The term “alt-right” is a hipper-sounding version of the original notion of the “alternative right,” which Paul Gottfried, a Jewish academic, coined in 2008.
Today his notion — of a new home for conservatives who saw themselves as too extreme for the mainstream movement — has become the “alt-right,” whose adherents include a range of racists, from white separatists to neo-Nazis. Here’s a few facts about the Jew behind the coinage so cherished by anti-Semites.
Gottfried could not be reached for comment.
Gottfried did his undergraduate work at Yeshiva University, Modern Orthodoxy’s flagship institution, and received his doctorate from Yale, according to the website of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, where he spent much of his career and is still listed as an emeritus professor.
He’s a political philosopher and intellectual historian who over the course of his academic career published prolifically with mainstream and elite presses: “The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium,” by University of Missouri Press, in 2005, for example, and in 1999, “After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State” by Princeton University Press.
He also devised the term “paleoconservative” for conservatives who value limited government, tradition and Western identity, according to the “Conservapedia,” a Wikipedia-type website. Gottfried and a colleague tacked the prefix “paleo” onto “conservative” specifically to contrast themselves with “neoconservatives” who emphasize an interventionist United States over most other policies. Paleoconservatives favor an isolationist foreign policy, restrictions on immigration and controls on free trade.
Indeed, Gottfried’s background comports with that of many neoconservatives in that he is Jewish and was born in the Northeast and educated in an Ivy League institution. He is, however, their sworn enemy, castigating them for being so insufficiently conservative as to defend the welfare state. He also called their movement out as a Jewish one, “closely identified with the personal and ethnic concerns of its Jewish celebrities.”
In 2008, he founded and still runs the H.L. Mencken Club, to create conferences that would provide a regular gathering place for conservatives like himself. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, these conferences have from their first meeting served to bring together racists and white nationalists.
In his speech at the Mencken Club’s inaugural meeting, Gottfried wrote approvingly of “sociobiology,”: the “cognitive, hereditary preconditions for intellectual and cultural achievements.” He reminded his listeners that “not everyone enjoys the same genetic precondition for learning.”
Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist magazine American Renaissance, has addressed the Mencken Club. His magazine features stories about eugenics and the genetic roots of human inferiority and superiority. Taylor told the Forward that “White Jews are white.” Some Jews, he has written, “see themselves as men of the West who will fight to preserve European civilization.”
Ari Feldman contributed reporting.
Contact Helen Chernikoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thesimplechild
Helen Chernikoff is the Forward’s News Editor. She came to the Forward from The Jewish Week, where she served as the first web director and created both a blog dedicated to disability issues and a food and wine website. Before that, she covered the housing, lodging and logistics industries for Reuters, where she could sit at her desk and watch her stories move the stock market. Helen has a Master’s of Public Administration from Columbia University and a BA in History and French from Amherst College. She is also a rabbinical school dropout. Contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @thesimplechild.