Making Racism Cool Again
In the secular hamartiology that elite leftists have built for themselves, racism is both the original sin and the unpardonable sin.
It is the original sin, because the United States (and British Empire, Spanish Empire, etc.) were founded on it. And also because it pervades everything we Americans, British, etc. have done since then, and because it can only be mitigated — though of course never fully erased — through relentless self-flagellation.
And it is the unpardonable sin, because individuals who express truly racist opinions (i.e., opinions going above and beyond the ever-present background of microagressions) can never be forgiven, no matter how long ago they did it and no matter how young and immature they were at the time.
In this country, you can defend Lenin and Stalin, or hang a picture of Che Guevera in your office, or hang a Chairman Mao ornament on your Christmas tree (as Barack Obama did during his presidency), or say that Aztec human sacrifice shouldn't negatively impact anyone's view of the Aztecs. But if you defend segregationists or the Ku Klux Klan, then the people who treat Lenin, Mao, and the Aztecs with kid gloves will unite to end your career.
I want to make it clear that I think segregationists and the Klan were bad, on multiple levels. They were bad, in the first place, because they did their best to deny the full rights of citizenship to black people. They added to their evil by discrediting so many of the good causes that they tried to associated themselves with — things like states' rights, anticommunism, and the defense of traditional sexual mores.
And yet, if we grant that racism is a sin, then is there really a good reason for it to be our society's unpardonable sin, which will stain a man forever, even as support for Lenin, Mao, the Aztecs, etc. is shrugged off?
All of these thoughts have been on my mind for the last two weeks because of the "outing" of the author and substacker Richard Hanania, who is now known to have anonymously posted a lot of racist and anti-Semitic stuff on the internet, way back when he was a bored and directionless twenty-something.
Among right-wing internet personalities, Hanania is certainly one of the better ones to follow. His new book, The Origins of Woke, which comes out on 19 September, is about how a large body of administrative and case law compels corporations and universities to choose between carrying water for various left-wing causes, or risking ruinous lawsuits. The book purports to offer practical ways for conservative lawyers, judges, and legislators to dismantle this system.
Hanania has a mixture of right-wing and left-wing views; he is pro-market, pro-equal-protection, pro-immigration, pro–free speech, pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, and pro-vaccine. At the same time, he is anti-crime, anti-wokeness, anti-trans, anti–entitlement spending, and anti-masking/lockdown.
I would never accept Hanania as a moral authority on much of anything. His atheism, his pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia stances, his contempt for traditional morality and old things in general, and his worshipful attitude toward technological progress are all big turnoffs for me. But even though he has a lot of nutty opinions (along with some genuinely insightful ones), he writes with a refreshing sense of honesty. Basically, Hanania is willing to call out obvious falsehoods, wherever he sees them, and to criticize people on his own team when they deserve criticism.
This is why Hanania was able to write a long essay in which he admits that he's a conservative on most issues, while also accusing conservatives of being stupider and less honest than liberals most of the time, and saying that if they ever want to get their agenda enacted, they need to shape up, turn off the "infotainment," and quit following political grifters who give them nothing of substance in exchange for their votes. Then, in a different essay, he can write that mainstream media are more honest than conservative media in most ways...but that they still lie relentlessly about the issues that liberals care about most — that is, race, sex, and LGBT.
Basically, Richard Hanania stands out because he's fully himself. When he's right, he's unapologetically right; when he's wrong, he's often very wrong. He tells it like he sees it, and he never contorts himself into a pretzel for anybody.
Two weeks ago, the Huffington Post discovered that about a decade earlier, Hanania had written some very racist things on the internet under the handle "Richard Hoste." He was active as "Hoste" for several years and blogged at some fairly famous white supremacist websites. His typical comments were things like: "If the races are equal, why do whites always end up near the top and blacks at the bottom, everywhere and always?" and "For the white gene pool to be created millions had to die. Race mixing is like destroying a unique species or piece of art. It's shameful."
After this story came out, several conservative academics cut ties with Hanania. All of the big left-wing sites ran opinion pieces excoriating him. He is very unlikely to ever write another editorial for, say, the Washington Post. Yet as of 18 August, Broadside Books hasn't canceled The Origins of Woke, a fact that has caused no end of distress to the HuffPost journalist who probably thought he was getting rid of his target for good.
But there is an air of strangeness to this whole affair: all the people who are dumping Hanania over his past views (which have moderated quite a bit as he matured) are the same people who were willing to put up with his present views — such as his opinion that boys should be legally available for sex as soon as they are physically capable of it, or that, due to technological change, old people "no longer even have wisdom to offer young generations," and that many of them are "only burdens" whom we could get rid of if we had looser euthanasia laws.
This is true even for Hanania's conservative readers — people like Rod Dreher, who reacted to the HuffPost story here. Dreher, as an Orthodox Christian, believes (in theory) that abortion and euthanasia are bigger evils than even slavery, yet Hanania's support for those things didn't keep Dreher from reading him in the past. But now, when Hanania's younger self is known to have held racist views (of the kinds that would have been unremarkable during most of U.S. history), Dreher is joining the calls for his cancelation.
