The Psyche of the Alt-Right: Freud, Myth, and Philosophy

For most people the Alt-Right is a pejorative term wielded by leftists and the liberal establishment who then label their opponents with it with anti-polite society connotations. The Alt-Right is racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, in order to bypass any substantial or concrete engagement with the Alt-Right. Even alternative “conservative” media misrepresents the Alt-Right, like what Prager U, National Review, and others have done in their hatchet jobs against the Alt-Right. Prager U, for instance, tries to tell you that because the Alt-Right, and fascism, deal with “the state” and “identity” that they’re somehow leftwing. Anyone with philosophical knowledge or intellectual honesty knows this is not true. And they can’t bring on a credible philosopher, so they resort to brining on podcasters and dolts like Dinesh D’Souza as if they are somehow credible because of clever cosmetic ploys they make in their own works to convince you of the connection between Nazism and the Democratic Party.

Insofar that the left-right paradigm is worth keeping, then we will have to examine it from a philosophical and metaphysical sense. The dichotomy of left-right is, thus, divided between the metaphysics of hierarchy and, therefore, particularity and difference (i.e. no equality) on the Right and the metaphysics of egalitarianism and, therefore, sameness (i.e. equality). Fascism and the Alt-Right, and other “far-right” movements that Prager U will try to tell you is “leftwing” are, by definition, Right.  Whether leftists consider liberals left is an incidental concern because liberalism, metaphysically, does affirm equality even if leftists think it doesn’t actualize it in the real world.

So, what is the Alt-Right? Where do they come from and who are they? To answer this, I will begin by answering in a shallower way before moving into the substantive answer which the rest of the lecture deals with. In the basic and most shallow sense, the Alt-Right is a loose collection of dissident online digital writers and activists who utilize the medium of alternative media to propagate their “non-politically correct” or “thought crime” ideas through the internet. The movement is generally male-oriented; that is, tech-savvy young men between the ages of 20-40. This is not to say there are no women, but it is a predominately white male movement on the internet. The tech-savvy nature of the Alt-Right, their use of memes, and internet presence are all visible at the exoteric level, but we wish to understand more deeply and more concretely this movement. I highlight the tech-savvy and internet orientation of the movement now for a latter reflection on digital media later.

To explain the Alt-Right in greater detail I am primarily going to be drawing on Sigmund Freud and the triad mind: Id, Ego, and Superego and how these three agents, distinct yet united – like the Holy Trinity in Christian thought – come together in unity to provide the basis for identity. And as all know, one of the core pillars—the core pillar—of the Alt-Right is its philosophy of identity which is a philosophy of consciousness or, as I am going to be contending, the unconscious. Because if you know you’re Freud well you will recall how the ego and superego, while existing in the realms of the conscious, also have roots into the unconscious which is the pure domain of the id. Let us equally be clear that the move that Prager U and other mainstream conservative outlets that try to connect Alt-Right identitarianism with left-wing identity politics is pure false equivocation. In philosophy the association of orange and apple is regarded as a logical fallacy known as the false equivalence, and this is what the publications that embodied the ethos of the beautiful losers try to do. That said, we can say—definitely—that the Alt Right has a pillar of identity to it; and, frankly, unless you’re a mind-numbingly blind ideological classical liberal masquerading as an “American conservative”, identity is at the essence of just about everything and we should be weary of anyone telling us to transcend “identity” which would be tantamount to nihilism and also embodies a weird sort of Gnosticism—but that’s another issue altogether. The Alt Right has a major interest in identity.

Therefore, I will be examining the Alt Right from a certain mytho-poetic revision of the Freudian psyche: The interplay of the id, ego, and superego. I will also be tying the Freudian psyche to mythological reality. As a philosopher I do not use the term myth, or mythology, in any pejorative or antagonistic manner as do people like Sam Harris who is also, in my mind, a (pretty) shallow intellectual himself; perhaps the crème de la crème of shallow intellectuals in a cesspool of intellectual narrowmindedness which makes him come off as seemingly bright and astute. I do not hold that opinion of Harris as anyone with a substantive background in comparative mythology, philosophy, and theology, along with history, should have. Myth in its tradition understanding is simply a story, myth means proclamation; it is a story of origin and destiny which gives identity and meaning to a people.

