"One could say that I was looted by Nietzsche."

So the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer described his intellectual awakening to the Atlantic Graeme Wood Last June. "Red-pilled" is a very common term for this "eureka moment" that one experiences when confronted with a dark and previously buried truth.

For Spencer and other enthusiasts of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth century, this dark truth is almost the following: all the modern pietres concerning race, peace, equality, justice, civility, universal suffrage – it's all bullshit. They are constructions elaborated by human beings and then inscribed as eternal truths.

Nietzsche says that the world is constantly changing, that there is no capital truth. He hated moral and social conventions because he thought they were stifling the individual. In one of his most famous essays, The genealogy of moralitywhich Spencer attributes to his awakening, Nietzsche destroys the intellectual justifications of Christian morality. He calls this a "morality of slaves" developed by the peasants to subdue the strongest. The experience of reading this was "overwhelming," Spencer told Wood. This upset his "moral universe".

Nietzsche, of course, has much more to offer than that. Stupid enough to have written a thesis on Nietzsche, I encountered many reactions to Spencer's thought. And I'm not surprised that the old German philosopher has become a leading actor for the nascent right-wing movement. His philosophy is something punk rock. You've read it for the first time and you say to yourself, "Fucking shit, how was I so blind for so long ?!

But if you read Nietzsche as a mid-term college freshman, you're forced to misinterpret – or at least project your own prejudices into his work. When that happens, we get the "bad Nietzsche", as the week says. Scott Galupo recently put the.

And it looks like "the bad Nietzsche" is back, and it looks a lot like what it was at the beginning of the twentieth century, when his ideas had been unfairly appropriated by the (original) Nazis. It is therefore a good time to reconnect with Nietzsche's ideas and explain what the other right thinks is wrong and false about their favorite philosopher.

Alt Right Figure Richard Spencer Holds Press Conference in Washington, DC

On August 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia, the white nationalist Richard Spencer addresses the media of his choice. Photo of Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

The obsession with decline

In his recent book Angela Nagle, an Irish academic, talks about their obsession with the decadence of civilizations. "They are disgusted by what they see as a degenerate culture," she tells me in a recent interview.

Nietzsche put forward these same arguments more than 100 years ago. The story that he tells in The genealogy of morality did Christianity overthrow classic Roman values ​​such as strength, will and nobility of spirit. These have been replaced by egalitarianism, community, humility, charity and pity. Nietzsche saw in this change the beginning of a great democratic movement of Western civilization, a movement that defended the weak against the strong, the mass against the individual.

The alt-right – or at least parts of the alt-right – adore this part of Nietzsche's thought. The influential blog alt-right Alternative Right calls Nietzsche a great "visionary" and published an essay affirming his warnings about cultural decadence.

"Future historians will probably consider the contemporary West as a madhouse," writes the author of the essay, "where the classic virtues of heroism, high culture, nobility, self-respect and reason had almost completely disappeared, as had the characteristics of adulthood in general. "

His philosophy is something punk rock. You've read it for the first time and you say to yourself, "Fucking shit, how was I so blind for so long ?!

Christianity is wrong, Christendom is right

In his meeting With the Atlantic, Spencer, a declared atheist, surprises Wood with a special defense of Christianity: that religion is false but that it "links the civilizations of Europe".

Spencer's point of view is common among the alt-right. They have no interest in the teachings of Christ, but they see the whole edifice of white European civilization as built on a framework of Christian beliefs. From their point of view, Christendom united the European continent and forged a white identity.

It is a paradox: they believe that the West has degenerated and become weak because it has internalized Christian values, but they find themselves defending Christianity because they believe that it is the cement that unites the Christianity. European culture.

Last August, Vox Day, a prominent thinker of the Right (who often quotes Nietzsche in his messages), exposed the central principles of the Right in a to post entitled "What is Alt-Right is." There are a number of revealing points, one of which reads as follows:

The Alt Right believes that Western civilization is the pinnacle of human success and supports its three fundamental pillars: Christianity, European nations and the Greco-Roman heritage.

Nietzsche admitted that Christianity was at the center of the development of Western civilization, but his entire philosophy was centered on the belief that the West should transcend Christianity.

When Nietzsche declared that "God is dead," he meant that science and reason had progressed to the point where we could no longer justify our belief in God, which meant that we could no longer justify the values ​​rooted in that belief. . So his point of view was that we had to rely on a world in which our highest values ​​are unfounded.

The alt-right ignored this part of Nietzsche's philosophy. They are seduced by the thesis of the "death of God" but ignore the implications.

