by Davis Matthias-Foster
Author’s disclaimer: Some of the sources used in writing this article have since been deleted intentionally, changed, put behind paywalls, or removed when some of these figures had their social media profiles closed by the tech companies that hosted them. Some entire platforms, such as Stormfront, are gone. I believe the most important claims I make here are sourced, although some less important ones are not.
Marxist-Humanist Initiative’s position on the dangers of Trumpism was one of the first things that drew me to the organization. At the time, the general rise of the far right into mainstream politics was my biggest concern. Considering all that has happened under the Trump administration, I believe that my concern was very much warranted. However, the specific of who and what I was concerned about were misplaced in some instances. I followed what was happening in the reactionary right wing for quite a while before and during the Trump presidency, and to ground my current observations, it may be productive to share what each sphere of the right wing thinks about its position now that Trump is out of office.
It’s hard to imagine now, but in the beginning of the Trump administration, people like white supremacist Richard Spencer were given platforms on major news networks. This was my biggest concern then. Underneath what was visible to the public at the infamous 2017 “Unite the Right” Tiki Torch rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a long reorganization of the far right that was known amongst themselves as “the optics war.” This was a protracted attempt to present themselves in the most positive light possible, by dressing a certain way, speaking a certain way, shying away from certain terminology, as well as figuring out how to project themselves in relation to the Trump administration. Hence the polo-shirts.
Without getting into the full history of this wing of the reactionary right, suffice it to say that it has been in a state of flux since Charlottesville. Their ideologies lend themselves to spree violence regardless of the collective consensus on how they should conduct themselves, and this has led them to being ostracized. Initially this wing of the right was my biggest concern, especially as Steve Bannon mentioned publicly that some of his biggest philosophical influences were Julius Evola and Rene Guenon, a favorite among this new right. Much like the alt-right themselves, I simply did not know how closely Trump was going to align himself with this group.
Among the three main players of this initial “alt-right,” the consensus is that the last few years have been disastrous for them, and that Trump and conservatives have continuously stabbed them in the back since Charlottesville. Richard Spencer withdrew his support from Trump for his Covid-19 response, saying that the alt-right needs to regroup and threw its support to Biden purely because he thought Biden could handle the Covid pandemic better.
Somewhat arbitrarily second, but indicative of where a lot of the anti-Trump reactionary right is now – is Mike Enoch, also known by his real name, Mike Peinovich. He has a group, “The Right Stuff,” and a podcast circle “TDS” (sometimes pronounced as tedious), which was shortened from its original name, “The Daily Shoah,” referring to the holocaust.
Denial of the Holocaust was and still is a frequent topic of discussion for the blog and the podcast. The name was changed soon after the events of the Charlottesville protests, wherein Mike Enoch and his community were heavily represented. Presumably, this change in name was meant to distance themselves from others involved in both organizing and promoting “Unite the Right,” as Mike Enoch narrowly avoided being a defendant in the civil lawsuit against the organizers of the demonstrations in Charlottesville, which has just gone to trial.
Mike Enoch (Peinovich) with fellow “The Right Stuff” members and the murderer of Heather Heyer (Fields). Credit: Sandi Bachom.
Recently, Enoch’s group has been attempting to organize a third party based around a “third positionist” platform. This has not been successful, and the budding “National Justice Party” is seen, at best, as being made up of people already deeply embedded in online alt-right spaces, and even worse, as preventing the Republican Party’s white-nationalist ascendency.
The most relevant and dangerous current alt-right people are likely the pro-Trump figures. Nick Fuentes and his “Groypers” have been the holdouts of the old alt-right for Trump, even though there was substantial backlash after Trump denounced the January 6 rioters at the Capitol insurrection against certifying the election vote. Nick Fuentes has been banned from Twitter in the last few weeks, which does not bode well for his community. A consequence of de-platforming for the alt-right is that they end up having no reason to obfuscate their beliefs, and the in-fighting among their communities intensifies.
