As Others See Us

A Response to Aaron Wolf

Aaron Wolf, Managing Editor of Chronicles, has written a critique of identitarianism for the February issue of the magazine. He alludes to the National Policy Institute’s 2015 conference "Become Who We Are" as representative of this current of thought. Chronicles, as many readers probably know, describes itself as a conservative or paleoconservative publication. Mr. Wolf’s article seems to be an attempt at line-drawing between the conservatism represented by Chronicles and identitarianism (or whatever one wishes to call the current of thought on display at NPI’s conference).

Mr. Wolf is to be commended, first of all, for explicitly refusing to identify the position he is criticizing with biological determinism, something advocated by no person I have ever met. Race informs culture, as our mutual friend Sam Francis put it, but virtually no one has ever claimed it determines culture in every detail. The findings of modern science are that behavioral traits correlate to some extent with genetic relatedness, but none correlate perfectly.

Mr. Wolf associates identitarianism with the view that:

the white American must begin to see himself as white, to elevate his own “white racial consciousness,” which practically speaking means to identify with the achievements of every white European who has ever existed, to favor white people over otherly colored people, and to promote the interests of white people and European culture.  For identitarians, these interests include the eventual disintegration of the United States and the formation of a separate and separatist white state.

Let us begin with the first assertion: identitarians want white Americans to “identify with the achievements of every white European who has ever existed,” in other words, to “see all of these men and their achievements as belonging to him.” Mr. Wolf offers the example of Bach, saying it would be as absurd for white people to love Bach because he is white as it is for the anti-white left to hate Bach for the same reason.

It is obvious that Bach is admired as a composer rather than as an instance of the class “white man,” a class containing many individuals of no special achievement. But is it wrong for whites to feel that Bach is a significant part of our European heritage in particular? Germans used to put his image on their banknotes, and this must have had something to do with his having been a German; foreign composers, however great, were never depicted on the national currency. Was it wrong for Germans to feel a special affinity with Bach because of their shared nationality? Or is such identification acceptable at the national level but not at the racial level? Or is it rather musicians, or Lutherans, or those who share some other trait with Bach, who have the right to identify with him and claim him as their own? Most importantly, is there a “correct” paleoconservative position on such matters which Mr. Wolf would care to make explicit and contrast with the allegedly illicit racial identification he claims is especially characteristic of identitarians? Until he tells us, it is impossible to assess the validity of his criticism.

Secondly, Mr. Wolf claims that identitarians want to “favor white people over otherly colored people.” But there are countless senses in which one might “prefer” one group over another. Identitarians may well believe white people should, as a general rule, be preferred over non-whites for immigration to the United States or for purposes of marriage by other whites. Outside of those cases, the matter is not so clear. Hiring preferences for whites? Siding with a white man in the wrong against a non-white in the right? Affirming that white poets or thinkers or men of science must be better than their non-white counterparts for no other reason than that they are white? Mr. Wolf will have to provide examples of identitarians saying such things if he wishes to ascribe such views to them. And, once again, how exactly is the position of Mr. Wolf and his colleagues different from NPI’s “identitarian” position? Do the editors of Chronicles believe Mexican mestizos are as prudent a choice for immigration to the United States as white Europeans? I do not think so. Nor do paleoconservatives commonly join forces with liberals in their endless crusades against “discrimination.” So precisely what forms of racial preference favored by identitarians does Mr. Wolf reject? He has yet to tell us.

Mr. Wolf also attributes to identitarians a wish to “promote the interests of white people and European culture.” I doubt he objects to the promotion of European culture, but he may feel different about the promotion of white interests as such. Many whites continue to find this notion distasteful, despite their recognition that every other racial group engages enthusiastically in such behavior. Whites want to be fair to everyone, and the single-minded pursuit of our group interests may seem to be inconsistent with such fairness (although, once again, this does not seem to be a matter for concern to any other ethnic group). Yet anyone can see the probable fate of a group that refuses to promote its own interests in the face of other groups ruthlessly promoting theirs: first, to be taken advantage of; in the long run, probably, to be entirely destroyed. Even a disinterested concern for fairness would suggest that whites ought to begin considering the interests of their own group, and the sooner the better.

