The New God of AltRight

A young reader writes in to ask about a friend, who who used to be ardent supporter of AltRigh and now, falling in love with Jim Morrison, has embraced Freud, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, and the other heroes of the Bohemian Left.

I don’t wish to be unkind to adolescents, but he has to be a complete dope to fall for Jim Morrison, a spoiled military brat who wrote some of the most embarrassing rock and roll lyrics ever gushed forth by a dumb kid on dope.  Poor Morrison thought his lyrics were 'poetry' in the vein of Rimbaud.  Now, I have  to confess that Rimbaud is my least favorite French poet, but at his worst and craziest he wrote on a level that Morrison could not even comprehend, much less imitate.

Jim hooked up with an OK band—“The Doors”—which had a string of hits, partly because of the keyboardist.  Obviously, the name echoed Huxley's book on drugs, The Doors of Perception, and even in the drug-soaked 1960's, Morrison was conspicuous for his abuses and self-indulgenceHe was too cute for words in his early years and exuded an adolescent sexuality that drew teeny-bopper girls and the sad male specimens who dreamed of attracting teeny-bopper girls.  He liked all the things Bohemians were supposed to like—Blake, Freud, and especially Rimbaud.  Drugs and alcohol killed him, no loss to anyone except members of his family who loved him until the end.

From the perspective of anyone who knows anything about anything, Morrison was either a tragic case of a somewhat talented kid who indulge himself to the point he could never mature as an artist or, if we don’t wish to be kind, a hopeless loser.  In either case, he exemplified the "low dishonest decade" that spawned him.  To sink the level where you can like his songs, it helps to smoke a lot of weed.

Why would a kid attracted to AltRight fall for Jim Morrison, Freud, and Nietzsche?  Why wouldn't they?  Morrison is simply a latter-day Peter Pan on acid, the perfect model for displaced white kids who don't know who or what they are.  Freud gives him fake insights that seem to demystify sex and love--another AltRight obsession--and Nietzsche gives young males, troubled about their identity, the delusion that by acting like hoodlums they are becoming Supermen.  I remember something Walter Berns once wrote about his fellow-Straussian, Harry Jaffa:  Socrates was a gadfly, and Harry thinks that, by being a pain-in-the-ass, he is another Socrates.

Next time you see your friend he could be AntiFa or transgender.  It’s a tough world.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

14 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    Dr. Fleming, thank you for perfectly describing Jim Morrison. In high school, when we discovered what is known as “classic rock,” I recall some of my friends worshiping the Doors and seemingly finding really important things among the acid and tie-dye of Jim Morrison’s inane ramblings. I thought then, and still think now, that he was a transgressive moron. I think that sent me down the road of country music, where there was a lot more meaning, maturity, introspection, etc. To this day, the only Doors song I can stand is L.A. Woman.

  2. Khater M says:

    This friend of mine was also once a devout Christian( or seemed to be) He was homeschooled for many years before he transferred into our prep school. The first year I knew him, he would go on and on about various biblical passages. He once said he read the Summa in 3 days. (odd, as it took me about a month to get through it recently, and I am always going back to certain sections to get a better understanding) As the years went by, he kept changing. He went from devout Catholic, to AltRight but progressive Catholic, to a lover of Morrison and Freud. He told me that he always had an interest in liberalism, but didn’t feel comfortable voicing his ideas at our conservative Catholic high school.

  3. Harry Colin says:

    I often think the “AltRight” is simply the invention of the same people who back the “Antifa” useful idiots, just so they can toy with “opposing” groups. In a world where neither O’Connor, Tolkien nor Percy got a Nobel for literature but Bob Dylan did, anything is possible; the more outlandish, the more likely.

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    What do you all say about a virtual Nobel Prize to be awarded=–and, believe me, with Rex’s help we could put on the imaginary dog–for those who have done their best to destroy truth, beauty, decency, standards etc.? I’ve been thinking about this for a year or two.

  5. Harry Colin says:

    I’m absolutely in favor! The only stumbling block would be the overwhelming number of worthy candidates; they assault our senses and sensibilities every day.

  6. Robert Reavis says:

    Where in our old, tired, worn out world did a conservative Catholic High School ever exist anywhere on our planet in the last 80 years?
    Back in the 70’s I knew a wealthy industrialist who was going to turn the tide against the awful fruits of Modernism, secularism, affluence, war and decadence by establishing a forum for the ” best and brightest ” defenders of western civilization to come and visit regularly at a large ” conservative” University. His first two guests were Eric Van Kunelt Ladeen and the old converted communist and lion hearted hammer of heretics, Hamish Frazier.
    Attendance was about 25 students out of 25,000 for the first speaker and 15 for the second. Next up was Mortimer Adler who drew about 100 attendees then William F Buckley Jr. with over 200. He thought he was finally getting some traction with this type of growth, thinking as the numbers increased, so did his contribution to saving civilization and what Frost described as “Heaven and the future’s sake.” What he never understood was as the quality of what the audience desired to conserve went down, attendance would always go up. I have no doubt if Morrison was still alive today he could pack any conservative forum under the pretense of saving the western musical heritage.

