It is important to expose yourself to information that is contrary to your currently held beliefs. That is the primary reason why I read Jeffrey Tucker’s “Right-Wing Collectivism: The Other Threat To Liberty”. It is a libertarian case against the Alt-Right. While Tucker does provide some legitimate concerns regarding the contents of the ideological package of the Alt-Right, what he primarily succeeds in doing is showing just how out of touch libertarianism currently is. In my political infancy and until quite recently I grew up with libertarianism as my own belief system. It therefore pains me to see that they fail to break out of their bubble, viewing politics merely through an economic lens.
Tucker and libertarians like him are correct in pointing out the unsavory history of some currently on the Alt-Right spectrum. It is unquestionably true that many Neo-Nazis, racial supremacists and similarly dodgy people have rebranded themselves and are using the prominence of this new movement to spread their old ideas. I also find it regrettable that the focus on Jews as primarily behind the malaise plaguing the West is too prevalent for comfort. That being said, Tucker goes way, way too far in his description of the Alt-Right. According to him, such unsavory people comprise the vast majority, if not nearly all those within the movement. He also paints the contemporary Alt-Right with broad brushstrokes of old-school Fascist thinking.
To me, utilizing such smears undermines his own case. There is enough material to give a comprehensive critique of the Alt-Right without having to resort to digging up intellectual corpses in order to do so. As a reader this might imply that Tucker is either unwilling or unable to create a compelling case against the Alt-Right looking at modern sources or figures in the movement. Another failure on Tucker’s part is his casual dismissal of the validity of IQ as a concept and demographics. While true that these have historically been misused for questionable purposes, within the contemporary context of our democratic system, these concepts do matter.
I’m perfectly willing to concede the accuracy and applicability of IQ and demographics as they relate to democratic politics if credible scientific evidence can be provided. Casually dismissing the concepts reeks of a lack of intellectual curiosity. I also miss curiosity regarding the so-called “libertarian to Alt-Right pipeline”. Doesn’t this speak of something lacking in contemporary libertarianism that the Alt-Right answers?
Tucker also criticises the Alt-Right for focusing on according to him, a “great man” understanding of history. According to such an understanding, history is chiefly driven by prominent individuals that have used political power to further their agendas. This doesn’t ring true to what I’ve seen of the Alt-Right. Instead, I’ve seen a great focus on self-improvement. Bettering health habits, nutrition, working out, finding a partner with good morals and values and so on. Common everyman people have been what I’ve seen put into focus, not heroic giants to be held up as examples.
While I share some of the economic criticism that Tucker launches against the protectionism and anti-free trade policies commonly found on the Alt-Right, Tucker and libertarians in general have sadly failed to go into other politically charged arenas. Historically, libertarianism has been quiet about culture. The cultural authoritarianism found today, especially in social media companies threatening free speech based on political viewpoints is a much greater threat to free expression than the alleged views and positions of Trump. I’m very interested in what Tucker has to say about the cultural threats to freedom. Instead they fall back to economics. If they continue to do so without offering viewpoints and answers on culture, they will continue to haemorrhage adherents into the Alt-Right for the foreseeable future.
A final point on political violence. Tucker equates the violence on the left and the right. As a close observer of American politics for some time now, it is clear to me that the violence is overwhelmingly coming from the left. Trump supporters were getting beaten up, not slugging it out at Hillary or Bernie rallies. It seems clear to me that the vast majority of violence from the right has been defensive in nature against an increasingly feral left. Such nuances aren’t properly addressed by Tucker when talking about political violence. This is especially important as a large part of the book is him linking the contemporary Alt-Right with past Fascist admiration and advocacy of violence.