Alt-Right’s ongoing construction of a fictional Auster

In this entry, in addition to replying to some of Paul Gottfried’s ignorant and off-base statements about me, I also discuss one of Richard Spencer’s ignorant and off-base statements about me, in which he presents my long-time position on Iraq and Afghanistan as the opposite of what it is; and I ask how Spencer expects me to carry on the substantive and collegial debate he claims to want to have with me, when the dozens of false statements he keeps publishing about me would leave me no time for anything in my life but correcting those misstatements. In short, what the hell is Richard Spencer up to? This is a question I will, not out of choice, be exploring further in the days and weeks to come.

Every time an article about me appears at Richard Spencer’s website Alternative Right, which is not an infrequent event, it attributes to me, without evidence, without any quotations from my writings, views that I do not have and that I have never stated and that frequently are the opposite of my actual views. There have been so many such false attributions, particularly in Richard Spencer’s long article, “Austercized” (which I only gave a careful reading recently, after Spencer’s podcast interview of me), and in Richard Hoste’s blog entries about me, and it would take so much work and time to reply to them all, and there are so many more pressing and more interesting things to write about, that I’ve put off replying to them so far, though I will try to get around to it.

The latest Auster-critical fantasy fest (or, rather, “Larry”-critical fantasy fest, since the writers at Alt Right do not refer to me by my last name, but as “Larry”) is a 1,600 word article posted yesterday by Paul Gottfried which, without a single quotation of me, attributes to me numerous views that I do not have and have never stated.

For the moment, a brief sampler:

Gottfried says that

  • “Larry” has a “conception of a Judeo-Christian war against Islam”

  • “Larry” has a “fierce revulsion for all Muslims as bearers of violence and hatred.”

  • “Larry” calls for “a Judeo-Christian front against Muslims as a collective enemy”

  • “Christian Zionists and the Christian employees of the neoconservatives … “share Larry’s rhetorical habit when they refer to ‘Judeo-Christians.’ ”

Fact: I have never called for a war against Islam, let alone a “Judeo-Christian” war. To the contrary, I have argued at length that we should not speak of a war against Islam, because Islam, a religion of a billion adherents and the majority religion of 57 countries, cannot be ultimately defeated in a military sense, only weakened and contained, and a war that cannot end with the defeat of the enemy is a contradiction in terms. What I have said, over and over, is that America and the West (and the same applies to non-Muslim countries generally) must defend themselves from Islamic expansive aggression, by ending and reversing the Muslim immigration of the last 50 years, removing sharia-believing Muslims from the West, and confining Islam within its historic lands.

Fact: I have never expressed “revulsion for all Muslims as bearers of violence and hatred.” My focus has been solely on the authoritative Islamic belief system that Muslims carry with them, actually or potentially. I have repeatedly said that the problem with Muslims is not that they are bad people, but that they are good Muslims, and therefore, because Islam is radically incompatible with and mortally dangerous to our society, believing Muslims do not belong among us in significant numbers. This is because the more Muslims there are among us, the greater becomes the power of Islam over us, regardless of the moral character or the degree of Islamic belief of each individual Muslim.

Fact: I have never spoken of any human beings as “Judeo-Christians.” I also do not speak of “Judeo-Christian society” or “Judeo-Christian civilization” or of America as a “Judeo-Christian country” (maybe a researcher will find one or two exceptions). Whenever I use the term “Judeo-Christian,” I specifically relate it to “Judeo-Christian morality.” Thus, for example, I have several times referred to America as a “Christian country” with a “Judeo-Christian” moral code. Evidently Gottfried also believes that there is such at thing as Judeo-Christian morality, since he speaks of “Evangelical Christians, a group whose ethical positions are the same as those taught by Hebrew Scripture … ”

Beyond his wild mischaracterizations of my views, of which I’ve only touched the surface, is a much more consequential matter. Gottfried’s main point in this vile and incoherent article is to drive a wedge between Jews and Christians, to make Christians feel that Jews are a greater threat to the West than Muslims are. More on that later.

For the moment, I say this to Richard Spencer: if you want your impressive-looking new web magazine to be worth half a can of beans, you must require your contributors, when they attribute a view to someone, to provide a quotation that backs up that characterization. If you decline to do that, your new “alternative right” is not even at a kindergarten level of intellectual seriousness and intellectual probity.

- end of initial entry -

Phantom Blogger writes:

From Richard Spencer’s article on you, in reference to his coalition: “everyone thinks the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are fool’s errands (here we depart from Larry);” he seems to be implying that you still support these wars, even though you frequently call them failures, criticize there effects and object to the Neoconservative philosophy underlying them.

LA replies:

That’s an example of what I mean. When Spencer’s article about me was posted some weeks ago (in fact it was posted the night before the House vote on the health care bill when other concerns were slightly more important) and I skimmed it, I mainly noticed, to my pleasure, that it was not a personal attack and was written in a collegial manner that made discussion possible, and I posted a short entry to that effect. But when, more recently, I read the article with attention, I saw how it had numerous off-the wall statements about my positions. Take the one you quoted. According to Spencer, I do not think that “the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are fools errands.” Meaning that I approve our military and political involvement in those countries from 2001`and 2003 to the present.

