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American alt-right champion for Ancient Greece and Sparta

The alt-right looks to classical literature to shore up its reactionary worldview. While for years there was a declining of Greek and Roman classical literature in American culture, a surprising group has taken up the mantle of explaining why the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans remains vitally important: the alt-right.

Particularly attractive is Ancient Sparta with its totalitarian system and its ethnic purity.

What is worth noting (as not mentioning in the Washington Post article) is that Greek far-right groups like Golden Dawn share the admiration for Sparta for exactly the same reasons as the US supremacists.

Below some excerpts from an posted on Washington Post:

Along with related far-right online communities that share similar politics — pickup artists, men’s rights activists and others — the alt-right is fascinated by the ancient Mediterranean and often references its texts and historical figures to promote a reactionary ideology. It’s not the revival that advocates of the classics expected or wanted, but there is no denying the fervor of these writers.

Outsiders may know the alt-right from its disdain for liberal democracy, its belief in hard-wired racial and gender distinctions, and its use of crude online memes to promote President Trump and ridicule its enemies (disproportionately women, Jews and members of minority groups).

In 2016, when the community was still relatively young and unknown, then-Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos and Breitbart reporter Allum Bokhari wrote in an article titled “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right ” that “attempts to scrub western history of its great figures are particularly galling to the alt-right.” They argued that this issue was of special concern to “natural conservatives,” defined as mostly white male “radicals, who are unapologetically embracing a new identity politics that prioritizes the interests of their own demographic.” They continued: “This follows decades in which left-wingers on campus sought to remove the study of ‘dead white males’ from the focus of western history and literature curricula.”

The alt-right’s motivation for defending the classics differs from that of the mainstream public intellectuals who argue that the ancient texts deserve study because they showcase such universally human subjects as bravery, grief, perseverance and tragedy. To them, the rise of identity politics in the academy — what some call “grievance studies” — could be the classics’ undoing.

While some within the alt-right focus on fighting the wrong kind of classics, others work to articulate what they want ancient Greece and Rome to mean in the present day.

Ancient Sparta has proved particularly attractive to far-right online communities (as well as to former White House adviser Steve Bannon, whose computer password at one time was “Sparta”).

It is praised for its ethnic purity — maintained through the policy of xenelasia, or the expulsion of foreigners, mentioned by the historian Thucydides — and, of course, for its military discipline.

The use of slaves for manual labor freed the Spartans for military pursuits; that two-tiered society also appeals to the alt-right. Jon Harrison Sims, writing for American Renaissance, draws on the myth of the Dorian invasion — the idea that, in prehistoric times, people of Nordic descent migrated to Greece and brought their language and culture — to argue that classical Sparta was populated by fair-haired whites.

The response by Sparta’s King Leonidas to the Persian King Xerxes’ demand at the Battle of Thermopylae that the 300 Spartans turn over their weapons — “Come and take them” (“molon labe”) — has become an all-purpose right-wing rallying cry; the Oath Keepers have a “Molon Labe Pledge.”

Sparta’s efforts to stay ethnically “pure” appeal to the white supremacists of the alt-right for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, the military culture of Sparta has been embraced by white-nationalist militias including the Oath Keepers , and Spartan imagery is common at far-right protests. (full article: Washington Post)

PS What the American supremacists probably do not know is that the “Greek Aryan Race” is 13 million years old and that the overwhelming majority of Greeks consider their culture as superior to others.

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One comment

  1. I think it’s important to note that the Washington Post is known for hyperbole and exaggeration of the so-called “Alt-Right” movement. The Oath Keepers, for example, are not a far-right militia so much as they are constitutional originalists against the politico-media complex that frequently ignores the constitution and the rights it gives citizens. They are better termed as “anti-statists” where less government involvement in people’s lives is favored.

    Many of the groups that label these groups as hateful, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, are themselves guilty of hate and bias. What the Washington Post and other media outlets do is to take a small fringe group of extremists and bundle them together with far more moderate people in an attempt to demonize far more people than need to be and promote their view of the world. It’s a bit like expecting a newspaper like Rizospastis to have a balanced view of ND where, in their world, the right wing is PASOK. They won’t, a non-Greek would never understand this subtlety. The same happens, by the way, for right-wing outlets with the left.

    That Greek history is misappropriated is without question. The movie 300, for all its entertainment value, also greatly exaggerated facts e.g. the Spartans mockingly calling the Athenians “boy lovers” when Spartans also partook in such activities, though to a lesser extent. One wouldn’t exactly call this a characteristic of the far right, but this is where many who are libertarian get lumped together with the extremists (i.e. socially liberal, fiscally conservative and for small government).

    Again, take such articles with a grain of salt. Extremism of any ideology is a sure path to personal and societal destruction. Fascists and communists have proven this repeatedly throughout history, but so have distortions of the media.

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