Anyone who has studied the relationship of orality and social bonding knows the importance of myth to the opening of the human mind, not the closing of it; a la Harris and Dawkins. This is even captured in many films—perhaps most pristinely captured in the third Mad Max film: Beyond Thunderdome, where the goodness of orality (the purity and truth of language) is exhibited by the lost tribe of children which stands in dialectical contrast to the corruption of orality (the negation and self-centered use of language, sometimes called sophistry) reflected by Barter Town. Many philosophers have dealt with the philosophy of language and, again, this is not the place to go into that here; other than to say philosophers like Aristotle said to speak falsely of that which is, is to speak falsely of it and, with more clarity, St. Augustine asserted that language serves two masters: Truth or Falsity which is the same thing Aristotle said in more fanciful language. Myth, simply put, is story; it is a story that tries to make sense of the self, from which incidental outgrowths emerge such as cosmogony. We have since displaced those ancient cosmogonies but as Joseph Campbell said, the epistemological battles we wage today is not between “science” and “religion” or “mythology” but the science of modern myth and the science of ancient myth; the science of the present vs. the science of the past which was incidentally, not essentially, tied to religion. In this sense we have our myths today: The New Atheist myth of a rational man fallen into superstition who is overcoming this darkness and becoming rational (once again) over time; the Whig Myth of Historical Progress, and other such metanarratives of progress and the movement away of superstition and darkness to rationality and enlightenment peddled by pedantic new atheists and progressive politics are all “myths” in the truest etymological sense of the word.

***

To begin we need to begin with Freud and Freudian psychoanalysis which will be our gateway into the Alt-Right psyche. According to Freud, the id is the erotic, or desire; ego is intellect (i.e. the “soul”); and superego is law (of right and wrong). The superego calls us to our higher plane of moral existence, but id is that which comes more “naturally” to humans as it is unconscious, built-in, desire. In many ways, however, Freud’s triad notion of the mind is nothing but a secularization of the Christian image of the Trinity in its traditional Augustinian formulation: memory (Father), intellect (Son), and will (Spirit) where memory is linked to knowledge of good and evil (i.e. the Law), will is desire (i.e. id), and the intellect (soul) is that mediating bridge between the two. For Augustine, memory, intellect, and will constitutes the total person.

In Freud, the id, ego, and superego are all tied to identity; id is the unconscious and desire—unconscious desire which moves us without awareness. The superego is social order, tied primarily to the realm of the unconsciousness but existing partially in the realm of consciousness. The ego, meanwhile, is the true seat of the conscious self; tugged by desire and pulled by superego and the ego tries to make understanding of itself being caught in this dynamic between the superego call to social order, the moral community, and the “sky father” over and against the id seduction to the erotic, self-gratification often to the point of sadism, and the “earth mother.” The Alt-Right psyche identifies itself with the ego and superego, as you would expect a conservative to reactionary psyche to do; but where I would contend the conservative psyche identifies more with superego the reactionary or romantic psyche identifies more with the ego which I believe to be the case of the Alt-Right psyche in its estranged relationship within this trifold Freudian schema.

This is very important to understand, and we need a certain historical consciousness to make sense of this phenomenon. Until the 1960s the superego—the social order—to which the “Western” ego would have found home in was the European superego. It is very particular; just as the Japanese ego would have found home in the post-Meiji superego, or the Chinese ego having found home in the Chinese superego, the Alt-Right ego identifies with the superego of the long morphological growth of Greece, Rome, and Christianity; we might also add Scandinavia or Germania: The various pillars of Western culture and thought. Some Alt-Rightists may have a special bond to one more than the other, but they all share this attachment to the superego that emerged from these cornerstones. This would have been taken as a given without much controversy, even 50 years ago—only those blind to the realities of history have an apoplectic and outrageous reaction to such claims screaming Eurocentricity or racism. But Eurocentricity here, is the point—the ego to ego encounter as established by Johann Fichte leads to the formation of the superego through the eradication of the natural, the id, by which moral community—the social order of the superego—comes into being. That ego-to-ego-to-superego dialectic just didn’t come into being because of immigration. Which is another point the Alt-Right stresses. I will return to this phenomenon of Eurocentricity later as it is somewhat ahistorical, but we will push on. This does mean that the superego, however, that the Alt-Right ego attaches itself to is a Western construct which the Alt-Right ego attaches itself to.

