Integralists: America’s Would-be Theocrats

Eric Cunningham

Eric Cunningham is the editor-in-chief of Elections Daily. He is a lifelong resident of western North Carolina and graduated from Appalachian State University. You can follow him on Twitter at @decunningham2. @decunningham2.

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86 Responses

  1. Chip Daniels says:

    Patrick Deneen needs to write a follow up : “Why Conservatism Failed”.

    The various fringe actors of conservatism- the white supremacists, the integralists are rushing in to fill the vacuum left as the Reagan revolution sputtered out and ended in 2008.

    I peg 2008 only because that was when the promises of Reagan conservatism like a strong military and economic prosperity were shattered by the senseless Mideast wars and the Great Recession, respectively.
    The third leg of Buckley’s conservatism collapsed in 2016 with the rise of Trump.

    There isn’t any coherent conservative intellectual movement that commands the political field even among Republicans. Trump is the only unifying force and he has only one card to play which is white male grievance politics.Report

    • I’ve been having a long-running conversation/debate with a friend (non-OT person) on whether — for lack of a better term let’s call it Goldwater/Reagan/Buckley-esque Conservatism to avoid confusion with whatever-the-hell this current mess is — around the whether Buckley’s fusion stool (religious conservatives, fiscal conservatives and national security conservatives) needed the “big bad” of the soviets to keep the fusion part together and absent that a new big bad had to come forth, and the so called “cultural wars” was already in their wheelhouse. The problem with that, of course, was that instead of the common cause of the Soviets you now just turned a large chunk of the country automatically against you on grounds of principle.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        I think all three legs were driven by reaction. The reaction against the Soviet menace especially after the loss in Vietnam; The reaction to the Sexual revolution; and the reaction to the perceived sluggishness of the New Deal economic structure in the midst of stagflation and collapsing industry.

        It was pretty easy in 1979 to convince people that if only we were to unleash the private sector, prosperity would return, if only we would stand up to the Soviets, if only we would embrace moral virtues, then things would get better.

        Political ideologies need outside enemies yes, but they also need to deliver the goods.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          But didn’t Reaganism actually deliver the goods? He got us out of a recession; ended the cold war; re-established the US as the sole world superpower, etc. Flowing downstream from Reagan’s policies were things like NAFTA, WTO, the offshoring/outsourcing that gave rise to Trumpism *coupled with* an overzealous conservatism intent on expanding US power by illegally invading a middle eastern country. Sure, he blew up the deficit, but we’ve learned that for conservatives deficits don’t matter, right?

          Seems to me Reagan *did* deliver, and conservatism has become intellectually identity-less as a result of that success.

          Or, you know, not. Just a thought.Report

        • There’s another conversation here on how all American political ideologies have been coasting on the once-in-a-millennium convergence of factors a post-WW2 victorious America enjoyed, but right now I’m going to go eat this excellent German potato salad so we will have to come back to that point.Report

          • Aaron david in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

            I think that 1. German potato salad is the best potato salad and 2. “once-in-a-millennium convergence of factors a post-WW2 victorious America enjoyed” is exactly right.Report

          • Pinky in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

            (checking to see if the phrase “excellent German potato salad” violates the site’s commenting policy)Report

          • InMD in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

            Great observation and you should elaborate on it after your snack.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

            Yeah, I keep hearing that, about how the post-war prosperity was some sort of black swan event.

            Which is an amazing confession, on par with some Soviet official admitting that Communism was a failure.

            Because it seems to rest on the idea that, absent a global war and massive deficit spending, a capitalist economy could not create prosperity.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              I think the argument is that America’s capitalist economy would create less prosperity outside the fact that the rest of the developed world was climbing themselves out of World War II and many countries either took themselves out of the market or embraced on some really bonkers economics.Report

            • Brent F in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              That doesn’t make sense, since rising prosperity was pretty much the norm of peace time industrial capitalism starting from around 1850 or so.

              I also think the everyone else’s industrial base got bombed argument is just blatantly dumb. Do you know who else was having an exceptional era then? The guys who had their countries flattened by the war, even the Soviets were having a relatively good period after WW2.

              If the post war era is unusual, its no the prosperity, it was the unusually broad base of the increase and lack of social unrest. Both of which are enhanced more by selective nostalgia than actual facts on the ground.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Brent F says:

                I think the premise can be easily defeated but I’m even more interested in the confession at its heart.

                We hear the dogma endlessly that the magic of capitalism is that it creates prosperity in a series of voluntary win-win exchanges where everyone comes out ahead.

                Now the party official pulls us aside and whispers that no, its not true at all. Markets are not a win-win after all.
                In order for America to prosper, Europe had to be destroyed.

