Why liberals should take the alt-right movement a bit more fucking seriously…

The views of the trolls who attacked Leslie Jones on Twitter are supported by a serious philosophical canon — by the neo-reactionaries of the alt-right. It is not only a movement full of mindless trolls and racists, but of intellectuals and technologists. This is the story of my journey discovering the alt-right — and why I believe mainstream media is fanning the flame. I start from the attack, and move onto learning about Gamergate and the alt-right doctrine, and throughout the process recognise where mainstream media has failed us.

The Day Taylor Swift was More Important than Leslie Jones

On July 18th I perused Twitter.

It was a day when Leslie Jones — the black star of the new Ghostbusters film was horrifically trolled and abused. If you haven’t heard about it already, it will make you feel sickeningly upset.

People were coming out with all kinds of hate speech against her, the sort of which you think belongs in a Quentin Tarantino movie and not in the minds of real people. Certainly not real people in 2016.

But no one else really seemed to care that much about this awful abuse. It barely registered amongst many of my friends. Everyone was too busy talking about the Taylor Swift / Kim Kardashian spat. Which was essentially an orchestrated saga that would make both of them even more famous.

This made me so angry. There have been so many incidents of minor white arguments being reported in place of genuine black problems and struggles. For example,the Dallas shootings made the news but the Alvin Sterling execution barely registered on the BBC. The Dallas Shootings were given a push notification to everyone who had the app. The execution. No such treatment.

Waking Up to the Alt-Right

On Wednesday, I started to see reports about the Milo Yianoppolous ban from Twitter. Intrigued, I started to read the press articles on the topic.

The New York Times

I clicked through on the link which states ‘the campaign of prolonged abuse against Leslie Jones’, which went through to this link:

This link didn’t give any evidence about Milo’s words, tweets or actions.

As a Brit burned by Brexit, I am all too aware of news outlets that claiming truth without evidence. This was apparent on both sides of the debate. The mainstream media is getting lazier about supporting their argument with evidence.

This means that I always check supporting links for an piece produced by a journalist. We should always want to see the evidence before we believe the fact.

So I had to understand exactly what Milo said and what he did. And this information was fairly difficult to find. After a lack of success on Twitter and Google (after which I think most people would have given up) I began to dig around Reddit.

r/KotakuinAction’ provided answers. This sub-reddit discussed the Leslie Jones and Milo scandal in depth. It was there I found a couple of screen shots which documented exactly what had been said between the two parties. One was from the Amala Network, (which looks like a great website):

I looked at the screenshots of Milo’s tweets.

It started when Milo linked to his bad review of Ghostbusters. Many hours passed, when Leslie Jones started to have gorilla memes and other racist abuse hurled at her. To someone who is unfamiliar with the alt-right, those events could be entirely unlinked.

After these hours, Milo had weighed in on the debate:

Again, the above has NOTHING on the tweets coming through from other Twitter accounts. So it was fairly difficult to see how he could be held responsible at face value.

The real crime I could see was when he created fake tweets by Leslie, and pretended they had been written by her. This seemed to cause a lot of glee from other people on the internet.

I knew nothing about the alt-right at this point — so I was still fairly flummoxed about what was going on.

So I went to the article he wrote on Breitbart reviewing the Ghostbusters film. And read it with an open mind.

And the truth is that I could see some comparisons with a review I had read in the Washington Post a couple of days before. Which is here:

They are both claiming that the version of feminism purported in Ghostbusters is not a version worth fighting for. It isn’t the case that women are going to replace men, and it isn’t the case that women do things exactly the same as men. That isn’t what feminism should be about. The Ghostbusters film makes a caricature out of feminism.

It is worth saying at this point that OBVIOUSLY Milo states these points in a much more offensive way. And it’s true — he definitely picks out Leslie Jones’ character for special offensive treatment. Which was clearly unacceptable.

However, he was also being quite funny. There was an energy coming off the article.

In the final act we meet the real enemy of the female Ghostbusters — their parents’ dead hopes and dreams. Will the phantasmagorical manifestation of pure disappointment at the lack of grandchildren be too great for our stunning and brave womyn to overcome?

