The Latin adage describes a paradox of human social reality: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
In A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, Thomas Sowell provides what is still, in my opinion, one of the most useful criteria for dividing the political “Left” from the political “Right” yet devised. The central premise from which the “Left” and “Right” splinter off, according to Sowell, is their root view of human nature itself: those attracted to the “constrained vision” (Steven Pinker renders it the “tragic vision”) which sees the basic role of politics as creating a social structure that will mitigate the evils from man’s inherent limitations generally end up leaning to the Right. Those attracted to the “unconstrained vision” (Pinker renders it the “utopian vision”) which sees the basic role of politics as moving mankind towards perfection generally end up leaning to the Left.
To the Left, the idea of banning guns is attractive because the Leftist at least implicitly envisions this as a means towards eliminating interpersonal violence itself. Now, the usual response to that notion across the political Right is not to disagree with the Leftist that eliminating interpersonal violence would be lovely; the Right is not opposed to the Leftist project of banning guns because it likes gun homicide. Rather, the Right’s counter-argument is that so long as violence is an inescapable part of human nature, eliminating it is just impossible. But furthermore, since it is impossible to eliminate interpersonal violence from human affairs, the most you could actually achieve in the real world by trying to eliminate it is to disarm law-abiding citizens and create a world full of softer, fleshier targets for criminals who would, for the most part, be able to continue unscathed by your legal efforts. In essence, what defines the “Right” very generally speaking is more that it considers the Left’s means hopelessly wishful and naive than that it denies that the ends desired are noble (or would be if the world were as simple as the Leftist would like to imagine).
Consider the Cold War. Absolutely nobody wanted a nuclear arms race—but that did not make unilateral disarmament the answer. The United States couldn’t simply throw all of its weapons out and start singing “Kumbaya” so long as it had no reason to trust the good will of the Soviets to do the same in response. Someone who wanted to eliminate the U.S. government to pave room to implement an anarchist utopia in 1960 would have been an absolute imbecile—and the point is not that the anarchist utopia wouldn’t have been a nice ideal or an appealing theory. The point would be that nice ideals and theories just don’t always mesh with harsh reality.
“If you want peace, prepare for war.” If you want a reduction in gun violence, then the only real solution is to prepare to utilize gun violence yourself—if not in the form of private gun ownership, then in the form of police. As loosely considered members of the “Right,” it is often left to us to take up the unsavory task of being the resented bearers of bad news to perfectly well-meaning people who aren’t trying to cause harm when they attempt to implement utopian schemes. But to the Left, it can look like a rather bizarre form of hypocrisy. On face value, that is at least somewhat understandable, as the Right can also easily sound to the Left like it’s saying something along the lines of:
“Yes, gun violence is horrible, and we should do anything we can to stop it.”
– “Wait, what? No! Don’t get rid of my guns!”
“This nuclear arms race is so terrible it just might be the end of the human race.”
– “ … Wait, what do you mean ‘just stop participating in it’?!”
But the key here is that any ethic that makes bold pronouncements about “right” and “wrong” without incorporating insights from game theory (that’s the school of thought that brought you the prisoner’s dilemma) is probably little more than emotional wish-making. Declarations of pacifism as a moral ideal that fail to consider how your declaring pacifism will impact the incentive structure for other parties in decisions about whether to make war or not are worse than useless. Declarations of gun disarmament as a moral ideal that fail to consider what saying “Hey, I’m disarmed! I won’t shoot back!” does for your likelihood of getting shot are worse than useless. And both of these statements are absolutely true despite the fact that most of us would, indeed, love to see a world free of war and interpersonal violence.
It would go an incredibly long way toward clarifying many common misconceptions about the underlying motivations of the so-called Alternative Right (and others) to apply the ideological framework that has just been laid out to racism.
It is not necessarily that the members of these movements wouldn’t love (or wouldn’t at one time have loved) the idea of being part of a multicultural utopia in which everyone is treated equally and impartially as an individual, any more than the opponent of gun control wouldn’t love to see a world free of assault and murder, or any more than the opponent of unilateral nuclear disarmament wouldn’t love to see the ushering in of an era of world peace. What those on the ‘Right’ on these issues question is not whether the ‘Left’s’ desired ends would be basically good ones (though this is the assumption eternally held by those blinded by unrealistic idealism on the ‘Left’ against all to the ‘Right’ who consider themselves to have a less fanciful grounding in the hard facts of reality). What they’re critical of is the idea that the ‘Left’s’ means would actually achieve those very ends.
