Since Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election earlier this month, the Orange Hitler’s opponents have been on high alert for signs of a coming Fourth Reich. First were the mostly apocryphal reports of an outbreak of violence toward racial and religious minorities. Then there was Trump’s appointment of Breitbart executive Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, a move which even Glenn Beck suggested the American people would have to be racist to accept. Up to this point, most of the red flags signaling a growing influence of white nationalism have been raised by the connotations rather than denotations of Trump and his high-profile supporters.
But that all changed on Monday when The Atlantic published a few minutes of excerpts from the closing remarks of the National Policy Institute’s annual meeting. The address was delivered by the organization’s president Richard Spencer, who is alarmingly only a few degrees separated from president-elect Trump. (Bannon described Breitbart as “the platform for the alt-right” and under his watch the site has acknowledged that the movement coalesced around Spencer.) As is clear from The Atlantic’s video, Spencer is not as coy about his opinions on race as those closer to Trump. He does not rely on “colorblind” prevarication nor his Prussian haircut to suggest white nationalism; he sets it plainly on the desk: “To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer, and a conqueror.” He smiles approvingly at a crowd standing to give Nazi salutes in response to his shout of “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”
At one point in his speech, Spencer turns his attention to “the mainstream media… or perhaps we should refer to them in the original German—Lügenpresse,” and then pauses to give a perhaps-I-actually-am-a-Nazi-perhaps-not smirk. “It’s not just that they are leftists and cucks,” he continues. “It’s not just that many are genuinely stupid. Indeed, one wonders if these people are people at all.” If you have been blessed with blissful ignorance and the good sense to stay away from 4chan, this is the first time you have heard the word ‘cuck’ in this context and are wondering why Mr. Spencer is accusing members of the press of being cheated on by their wives. Either way, let us take the time to make some sense of it.
The word ‘cuckold’ has existed at least since the thirteenth century to refer to a man whose wife sleeps with other men behind his back. (‘Wittol’ is actually the word for a compliant man of this sort, but I confine my pedantry to parentheticals.) The shortened form achieved prominent usage among members of the alt-right only a few years ago to describe anyone who would allow nonwhite people to better their relative position in society, which is apparently analogous to allowing another man to sleep with your wife, i.e. take what is yours. To the alt-right, allowing nonwhites to take jobs that otherwise would be filled by white men is akin to standing idly by while your wife copulates with a black man. It is all indicative of a strange, unhealthy insecurity regarding one’s own sexual prowess and ability to woo women that has bled into his political thought, but it seems to rest on these premises:
- American society belongs to white people.
- Any gains in absolute conditions for white people are superseded by loss of relative status.
- Anything that is supposed to benefit the white race is desirable regardless of how it affects an individual member of the race.
For our purposes here, we will look only at the third assumption, though I think the implications extend to the first two as well.
The individualist finds usage of and the metaphor implied by the ‘cuck’ insult most peculiar. To those who use it, those who allow or encourage people of color to make relative gains in society err in letting the position of whites slip in some sort of racial hierarchy by putting people of another race before their own. But what is hierarchy? “Hierarchy is dominion of thoughts, dominion of mind! We are hierarchic to this day, kept down by those who are supported by thoughts. Thoughts are the sacred.”1 When one bends the knee to an abstraction there is hierarchy, as he has placed that abstraction on a pedestal above himself.
If one advocates or tolerates some policy move by his country’s government because it is in line liberalism, progress, or justice, he is no doubt submitting himself to the will of others and to abstract ideas. His sacrifice is an implicit admission that something external outweighs his own happiness. I would like to introduce a new word here. Stirner calls these external rulers ‘spooks’… or, for Mr. Spencer, in the original German—Spuke.
A “great idea,” a “good cause,” is, it may be, the honor of God, for which innumerable people have met death; Christianity, which has found its willing martyrs; the Holy Catholic Church, which has greedily demanded sacrifices of heretics; liberty and equality, which were waited on by bloody guillotines … Here we come upon the old, old craze of the world, which has not yet learned to do without clericalism—that to live and work for an idea is man’s calling, and according to the faithfulness of its fulfillment his human worth is measured.2
Those whom members of the alt-right label cucks serve spooks just as much as the Spanish Inquisitors or the sans-culottes. Their worth is measured by their commitment to the ideas of liberalism, or equality, or social justice, or racial tolerance, any of which is in any and all cases of greater value than the egoistic desires of the individuals. They surrender their happiness and their autonomy to these ideals and praise themselves for their dedication as a cuckold surrenders his partner.
But these are not the only spooks which find servants in our world, they are only the most prevalent. Ideas contrary to Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité are spooks all the same. God, the state, the people, our people, the fatherland, Western civilization, the white race—spooks one and all. And one is no less a cleric for pursuing these and opposing the others. Indeed, one might say that the alt-right is quicker to admit that human worth is a factor of commitment to God, nation, or race. We see this creep through in only a few minutes of Spencer’s sermon. If one is not a conqueror, one is not white. If the press is not a servant of the race, they are not human.
The individualist finds fault with the ‘cuck’ insult not because it inaccurately describes the relationship between liberals and their ideology, but because those who use it never realize that it could just as rightly be turned on them. Members of the alt-right do not mind bowing, submitting, surrendering, opening their home and bed to a bull. They only have the stipulation that the bull look like them, that he be the white race incarnate. They forsake their own self-interest for a “great idea” or a “good cause” just as much as any other ideologue.
It is only through essentialist and collectivist thinking that Spencer and his ilk can obscure this to themselves. If agents are not unique individuals, but only iterations of their race, to serve one’s race is to serve oneself. But agents are unique individuals and what is supposedly service to one’s race can be at odds with one’s own interests. When you surrender your autonomy or your wife to the cause of the race or the nation, you lower your valuation of yourself to be below a spook and below those who stand to gain from your submission. Cuck is as cuck does, and it makes no difference the spook he serves. The only alternative is egoism.
- Stirner, Max (2005). The Ego and His Own. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 74.
- Ibid., 76–77.