The Most Influential Political Identities From Left To Right
As time goes on, the blanket labels of “left” and “right” become less and less useful in the United States political spectrum. The establishment Republican and Democratic parties still control our binary voting system and mass media narratives, but beneath the surface there are now countless new political identities that influence both parties at large. These identities have existed for decades, but the Internet has expedited their growth with more sources of information forming each year, providing more options for people to take their views beyond the traditional party framework. To provide some context on how we reached this point, we’ll first lay out how the party narratives have split over decades, then how the Internet laid a groundwork for new identities to emerge and divide people more than ever before. Once that’s set up, we’ll detail some of today’s most influential political identities and complete each section by listing some of their most prominent media outlets, groups, and figures.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LEFT-RIGHT MEDIA SPLIT
Much of the political polarization and media division we see today can be traced back between the 1940’s and 1960’s. In the 1940’s, both major parties were demographically diverse, but became more uniform and clearly divided into teams over the following decades. After WWII, conservative media began separating itself from establishment media with publications like Human Events because a growing portion of the population felt at odds with it (and vice versa) for various reasons. This division between the parties increased as conservatives continued to separate from the mainstream and feel disenfranchised by not only Democrats, but the government, education system, and rapidly shifting culture. In 1951, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote a book titled God and Man at Yale where he argued that Yale had been infested with liberal professors who were promoting secularism and expunging its Christian and capitalist roots. This sentiment was shared by many at the time who believed that New Deal-style liberalism was a slippery slope to communism. That, coupled with the Red Scare, McCarthyism, Civil Rights movement, gay liberation movement, psychedelic era, urban riots, demographic changes, new welfare policies, and labor union disputes, pushed conservatives further right, in part due to racism and other forms of bigotry, but also in part due to fear of change and government power. Far more research is required to fully contextualize the cultural divide of this period, but in summary, America was changing faster every day, feeling less familiar to traditionalist conservatives. Rural white voters specifically felt abandoned by the government in this time, which was in lockstep with the Democratic Party that held the majority party with 7/9 presidencies from 1932–1968. These combined factors coincided with a general mistrust of government and media that culminated in the initial rise of new conservatism with politicians like Barry Goldwater and the eventual election of Nixon in 1968.
By the 1980’s, Reagan became the total embodiment of new conservatism in America, allying with the Moral Majority, increasing the defense budget, cutting taxes, actively lobbying against communism, and reigniting the small government narrative. Then in 1987, everything changed. After decades of conservatives complaining about the media being liberal-leaning, they succeeded in abolishing the Fairness Doctrine, which had been in place since 1949 to insure that controversial news presented “balanced” perspectives. Conservatives felt for years that this balance was biased toward the left and that they needed freedom to present their views without restriction, hence the immediate explosion of conservative talk radio that came to dominate the AM radio waves, and Fox News shortly after. From the 1990’s onward, conservative media became increasingly right-wing as it abandoned the mainstream, which arguably caused portions of establishment media to become more left-leaning over time as a counterbalance.
By the 1990’s the entire media landscape had revolutionized. The OJ Simpson trial perpetuated the 24 hour news cycle and the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal propelled the careers of countless new journalists (and media outlets). Then the online revolution hit. By the 2000’s, the Internet was forming a platform for everyone to participate in real time, making the events of this decade more magnified than any past generation. Several landmark factors substantially contributed to the political splintering we experience today, some including the controversial election of Bush in 2000, 9/11, global terrorism and wars in the Middle East, the 2007–08 financial crisis, election of Obama, loss of manufacturing jobs and other key industries, rise of global capitalism, mass immigration, mental health issues, student loan debt crisis, income inequality, modern social justice movements, Gamergate, and the 2016 election cycle.
