Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Alt-Right Isn't Racist. It's Just Sick Of You

Update: The commentary of this article reflects the climate in November of 2016. During the course of 2017, the failure of the broad leadership of the Alt-Right to denounce White Nationalists like Richard Spencer, to soundly defeat the notion that Nazism and Fascism are at all right-wing movements, and to reject actual racist groups like the Aryan Nation or KKK, has effectively meant that the Alt-Right has nominally become associated with those groups. The verbiage now has changed so that what had once been the main body of the Alt-Right - the so-called "Alt-Lite" or "Civic Nationalists", are now separate and distinct groups. Leaders of the movement including Milo Yiannopoulos and Gavin McInnis have denounced and distanced themselves from the Alt-Right. If you replace each instance of "Alt-Right" in the paragraphs below with "Alt-Light", then it is still largely true. The events of 2017 otherwise stand a as a testament to how the failure of a group to organize and control their own message can lead its debasement and destruction. 

Progressives are somewhat predictable. The reason Godwin's Law exists is because we live in a nation of mental midgets who cannot lose an argument. That's not a positive thing - because they can't win them, either. At least not based on facts, logic or argument. Instead, when cornered by their own lack of a point, there are certain people who will just resort to accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia and just about anything else. People need to learn and accept that sometimes, their viewpoints cannot be conferred to others. And, more importantly, that they're capable of being wrong.

The major force in this election turns out to be the Alt-Right. The Alt-Right is a collection of racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic, anti-muslim, anti-immigrant white nationalist hatemongers. Of course, to believe that you have to ignore leading voices like Sheriff David Clark (black guy), Kassy Dillon (chick), Milo Yiannopoulos (fabulously gay man), Joshua Seidel (totally Jewish)... and you get the point. The alt-right is actually none of the -ist and -phobe appellations thrown at it. What it is is a powerful force of dissent that the Progressive Left is simply not equipped to deal with.

The Progressive Left is successful because they have laid a foundation of intellectualism as the basis of their philosophy, then armed their membership with a key weapon: morality. Every argument of the Progressive Left ends with a thinly veiled (or sometimes simply not at all veiled) accusation of racism, sexism or other bigotry that is universally reviled. This was a problem for Conservatism, which likewise counts on a foundation of intellectualism, because much of their strength comes from a supposed moral high ground. So when every intellectual discussion ends with accusations of moral outrage, Conservatives are typically voiceless.

If you look at the tactics of the Progressive Left, you can slowly tick off all of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. American Conservatives use none of these tactics. In fact, activism and radicalism have no place within Conservative ideology. Enter the alt-right, who are essentially Conservatives, but with one essential twist: they're immune to the accusations of bigotry. Leading members of  the alt-right are typically independent, so they don't fear termination by their employer. They're also young, so they don't fear the loss reputation the way older established conservatives do. And lastly... they're clowns. Specifically, they're liminal clowns.

The liminal portion is that they don't take the Progressive Left seriously at all. Liminality is a transitional stage in which a character is no longer bound by a former set of rules, but have not yet established their own sphere. Liminal actors mock, engage in unconventional behavior, and generally just ignore establishment norms. A key example of liminality in the alt-right is that they don't feel the need to have intellectual discourse with the Progressive Left. They reject the notion that there is any authority what-so-ever in their words, ideas, accusations or ideology.

Their response to the Progressive Left is one of mockery and reflex. This is the most frustrating part not only for Progressives, but any casual observer of the alt-right. The alt-right, when faced with an accusation of bigotry, doesn't waste time with denial, defense or explanation. Instead, they return it with mockery. This has the immediate effect of confirming the Progressive viewpoint, but to all other observers not steeped in Progressive thought, the irony and sarcasm is immediately obvious. That is the mark of the clown.

Incidentally, the "liminal clown" isn't a new concept. They've existed in the tradition of literary analysis to explain the existence of certain characters in stories. The use of liminal clowns by Shakespeare is the most well known - nearly every play had one, and they didn't simply provide a little comedy for the audience; they were key in illustrating the dire conditions of all the other characters in the play. Shakespeare's clowns were often the only ones (other than the reader) who actually knew what was going on. More recently, the phenomena of "Punk" and "Punk Rock" is the most relevant connection. Punk Rock, though seen as a rebellion against authority, was really a rejection of the hedonism of the 1960's counter-culture, largely led by middle class suburbanite youth.

The reason I bring Punk into this is that the alt-right is overwhelmingly young, diverse and educated having come from largely middle class backgrounds. Those were the punks of music in the early 1970's. Now we have punks of politics in the 2010's. It's the same notion, simply for a different age.

And here is the final point. The alt-right isn't racist. Not by a long shot. However, they're not interested in the convoluted blame game of social justice politics. They're far more libertarian in their approach. But when you call them racists, misogynists, bigots, et al, they're not going to be cowed. They're going to push back and shut down their accusers with unrelenting mockery and a withering fusillade of equal and opposite scorn that nullifies their attack, then embroils them inextricably in a battle they see no way to win. The left, mired in dead tactics, is now losing a battle for the hearts and minds of America and not knowing it.

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