Dear Breitbart

Dear Breitbart

We are never going to like each other but I just wanted to write to thank you for providing me with an intriguing insight into… and what shall I call it? The alt right, the nativist right, the illiberal conservative caucus, the ‘far’ right, authoritarian populism, I’m not entirely sure, other than to say I really haven’t met many folk like Breitbart followers. The odd one or two, but you see I live in a metropolitan, multi-cultural, liberal bubble. I do know some conservatives, some are even friends, my neighbours voted leave, in fact the majority of those who voted in my city voted leave, by a whisker. I’ve not led a sheltered life, virtually all of it has been in the rough and tumble of the inner city but Breitbart you really put me straight. There really is a mountain of hate out there. A great steaming, chuntering, toxic mountain of hate.

Libitard or Libiturd as you might say, snowflake even, oh and much worse, I’ve learnt some new insults mainly courtesy of Breitbart’s American participants. I’m evil and loathsome, a jerk, an imbecile, retarded, a self-hater. Hey, you don’t want to be around me I’ll poison your debate, your water, taint your safe space and corrupt your kids. Actually I’m simply a left of centre, mid 50s teacher with an interest in trying to understand where and why the toxic brew of alt-right hate is fermented and that is why I ended up hanging out with DeplorableBill, MAGA4ever, Wasp and James Delingpole.

So Breitbart it has been a bit of an experiment, getting out of my ‘safe spaces’, my chatteratti, metropolitan, bubble in order to attempt to grasp the dynamics behind the authoritarian, nativist political shift that appears to be in the ascendancy across the West. And part of the beating heart of the alt-right worldview is you. Currently on leave of absence, your CEO, Steve Bannon, sits on the shoulder of President Donald Trump chirping away his mantra of narrow nationalism and intolerance. He has influence, bucket loads of it. He is the man.

Of course to many on Breitbart I’d just be seen as a paid troll, operating out of a George Soros troll factory to spread my insidious, corrupting, liberal views, which invite the complete and utter take over of the world by Islamic forces, or is that the globalist world government, or maybe even a Jewish cabal of secretive bankers? The bogeyman is many and varied on Breitbart but Muslims are always lurking somewhere, either raping your children, free-loading your taxes, imposing Sharia law on your granny or simply not being Christian. And many Breitbarters proudly proclaim their Christinaity, an eye for an eye, rather muscular version of Christianity, with of course much smoteing of enemies.

The visceral hatred of Islam runs through Breitbart like Blackpool through rock. In your Breitbart world Islam is a single monolithic thing and all its adherents share the same nihilistic world view, which of course they are intent on shoving down everybody else’s throats. There is no attempt at nuance; a Sunni, a Shite, a Sufi, a Wahhabist, or a Gulenist perspective of Islam. There is no appreciation of any of the cultural over-lays onto Islam derived from places such as Indonesia, or Turkey or India.

Personally I am not religious, or rather I am actively atheist, (and of course some might accuse this as being just as guilty of a similar reliance on faith). I hold no personal torch for Islam. I do however live in a city where some of my neighbours, work colleagues or folk I mingle with on public transport, local shops and community festivals are Muslim, whether of Pakistani origin, or African origin or even, increasingly more common, from white European heritage.

Of course the vast majority of my neighbours, public transport co-riders and work colleagues are actually white and come from places like Sheffield, Scotland, Germany or even Swindon. Most people in the community I live in are not particularly religious, although I do know folk who go to church, of whom a lot are school teachers. These are the sort of appeasing, self-hating people, snowflake libiturds that some of your contributors crave to eradicate.

I’ll give the more aggressively ardent of Breitbart contributors something. They are never short of enemies; folk they wish to smite in order to make your world a better, safer place full of people just like them, and only such people. They like the freedom to say what they want, to behave how they want and damn anybody else who does not share their world-view. These folk were very suspicious of democracy until Trump, Brexit and Le Pen came around and now it is their new best friend.

It is that last point that really confuses me the most because I cannot get a very clear idea of what your average Breitbart participant stands for, only what they are against. Yes, given the relative written paucity of your average Breitbart news story (and really there often is not much substance to them), it really is a site that is all about the below the line comments. You are a very participatory, sharing environment. It is also an echo chamber for misanthropes, a safe space for the sorts of views that might be acceptable in bar room banter– but not any bar that I go to — or to the more Neanderthal of football supporters I occasionally share my affliction of supporting Luton Town with.

