Are we experiencing ‘Peak Alt Right’?
The alt right is a new name for an old phenomenon but it has gained a higher profile in recent years and certainly a bigger (or more public) following. In essence it is neo-Nazism for the era of internet trolls. But with the election of the Apricot Assclown a movement that conceives of itself as a victimised minority on the fringe now how has a foot, or at least a toe, in the White House. So what will happen to the alt right?
Trolls and Nihilism
To understand where the alt right came from (aside from the simple fact that fascism never died, politically or culturally) we have to understand two major cultural developments: trolling and cultural nihilism. Both are largely consequences of the changes in human psychological behaviour made possible, and encouraged, by the internet.
Trolling is a result of arguing with people when you aren’t face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice. Argument has a certain rhythm to it, and when arguing in public the ability to respond quickly and articulately is often more persuasive to the watching crowd than whether your rebuttal actually makes any sense. I used to be one of those people who delighted in winning arguments purely because I can think faster than most people. It meant I could argue from any position I chose and be confident of winning, or at least appearing to win.
On the internet this dynamic is removed because whether you respond in 5 seconds or 5 hours doesn’t matter so much. What has replaced this dynamic, at least as far as arguing with people on the internet is concerned, is trolling. The less you admit to any flaw in your own position and the more you attack not only your opponent’s position but also your opponent personally, the more you win, or at least appear to win.
The slightly better educated trolls might employ Arthur Schopenhauer’s 38 ways to win an argument, but the point remains the same — win, or appear to win, at all costs. It is a battle of wills far more than it is a battle of intellects.
Nihilism is, literally, not believing in anything. This has been haunting Europe and the rest of the Western world for centuries but in our convenience-driven 30 second microwave popcorn capitalist culture it has become exacerbated. When you can satisfy your desires so easily the notion of believing in something and pursuing it in a disciplined way as your life’s work seems like too much fucking effort, to a lot of people anyway.
Also, capitalism has a curious ability to subsume and swallow up other cultures, even those that would appear to oppose it. In the most pure economic terms the welfare state is a way of getting working and middle class people to pay for the consequences of capitalism, so the capitalists don’t have to pay for it themselves. While we expect car owners to pay for regular checks and maintenance on their vehicles, we all pay for the checks on and maintenance of the oil industry. In 2015 the IMF estimated that fossil fuel industries receives global subsidies of over $5 trillion annually, more than all the governments in the world combined spend on healthcare. So we have what Chomsky called upside-down socialism — socialism largely paid for by the poor and largely benefiting the rich, the opposite of what socialism was supposed to be. Capitalism has successfully subsumed socialism.
As such, cultures that are opposed to or resistant of capitalism don’t tend to last that long or be especially successfully, that struggle leaving behind only the consumerist wasteland of cheap, short-term thrills. However, like all grand narratives the grand narrative of capitalism is failing. Those born after approximately 1975 will likely be less wealthy than their parents. The days of only spending 1 or 2 barrels of oil in order to produce 100 barrels for the market are well and truly over. Population growth has inevitably driven up property prices (as well as a capitalistic buy-to-let culture reducing homes to mere financial assets, and a lot of speculation in this market). The idea that we’re all going to get rich is no longer widely believed, so if even the consumerist wasteland is a myth then that leaves us with no grand narrative of any kind.
Rebounding from nihilism to fascism
With many feeling that there is nothing left to believe in, the harsh realities of fascism, which I would define as the will-to-power-as-force, became attractive.
I first noticed this in the ‘alternative media’ a.k.a. ‘the truth movement’. The string of high-profile mass shootings in the US in 2012, along with the failure of the prophecies about the London Olympics, left this subculture in a difficult place. Everything they’d believed in for the previous two or three years about the Olympics being a turning point of some kind, let alone the ridiculous Mayan calendar predictions, was rendered untrue by reality. Nothing happened at the Olympics. Nothing happened on December 21st 2012. These anti-climaxes only exacerbated the fractures and relativism of this largely online subculture.
It responded in two ways — first, to begin totally denying reality and claiming that no one died at Sandy Hook or in the 2013 Boston marathon and that these were faked events populated by ‘crisis actors’. When someone who was interviewed on the news turns out to have an IMDB page because they once had a bit-part in a sitcom this is brandished as proof that everything about the event is simulated. Cyberspace provides these people with somewhere to escape to, somewhere they can go to avoid reality and be praised and encouraged for doing so.
The other response, which is related, was to embrace a lack of sympathy for the victims and the bereaved. By the time of the Charlie Hebdo and associated attacks of early 2015 the kneejerk, instantaneous response was to dismiss the attacks as fake and to be hostile towards any eyewitness or survivor or relative of the victims. By the Paris massacre of late 2015 this evolved into ‘well, if you Muslims into Europe then this will happen’. In reality there’s a lot less terrorism in Western Europe now than there was in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
These two are related because in this small subculture fascism appears to be the only thing that provides a resistance to nihilism. For anyone considering themselves ‘alternative’ fascism is appealing because in recent decades it has become the benchmark of evil. If everything is fake and everything we’re told is a lie then fascism must actually be good, right?
