John Finnegan | Book Review: The Alt-Right’s Praxis

By John Finnegan

From the start, Daniel Friberg’s The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition promises its reader an answer to the question “what is to be done.” The preface tells its audience that Friberg is not “only a theorist, but… someone who has had a great deal of experience in the trenches of Europe’s New Right.”[1] Given this, one might expect the resulting pages to provide an action program like that found in last month’s texts—either the wide-ranging policy proposals of Senator Sanders’ book or the concrete small actions that Indivisible offered its readers.

But that doesn’t happen, at least on the surface. Instead, the text ranges widely, delivering to its reader some history (The Return of the Real Right), a discussion of “metapolitics” that draws heavily on Gramsci (Metapolitics from the Right), broad principles of the nascent movement (Points of Orientation), a couple of essays to provide guidance for countering the Left (How to Handle the Decline of the Left), and then a short chapter aptly titled Brief Advice on Gender Roles. After that, Friberg drops a 50-page Metapolitical Dictionary, and then a three-page valedictory urging members of the New Right to “[s]traighten your back and sweep away all your excuses along with the last shreds of the power of the Left, and let the adventure begin!”[2] Closing the book, one might wonder: what does that mean? Where was the praxis? What was Friberg’s answer to “what is to be done”?

The answer, I think, lies in several places both inside and outside the text: the discourse on metapolitics, the advisories on dealing with the Left and gender roles, the glossary that takes up nearly half of the Handbook, and Friberg’s essay in A Fair Hearing. Peering beyond Friberg’s texts and into the others before us, you can see his advice concretized, and the resulting political project and praxis that emerges.

Throughout his Handbook, Friberg continuously returns to the concept of “metapolitics,” which he admittedly takes from Gramsci’s discussion of cultural hegemony in The Prison Notebooks.[3] The task of the New Right, Friberg states, must be to “constitute a metapolitical vanguard,” “to articulate the essence of the important issues which confront us today, and to develop perspectives which undermine and tear down both the politically correct haze in which we find ourselves, as well as the baseless feelings of guilt and self-hatred… which are weighing the peoples of Europe down.”[4] Only once this is done can a “successive, irresistible social transformation” take place.[5]

And how is this transformation prepared? How does one construct a metapolitical vanguard? We see a portion of this in his short essays: “Litigate, litigate, litigate… Boycott… Give them a taste of their own medicine.”[6] Friberg focuses on taking the fight to areas that he views as traditionally dominated by the Left, and repurposing their own tactics for the Right’s cause (much as he has repurposed Gramsci). The Gender Roles advisory appears to further advocate a kind of inner transformation of the metapolitical vanguard to enable more effective action: “Free yourself from the false worldview, learn basic gentlemanly virtues,” for the men,[7] have alt-right children for the women.[8]

But Friberg’s most direct advice for “doing metapolitics,” his main thrust of praxis, comes from a different piece altogether: The Metapolitical Warfare of the Alt-Right. There, Friberg gives a sample of what he means by metapolitical action:

The method is to influence the masses and, of equal or greater importance, to influence those who influence the masses… A typical example of the former is the moderate right-winger or libertarian who regularly sees alt-right memes on social media, and at a certain point finds himself chuckling or nodding in agreement with one or another image and/or message. Through a process of relentless idea-seeding by alt-righters, this person has slowly softened to our views (which are, after all, Truth, albeit forbidden Truth). The day finally arrives when this person, just out of curiosity, listens to one of our multitude of podcasts, and from there the conversion is quickly consummated.[9]

The production and dissemination of ideology through the Internet and media, then, is the primary means by which Friberg seeks to challenge the perceived grip that the Left has on politics. He dismisses more overt actions such as electoral organizing or political violence—the former as “but products of how public opinion has been formed,”[10] the latter as “[r]evolutionary prattle.”[11] But his primary means of change—creating a magazine like Motpol, building spaces for this so-called “forbidden Truth”—seems closer to theory than to what we have so far discussed as praxis, and yet Friberg views these acts as the most important form of praxis his movement has available. Thus, Friberg’s interpretation of the world—through this “relentless idea-seeding”—changes the world.

This conflation of theory with praxis may be comforting to those in academia, as Friberg suggests that such activities are one of the primary drivers behind what he views as the seizure of cultural power by the Left throughout Western democracies. Indeed, Friberg gives great credit to the power of academia to shape society, blaming “the Frankfurt School and similar projects” for the creation of “many other negative political and cultural choices.”[12] He appears to answer the question posed by Professor Harcourt at the beginning of this seminar—”Might it be possible to develop a space of praxis that does not merely ‘theorize’ practice, but that is genuinely and simultaneously a space of critique & praxis: genuinely a space where doing is critically thinking?”—in the affirmative.[13] Critique is now, and always has been, praxis in Friberg’s worldview.