For the paleocons from Rio Linda, let me repeat something I’ve said probably hundreds of times: before the invasion of Iraq, I unhappily supported it for the same reason that President Bush argued for it and that most Americans supported it: to defend America from the likely nexus of an opaque rogue regime developing WMDs and terrorist groups seeking to cause America maximum damage. Six months before the war, I wrote at FrontPage Magazine that an invasion of Iraq should be for national defense purposes, not for “global empire” or spreading democracy. I repeated these positions before, during, and after the invasion of Iraq. By the fall of 2003 or by 2004 at the latest, I began saying that it would be better to have a three week invasion of a threatening Muslim country once every five years than to occupy it forever. I wrote innumerable blog entries relentlessly critiquing the Bush/neocon Muslim democratization policy and the triumphalist claims the Bush supporters kept making about it. Yet now Richard Spencer comes along and tells his readers that my position on Iraq has been same as that of the neocons, he presents my position as the opposite of what it is, and as a result I have to spend time and energy correcting his inexcusable misrepresentation.

That’s bad enough. But now multiply that error and the time I’ve had to spend replying to it by many similar errors in Spencer’s article and the other pieces about me that have been published at Alternative Right, and you get a picture of the problem this supposedly bold, intellectual, ground-breaking new right-wing website presents for me.

One of the results of Alt-Right’s reckless indifference to factual truth is this: no debate on substantive matters is possible between me and the writers at Alt-Right (you know, the debate that Spencer would supposedly like to have with me), because any response I make to their articles about me will be entirely consumed in clearing up their ridiculous and damaging mischaracterizations of my positions.

How does one describe a web magazine that publishes article after article criticizing one particular writer, and fills these articles with statements about that writer that are divorced from reality and unsupported by quotes from that writer’s work?

And I want to say this to Richard Spencer: Thank you for making me waste my time replying to your false statement about me, and thanks in advance for all the future corrections I’m going to have to write to clear up the dozens of other false statements you’ve published about me. You’re making a great contribution to conservative intellectual discourse.

Daniel S. writes:

I have noticed the rather extensive attention that the Alternative Right has been giving you over the past few weeks. Clearly your analysis of them has ruffled a few feathers. I think a large part of this has to do with the prominent neo-pagan element that write for the site. Right-wing neo-paganism is aggressively anti-Christian and thus views with hostility any vocal Christian traditionalist that would expose their ultimately nihilistic worldview. I have seen little good coming from the neo-pagans and had to drop Taki’s Mag a while back when most of the traditionalist Catholic writers were pushed out to make way for the young, arrogant , anti-Christian, Nietzsche-worshipping (and often subtly anti-Semitic) neo-pagans. The problem with the “Alternative Right” was giving them a platform in the name of big tent conservatism.

As for Paul Gottfried, I used to have much respect for the man, but find many of his recent attitudes to be disconcerting. His personal attacks on you are troubling and I have to wonder where Dr. Gottfried is heading (intellectually speaking) and who he is trying to appeal to. Needless to say, your positions on the Islamic problem have been clear, coherent, and rational, such that the distortions made of them recently appear to have been made in bad faith. It would be nice if Gottfried could address your actual views and then tell us what he thinks is wrong instead of chasing off phantom arguments that you have never made.

I don’t really know what to say beyond that, except to say don’t be discouraged. You are getting your message out and have shown that there is a way between the right-liberalism of the moronic, navel-gazing neo-conservatives and the defeatism and frequent moral nihilism of many of the paleo-conservatives. I would further suggest to the neo-pagan youth that they shut up for a minute and actually learn a thing or two from you and your ever informative blog.

LA replies:

Thank you very much for this. You have said several things that needed to be said.

April 14

Richard W. wrote (April 13):

Guess who is the topic of discussion again at Spencer’s Place?

LA replied:

They certainly are preoccupied with me, aren’t they? Somehow they see me as their principal foil.

Richard W. replies (April 14):

I thought your answer was excellent. I do view the entire Alt-Right site as a response to VFR. You have singlehandedly built a resource that defines traditionalism, and in the process shown up the errors in the thinking of the paleos.

Why did Spencer leave Taki’s mag? He needed to rebrand, because it’s been clear for a long time that Taki’s politics are deeply flawed.

Yet, sadly, he’s brought a bunch of the old crowd with him. I think, if I’m remembering my history correctly, that National Review has some rough problems with people at the start. In the end Buckley laid down the law, and kicked out or refused contributions from authors who did not fit his criteria.

It is not clear yet if Richard Spencer has the strength of vision and character to do that, and in the process make Alt-Right a central vehicle for the movement.

As for you, you have grown outside the bounds of the blogosphere. If I can use an analogy, there came a time in the life of many artists that they are famous beyond their art. Warhol was perhaps the first and most extreme example. His whereabouts and doings were the object of constant discussion in the art world (and then in the larger world.)

It seemed that HE was the object, not his ideas (paintings). But, eventually most of that has receeded and we are left with the paintings and prints.

I think you are handling things well, at this juncture. You can not allow slurs to go unanswered. But the fact is your real views are easily known. VFR is there. It’s obvious that I’m not the only person reading it every day, the entire staff of Alt-Right appears to be.

So, it’s time for you to get more used to being the object of discussion, I suspect. Mostly it does reflect well on your ideas, just as Warhol’s fame did ultimately reflect on his talent as a painter. But whether it is people following you around or people mischaracterizing your views, in either case it’s part of the price you pay for being so well known.

I did press relations for IBM at one point. They sent me to training. In the training I was told: “you can only control what you tell the press. You cannot control what the press say about you, or even what they say you said. You will often be misquoted or misunderstood. You cannot become angry or take this personally, it is a fact of doing press relations”

I have remembered those words, as they were true. I hope my sharing them with you may give you some solace in the future, as your words and ideas are mangled by others.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 13, 2010 03:54 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):