"Nietzsche's argument was that it was necessary to go forward and not to fall into ethnocentrism," said Hugo Drochon, author of The great policy of NietzscheI said. "Spencer is stuck in the" Shadows of God "in many ways – asserting that Christianity is gone, but trying to find something that replaces it in order to be able to continue living as it always existed, rather than d & rsquo; Try something new. "

A man cuts a notch in the throats of two counter-protesters while he walks with other white, neo-Nazi and party party politicians 'alt-right'. at the rally "Unite the Right & # 39; August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A man makes a sharp throat gesture against the anti-partners as he walks with other white, neo-Nazi and right-wing nationalists at the Unite the Right rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Puce Somodevilla / Getty Images

The irony of Nietzsche racists

The alt-right renounces Christianity but insists on defending Christendom against non-whites. But it's not Nietzsche; it's just racism. And the half-cooked defense of "Christendom" is an attempt to conceal that fact.

Nietzsche was interested in ideas, freedom of thought. To the extent that he broke the taboos of his time, it was to unleash the creative power of the individual. He feared that the death of God would lead to an era of mass politics in which people were looking for new "isms" that would give them a group identity.

"The time has come when the struggle for the dominion of the earth over the earth will be conducted in the name of fundamental philosophical doctrines," he wrote. By doctrines, he meant political ideologies like communism or socialism. But he despised as much nationalism as he considered petty and provincial.

Listening to Spencer, you talk about Nietzsche (and, unfortunately, I listened to him Nietzsche Podcast) is like hearing from someone who has never gone beyond the introduction of one of his favorite books. This is the kind of dilettantism you hear in first year critical theory seminars. He uses words such as "radical traditionalist" and "archeofuturist", which means nothing to anyone.

Like so many superficial readers of Nietzsche, Spencer is excited by radicalism but does not take it seriously. Spencer's rejection of conventional conservatism is clearly rooted in Nietzsche's ideas, but the fantasy of a white ethnostat of Spencer is exactly what Nietzsche condemned in Germany of his time.

"The way forward by Nietzsche was not over [racial] purity, but rather more mixing, "said Drochon. "His ideal was to reunite the European Jew and the Prussian officer. Spencer, I suppose, wants only the latter. Nietzsche, for better or for worse, aspired to a new type of European citizen, without ties to a group, be it racial, ideological or nationalist.

Racists find the affirmation affirmed in Nietzsche's preference for "Aryan mankind," an expression he uses in several books, but this term does not mean what racists think it means. Aryan humanity is always opposed to Christian morality in the works of Nietzsche; it is a reference to pre-Christian paganism. Second, at the time of Nietzsche, "Aryan" was not a pure racial concept; it also included the Indo-Iranian peoples.

People often say that the Nazis loved Nietzsche, which is true. What is less known is that Nietzsche's sister, who was responsible for his estate after his death, was a Nazi sympathizer who shamefully rearranged his last notes to produce a final book. The will to power, who embraced the Nazi ideology. This earned Hitler's favor, but it was a bad service to his brother's inheritance.

Nietzsche regularly denounced anti-Semitism and even muddled with his friend Richard Wagner, the proto-fascist composer, because of Wagner's enraged antisemitism. Nietzsche also condemned the policy of the "blood and soil" of Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian statesman who unified Germany in 1871, for cementing his power by stirring up nationalist resentments and appealing to racial purity.

So there is no way to match Nietzsche's philosophy with right-wing racial politics, just as it was not right to charge Nietzsche to inspire Nazism. But these two movements found just enough ambiguity in his thinking to justify their hatred.

The alt-right renounces Christianity but insists on defending Christendom against non-whites. But it's not Nietzsche; it's just racism.

Nietzsche as a mirror

Nietzsche liked to say that he "philosophized with a hammer". For a marginalized man, mocking his own hatred, alienation or boredom, his books are an explosion of dynamite. All this disillusionment seems suddenly profound, as if you had just come across a secret that justifies your condition.

He tells you that the world is wrong, that society is upside down, that all our sacred cows are waiting to be slaughtered. So, if you live in a multiethnic society, you destroy pluralism. If you are integrated in a liberal democracy, you are misleading fascism. In short, you become politically incorrect – and imagine yourself a rebel for that.

Nietzsche represented many things – iconoclastic, lonely, misanthropic – but he was neither racist nor fascist. He would have avoided the white identity policy of the Nazis and the right-wing right. The fact that he was hijacked by racists and fascists, however, is partly his fault. His writings are full of contradictions and enigmas. And its fixation on the future of humanity is easily confused with a kind of social Darwinism.

But in the end, people find in Nietzsche's work what she already believed in it. That is why the alt-right, driven by rage and discontent, find in Nietzsche a reflection of their own resentments. If you are looking for a reason to reject a world you do not like, you can find it anywhere, especially in Nietzsche.

This story was published on August 17, 2017.