The ego, as the source of the self, identifies with the superego because it is the superego which provides a sense of stable, secure, and meaningful identity to the ego. This is what the Alt-Right means when they speak of “social trust,” the social trust that egos have to each other exists only in the space of the superego. Trust involves consciousness; there is no trust in the realm of id.

Here I am diverging slightly from Freud and adding more Fichte to the Freudian analysis than Freudian purists would accept. While Freud saw the ego in a tug-of-war between the superego and id hoping to stabilize itself to embody self-conscious identity where the id, which is tied to ego, wants to fulfill animal or bodily desire like sex and food and, at times murder, which is it sinks into until awoken by the pull of the superego reminding the ego of the better angels of its nature and pulls it back into the realm of ethical order and social life which can, hopefully, still fulfill bodily appetite without the baseness of pure id. The Fichtean ego encounters the subjective other (another ego) and is brought into contestation with how to relate to the “Not-I” (the Nicht-Ich). In this interplay of the I and Not-I, a dialectical dynamic rooted back in at least Johann Hamann but brought to prominence by Fichte which never left all subsequent German philosophy, the ego and ego begin to synthesize together: Two become One, which produces the superego of the social order or, as Fichte called it, the moral community. It is in this moral community that a meaningful life, and therefore identity, is found.

When there is a crisis of identity in the ego this is because the ego has become detached from superego which its identity is attached. In this confrontation of the ego and id in order to reach the superego, the id must be demolished and crushed because the id represents chaos and instability which threatens the superego. When the superego is threatened the ego is threatened because it becomes cut-off from the superego.

course of empire

For those involved in brain science, and again unlike the constructionists there is much essentialism in the hard sciences that leftists don’t want to acknowledge because it would otherwise shatter their weltanschauung. The male brain is much different from the female brain and vice-versa. It is because of this essentialist reality that many prominent Alt-Right figureheads and writers are, in fact, male. And Jack Donovan and Rollo Tomasi, in their own ways, capture this dynamic. The male brain, according to the most recent tests done by Stuart Ritchie, have higher brain volumes than women in every subcortical region which includes the hippocampus (which plays broad roles in memory and spatial awareness), the amygdala (emotions, memory, and decision-making), striatum (learning, inhibition, and reward-processing), and thalamus (processing and relaying sensory information to other parts of the brain).[1]

The biological reality of brain science, coupled with the Freudian triad, helps make sense of the connectivity between the frontal lobe which controls memory, attention, and motivation (the Augustinian Memory), insular cortex which controls consciousness, self-awareness, and interpersonal experience (Augustinian Intellect or Logos/Christ), and cingulate gyrus which is next to the thalamus which is tied to many of the more animalistic and vegetative bodily needs (Augustinian Will). So, in the brain we have a perfect realization of the Freudian and Trinitarian Image playing itself out. This is important, again, to understand as it relates to men and why many of the Alt-Right leaders and adherents are men.

Male identity is much more precarious than female identity. And this is borne out in the social problems that the West is facing today, which is, in large part, a male social problem. Men have been robbed of their identity and are now narrowly walking a fence with the abyss on both sides and they can fall off any time. That is, a monster is waiting on both sides of the man as he navigates this dissipated social order that he no longer finds himself welcome in, capable of participating in, or altogether cut-off from. This is the ego’s uneasy slipping away from the superego which is causing a crisis of identity in men more than women and this manifests itself in various different ways.

In the United States almost all mass shootings are undertaken by estranged, alienated, males who have no social skills as they’ve been detached from the social order and, having also had their id stripped away, are empty robots with no life in them. In the UK the stabbing crisis is also a male crisis because these young men, though admittedly not Alt-Right and generally African and Muslim unlike alienated white men or young black men in the U.S., is not because of their race or religion but because of the ego’s estrangement from the superego. They lack an identity and engage in violent and homicidal behavior because man, separated from law and justice—the superego—is the worst of animals; the libido he has been repressing finally overwhelms him and he snaps. This is recognized in all cultures and all stories going back to the Epic of Gilgamesh.

