Is the Alt-Right Really Targeting Libertarians?

Ellie McFarland | @El_FarAwayLand

In the world’s climate of division and hatred, the Alt-Right has found its perfect breeding ground. The Alt-Right is the name that various collections of white nationalists, “identitarians” and neo-nazis have given themselves. They are in no way run of the mill conservatives or Republicans. They are radical statists who fetishize the idea of a supremacist government with absolute power. It is the antithesis of libertarianism. Yet, there is a trend that is becoming more and more obvious; the so-called “Libertarian to Alt-Right Pipeline”.

This pipeline observation is by no means a lie. There is a real and disturbing trend of former libertarians becoming Alt-Right. The real question is why it happens, and how we inside and outside of the libertarian ideology can prevent it. How do we recognize the signs of a person becoming indoctrinated? How do we make our own positions more solidified and steadfast? There are two important things to examine when talking about the pipeline. It is the niche-ness of the ideology and the demographics of the ideology.

Libertarianism as a Non-Ideology

Libertarianism is not an ideology per se. A comparison made by Seamus Coughlin (FreedomToons on Youtube) is that libertarianism is like atheism in many ways. As in, it is the lack of a belief in the ethics, effectivity, or legitimacy of the state just as atheism is the lack of a belief in a god. This said, a person calling themselves a libertarian is opening themselves up to a political niche and all the baggage that comes with it. The libertarian and Green Parties are political sport targets, the butt of the politician’s joke.  Fervent anti-statism can open a person up to a great deal of social flack. The has the result of making them more comfortable with political exclusion, and thus, radicalism.

Because libertarianism is only based on an opposition to the state, there are no values that inform society. A person identifying as a Libertarian tells nothing about what their personal views may be on any issue outside of the state. Libertarians can pretend that their party stands for all sorts of things. They can even pretend that those values are inherent in the label, but that doesn’t make it true. Further, it’s also very politically unhelpful to pretend there are any values inherent in libertarianism. Also, it takes away a lot of the choice that comes with the label, which is what attracts people to the position in the first place.

To say that libertarians who turn Alt-right (or become members of any radical group) “were never really libertarians” is misguided. It is not only a “no true Scotsman” fallacy but also pretends“real” libertarians are incorruptible. Libertarianism doesn’t hold values. It doesn’t hold morality. So a person already comfortable with sitting on the political fringe, who is not already principled, is very easy to radicalize.

Examining the Demographics of Libertarians

It’s important to remember that libertarianism is very often an escape from conservatism for many young people. The vast majority of conservatives are white, and the vast majority of libertarians are young white men. This allows 13-30-year-olds to adopt a “yer dad” mindset, which is a very flaccid type of social liberalism and opens the door for any amount indoctrination. Obviously, most libertarians are principled people who will not be able to be preyed upon by radical movements. But what we all need to see is that those who are not principled are sitting ducks for the Alt-Right.

It is easy to convince politically ignored white men that they are ignored for reasons other than their politics. It’s easy to convince them that they are “disenfranchised” because of their race or sex when they already feel disenfranchised in their opinions. Further, Anti-establishment causes sometimes misdirect their activism toward “the elites” instead of the real establishment. When not combined with knowledge or real values, there is a danger that antiestablishmentarianism can turn into a nasty case of populism. The Alt-Right will take anyone they think is easy to corrupt, and vacuous bandwagoning libertarians are babies beyond willing to give up their candy.

The Pipeline is an Unfinished Theory

This whole “Libertarian to Alt-Right Pipeline” theory only describes half of the real issue. It is less a “Libertarian to Alt-Right Pipeline” as it is a “Politically Insecure Person to Radical Movement Pipeline”. The same forces that cause a libertarian to go Alt-Right can just as easily turn a Democrat or Republican Alt-Right (all demographic variables being equal). The difference is, Republicans and Democrats have “Party Values”. These fill the ideological void that in a libertarian must fill alone. But with this in mind, anyone who lacks the pluck to decide principled positions on their own or at all are subject to extremist recruitment. It just happens to be that libertarianism especially is an ideology which is simply a lack of belief. Not only that, but it is a demographic which contains a lot of aggravated young white men. It is the perfect hunting ground for the Alt-Right.

How We Break the Cycle of Recruitment

It isn’t enough to just notice the pipeline’s existence and to point it out. The Alt-Right and its growing presence in America and is something people from all sides of the political spectrum need to prevent. We cannot value polite discourse over calling out bad or baseless ideas. Yes, discourse is important, but letting lazy or wishy-washy values slip under the radar is not the way to welcome people into a movement or ideology. Honest harshness is the way to make sure people are steadfast in their core values– it lets people know they their peers see as adults and take them seriously.

The Pipeline theory pushes the blame for the Alt-Right onto a political minority. Moreover, it ignores the real ways the Alt-Right indoctrinates and intimidates its victims. It is the responsibility of everyone involved in the ideological and political debate to value principals over labels. The responsibility of deradicalization lies on the shoulders of those who do hold our morals steadfast. It is up to us to foster environments of free thought, safety, and honesty.


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