This was a very challenging post for me. It is partially a response to Hanzi Freinacht‘s 4 Things that Make the Alt-Right Postmodern. I first want to say that I have really enjoyed Hanzi’s prolific work on the Alt-Left, and find it to be an excellent counterbalance to my own Right-Agentic tendencies. His ideas have caused me to shift my own perspective somewhat over the last few months with regard to what a mature Second-Tier (Yellow) culture might look like. I will try to come back to that in a future post. First however, I want to address Hanzi’s views on the Alt-right, colored as I think they may be by his own communal bias. This is only to be expected, as our communal/agentic biases are, I believe, the largest hurdle for an integral understanding of any particular worldview. Hanzi’s writing, from his communal experience of the Post-postmodern YELLOW/G-T (Integral) wave (what he calls Metamodern), helps me to examine my agentic bias, so perhaps this post can bring him (and others) a fuller perspective from within an agentic experience of Integral.
A Broader Definition for the Alt-Right
It occurs to me now after digging into this topic more deeply that when some people talk about the Alt-right they are really just talking about a certain extreme Identitarian-Nationalist subset of the “right.” Others refer to the entire broad spectrum of Anti-establishment voices on the political right (agentic) as Alt-right. I have been in the latter category not the former. Time will tell if the moniker Alt-right goes on the apply only to that narrow spectrum for which it was first coined, or if it will apply to a broader spectrum definition. Either way whether we call it Alt-right, New-right, Integral-Right or whatever, I see the alt-right not as a regression toward nationalism, but (with the help of the alt-left) a progression toward global Panarchy.
This is my working definition of Alt-Right/Alt-Left):
ALT-RIGHT (LEFT): (1) An Agentic (Communal) expression of an Integral-SDi YELLOW/G-T wave of political ideology characterized primarily by an integration, inclusion, and embrace of healthy (non-coercive) manifestations of prior political/ideological waves. (2) A moniker for a certain sub-culture on the political right(left) that embraces certain positive aspects of the post-modern-SDi GREEN/F-S wave (tolerance of the “other,” Civil Rights, Gender equality, Environmentalism, etc.), while rejecting pathological manifestations (racial preferential treatment in law, the “social justice” phenomenon, pseudo-religious gaia-worship, nihilism, globalism, etc.). They tend to promote a diverse panoply of Agentic (Communal) political structures that operate on a local level and respond to local needs rather than monolithic global top-down post-modern style governance.
This definition treats the Alt-Right and Alt-Left as a political spectrum for the inevitable social transcendence from Postmodern-GREEN/F-S to Integral-YELLOW/G-T and recognizes both the Agentic and Communal lenses through which people will experience this wave.
With definitions out of the way, I’ll start with some of the points I think Hanzi and I agree on:
Attempting to describe the Alt-Right in terms of concrete political ideology entirely misses the mark. Rigidly insisting on equating it with the political proposals of some self-identified Alt-Right advocate or another is as inadequate an approach as equating the term “fascism” with the political program of the Italian Fascist Party of the Interbellum Period. Not only does such an approach omit the many individuals who don’t identify with either of the abovementioned movements, but nonetheless are considered part of these currents. Neither does it reveal the underlying psychology and social mechanisms that have come to signify the broader semantic meaning of these terms.
The Alt-Right is no more a monolithic ideology than the Alt-Left is. Such categorical political identities are typically rejected in the great leap to second tier consciousness. This is why many of the most influential figures on the alt-right paradoxically do not self-identify as members of the “alt-right” (because they do not identify completely with other voices considered to be alt-right). As I’ve demonstrated before the “cultural leadership” (if you will) of the alt-right is comprised of a hugely diverse cast of people, whose backgrounds and identities seem impossible to reconcile. Only if one looks at them in light of a second tier (integral) worldview, does it make sense that they can all fit under a single broad memetic banner.