This snapping of the ego and the crisis of identity leads to men to either become homicidal and violent or causes man to seek after a corrupt form of the superego, often in the form of gangs which promise everything to the ego that the estranged superego cannot provide: A sense of identity, meaning, and companionship. Gangs are an attempt to create a superego in which the ego can attach itself to; but gangs equally engage in violent and destructive behavior which perpetuates the further estrangement of the ego. This dynamic that I have hitherto described is related to civilization and its discontents, the animal urges of the ego moving into the realm of unconscious id, violence and chaos, which is exhilarating especially to animals who have not experienced the liberating exhilaration of the flight or flight libido for some time, with the developed ego’s need for identity and stability found in the social order offered by the superego.

Now how does all this tie back to so-called White identity in the Alt-Right psyche? Again, we have understood the historical circumstances and particularities of Western History. “White western man,” if we wish to use that term, and the Alt-Rightists do, finds itself in the European superego that has been constructed over 2,000 years. This superego is now under threat, it is dissipating, and in its dissipating is causing the ego’s estrangement from it leading to a crisis of identity.

There is a delicious irony here in that the rise of “White identity” is the outcome of the shattering of the Anglo-Saxon cultural superego which can no longer take in a multiplicity of different ethnicities. European history, the very idea of Europe, is a modern and alienated construct of the 20th century. Go back into European history and you will not find a European superego in the manner invented by the Alt-Right. You will find a Greek superego. A German, or Teutonic, superego. You will find a French superego. An English superego, and even these are somewhat contentious as these terms Greek, German, French, and English already carry with them a homogenization that sublates smaller ethnicities that were composed alongside with its larger parent. The estranged Alt-Right ego is searching for a superego and has, in some ways, done some rather remarkable in transforming parochial superegos: whether it be Anglo-Saxon, French, Spanish, Italian, or German, into a larger homogenous superego as if the previous iterations of superegos I have just described came to an apoplectic end in the 20th century wherein the alienated egos of the West following the world wars engaged with each other to, in the Fichtean manner, create a new superego (Europe or White) to find the security and identity denied to it by the failure of parochial superegos from the 19th century and back.

Oswald Spengler becomes a favorite, even if misunderstood, intellectual for the Alt-Right (especially at Radix and Counter Currents) for being the first to engage in the sort of “homogenizing” of the ego when he described what we call “European civilization” in the singular as Faustian civilization in the particular. The Alt-Right ego finds its roots in this shattered genus of the Europe of nations, but that Europe of nations didn’t provide the effective superego for the ego. That new “European” superego which bound the United States and Europe together in the Cold War and binds the United States to Europe because of genealogical colonization, is now collapsing; it is under threat. This European, Trans-Atlantic, superego which is under threat causes the reformed ego of the Alt-Right to feel anxiety which is leading it to be detached from the superego. The ego is now uprooted and detached from the superego causing it to feel a crisis in its identity.

The Alt-Right psyche, principally through the ego, intentionally or accidentally, recognizes the crisis it is feeling is attached to the ego’s separation from the superego. This is why the Alt-Right comes off as combative and defensive—indeed, conservative or reactionary—in its associative defense of the superego which is being threatened. For it is in the superego that the ego finds a home; this same dynamic is partly responsible for the statism inherent to fascism and fascism’s glorification and protection of the state for the fascist ego locked arms around the imagined fascist superego which would shelter it, protect it, and give it meaning and identity against the turbulent vicissitudes of history. The same phenomenon is playing out with the Alt-Right, though the Alt-Right is very far from fascism as any scholar of fascism knows. The estranged Alt-Right ego is seeking to defend the superego against the threatening id which the Alt-Right seems to identify as feminism, Islam, and non-European peoples in migration and immigration.

***

Now this moves us from Freud to the realm of mythological reality. And it is an interest flag to raise here how much Alt Right literature, speeches, podcasts, even pseudonyms, have a mythological, or esoteric, nature to them.

The very origin of myth, as we discussed briefly earlier, is an attempt to establish an identity for people. For myths have their origin story, where the seed of the self is planted, and these myths are teleologically oriented to a destination, where the seed of the self will develop. Mythological consciousness is not merely the end to the theological imagination, as in Christianity, but the very root to self-consciousness itself (and, therefore, self-identity) as Friedrich Schelling outlined in his Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology.