                It is even more astonishing when we look in our current era at a rising China and the implications for how to raise American living standards.Report

            • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              IIRC you’re misrepresenting the point. It’s not that capitalism could only create prosperity if the rest of the world was bombed flat- it was that you could only have a capitalist low value added manufacturing jobs pay as well as they did in America because the rest of the worlds manufacturing base was bombed flat or managed by people who had bonkers views of economics. America was, in essence, manufacturing for much of the rest of the world. As the rest of the world, and especially asia, got their industries rebuilt or shook off bonkers economics the ability of America to pay a guy a really good income for pulling two levers to stamp out ironing boards in a factory in Illinois faded (and can we be frank? Even back then you needed to know a guy and not be a woman to go for one of those jobs).

              So, if we want to employ great masses of Americans doing manufacturing work and pay them relatively well (for that time) then we just need to turn back technology 70 years and blow up the rest of the worlds manufacturing base. Or maybe we’re gonna have to deal with the problems we have now instead of trying to harken back to a pretty anomalous era in history.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to North says:

                So this is the point they are trying to make:

                So, if we want to employ great masses of Americans doing manufacturing work and pay them relatively well… then we just need to turn back technology 70 years and blow up the rest of the worlds manufacturing base.

                That sounds like a devastating confession, that capitalism isn’t capable of reliably creating prosperity.

                I’m not saying I believe that.
                I’m saying that THEY appear to believe that.Report

              • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I mean sure, if words have no meaning then they can mean something other than what they mean. You only live once. *shrugs*Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        This might work as a partial but not a full explanation. Impeach Warren was a very big thing in the 1960s and anyone who read Rich Perlstein’s study of mid-20th century conservatism, there was plenty of hardcore social conservatism of the own the libs variety back then as well. But maybe the big bad did draw energy away from own the libs and the lack of internet made it easier to kick the theocrats down a bit.

        The current new right is really just a resurrgence of the old right which has always seemingly existed but raises and lowers in volume depending on events. Bob Taft was a member of the old right but the Depression defeated his version of conservatism for a few decades but I would say that the current right is a manifestation of his version of conservatism acting like Cthulu. Slowly rebuilding in the shadows and waiting for a moment to strike.

        Back when it existed, Aardvark Books had a book that contained a series of essays on the Old Right. The book was written by a lefty professor sometime in the 1980s. I can’t remember thee name but I read some of it and the description of these people are basically like the Domionists and other far-right crackpots of today, but they just existed in the late 19th/20th century. These ideas of turning American into a theocratic utopia always seem present.Report

        • Eric Cunningham in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I’m in this camp as well. American conservatism has seen periodic uprisings of the paleocons. You had the Birchers in the 70s, Pat Buchanan in the 90s, and whatever is going on right right now. Basically pops up every 20-30 years like clockwork and then goes away.

          The good news for fusionist Republicans is, as I wrote in Elections Daily, ( that the paleocons/New Right/Old Right/Hawleyites haven’t actually made any inroads in primaries. Every senator who has been open to their ideas (Rubio, Hawley, and Cotton mainly) either already was in office or ran a standard conservative campaign. The closest thing to a populist/fusionist primary battle was in Wisconsin, and the fusionist won pretty easily.

          IMO the end result here is that, post-Trump, the right incorporates some of his agenda into the stool, but doesn’t kick out any of the legs. The dream of a conservatism divorced from economic conservatism is ludicrous, but so is the dream of one without the Trump people.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          That should be Rick PerlsteinReport

      • The Goldwater/Reagan/Buckley Conservativism pushed for an intellectual basis for Conservativism above and beyond conservativism’s tendency to just say “no, let’s not.”

        If I may make a sweeping generalization, “Conservativism” is, essentially, saying “no let’s not change” in response to someone (sweeping generalization: Progressive) saying “let’s change things!”

        Given that everyone (like, *EVERYONE*) has experienced something changing and becoming worse thereby, the conservative inclination will always have support.

        I’m sure we’re all familiar with J.S. Mill’s great quote:

        Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives…
        I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. Suppose any party, in addition to whatever share it may possess of the ability of the community, has nearly the whole of its stupidity, that party must, by the law of its constitution, be the stupidest party; and I do not see why honorable gentlemen should see that position as at all offensive to them, for it ensures their being always an extremely powerful party . . . There is so much dense, solid force in sheer stupidity, that any body of able men with that force pressing behind them may ensure victory in many a struggle, and many a victory the Conservative party has gained through that power.

        I used to read that and saw only the sneering contempt.