Postmodernity has fostered an intellectual climate that has alienated a large part of the population and created an ideological vacuum from which the Alt-Right draws its power. In addition, the inability of postmodern thought to efficiently tackle many of the new issues to have appeared in our digital postindustrial societies and to properly address the felt societal concerns of all citizens, to which mainstream society remains just as clueless, has thus opened the door for the Alt-Right to dictate public discourse for years to come.
Here Hanzi alludes to the “rejection” part of the Spiral Dynamic cycle. Every cultural memetic wave goes through a cycle of Rejection, Transcendence/Inclusion, and finally Entropy. Hanzi sees the entropy of the postmodern wave as opening the door for a new version of postmodernism (the Alt-Right), and this is where he and I slightly depart. To me the Alt-Right, and the Alt-Left, are higher level Cultural vMemes corresponding to SDi’s YELLOW (G-T) wave. This wave is currently in the process of Rejection, and this will remain so until the cultural center of gravity irrevocably shifts from the Postmodern GREEN wave to the Integral (or Metamodern to borrow Hanzi’s term) YELLOW wave.
But even if the Alt-Right above everything else should be seen as a counter-reaction against postmodern ideology and discourse, it’s just as much a postmodern phenomenon itself. It differs from previous currents to oppose postmodernism in the way it has adopted certain postmodern methods and insights to conduct the resistance. So even if the Alt-Right in many respects entails the absolute opposite to postmodern values, as a societal development it’s inherently postmodern.
The Alt-Right is not just using the methods of postmodernism, it is circumventing those methods through superior use and understanding of the new integral communication tools that are available (Internet and Social Media). The Postmodern tools and methodologies of cultural change (Television Mass Media, Academia, and Activism) can be completely bypassed by these newer integral (or metamodern) tools. Postmoderns and Moderns use these new tools as well but not nearly as effectively. The integral advantage is that not only do they understand far far better how to most effectively use the communication tools of this new paradigm, those tools themselves are best suited to propagate the integral/YELLOW/G-T wave.
The Alt-Right is as antithetical as many of its postmodern adversaries, perhaps even more antithetical since the only thing that seems to unite its many different adherents is opposition itself. The Alt-Right identity is one of opposition.
I think Hanzi is slightly missing the mark on this. Remember the first part of the cycle is REJECTION. The Alt-Right is indeed a mindbogglingly diverse group with no one apparently dominant ideology — and this itself is a trait of the YELLOW Wave; because it is able to integrate all prior waves, YELLOW is the first wave that can hold their particular individual and community identity in balance with all others. They have no need for an overarching ideology other than – “to each his own.”
This explains how “a political current where people who differ on as seemingly critical issues, like whether they’re nazis or not(!), still seem to find common ground and use the very same political label, in the most surprisingly carefree manner.” The point is not whether they are nazi’s (I don’t know any Alt-Right groups that would characterize themselves that way) as nazi-ism itself cannot be alt-right by definition. The point is that they are able to find common ground! And not just as begrudging allies of necessity, but actively and openly supporting each other through social media even when they disagree on social issues! Their key characteristic is that they do not see the ideological views of others as a threat to their own identity. Such thinking and behavior is simply not possible at First Tier. It is a primary marker of Second Tier consciousness.
ERMAHGERD! YOU RAYSHIST, MISHERGYNISHT, HERMAPHERBE!
…many proponents of the Alt-Right still tend to be racists, misogynists and homophobes.
This statement is often made by those on the left (more particularly the postmodern left) and I think it is a generally over-exaggerated and inaccurate claim that stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of (or more likely in the case of postmodern GREEN vMeme consciousness; an inability to understand) the worldview of particular Alt-Right sub-cultures. What is clear to me is that these perceptions stem from a combination of the Alt-Right’s tendency to troll the postmodern left, combined with a sincere openness to explore ideas, facts and data that might run counter to prevailing postmodern ideologies.
