In the history of bad takes on the origins of the Alt-Right, this is perhaps the worst hot take that I have ever seen and that is saying something:
“Death to the Klan!” On Saturday, November 3, 1979, that chant swept over Morningside Homes, a mostly black housing project in Greensboro, North Carolina, as dozens of protesters—some donning blue hard hats for protection—hammered placards onto signposts and danced in the morning sun.
The American left had largely given up on communism by then, but these demonstrators were full-on Maoists. Their ranks included professionals with degrees from places like Harvard and Duke. And they were descending on Greensboro, a city where sit-ins helped launch the civil rights movement in 1960, to ignite another revolution. They danced to a guitar player singing, “Woke up this morning with my mind set to build the Party.” Their children dressed in tan military shirts and red berets. They even brought an effigy of a Klansman, dressed in a white sheet and hood, which kids from the neighborhood joined in punching. …
The seeds for this iteration of white supremacy were planted 40 years ago in Greensboro, when the white wedding of Klansmen and Nazis launched a new, pan-right extremism—a toxic brew of virulent racism, anti-government rhetoric, apocalyptic fearmongering and paramilitary tactics. And this extremism has proven more durable than anyone then could imagine. …”
Today is the 40th Anniversary of the Greensboro Massacre.
As a Xennial, I was one of the oldest people who was involved with the Alt-Right and the Greensboro Massacre occurred before even I was born. By the time that I was in college, Glenn Miller and Harold Covington were already marginal figures in the White Nationalist movement. Neither of them had anything to do with the creation of the Alt-Right.
The Greensboro Massacre was an episode that occurred in the late 1970s during the first wave of White Nationalism. Glenn Miller was born in 1940. Harold Covington was a Boomer who was born in 1953. When I first encountered them in the 2000s, Pastor Martin Lindstedt challenged Glenn Miller to a fight in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Granby, MO. Harold Covington wrote an entire book about me called Freedom’s Sons in which I was cast as his arch nemesis as the president of the United States. In the book, I was assassinated by my mistress in the Oval Office.
These people were considered a laughingstock to us at the time. I used to taunt Glenn Miller on online forums in the 2000s about his Declaration of War in which he vowed to go out in a blaze of gunfire. I remember how he wanted to be buried with the sword in his hand while giving a Sieg Heil. For over a decade, I dismissed Glenn Miller as a blowhard and a cartoon Nazi as he ran for political office in Missouri and distributed a crude newspaper called The Aryan Alternative. I thought of him as a throwback to an earlier wave of White Nationalism.
Harold Covington and Glenn Miller really were throwbacks to White Nationalism 1.0
The Alt-Right was the second wave of White Nationalism. The origins of the Alt-Right can be traced back to an archipelago of online forums in the 2000s. It was spawned during the George W. Bush presidency and appealed to people my age and younger who were alienated by the Iraq War and who rejected mainstream conservatism. Richard Spencer founded the Alternative Right webzine in 2010. The movement grew on forums like 4chan before taking off during Trump’s 2016 campaign. It was a symptom of the global rise of populism and nationalism.
The Greensboro Massacre did not “spawn” the Alt-Right. The origins of the Alt-Right are in more recent history: the rise of the internet since the 1990s, social media and the smartphone since the 2000s, the loss of faith in political parties, the political class and the mainstream media since the 1970s, the rise of globalization since the 1990s, the backlash against mass immigration, political correctness and multiculturalism which has been brewing since the 1970s, partisan polarization since the 1990s, resentment over the consequences of feminism which has led to a rise involuntary celibacy, the acceleration of changing racial demographics, and so on.
The populist and nationalist resentments which have been brewing and which led to the Alt-Right in the United States have parallels in all Western countries. The true cause can be neatly summed up as a reaction against unprecedented, unwanted and undesirable social changes that White people dislike which are certain to intensify in the 2020s and 2030s. Just as the Alt-Right replaced White Nationalism which became antiquated in the 2000s, a third wave will eventually replace the Alt-Right in the future as it expands into a younger and larger disaffected audience.
I aspire to one day being as old and long in the tooth to my successors as Glenn Miller and Harold Covington appeared to me back in the day.