Because myth is the first verbalization, and grammar, of the psyche it is unsurprising that the Alt Right has a certain baseline mythopoetic language and embodiment to it once you analyze the movement from Freudian lenses. In fact, the Freudian triad schema, owing to its roots in the theological imagination of Christianity, and the general truths embedded in myth though articulated in fanciful story-telling, is a mythological construct in-of-itself. The ego, which is the self, is the hero of mythology. The id, uncontrollable desire and the erotic, is the femme fatale, the chaos monster, the earth mother of mythology. The superego, the social order, is the sky father, the rational god, the ordering principle which, in its confrontation with the id, secures the basis for the ego’s development; thus securing the ego to the superego and the hero to the father whom the hero will eventually have to settle out away from in the hero’s journey before cycling back in eternal recurrence to the father to once again know who his identity is. The parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible is perhaps the most famous and still well-known story that deals with this basic narrative structure though the story of Christ’s incarnation, death, descent, resurrection, and ascension also follows this pattern of the hero (son) venturing away from the Father to truly come to know himself and fulfill his mission/quest whereby he returns to the Father filled with new life and understanding. The hero’s journey is the reintegration of the ego with the superego whereby the ego once again has a clear understanding of itself in relationship with the superego and the community therein.

This mythological reality is attached to Freudian id, ego, and superego for these reasons. The id, the chaotic water monster, or monster archetype more abstractly, is that which threatens the aging superego which propels the ego, the hero, into action.

But even at a deeper level where the id is the earth mother and the superego the sky father, the hero, the ego, is the byproduct or offspring of the superego and id, the sky father and earth-mother like Uranus is to Aether and Gaia in Greek mythology. Now this wasn’t always the case. In Theogony, Hesiod has the titans born from Gaia alone—reflective of pre-rational times where the worship focused on mother and entailed a wet cosmogony of chaos. As Greece solidified and codified itself, becoming more rational, and the rational being associated with the male, the separation of Gaia from her children through the emergence of the sky father is an important development; for the stars, the sky, is the ordering and rational principle following fixed and mathematical laws. It became necessary to have a deity superior to the wet chaotic primordial goddess that was Gaia, and thus Aether emerges and it is from Aether’s substance which falls to earth which gives constitution to Gaia before the birth of Uranus who, though god of the sky, is not god of the pure upper sky. The superego provides security, stability, and reliability to the hero who, without these provisions of the superego, would be lost in a sea of id; perhaps being consumed by the chaotic god or goddess of absolute eros. This is, in fact, an ancient mythological trope going back to Ishtar in Epic of Gilgamesh where she presents herself to Gilgamesh but part of his refusal of her advances was his recognition that all her former lovers are dead. This causes her to fly into a rage, as she herself is denied a place in the social order, thereby seeking destruction upon it.

In this mytho-political reorientation of the Freudian psyche the id becomes a far greater danger to the ego because the id fundamentally threatens the superego. This follows the battle of the gods or images analogy in ancient mythology. This is known as the chaoskampf in mythology: chaos struggle, which is necessary before the ego can derive and flourish. I can think of four examples off the top of my head: Marduk vs. Tiamat (which includes the gendered dialectic of the male god of order fighting the female goddess of disorder), Yahweh vs. Leviathan, Zeus vs. Typhon, and Thor vs. Jurmangundr. Male or female, pending the story, the chaoskampf is fully rendered as the Freudian id. The monster, or god or goddess of the deep, is the water monster, the serpent, the dragon-like reptilian-fish, which must be tamed or slayed for ordered life, which incorporates the ego and superego, to come about.

vidar_by_collingwood

In the specific case of the Babylonian myth, Marduk vs. Tiamut in the Enuma Elish, Tiamut is killed by Marduk who then takes her blood, rubs it into the dust of the ground, and thus creates human and orderly life. The same is implied in the book of Job and the Psalms when God declares to Job that it was He who pushed back Leviathan from which earthly life can have a resemblance of order and prosperity to it. Likewise, Thor must slay Jurmangundr who has grown so large that he can encompass the whole earth around his body which threatens the very existence of the earth. (I would like to note here, just as an aside, that the ancients and medieval knew the earth was round—these stories affirm to the reality of a spherical earth as do medieval icons of Christ the Creator creating the earth in the shape of a sphere; the idea of a flat earth until dispelled by the New Science revolution of the Enlightenment is a lie of the Whig Myth of Progress.)