It strikes me as significant that Michael Polignano chose to title his book tackling questions of racial politics Taking Our Own Side. The framing of this approach clearly carries no expectation that those whom Polignano is addressing want racial conflict—instead, what it emphasizes is that there is already ongoing racial conflict in the United States, whether we like it or not. And if Whites as a whole are loathe to acknowledge this, this is probably because they don’t want to have to fight in the first place.
What most White people really want is just simply to be left alone to live as they see fit—but even people who would be happy just to be left alone are increasingly under attack by the progress of “anti-racist” initiatives.
One of the Obama administration’s last initiatives will be to make the value of Section 8 housing vouchers dependent on the neighborhoods in which they are used, rather than the value of housing in the metropolitan area in which they are redeemed—while reducing subsidies for those who remain in poor areas. The effect of the policy will be to subsidize the movement of low-income groups into higher-income areas.
Such a policy was already tested under the Clinton administration in what was known as the “Moving to Opportunity” Initiative, which involved the relocation of more than 4,600 mostly minority families from lower- to higher-income areas. Yet, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s own summary report on the results of the experiment concluded that:
No discernable benefit to economic self-sufficiency, employment outcomes, and risky and criminal behavior for adults and children was observed as a result of moving. Similarly, moving had few positive effects on educational achievement for youth. […] These findings indicate that barriers to employment … may be based more on skill development … than proximity to employment opportunities….
In other words, rather than improving the lot of those relocated in the course of the scheme, moving the ghetto into the suburbs simply made the suburbs become more like the ghetto. These findings converge with the results of a major Swedish study I discussed in an essay I called “The ‘Poverty’ of Sociology” which found that children born to families after they rise out of poverty have exactly the same increased risk of criminal behavior as children who actually grow up in poverty themselves.
The conclusion Amir Sariaslan’s research came to? “There were no associations between childhood family income and subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse once we had adjusted for unobserved familial risk factors.” Sariaslan’s study, in other words, had proven that growing up in poverty is not what creates one’s adult likelihood of committing violent crimes. Children who grow up in previously-poor families have exactly the same likelihood of committing crimes as children who actually grow up poor. The only conclusion we can soundly come to is that something else about poor families other than poverty itself must explain why their children go on to more frequently commit violent crimes.
But now the plan is to force this failed experiment upon the country nationally.
When White people move in to Black areas, anti-racists condemn that as “gentrification.” When White people move out of Black areas, anti-racists condemn that as “White flight.” It doesn’t matter whether they’re coming or going, in other words. White people are the problem. But when increased crime rates are forced onto White neighborhoods at White taxpayers’ expense, that isn’t condemned as racism or anything like it.
So just as there are many people who would love to see a world free of violence who nonetheless come around to seeing the prudence of supporting ownership of tools of violence (if not by civilians, then at least by police) as the only realistic way of trying to reduce violence, so there are plenty of people who would love to see a world free of attitudes and behaviors labeled “racism” who nonetheless come around to seeing that they have no real choice but to engage in them in exactly the same defensive spirit.
The main reason for the rise of the Alternative Right and Donald Trump in 2016 is that it has finally become fully apparent that the Left’s pretense of opposing racial tribalism is nothing other than an attempt to disarm White racial tribalism because White racial tribalism represents an obstacle to its own: the fact we’ve finally grown wise to is that when it comes down to it, the Left isn’t any less tribalistic than those it condemns—it’s just pulling for the interests of a different (set of) tribe(s).
Oftentimes, it is all too easy for onlookers to misinterpret the Alternative Right’s anger as the more stereotypical form of crude racism—and yes, the presence of a minority of 1488ers and a contingent of young members whose trolling rhetoric intentionally prods those wounds doesn’t help with that image—but by and large, the real root of the Alternative Right’s anger is that its membership is largely composed of ex-liberals and ex-libertarians who feel cheated because they once bought in to the promise that we’d be on our way towards a peaceful multicultural paradise if only they apologized deeply and sincerely and spoke politely and sensitively enough.
Instead, what they see is that the concessions that Whites have made have only emboldened the most illegitimate demands for more.
For just the easiest of the most recent popular examples, when a Black intern for San Francisco State University’s Women’s Center cornered a White student in a campus hallway, requested scissors to slice off his dreadlocks with, and aggressively jerked him by the arm when he tried to walk away, liberals defended her. We know that none of them gave a damn that the Rastafarians actually “appropriated” dreadlocks from the same place from which they took the idea of treating marijuana as a religious sacrament, and from which they took the Sanskrit word ganja—Indians (you can even look at religious depictions of Shiva and see that he has “dreaded” hair).
