I like Michael Malice. He’s the sort of trollish provocateur we need, because while he’s funny as hell and not afraid to stick his nose in places deemed bad by polite society, he does so with a surprisingly quiet and calm demeanor, an attention to detail, and a curious spirit. His first book Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il shed a hell of a lot of light on North Korea and the plight of its people in a sardonic way, based largely on Malice’s own trip to the so-called Hermit Nation.
And it was very compassionate towards the oppressed North Koreans. “Compassionate” might be a word the arch-Ayn Randian Malice would scoff at having applied to him, but there’s no doubt he actually has feelings. He’s a human being after all.
I was excited when he announced The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics. In The New Right, Malice presents a taxonomy of the new American right wing that has been gestating since the early 1990s and emerged into the mainstream consciousness during the 2015-2016 presidential election.
Yes, Donald Trump features heavily in this book. Can’t you see him on the MAGA-approved Ben Garrison’s cover art? But put aside your Trump fatigue, and even your own politics, because Malice didn’t write The New Right to convert people to the New Right. Malice himself is a Rothbardian anarchist who sees all government as illegitimate and doesn’t even vote, he doesn’t seem to particularly like Trump or the New Right, but he is sympathetic to some of their core beliefs. And Malice is certainly not a man of the left.
It’s a good book, but it has some problems. At least, I think they’re problems. Malice is an awfully smart guy and he’s funny as hell, but some of his reasoning is suspect or a little slapdash, eliding pertinent points that contradict his own beliefs. That’s fine; you’re never going to agree with someone all of the time, et cetera, et cetera. But given Malice’s attention to detail–the man went to Charlottesville just so he would know what the hell he was talking about!–these points stuck out all the more.
I’ll get to those later.
The New Right is perhaps the first book to talk about some of the New Right’s personalities without scorn or condescension . . . at least too much. There are certain individuals Malice clearly has issues with–and rightly so–such as Christopher Cantwell, aka “The Crying Nazi.” He also doesn’t seem too impressed with Gavin McInnes. But where else are you going to find discussions about the following people, based on actual interviews with them, where Malice was able:
- Mencius Moldbug, aka Curtis Yarvin
- Murray Rothbard
- Pat Buchanan
- Mike Cernovich
- Milo Yiannopoulos
- Jim Goad
- Pax Dickinson
- Vox Day
- Jared Taylor
- Gavin McInnes
- Ann Coulter
- And the aforementioned Christopher Cantwell
Reading this list will either make your blood boil or make you go “YEAH!” Many is these people don’t deserve the fair shake Malice gives them. Many, if not all, of these people are personae non gratae in the world of the centrist.
Perhaps Malice is, too, which is why he’s able to speak with these folks who range from the relatively benign to the extreme and racist. One thing is for sure, though: none of these people are boring and most of them are wildly misunderstood.
In fact, aside from Cantwell (an actual neo-Nazi in all but name) and perhaps Dickinson and Taylor (it’s tough to tell how much of Pax’s act is, in fact, an act, and while Taylor doesn’t seem like a sheet-wearing racist, his views of blacks are quite distasteful), the overwhelming majority of what you hear about these figures in the mainstream media is flat-out false. As is the meaning of “The New Right” to begin with.
Malice does a good thing here, defining the new right as:
A loosely connected group of individuals united by their opposition to progressivism, which they perceive to be a thinly veiled fundamentalist religion dedicated to egalitarian principles and intent on totalitarian world domination via globalist hegemony.
It is leaderless almost by design, and it’s changing the landscape of America irrevocably. And I love how he puts the 1992 Buchanan-Rothbard presidential ticket as the beginning of the New Right, the paleo-con/anarchist merger. Very fascinating stuff.
More than that, he attempts to explain the differences between the various factions, from the anti-Cathedral crusaders –“The Cathedral” being Moldbug’s term for the prevailing set of progressive ideas and the institutions of the universities, the media, and the government–to the immigration hawks and nationalists, to the “race realists” and outright white supremacists.
In other words, what the media actually calls “the Alt-Right” is not how the New Right sees itself. The Alt-Right has become Richard Spencer and his fever dreams of a white ethno-state, something that puts him on the fringe of the fringe–most people in the New Right want nothing to do with him.
I find it so fascinating that, for all the New Right’s valid criticisms of progressive’s obsession with race, so many are likewise obsessed with race. Admittedly, the obsession comes from a different position, but still.