I keep wondering what would a Breitbart World look like? Well it certainly would not be a liberal world but even in asserting that there is plenty of confusion because many of your supporters and contributors uphold some notion of capitalism as essentially being a ‘good thing’.

‘Hayek’s’ Road to Serfdom is sometimes ad promoted and Hayek is nothing if he is not an economic and social liberal. Not for him the frictions of protectionism, the looking after economically eroded communities who have not fared well under the pressures of globalisation. No, Hayek would have invoked creative destruction, the re-assignment of capital to more productive places and the migration of people with the minimum of government oversight. So although The Road to Serfdom may have, allegedly, found pride of place in Margaret Thatcher’s handbag it is doubtful that it is requisite reading for either Donald Trump or Marine le Pen, interventionists both.

It has been the fundamental economic illiteracy underpinning much of your Breitbart world that has been the main thrust of most of my two hundred plus ‘interventions’. That is until James Delingpole got around to blocking me and returning it to a ‘safer’ place for your fearsome warriors for freedom.

Generally speaking Breitbarters do not really grasp how modern capitalism operates; its inter-dependence, the complex production linkages, its embedded hegemony and global nature. I may be left of centre, and liberal with it, but I am also a student of capitalism because simply put it is not going anywhere soon, it is embedded into our lives and no revolution or alternative model seems to be on any realizable horizon. My fundamental point is that there are many types of capitalism. There are choices in how markets work and what the role of the state is. These choices are what pass for politics in most societies.

In the your Breitbart world, Brexit is as jarringly hard as possible — for some, including James Delingpole, this actually includes declaring war on Germany. In the USA jobs are miraculously going to return to the rust belt, stock markets will rise forever and Americans will buy just American in a land of increasing fossil fuel energy consumption and no climate change.

Breitbart World is full of doughty individualists, people who stand on their own two feet. They probably wrestle bears naked in Montana or own enough weaponry to start small wars. Well the American contributors, the British ones probably chunter about femi-nazis and the emasculation of men over foaming pints of rhetoric and bags of salty and vingerey opinions.

‘Live free or die’ springs from your contributors’ lips and a white, Judeo-Christian worldview, set in some imagined idyll back in the day, occupies their fantasies. They really do not like foreigners — I’m not telling you anything you didn’t realize or not agree with but they really do not like foreigners, especially Muslim ones, black, Muslim ones. With beards.

There is of course some tension between right-wing authoritarians and right-wing libertarians. The former wanting a strong coercive centre, the latter preferring no centre at all. But beyond the occasional spat where these tensions surface the unity of anti Islamic, anti socialist, anti-globalist views binds your Breitbart world together. Actually you are far more likely to get the pronounced whiff of anti-Semitism on Breitbart than say a Labour Party branch meeting. But that of course is just me peddling ‘fake news’ because everybody knows one of your founding principles was un-critical support for the state of Israel, so no talk like that slips past your moderators, ever.

Fake is a prominent word in your Breitbart world. Lots of things are fake; emotions, principles, motivations but principally news. That is anything that isn’t disseminated through your alt-right prism. Yes that is right, I’ve only just realized that the BBC is fake news, a conspiracy of liberal globalists and worse, paid for by hard-working tax payers. I agree it really is outrageous, somebody should tell Andrew Neil. And as for The Guardian, well I would not enquire as to your view.

After three months of wasting a few hours here are there have I learnt anything of merit from the multitude of rapidly produced stories you generate?

Well some of the people writing your below the line comments I worryingly share my streets with, some I hope GCHQ have got a firm eye on and some are almost certainly the backbone of UKIP.

What I personally have found most concerning is that Breitbart is the full-throttle version of a political narrative that increasingly is migrating into mainstream political discourse. Theresa May’s upping the anti over negotiations with the EU, the loose and inflammatory talk of some Conservative Party politicians and most obviously in Trumpland, these are all examples of how you, Steve Bannion’s digital brain-child, have provided nourishment for an increasingly triumphant far-right.

Yet can we attribute significance to sites like Breitbart and 4Chan (of which there are a dazzling smorgasbord of choice in the USA). When you at Breitbart get favoured access to the most powerful individual in the western world, what is tolerated, encouraged even, on Breitbart matters, you’ll be pleased to hear. It is part of the new frame.

Of course being a liberal, I would not ban Breitbart, what would really be achieved by that? Occasionally I even consider whether I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe I should just heed the advice of Breitbart contributor rbw152, who, when I raised the idea that nuking Germany if they insisted on payment of an EU exit bill wasn’t really feasible, pointed out “We’re just blowin’ off some steam here. Get a grip.”