  7. Raymond Olson says:

    And here I thought that the alt-right’s musical preferences might be for heavy metal–indeed, for death metal. Which, come to think of it, seems a not-unlikely development from Morrison at his most portentous (i.e., most of the time). By my lights, the youngsters you and Khater know latched onto the wrong Morrison. Tell them to try Van, not Jim.

  8. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Moondance or Astral Weeks, Ray? I favor the latter, which features the incomparable (by pop music standards) “Madame George.”

    As for the Nobel Prize, can’t do it too soon. Should be right in Rex’s wheelhouse. I’m already on record as advocating an American version of the Widmerpool of the Year Award.

  9. Raymond Olson says:

    Ken–Glad you asked. Moondance for me! I can listen to all of it without getting impatient. Most of the Irishman’s other albums that I know are very spotty, and I’d never accuse him of being modest or restrained.

  10. Steven Lakoff says:

    I suppose the alt-right falls for Morrison the same reason they fall for Wagner. They don’t pay attention to meaning, just image. Wagner today would have been a left leaning new age petty guru, the type I used to encounter when I lived in Boulder, Colorado. However, the mere use of Nordic Pagan imagery is enough to set the alt-right hearts fluttering. Never mind that he was no pagan and that he emasculated the Norse gods, the image counts. Same with Jim Morrison. Maybe its the long hair and beautiful face that attracts them.

    I confess, the Doors were the only rock act I ever liked. Now Dr. Fleming is correct, that Ray Manzarek was probably as much a factor in their success as Jim. Still I felt, and do to this day, that Morrison had the talent to be a decent poet if he could ever grow up. Even now the Doors are the only rock band appearing on my iPod.

    I fancied myself half way intelligent in those days and the Doors did seem to be speaking to a more intelligent audience than the Stones or Beatles. Yet, even back in High School I had the sense to see that Morrison was a brat and a wimp at heart. The kind of kid who would have gotten beat on in my neighborhood and not some Nietzschean superman. Listening to the Doors was like watching professional wrestling. You knew it was an act, but the drama was fun.

  11. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks to Steven Lakoff for excellent comment.

    I was a little hard on Morrison. I didn’t hate the Doors but when all my more conservative friends started doing dope they became fans. It struck a sour note with me. I preferred, alas for my sins, some of the Bay Area bands and probably heard more Velvet Underground live than would be good for any ten people. What I disliked in most of Morrison’s lyrics was the pretentiousness. It was like a bad translation of Rimbaud or worse. In his big hit, he confined himself to the more obvious topic of sex, but who can endure:

    The time to hesitate is through
    No time to wallow in the mire
    Try now we can only lose
    And our love become a funeral pyre

    What a muddled pile of bad imagery. Failing to go a step further means they are wallowing in the mire–on might think the opposite is more nearly true–and if they try (what?) and lose (how?), the result will be their burning up on a funeral pyre. It’s a fitting Wagnerian end, but is that the only thing they can aim for?

    I had to look up the third line to decipher it years ago, since to make the rhythm work out he has to sing “Trine and we can only lose…” Even when I found out what he had written, I could still only hear “trine.”

    Last night we watched a wonderful piece of nonsense directed by Gregory La Cava, 1934: “The Affairs of Cellini.” Very bizarre, with the Wizard of Oz cast as the Duke of Florence, Constance Bennet as the duchess, Fay Wray! as a dumb peasant girl being sold by her bearded hag of a mother, and Frederick March as Benvenuto Cellini, as sleazy and dishonest as he makes himself out to be in his memoirs. My point? The La Cava invokes the life of passion as a joke but far more successfully than Morrison.

  12. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    What the poor boy must have meant is “the worst thing that can happen to us is that we lose,” but the vagueness and ambiguity of “only” in this context would have confused the listeners–if they were not already too smoked up to care.

  13. James D. says:

    Dr. Fleming,

    Did you actually have to listen to Lou Reed sing?

  14. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I lost count of the times. I could never figure out if it was just an act–everyone was singing like Mr. Zimmerman in those days–or he really was tone deaf. So far as I could tell, none of them could sing on key or even tried to, though I am not sure the future Anglo-Saxon scholar, Stirling Morrison, did much singing. When the awful Doug Yule joined the group with his tenor voice as sticky as cough syrup, he too was the worst. Even Maureen Tucker was off. It hardly seems possible for it to have been accidental.