This is a good segue to the various positions and concerns of the New Right:
- The corrupt media
- An emphasis on culture over politics (Malice has an awesome discussion of why culture seems to be, in his words, if not left-wing than at least anti-conservative)
- A disdain for democracy
- Disbelief in the progressive versions of “egalitarianism” and “equality”
- Small government
- Distrust of the Cathedral and a desire to destroy it, particularly the media and the universities
- Opposition to political correctness
- Free speech
One thing all of the various factions have in common, though, is a deep and visceral hatred of mainstream conservatism and the Republican Party, a position Malice seems to share, citing repeatedly that they’ve conserved nothing and are just the proverbial progressives driving the speed limit.
Malice also discusses meme magic, the importance of irreverence in culture war, and how figures like Lee Kwan Yew and Augusto Pinochet have become New Right heroes, one of them serious and the other playfully ironic (I’ll let you choose which is which). There’s also a rundown of various books and thinkers that have become influential in New Right circles, and websites where the New Right’s ideas are typically disseminated, e.g., 4chan, Reddit, etc.
I quibble with Malice on a few points. First, he pretty much dismisses any concern about demographics. He states that diverse cities are where diversity works because they’re full of people who want to live in diverse areas, which seems to fly into the face of the fact that much of his own city of New York is pretty self-segregated and there are problems with race-related violence. Like Malice, I see diversity as contextual, neither good nor bad per se, but for a guy who normally would make a great lawyer, Malice’s rebuttal of the New Right’s general lack of enthusiasm toward diversity for diversity’s sake is weak.
Another example: Jared Taylor’s stated highest ideal is unfettered freedom of association with everything that means. Taylor also seems somewhat obsessed with IQ and how it relates to crime and other indicators of a nation’s standard of living. Malice then proceeds to say that it’s the intelligent who are more dangerous, as they can convince other intelligent people to commit atrocities more easily than the dumb who would need to be told what to do.
Malice then cites Stalin, Hitler, and Mao as examples of highly intelligent people who were responsible for atrocities. But whether you agree with Taylor or not, he wasn’t talking about world leaders. He was talking about the average population.
I hate being in a position where it seems like I’m defending someone I fundamentally disagree with, but I think Malice should have gotten into this issue deeper. It would have made his conclusion stronger.
Still, Malice’s conclusion is a good one:
In the same way that liberalism opens the door to progressivism which opens the door to socialism, Taylor’s genteel race realism opens the door to racism of the vulgar kind . . . Having such ideas in a subculture does not necessarily lead to awful things, but they’re certainly a prerequisite for awful things to happen.
Then there’s the idea among the New Right that pushes back against the progressive idea that white/European nations must pay, in perpetuity, for every crime they have committed in the past. Again, Malice pooh-poohs this by saying the Armenians are still mad at the Turks, the North Koreans are still mad at the Japanese, and so on. This utterly neglects the fact that those particular grievances have end points, whereas, say, the anti-colonial anger at Britain and France to name two European nations, or the pro-reparations side in the United States smacks more of never-ending tribute than a concrete, definable price that can be paid to settle past debts.
Assuming, of course, a nation or a people are responsible for settling all debts of their pasts.
Laughably, when it comes to his dismissal of New Right concerns over being dispossessed in their own lands, Malice cites the Romani as an example of a people who have survived dispossession. If you’re not aware of who the Romani are, that’s because they’re commonly called gypsies. In Malice’s view, you too can be rootless travelers who used to have a place to call your own . . . and as long as whatever host nation you’re in treats you with respect, it’s all good!
Many peoples were utterly subjugated by the Soviets, and they survived. The Romani are dispersed throughout Europe, and they survive. To be sure, having an area of one’s own is certainly conducive to a people’s survival. But it’s not in the end necessary so long as their rights are respected.
Cold comfort to the Kurds, and the Yazidis, and the Uighur, and even the Tibetans.
And listen: the point isn’t whether you or I or any other reader is this book agrees with the various figures of the New Right. That is completely irrelevant The point is Malice’s analysis and rebuttal is weak in these particular areas. He’s quite conclusory in these opinions even though they rest on nothing more than his own personal assertions.
Despite these weak areas, The New Right is a fascinating book, whether you’re in this world or diametrically opposed to it. It, along with Jack Murphy’s Democrat to Deplorable is essential reading if you want to understand the right side of America’s political divide as we gear up for, God help us, another presidential election in 2020. Malice doesn’t cheerlead for the New Right, nor should he, and he presents the good, the bad, the silly, and the ugly parts of its various arguments. The last chapter details where Malice sees the New Right, the Left, and the nation as a whole in the future.
The New Right isn’t perfect, it’s not the response to the Progressive Left that we want, but it might just be the response that we need, and God have mercy on us all.