H. L. Mencken was no friend to the Southerner and he despised Christians. Nevertheless, the H.L. Mencken Conference provides a forum for the best and brightest in the alternative right, so I held my nose and drove to Baltimore.
Unfortunately, due to a mix up in my registration, I was never given the exact location and ended up at the wrong hotel. I was sure I had the right place (after following hasty directions from a friend) and arrived outside a conference room door. I heard talking inside. Thinking they had started without me, I threw open the door and strutted in.
Turns out, I had walked into the middle of a negro wedding. Colored men in bright shades of orange and ladies with gaudy feathered hats, turned to look at the honky who had crashed their event. “Is this the H.L. Mencken Club”? I asked, just for fun. “You know, that club full of racist white guys who are hell-bent on taking over the world?” (Ok, I’m making up that last part. Still, I hope the readers imagine the look on my face as I slowly backed out of the room).
Frustrated and a little upset, I finally made it to the real Mencken conference. I arrived just in time to hear Mrs. Fran Griffin give a wonderful speech in honor of the late Sam Francis. She ended her talk with a reading of Francis’ statement of principles for the Council of Conservative Citizens, the first one being: “We believe the United States is a Christian Country”. This was said quickly; almost embarrassingly. Traditional Christian and Conservative ideals weren’t much in vogue among the conference crowd.
The speakers were experts in their fields and some were even good orators, I’m thinking of John Derbyshire especially (who was kind enough to sponsor me for the event); but, they weren’t the most important part of the conference. It was the crowd I was most interested in. I like keeping my finger on the pulse of the alternative right community (or, as my friend Matt Parrot says, the “North American New Right”).
Maybe frustration forced me into an incurable cynicism, but if the conference crowd represented a convergence of nationwide sentiments, then there is a serious rift in the North American New Right. I’m sure we can debate the different ideological influences in the crowd. Some people will see more, some less. For my part, I wont try to put a number to it, or name all the characters, but in general I saw: libertarians, still fawning over Ron Paul; fundamentalist Christians, this group was made up mostly of elderly folks who still think Conservatism has something to do with Civic Nationalism, apple pie and Republican presidents, God bless them; human biodiversity folk, who advocate for eugenics and scientific racial realism and all that; traditionalists and pagans.
There is a sense in which dividing up the crowd like this is, itself, subject to a scientific bias. If I were the farmer poet I daydream of becoming, I might have seen the crowd differently. In fact, the future me may look back and only see two groups of North American New Righters: The Scienists and the Goths. This is the serious divide I mentioned.
The former is well represented by H.L. Mencken. No matter how fluid and witty the man’s writing was, it was fueled with vitriol and a detached presumption. Mencken, unlike those he criticized, remained aloof of human feelings (whatever he might have said). I’m no Mencken scholar, but I can easily imagine him scoffing at the idea of hearth and home. His views were the most logical, he thought, being informed by the mind, not the heart.
He is opposed by Goths who feel with their whole heart and speak accordingly, sometimes embarrassing the would-be scientists in the congregation. I know at least one true Goth who was at the conference. I wont mention him by name, since there are those who might use this blog to hurt him, but there is a university in Maryland where he is working to outrage and embarrass left wing elites. And it’s working very well. In fact, my friend is giving the Scientists in our group something to chat about. He’s not starting a political party and he’s not announcing a new magazine. He doesn’t dress in respectable suits and ties and give speeches about the logical path for Alt. Righters to take. No, he writes “White Pride” on sidewalks, and gets national media attention. Goths love with their whole hearts and because of it, are able to hate with their whole hearts (see note).
The great Donald Davidson has a theory about how this rift emerged in the Western mind, but I’ll have to cover that in another post.
The conference chatter was made up of questions about what could be done “practically”, which were never answered in a way that inspired me with hope. I asked one gentlemen if, instead of a practical politics seminar, we might be better served in finding the one great poet of our generation, who would capture our struggle in art and reflect it back to us in a sensationalized way which might unify our sentiments and inspire us to fight. He laughed me off, and moved over to a different circle of conversation.
I got the same treatment at an American Renaissance conference when I suggested that there were three paths out of our situation: the democratic process, doing nothing, or breaking knee caps with a baseball bat. I opted for the last option, sending the old men scattering from my circle, and wandering off to other conversations, no doubt outraged by my presumption.
This rift will never heal until the North American New Right gives up on the Enlightenment enterprise, and realizes that man’s mind is not the sovereign hope of humanity. It’s a new religion they’re infatuated with. Rationalism is piety for the scientists. They’re fueled by a lust for godhood.
The Goth runs on high-octane heart.
The word “goth” sometimes confuses people. There is a trendy counter-cultural movement (paradoxical, I know), called “goth”, where children dress in black, dye their hair dark shades, wear chains and spikes, and listen to foreboding music. A true Goth, as I’m describing, would not want to be associated with this pack of misguided riff raff. I’m using “Goth” as Thomas Nelson Page thought of the Goths – that ancient people never conquered by Rome and whose character traits show up in modern men like my friend from MD.
“He was a Goth in all his appetites and habits, a Goth unchanged and unfettered. True to his instincts, true to his traditions, fearing nothing, loving only his own, loving and hating with all his heart – a Goth.”
See Cambria’s “My People” for more.