Paul Gottfried makes some interesting points in a thinkpiece on white nationalists over at Takimag. His basic argument:
The rising generation cares even less than its parents about holding on to an inherited civilization. Most of my students in Western civ courses have only the vaguest idea of the figures in the Bible (including Jesus) and their knowledge of modern history is usually confined to such inanities as “Hitler was a bad man because he was intolerant.”
That being the case, the advantage of the white nationalist Right under present circumstances is that “it promotes a sense of belonging and elitism that does not depend on sustaining past traditions” that no longer exist.
The basic problem with the approach, of course, is that “whiteness” doesn’t have much to say about what life is about, so it can’t serve as the basis of social order. That’s why the extreme nationalists and racists of the last century relied so much on theatrics and on an ideology of infinite struggle for infinite dominion that made no sense and could only end in catastrophe. As Gottfried puts it in connection with the present situation:
The materials that white nationalists bring into play seem inadequate for any serious war for civilization. The most they may land up producing is a fiercely defended critical perspective. And while that perspective can be directed against leftist and neoconservative assumptions, it is not likely to carry our society toward a new vision of order.
In addition to that point, which I agree with, and which suggests a welcome concern with visions of order, he makes another point that in the past he’s emphasized in a variety of ways:
The majority in a multicultural society is encouraging others to trash its heritage and to practice discrimination against the majority. What is wrong … is not oppression by others but the glorification of self-destructive behavior.
I think here he’s taking too seriously the idea of the majority as an actor that deliberates and makes decisions that are attributable to the people in general. In fact, the active part of the “majority” that’s doing the encouraging is our ruling class of experts, managers, and functionaries, the heritage they want trashed is not their heritage of social rationalization but the competing incompatible heritage of classical antiquity, Jerusalem, the European middle ages, and normal life in general, and the “majority” targeted for discrimination is not experts, managers, and functionaries but normal white men, who are not as such our dominant class. (White male managers and experts are powerful because they are managers and experts, not because they are white males.)
“Public opinion” shouldn’t be understood as if it were a direct outcome of whatever the views the individuals making up the public happen to be, with the way the views are aggregated a secondary matter. In a mass society of 300,000,000 people dominated by huge institutions and by specialists there’s not much practical reason for any particular individual to put serious thought into political and social issues. It makes more sense for each to go with the flow, as the flow is represented to him by a system of public discussion and information dominated by expertise, large institutions, and money. If he comes up with a view at odds with the official view, people will call him names, he’ll have to come up with his own Theory of Everything to defend it, and nobody will understand him anyway. Why bother? And if you’re going to go along anyway, why not reduce friction and tell yourself it’s all for the best?
Modern society has a remarkable ability to separate man from his fellows and from his own identity and heritage, so that the only available principles of order and functioning are the ones formally laid down. That’s one reason modern society is able to combine tyranny with a manner of functioning that is usually comparatively nonviolent. Even when it turns to atrocity the atrocities are bureaucratic and orderly, with people standing quietly in line waiting to be murdered.
Modern inclusivist society represents that atomizing tendency on steroids. The tendency enables it to destroy whole peoples in a gentle and orderly manner. Under such circumstances, does it really make sense to represent that society and what it does as the people’s own choice? How can a disconnected aggregate like the present American people think or make choices? To my mind, rather than blaming the victim it makes more sense to investigate how accepted views are defined and propagated, what contrary impulses there are that might be the basis of something better, and how to disrupt what’s being propagated and give rationality and public presence to more hopeful principles now suppressed.