        I had the insight that I shouldn’t look at the contempt but at the criticism underneath… and then to look at the phenomenon that was being criticized… and then to look at the benefits that come from the phenomenon that was being criticized and then asking whether there were good things in there that ought to be taken to heart.

        In recent years, I’ve come to the conclusion that “intelligence” is similar to height or physical strength or being good looking. It’s useful and can make things better, but it isn’t a good thing in and of itself (and I used to think it was). It’s also something that can make things worse because it makes making things worse easier.

        Anyway, we’ve enjoyed a good long while without a party that felt the need to especially cater to the stupid.

        And now we have two parties that don’t know how to talk to the stupid. At all.
        And that’s going to be a bad thing… because most of the country is stupid. And that means that we’ve got two parties that don’t know how to talk to most of the country.

        And both parties are changing things. And things are getting worse.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

          In recent years, I’ve come to the conclusion that “intelligence” is similar to height or physical strength or being good looking. It’s useful and can make things better, but it isn’t a good thing in and of itself (and I used to think it was). It’s also something that can make things worse because it makes making things worse easier.

          Hey look, it’s my life story.

          I was one of those smartypants kids who got told how smart I was and how great it was to be smart. Then one day I figured out that the cool punker kids were actually a lot of fun to hang out with. They weren’t “smart” like me, but they were really cool and fun and so I hung out with them.

          By the way, I wouldn’t call them “stupid.” That’s a word I only use in contempt. If I call someone stupid, I probably hate them.

          The funny thing was, my punker friends knew I was super smart, and they liked me anyway. Why? Because I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I read my math books. They thought it was quirky. “Yeah Veronica, she does math for fun. Ain’t that weird. But anyway, can I get a ride to the Bad Brains show?”

          Being smart means I can solve certain complicated abstract problems better than other people. That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean I have more compassion or wisdom than other people. I’ve met so many smartypants who lack both compassion and wisdom, and how! Thus, being smart only helps in limited ways. To develop compassion and wisdom, that’s a different thing.

          Anyway, I really wish you wouldn’t use the word “stupid” to refer to average people. That’s pretty fucking gross.

          Honestly, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t know things I don’t know, who doesn’t have skills I lack.

          (By the way, I think a lot of this comes from my parents and how they understood Christianity. They weren’t the fire and brimstone types, quite the opposite. They were the “blessed are the meek” type, the “Jesus loves the little children” type. Needless to say, they were pretty selective in how they read Saint Paul. I approve of this approach.)Report

          • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

            Allow me to add, a lot of conservatives are really fucking stupid, but that’s obvious.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

            ” I really wish you wouldn’t use the word “stupid” to refer to average people.”

            He isn’t.

            The kind of people you imagine when you think of “average people” are not average.Report

            • veronica d in reply to DensityDuck says:


              For example, I’m thinking of Boston Irish guys who like football and know how to fix trucks. I’m thinking of the folks who work in the cafeteria at my job, or drive busses, that sort of person. They aren’t “average people”?

              I’m thinking of my sister. She lives in North Carolina. She’s an EMT who raises rabbits as a side business. Her husband is a “good ol’ boy” who likes to fish and hunt. They seem like a pretty standard model of “regular folks.”

              My sister used to be into bow hunting. Myself, I wasn’t interested in hunting, but we used to do target practice on her property. It was fun. A bow ain’t like a rifle. Anyway, this was when she lived in Central Florida. She and hubby had a few acres. They had horses.

              You seem to have a rather inaccurate model of what I am like. Sure I’m a queer techie, but not all queer techies are the same. I’ve owned guns. I’ve even cast my own bullets for my flintlock. I used lead wheel weights, which I got from the garage where I worked. I’ve driven a pickup, which I used to haul material for a different job. I’ve turned wrenches, climbed ladders, and even dug ditches, for pay. I used to work with a guy who would take the summers off to wrestle alligators for tourists.

              I suppose wrestling alligators is pretty unusual, but aside from that, he was a pretty regular guy. I liked him. He could swear up a storm. He wasn’t afraid of a fistfight, but his heart was big.

              Who do you imagine I’m talking about? Transgender cat girls?

              I mean, they’re people too. I quite like them.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                I know that IQ doesn’t exist and, at best, it’s merely a proxy for what people talk about when they’re talking about intelligence and we all know people and so on.

                But if I may use IQ as a clumsy proxy for what I’m really talking about, I’ll say that IQ is specifically weighted so that the average IQ is 100. To use standard deviations, the overwhelming majority of people fall within one standard deviation of 100. That’s what I mean when I say “average”. Someone within one standard deviation of 100. Assuming that the SD is 15 points, that means that the majority of people fall between 85 and 115.

