Antifa and AltRight

Thomas Fleming


October 9, 2018

I just posted this little squib in the Forum.

The more nearly normal segment of the Portland (Oregon) population is angry with the mayor for refusing to crack down on Antifa street thugs who stopped traffic and attacked people going about their business.

These criminal rioters are playing from the same script, but it was not written by George Soros--though he may have bought the current rights to it--but by the revolutionaries in 1848 and, more particularly, by the Communist terrorists of the 1920's, who took over Hungary and tried to take over Germany and Italy.  If you want to understand how Mussolini--a comparatively benevolent despot--and the far from benevolent Hitler--came to power,  all you need to know is that it was facilitated by Leftist terrorism.

Similar violent outbreaks have been staged, in recent years, in Greece, France, and elsewhere in Europe.  Whoever is behind the Antifa terrorists is fully aware of what they are doing.  The last time around, they lost and faced--literally--extermination.  After the trial runs of Clinton and Obama--with no real opposition from the Bushes--they obviously think their time has come.

They may well be right, but in the short run, their violent antics are fueling an upsurge in support for the mild American version of Mussolini--President Trump.  At the same time, I think we shall see an upsurge in rightwing resistance from young men who are beginning to feel they have little to lose.

By the way, I recently met some young men who have taken part in counter-demonstrations and identify, more or less, with AltRight, but this is no longer the AltRight of sissy-boys trying to prove a manhood they will never achieve.  Dickie Spencer, I am informed, has so disgraced himself that he now counts for nothing.  These young men were worlds away from the pretentious fools who started the movement.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Thomas Fleming

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

9 Responses

  1. Avatar Robert Peters says:

    One can find what might emerge as the Alt Right – the nightmare of Antifa – gathered each year at Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Festival in Winnfield, Louisiana. There gather men from eighteen to eighty with their wives, girl friends, and children, camped out for about three days while their Catahoula Curs and their Yellow-Mouthed Curs compete for blood, honor and prizes baying some of the meanest hogs ever to come out of the Dugdemona Bottom. Some of these men are doctors, lawyers, teachers and piny-wood preachers; most are nesters and plain folk who are farmers, roughnecks, loggers, trappers, carpenters, linemen, and pipe fitters. They can fix most anything and make do with little of nothing. There womenfolk are as tough as they are. If these folk ever come to understand that they are really what the Left has contempt for and in the thrall of said contempt the Left intends to threaten their way of life, then the Left will really face a true Alt Right. Out of the Left’s imagined Alt Right which they use to rally their useful idiots and to intimidate their weak-kneed opposition will emerge a reality the Left would likely prefer not to engage.

  2. Avatar Carl Hildebrand says:

    I’m passing along the response of someone who identifies with the AltRight:

    “Fleming, ca. 2009 or so, was under the impression that the alt-right consisted of a bunch of effeminates with Nietzschean delusions of grandeur. Mostly, probably, because at the time, “alt right” was just a term Richard Spencer and Paul Gottfried (both of whom Fleming dislikes) were throwing around. If anything the term has broadened to include a lot of different ideologies and tendencies of thought (including but not limited to a sort of paleoconservatism that’s more explicit about race and JQ), but has also become more nebulous. The term/brand is on the outs, with a lot of folks preferring the broader “dissident right” label. I still like “alt right” personally.

    The alt right/dissident right is in the process of getting its feet back under it after a one-two punch of Charlottesville fallout and a year of infighting over “optics” as well as basic self-understanding (mostly in the US, i.e. American Nationalism vs. overt Third Way-ist politics with callbacks to mid-20th-century Europe; on both sides there were a lot of good points as well as some bad faith critiques). I think, however, that the death of what we commonly call the alt right has been far overstated. A lot is happening, but deplatforming makes it hard to locate any central hubs of discussion (we had a lot back in 2016). Now you really have to know where to look.

    I’ll need to actually read the article. I appreciate Fleming because he actually knows a lot about history, philosophy and culture. I hope he’ll engage with the broader, youth-dominated culture of a burgeoning hard right, despite its faults, instead of doing his Statler and Waldorf routine as the remnants of our civilization burn.

    PS, now that I think about it, Dicky Spence has become a pretty polarizing figure on the alt right: about half of the alt right think he’s an inept liability at best. Hopefully Fleming doesn’t think the alt right is some sort of Richard Spencer fan club, because now would be a perfect time for him to reach out, tell us where we’re wrong, and, most importantly, tell us the right things we ought to be doing/thinking about. Reading old books is cool and necessary, but we can’t restrict ourselves to that.”

