Sending the offensive alt-right to the principles office
November 1, 2016 § 209 Comments
Liberalism survives and thrives over many generations of men by asserting unprincipled exceptions to deal with its own excesses. In a world where Marxist professors are being pilloried for their cisgender whiteness and right wing wrongthought, this gives rise to movements like (what the Current Year labels) the alt right.
The alt-right is a noisy (on the Internet) anti-establishment and – typical of anti-establishment liberalism – deliberately offensive minority part of the new conservative synthesis, which we might call Trumpism. Rather than seeing the 1950’s as America’s cultural high water mark, Trumpism sees the 1990’s as America’s cultural high water mark.
Some parts of the alt-right explicitly repudiate equality, so it is fair to ask why this repudiation does not in fact constitute a principled exception to liberalism. The answer is twofold.
First, the equality at the foundations of liberalism is equality of rights among the superman. Failure to specify that what is explicitly and unequivocally repudiated is liberalism’s assertion of equal rights allows the principle itself to sneak in by the back door, as a principle which still obtains among the superman.
Second, equality is not the most fundamental commitment of liberalism. Equal rights inevitably follow from liberalism’s fundamental commitment to political liberty, and when denied by right-liberals simply reassert themselves under other guises.
The most fundamental commitment of liberalism as a political philosophy is right there in its name: liberty. As long as the alt-right is going on about free speech and freedom of religion and the like it is simply policing liberalism’s worst excesses: preserving liberalism’s unquestioned rule for future generations.
It is fair though, given the ubiquity and existential necessity (to liberalism) of unprincipled exceptions, to ask what principled opposition to liberalism would look like. Obviously we can tell all sorts of fictional stories that might or might not resemble the unfolding of history if certain things are or are not done; but that kind of storytelling is not what I mean. Those kinds of things are always in the hands of Providence, and the idea that we can choose how history unfolds in some pilot-the-machine way is wrongheaded as an idea.
What I mean is simply characterization of principled opposition to liberalism, not a surround sound IMAX movie plot of the future.
Principled opposition to liberalism would repudiate political freedom unequivocally, without making excuses and without trying to sneak it in by some back door rationalization.
It would be willing to call sodomy a punishable crime, and would not promote flaming homosexuals (however talented and amusing) as thought leaders and rhetorical champions. As with all punishable crimes, there is plenty of room for argument over the appropriate range of specific actions balancing mercy and justice: but as a matter of category, sodomy would be a punishable crime.
It would be willing to admit that offensive speech can be a punishable crime.
It would be willing to call public religious heresy a punishable crime, and would acknowledge Catholic Christianity to be the true religion.
Examples can be multiplied. But we can certainly know a principled exception when we see it. And the exceptions we see on the alt-right specifically, and in the new Trumpist conservative synthesis more generally, are not principled.