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Darwinian Influences on the Alt-Right

Richard Weikart
alt-right
Photo: Richard Spencer, by Vas Panagiotopoulos [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from Chapter 8 of Richard Weikart’s new book, How Darwinism Influenced Hitler, Nazism, and White Nationalism.

The term “alt-right” has come to have a pretty elastic meaning, with the popular news media applying it to all sorts of groups. Here we focus on the core of those who originally called themselves the alt-right. Many of the leading personalities in this movement — and Kevin MacDonald is one of them — promote Darwinism as an integral element of their racist worldview. The alt-right is generally understood to be a movement of white Americans that embraces human inequality, especially racial inequality, while promoting the idea that one should identify with and promote the interests of one’s own racial group.1 In many respects the alt-right is simply a repackaging of neo-Nazism and white nationalism. From my survey of the most influential alt-right online periodicals, it is obvious that Darwinism serves the same ideological function for them that it did for Nazis, neo-Nazis, and earlier white nationalists. It plays a central role in justifying their views on racial inequality and eugenics.

Racial Differences Through Evolutionary Processes

In 2016–17 one of the most publicized figures in the alt-right movement was Richard Spencer, founder of the online Radix Journal. In his speeches Spencer sometimes quotes Nazi propaganda in the original German, and some members of his audience have been known to give Nazi salutes. In a 2017 essay co-authored with F. Roger Devlin, Spencer insisted that racial differences emerged because of evolutionary processes. He outlined the basic evolutionary story of humans originating in Africa and then migrating to Europe and Asia. He argued that “group differences exist as consequences of evolution by natural selection” and “racial differences are a natural and normal consequence of human evolution.” He also asserted, “The preference for one’s own race is a product of our evolutionary history.” Thus, in Spencer’s view, white nationalism is hard-wired in our biology. Spencer also embraces the Darwinian explanation so prevalent among Nordic racists and in alt-right circles, stating, “The higher intelligence and lower crime rates of Whites and East Asians as compared with Africans may be due in large part to the selective pressure of cold winters.”2

Spencer’s Radix Journal also publishes numerous articles promoting Darwinian evolution as the basis for their so-called “racial realism.” In explaining the fundamentals of the alt-right, Guilluame Durocher wrote, “What is our reason? We believe in Darwin and evolutionary science. Man is, at bottom, a biological entity and, in particular, his potentialities are circumscribed by his genetic heritage. This must be recognized so life may continue its upward evolution, towards the stars, rather than back into the muck.” Durocher then criticized liberals for inconsistency, because they say they believe in Darwinism, but then refuse to apply it to public policy.3

In a different white nationalist venue, the Occidental Observer, Durocher expressed sympathy with the Third Reich, noting, “The National Socialists proposed a total reformation of society around biocentric norms. This was based on the revolutionary insights of Darwin (which Hitler himself compared to the Copernican revolution), which revealed the natural evolutionary forces which had shaped all life, including all human life.” Durocher calls Nazism “a self-conscious group evolutionary strategy (GES) designed to further the interests [of] a genetically-defined German people,” and he seems to revel in Nazi atrocities. He states, “The National Socialists observed that in Nature, violence is absolutely fundamental to the survival and development of life, and they sought to be in harmony with this cosmic reality.” Durocher argues — as I have in the earlier sections of this book — that Darwinism is a central, defining feature of Nazi ideology.4

The Key to Promoting White Nationalism 

In 2016 an anonymous article in Spencer’s Radix Journal promoted the Darwinian-inspired ideas of the early 20th-century racist ideologue Madison Grant. The author emphasized the social Darwinist underpinnings of Grant’s ideology and recommended his book, Conquest of a Continent, which “is a grand vision of bio-cultural struggle and evolution, in which demography comes alive.” The author also promotes Darwinism as the key to promoting white nationalism when he writes, “Darwinism offers a compelling and rational justification for Whites to act on behalf of their ancestors and progeny and feel a shared sense of destiny with their extended kin group…. Darwinism is seemingly more ‘effective in rallying Whites, especially elite Whites, than religious feelings.’”5

Another prominent figure in the alt-right movement is Jared Taylor, who strongly influenced Spencer. Taylor has also published articles clearly expressing the centrality of Darwinism in his worldview. In 2019 the white nationalist website American Renaissance republished a 1992 essay by Taylor, where he positively reviews Roger Pearson’s Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe. At the top of the article is a picture of Charles Darwin, and the essay begins:

The discovery of genetics and the development of the theory of evolution were two of the most potentially far-reaching scientific advances of all time. By the turn of the century, thanks to the work of Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) and Charles Darwin (1808–1882), man for the first time had the knowledge with which to direct his own biological destiny. Rather than leave his further development to the genetic accidents that had governed it for millions of years, he could consciously and deliberately improve his very nature.6

