Note from the Editors: The following written exchange is part of our experimental dialogues series, which aims to bring together the best minds to analyze and debate controversial issues in depth.
Daniel Miller and Michael Millerman discuss the recent attacks on the Online Right and Nietzsche’s role in contemporary politics
Daniel: We are seeing increasing attacks from elements of the Christian Right as well as some parts of the Left on terrible enemies whom they call ‘Nietzscheans’. You said recently that the most significant intellectual development in American politics over the last 7-8 years is “the reappropriation of Nietzsche by the Right and everything that goes along with that.” How do you understand these attacks, how would you characterize this reappropriation, and what do you believe is now implied?
Michael: Let’s start with what Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind, in his chapter on the Nietzscheanization of the Left. Bloom wrote that “Nietzsche’s colossal political failure is attested to by the facts that the Right, which was his only hope that his teaching would have its proper effect, has utterly disappeared, and he himself was tainted in its ugly last gasp, while today virtually every Nietzschean, as well as Heideggerian, is a leftist.” Several things about that passage are relevant. But you see immediately that something has changed in the roughly four decades since Bloom’s book was published. Today it is no longer true that virtually every Nietzschean is a leftist. There is now, as there was not then, a conspicuous Nietzschean Right in American politics. As Chris Waldburger wrote in IM—1776: “The notion of a Nietzschean right-wing outside of conservatism should be fairly coherent for many. This, after all, is what figures like Bronze Age Pervert are inspiring and igniting online – a Right which is not ‘classically liberal’, nor Republican, nor rooted in the Enlightenment, but rather invested in mythology, beauty, health, and national greatness.” This new Nietzchean Right has given rise to a kind of moral panic — and in some other cases, to reasoned, thoughtful debate — on the side of centrist, liberal democrats, equally suspicious of the Left and the Right. Recall the debates in the American Mind over C. Bradley Thompson’s book America’s Revolutionary Mind, which included titles like “The Rise and Fall of the Pajama-Boy Nietzscheans,” arguing that the political thought of these “two-bit imposters” is antithetical to Americanism and the principles of the American founding.