Last month, I said that April was going to be a time of self reflection on this website. That’s because something ended in March. It was my affiliation with the Alt-Right.
I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about why I got involved with the Alt-Right in the first place. Elsewhere, I have seen the argument made that we did it because the media wanted us to “do something” after the 2016 election. This is why we decided to participate in street activism and college tours. But that’s not what happened. This narrative skips over a series of important events in 2017.
In hindsight, it wasn’t the Trump campaign in 2015 and 2016 – there were few public events during this time – that set off the events of 2017. Instead, the catalyzing moment was when Richard Spencer was punched in the face by the Antifa who rioted at Trump’s inauguration.
In the aftermath of the Trump inauguration, the “Punch a Nazi” meme went viral. There were many voices on the Left that publicly embraced the cause of political violence. The issue of Antifa violence entered the mainstream. In such a way, Richard Spencer getting punched at the inauguration and the explosion of Antifa violence led to a reassessment in our circles. We began to perceive a common threat. We felt a sense of solidarity with Spencer because Antifa had become such a menace to our rights.
As Carl Schmitt argued, politics is based on the friend/enemy distinction. The enemy is someone who wants to cause you physical harm. The distinction refers to the “utmost degree of intensity … of an association or dissociation” between groups that square off against each other. Seen in this light, Richard Spencer was a friend who had the same enemies who wish to do us harm.
The “punch a Nazi” meme bled over from Richard Spencer getting attacked at Trump’s inauguration to the next battle with Antifa rioting and shutting down MILO at Berkeley. Very few of us ever had any sympathy for MILO, but it was another sign that Antifa were ratcheting up political violence. They were emboldened to “no platform” free speech and freedom of assembly in public places.
The March 4 Trump event at Berkeley where Based Stickman cracked his pole over the head of an Antifa set off a backlash against Antifa. He was lauded for it at the time. This event catalyzed the “free speech movement” where lots of people on the Right, not just White Nationalists, but also MAGApede civic nationalists began to battle with Antifa in public spaces over their free speech and freedom of assembly. The victories over Antifa in Huntington Beach and Berkeley were widely celebrated on the internet. This is what set off all sorts of people showing up at public events with sticks and shields.
Richard Spencer spoke at Auburn University last April. He won an important battle for free speech and freedom of assembly in the federal courts. Antifa showed up to challenge the Alt-Right in Auburn, but were unmasked and were mostly kept at bay by the Auburn police. Matt Heimbach and the Traditionalist Worker Party were asked to come to Auburn to help provide security and did so out of a sense of solidarity with Richard Spencer. I personally attended the Auburn event.
The Traditionalist Worker Party held a rally in Pikeville, KY the following weekend.
It was a Nationalist Front rally. Since Matt Heimbach had come to Auburn and clashed with Antifa in my backyard in East Alabama, I drove to Pikeville to support his free speech and right to freedom of assembly in Kentucky. This is what the movement was about at the time. It wasn’t so much the Alt-Right movement as it was a free speech movement about the common threat posed by Antifa to our rights.
The reason that I attended the Pikeville rally was out of a sense of solidarity. The League of the South also attended the Pikeville rally. It was at that moment that the League joined the Nationalist Front. We did so out of the recognition that all these groups were facing a common enemy which was determined to violently attack us in the streets. It wasn’t because we shared the same ideology or optics.
The Pikeville rally got a lot of negative feedback. I discounted those voices at the time. I was focused on the fact that Antifa was the real enemy. I was looking outwards at the real threat, not inward at the people bitching about optics online. There was a clarifying moment in Pikeville when Antifa was across the street screaming about their desire to kill us. It showed those of us who were there who was the real enemy.
In the aftermath of Pikeville, a group of Black Confederates defending the Jefferson Davis monument were attacked in New Orleans. As in Auburn and Pikeville, we felt a sense of solidarity with them too. Here you had the same group of thugs engaging in political violence to deny others their rights.
This is why the League of the South went to New Orleans the following weekend. In Auburn, the threat had been violent Antifa. In Pikeville, the threat had been violent Antifa. In New Orleans, the threat had been violent Antifa. We were determined to stand up to those people. It was around this time that people were standing up to Antifa all over the country in Austin, TX and Nashville, TN on May Day.
As we entered the summer, Antifa was so demoralized that they had begun to talk about changing tactics. They were encountering resistance even in their strongholds like Berekely.
We didn’t participate in the first Charlottesville event. It took place the weekend after New Orleans which was the weekend after Pikeville which was the weekend after Auburn.
The first Charlottesville event was well received even though Matt Heimbach and the Traditionalist Worker Party had participated in it. This was the first time that tiki torches were used. The reason the operation went so well is because it combined good optics with a positive sense of solidarity.