This is because, for progressives, racism — not sexual sins, even the nastier ones, and certainly not any of the "mild" forms of homicide — is the original and unpardonable sin. And even people who are usually opposed to the progressive project, like Rod Dreher, have internalized a great deal of progressive morality.
Hanania, curiously enough, responded to the Huffington Post story with a Substack post entitled "Why I Used to Suck, and (Hopefully) No Longer Do — My road to small-l liberalism."
I don't expect his enemies to read the post. But if you're interested in Hanania's thought, it's certainly worth checking out. In it, he says some insightful things. Like this:
The revelation of my anonymous writing clears up what some consider a mystery, which is why such a large portion of my current work involves attacking right-wing collectivism and illiberal beliefs (see here and here). The truth is that part of it is self-loathing towards my previous life. I all too clearly notice the kind of sloppy thinking, emotional immaturity, and moral shortcomings that can lead one to adopt a quasi-fascist ideology, and am hard on others because I'm hard on myself for once holding such views.
At the same time, Hanania doesn't put all the blame on himself. He says he wanted
to just adopt a posture that was the polar opposite of those I considered political enemies. So if liberals lied a lot about race, I needed to speak 'harsh truths,' without much careful thinking about whether I was actually getting at truth. ... They required PC-speak, so my tone of course needed to be as offensive as possible. It's really that stupid, and thinking about my own history has made me extra sensitive towards noticing the flaws of others who seem to "reason" in a similar way.
This, I think, gets at something important. A lot of young white men in America these days have noticed the contempt that elites have for them, and they have noticed how relentlessly our society tries to tear young men down and deny them opportunities to make the best use of their talents. They're tired of being cast as the perpetual bad guys in the Oppression Olympics on account of their race and sex.
And so a lot of them just assume that, because the left lies so much about race, the truth must be the exact, reverse opposite of whatever the left is saying. We all know that the left tries to erase the facts of black-on-black crime, or to blame it on society at large and not the criminals themselves, even going so far as to say that the biggest threat to black lives in America is police brutality. And so a lot of people, after listening to all this, will assume that the truth is to be found at the opposite extreme — for instance, by saying that blacks, for genetic reasons, are an inherently violent and crime-loving race, and that no improvement in social conditions can change this.
This claim is of course easily refuted — for instance, by the fact that there are numerous black African countries, such as Ghana and Tanzania, that have lower homicide rates than the United States. But the majority of impressionable young people aren't going to go through the effort of researching this for themselves, when it's easier to just assume that the left lies so much because the left knows deep down that its ideas are the opposite of reality.
This logic is no sloppier than the logic employed by all those left-leaning youth in the 1960s, who saw the respectable institutions of conservative society lying about segregation, public corruption, and the Vietnam War, who assumed that conservatives must therefore be wrong about everything, and who then convinced themselves that capitalists were the real oppressors and that "liberation" from these oppressors involved free love, tripping on acid, and praising Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh.
Both the hippies of the 1960s and the internet racists of today have been seen, by a lot of observers, as pure villains with no redeeming features — a lot like the serpent in the Garden of Eden story. This way of seeing them is wrong, because — let's face it — original sin is fundamentally a religious concept, and it makes a poor lens through which to view events in ordinary, non-supernatural politics.
For instance, there is a certain faction on the right that sees the French Revolution as the evillest evil that ever evilled, and which insists that the authors of that revolution (and the Bolshevik revolution after it) were driven by a motiveless hatred of civilization and a desire to pull down all forms of authority — just as Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, had been driven by boredom and pride to rebel against a perfectly just and benevolent God.
This is not what really happened in those revolutions; the French and Russian peasants were rebelling against a deeply flawed social order in which harsh class distinctions, corvée labor, a lack of religious and intellectual freedom, and at last literal starvation, made them ready listeners for pretty much anyone who could promise them a better future.
It was a tragedy that such nasty figures as Robespierre and Lenin were in place to benefit from these crises of legitimacy, but the old feudal regimes still deserve most of the blame for creating the circumstances in which the Lenins and Robespierres could flourish. It was the kings and the tsars and the nobles who lied to and exploited the people so relentlessly that when someone came along saying, "There is no God, and the whole system of morality you were raised with is a ruse designed to keep you down," they often believed it.
For much the same reason, when the young white men whom the left hates so much start doing their own thinking, a lot of them end up concluding that everything they have heard about equality and human rights is a ruse designed to keep them down.
A lot of teenagers in the 1960s recognized the corruption of their social order, went looking for a sense of independence from it, and found that sense through promiscuity, pot, acid, and admiring communist revolutionaries from a safe distance. Teenagers today, who embark on the same quest, often meet the same need through misogyny, racism, and admiring fascists and Nazis from a safe distance.
Richard Hanania had enough good sense to abandon some (but not all) of his noxious views as he got older. Not every disillusioned white kid lurking in the darkest corners of the internet is going to do the same thing. And the hard fact of the matter is that the left — by denouncing racism as our country's original sin, while shamelessly indulging in every other sin under the sun, and especially the sin of lying — is well on its way toward making racism cool again.
Twilight Patriot is the pen name for a young American who lives in Georgia, where he is currently working toward a graduate degree. You can read more of his writings at his Substack.