  3. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    “Reading old books” is anything but cool, and sentences of this calibre are not calculated to inspire respect. Apply this reasoning to other examples: Playing the violin is cool, but Kreisler [name your own favorite} should not restrict himself to that. Commanding men in battle is cool, but General Patton shouldn’t restrict himself to that. Writing plays is cool, but Shakespeare shouldn’t restrict himself to that…. Writing clever polemics is cool, but Mencken shouldn’t restrict himself to that. Playing baseball is cool, but Babe Ruth….You get the idea. It’s a great recipe for making a one cookie-cutter world. One of the good things about reading old books is that it might save some people from making fools of themselves.

  4. Avatar Carl Hildebrand says:

    It is a strange and disheartening reply. Clearly the person whose response I relayed admires you and your work, and is expressing his admiration and desire for your mentorship. (The fact that his words were not written with the expectation that you would read it might also have been factored into your own response). But instead of addressing a message of goodwill with sincerity, you autistically focus on style. Too bad. Missed opportunity.

    Your response also doesn’t make much sense to me as an analogy. If you are the Babe Ruth of reading old books, then fine. But does that mean that everyone should spend himself in that way in order to have your respect? No more, as I understand it from your analogy, that we should all be Baseball all-stars or four-star generals. Speaking of cookie-cutters…

    I guess the Right is doomed.

  5. Avatar Carl Hildebrand says:

    clarification: No more, as I understand it from your analogy, than we should all be be… etc.

    OK, go ahead, disregard my response because of typos.

  6. Avatar Dot says:

    I recently went on a tour to see the fall foliage of Vermont. On the way we passed through Amish country. It was a Sunday and we saw many Amish walking home from their meeting places. I wrote to a relative and told her about my trip. She was aghast at how little I really new about them. I was told horrid stories about how they treat dogs. The description was such that painted the Amish as absolutely evil people. A group in the area even wanted to get on to Amish land but could not because they would violate trespass laws. Our country is getting very polarized. I think there is a realm of bias in all of this and will enjoy travelling through their countryside again. Perhaps we could benefit by their example of a simple life.

  7. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Sorry not to have made my point clear, but you have placed an interpretation on my remarks diametrically opposite to the intention. There was no intended analogy for my modest career. The point was that people cannot be what others might wish them to be. If I were a competent pastry chef, and someone told me that I should be a preacher or political intellectual instead, I should have made the same reply. This is not a question of style but of a fundamental problem in too many Americans of every generation. I cannot tell you how many times a wealthy businessman has told me something like, “What you are doing is fine in its own way, but what you really need to be doing is…..” People have different talents and different interests. I have met trout bums I admired up to a point, and it would have been as fatuous to suggest to them that they read Plotinus as it is to suggest that everyone should be out chanting slogans and confronting Antifa.

    I did not take the remarks as personal insult but only as the sign of an intellectual failure that is deep in the American character: the insistence on elevating one’s own entirely personal understanding of the good into a universal standard. This flaw is closely allied to another failure, and that is the mistaken notion that direct political action is going to change the terms of the debate, or rather confrontation. Too many of the activists I know–not just the younger ones–appear to suffer from a delusion amounting to megalomania. In their minds, extreme statements preached in a loud voice are having an effect. As the Italians say, borrowing from Greek, “Magari!” If only.

    What impressed me in a few of the AltRight types I have spoken with lately is their sense of humor and their refusal to overrate their own contributions. I had not expected to meet such decency and common sense, and I am delighted to have been proved wrong, but when people speak of conclusions and deductions as mere feelings of like and dislike, I do not have much hope for their advancement. I have a good friend who is a hero to many AltRight people and he, like my old friend and colleague Samuel Francis, is regularly disappointed by their self-important and willful posturing. In the bad old days, we took this as a sign of immaturity.

  8. Avatar Carl Hildebrand says:

    Thanks, Dr. Fleming, I appreciate for your response and clarification.

    I apologize for my own rudeness.

    My problem with the AltRight is that it is basically unmoored from tradition. But I think it is necessary to be sympathetic here–not to all of them. Some are willful idiots. But many of them are merely lacking an education and grounding in tradition for which they themselves cannot be blamed. They are sheep without a shepherd. Many of them misapprehend history and the historic role of Christianity (on this point in particular, I think you’ve been quite incisive), but I’d say many more understand themselves as traditional Christians, even if their convictions put them at odds with many of the ecclesiastical institutions as they are at present.

    No hard feelings on my end. Best wishes.

  9. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    No offense received or given intentionally. I wonder, however, what sort of activism a Young Turk would want out of a scholar-writer, who wrote for dozens upon dozens of newspapers and magazines, had a column in the online edition of the Daily Mail, speechified for all sorts of rightist organizations, served as founding board member of the League of the South, wasted a considerable amount of time advising a variety of political candidates, and was one of several leaders of the successful opposition to the take-over of the local school system by a federal magistrate using trumped up charges of segregation. It has always seemed to me that I spent far too much time on politics.

    I know I speak for many when I express the wish that we shall see more of Carl Hildebrand on this site.