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December 29, 2022 11:47 am
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The Rise of the Neo-Alt-Right

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avatar by Karen Lehrman Bloch

Opinion

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their summit in Helsinki. Photo: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger.

For the past few months, a line from Matisyahu’s song “One Day”“don’t wanna fight no more”has been running through my head. It’s had little to do with Islamists, “Black Hebrew Israelites,” or even white supremacists. It’s been my reaction to Jews who have situated themselves on the far right and find daily glee in bullying anyone who disagrees with them.

I’ve spent the last eight years arguing with the left, trying to explain to them that what they’re doing is illiberal, helping to popularize the term “leftism” to refer to this illiberalism. In doing so, I made peace with traditional conservatives, who I’ve found to be rational, respectful and dignified. Even during the Trump years, both classical liberals and traditional conservatives tried to focus on his achievements and overlook his unpresidential behavior and seemingly intentional (or at the very least reckless) stirring of the white nationalist pot.

Then the January 6th insurrection happened, and we began to see a division between those who felt a primarily white nationalist attack on the Capitol was justified and those, like myself, who were horrified. But I really began to see the split when Putin invaded Ukraine last February. While every rational person on the planet was appalled, my Trump-loving Facebook “friends” blamed … Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Conspiracy theories about Ukraine began to pop up on an hourly basis.

While Facebook has never been politics-free, it had never reached a Twitter level of toxicity. But now those on the far right only wanted to fight—about everything. I get the anger. I live in New York City: Leftism has destroyed this city. What the left has done to our kids alone — from biased teaching and an over-emphasis on race at schools, to making trans surgery without parental consent acceptable — is enough to never want to vote for a Democrat again. But the anger hasn’t made me unable to see, and condemn, other forces of evil.

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And then the Trump dinner with Kanye and Nick Fuentes happened. Not only did non-Jewish Trump lovers jump to his defense — but Jewish Trump lovers did as well. They fervently refused to criticize him, and tried to publicly humiliate anyone who did, just as he had.

Suddenly the line between true conservatives and what has been called the alt-right became quite clear. Alt-right isn’t the perfect term. It came into use after 2008 to describe white supremacists (“ethnonationalists”) who are anti-immigrant, racist and “anti-globalist.” Many believe a Jewish cabal controls the government, media and universities, with the end game of “white genocide” — the Great Replacement Theory.

But now many on the far right, including Jews, were quashing all criticism of white supremacists. So just as we eventually began to call liberals who refused to denounce leftism “leftists,” shouldn’t we do the same here? Shouldn’t we find a label to differentiate them from true conservatives? I began to call them the neo-alt-right, or alt-right adjacent.

There are many streams of conservatism, of course, but for the purposes of this article I’m focusing on these two. What are the differences between true conservatives and the neo-alt-right? I think most would agree that traditional conservatives — think Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, National Review, the Tikvah Fund — can be defined by: decency, rationality and integrity; tolerance for respectful dissent; a focus on principles, not personalities or partisanship; traditional family and religious values; support rational gun reform; and an understanding that “with rights come responsibility.”

And the neo-alt-right? They are characterized as being: rude, angry, confrontational and narcissistic; intolerant of divergent viewpoints; a cult of personality worship and hyper-partisanship; riddled with conspiracy theories; refusing to criticize Trump, no matter what he says or does; vociferously pro-Putin and spouting Russian propaganda incessantly; embracing pro-fascism/authoritarianism if it will defeat “deep-state globalism”; Second Amendment absolutists (“Get your hands off my guns.”); and being unable to comprehend the idea that “with rights come responsibility.”

This list is far from definitive. It is much easier to differentiate liberals from leftists since every aspect of the woke revolution is illiberal. But it’s a beginning. Why is it important? Because perhaps some in the neo-alt-right will finally begin to realize that they’ve become a mirror image of leftists. I’m not overly optimistic. Extremists by definition aren’t good at self-reflection.

But there’s a much larger issue here: In order to fight the evils inherent to extreme leftism, we need the right to be sane. We have no other option. In the latest polling, less than a third of the GOP wants Trump to be the 2024 candidate. While that’s a huge positive, it also means that 31 percent of the GOP, 11 million Americans, are either alt-right or neo-alt-right. Yes, I would argue that if you still support Trump — especially when we have DeSantis, Haley, and other rational alternatives — you fit into one of these categories.

This country was founded on fundamental Enlightenment (democratic) principles, not on “white nationalism.” That is what ties classical liberals and traditional conservatives — and what is going to get us out of the toxic maelstrom in which we now find ourselves.

We also need the GOP to remain sane to fight alt-right antisemitism. The tepid GOP response to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Nick Fuentes, and the rising tide of white nationalism is alarming—even more so than the failure of Democrats to forcefully respond to Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). White supremacists don’t just believe that Jews nefariously control the world. Many also believe that the only way to stop what they think is an attempt at “white genocide” is to exterminate the Jewish population. Yes, that remains the white nationalist end game.

Do our Jewish neo-alt-right friends know this? Do they understand that they’re being used by white supremacists just as Jewish leftists are being used by Islamists? That the neo-alt-right is just another form of Hellenistic conformity?

They don’t see it that way, of course. They appear to believe that a united extremist front is needed to dismantle leftism, even if that means condoning dangerous antisemitism. As history has shown, this has never worked out well for Jews, or for dismantling extremism.

What’s needed is a coalition of the sane — left, right, center — to force extremists on both sides out of the public sphere. It’s well past time to make that a priority.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is editor in chief of White Rose Magazine. A version of this article first appeared in The Jewish Journal.

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