Established Conspiracy Theorists
One of the last remaining holdouts of the talk-radio era of reactionary right-wing politics is the conspiracy-theory oriented show “Infowars” and its host, Alex Jones. He did not have a good time throughout the Trump administration. While the primary reason was his banning from most mainstream platforms, the shift also came from having a president suggest ingesting bleach to cure Covid, saying windmills cause cancer, and actively engaging in promoting several conspiratorial beliefs – Jones’ right-wing base largely shifted their interest to Trump and the Qanon conspiracy theorist circles.
I would have put off mentioning him entirely were not for the fact that, as of the last few weeks of broadcasts of Infowars, he featured Nick Fuentes heavily. For those who do not know Nick Fuentes or his “America First” platform, it is not always loudly advertising its anti-Semitic, White Nationalist and racist platform, but it is explicitly a fascist movement dedicated to those goals. To get a sense of Fuentes’ beliefs and rhetoric: in the latest Infowars video, he advocates maintaining America’s “founding stock,” in a talk titled “Nick Fuentes on Why We Must Preserve America’s Majority White Demographic.” The title of this was later changed to “Core Demographic,” obviously to obfuscate the explicitly racist title.
Thumbnail featuring the original title of Fuentes’ talk.
This is an alarming development. Despite Qanon and Trump himself cutting into the audience, Alex Jones and Infowars still have a huge reach among older far-right individuals. Nick Fuentes has an audience of mostly younger reactionary people and has been trying to branch out in recent years. I think that his move to Infowars was, unfortunately, incredibly smart on his part, as the Infowars audience are inclined towards John Birch Society rhetoric, which holds a conspiratorial position that communists have infiltrated the United States government, and has always been adjacent to outright anti-Semitic fascist views.
Qanon and the Fox News Audience
I have followed Qanon roughly since its inception as an offshoot of the original “Pizza-gate” conspiracy. For those who may not know: a rough outline of the beliefs of Qanon are that a mysterious figure known as “Q” is releasing secret high-level government information on a semi-anonymous imageboard to dedicated Trump followers. They believe Trump is engaged in a secret war with a “deep state” cabal of Democrats, who worship the ancient child sacrifice god “Moloch” and abduct and torture children to produce a consumer drug from their adrenal glands.
At some point, Trump was supposed to announce his victory over the deep state and usher in a new American utopia. As of right now, Qanon followers are still in a loop of predicting that Trump is coming back to office. It is likely that they will have more failed predictions on and off until the next election, where they are likely to throw their support behind Trump or the most Trump-like candidate.
A portion of the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol were believers in the Qanon conspiracy. For whatever the reason, Qanon has reached a huge number of people, and acts as a sort of big tent for the right wing. And while the stranger beliefs tend to define Qanon, I think the most concerning issue is that they were somewhat ahead of the curve in their rejection of democracy. I think the most concerning outcome of the post-Trump presidency era will be this new focus. While the right wing in the United States has always been authoritarian and reactionary, I do not recall a time where the perceived failure of the system and of democracy was a core issue.
The message that the election was stolen has become a rallying call to most of the Trumpite base. Even in mainstream news outlets like Fox news, we can see not only this message, but messages like what we heard in the initial stages of the alt-right. The rhetoric of Richard Spencer sounds eerily similar to Tucker Carlson, and in some cases, I would argue that Tucker Carlson’s white supremacist rhetoric is far less obfuscated than Richard Spencer’s ever was. Carlson does not begin with advocating an ethno-state like Spencer, but he invokes the conspiracy theory that the native white population of America is being replaced intentionally via immigration in order to create an “obedient” voter base for the Democrats, claiming they advocate “open borders.”
