The Nazi LARPers and Confederate cosplayers at Charlottesville, along with their alt-right supporters, frequently justify themselves by claiming to be defenders of white culture and heritage. However, it is unclear how a Nazi Tiki-torch parade accomplishes this.
Nonetheless, let us consider the merits of the claim, which is, in part at least, a response to leftwing identity politics that relentlessly racialize everything. Unsurprisingly, endlessly essentializing and demonizing whiteness helped produce some whites who accept the premise of racial identity but ditch the conclusion of white guilt in favor of white supremacy. Are they correct that there is a distinct white cultural heritage that needs to be defended?
If so, then they have an odd choice of heroes. The Nazis destroyed large swaths of European culture, including their own Germanic heritage. They tried to annihilate entire white peoples, such as the Poles, whose nation they reduced to rubble and whose culture they sought to expunge from the earth. The only thousand-year part of the Reich was that it killed more white people, and destroyed more of the European cultural heritage, than any non-whites did in the preceding millennium. The Nazis were among the greatest enemies that European culture and civilization ever confronted.
The Confederates and their spawn weren’t much for pan-white identity either. For example, the 20th century iteration of the KKK really hated immigrants from the Catholic parts of Europe. The idea of a unified, pan-European white identity is of very recent vintage, and is precisely the opposite of what the Nazis believed.
There’s No Common Cultural Legacy For The Alt-Right
Still, is there something to it? Is there a common heritage that will cover El Greco and Hume and Dostoyevsky? Is there one that can include the Jacobites and the Jacobins? There is, but it is not racial, and white supremacists reject it because it rejects them. The unifying heritage of Europe is religious and philosophical. It is Jerusalem and Athens, in one famous formulation. Christian religion and Greek philosophy, filtered through Roman law and culture, are the foundation of European culture. The tensions, agreements, developments and settlements between these have shaped the Western world, and these roots of Western civilization are not congenial to white supremacy.
Christianity is universal in its message and Jewish in its origins. For centuries after its founding, Christianity’s center was the Mediterranean world, including Asia Minor and North Africa. Christianity has never been defined by race, and locally-grown racist heresies are only sustainable among those ignorant of Christianity’s teachings, origins and history.
Greek philosophy is likewise ill-suited to serve as a basis for white identity. It is either too universal (addressing the human condition in general) or too local—none of us live as citizens of an ancient Greek polis. Later philosophical developments in Europe, such as the philosophies of the Enlightenment, likewise tend to be too universal for white supremacists seeking a tribal identity. As for the scientific revolution that developed within Western culture (albeit with much borrowed from outside Europe), math doesn’t care what color someone is.
The achievements of European culture in art, literature, philosophy, government, and so on are inseparable from the roots of that culture. Remove the religion and philosophy, and the tapestry of Western culture falls apart, a few disparate threads fluttering to the floor amidst the dust. There is no unified “white” culture or heritage except for that of Western civilization, which is not defined by race and which always reaches beyond race.
Some achievements and developments are only possible under certain cultural conditions, but culture isn’t race. Western civilization is not reducible to skin color, and the racist self-declared defenders of European culture are pig-ignorant of it. Indeed, white supremacists hate most of the cultural heritage they ostensibly claim, precisely because it is not defined by, or confined to, any race.
White Supremacists Have No Real Heritage
This is why white supremacists tend to gravitate toward laughable religious affiliations (e.g. suburban Norse neo-paganism) and fringe philosophers. Their attempts to claim serious thinkers tend to be ridiculous, such as some white supremacists’ construction of a cartoon Nietzsche. Of course, the real Nietzsche, who favored mixing races and cultures, wouldn’t give the time of the (eternally recurring) day to these untermenschen.
And that is what they are. A strong sense of racial identity is a way for these losers to claim credit for the accomplishments of others. Successful individuals don’t need to create a narrative of racial superiority, but insecure, resentful, alienated failures might. Predictably, the biographical details that have been unearthed about various participants in the Charlottesville rally are unimpressive, especially for the self-proclaimed vanguard of the master race.
A certain amount of folly is normal for young men, but joining a Tiki-torch Nazi march is at the far moronic end of the bell curve. So why do they want to dress-up as Nazis? Because they perceive Nazis as powerful. They have grown up on a media diet of Nazis as the ultimate villains, and have decided that it is better to be hated as a monster than ignored as a loser. While they obsess about alpha males (including homoerotic fantasies about our gilded President), accurately describing them requires adding letters to the end of the Greek alphabet.
The Alt-Right Is Attacking, Not Defending, Western Culture
This motley collection of alt-right losers and trolls playing Nazi dress-up are not defending Western culture. Rather, they are attacking and subverting it, and trying to replace it with a pathetic philosophical palliative for their own failures and overreaction to left-wing identity politics.
White supremacism distorts and destroys because it denies the best of Western civilization. For all the sins in the history of Europe and its colonies, there is greatness in Western civilization, much of which comes from a willingness to look beyond itself, to be open, rather than closed. The heritage of the West cannot be made the possession of one race (even if race could be sufficiently defined) without mutilating it. The Charlottesville marchers are not the heirs and defenders of Western civilization, but its enemies.