Wrong. But that didn’t stop it.
Fascism and Trolling
This set of beliefs and attitudes spread beyond the ‘alt media’ subculture into the mainstream online trolling culture. Because the liberal consensus has treated fascism, and particularly Nazism, as the benchmark for evil it got lazy. Simply labelling something as fascist became accepted by many as a de facto refutation of it.
For trolls who want to appear edgy and argue for unpopular points of view, adopting fascist rhetoric and praising and following and supporting those who do the same was an enticing proposition. After all, if people have lost the ability to effectively argue against fascism then it’s catnip for trolls. The ease with which fascist trolls can infuriate mainstream liberals, to the point where the liberals fail to argue back and simply block or delete the trolls, gave them power and relevance. But this isn’t why Trump won or why people voted for Brexit. It may be why some people voted for Trump and Brexit, but the overwhelming majority do not fall into that category.
However, this didn’t stop media outlets of many sizes and persuasions from crediting the alt right with these ‘victories’, either from a supportive or a critical standpoint. The alt right is much bigger in the minds of its critics and its followers than it is in reality. They are very noisy and very active online and due to their refined trolling tactics are very good at drawing attention to themselves. Nonetheless, far more people voted for Trump because they were just going to vote Republican anyway than voted because of some alt right allegiance.
Peak Alt Right
Since the election of the Copper-coloured Cuck the alt right has gone through a range of emotions. At first, elation. Then came the dawning realisation that by celebrating they’d outed themselves in front of all their friends, both online and offline, so now their friends know that they are assholes who harbour some pretty fucked-up beliefs. In making these fascist undercurrents more overt Trump has actually taken away the perverse, repressed psychological motivations behind the undercurrents. Fascism is fun when it’s an edgy thing you pretend to believe in so you can troll liberals. When you’ve actually got to make some real-world decisions and try to defend real-world policies by an actual government then it becomes less fun.
I’ve witnessed this myself in resolving to change strategy with regards to these idiots. For a time I was guilty of the same ‘just block them/delete them’ attitude a lot of Left wingers had, and still have. But now I sometimes confront them. This is easier offline than it is online, because offline their little bag of tricks doesn’t get them very far.
But even online the dynamic has shifted. When they try turning defeat in an argument into victimisation by the politically correct liberal establishment that doesn’t work, because their man is now in the White House and their desired policies are being adopted by the Anglo-American governments. The notion that they’re a brave minority, a vanguard fighting the good fight, doesn’t have much power any more.
What I have found is that it doesn’t take long to turn them into gibbering, angry children if you simply refuse to play their game and just flat out disagree with them. They will hurl insults and accusations around and use every cliché available to them but when that’s over they have nothing left. For these people are not ideologically fascist, they are culturally fascist, which is a much weaker allegiance. As soon as something more attractive comes along, or as soon as they get bored of this particular political toy, it will be over.
And you know how it is — once word starts to spread that this party isn’t fun any more, people start to leave in droves.
A Prediction of the Future of the Alt Right
The alt right will fracture — being a small part of why Trump won will be the height of their influence. While fascism more broadly will continue and deserves a lot more attention, this relatively small movement of fringe weirdos will get bored, and the opposition to them will learn that humiliating and shaming them is more effective than getting angry, turning up their nose and refusing to talk to them.
- The wannabe rebels — They will likely flee the light being cast on them by their newfound mainstream significance. Given the role the internet plays in their life, their inability to recognise what is and isn’t rebellious and their current ideological allegiance I’m guessing most of them will join transhumanist cults.
- The neo-Nazi true believers — They will continue to get an inordinate amount of coverage for their street-level protests, occasional vicious violence and stupid haircuts. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned and shouldn’t have a strategy for confronting them but they are smaller in number than the current hysterical media coverage coming from liberal and left-wing sectors would have you believe.
- The nihilists — they will likely sink back into the depression and apathy they were in before it became popular to espouse explicitly fascist views. They neither have the psychological will nor the political allegiance to stick with this much longer.
Of course, I am an optimist when it comes to dealing with ordinary people and their almost invariably kneejerk, uninformed political beliefs. The only thing that really concerns me about them is the criminal violence — frankly, the state is perfectly capable of this regardless of who is in power and who their supporters are, but fascists are somewhat more likely than most to commit acts of savagery.
As such, the best response to this would be to pressure mainstream media to treat terrorism equally regardless of the beliefs of the perpetrators, and to begin to take on the loudmouths and show them and their beliefs and rhetoric for what they are. In short, the Left needs to relearn how to win arguments.