Alt-Right — Political Punk Rock

In the aftermath of a conversation with a conservative about the alt-right and today’s meltdown around Milo’s paedophilia comments, it got me thinking about what this conservative said. “Alt-right is cool”. I didn’t see it.

But reading about Milo’s third cancelled book deal made me think of how the Sex Pistols got fired repeatedly — and probably deliberately on their part — from various record labels. Could the alt-right REALLY be cool and I’m just too old a fucker to see it?

I found this article… and it makes sense and made me wonder, if the alt-right is the punk of politics, then who is the Johnny Lydon and more importantly who is the Malcolm McLaren?

I was born in ’69 and living in the UK saw punk as it happened through the eyes of a child, also the attitudes of my parents and the country around me. They were scary! I remember seeing these people with mo-hawks and leather jackets and they scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t understand them. My parents couldn’t and reacted against them dragging me to the other side of the street tutting under their breath. And the Sex Pistols were 100x worse.

Jump forward to the late 80’s and my record collection was full of Pistols albums, even the shit rehashes of compilations. Elvis Costello, X-Ray Specs, Rezillos. I loved the music.

1977 was the year of the Pistols where they were robbed on the #1 in the singles charts on the week of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee by…not the elitists as I hate the loading of that word…by the old guard. Punk burnt the UK like a pyromaniac with a gallon of petrol and box of matches. They set fire to the youth who had spent the last 10 years in double denim with flares. They set fire to the dull, dull bands pushed at the youth like Brotherhood of Man, Racey and Our Kid. Our Kid FFS!! If there was ever a reason to destroy pop it was Our Kid. And Steely Dan.

By 1979 the Pistols were finished. Their “best” work was done. Sid Vicious was about to die possibly from a heroin overdose after being bailed following the death of his girlfriend. But what came next, whilst not a shocking, was better. Bands like the Human League, Ultravox and Joy Division grew from the ashes left. Artists like David Bowie were given a new lease of life. And we never saw Our Kid again. And not much of Leo Sayer either.

So what about alt-right? Maybe alt-right has come about due to the same “things”. Punk was born out of the recession of the early 70's. I imagine the same factors that gave rise to the Liverpool scene of the 60's were behind the rise of punk, namely kids with no opportunity kicking against a system seen as indifferent and not helping them. Kids with time of their hands, no future and a need to vent. Is alt-right born out of similar failings? The prolonged recession of 2008. Governments so separated they no longer speak to the masses. Globalisation taking the few opportunities available and sending them abroad. Technology driving efficiency in the workforce, namely more jobs gone.

In that light alt-right is a symptom of a broken system. Not a symptom I like and certainly not a medicine I can swallow. Are our politicians, our “mainstream” media (whatever that is supposed to be) and institutions the old guard desperately trying to prop up and protect the system from voices they don’t understand, much like the BPI lying about “God Save the Queen” getting to #1?

I’m over 30 so the issues facing millennials are not really known to me but I am a father to a couple of kids who in the next 5-10 years will be looking to develop their lives away from home. And what is out there for them? Massive debt if they go to university. Internship where they can work for free to gain experience. Houses they can’t afford to buy. Automation slowly robbing them of jobs needed to pay rent and student debts. What life is that? With that in front of them, what have they got to lose? This is worse than the 70's so is it a surprise that the response is stronger too?

So I get some of the motivation, but I don’t get the direction. Where punk may have used fascist symbolism this was for shock value. It was the skinheads who grew out of punk with the same social alienation who seemed to represent a new nationalism and racism. I get the anger but I don’t get the channel of racism, misogyny, antisemitism etc.

Where next for the alt-right? What happened to punks and skinheads of old? They mostly settled down, got jobs, got their hair cut and joined the rest of society. Not all, but most. But are the circumstances different this time? Alt-right isn’t just angry teens. They comprise adults who have settled down but aren’t seeing the benefits they believed they’d see. Is alt-right here for a while as the drivers for it are so huge? Maybe. Is alt-right cool? Not by any measure I know.

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