Houston, Orlando, Gainesville, Harrison
The activism continued as spring turned into summer. There were rallies in Houston, Orlando, Gainesville and Harrison. It continued to build on the positive mood and sense of solidarity. Once again, the glue that held the movement together was opposing Antifa and asserting our rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. Antifa changed tactics and didn’t bother to show up at any of these events.
Last June, Richard Spencer held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC which squared off against the dueling Alt-Lite “Rally Against Political Violence.” The rally was about free speech. Antifa spent the day squaring off against the DC police over their Disrupt J20 comrades. Around 200 people attended the event including the Traditionalist Worker Party. The Alt-Lite was outnumbered and humiliated. It was a great day. The Alt-Right had the wind in its sails and its enemies were on the ropes.
Unite the Right
Unite the Right would have been inconceivable in the absence of this celebratory mood. It blew up into such a large rally because there was so much positive energy flowing through the Alt-Right last summer as a result of defeating Antifa and asserting our rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. Everyone was looking forward to it at the time. We expected it to be a sort of end of summer bash.
We didn’t go to Charlottesville to battle with Antifa in the streets. We thought that battle had already been won. If anything is true, we went into Charlottesville unprepared because we didn’t expect there would be violence. We were under the impression that the police were capable of doing their jobs. We expected the police to restrain anyone trying to disrupt the event like they had done at the Loyal White Knights event the month before in July. We would have a positive rally and go home.
Of course, it didn’t turn out that way. It didn’t happen because the Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police were under orders to not do their jobs. They were willing to violate a federal court order to ensure that Antifa was allowed to cause enough disruption to shut the event down. This is why the event descended into chaos. The police were simply not allowed to maintain public order.
In the aftermath of Charlottesville, the finger pointing began.
Since I was in Charlottesville and experienced the whole event, I began to point fingers at the Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police. I naively assumed it was obvious that is who was responsible for what happened in Charlottesville and the Alt-Right would rally behind the guys who were screwed over by the police and who were locked up there.
I set out to correct the record on DeAndre Harris, Heather Heyer, the police breakdown and other important matters. I was heartened when post-Charlottesville polls came out which showed that the event had no impact whatsoever. President Trump said that some of the Charlottesville marchers were “good people” and that there had been “violence on both sides.” He briefly waded into the monuments issue. Charlottesville was a failed media news cycle which had no impact on President Trump’s public approval rating, public attitudes toward Confederate monuments or even White Nationalism, Neo-Nazism and the Alt-Right which had about 10% public support.
There was a poll which came out after Unite the Right which showed that 9% of the public supported Neo-Nazism. The real cost of Charlottesville was the two frivolous lawsuits and about half a dozen guys who were locked up in Charlottesville. This was hardly a devastating blow. The internet deplatforming had been going on before Charlottesville and had hit a climax with YouTube censorship.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of assuming that everyone shared my view of Charlottesville, which was that the police had bungled the rally. I didn’t grasp how anyone could have come to the view that Charlottesville was a failure … because of optics. It was a failure because some guys were fat or didn’t have the right flag or were wearing helmets or didn’t have a fashy haircut, etc.
In October, I attended Richard Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida. My wife had missed out on his appearance in Auburn and really wanted to go. Once again, I went out of a sense of solidarity. I wanted to support people who were asserting our right to free speech and freedom of assembly. I didn’t want Antifa to succeed in driving us out of public spaces in the backlash to Charlottesville. Contrary to lies that have been posted elsewhere, the Traditionalist Worker Party didn’t participate in Gainesville.
The White Lives Matter rally evolved out of our interpretation of Charlottesville.
We believed that Charlottesville went off the rails because it was a police failure. In order to counter this narrative, we thought it was imperative to go somewhere else and hold a peaceful follow up event. In such a way, we could bounce back and disrupt the narrative that we are hell bent on violence. We felt it was important to soldier on and continue to assert our rights to free speech and freedom of assembly in public places which we had been doing since Berkeley in the spring.
Initially, we called it Unite the Right 2.0, but when it became obvious that Identity Evropa and Daily Stormer weren’t going to participate we went with White Lives Matter. Shelbyville and Murfreesboro were chosen as the location for the rally due to our experience with law enforcement in those cities and the Emanuel Samson church shooting. It was a Nationalist Front rally that included TRS. We invited all the groups who were in Charlottesville to come and turn the page on Unite the Right.
The Shelbyville rally went more or less as planned. We wanted to hold a peaceful event and draw attention to the Emanuel Samson church shooting. The goal was also to show that we were unbowed and hadn’t retreated from the public sphere after Charlottesville. Antifa were not victorious over us. This was a false narrative which was gaining traction in the media at the time.
No one had cared that Daily Stormer and Identity Evropa had chosen not to participate in the White Lives Matter rally. The surprising thing was their public response to it.