                Now, of course, IQ doesn’t exist and it doesn’t really measure what it’s supposed to measure and we all know individuals.

                But I don’t know that I know anybody (like, *ANYBODY*) who is under 100. Not in my work life, not in my home life, not in my private life.

                I work with tech geeks. I live with a library geek. My gaming night is with tech geeks. I argue online with political geeks.

                I am pleased to say that I am among the dumbest of all of the people in my circles… which means that if I am not average, I don’t know or share meals with anybody who is average.

                60ish percent of the country is average and I don’t know anyone like that.

                (But sometimes, when I in a theater, I can feel them.)Report

              • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                I dunno man. I know plenty of people with <100 IQs. I've even dated a few.

                You should get out more.

                (But sometimes, when I in a theater, I can feel them.)


              • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                Slate Star Codex has a lovely essay about bubbles. I know that *I*am in one.

                I’m not sure that if I went out and started meeting people, that it’d work.

                In any case, the point wasn’t to talk about me as much as to talk about the relationship of the political elite (defined as “those who can make decisions”) have circles that overlap with those who are not above average.

                And I am almost certain that every single member of our political elite hasn’t hung out with the average for a while.

                (Perhaps they should get out more.)Report

              • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

                (But sometimes, when I in a theater, I can feel them)

                You must mean Reylos. Sorry girls, but there’s no way Rey and Kylo Ren should be a couple! Kylo has only killed what, a billion freakin’ people? He worships Darth Vader. It’s like trying to ship Alisa Milano and Adolf Eichmann or Hermione and Voldemort.Report

              • Surely there’s fanfic with Hermione and Voldemort…Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I can whip something up…Report

              • Murali in reply to Michael Cain says:

                There’s certainly Draco/Hermione fanficReport

              • LeeEsq in reply to Murali says:

                Still an abusive, dysfunctional bad boy/good girl relationship but at least doesn’t have any icky age problems.Report

              • Murali in reply to George Turner says:

                Well, in Charmed, wasn’t Milano’s character getting all hot and heavy with the Source of all evil or something?Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Wow, nice Pauline Kael reference, Jay. You know, for the record, I think her line about Nixon voters is generally misinterpreted. I think she’s very aware of the irony. i.e. ‘Those sheltered people- I don’t know anyone like that.’ More or less.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                So very many people have given that entire quotation a disservice. From the first line, she makes it plain that she knows what’s going on.

                Sure, maybe she doesn’t *CARE*… but she *KNOWS*.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                You’re not disagreeing with me, although you seem to think you are.Report

              • veronica d in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Oh okay. Perhaps you can clarify.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

            As somebody who is smart/intellectual but hangs around with a bunch of non-intellectual but at least average or smart people, I think the big difference is that many intellectual leaning people are inherently curious. Regardless of their beliefs, they just seek out knowledge. Non-intellectuals learn stuff if they need it but not necessarily actively. Intellectuals tend to analyze everything a lot more than non-intellectuals and think more abstractly.

            This doesn’t make intellectuals necessarily better. Many intellectuals can sincerely believe in things that are daft and stupid or even outright evil. Many intellectuals were active defenders of Stalin and Mao’s worse crimes even though they should have known better. They got swept up in the romance of revolution though.Report

          • Doctor Jay in reply to veronica d says:

            I just wanted to tell you how much this particular comment tugs at my own heartstrings. I identify with what you describe soooo much. For me, it was the punk rockers, but it was musicians. Like the school band/stage band/performers. There was no punk rock in those days. We had Creedence Clearwater Revival for that. We played the hell out of Creedence songs.

            I remember that Robert, the guitar player, went off to college and came back with his new stage band and girlfriend to give a performance. We sat together afterwards and he introduced me to his girlfriend with, “Jay’s a math genius”. She said, “Oh wow, you don’t look like a math genius”. I took it as a compliment.

            People like you and me have a problem of how to live with people that most people don’t have. We have pretty much solved it, but are definitely aware of others like us who didn’t solve it very well at all. This is very much a first-world problem, but it’s still a problem. Well done.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

          No, contemporary American conservatism is not resistant to “change”.
          The Integralists are a perfect example of that.

          No American alive has ever experienced a world that Sohrab Amari envisions. Its like the caliphate of ISIS, or the New Socialist Utopia, a fantasy world that they want to birth into being. Its a radical rejection of the status quo.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Chip, if I may? I am going to suggest a different first line for your comment:

            “Yes, contemporary American conservatism is not resistant to ‘change’Report

          • Truth in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            So you’re going to tell those of us who fought for marriage equality how contemporary American conservatives aren’t resistant to change?

