Today we are reposting a Thermidor essay on Charlottesville from 2018. Everything looks even more prescient and right in the view of what occurred, why Charlottesville was an exclamation point to a bad run and what is coming.
In July 2018, Northrop Grumman announced that it would investigate an employee for allegedly attending a political rally across the country a year ago. The rally was small with fewer attendees that a minor league baseball game. Like all major corporations, they hate people who hate people and take it seriously that an employee may have attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. A year on, this political sin casts a long shadow.
Much ink was wasted on what happened in Charlottesville, which at its core was supposed to be just a political rally that the state allowed to turn into chaos resulting in one woman’s death. If you spoke with people who attended, the stories had a mix of shocked newscast interviewee and apocrypha. The stories afterwards added dimensions the System wanted hidden like reports of cap guns fired to mimic gunshots to spook the many armed men there. Some were gripes like organizers lacking organization skills or attention to details and old white nationalists attending when normal MAGA moms were coming. Fights with police standing by and chases through the streets of the city for hours did occur.
What symbolically happened was the death of the 2015-2016 altright. The goodwill of not being the Jeb Bush GOP died, not just Heather Heyer. The year-long momentum of Antifa being psychotic, black masked loons was broken as suddenly the media could compare them to D-Day soldiers (this ended quickly.) The free speech push from the Battle of Berkeley to James Damore’s Goolag lawsuit was stopped in its tracks. Even President Trump’s rollout of his infrastructure plan was swept aside as the media and his own cabinet members charged at him for disavowals and portrayed his even take on the chaos as not enough to condemn hate. Go back and read everything in the media context; they wanted him to resign over his reaction to a random, unaffiliated rally gone bad.
Altright as a concept went from a nebulous hard to define entity that meant not GOP Inc. to something easier to define and signal against. Consider the tweets where altlite figures like Cernovich and Paul Joseph Watson claimed to be altright or supporting it. The neoreaction crowd had a vague relationship with it but fled after Charlottesville. Charlottesville also made the term altright practically a curse word. It transformed from something people in DC, yes even in the heart of the Leviathan, admitted to liking, and being intrigued by or associating with to something people disavowed and signaled against at the first mention. The altright buzzwords also became encoded in media warning pieces so that a normal person could shut their brain down and not listen once specific lingo, that had then become associated with the Alt-Right, was uttered or written.
In retrospect, we can see the rally was a trap. Hmmm, why did the Klan have a rally in Charlottesville a few weeks before Unite the Right and why did the media use pictures from that rally in all their reports on Unite the Right? Hmmm, who is this Kessler guy? Hmmm, why did the cops funnel people into the Antifa crowd? Hmmm, maybe all the media cameras following people around beforehand were to document statements for later lawfare? It’s easy to see this in hindsight and easy to see how this was the culmination of missteps after the miracle election.
“Hail victory!” Embracing the failed WN ideology, imagery, and tactics. People like Greg Johnson pushed to make altright mean white nationalism and nothing else. Folk activism. Activism in the heart of the left’s realm. Public displays and marching with not a single patron on one’s side. There was no program of altright policies, allowing the media to frame them however the media wished. The altright could not be allowed to be an American Jobbik to Trump’s Orban because it would be too dangerous. It had to be destroyed by the System. Folks with a strategic mind might have reviewed what happened to manosphere writers when the System decided to attack them, and taken a different course. Still, the fact that the deck had been obviously stacked against them shouldn’t let us excuse the organizers of the rally for their impressive displays of incompetence, carelessness, and narcissism.
Charlottesville is the turn in the road or the off-ramp from the highway. Curious people shifted to the altlite and being MAGA supporters, even if now that is being treated like white supremacy just as the altright crowd warned. As a force, it fractured. A major comparison is to look at what the alright could do with memes, messaging and social media for the 2016 primary season versus this year’s primary season. No coordination like 2016, which helped GOP Inc. and the System’s needs. Almost every major altright group had turnover or had to pull back and retrench afterwards.
Adjacent right-wing groups reacted, splintering the fringe unit. The altlite signaled hard against the hate even if they did point out the Antifa presence and escalation in Charlottesville. They chose the CivNat route from there on, morphing into gay-friendly socialism for white people. Immigration restrictionists who had formerly been curious pulled back, and immediately refocused on immigration and none of the broader social ideas being pushed by the fringe. Neoreaction poked its head out to chastise the Charlottesville crowd, but then reduced content creation and retreated into seclusion and has now publicly withered away.
If there is a comparison to be made one year on, it would be that the fringe right of 2015-2016 was like the ’86 Mets. The 1986 Mets built on their success in 1985 and steamrolled teams. They assembled a super team with a wide range of talent, young and old, securing everyone a role. They pulled off miracle wins in the playoffs even when down to their last strike. The ’86 Mets were not just good but also wild, rowdy and fun to watch. Players had nicknames that were akin to pseudos like Doc, Straw, Nails, and Mookie. Even if you were a Yankees fan, it was tempting to put on the Mets hat and roll with that team of fun winners.
The fringe right did not really win anything. Trump and his team won that election, but do not sleep on the idea of the merry band of meme lords being worth 10,000 votes in Michigan. Election night 2016 was the Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Those Mets never won another title. Key contributors were traded, superstars made bad choices, and they introduced new talent that did not gel. One season, it all clicked. One election cycle, it all clicked.
Some of the better ideas from what was then the broader altright have sunk in with voters, been absorbed and permeated the punditry. Look at the young GOP right now. They mouth the non-interventionism foreign policy pushed by different fringe right writers. Former countersignal conservatives like Matt Walsh now tweet about meaning and purpose like the 2015 fringe right social critics. Moldbug phrases are tweeted by NRO writers. Boomers on Facebook post about the Democrats importing voters. Immigration has shifted from ‘let lawful illegals stay’ to ‘we need to reduce legal immigration.’ People see that Trump is being blocked by the Leviathan and that maybe, just maybe, an alternative means to fixing problems needs to be tried. Contact enough lefties and some fringe right jokes make it there. Soy.
There is opportunity. The 2015-2016 election cycle allowed everyone to see that there was a large crowd of people upset with the state of America and noticing the same exact coincidences. Network. Infiltrate. Build. Harden yourself and your allies. Determine the local civic organizations you can use for your ends. If all the Founding Fathers joined the Masons, does it mean the Revolution was a Masonic conspiracy or was Mason infrastructure a convenient vessel for the Revolution’s conspirators? There are many people 90% of the way there, and the left is only going to get crazier. The directive to simply pick up the American flag and infiltrate the GOP looks smart and can still work as the GOP drifts towards a nationalist, workers’ party.
There is another ’86 Mets comparison that may prove true. Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden were the amazing young talents for the ’86 Mets. They threw it all away with drug use and bad decisions. A decade later, humbled by life but still useful, the duo contributed to multiple World Series titles won by the New York Yankees. For New York sports fans, it was a flash of what could have and should have been with those ‘80s Mets teams.
The Overton Window has expanded in both directions. The good ideas will never die and the memes will evolve. The lesson of Charlottesville is that the 2015-2016 era is over and done with, and everyone should have realized it on election night 2016. The events of that day may cast a long shadow for years to come, but that does not mean anyone needs to stand in it.