After I pointed out the relevance of the posts on political ecology and political parties to the latest doxxing (protect yourself! please!) and the resulting controversy and infighting, a friend asked me what I thought of Vox Day’s proposed division of the AltRight into the AltWhite and the AltWest. To quote Vox’s own words:
>Nevertheless, it is clear that there is an intrinsic tension within the Alt-Right, which is not necessarily a bad thing. On the one side is the Alt-White, which is pure white nationalist and predominantly pagan or atheist. This could be thought of as the NPI or Spencerian Alt-Right. On the other is the Alt-West, which is omni-nationalist and pro-Christian. I suspect Jared Taylor and RamZPaul are more of this persuasion, but I could be wrong. Regardless, it is the branch in which I would place myself.
Criticizing Vox Day… well, I hesitate because he is so often right. He’s not only a smart guy, but original and thought-provoking as well. His thoughts on the relationship between international trade and immigration, in particular, sent me down a path that radically changed how I think about not only trade, but economics as a whole.
My respect for Vox notwithstanding, the AltWhite/AltWest doctrine is misguided. This distinction would have been not-quite-right even if Vox had only mentioned it as a hypothesis. We all need to spitball ideas; a mistaken assertion that stimulates discussion is not itself a mistake. “AltWhite/AltWest” only became truly unfortunate as Vox Day (and others who picked up the meme) went on to treat it as an established taxonomy of the AltRight’s factional politics.
The distinction is not entirely unwarranted. There are valuable perspectives and useful facts lurking in the vicinity of “AltWhite/AltWest” and to the extent that Vox Day’s intention only to excavate these, it would be easier for me to defend his intention than to attack his error. The AltRight truly is composed of a variety of factions with distinct but overlapping attitudes, principles, goals, abilities, and demographics. Understanding the inner richness of our movement and its political ecology makes us strong.
Further, the fate of the white race in Europe and the settler nations and the fate of Western Civilization are two distinct topics — just as a projectile’s mass and its velocity are distinct topics. The two fates are inextricable, as are the political fortunes of any factions which care about either the race or the civilization, but as phenomena they are distinct. Avoid conflating the race and its civilization, and you will have a sharper understanding of both.
Even if Vox Day’s intention was only that his readers grope towards these insights, reducing the intricate complexity of the AltRight’s constituencies to a fundamental division into two poles with different goals was a mistake. Whenever you have any kind of coalition assembled (even if it isn’t a particularly complex one), you do not want to take any steps to persuade the coalition that it is effectively bipolar and that each hemisphere of the coalition has its own interests.
This point may be a little slippery to grasp, so rather than doing an extremely precise dissection of what it means to persuade your coalition to think of itself as X or as Y, I want to start with a cute little example to illustrate the converse: whenever there is any kind of coalition assembled against you, do whatever you can to persuade your enemies they are two discrete groups with distinct interests!
The truth about Muslims and Poz
Every so often some pundit will observe that feminism is incompatible with Islam, and then right-wingers will gripe about it. After talking to a few people, I think I finally understand why. The subtext: they assume that to turn two allies against each other, you have to offer one of them a better deal. So their concern is that any rhetoric urging the incompatibility of feminism and Islam must perforce carry the implication that Christianity is compatible with feminism.
This is a misunderstanding. Convincing people their allies don’t have their best interests in mind tears apart alliances even when their enemies are no better. Just as one can refute an argument by demonstrating the inconsistency of its premises even if one denies the premises in the first place, one can fracture a coalition with divisive rhetoric without embracing the principles of either side.
Consider a hypothetical society. Its electorate is divided into three factions and needs to decide two issues. The issues are Muslim immigration (Muslims or no Muslims) and poz (poz or no poz). The three factions, each of which contains 1/3 of the voters, are the fascists, the anti-whites, and the degenerates.
The anti-whites do not particularly care for poz but they are fervent advocates of Muslim immigration, a combination of preferences we will abbreviate as (M, ~P). The degenerates do not have any special desire to import Muslims, but they are eager to live in a completely pozz’d society (~M, P). The fascists dislike both Muslims and poz (~M, ~P).
We will say that the anti-whites and the degenerates are, at the beginning of the scenario, firmly united in the PozzyMuzzy Party. The PMP instructs its members to vote for more Muslim immigration and more poz. The outcome (M, P) is not the real top preference of any PozzyMuzzy voter, but no matter. When the electorate votes the anti-whites and the degenerates vote for their party’s (M, P) platform, the fascists vote for (~M, ~P), and on both issues the fascists are outvoted 2/3 to 1/3. Thus the anti-whites get their preferred outcome on immigration and the degenerates get their preferred outcome on poz; if these are the issues they care most about, they are all satisfied and continue to remain loyal to their PMP.