            I’ll be right back after my laughing fit over the blatant dishonesty of that statement.Report

      • Truth in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        The “culture wars” were already in their wheelhouse. You didn’t think the anti-abortion movement was actually about abortion did you? Of course not, it was designed to give cover to the conservative bowel movement’s goals of maintaining segregation.

      • Conservatism is still based on a stool, but now it’s a medical term.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I don’t want to derail the Buckley/Fusionism discussion, but as a point of order Deneen’s book *is* a book on “Why Conservatism Failed”

      They way he’s using the term is the long-standing critique of Classical Liberalism of which small letter liberals and conservatives are participants in the same regime.

      I doubt that will make his book better in your eyes… but that’s the thrust. It isn’t however, an Integralist critique.

      I suppose as an OT resident traditionalist Catholic I should try to jot down some thoughts… will see what I can squeeze in today.Report

      • Eric Cunningham in reply to Marchmaine says:

        This is why I made the point to distinguish Deneen as a “post-liberal”, not an integralist, although the fact he pals around with Vermeule and Connolly suggests he’s not as transparent as he claims.

        His proposed solution, Aristopopulism, is of course ludicrous. The last time a bunch of elites ran the country, they overthrew the King (and the established church) and created a secular, liberal democracy based on Enlightenment principles.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Eric Cunningham says:

          Agreed, I thought you did a good job of marking some of those delineations in the OP… my comment was directed at and quoted from Chip’s comment.

          Since you haven’t written on Aristopopulism, I won’t comment much more than to say your comment about Aristopopulism clearly gets the point of it wrong; but I look forward to a more measured tackling of it, perhaps in another article.Report

      • InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Be sure to cc the German Synod so they can respond.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

          Heh, my ironic take (in light of this post) on the German Synod is simply this: decouple the German Church funding from State Taxes. Watch the “issues” melt away. Absent that, I’d put formal schism at 33% and rising.Report

          • InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

            My hope is for some kind of accommodation. I’ve always liked the idea of Catholicism as a big tent religion with room for the blue-collar Irish (but not really) version in which I was raised and remain in outer orbit. Making it smaller and purer just seems so… un-Catholic. Even if there’s a Schism I think it will be more of an on-paper thing with the real loss being continuing slow-burn secularization of a big chunk of people, at least in the post-industrial West, at a time where the Church needs it least. But I digress.

            And hopefully these comments aren’t offensive to you, they aren’t intended to be. In my perfect world there’s room for the trads in the big tent too. Some of my most Catholic memories are 7:30 AM mass with the billion year old monsignor, who we used to joke didn’t know any language other than Latin.Report

            • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

              No offense taken; I’m not advocating a “smaller church” … there’s a reason why Pope Francis has regularly rejected the German proposals (even when they come via the Amazon)… and it really does have to do with the current status of the German Church and it’s funding. [I’ll leave it at that] Remember, most of Francis’ key friends are German prelates. This isn’t some sort of BXVI revanchism.Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    I have to admit that I don’t quite get the Catholic Trads. It takes a real special form of pleading to envision the United States as a Catholic theocracy. I’m a secular Jewish guy who went to a law school run by social justice Jesuits (really they largely left the law school alone and the prayer at graduation was to a “god of inclusion”) but the dominionists (also very wrong) have a toe to stand on with the puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony at least.

    In general, I think there is a problem when you get to the higher ranks of journalism and academia whether it be Harvard Law school*, the Atlantic, or now with the NY Times op-ed page publishing a fascist piece by Tom Cotton. The problem can be more or less described as “high on your own supply.” These places are filled with so much self-importance that it is seems impossible for them to have a conversation along the lines of “Just because a Harvard law professor or U.S. Senator” writes something, does not mean we need to publish it. It is all part of a parlor game version of a “marketplace of ideas” or “having a conversation.” Unfortunately, there are very few people who would turn down a job or place at the NY Times, the Atlantic, or Harvard Law because of the mistakes in publishing or hiring decisions so the institutions or insulated from liability. They get to publish or hire a counterpiece and the parlor game continues.

    But Adrian Vermule’s essay or Tom Cotton’s op-ed would not get published but for it coming from Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermule and U.S. Senator Tom Cotton. If Vermule was a professor at Boston College or Boston University Law School, the Atlantic would ignore his essay. Same if Tom Cotton was just an Arkansas state senator.