We also know that none of them would ever condemn a Black person for “appropriating” dreadlocks who had no actual ties to the Caribbean, or indeed any authentic introduction to Rastafarian culture whatsoever. Observations like these render all the public reasoning about “cultural appropriation” extremely transparent as a cover for such aggressive attacks on Whites. And we know that none of them care enough to find out that “dreadlocks” are in fact an established part of White history, anyway—the English referred to them as “elf–locks,” and Holda, the Germanic protectress of agriculture and womens’ crafts, had “dreaded” hair as well.
In general, how do you get someone to follow the rule of law? How do you get someone to “play nice”? First of all, you have to create incentives for them to do so—and you don’t achieve that by throwing away nuclear weapons, or disarming the potential victims of crimes. You don’t achieve it by ceding to the other party’s every demand—that only incentivizes the passing of more demands against you, who are now in a weakened negotiating position.
If you know anything about the field of game theory whatsoever, you’re familiar with the prisoner’s dilemma. The basic prisoner’s dilemma looks like this:
Tanya and Cinque have been arrested for robbing the Hibernia Savings Bank and placed in separate isolation cells, [and] a clever prosecutor makes the following offer to each. “You may choose to confess or remain silent. If you confess and your accomplice remains silent I will drop all charges against you and use your testimony to ensure that your accomplice does serious time. Likewise, if your accomplice confesses while you remain silent, they will go free while you do the time. If you both confess I get two convictions, but I’ll see to it that you both get early parole. If you both remain silent, I’ll have to settle for token sentences on firearms possession charges. If you wish to confess, you must leave a note with the jailer before my return tomorrow morning.
The point of the exercise is to analyze situations in which we are reliant upon the good will of a second party in order to achieve the best possible outcome (the outcome in which both of us choose to cooperate), because if we count on his good will by extending ours and that good will is not returned, we end up with the worst outcome possible (while he gains at our expense). If he doubts our good will or believes that we doubt his, then he is rational to expect us to defect; and if he is rational to expect us to defect, then he is rational to defect as well. If we suspect that he may follow this line of reasoning, then we are rational to expect him to defect; and if we are rational to expect him to defect, then we are also rational to defect ourselves. The most “rational” choice therefore ends up giving everyone only the second-best outcome.
But there is one crucial difference between the basic prisoner’s dilemma and most real-life interactions between people: in real life, we aren’t in one-off interactions of this kind; we enter the prisoner’s dilemma (or choose not to) with the same people repeatedly. Studies of the extended prisoner’s dilemma, which repeats the interaction multiple times, have found that depending on the nature of the competitors, either a strategy called “tit for tat” or a strategy called “tit for two tats” ends up being the winning play.
In “tit for tat,” the player opens by extending the benefit of the doubt and cooperating; and from there on, he either cooperates in response to the other player’s cooperation, or else he defects in response to the other player’s defection. The advantage of this strategy is that the other player therefore learns, first, that if he extends the benefit of the doubt, the other player will too; and second, that if he does not extend the benefit of the doubt, he’ll be punished. This ultimately “nudges” the other player towards playing cooperatively (thus ultimately giving both players the best possible outcomes) even more effectively than playing by a rigid “cooperate” strategy (which gives the other player an incentive to cooperate, but no disincentive against defecting) does. The only weakness in “tit for tat” is that if two players are operating on “tit for tat” and one defects, then the two will end up locked in a spiral of defections in which each is merely “punishing” the other’s defection. So in some environments, “tit for two tats” (which requires two defections from an opponent before changing strategy and returning them) can achieve most of the benefits of “tit for tat” while avoiding this possibility.
People who present themselves as “moderates” often like to complain that social justice warriors and the Alternative Right are beginning to look like two sides of the same coin. The implication is supposed to be that since the Alternative Right has begun mimicking its enemies’ worst behaviors, they should both be condemned by decent people in exactly equal measure. There is truth to this. But it still completely misses the point: the Alternative Right is practicing a “tit for tat” strategy against Leftist hypocrisy and social engineering. And the problem with trying to say that the Alternative Right is equivalent to social justice progressivism is that “tit for tat” works—and strategies that never practice retaliation do not.
There is a second element to the evolutionary dynamic strategy introduced by the presence of the Alternative Right. Leftists have gradually succeeded at labeling all conservative thought whatsoever inherently racist; even the simplest gestures towards a conservative worldview are increasingly described by the Left as immoral “aggression.” Mainstream conservatism’s lame response has generally been to buy into the Left’s frame and try to play by its rules. This has led to a genre of conservative arguments that might be placed in a category titled, “Democrats are the real racists!”