So I still hadn’t found a truly acceptable answer for why Milo was responsible for this horrendous racist abuse.

I ploughed on.

I watched the Breitbart video of the speech that Milo gave at the Gays for Trump summit directly after he was banned from Twitter.

In this speech, once again, he was charismatic, funny and made some heavy-hitting points. He believes that Western democracy is worth fighting for because it is the only system under which LGBTQ, women and racial minorities have prospered. Because they haven’t prospered in other countries — and he believes liberal culture is under attack from more conservative cultures.

This was scary, because once again I was struck by the coherence of what he was saying. I was also struck by his charisma and how the audience adored him — cheering at the right points and heckling affectionately.

He is by no means a stupid person. He is a provocateur, and he loves the attention, but he doesn’t just mindlessly insult people.

He seemed to have a real philosophy and he was speaking for change.


It was at this point that I got very very very angry with mainstream media. By not putting forward the facts, and by not giving people an opportunity to choose what is right and true for themselves, they are making it SO EASY for the followers of Milo to think that they are being wrongly represented.

And the alt-right DO believe they are being wrongly represented.

This was a comment in response to the New York Times article quoted above.

Reddit Comment Stream
Another Reddit Stream

The point with all of this is that Milo did not actually send any awful awful awful gorilla memes or horrendous racist messaging. That was done by other people. By being imprecise with their language and documenting events in slightly the wrong way, the mainstream media is leaving the door wide open for Milo Yiannopoulis to create a movement without any real debate or criticism.

This is not a group of idiots; they are more technologically savvy than the average 20 year old, and what’s more, they are united in similar beliefs and purpose.

I was so angry that I brought up the situation with a colleague. And he hadn’t heard about the whole thing (but he had heard about Taylor Swift). He started to look up the twitter feed of Leslie Jones and was absolutely horrified by the horrific racist abuse.

I meanwhile, so SO FURIOUS with the mainstream press that I just kept on banging on about the fact that it is OUR FAULT as LIBERALS that this extremism is happening. We are dismissing a group of angry young people in a ‘you-cant-be-serious’ way, when they are. They are deadly serious. Deadly.

My colleague said that public figures, like Milo, have a responsibility to not say these types of things when they have such a following.

But this isn’t something that Milo would subscribe to. If Milo believes he has the right to say anything he chooses, then he does not believe he has that responsibility.

So it kind of is our responsibility to speak to these people in a coherent way that is truthful about events and clearly demonstrate how much stronger the liberal doctrine is compared to the alt-right.


That evening I started to dig further into the situation. There were a couple of questions in my mind. Notably the ‘r/KotakuinAction’ sub-reddit. It was incredibly pro Milo. Which was surprising. It’s a gaming thread. Why on earth would my search for answers lead me to a gaming thread?

Gaming ~ Ethics ~ Journalism ~ Censorship

At some point I found across this Vox article on ‘The Milo Yiannopoulis Twitter Ban: Explained” — which is well worth reading. It educated me about the relationship between gamers and the alt-right.

Gamergate

Gamergate was a hashtag in 2014, and the community behind it is responsible for a lot of the hate crime and mysogynism that has been directed towards women on social media.

Quoting Gamergate explained:

Like all hashtags, #Gamergate has come to mean about 500 different things to thousands of different people. But at its heart, it’s about two topics:
1) The treatment of women in gaming: The start of the story (which is actually the latest permutation of a long-evolving firestorm) came in late August after indie game developer Zoe Quinn and gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian were both horribly harassed online. The same harassment was later lobbed at award-winning games journalist Jenn Frank and fellow writer Mattie Brice. Both Frank and Brice say they will no longer write about games. The FBI is looking into harassment of game developers.
2) Ethics in games journalism: The Gamergaters argue that the focus on harassment distracts from the real issue, which is that indie game developers and the online gaming press have gotten too cozy. There’s also a substantial, vocal movement that believes the generally left-leaning online gaming press focuses too much on feminism and the role of women in the industry, to the detriment of coverage of games. (One of the sites mentioned in this debate is Vox’s sister site Polygon.) These concerns exploded after programmer Eron Gjoni, who had dated Quinn, posted a revenge blog accusing her of cheating on him with Nathan Grayson, a writer for the influential games website Kotaku.