Shelbyville revealed the shift in the Alt-Right that had taken place since Unite the Right. Whereas previously the point of these events since Berkeley had been standing up against Antifa which was the common enemy and refusing to be intimidated into surrendering our rights to free speech and freedom of assembly, the new focus of these events had become to show off optics in Instagram photos and videos.
Since optics became the most important thing to “win over the normies,” the corollary of this line of thinking is that it was necessary to attack and destroy other groups over optics. Thus began the relentless attack on the Traditionalist Worker Party for rejecting the optics of “American Nationalism” around this time. Even Richard Spencer was attacked over optics and Eli Mosley left Identity Evropa to create Operation Homeland for he could continue his Alt-Right activism.
The Traditionalist Worker Party participated in an Operation Homeland rally over the acquittal of the murderer of Kate Steinle in December. It was notable for showcasing how the optics issue had consumed the Alt-Right and had begun to undermine its solidarity.
Knoxville and Tallahassee
As we entered 2018, the Traditionalist Worker Party and League of the South remained active. TWP held a rally in Knoxville to protest the Women’s March. Matt Heimbach spoke at the University of Tennessee. The League of the South held a rally in Tallahassee and another one in Knoxville on St. Patrick’s Day. These four events were peaceful and uneventful. Antifa showed up but there was no violence.
Richard Spencer was scheduled to speak at the FMI conference and Michigan State on March 5. Once again, I promoted the event out of solidarity with a link to it on this website.
Just about everything that could go wrong with the Michigan State event went wrong. It started when Kyle Bristow quit the Alt-Right. The Michigan State police let a horde of hundreds of protesters disrupt the event. Once again, TWP showed up out of solidarity to support Spencer while others stayed at home and sniped on the internet. This led to a 1,500 comment thread about optics on the TRS Forum bashing TWP, the removal of their podcast and the announcement that TRS was cutting ties with TWP.
Spencer announced he was suspending his college tour. To his credit, Spencer never gave up or bowed to the pressure. Instead, it was the people behind him who succumbed to the pressure from Antifa. They no longer had the will power to continue to press forward.
The Heimbach Implosion
In the thousands of comments that were posted criticizing Matt Parrott, Matt Heimbach and the Traditionalist Worker Party over optics, no one expressed any inkling of the sex scandal.
The sex scandal destroyed the Traditionalist Worker Party. Heimbach and Parrott left the movement. Tony Hovater and the rest of the group rebranded as Nationalist Initiative. I’ve been told they were planning to make all sorts of changes. Nevertheless, the attacks quickly resumed and escalated.
Over the course of the past year, the Alt-Right has done a 180 degree turn. It has shifted from activism to pacifism. It has shifted from asserting our rights to free speech and freedom of assembly and winning court battles in the real world to ridiculing these things as less important than shitposting on the internet. It has shifted from the positive energy of last summer to the negative energy of the present moment. It has shifted from gaining cohesion and greater solidarity to splintering over optics. More than anything else, the biggest change has been the attitude that other nationalists are the problem, not Antifa. In other words, it has shifted from winning to losing and from rising to declining.
At least on my end, I started 2017 feeling a sense of solidarity with the Alt-Right. It felt like we had a common enemy, common values and a common purpose. Now, I don’t feel that sense of solidarity anymore. I feel like I barely knew many of these people and what motivated them.
It occurs to me that the biggest difference was a moral one. Whereas I saw men who exhibited moral qualities that I valued like courage, integrity, loyalty and perseverance, other people saw “bad optics.” Whereas I was incensed by the disrespect shown to these men who had made sacrifices and put themselves in physical danger on behalf of their cause, other people saw nothing but a bunch of fat contemptible LARPers who were ruining their public image.
As I listened more closely to their conversations about their “brand,” I picked up on how frequently they would drop phrases like “white trash,” casually muse about sterilizing poor, working class people and revel in posting Asian pornography. It struck me as being far removed from ethnic nationalism which as I understand it is based on sympathy and affinity with one’s own people. A nation isn’t a public image or a brand though. It includes all kinds of people including those who are “bad optics” as well as the cowards who don’t have the courage or integrity to stand up for themselves against a bully.
Ultimately, I couldn’t square the constant sneering at people about optics, the disrespect of our elders and the loathing of women with nationalism. I was even less fond of the promotion of “American Nationalism” and the attacks on other nationalists to curry favor with “normies.” The embrace of pacifism in the midst of a fight while simultaneously attacking others is just throwing in the towel. It has emboldened Antifa and justified their use of violent tactics to accomplish their political goals.
This brings to a close the free speech movement that began when Richard Spencer was punched in the face. There was a clear rise from February until August. There was a clear fall from August to March. What can we learn from this episode? Where do we go from here?
We’re going to dive into this tomorrow.