alt-Right

A Moment Significant of Either Something Important or Nothing In Particular

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

There is this, from Jacob Hamburger for L.A. Review of Books

What exactly are the ideas that have made people like Weinstein, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Christina Hoff Sommers into what a recent New York Times profile described as intellectual “renegades”? According to the Times writer Bari Weiss, most emphasize the biological differences between men and women, a feeling that free speech is “under siege,” and a fear that “identity politics” is a threat to the United States’s social fabric.

A listener of Harris’s podcast might add to the list a vociferous defense of the validity of genetic explanations for IQ differences between racial groups, a follower of Peterson’s videos might insist on the nefarious influence of “postmodern neo-Marxism” on college campuses, and a fan of Ben Shapiro might contribute a skepticism toward the reality of “transgenderism.”

The movement sees itself as an alliance that defies established political categories in order to defend these ideas against the creeping influence of thought control. This leads us to another important meaning of the term intellectual dark web, the suggestion that its ideas are not only controversial, but particularly innovative in our political moment. If the dark web arouses the anger of certain commentators in the media or the academy, it is for the same reasons that new technologies in the internet age are “disruptive.”

It would take a short memory, however, not to notice that these sorts of polemics over political correctness are anything but novel: they have been around for at least 30 years, ever since a strikingly similar set of media debates centered around college campuses took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Toward the end of the Reagan years, political correctness became a favorite bugbear of conservative intellectuals, who believed that college professors had latched onto illiberal or totalitarian notions of equality, and were indoctrinating their students with a subversive view of American society. Today’s “dark web” provocateurs rarely mention these predecessors, who not too long ago occupied a similar place in national media debates. Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 July 2018.But the comparison suggests that the “iconoclastic” ideas of these figures are actually a well-established institution in American discourse: an institution whose home is on the political right.

—and what stands out is that we really ought not be surprised. To the one, the general point is nothing new; to the other, what is the significance of this particular discussion getting this press at this time?

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Image note: Top — Detail of Lucifer, by Franz von Stuck, 1890.  Bottom — Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via The Nib, 17 July 2018.

Hamburger, Jacob. “The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Is Nothing New”. Los Angeles Review of Books. 18 July 2018.

A Deplorable Nexus

#deplorable | #WhatTheyVotedFor

"Shame on The Daily Beast for stealing this joke headline from our draft folder, we [puts finger to ear] ah, I see" [@pointclickbait, via Twitter, 29 August 2017]

The tweet is not a joke. Or, as Brian Patrick Byrne really does explain for the Daily Beast:

On Friday, Persson, who sold Minecraft to Microsoft for $2.5 billion in 2014, tweeted “(pizzagate is real),” to his almost 3.9 million followers. The tweet immediately caught the attention of a vocal crowd of supporters that continues to believe a debunked conspiracy theory that Democrats led a pedophile ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

When The Daily Beast asked Persson to clarify his beliefs on Friday, the 38-year-old responded: “I feel more like people are picking one of two sides emotionally in this incredibly insanely huge binary split, much like politics.”

However, shortly afterward, Persson embarked on a verbose defense of Pizzagate. The man who publicly called Zoe Quinn, the initial victim of Gamergate, a “cunt” in June, rallied up even more support among ardent believers, writing: “People are saying there’s a lot of suspect codewords including the word ‘pizza’. That place has very disturbing art and social media.”

Persson was referring to Comet Ping Pong, the name of the pizzeria from where conspiracy theorists falsely believe Clinton, and her former campaign chairman John Podesta, operated a child sex trafficking ring in its basement, despite the shop having no basement. The theory was born out of what believers say are coded messages in Podesta’s emails, like “pizza” for “little boy,” made public by Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential election.

And, you know, while it is easy enough to appeal to any excuse to recall Elton John, but sometimes the answer is simply no. We already know this story and its sickness, and while it is easy enough to say this is all about supremacism and lulz, at some point these facts are supposed to mean something. We might suggest this is an astonishing nexus of deplorability, but would be overstating the circumstance. Predictable is hardly astonishing, and a steaming heap of blended whatnot does not a nexus make.

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@pointclickbait. “Shame on The Daily Beast for stealing this joke headline from our draft folder, we [puts finger to ear] ah, I see”. Twitter. 29 August 2017.

Byrne, Brian Patrick. “Minecraft Creator Alleges Global Conspiracy Involving Pizzagate, a ‘Manufactured Race War,’ a Missing Tabloid Toddler, and Holistic Medicine”. The Daily Beast. 29 August 2017.

(h/t to Barry Deutsch.)

Empowerment (Jumping for Jesus)

Via The Hill:

A letter distributed in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, over the weekend asked the state’s Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley to jump off a bridge for Jesus.

According to Portland CBS affiliate KOIN 6 News, the letter asks God to “help Jeff Merkley walk over the Fremont Bridge and jump off into the Willamette River on Christmas Eve.”