Gamergate is filled with geeks who are incredibly good with technology. They hang out on forums which many of us haven’t heard of: like 4chan. They manipulate the internet to destroy the reputations of their victims.

These people are the trolls. These are the people who are trying to harm women, racial minorities and homosexuals.

The problem is that these trolls have read arguments by reactionists and the alt-right that make them believe they are justified and right in these hate crimes.

Understanding [One Type of] Alt-Right Philosophy

A group of the alt-right are the reactionaries and the neo-reactionaries. The account of reactionaries that I read was from 2013 and is here. It’s a real essay — so here’s a break down.

  1. Modern culture is not impartial when it comes to analysing the benefits and negatives of modern culture. We live in a liberal society, and the academic and scientific institutions that give us expert papers and evidence are highly rewarded by furthering the liberal cause.
  2. Our society is better now predominantly because of technological advances.
  3. Despite technological advances we appear to be less educated and live in a world with more crime than before.
  4. Let’s talk about social progress — we are less racist, less sexist, less colonialist, more humane, and less jingoistic.
  5. However, the reactionist takes each of these things and finds that cultures that are ‘more racist’, have less racist outcomes. Those that are ‘more sexist’ make women happier. Those that are ‘more humane’ torture people a lot more. Finally ‘jingoism’ makes communities more unified and much happier.
  6. So the above factors of social progress don’t actually result in social progress.
  7. Progressivism leads to more death, torture and unhappiness and a more divided society.

The chances are you will find parts of the above quite jarring. Specifically number 5. I would highly recommend reading the essay above (it’s very colloquial and easy to read) so that you can fully appreciate the arguments.

Number 1 is critical for Gamergate. In a society with freedom of speech, it is not going to criticise points of view which claim that we should be more liberal, and we should be more progressivist. In fact, the points of view that you’ll want to oppress will be conservative points of view. As a result, the Gamergate trolls feel they should have the right to say what they want, and anything against this is repressing their freedom of speech.

The key takeaway from the above is that Gamergate / Milo and his fans who have been horribly horribly racist do actually have a philosophical canon on which to base their ideas.

They are often quite gleeful when the mainstream press misunderstands this doctrine. They get angry when they are labelled as trolls, but then they can act the victim because of it. They are brought together and can create communities because they feel they are in a ‘culture war’.

Which brings me back to the first thing that made me really angry. Mainstream media is simply not critiquing these ideas enough — which means that they are simply being allowed to grow and grow on channels which are not in the mainstream.

John Stuart Mill and Why the Media is Letting Us Down

John Stuart Mill is the poster boy for freedom of speech. He writes that if we do not discuss new ideas out in the open, even when they appear abhorrent and wrong, then we do not give ourselves the ability to strengthen our philosophies.

Even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this … the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

J.S Mill — On Liberty

Here, Mill says that even if the political system and doctrine you subscribe to is watertight, it is important and beneficial to seriously discuss alternative points of view.

  1. The community who subscribes to the doctrine will not forget why they believe in their doctrine
  2. The community who subscribes to the doctrine will always be able to argue why their doctrine is the best
  3. The community will always behave and act according to the doctrines principals — and the good coming from the doctrine will better permeate through society

In order to do all these things, we must seriously document alternative points of view, and we must argue and criticise new movements in the strongest form that they exist.

Otherwise, new and weak doctrines will grow in momentum. Their leaders will discuss their ideas in a forum that you have no access. They will slowly recruit those who cannot remember why we have the system we do.

Given those on the alt-right have just as much a right to vote as you do, don’t you think it’s about time you started to learn and intelligently discuss an idea that is becoming more and more powerful?

Don’t you think this is the responsibility of the mainstream press?

Don’t you think that it is the responsibility of the mainstream press to take a stand against the way Leslie Jones was treated, and do everything in their power to stop that behaviour happening in the future?


This was written for The Echo Chamber — a free weekly newsletter that puts different viewpoints in your box every week.