Mainstream conservatives thought these arguments would gain traction because they naively believed that the Left’s accusations of racism were sincere to begin with, so they’ve generally seemed dumbfounded to see that when they make these arguments, peoples’ eyes glaze over and nobody actually cares. What they’ve missed is that if they’re accusing Democrats of “racism,” whatever they mean by that word, it’s simply not what the Left means when it uses the word “racism.” Because what they mean is you. “Democrats are the ‘real racists!’” arguments are therefore immediately absurd on their face, because the Democrats are not you.
But now, the Alternative Right is exploiting the incentive structure in a far more strategically “fit” way by saying, “Hey, I wasn’t a racist before, but if you’re going to call me a racist and punish me just as severely for it no matter what, what reason do I have left not to be a racist? Why should I prostate myself trying to beg you not to consider me a racist when I’m going to get the same condemnation in response no matter what?” As a result, the Left may be forced to question the wisdom of labeling all Right-leaning thought “racist” simply on pragmatic grounds alone—because some added punishment needs to be reserved for those who cross the line from conservatism all the way over into the Alternative Right; but if all conservatives are already being condemned as harshly as possible, then there’s nothing left to threaten the Alternative Right with.
This process works to the advantage of the Right as a whole, and even conservatives who feel nothing but distaste towards the Alternative Right will have to recognize its necessity. Until now, the fact that conservatives have tried to accept the Left’s framing and play by its rules, purging the most “extreme” members from its fold in an attempt to retain “mainstream credibility” while the Left refuses to condemn its own “extremists” has served only to shift the social dynamics continuously Leftwards over time. The Alternative Right’s exploitation of these dynamics is the only hope anyone has of changing them.
We might compare the picture to one where a child begs his parent to buy him expensive toys every time they go to the store, and spitefully yells, “You don’t really love me! You actually hate me! You really hate me!” to manipulate his parent’s emotions if the parent ever says he can’t buy some particular toy right away. If the parent finally grows tired enough of this manipulation, he might eventually respond, “Okay, if you think I don’t love you, then I guess I’d better act like I don’t love you. Let’s see—if I really didn’t love you, I guess what I would do is I would not buy you the toys, and then I would ground you for a week. So I guess that’s what I’ll do! When you’ve decided that you don’t think I hate you, come back to me and maybe we can talk things over again.” The point wouldn’t be that the parent has actually decided he doesn’t love his child. The point would be that he’s realized that he’s created a perverse pattern of behavior in his child by incentivizing it, and that the incentives he’s creating for his child will have to change before the child’s behavior will. And if the child started screaming, “You’re going to ground me?! Now you really, really, really, REALLY hate me! If you loved me you’d unground me and buy me the toys!!!”, now the parent would really have to hold his ground in order not to prove to the child once and for all that this kind of manipulation will work (and that is why so many have dug their heels in with support for Donald Trump).
Are there members of the Alternative Right who would love to live in a White ethnostate purely for its own sake, even if there were no other issues at stake whatsoever? Perhaps. But the massive growth of the Alternative Right, and its growing appeal to the mainstream public, is being driven by people saying something like, “Look, if you don’t stop trying to use my paycheck to relocate criminals into my neighborhood, if you don’t stop calling me racist whether I move into a Black area or out of one, if you don’t stop calling me racist whether I want pay to have policing in Black neighborhoods or don’t, if you don’t stop treating me like a racist whether I am one or not, then I might as well get the benefits of being one since I’m stuck with the costs of being one either way. Hell, I’d like to see the creation of a White ethnostate now just to have a place to go to get away from being treated this way by you.”
And at this point, it’s truly hard to see what other method of fighting the Left’s tactics are available. The mainstream conservative strategy of trying to ingratiate itself with the Left’s frame with effete attempts to call Leftists “the real racists” on the pitifully naive assumption that the Left is using “racism” as anything other than a specific ideological attack on White conservatives is simply not an option. The mainstream conservative might as well be a “moderate Muslim” trying to politely argue with an Al Qaeda member that Wahhabis are “the real infidels” while the latter holds a sword to his throat, who desperately needs to realize that the Al Qaeda member has no interest in seriously discussing what the true teachings of Islam are with a “moderate Muslim”—and fast. If you want any hope of “peace” with the Left, you’d better prepare for war.