    *To be fair to Harvard Law, Adrian Vermule was a lapsed Episcopalian, run of the mill conservative, and administrative law specialist when he was hired. He even co-wrote a book with Justice Breyer. Something snapped when he was at Harvard and now he is a theocrat.Report

  3. Pinky says:

    This sounds like what the alt-right started out as, before the label got hijacked. The problem with being on an extreme end of the bell curve is that your nearest neighbors are probably crazy. This also bears similarities to what I’ve heard called collapsitarianism.Report

    • Truth in reply to Pinky says:

      I’m confused. The label “alt-right” got hijacked by whom exactly? Other white-supremacists, given that the coiner of the term was Richard Spencer who spread it through white supremacist portions of 4chan?Report

      • Pinky in reply to Truth says:

        The term “alternative right” dates back to 2008, apparently originated by Richard Spencer and Paul Gottfried. The term broadly referred to anyone who was of the right but opposed to the neoconservative movement, which was at that time associated with nation-building and free trade. A lot of the fathers of the movement (to the extent it was a movement) were influenced by the European right, which has too many strains to properly characterize but can include racism, religious monarchism, and anti-Enlightenmentism (I don’t know how to make “anti-Enlightenment” into a noun). I think if you took the bundle of people who could be called “alt-right” 12 years ago, and removed the more mainstream and the racists, you’d have the people this article talks about.Report

        • JS in reply to Pinky says:

          Richard Spencer? The neo-Nazi, white supremacist Richard Spencer?

          Unless you mean a different one (and it’s not an uncommon name I admit), it seems white supremacy and fascism are baked into the pie there.Report

          • veronica d in reply to JS says:

            It’s really pretty simple. Spenser and his ilk coined the “alt right,” which basically meant dapper Nazis. They thought they could sell fash by wearing nice suits and getting haircuts. Anyway, they held their little rally and the non-dapper Nazis showed up chanting “blood and soil.” They beat up a bunch of people. They murdered a girl. Some shouted “I declaim,” but no one believed them, nor should anyone.

            Anyway, the dapper Nazis tried to stay super dapper, but Spenser got punched by a rando, which made for a terrific meme. The non-dapper Nazis realized he’s a wimp. Following that the alt-right had a general meltdown because the sort of people attracted to fascism tend to be rather “socially challenged,” and so they end up fighting each other more than “the man.”

            I recall this one lovely video where a -chan idiot showed up at a white power rally with his pepe frog memes. I guess they were Aryan Brotherhood types (or something more or less like that). Anyway, they kinda roughed him up.

            Life ain’t 4chan, little boy.

            I realize it isn’t admirable to be amused by that, but I can’t really help it. In any case, it’s all pretty hilarious except the part where they’re literally fash. But whatever. The alt right. It’s a thing. They have memes. They can’t take a punch. That’s all.Report

          • Pinky in reply to JS says:

            Not a single pie. A bunch of them. I don’t know if you’ve looked at the European right, but there are a slew of oddball ideas. Nationalism, racism, colonialism, monarchy, anti-Enlightenment, theocracy, very little capitalism. Militant elitism, militant populism, militant militarism. A strong strain of environmentalism – you know how environmentalists say that conservatives should be in favor of conservation? It’s a big thing there.

            There are things you can’t talk about in mainstream American political circles. Some of them, I’m glad about, some not. If you’re talking to people about ideas, it’s hard to tell what their motivation is. I don’t know the history of Richard Spencer’s political development. I’ve seen some creepy people hide behind the excuse of “just asking questions”. I’ve seen some seemingly good-hearted people get caught up in a bad chain of ideas. And there are the trolls who maybe aren’t trolls. As I said, once you get outside the center of the bell curve, you find that if you’re going to talk to anyone, there’s a high chance they’re many standard deviations apart from you.

            Let me give you an example. I think that any country should require you to pass a civics test before you can vote. I think it’s pretty important. It’s never going to happen in the US, because of our history. I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone who agrees with me on this issue, because odds are pretty high they’ll be horrible people. But I try to not be scared off from ideas. If anything, I’ll look into ideas that other people are running from, and try to accept or reject them on their merits.

            I don’t know if any of this is an answer to you.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

              Whenever I hear from oddball fringe radicals, it seems that what they are really doing is just tracing a line around their own profile, whatever it happens to be, then reverse engineering some mashup of political ideas to craft some bespoke utopia where by coincidence people like them reign supreme.

              The common thread is that their manifestos and ideologies all have this airless quality of being crafted in a tiny room late at night in solitude; They don’t reflect a broad range of ideas, they don’t make appeal to universal themes or aspirations.

