June 6, 2023


From Coy to GoyHow America's far right found its anti-Semitic voice and figured out its true identity. (TAMARA BERENS, JUNE 5 2023, Mosaic)

Bannon, to dredge up a recent history that feels suddenly musty, was for years the chairman of the online publication Breitbart News, publishing a mix of rightwing news, opinion, and conspiracy theory. Indeed, in March of that year, the budding conservative media star Ben Shapiro announced his resignation as editor-at-large of Breitbart. In his resignation letter, Shapiro derided Breitbart's pandering to then-candidate Trump, and blamed Bannon for steering the publication away from reporting and into partisan promotion. "Trump's personal Pravda," he called it. (In National Review a few months later, Shapiro decried Trump's "anti-Semitic supporters," who were targeting him directly.) Soon enough, under Trump's aegis, Bannon was subsumed for a time into the right-wing mainstream. He became Trump's chief campaign strategist in August of 2016 and upon Trump's inauguration worked in the White House for a short but significant period. Once he was fired from that position, he went on to promote right-wing populism in Europe.

Bannon's motivating issue was immigration. He seemed to hate the concept personally and saw it as a potent political tool, one that ultimately ended up helping Trump get elected. "Isn't the beating heart of this problem, the real beating heart of it, of what we gotta get sorted here, not illegal immigration?" he asked in 2016. "As horrific as that is, and it's horrific, don't we have a problem? We've looked the other way on this legal immigration that's kinda overwhelmed the country?"

In this he reflected a core obsession of the alt-right: the idea that America was being taken over by immigrants. To the extent that Jews played into the subject, it was as a group seen by many alt-righters to have foreign origins that wanted to bring in yet more foreigners like them.

Bannon was inspired by the Italian philosopher Julius Evola, author of Pagan Imperialism (1928), who offered a critique of Christianity in the name of fascism and ancient Roman beliefs and practices. Richard Spencer, another of the movement's leaders, was a dour man in his thirties who after dropping out of a PhD program attempted to provide the young movement with an intellectual foundation. For that, he thought, the white-identity movement would have to shed foundational aspects of Christianity. He saw some utility in the religion as a uniting force in history for white peoples--but thought that the substance of the Christian religion itself was no longer needed (even if Christian heritage could be a useful identity marker). He describes the "profound thing that was born into the world through Judaism of hating the body" and denounced Christian and Jewish teachings as "an attack on things that are physical and beautiful." As the writer Graeme Wood, a high school classmate of Spencer's, put it then in the Atlantic, "Spencer was right about religion's power. It exerted a binding force and sense of purpose on its followers, and in its absence, the alt-right is delighted to supply values and idols all its own."

In other words, beyond opposition to immigration, a second core stance of the alt-right was a belief in paganism both in itself and as a tool for uniting an irreligious white far-right base. As Spencer put it, men could be saved from worrying about religion's "hellfire"--from sin and guilt. Indeed, in 2016, the alternative right was more hostile to Christianity than favorable to it. Some were members of overtly pagan organizations, such as the Wolves of Vinland, a cult in Virginia whose members would gather in the woods to adorn themselves with Norse body paint, murder sheep, and wrestle one another. (A number of Wolves have been arrested, some for setting fire to black churches and others for attempted bank robbery.) The Wolves became well-known due to the prominence of member Kevin DeAnna, previously a speaker and writer for conventional conservative causes and publications.

The belief in paganism contributed to how the alt-right saw Jews. Alt-righters often framed their anti-Semitism in terms reminiscent of Otto Weininger, the Jewish-born German anti-Semite popular around the turn of the 20th century whom Julius Evola counted among his own influences. Jews in this line of thinking represent the evils of femininity and materialism; broadly, they are bad because they are weak, not because they are powerful, and their weakness is contagious and corrupting.

The Right is united by hate.

Posted by at June 6, 2023 12:00 AM