Finally, Mr. Wolf attributes to identitarians the view that white interests “include the eventual disintegration of the United States and the formation of a separate and separatist white state.” Some persons associated with identitarianism have indeed advocated this while others reject it. What identitarians mainly think is in the interest of whites is to avoid being ruled by elites hostile to us or cherishing historical grudges against us. Secondarily, it would also be in whites’ interest not to have to support armies of parasites, whether in the form of the black and brown underclasses or of useless bureaucrats. Would Mr. Wolf disagree? If he knows any way of achieving these goals without breaking up the United States, I’m sure many identitarians would be interested in hearing it. No white American considers the breakup of the US a good per se; those who advocate it consider it a lesser evil than being ruled by vengeful enemies. Conservative horror at the thought of breaking up the United States can probably be attributed to their identification of the nation with its earlier history; identitarians are more concerned about the future, specifically with preventing Eric Holder’s America from emerging in full fury once whites lose the last remnants of their influence.

In the remainder of his article, Mr. Wolf tries to explain why “white nationalism is a very specific form of rootlessness, an ideology of alienation.” He believes that:

the average temptee of identitarianism... is in search of a form of therapy, a kind of topical salve for the muscle aches and sore joints that result from running in the rat race that is modern America.  He is seeking a kind of comfort, a sense of belonging and a place to belong, and he finds it, thinly, ephemerally, fleetingly in the lists of black crime statistics, the praise of past European accomplishment, the bare scientific facts about the comparative sizes of brains and genitals among the races, and the ability to post controversial, career-ending comments pseudonymously.

Mr. Wolf holds that such a “modern search for identity is really an attempt to purge the mind of what already is there, in the imagination.”

I confess to finding the author’s line of reasoning difficult to follow. I attended NPI’s "Become Who We Are" conference, and am at a loss to understand how I and the other attendees might have been trying to purge our imaginations. What I do know is that modern egalitarian liberalism has evolved into a regime of lies maintained in power through intimidation, analogous in many ways to the late Soviet Union. Mindful of Solzhenitsyn’s injunction to “live not by lies,” some of us are determined to stand up and challenge the regime and its hollow ideology. Black crime statistics and comparative brain size data are not therapy but bits of truth thrown out to defy the regime of lies. The crime statistics may even save the lives of certain naive young people left vulnerable by the egalitarian ideology in which they have been marinated since birth, lives to which the regime is clearly indifferent.

Eventually, we would like to replace today’s corrupt and mendacious elites with something more honest and humane. It’s called the circulation of elites; I refer you to the writings of our late mutual colleague Sam Francis. We honor our history, but we want to make a little history ourselves rather than merely gathering to meditate upon “living a full life in a dying age,” as the editors of Chronicles did some years back. Now that was therapy (not that there was anything wrong with your holding such a gathering).

Mr. Wolf also plays fast and loose with the term ideology. I have referred to egalitarian liberalism as an ideology because it is spun from the abstract idea of human equality rather than grounded in observation of real people. The crime and brain size data Mr. Wolf believes we collect to make ourselves feel better is, in fact, an attempt to base our ideas on observable reality, i.e., precisely to avoid descending into ideology as I have used the term. If Mr. Wolf can tell us what he means by ideology, we might be able to decide whether he is correct in applying the term to identitarianism (and not applying it, presumably, to his favored form of conservatism).

Altogether, Mr. Wolf’s treatment of identitarians resembles an old-fashioned Marxist’s accusation that his opponents have succumbed to false consciousness, whereas the Marxist himself is in possession of unsurpassable scientific truth, understands his opponents and their motivations better than they understand themselves, and sees everything just as it is in reality. Would it not be more realistic, as well as more modest, for Mr. Wolf to acknowledge that identitarians, like the editors of Chronicles themselves, are attempting, within the limitations of human frailty, to understand the world around them and respond effectively to its challenges? Many identitarians find Chronicles’ cultural conservatism congenial and are doing their best to combat the same evils (e.g., alienation) and the same set of enemies. Why, then, when Mr. Wolf turns his attention to us, does he seem principally concerned with boundary-drawing and excommunication? Are there not dozens of more fitting subjects for this sort of analysis?