Inside the New Right’s Next Frontier: The American West

Food plays an outsize role in the political imagining of the right these days. Last October, Carlson released a documentary titled The End of Men, which features, among other self-proclaimed right-wing bodybuilders, an anonymous farmer who tweets under the name William Wheelwright, one of the better-known figures in the sphere where preppers, techies, hippies, farmers, naturalists, health bros, and hard-core dissident-right types—many of whom are unapologetically racist—mingle, argue, and plan with each other. The documentary advanced a view that our technologies and agricultural system are physically poisoning us, destroying our connection to our corporeality, leading to a generation of men with declining sperm counts and low testosterone. The globalist “regime,” as Mike Cernovich described it in the documentary, has weakened America on a cellular level. The film called for men to take up weight lifting and a meat-based diet. “Well-ordered, disciplined groups of men bound by friendship are dangerous, precisely because of what they can do,” the masculinist health guru known as “Raw Egg Nationalist” said, over images of the American and Haitian revolutions. “A few hundred men can conquer an entire empire,” Raw Egg Nationalist continued. “That’s why they want you to be sick, depressed, and isolated.”

“Things are going to get worse before they get better,” he said. “How much worse isn’t exactly clear.”

I drove north toward Montana, where I visited with a man named Paul McNiel, whom I’d first met back during the fervid summer of 2020, at a Fourth of July picnic and anti-government rally headlined “Rage Against the State.” “I think that Livingston has the highest per-capita concentration of contributors to The New Yorker of any city in America,” he’d said when I introduced myself as a writer. McNiel is extraordinarily well read, and friendly with a number of literary types. He is a bit of a prepper, and while he is deeply Christian, he doesn’t consider himself right wing. “I don’t think the division is right-left anymore. It’s us against the machine,” he said, borrowing a phrase from the English writer Paul Kingsnorth—whose writings critiquing the power of tech and money in modern life have become popular among dissident types. He was dismissive of the local armed groups being flooded with new members. “At the end of the day,” he said, “if you’re not willing to shoot federal agents, then you’re not serious about it. They aren’t serious.”

McNiel had served in Afghanistan after college, and when he left the military, he’d taken out an almost unbelievable amount of debt, largely on credit cards, so that he could get himself in the position of buying his crown jewel, a trailer park in the small town of Belgrade, Montana, just outside of Bozeman. He now owned trailer parks as far away as Alaska. He had ridden the wave. “I always tell myself: No more deals. I want to stop, and I know I have to. But I can’t.”

He’d just bought a run-down country resort and tavern in the tiny town of Story, Wyoming. It was in a beautiful and secluded creekside cove of Ponderosas, a shady island amid the surrounding sagebrush desert. “Pretty good hideout, right?” he asked me, as we had a glass of wine and talked guns, European fiction, and the possibility of civil war. The place was a furious hive of activity. He was paying a couple dozen young members of Christian families to get it ready to open for the public. He was openly conflicted about his role in the churn shaping the West. “My guess,” he said, “in 10 years, there won’t be any blue-collar people left in Story.” A lanky and bearded minister from Iowa had come out with his family to help him work on the place, and there were a dozen or so kids in denim and homemade dresses rushing around, cooking, and doing some light demolition. The scene was a prime example of “crunchy conservatives,” an ecosystem described by the writer Rod Dreher—who champions localism and has long advocated that conservative Christians withdraw as a way of preserving their culture. It’s a process that eventually led Dreher himself to move to Hungary, where he has become a vocal supporter of the country’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán. “I love localism, but there is definitely a point where it can turn into blood and soil,” McNiel said. “I feel like my role is to argue for a localism that doesn’t go off the rails into exclusion.”

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