The white nationalists of the so-called alternative right, an extremist movement that rejects mainstream conservatism as too gutless and too infected with liberal thinking, have been getting a lot of attention lately as Donald Trump’s most rabid fan base. While the alt-right is a fringe, its virulent bigotry is openly embraced by Trump’s biggest cheerleader—and, arguably, ideologue-in-chief—from mainstream conservative ranks.
That’s uber-Trumpista Ann Coulter, who caused a stir last year when she tweeted, “How many f---ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?” during a Republican debate she found too Israel-centric. It wasn’t an isolated comment.
These days, Coulter—who didn’t respond to emails asking for comment on the company she keeps—is remarkably upfront about her alt-right sympathies. On May 3, for instance, she retweeted a paean to herself from VDARE—a leading alt-right website that styles itself an “outlet for patriotic immigration reform.” (Coulter links to it from her own site.) Its founder and editor-in-chief, Peter Brimelow, has denied that it is racist or white nationalist, while conceding that it publishes white nationalist authors such as Jared Taylor.
Yet a look at the site—which rewards donations with a “Patriot pack” of Confederate flags, a rather quaint idea of American patriotism—leaves little doubt about its leanings. One recent VDARE blogpost mocks Jack McCain, Sen. John McCain’s son, for tweeting photos of himself and his African-American wife as a rebuke to people who objected to a mixed-race couple in an Old Navy ad; it also gripes about the “force-feeding” of interracial marriage to the American public. Meanwhile, an article celebrating Trump’s “nationalist revolution” argues that the American right can only survive if it embraces a “nationalist, identitarian future” (“identitarian” is the preferred term of alt-righters who realize that “white nationalist” goes over better with polite euphemisms) and warns that nationalism will “become more imperative as the country becomes increasingly ‘diverse’ aka non-white.”
Two days later, Coulter followed up with another retweet from VDARE’s Twitter account, this one also touting two other sites: RadixJournal, which peddles unabashed white supremacism, and /pol/, a notoriously anti-Semitic 4chan board—have the dubious merit of making VDARE look moderate. It is also worth noting that immediately before this, Coulter retweeted a Trump-cheering tweet from “Ricky Vaughn,” one of the undisputed stars of alt-right Twitter and a rabid Jew-hater.
Coulter’s book, Adios, America: The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole, published in June 2015—and credited with shaping the anti-immigration theme of Trump’s campaign—channeled familiar alt-right rhetoric about the peril of immigration by the wrong ethnic minorities; but it also invoked a standard alt-right anti-Semitic trope which was quickly recycled back into a Twitter meme:
Those familiar with the alt-right will recognize one of its favorite talking points: Israel supporters—particularly Jews—are hypocritical if they support immigration into the U.S., since they don’t advocate large-scale non-Jewish immigration into Israel or the Palestinian right of return. (It is invoked, for example, in an unabashedly anti-Semitic primer on “How to Argue with Neocons” on an alt-right blog.) Regardless of what one thinks of immigration to the United States, or of Israeli policies, this is a remarkably bad analogy.
Israel was founded as an ethno-state (though it is worth noting that a quarter of its citizens are not Jewish); the United States of America was not. Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors; the United States is not. A Palestinian right of return would mean forcing a nation of 8 million to accept as many as 4 to 5 million immigrants, many of whom are hostile to its statehood; proportionately, that would be analogous to an influx of 150 million into the U.S. If such a proposal were on the table, Coulter and Trump certainly wouldn’t be the only ones to oppose it.
The “double standards” argument has blatantly anti-Semitic overtones, since it invariably invokes Israel and never other small nations, like Finland, that limit immigration and grant automatic citizenship on the basis of ethnic background. But there’s an even more bigoted—and, well, deranged— subtext of nefarious Jewish conspiracy.
This argument originates in the writings of Kevin MacDonald, a now-retired California State University-Long Beach psychology professor who has something of a fixation on Jews. In his 2003 book, The Culture of Critique, McDonald argues that Judaism is a collective evolutionary strategy by which Jews seek dominance and that, where they have minority status, this strategy is to subvert and weaken gentile majority culture—such as destroying Russia by engineering the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. In America, MacDonald believes, one of the chief Jewish strategies is to undermine white culture via unrestricted immigration.
MacDonald is a regular contributor to VDARE—where, it should be noted, he is far from the only one pushing outlandish ideas about Jewish subversion; one of the site’s regular bloggers, Steve Sailer, has suggested that Jews “use their influence over the media” to “demoralize and divide” other groups. MacDonald is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The Occidental Observer, a “white identity” website that has some nice things to say about Nazi Germany—and where topic tags include “Israel Lobby,” “Holocaust Industry,” “Jewish aggressiveness,” “Jewish influence,” “Jewish wealth,” and “Historical anti-Jewish writings.” One of the largest tags, with over 50 articles, is “Jewish hypocrisy and double standards on immigration and multiculturalism in Israel versus the Diaspora.”
Coulter’s accusation of hypocrisy in the passage from Adios, America! is not overtly directed at the Jews; but the implications of her taunt are unmistakable. Nor does she propose a “white homeland” or a right to self-determination for American whites as a group, as do many alt-rightists; she is simply quite explicit in her view that massive immigration should be opposed for racial reasons—because it “changes America’s ethnicity.”
Coulter has a long history of saying odious things, often sneaking them in under the cover of she-can’t-really-mean-that edgy humor. (Writing about Adios, America in The Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove wondered if she was “merely engaging in perverse, albeit attention-getting, performance art.”) But now, Coulter doesn’t really bother to hide the fact that she does mean it—and her brand of odiousness is fueling the revolt that has made Donald Trump the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.