But then, a few of the fascists actually talk to Muslims (unlikely that such bigots would broaden their horizons, I know! but bear with me) and discover that Muslims really hate poz. So it’s inevitable that if Muslim immigration continues indefinitely and Muslim voters eventually reach 50% of the population, they will vote against poz and from then on (M, ~P) will always have an absolute majority.
Now all the fascists have to do is convince the degenerates that Muslims really hate poz. A degenerate may not believe the fascist at first, because back in college she met this really cool trans Muslim slam poet who was totally intersectional; plus she knows all fascists are liars. (Of coursh.)
But if the fascists do succeed in showing the degenerates the truth about Muslims, the degenerates are now confused about their alliance with the anti-whites. The degenerates, who have always accepted everything their PMP told them about politics, aren’t anti-anti-white (it’s not like they’re racist or anything) but they also only really work with the anti-whites so they can enjoy their poz. So at PMP headquarters, the degenerates go to the anti-whites, share their concern that Muslims might be a little uncool about poz, and point out that to achieve PMP’s goals they’ll either need to put a hard cap on Muslim immigration, or slow it down considerably, or freeze it immediately so they can further investigate the likely attitudes of new Muslim voters.
But the anti-whites have a symmetrical attitude towards the degenerates. Their only interest in poz was that it kept the degenerates voting for more immigration. Poz and Muslims are the only things either side can offer. The anti-whites have zero interest in changing PMP’s immigration platform to ~M; if the degenerates managed to change it without their consent, they would have no further interest in voting PMP.
PozzyMuzzy polticians can try all sorts of different tricks to keep their party going, but when degenerates are truly convinced that if (M, P) continues to win in every election eventually immigration will bring about a permanent end to cooperation, and the two factions have nothing to offer each other but their votes on these two issues, the PMP is doomed. Some of the degenerates will start voting (~M, P) immediately, irritated by the indifference of the anti-whites, and more and more will join them over time. Some anti-whites, frustrated by the “treachery” or “racism” of these defectors, will start voting (M, ~P) just to spite the degenerates, or because they can see the PMP is going to fall apart soon anyway. Each wave of additional defections causes more retaliation and resignation, and soon PozzyMuzzy joins Guelph, Frondeur, and Whig in historical glossaries of defunct political labels.
After this cycle of defection reaches its ultimate conclusion, everyone who files into the voting booth will vote their own personal convictions. The degenerates and the fascists outvote the anti-whites on immigration; the anti-whites and the fascists outvote the degenerates on poz; the overall electoral result is (~M, ~P).
The fascists now have absolutely everything they wanted. The anti-whites and degenerates each get their preference on one of the issues, albeit not the one they care most about. Best of all, the fascists didn’t have to promise anything to either of the two other factions. Nor did they have to hide their intention to vote (~M, ~P); they only had to tell the truth about Islam.
How many levels of “It’s time for some game theory” are you on?
The PozzyMuzzy Party gives us a quick-and-dirty model of a situation where two factions could cooperate, but are not necessarily able to find any way to strike a stable bargain. Admittedly, the model involved some hand-waving. If you are the kind of person who enjoys this stuff, there are several ways to beef up the model to formalize the results. You could try any combination of the following:
- …model PMP voters’ behavior as an iterated prisoner’s dilemma between the two factions, where (M, P) is equivalent to cooperate, and stipulated that the interaction ends after period k. [In an iterated prisoner’s dilemma, if both players know when the final round will be in the first round, it can be proved by backwards induction that the dominant strategy for both is to defect on the first round, and every round thereafter.]
- …quantify the “pay-off” each of the three factions receives from each of the four overall outcomes: (M, P), (M, ~P), (~M, P) and (~M, ~P).
- …turn each issue into a continuous variable which can range from 0 to 1, and give each faction a utility function of the form U(M, P). [A continuous outcome makes it easier for PMP members to start “shirking”, making small deviations from the PMP platform that grow in each period.]
- …give the factions a two-period utility function where there is some probability π that the Muslims will be a majority in the second period [in which case (M, ~P) is automatically selected for the second period] if policy M is selected in the first period.
- …give the factions intertemporal utility functions that discount future utility by a factor of ∂ per period.
- …model additional Muslims entering the electorate after each round where M is selected (as a forth faction, or as members of a growing anti-white faction).
I leave the extensions of the model as an exercise for the reader. I don’t want to scare people away, so I am not going to go into that kind of detail. Any of them can be used to show that as the degenerate faction’s opinions about immigration change (how likely a Muslim takeover is, when it will happen, and what policies Muslims will implement), they lose the ability to cooperate with the anti-white faction.
