mostly successful in keeping the focus tightly on our message of stopping Third World immigration to help the Southern workers and save our culture. During this time Hunter, others and I were putting in lots of hours a day working online and organizing IRL activities for our growing movement. It was a pace which could not be maintained forever, but we were young, excited and believed we were making history. On a typical day then we would spend a few hours writing lengthy articles on the origins of the Golden Circle and the plantation culture of the South, record a podcast or work on a video and write shorter news articles while planning and organizing on social media for our next public demonstration.
OUR EARLY RELATIONSHIP TO THE ALT-RIGHT
The new Southern Nationalism which we helped refine and popularize grew from ideological roots going back to the 1970s and beyond. Dr. Hill, whose background as a university history professor, was influenced by the Celtic Thesis of the South which was especially important during the 1990s and later in promoting our identity as a distinct ethnicity. Many later SNs moved away from this theory (to focus more heavily on our Anglo roots) but it was influential early in our development and helped distinguish us from both US White Nationalism and mainstream Southern conservatism. Initially important as well was libertarianism and constitutionalism. This fit well with the Jeffersonian heritage of part of the Southern Right-wing and was important for distancing ourselves from the neoconservative mainstream of the Republican Party.
At the same time a broader alternative to neoconservatism was emerging. People such as Lew Rockwell, Richard Spencer, Paul Gottfried, Joseph Sobran, Steve Sailer, Justin Raimondo, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Ron Paul impacted this movement. I was heavily influenced by these and other writers during this time and regularly posted paleo-libertarian content on Southern Nationalist Network (before gradually moving away such a focus later on). Hunter seemed less influenced by the more libertarian-leaning of these people but we and the Southern Nationalist movement were united in our opposition to neoconservatism, wars for Israel, Third World immigration and cultural liberalism. The emerging alternative Right was broad during those days and I had friends who were Ron Paul campaigners, gold bugs, anti-war activists, White Nationalists, anarcho-capitalists and paleo-conservatives. We were all on the Right but part of different traditions which opposed neoconservatism and the Bush legacy.
In many ways our direction paved the way for the Alt-Right. We adopted aesthetics which much of the Alt-Right later adopted. We were initially a mostly online movement which then moved quickly to IRL activism – a path the Alt-Right took. We had our own fierce internal debates over optics. We were early veterans of meme warfare online (I gave a presentation on The Mantra at a LS national conference and pushed slogans we adopted such as “No jihad in Tennessee,” “For the Southern people,” “It’s wrong to replace us,” and “Secede to survive”). Our most aggressive venture into meme messaging was when we raised funds for and put up billboards in Southern cities with just the word “secede” in huge, bold, black letters. This got us national and international attention and provoked a strong backlash from both Leftist and business groups. We also moved from libertarianism to economic populism and directly targeted the White working class (with slogans like “Immigration hurts Southern workers”) as Donald Trump and the Alt-Right would later do.
The new Southern Nationalism then grew during the same time as the Alt-Right was born. We were influenced by many of the same people, especially early in our development. We paved the way for many aspects of the Alt-Right in our aesthetics, activism and overall direction. We are still close to the Alt-Right. Rebel Yell is one of the biggest podcasts on The Right Stuff. Identity Dixie has become a content-producing SN network on the Alt-Right. Southern Nationalists played a huge role in Alt-Right events in Charlottesville, Pikesville and Shelbyville. In fact, Dixie is increasingly the primary territory of the Alt-Right and ground zero for the battle against shitlibs, Antifa and establishment conservatives on both the harder and softer edges of our movement.
Since I stepped away from activism to write my book (Our Southern Nation, AAP 2015) and devote my time to work and my family the Southern Nationalist movement has continued to develop. The aesthetics have remained about the same and activism has continued to be important. The harder edge has definitely prevailed within the LS. And content-producers and the less activist-centered people have gravitated towards Identity Dixie.
The Nationalist Front alliance between the League, Trad Workers and National Socialist Movement is a new development. Hunter has called this the Hard Right and explained recently:
The Hard Right has been gestating for over a year now and has evolved from Pikeville to New Orleans to Charlottesville to Shelbyville parallel to the Alt-Right. In the aftermath of Unite the Right, different groups began to move in different directions. The Alt-Lite retreated into mainstream conservatism. The MAGApedes either shuttered their rallies or held events for they could be beat up in order to play the victim on FOX News. Some in the Alt-Right decided to rebrand as “American Nationalism” whereas others decided to focus on controlled flash rallies and college tours. Meanwhile, the Hard Right wasn’t swayed by Charlottesville and decided to move forward with public rallies.
Hunter argues that “Far from winning over upper middle class normies with really impressive optics, it is the ongoing unraveling of America which is going to push those normies into our camp. At the end of the day, it is going to be either us or those people on the other side and they will line up behind our warriors, not Nick Fuentes or Spooky Ricky.” This is one approach.
When Hunter and I were organizing SN activism we attracted support from groups outside of the League because we were unique on the Right in that we were actually doing something. That said, all of our activism took place under the League banner, allowing us to tightly control our message and optics. Everything we did advanced Southern Nationalism whether we were protesting gay marriage, immigration or Marco Rubio. The solution to all the issues we were raised was Southern identity and independence. We concentrated on growing our movement. At the same time we began building positive relationships with local police and government leaders in the rural South. This clearly scared enemies such as the SPLC who reacted by lying about us and trying to convince community leaders that we were Nazi terrorists who would bring violence and chaos to their towns – which we never did.
The embrace of those with a Hollywood Nazi image is a major change in approach. It is worth considering not only the NSM’s terrible optics (their approach has long been to fly the swastika, wear LARPy uniforms and seig heil at counter-protesters) but also the ideological confusion this creates. An alliance with them does boost the number of boots on the ground at demonstrations. But at what cost? This is an alliance which was pitched to me before I stepped away from activism. I rejected it.
The future of the Southern Nationalist movement is being determined with every rally, conference, podcast and article. Its relationship to the broader Alt-Right movement in the long-term is also being determined now. There is a lot of potential for Southern Nationalism. The embrace of our tactics and much of our message by Donald Trump and the Alt-Right demonstrates this. So does the public’s positive reaction to them in the South.
I can not make decisions for the broader movement as I once helped to do. But I thought that perhaps my perspective as someone who was in a leadership position in our movement at a pivotal point in its development might be helpful to those who will determine our future.