Occasionally I’ll drop into the site Zero Hedge to see what’s going on in the countercultural neither-region of the web.
Zero Hedge is a sort of anti-Wall Street Journal for that caters to anti-establishment fervor—it analyzes financial markets and the news in a distinctively dystopian way. The posts are written under the pseudonym Tyler Durden—the anarchic character played by Brad Pitt in Fight Club—an idol to arrested adolescents everywhere.
One of Zero Hedge’s disaffected former authors, Colin Lokey, described the site’s writing formula to Bloomberg:
Russia=good. Obama=idiot. Bashar al-Assad=benevolent leader. John Kerry= dunce. Vladimir Putin=greatest leader in the history of statecraft.
It’s this formula that attracts the alt-right to Zero Hedge’s comments section in droves.
Some recoil from the term alt-right—claiming it’s merely rebranded white supremacism. While racism is the lifeblood of the alt-right, in practice it’s something much messier—a decentralized sub-culture of provocateurs, nihilists, pessimists, conspiracy theorists, reactionaries, misogynists, and general malcontents.
This is in full display below Zero Hedge’s articles. Much like its more populist cousin Breitbart, the forum on Zero Hedge is part soapbox, part primal scream group therapy. They’re always an optimal way to track the zeitgeist of the countercultural right.
Yesterday, John Kerry gave his speech condemning Israeli settlements, and the Trump camp gave its predictable reaction—they toed the party-line on Israel. I decided to check the pulse on Zero Hedge and came across several comments like this:
No surprise here. During the campaign alt-right trolls flooded Twitter accounts and forums with anti-semitic memes. Some claim this as ‘ironic.’ But spend any time surveying the alt-right swamp, and you’ll find their racism is hardly ironic.
Which puts them in an odd place after a Trump win. Despite campaigning as an anti-establishment, conspiracy theory touting, racist-courting firebrand—president-elect Trump appears to be bound by the orthodoxy of his party. And a core aspect of that orthodoxy involves an Israel-centric foreign policy.
Waves of disappointment among the alt-right are inevitable, as a flesh and blood Trump presidency will surely fail to live up to their twisted ideals. No where is this becoming more evident than among the openly neo-nazi supporters of Trump.
The Guardian recently covered this disillusionment. Jared Taylor, a self-proclaimed “race-realist” who runs American Renaissance, complains that Trump has already backpedlled on several pledges concerning illegal immigration. Peter Brimelow, who claims Mexicans are trying to remake the US, said that Trump’s failure to deliver will trigger a revolt.
Then there’s Richard Spencer, who runs the National Policy Institute—a white nationalist ‘think tank.’ He ended a recent conference in shouts of “Hail Trump! Hail our people!” and “Hail victory!”
Prominent white supremacists like Spencer believe they have a lot of clout after Trump’s election, but besides feeling empowered, they’re politically impotent. Many of Spencer’s peers feel he overreached and will self-sabotage his own movement.
Holocaust revisionist David Cole said of Spencer: “He blew a lot of goodwill … and became an embarrassment to some of his own people.” And of his supporters: “They’ll burn out. After Trump’s victory they had a belief they were behind it, or had a lot of clout. All they can hope for is to get something on the immigration reform/restrictions. Otherwise they’re enjoying the bragging rights, saying they won it, even though they didn’t.”
For all of their self-proclaimed realism, many of these white supremacists are woefully naive about the dynamics of politics. Trump and media savvy propagandists like Steve Bannon played them like a fiddle, and they marched along.
There’s been much debate if Trump himself is racist. By all indications Trump is an opportunist who is willing to play to card-carrying racists and their fellow travelers to embolden his online propaganda machine. In this sense it matters little if Trump is a racist, he’s feeding into racism nonetheless.
But I’ve maintained that analogies between Hitler and Trump have missed the mark. Trump lacks the ideological depth or sense of mission of a Hitler. While Hitler was driven by imperial conquest, Trump is mostly driven by self-promotion and a simplistic nationalism.
This doesn’t mean there’s little cause for concern. Aided by a Republican congress, Trump appears well-poised to destroy what’s left of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. And since America’s military industrial complex is geared towards imperialism, Trump’s hubris could get the nation into deeper quagmires. This could create its own longterm dystopian novel, one that outlets like Zero Hedge will be eager to attribute to other, more nebulous forces.