We see this idea repeated and simplified throughout A Fair Hearing. The alt-right consistently focuses upon the power of its critique of liberalism through memes and Internet debate to radicalize otherwise apolitical individuals, with Arthur McNabb putting it succinctly in The Art of the Troll: “While the liberal or progressive may never repent, there are others watching the exchange, and it is the troll’s mission to demonstrate the strength of his rhetoric and arguments to them while making his opponent look like a pitiful laughing stock.”[14] George T. Shaw’s guide to “dismantl[ing] this imbecility” makes a similar point: “Crush the vessels that carry the lies, force shitlibs to discuss the data and logic regarding human group differences and, tense and bitter though the conversations may be, truth will out.”[15]

Having laid out this strategy, the question becomes: does it work? Is the alt-right succeeding in its goal to shift the terms of the political debate via Internet content-production, thereby making possible the open discussion of its “three defining memes,” the notions that “1) Demography is destiny… 2) The Jewish Question is valid… [and] 3) White genocide is underway”?[16] I don’t have an empirical answer to that question, only anecdotal observations, but from my vantage point, the answer seems to be, unfortunately, yes.

I have seen the alt-right’s “relentless idea-seeding” in action, both in members of my own extended family and larger social circle, watched as their postings on social media have drifted further and further to the right, personally observed the “chuckling or nodding in agreement” at Instagram posts that use humor to advance abhorrent messages. Ideas that were once “off the wall” in political and legal discourse, such as ending birthright citizenship,[17] now appear to be firmly “on the wall” for discussion in policy-making circles. Not to be alarmist, but who is to say that the mass interning and execution of “leftists” won’t be next? [18] And, of course, I have seen the wave of increased violence from the Right that has accompanied the rhetoric of our president.

From these unscientific observations, it does seem to me that this metapolitical move has had some effect in priming the Right’s base for more direct—and violent—action, despite Friberg’s statements to the contrary.[19] The alt-right certainly believes the same. One has only to peruse the top posts of /r/the_donald, a community of 600,000+ Trump supporters on Reddit, to see the enthusiasm and glee that accompanies each expression of cultural victory.[20] While this past week’s election may have given some hope that these ideas have begun to be repudiated, I see little evidence that the producers of this praxis have become less influential; if anything, it seems to me the opposite, as asymmetric polarization continues to grow throughout our nation.


[1] Daniel Friberg, The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition VII (2015). For the purposes of this post, I don’t try to distinguish between the terms “Real Right,” “New Right,” and “Alt-Right,” though I acknowledge that there may be slippage.

[2] Id. at 113.

[3] Id. at 22–24.

[4] Id. at 25.

[5] Id. at 26.

[6] Id. at 42.

[7] Id. at 55.

[8] See id. at 59–60 (“Get your priorities straight. In your autumn years, having a successful career behind you will be nothing compared to having a large family… passing your genes on is a far worthier goal in life than slaving for some multinational corporation… Make sure to have at least three children, and raise them well. In this regard, the future of Europe rests squarely in your hands.”).

[9] Daniel Friberg, The Metapolitical Warfare of the Alt-Right, in A Fair Hearing: The Alt-Right in the Words of Its Members and Leaders 204 (George T. Shaw ed., 2018).

[10] The Real Right Returns at 34.

[11] Id. at 35.

[12] Id. at 3.

[13] Bernard Harcourt, Introduction to 1/13: On Theory and Praxis, and Truth, Politics, and Power, Praxis 13/13, Sept. 8, 2018, (emphasis mine).

[14] Arthur McNabb, The Art of the Troll, in A Fair Hearing: The Alt-Right in the Words of Its Members and Leaders 202 (George T. Shaw ed., 2018).

[15] George T. Shaw, Dismantling Anti-White Newspeak, in A Fair Hearing: The Alt-Right in the Words of Its Members and Leaders 193 (George T. Shaw ed., 2018).

[16] George T. Shaw, An Alternative to Failure, in A Fair Hearing: The Alt-Right in the Words of Its Members and Leaders XI–XII (George T. Shaw ed., 2018).

[17] See Trump’s birthright plan: The legality, politics and history, BBC, Oct. 31, 2018,

[18] See Augustus Invictus, Physical Removal: More Than a Meme, in A Fair Hearing: The Alt-Right in the Words of Its Members and Leaders 213 (George T. Shaw ed., 2018).

[19] It’s worth noting that Friberg, despite denouncing political violence as futile, specifically cabins his statement to “the current political establishment,” and calls on his readers—the men, at least—to “take up some form of martial arts… in this way you get used to the idea of defending yourself against and inflicting violence. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are forced to use these skills, which you very well might if you live in the decaying civilization once known as the West, this may very well prove to be the difference between life and death….” Friberg at 54–55. His proclamation in the Metapolitical Dictionary that “mass migration” has made impossible “either assimilating or integrating the groups in question” makes clear that the metapolitical strategy he propounds will inevitably conclude with forced repatriation (at best) of these groups. Friberg at 82.

[20] A few examples are in order. See, e.g. HowTheyRuleYa, “This is going viral on /r/starterpacks! I think people are finally waking up!” (referencing viral post on non-political subreddit implying that only Western feminists could view Islam as a “feminist religion.”); JSBachLove, “Previously brainwashed Dem reporting for duty … just voted straight R in Michigan. Who’s with me?” (post by white woman who has been abandoned the Democratic party); Lukazey, “This is how it happens, folks.” (post of a comic portraying the Left’s “long march through the institutions” that Friberg blames for the present state of affairs).