              Its like a world where Tom Hanks lives in splendor, but then excommunicates Wilson for deviationist backsliding.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I can see that, but there’s also a lot of overlap between these people and conspiracy theorists, whose world vision is often that everyone but them has power. It’s the mirror image. I think that’s the danger of being off in intellectual isolation. You think the world revolves around you, positively or negatively. Ah, but – maybe the mainstreamers are just as solipsistic, just more accurate.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I get this feeling from the oddball fringes on the left and the right. When people on the other blog talk about some of their more strident anti-capitalist and other non-mainstream beliefs, they sound like they want to build a world where they are mainstream rather than oddballs. Slightly more positive than wanting to reign supreme but just as weird.Report

            • Truth in reply to Pinky says:

              When you start from a position of not knowing the origins and development of many of these groups, you’re necessarily not understanding how interconnected and overlapping they really are, and how many of their supposed views (such as the affectation of environmentalism) are just false bluster or misdirection as opposed to the things they really care about (basically neo-nazi white supremacism).

              And when you posit the things you claim can’t be talked about and try to abstract them, you miss the point. You even admitted this obliquely when you said “It’s never going to happen in the US, because of our history” to the idea of “literacy tests” or “poll tax” setups connected to voting.

              What this tells me is… you aren’t stupid. You know the origins of the arguments you’re seeing just fine. Trying to claim you can judge them in the abstract, as if they were a tablet in the desert, is just not a viable thing to do when dealing with white supremacists because there’s always an ulterior motive.Report

            • JS in reply to Pinky says:

              ” don’t know the history of Richard Spencer’s political development.”

              Yet you strangely were able to name-drop him as the founder of the term ‘alt-right’, which you made claims about what it meant then and how divorced it was from what people mean now.

              Except…Richard Spencer, whom you named dropped, was an open neo-nazi and white supremacist back then. Which is what people equate the term ‘alt-right’ with now.

              People equate the ‘alt-right’ with ‘neo-Nazi white supremacy’ because it was founded by one, was filled with them, and has been since the term originated.

              I am deeply confused as to how you know Spencer’s foundational role in coining the term ‘alt-right’ over a decade ago, but strangely never realized he is and was an open neo-Nazi and white supremacist.

              I mean he wasn’t a skinhead — as Veronica noted, he try to make white supremacy cool and hip.Report

              • Pinky in reply to JS says:

                I didn’t name-drop Richard Spencer. Truth did. I name-dropped Paul Gottfried, and I found his name by looking it up. I’m sorry if you find it strange. If you find it strange that I’m sorry you find it strange, I’m sorry about that as well. I don’t know Spencer’s intellectual history; from the little I’ve read about Gottfried in the past day, I don’t think he was a white supremacist, but I could be wrong.Report

  4. veronica d says:

    They sound like neoreactionaries, but instead of fetishizing corporations and tech, they fetishize Catholicism.

    Note that “back in the day” (meaning a couple years ago), there was a big shift toward conservative Catholicism among the NRx set. I wonder if there is overlap here? I would be unsurprised.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    The difference between the Political Islamists and the Integralists or the Evangelical Dominionists is that Political Islamists seem to have a much better grasp on how much force will be needed to implement their preferred socio-political system. The Iranian Ayatollahs, Hamas, Hizbollah, the Society of Muslim Brothers, and ISIS at least know what they are arguing isn’t going to be universally popular among Muslims let alone non-Muslims. They all seem to know that large amounts of violence are necessary. The different sorts of Christian theocrats don’t seem to have a grasp on this or are more subtle than I give them credit for and plan to do the large scale violence latter.

    I’m not even that sure where Christian theocrats are going to get their foot soldiers from. Political Islamists had.a large batch of angry Muslim kids to radicalize and get to use as foot soldiers. Kids brought up in the Evangelical circles don’t seem that willing to be violent foot soldiers even if they remain loyal to the Evangelical cause by the time they reach their late teens and twenties. The Alt-Right holds rallies and can get physically violent at times but not to the same extent that Islamist foot soldiers can. The former is much less organized and seems more prone to lone wolf style terrorism than organized terrorism. Alt Righters aren’t exactly hankering for Catholic or Protestant theocracy either, being too hedonistic for that.

    The entire project seems nothing more like an unusually evil and immoral form of intellectual wankery than anything else.Report

    • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The entire project seems nothing more like an unusually evil and immoral form of intellectual wankery than anything else.

      Yeah, this exactly. This is so much a mirror image of neoreaction, but in a Catholic flavor.

      I guess I can see how Catholics are interested in this, the same way I was rather concerned about the spread of NRx among tech geeks. I’m a tech geek. NRxers were in my “sphere.” But all the same, it’s wankery at its core.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to veronica d says:

        But wanking is a serious sin, if the prelates who infected my early education are to be believed.Report

        • veronica d in reply to CJColucci says:

          I’ll say this about wanking. My gf lives in Hartford. I’m in Boston. Her car is on the fritz, and with COVID, taking the bus seems ill advised.