Darwinian-Inspired Eugenics 

Taylor not only embraces a social Darwinist version of racism, but he also endorses Darwinian-inspired eugenics. Also, in 2019 American Renaissance republished one of Taylor’s 2006 book reviews, where he endorses Richard Lynn’s Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis. According to Taylor, “Prof. Lynn argues that it was the demands of colder, non-African environments that forced the pace of evolution in intelligence and gave rise to race differences.”7 As we have already seen, this is a standard theme of Nordic racist ideology, which underpins their mistaken view that blacks are intellectually inferior to white people. In 2009 Taylor approvingly reviewed the book Erectus Walks amongst Us, by Richard C. Fuerle. Taylor calls this book “a primer on evolution and genetics, a catalog of how populations differ, an introduction to sociobiology and the concept of genetic interests, and a plea for white survival.” Taylor endorsed Fuerle’s evolutionary analysis of Africans’ inherent biological tendency toward crime and sociopathy. For example, Taylor explains, “In the tropics, where mother and child had a better chance of surviving, it would have been maladaptive not to rape. This may explain high rates of rape among African populations.”7 (This is another example of white nationalists cherry-picking data; it is true that a few African countries have high incidences of rape; however, some African countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, have significantly lower rates than Sweden or Germany or Norway.8)

Other alt-right figures, such as John Derbyshire, Steve Sailer, and many others, have published articles lauding Darwinism in alt-right websites and periodicals, such as VDARETaki’s Magazine, the Occidental Observer, and American Renaissance. These carry titles such as “Darwin on the Rise and Fall of the Human Races,” “The Evolution of Racial Differences in Morality,” and “Ed Dutton with an Evolutionary Perspective on the Rape of Finland.”9 The alt-right proponent Frank Hilliard has even published an essay entitled “The Alternative Right Belongs to the Darwinians” on the Council of European Canadians website.10 Not all alt-right essays with Darwinian content have such obvious titles, but many articles on these websites recycle the evolutionary ideas I have already explained above.

Conclusion

The overlapping categories of neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and alt-right proponents regularly invoke Darwinism to try to demonstrate that their case for racial inegalitarianism and white superiority is scientific. Indeed, by their own admission, Darwinism is central to their ideology, and they regularly ridicule creationists and intelligent design advocates as ignorant. They believe that racial differences have been shaped by natural selection in the struggle for existence. Just like early 20th-century Nordic racists, some of whom they still promote, they claim that the harsher environment in Europe and Asia provided selective pressure that caused Europeans and Asians to become more intelligent and more cooperative than black Africans. They want to promote further human evolution by practicing racial segregation and introducing eugenics policies. Many of them see nature as their god, and promoting evolution as their god’s highest command. Darwinism is thus not only crucial to their explanation of how the world is today, but it is central to their vision of morality and public policy.

Notes

  1. Thomas J. Main, The Rise of the Alt-Right (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2018), chap. 1.
  2. Richard Spencer and F. Roger Devlin, “Race—Stalking the Wild Taboo,” National Policy Institute website, October 5, 2017, https://nationalpolicy.institute/2017/10/05/race-stalking-the-wild-taboo/.
  3. Guillaume Durocher, “An Uncertain Idea of Europe,” Radix Journal, June 30, 2016, https://www.radixjournal.com/2016/06/2016-6-30-an -uncertain-idea-of-europe.
  4. Guillaume Durocher, “Biocentric Political Thought in the Third Reich: A Review of Johann Chapoutot’s The Law of Blood,” Occidental Observer, accessed February 4, 2020, https://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2018/12/15/biocentric-political-thought-in-the-third-reich-a-review-of-john-chapoutots-the-law-of-blood/.
  5. “Madison Grant and the American Nation,” Radix Journal, October 8, 2016, radixjournal.com/2016/10/2016-10-6-madison-grant-and-the-american-nation/.
  6. Jared Taylor, “Killing the Messenger,” American Renaissance, June 1992, www.amren.com/archives/back-issues/june-1992/#article2.
  7. Jared Taylor, “Race Differences in Intelligence,” American Renaissance, October 27, 2019, www.amren.com/news/2019/10/race-differences-in-intelligence-richard-lynn/.
  8. Jared Taylor, “The Human Animal,” American Renaissance 20, no. 1, January 2009, 7–13, www.amren.com/ar/pdfs/2009/200901ar.pdf.
  9. For 2021 rape statistics by country, see World Population Review, https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/rape-statistics-by-country.
  10. Guillaume Durocher, “Darwin on the Rise and Fall of the Human Races,” Occidental Observer, January 12, 2019, www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2019/01/12/darwin-on-the-rise-and-fall-of-human-races-part-1-of-2/; Michael Levin, “The Evolution of Racial Differences in Morality,” American Renaissance 6, no. 4, April 1995, www.amren.com/archives/back-issues/april-1995/; F. Roger Devlin, “Ed Dutton with an Evolutionary Perspective on the Rape of Finland,” Occidental Observer, March 20, 2019, www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2019/03/20/ed-dutton-with-an-evolutionary-perspective-on-the-rape-of-finland/.
  11. Frank Hilliard, “The Alternative Right Belongs to the Darwinians,” Council of European Canadians, April 24, 2016, at https://www.eurocanadian.ca/2016/04/alternative-right-belongs-to-darwinians.html.