In all these cases the heroic slaying the chaos monster is a recapitulation of the hero motif. And this ties into the Alt-Right psyche which envisions itself as the heroic struggler, the knight, the warrior, the demi-god, who answers the call of the community, in defense of the superego, threatened by the chaos of the id, the chaos monster, to restore order for the well-being of the superego and ego tied together in the social community. Consider how much Alt-Right “warriors,” the figureheads, the leaders, the knights, speak of “our people” in the collective sense: We must secure a homeland for our people; we must protect our construction for our posterity.

The hero’s quest, which was first identified by Edward Tylor, then made famous by Joseph Campbell, is the call of the ego. The ego, again, is the hero in the realm of the mythological. This is, in fact, borrowed from Fichte who depicted the ego as heroic in its “striving, struggling, and sacrifice” to establish the order of reality. The ego, which is activity, much like the hero’s activity, creates the superego which it loves and seeks to defend as its existence—so long as it exists—brings a level of comfort, meaning, and identity to the ego. Fichte argued the ego, consciousness, is that which harmonizes the world of encounters. And this is, according to Freud, the task of the ego in harmonizing the superego and id. And in myth, the ego as harmonizer is the hero as harmonizer; he who brings order to the world through struggle for the benefit of his people which culminates in the formation of the heroic identity of the hero.

The hero, then, is the white knight, the heroic soldier, the fearless man, who ventures out into the world of chaos to discover himself and, upon success, reintegrate back into community to enjoy the fruits of his successful journey. But the journey of the hero is not complete in the struggle alone; the hero, like the ego, needs to return and reconnect with the community, the superego. The defeat of the chaos monster is not enough; the hero must return to the tribe, the village, the kingdom, with his newfound wisdom and loot for all to benefit from.

In this manner the Alt-Right figureheads are digital heroes. They are the digital knights making battle in the fields of the chaotic internet world. This returns us back to that superficial understanding of the Alt-Right and technology. These digital and avatar heroes brave the maelstrom of darkness that is the Huffington Post, Twitter, 4Chan, and the “dark web” to advance the cause of the defense of the Alt-Right superego threatened by a myriad of forces arranged against it.

knight vs dragon

The Alt-Right’s interest in Friedrich Nietzsche rests on this account. Prager U was deceitful in presenting Nietzsche as the favorite philosopher of the Alt-Right. He most certainly is not. He is, for the most part, a more peripheral figure overshadowed by the likes of René Guénon, Julius Evola, Carl Schmitt, and others. Nietzsche’s relationship to the Alt-Right psyche has to do with the hero motif. For the heroic ego is Nietzsche’s Übermensch, or overman. Max Stirner, who influenced Nietzsche, was influenced by Fichte; Stirner’s the Unique One is Fichte’s ego of consciousness which is synthesized in Nietzsche’s Übermensch who realizes the single law of life: life is the struggle for life.

And this is what the hero’s quest is about: the struggle for life. The hero is called to adventure by the threat posed to his community and the need to find his identity. Players of recent fantasy games or readers of fantasy novels should immediately recognize the importance of the hero’s quest, the adventure, with the discovery of one’s identity. Aragorn is the chosen one, but it is through his adventure with the Fellowship of Nine that he discovers his identity and embraces it. The player in Elder Scrolls Skyrim embodies the same mythological trope: the unknown chosen one who embarks on the adventure to discover he is the Dragonborn. The hero’s journey is a journey to the discovery of identity because the hero’s journey is intrinsically spiritual in nature. It is spiritual in nature on at least two historical accounts: The first being the obvious relationship between myth and religion; the other being how the formation of distinctive and particular introspective identity emerged with Neoplatonic Christianity—any reader of Augustine’s Confessions would know how the discovery of the self simultaneously is, also, the discovery of God.

In Freudian terms that discovery of the self, ego, and the discovery of God, superego, is that moment of reintegration of the ego to the superego which ends the identity crisis in the person.