I think MHI’s 2018 perspectives pamphlet Resisting Trumpist Reaction holds true today. The threat now, maybe even more than then, represents a unique danger. The main message of the Trumpist base is explicitly built on the rejection of liberal democracy and the rule of law, and targets the most vulnerable populations – those who tragically had to do most of the fighting against his policies during his administration. Going forward, I think that the idea that the election was stolen is going to stay, and I worry that this development will not be taken as seriously as it should be by those opposed to the right wing.
However, I fear that everyone who labels any reactionary right wing movement in the last few years as “fascist” may be somewhat misguided. Although the term is accurate, in a vacuum it does not adequately express the danger, as the way we talk about fascism often does not split it ideologically from the actions of fascist regimes.
Fascism in the US will never present as mirroring any authoritarian and reactionary state, but rather as an ideology that seeks to unite people with a shared cultural identity and historical mythology. It will posit that society has stopped making sense and has become too decadent for the common man. It will claim that the ills of modern society are that it is tawdry and meaningless and its apparatus should be returned to “the people,” that the ideological foundations of the “nation” were pure, and their only failure was to fail to account for the degeneracy that follows modernity, and the arbitrarily scapegoated group who wants to see its destruction. The tragedies of fascism are emergent from this idea. Fascism does not, neither ideologically nor in practice, challenge the status quo, but only seeks to reorganize who controls it and suppresses those who are deemed to have corrupted it.
The alt-right, post-Charlottesville, shows in a microcosm the eventual failure of all fascist regimes. Once reality becomes unavoidable, more scapegoats will need to be found. And if none can be found, the reactionary right will start pointing fingers at each other. It is an inherently suicidal and destructive ideology, as it cannot and will never acknowledge any existing structure as being the source of its failure.
Trumpism’s dedication to what the far right conceives is the original essence of the status quo, is why Trumpism must still be fought wherever it shows up. The new human society that MHI advocates will require far more than electoral politics to win. The very nature of our belief in the possibility of a new society is built on the complete upheaval of the current state of things. However, a reactionary movement is completely capable of voting itself in to office and capable of suppressing any movement that might seek to challenge it.
On the other hand, liberatory movements cannot succeed without becoming massive and full-blown in both their actions and ideas. But the burden of resistance to Trumpism has often fallen solely on the most marginalized people in the United States, without them getting much support from others — such as the African-American communities who were terrorized by the cops long before the murder of George Floyd, and the poor women who were long unable to obtain abortions in areas where they were legal but blocked by onerous state restrictions. This unfortunate responsibility is one that many leftists and so-called Marxists have too often been comfortable to countenance instead of taking up as their own. New relationships are needed between the most marginalized people and the most vocal civil rights and liberties organizations.
In the last few years, we have seen the dangers of Trumpism and the character of the new right wing. I do not know if they can be challenged ideologically and defeated in the minds of the die-hard racists, as they are largely untethered from existing reality, but the danger of Trumpism can absolutely be demonstrated for others. Not only does MHI thoroughly oppose the right wing in all its forms, but we also seek to establish new relationships with and among the anti-right resistance movements.
As originally stated, my chief concern in 2016 was the burgeoning “alt-right,” and this extreme element is what led me to understanding the full extent of how dangerous Trump is. As of now, the only relevant figures are the ones still attached to the previous president. If they can see the previous president’s usefulness, it is a colossal mistake for us not to take them at their word and acknowledge the enormous threat that the 45th president and the Trumpist movement continue to pose.
Special thanks to those who have documented and followed the Alt-Right, to whom I and others owe a tremendous amount:
The various editors and writers of https://rationalwiki.org/
The Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/
 This is deduced mainly from the lack of support and comments Richard Spencer made while talking to Hunter Wallace on his podcast, and the comments from “Full Haus” episode 60 on the National Justice Party. Both of these are now gone.
 Berlet, C. (1998). Dances With Devils: How Apocalyptic and Millenialist Themes Influence Right Wing Scapegoating and Conspiracism. The Public Eye, Fall 1998. Reprinted at https://www.academia.edu/816047/