I’ll spend some time on this one because it is simultaneously the most inflammatory and ironically legitimate criticism the left uses. The figure in the Alt Right that comes most to mind for left wing critics is Richard Spencer. Most of the articles written about him bolster the narrative that he is a White Supremacist and Racist, and since he is often credited with (and takes credit for) coining the term “Alt-Right,” his views color the entire broad umbrella with that stigma in the minds of leftists who don’t take the time or effort to look any deeper into his views. However, one must realize that Spencer’s “Alt-Right” of 2008 is not the same Alt-Right we see today in 2017. No one was talking about the Alt-Right in 2008, because it was Spencer’s narrow version of the Alt-Right, and thus it was a big nothing-burger.
In a very interesting interview by Al Letson at Reveal News we get a picture of Richard Spencer that is a bit more nuanced than the easy label of “Racist.” One interesting quote:
You know, what I’m getting at is that, when I ask you that, even, even despite the fact that you have, you know, I guess a white wife perhaps or a white child. You still answered that I’m an African-American male. And that has meaning for you. And I respect that. If you ask your average white person in America, “Who are you?” they are going to probably never get around to talking about their European identity or their heritage. They’re afraid of it. They know it. Everyone’s kind of racially unconscious. They know it in their bones but they’re not conscious. They don’t want to really talk about it and explore it and think about how that inflects their life. So that’s what I want to bring. I respect your identity. I respect the fact that you think about it seriously, that you take it seriously. I want white people to take it seriously. In terms of what I was talking about of like we’re going to do this together. I think that I want to see an identitarian future. I want to see people, different peoples, different civilizations having a sense of themselves and finding out ways to live together.
I have a multi-racial family with relatives of literally every color and I’m not threatened by Spencer’s ideas–even though it’s not something I agree with–because regardless of my personal beliefs and preferences, everyone deserves to live how they want to live so long as they are peaceful. Unlike the Postmodern Left, Richard Spencer isn’t telling me or anyone else how to live, he’s telling us how he wants to live, and demanding the right to do so in peace.
Notice also that he is respectful toward the black interviewer. He’s not hostile and he’s not demeaning or acting as if he were superior–demanding to be treated with deference. He says “I do respect your identity and I respect you as a black man. But the question I would have to ask is: Do you really think that we’re all better together?”
There is a subtle but important difference between this kind of “racialism” and the racism that existed previously, the kind we are as a society still suffering collective PTSD from. Spencer calls his ideology “Identitarianism” and he doesn’t reserve it for white people only. It is simply the idea that races and cultures have important differences and are better off when in communities of their own. Regardless of whether you agree with that statement or not, notice that it is not a judgement of Superior or Inferior, nor an argument that one race should have inferior rights to another, but rather its an acknowledgement of arguably objective differences and a desire on his part to live in a society of his own race. Postmodern (GREEN/F-S) consciousness and lower cannot distinguish the difference, but an integral (YELLOW/G-T) consciousness can.
I believe the “Alt-Right” today means something completely different than it did when Spencer coined the term in 2008. During the 2016 Election campaign a newer, broader, more diverse “Alt-Right” came into ascendance, and this was partly the fault of the leftist mainstream media, who painted any and all Trump supporters with the same “Alt-Right” “Basket of Deplorables” brush. Rather than shy away from the label or be intimidated by the association as the media expected, it was worn proudly and widely adopted. In a pattern that became familiar during the campaign, the Alt-Right was expert at trolling the left with their own rhetoric.
Many Trump supporters at the time (myself included) had no idea the term was even associated with Richard Spencer, or even knew who he was. All I knew was that the term seemed to fit what was happening, the ascendance of a more “libertarian,” free-spirited, diverse, younger (and I would add Integral) “Alternative” to the (Traditional-Modern) Conservative Right. Importantly, the strongest most compelling voices in the “Alt-Right” didn’t come hatched out of establishment conservative think tanks. Rather, they were (postmodern) liberals or libertarians themselves who had been “red-pilled.”