For all its informality, this model demonstrates the basic point that you don’t need to make concessions to opponents or embrace their principles in order to break up their coalitions. Politics is a war of all against all! Arranging and sustaining cooperation is difficult. Unity is the exception; division is the rule. Remind one PMP faction how much its interests diverge from the other’s, and the whole rickety structure may come crashing down.
But even if you’ll overlook its informality, the simplicity of the model might create confusion on one point. In this model, the unstable party really does have two discrete factions with opposed interests. Even if you understand (a) why it would be ideal for PMP to find some way to strike any sort of stable deal with each other rather than succumbing to fascist rule and (b) why there is no way for them to arrange this, you might still think in some sense it isn’t “really” in the degenerates’ “true” interests to import Muslims. You may even go further, and maintain that in some vague sense their interests are “really” more closely aligned with the fascists here.
But the nice, sharp contrast between the preferred policies of the anti-whites and the degenerates in our toy model isn’t critical to the conclusion we drew from it. Even if a party’s platform covers many issues and each member’s personal preference overlaps with the platform on most but not all issues, cooperation can be difficult and rhetoric portraying the party as polarized can lead to actual fractures. In fact, even if an alliance forms on a single issue, and all its members share the same position on that issue, the alliance can still suffer tensions around the members’ individual contributions to the group’s collective success.
If you want a fuller theoretical explanation of these tensions, I encourage you to read Winning and its complications, where I explained why victorious coalitions suddenly experience new tensions despite having (a) high morale and (b) spoils of war. Any rhetoric that makes the possibility of post-victory infighting highly salient encourages allies to treat the infighting as a foregone conclusion, and start preparing for it immediately; those preparations provoke counter-preparations and the whole cycle of escalation can easily provoke low-level infighting while the conflict is still ongoing.
It is extremely undesirable for a coalition to collapse in the middle of a conflict even when it really does have two fairly discrete factions — but when it has a veritable bird’s nest of tangled, interwoven ideologies, goals and loyalties, the collapse (and subsequent defeat) would be a irredeemable nightmare for all involved.
Beyond wishful thinking
I hope I’ve convinced you that when people try to persuade members of an alliance that the alliance is bipolar and its segments have clashing goals, that has bad consequences for the alliance. Persuading your enemies that their coalition is polarized will inhibit their unity and aid in their defeat. Persuading your allies that your own coalition is polarized will aid in your defeat.
This may sound like I’m advocating wishful thinking or willful lying. I’m not. You want to understand your coalition’s internal structure accurately, so you know what problems to expect and how to react or, better yet, how to preempt them. However, I want to propose four theses:
(a) Rhetoric and Trust. Outside of game theory people don’t obey cute mathematical rules, so whether certain possibilities are salient may matter much more than how probable they are. (To that extent, the informal PozzyMuzzy model I sketched out above, where I stressed the salience Muslim takeover had for the degenerates, may be more accurate than the formal extensions I suggested.) Rhetoric is like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope: each new twist makes some colorful possibilities loom large, while causing others to disappear into specks. An objective description of an alliance can still be phrased in ways that will frame the alliance as invincible or as fragmented; it is not the structure that makes one interpretation or the other accurate, but the skill with which each side works to inspire its friends and demoralize its foes.
(b) Ideology and Partisanship. Rhetoric can go beyond painting alliances in vibrant color, to helping permanently shape how allies think about themselves, their principles, and the projects they cooperate on. By calling attention to some relationships and tidying away others, by emphasizing certain reliable signals and investing objects with symbolic value, rhetoric can help coordinate a group by describing patterns that it wants to call into being. I’ve mentioned this kind of ideology before in the context of how confusing the behavior it creates can be; and I introduced the self-sustaining patterns of cooperation these ideologies can create in my post on political ecology.
(c) Race and Civilization. Further, I maintain the ideological tendencies within the AltRight which Vox Day labelled “AltWhite” and “AltWest” aren’t usefully thought of as factions or poles within the coalition at all; and finally…
(d) The Structure of the AltRight. …there is a great deal you can say about the internal structure of the AltRight that illuminates what it is and what its core strengths are, and this structure is not bifurcated or polar.
I will not address these topics today! (And probably not next week either.) But I will defend these theses in later installments of this series. Yes! That’s right: I tricked you into reading Part I of the series: What is the AltRight?
Series: What is the Alt-Right?
- Part I (Disruption is Easy) < You are here
- Part II (Recipe for Reaction)
- Projected: Part III (Reality and Rebirth)
- Projected: Part IV (The Political Onion)