“Let there be wine & song,” the letter read. “Every kind of food & drink; let toasts be made and laughter & hugs.”

It seems worth reminding the cultivation of two decades worth of conservative lulzbaiting, even before the days of lulz and roses. That is to say, there really isn’t any point to being outraged, which in turn is like allowing ourselves to actually feel terrorized and thereby accomplishing the terrorist’s goal. In this case, the point is to offend. But this is not pointed offense; this isn’t making any coherent statement. This is essentially cruelty and offense for the sake of self-gratification.

Christians, though. Yeah. Good luck with that. They’re in your churches; they always have been. This isn’t something out there, happening to someone else. This is really happening.

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Garcia, Eric. “Letter to Merkley Asks Him to Jump Off Bridge for Jesus”. Roll Call. 21 November 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Troll Dumb)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

Sometimes we think we notice something. Sometimes we know we see something. But even that setup is a bit overdone, because the truth is that proving the point often requires a lot of effort, and many of us live in a modern, twenty-first century America in which such effort is considered suspect. To the other, right now Donald Trump is making it easy.

Trump framed his campaign as a serious White House bid, one that could be his only shot at the presidency, while dismissing Clinton’s run as the most “unserious” campaign in American history.

The detail from Nolan McCaskill of Politico is just one small paragraph amid a litany of trumptastic absurdity, but it does remind that Donald Trump is the candidate of internet trolls.

Basic rubber-glue retort is a bizarre tactic in any allegedly adult conversation, but one that has been around pretty much the whole time, and the only really strange thing about the internet version is that it is so straightforward. There is a variation where one pretends to not understand the difference, for instance, and then there is straightforward rubber-glue; both require the retort to ignore the accuracy of the perceived insult such that if you catch one in a lie and call it out, whether the retort is to call you a liar or an asshole, the justification will be the same, that you insulted someone by calling them a liar, therefore they are returning the favor. That is to say, that you caught someone in a lie makes no difference; as far as this behavior is concerned, if one is offended by an accurate description of behavior―e.g., racist, sexist, bigoted, dishonest, &c.―the perception of offense is the only relevant aspect.

We’ve been seeing bits of the trolldom percolating up the discourse, and especially from the right wing.

Think of it this way, if the question was white supremacism, and the white supremacist retorted, “Yeah? Well … well, you’re just … just … just racist!” it wouldn’t be the familiar canard about how refusing racism is itself bigoted, or refusing racism is racist against the white race. This would be a racist calling you a racist because you called out racism. This isn’t calling you an asshole because you’re an asshole, per se. This is about calling you an asshole because calling white supremacism racist isn’t nice, and since you said something not nice the white supremacist gets to say something not nice in return.

Yes, it really is this … this … well, that’s the thing. We might say “infantile” but what did infants ever do to deserve the insult?

This is Donald Trump, and he expresses traditional American values. And I’m not joking about that; this is what the bullies always were, and it’s all they ever had, and now that they are losing their traditional privileges under law and custom, now that nobody else is nodding and winking along with them this is all they have left.

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Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

Gauthier, Brendan. “Pepe’s post-debate identity crisis: Online alt-right turns on Donald Trump after his presidential debate fiasco”. Salon. 27 September 2016.

McCaskill, Nolan D. “Trump calls out Clinton’s ‘unserious’ campaign”. Politico. 29 September 2016.

The Donald Trump Debacle (Economy Beatdown Mix)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump departs from a campaign event at Trump Doral golf course in Miami, Florida, 27 July 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

“But for those who still believe the candidates’ approach to the nation’s economy should matter, Trump’s comments were more than a little alarming. At least yesterday―who knows what his beliefs might be today―the Republican presidential candidate accused the Fed without proof of being politically manipulated by the White House, while simultaneously endorsing higher interest rates, which would slow the economy, despite having said the exact opposite four months ago.”

Steve Benen

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The Donald Trump Show (Business Acumen)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Trump hiring Steve Bannon might go down as the worst campaign hire of all time.”

Eric Kleefeld

This is a point worth considering.

First off, it opened up the field for Hillary Clinton’s blistering speech yesterday against the alt-right, as well as the Clinton campaign’s other attacks linking Trump to not just Breitbart, but to Klansmen and other sundry white supremacists.

Next, the Trump campaign’s clumsy efforts to deny its alt-right connections has become utterly impossible. In the latest example, Trump himself got tripped up by Anderson Cooper. After the candidate claimed, “Nobody even knows what it is … this is just a term that was given that—frankly, there’s no alt-right or alt-left.” Cooper had only to point out that Bannon himself proclaimed Breitbart to be the voice of the alt-right. Trump’s reply: “I don’t know what Steve said.”

Certainly, it makes for a neatly-packaged talking point to call Donald Trump the candidate of the internet trolls, but the label also happens to be true. And in that context, there really is a method to the madness.

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