The “Alt-Right” was a term that might have been coined by a White Nationalist, but it is no longer his alone and it describes something far more broad than his small idea. Even so, those on the Alt-Right (as I define it) are not afraid to engage in free and open discussion with someone like Richard Spencer, regardless of whether they find his worldview repugnant. Unlike the postmodern left, the integral Alt-Right values free speech and free association above all else. As long as Richard Spencer maintains his nonviolent, non-coercive approach, he will find at best active engagement, and maybe even agreement on some issues, and at worst complete ambivalence — “Meh.”
The figures I’m most familiar with on the Alt-Right most associated with “mysogynistic” (i.e. anti-third wave feminist) views are probably Jack Donovan, and Milo Yiannopoulos. Interestingly and perhaps somewhat tellingly, they are both gay men. However, neither of them dislike women, they just dislike the militant left wing “third wave” feminism that has become dominant in popular culture. Third wave feminism is not representative of women in general, thankfully, or we’d be in big trouble.
So why does it take two gay men to voice opposition to extreme feminism? Milo and Jack have an interesting theory on that.
Contrary to the charge of Mysogyny, women continue to play a huge and influential part in the Alt-Right on social media. In fact some of the best counter-arguments to the “common-wisdom” of third wave feminists that dominate academia and the main stream media come from women and former Feminists like Cassie Jaye and her excellent documentary The Red Pill (which you can check out free if you have Amazon Prime).
We sadly live in an age where to even bring up the many critical issues that men and boys face in society is to be ridiculed and called a misogynist.
If we are to define alt-right (as I have) to be the agentic mirror of the alt-left (or vice versa), then there can be no place for true homophobes, misogynists, or racial supremacists in the traditional-lynch-mob sense among the alt-right. They just don’t belong. There are many examples of homosexual and trans-gendered people that I would consider alt-right such as the two I mentioned above, Blair White, etc. However, from the perspective of postmodern GREEN/F-S it can certainly appear that there are homophobes, misogynists, and racial supremacists in the alt-right. That’s because there are those on the alt-right who do not approve of homosexual behavior (but don’t give a shit if you’re gay), who believe men and women have different roles in society (but don’t care if you don’t conform to those roles), and who don’t want to live in community among other races and cultures (but don’t care if you do). The Alt-right is not homophobic, but homo-apathetic; not misogynistic or racist, but gender, race and cultural realists.
The Alt-Right doesn’t care about your sexual orientation, they just don’t want your sexual orientation shoved down their throats like a gigantic dildo!
What it means:
Integrals on the left and on the right share one thing in common. They can see the first tier developmental stages holarchically for what they are, even if they are not familiar with the models of Graves or Loevinger. They understand intuitively, that the positive post-modern values of acceptance, empathy, compassion, openness etc, are just as important as the modern values of ambition, curiosity, excellence, and freedom; the traditional values of conviction, discipline, loyalty and faith; the egoistic values of courage, endurance, honor and sacrifice; and the tribal values of camaraderie, family, sacredness and trust.
The Integral wave is about reconnecting with all those prior foundational waves and their value systems and constructing a new and unshakable autonomous self on that foundation. It’s about being true to who you are, unapologetically self-aware, and at the same time both flexible enough and humble enough to engage the “other” without demanding acceptance or feeling threatened. Unlike postmodern GREEN/F-S, Integral YELLOW/G-T does not demand that you accept its values, does not demand you use its pronouns, or check your privilege, or hear its voice! It does not care if you accept it or not, because it is fully self-actualized.
Alt-Right and Alt-Left to me are two sides of the same self-actualized, autonomous, integral, metamodern coin.
Misunderstanding the Alt-Right is easy, even for the Alt-Left
Hanzi goes on to make some very interesting points, some of which I agree with and others I do not (again it’s well worth the read). He characterizes the alt-right as an “identity-project” (specifically white identity) which is correct for some but definitely not for all those on the alt-right, and depends largely on a narrow definition of precisely what the alt-right really is (but I think I covered that ground above). I noticed however, that Hanzi has a pattern (from my perspective) of making a great point only to then couch it in a communally biased wrapping that doesn’t speak to the agentic experience, and then in the next paragraph starts making great points again. It’s frankly dizzying. For example:
Now, it’s a sound objection to stress the silliness of finding pride in ones’ whiteness, or nationality for that matter; after all it’s not a personal accomplishment, it’s just something you’re born with and a superficial feature that doesn’t entail anything worth of recognition. However, that also applies if you’re black, or gay for that matter.