Thus, the interest in Nietzsche, purely his idea of the overman, in the Alt-Right psyche is because of the Alt-Right’s psyche identification with the ego which is the hero which is the Nietzschean overman. Given the phenomenon of the Alt-Right as a largely English-speaking issue, it is also unsurprising that Nietzsche, rather than Fichte, is the figure known to illiterate Alt-Right persons since much of Fichte’s works remain only in German and he is, as such, a trivial and difficult read even though Fichte is by far the more influential and consequential philosopher than Nietzsche. Most of Nietzsche’s works are translated into English, making him more accessible in the Anglosphere than Fichte; plus, many alienated egos gravitate to Nietzsche thinking he has the answer to their nihilistic plights even though Nietzsche was an anti-nihilist.

Continuing with the structure of the hero’s quest the hero reaches that threshold which is the point of no return. While many on the Alt-Right are shallow themselves, therefore drawing from pop culture and entertainment rather than philosophical and comparative mythological works that explain these motifs, the Alt-Right has its threshold which has become a well-known meme in its own right: The getting red-pilled meme drawn from the film The Matrix. This threshold of red-pilled is the point of no return; it is also the point wherein identity and consciousness is discovered. To use the memetic language, “get woke.” Awakening. For it is in the hero’s passing of the threshold that he begins the journey to the abyss struggling against forces arranged against him: The Twitter mobs, defriending on Facebook, death threats, the mob protesting at your house or dinner table, etc. The crossing of the threshold now places the hero into the pit of contest.

This trope is equally seen in film. Perhaps the most famous explicit depiction is in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, where Luke enters the cave in Degobah where an imaginary Darth Vader appears and they do battle ending in Luke decapitating Vader only to see his head under the mask: A foreshadowing of the darker descent into the abyss in Bespin where that moment of revelation occurs with Vader telling Luke he is his father. But this trope of mythology captured in Star Wars also points to Luke’s true identity: The son of Anakin Skywalker, and this coming to terms with his identity is essential for his progression for the rest of the film and the series.

knight enters cave

It is in this journey that the hero achieves his quest through one of two primary means: the death and rebirth wherein the death is represented by the shedding of the old (abandoning, say, “mainstream conservatism” in the case of the Alt-Right hero) and rebirth—that moment of being “woke” which is his embrace of his true identity: White racial consciousness to borrow from Taylor and everyone associated with the Alt-Right movement. The other means by which the hero is successful is the slaying motif, where the hero vanquishes the foe and is therefore able to make a safe return to the superego which, no longer threatened, allows for the ego’s heroic and triumphant reintegration whereby the ego finds its sense of self, security, and stability and no longer suffers from that crisis of identity. It is in this struggle to find identity that the ego’s relationship to the superego and id appears; the triad mind is united in a hypostasis of consciousness, from the unconscious id to conscious ego to transformed consciousness and security in the superego. To the Alt-Right consciousness reigns as the supreme reality of the essence of life. And to be conscious, to be “woke”, is to be conscious of one’s identity.

The digital knights of the Alt-Right face many dragons, many Tiamuts, many trials and temptations which exist to deter the hero from achieving his quest. The hero cannot reason his way through this quest; the quest involves, admittedly, some degree of violence. This is what leads to the Alt-Right’s rejection of libertarianism, classical liberalism, and compromise “cuckservatives” who think dialogue, reason, and compromise can solve things. It can’t solve anything other than slowly delay the demise of the superego.

This, I contend, helps explain the combative and militant tone of the Alt-Right psyche, whether in physical and concrete terms like at Charlottesville, or in the digital manner online: Whether a YouTube podcast or Twitter trolling. The hero must do battle. He cannot sit on the sidelines. He cannot cheat or reason his way passed the dragon. Even if he does, like Bilbo, the dragon—the id—figures out it has been cheated and takes flight after it has been spurned; much like Ishtar fleeing to heaven to beg her father to release the Bull of Heaven to wreak chaos on the superego below. You see this militant tone and embodiment in everyone from older Alt-Right figures like Richard Spencer to younger such names like Nick Fuentes. Admittedly it is often a verbal militancy in their speech, but anyone who has watched their speeches and podcasts knows that they also embody, in their mannerisms and gestures, a quasi-military nature. They may not be slaying dragons or monsters today, but in another way, they are: They are slaying the dragon of political correctness, multiculturalism, mass immigration.