          Anyway, years ago the Hitachi corp made this wonderful back massager, and …

          What? TMI? Really?

          Oops. Sorry. I got carried away.

          It still amazes me that people literally believe that God cares if we wank? Like, seriously? Is Jesus sitting there, “Love thy neighbor, and don’t touch your junk!”

          Myself, I gotta work hard on the loving my neighbor shit. That’s a real challenge. I figure if you spend your alone time doing some good cardio stress relief, by which I mean grinding one out, well golly that might be a good thing. I surely don’t care what you do with your junk.

          Loving your neighbor though. That seems more important. Let’s focus on that.Report

          • Pinky in reply to veronica d says:

            If there is a God who’s smarter than us and cares about us, and sex is an important part of our lives, then it’s common sense that God would have rules about it.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

              God: “Where do you get such a lust for sexual pleasure?

              Me, lip quavering: “You, OK? I got it from YOU!”
              *flounces out of the room*Report

  6. Chip Daniels says:

    “Where will they get their foot soldiers” is a good question, but not dismissed lightly.

    Comparing the Integralists to ISIS, they drew upon a vast pool of angry disillusioned young men who were searching for a cause, a reason, any reason at all, to wage war on the world and set things right.

    And by “set things right” they mean change things to where they would rightfully be superior to others.

    These guys, Vermuele, Sorhab, or the Peterson groupies just assume that in the world they describe they would reign as the upper caste.

    We can and should sneer at the adolescent aspect of it, but when enough angry young men get together, they can become a real problem.Report

  7. North says:

    Ah integralism.
    Also known as weakness.
    When I was first becoming politically aware on the internet in the late 90’s and early oughts the same weakness was present in the circles of gay rights discussions that I participated in. It wasn’t a complicated matter. Someone would wistfully say “our principles are right but the people are wrong, if only someone would come and impose our right principles”. It wasn’t exactly the same as integralism, of course, but it was akin. It wasn’t a King imposing the principles, it was a President they were damning for not doing it or a court. The principles, of course, weren’t revanchist Christianity but gay rights of various sorts both from the defensible, like SSM, to the wild.
    But it came from weakness; from a cold miserable feeling that the masses weren’t with you and that the principles you believe, while correct, aren’t strong enough to win those masses over.

    It’s not surprising that integralism talk is especially loud in social conservative circles; they have suffered, over the past few decades, an incredible route on virtually all fronts of the culture wars. It’s not just that they’ve lost on the policy (though they, crushingly, have); it’s that they’ve lost so badly that even pushing those principles makes the general public tend to look askance at them. That’s why you hear so much bleating on the right that there’s a dire threat that they’ll be treated with a shadow of the same cruelty they inflicted on women, sexual minorities etc… when those groups were (and are) fighting their way up the legal and social mountain.
    We shouldn’t do that to social conservatives, I note, not only because it’d be a bad thing to do but that it risks undermining our own victory but that’s neither here nor there.
    So yes, integralism. The social conservatives sigh wistfully “the masses don’t believe our pure, true principles. Hell, even our own co-faithful think we’re kind of loony. If only a King or a strong man of some sort would descend from on high and impose those principles on the masses for us. What a fine thing that would be.

    It’s reassuring in a way, the integralist fantasies, if there was any serious danger that they had the power to impose such a regime they wouldn’t be sitting around fantasizing about it.Report

    • InMD in reply to North says:

      It’s reassuring in a way, the integralist fantasies, if there was any serious danger that they had the power to impose such a regime they wouldn’t be sitting around fantasizing about it.

      This strikes me as the thrust of the entire conversation. I’ve never heard anyone talk about any of this stuff in meat space. Frankly it seems like the kind of thing you’d get your ass kicked for saying even among pretty conservative people.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

      “Dissolve the people and elect another.” I’m not as sanguine as you and InMD are. The modern Republican Party has Bolshevik principles. They have demonstrate in many states, particularly Wisconsin and North Carolina, that they have no problem imposing their white supremacy policy principles by any underhanded trickery possible even though a clear majority disagrees with them. There have been plenty of political movements with clearly minority viewpoints that had no problem imposing them on society given means and an opportunity. Integralists are one of them. Republicans might not be integralist per se but they have a revolutionary ethos, where the.will of the party can be forced down the throats of society by virtue of its’ righteousness.Report

  8. You might say that, under Reno, First Things has taken the mask off.Report