The above is absolutely spot on. YES! being white or black or gay or from one nation or another – none of those are accomplishments. All are “unearned” traits, and are thus nothing to be necessarily proud of. This is precisely the point. However then he goes on…
I’d agree that the context differs, the purpose of emphasizing pride of belonging to a minority is a measure to counter the opposite, namely shame. The gay pride movement, for instance, is the result of having been told to feel ashamed about one’s sexuality. But the white people who want to assert their racial pride don’t care about that; they probably don’t understand it either. Most of them simply don’t like that blacks and gays want to feel proud, don’t feel they deserve the recognition they desire and some even find that things like blackness or homosexuality are things to consider inferior or even shameful.
NOOoooooo! You were doing so well and then you slipped in the double standard! Even hard core identitarians like Richard Spencer objectively want ALL identities to be proud of who they are — including whites. Their issue is that for the last 30 or 40 years, to be white has been shameful! I know this personally because I lived it. Growing up in a post-modern public education environment I was constantly bombarded with the narrative of how horrible white people, and white men in particular are! I grew up literally ashamed to be who I was — a white heterosexual male.
Still, some of these inclinations towards white pride may actually stem from sincere and justified emotional needs of feeling proud about who they are; a desire among white marginalized people to get recognition and to be listened to. It’s a telling sign that we rarely see successful people enjoying a large amount of recognition who claim to be proud of being white. Those who most vigorously emphasize their racial identity or nationality, or take excessive pride in the historical accomplishments of those they perceive to be their peers, are usually people who are marginalized in one regard or the other. Feelings of marginalization are a feature of all postmodern identity projects. So in that regard the Alt-Right is actually no different from the other identity projects out there and thus a postmodern phenomenon too.
Yes and no. Yes part of the process of coming into the YELLOW/G-T wave is a desire to reconnect more deeply with healthy aspects of prior waves in a more conscious way. That can mean a resurgence of the tribalistic, egoistic, traditional (nationalistic) aspects of our being. That’s different from post-modernism (GREEN/F-S), which is firstly a rejection of modernism (ORANGE/E-R) and traditionalism (BLUE/D-Q), and a simultaneous elevation and romanticism for egoism and tribalism (RED/C-P, PURPLE/B-O). Depending on the Agentic or Communal bias of the individual coming into integral one might focus more on reconnecting with communal waves (GREEN, BLUE, PURPLE), or agentic waves (ORANGE, RED, BEIGE).
Still, and even if the Alt-Right is predominantly an antithetical endeavor: anti-feminism, anti-multiculturalism, anti-political correctness and so on – it is not – anti-sexism, anti-racism or anti-nationalism. Its whole raison d’être is that it opposes the former – but all while excusing the latter.
I disagree with this statement as well. I’ve studied the figures on the Alt-Right, listen to their pod-casts, watch their you-tube videos. They are not Anti-Feminism, they just oppose the militant third wave of feminism, they are not anti-multiculturalism, they simply oppose multiculturalism’s drive toward a mono-culture (they are hugely pro-diversity, arguably more than postmoderns are), they ARE anti-political correctness because political correctness is disingenuous and dishonest. They are anti-sexism, they oppose sexism toward men as well as women; they are anti-racism, they oppose racism toward whites as well as all other races, they are not necessarily pro-nationalist (some are) but rather see nationalism as a tool to be used in the fight against post-modern globalism.
But we have to rise to the postmodern challenge, to beat them at their own game. How about going beyond the postmodern altogether and present new metamodern visions of society? In the marriage of sincerity and irony we have the means to turn this regressive tide.
This is something I think all of those on the Alt-Right and Alt-Left can agree to. My hope is that both sides can remove the agentic/communal blinders just long enough to see their own reflection on the other side.