The hero’s quest has many historical examples in real life history: The Crusades, the Puritan errand into the Wilderness, the frontier spirit of settlement, colonization, and so on.

This call to adventure also contains in it the reality of conscientiousness. Conscientiousness is the psychology of duty. Those familiar with Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson, psychologists who are not as ideologically driven as most psychologists who are involved in what Christian Smith calls the “sacred project of sociology,” note in their studies that those that show the highest levels of conscientiousness are those who identify as conservative or those whom, if given a political questionnaire, be regarded as conservative.

And contra Prager U, the Alt-Right belongs to the political right, which includes conservatism because conservatism is metaphysically rooted in hierarchy and community not equality and individualism like they facetiously promote (and American “conservatism” is really nothing more than a variant species of liberalism; especially those liberal creatures who belong to the Never Trump movement). The Alt-Right tie their psychological conscientiousness with their sacred consciousness of white identity. In fact, the word piety, pietas in Latin, means duty. A sense of duty, which is the sense of conscientiousness, is really the sense of piety.

In the Alt-Right psyche you have a perfect recapitulation of the classical archetypes of mythology, especially the Hero’s journey. In the completion of this struggle, of the journey, the hero returns to his kingdom, his homeland, his people, having secured their future, and is welcomed with open arms whereby he comfortably integrates himself. He knows who he is. He knows who his community is. He was, and remains willing, to lay down his life for his superego because it is the superego, in this recontextualization, the provides the meaning for the ego. To quote Richard Spencer, “To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer and a conqueror. We build, we produce, we go upward … For us, it is conquer or die … And it is appropriate because within us, within the very blood in our veins as children of the sun, lies the potential for greatness.”

The best way to really understand the Alt-Right is not to read the New York Times, Guardian, listen to CNN, or Prager University. It would involve significant and serious study with psychology, philosophy, mythology, theology, and history; these reflections on the Alt-Right I have just given is after nearly a year and a half of on-and-off reading, engagement, and listening to and with Alt-Right venues, combined with my own educational background in economics, history, philosophy, theology, mythology, and serious lay interests in psychology and the biological sciences. This psychoanalytic profile of the Alt-Right, which is what this reflection is: a psychoanalytical reading of the Alt-Right and not a political reading of the Alt-Right because mere politics as all know is deeply anti-, if not un-, intellectual.

Such a psychoanalytic profile of the Alt-Right gives better perspective on the Alt-Right and the Alt-Right individual. In concrete politics this Alt-Right psyche manifests itself in opposition to immigration, first and foremost, as that which is pure id—completely alien and unconscious—posing a threat to the superego which, in turns, causes the ego’s estrangement from the superego leading to a crisis of identity and the call to the hero’s quest from the Alt-Right Psyche.

The ego, the self, who is hero, embarks on the slaying journey to impose order and authority over the id which threatens the self by threatening the superego where the ego finds its home. But the eradication of the id ends the exhilaration that is the hero’s journey—like Nietzsche’s true overman who must destroy even the beautiful things he creates to always perpetuate self-overcoming—which is the real meaning embodied in the ego. This is also a more Freudian grounding of the ego and superego relationship; the ego needs to break free from the superego to be itself. The creative spirit of ego is through the hero’s journey, the joy of seeking an identity and coming to understand oneself, not the end-product which is the last man by any other name.

At the end of the day, the Alt-Right knight, after embarking on his adventure of conscientious consciousness, returns home to the tribe a welcomed hero. The hero’s journey is completed only after victorious return. In this return the hero settles into a life to enjoy the fruits of his labor. But is this not settling down into the superego of the Last Man?

 

[1] Stuart Ritchie et al., “Sex Difference in the Adult Human Brain,” Cerebral Cortex 28:1 (1 August 2018): 2959-2975.

3 thoughts on “The Psyche of the Alt-Right: Freud, Myth, and Philosophy

    • Oh wow, I haven’t read The Saker is some time. And I do recall reading this back when it was published. Thanks for a blast from the past Matrix!

      While I would agree there is an ugly cohort to the A-R, with its absurd and fantastical, if not otherwise simply un-historical, account of “paganism”, the A-R is certainly broader and more encompassing than just Spencer and his ilk.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s