People would now react to these events online, causing other people to react to those reactions, soon causing everyone to react to everything as the Internet became more centralized through social media. This created unprecedented sociological and psychological changes in the way people interact (mostly for the worse). After the 2007–08 financial crisis there was the rise of the Tea Party movement, which largely contributed to the recent emergence of libertarianism, as well as the Occupy movement, which largely contributed to the recent emergence of socialism. In 2013, social justice movements like Black Lives Matter began emerging in response to decades of systemic injustice, which led to the emergence of reactionary movements like All Lives Matter. The list goes on. Needless to say, the more movements and events emerged, polarization increased, making it impossible for the general population to be on the same page. Too many narratives, not enough bandwidth. Plus this technology was brand new and billions of people gained access to it within a few short years, so it was like cramming a bunch of infants into a room then watching chaos ensue. Everyone was hearing and sharing heated opinions on public platforms for the first time. In the past there were only a few newspapers, radio stations, or news channels. The Internet paved the way for media to create endless sources for people to consume, resulting in people being more easily informed, but also easily misinformed. Over time, echo chambers started insulating everyone from outside viewpoints and those in power began capitalizing on the feedback loop of manufactured outrage from their differences.
Today, those on the left, right, and everywhere in between have all come to interpret the political spectrum through different lenses with different Overton windows. For example, Constitutionalists believe that the government has become too powerful and inefficient since the founding of America, so the lens they view our current political spectrum through is an interpretation of the founding father’s beliefs. Many people on the right share these views and have been pushing far-right economic and social policies that reflect it. On the opposing end is Social Democrats who believe that the government should be doing more to curb economic inequality and enact similar tax policies to the 1930’s-1970’s when there were top marginal tax brackets around 70% . Many people on the left share these views and have been pushing far-left economic and social policies that reflect it. Point being, we’ve lost our ability to communicate across the aisle, largely because our political lenses are so far removed from one another in a time of heightened polarization. We’re speaking different languages. Many conservatives think liberals hate America and many liberals think conservatives love it a little too much. Most people don’t even try to be accurate with their labels or descriptors anymore because the whole process has become exhausting and these nuances have become so difficult to follow that they just straw man their political opposition without seeking to understand them.
All that said, the political identities listed below are meant to help bring people closer to the same reality of what we consider far-left, moderate-left, moderate-right, far-right, and so on, based primarily around the 2019 United States political system. The measurements used to categorize these identities are based these factors: public work, associations, funding, audiences, and influence —not just what a given individual refers to themselves as. This analysis is naturally subjective, but as many balanced descriptions and supporting links will be provided with the intent to fairly represent each identity (within reason). Prominent media outlets, groups, and figures will be listed at the end of each section that include newspapers, blogs, journalists, radio hosts, actors, think tanks, pundits, politicians, YouTubers, podcasters, Twitter users, and so on, because some of the most politically influential sources are found in culture itself, not only the news or politicians.
~Enjoy the show~
Anarchism is the fringe of leftism and consists of subgroups like anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, hackers, crypto-anarchists, and countless other flavors, not including anarcho-capitalism (which is essentially far-right libertarianism). Anarchists reject societal norms and being boxed into a binary political spectrum. They instead view their ideology through lenses of activism, organized unions, and so on. They’re opposed to all forms of statism and are skeptical of hierarchy in all forms, making them critical of capitalism by nature. They support democracy in small, manageable forms, rather than state-run social systems. They also look to an eventual revolution via the abolition of wage labor, currency, and state-led hierarchies. Anarchism is most notably represented by political groups like antifa, street art communities, and punk music scenes.
When anarchists protest or vandalize institutions and public spaces, they aim to cause harm to what they deem to be symbols of oppression. Since many within this identity believe society’s institutions and infrastructures are inherently oppressive, some of them also believe that the use of violence is justified toward people with ideologies they consider dangerous in many controversial instances, most famously with the punching of the white nationalist, Richard Spencer. In recent years, violent acts by antifa have been highlighted by the media and led to a heightened “bothsidesism” debate in contrast to far-right extremism. There are various anarchist groups and movements all over the world, and through social media today they’re somewhat organized with communicating ideas, goals, and differences, but they still have no centralized leadership, ideology, or organization. Anarchists make up a marginal percent of the population, but they are vocal, provocative, and effective at furthering their political goals on small scales.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Anarchist News, It’s Going Down, 325, Insurrectionist News, Earth First!, CrimethInc, Anti-Fascist News, Antifada, Libcom, Channel Zero Network, Infoshop, Antifa, Contra Info, The Anarchist Library, r/Anarchism, Adbusters, Kalle Lasn, David Graeber, Beau of The Fifth Column, Greg Graffin (Bad Religion), Jamie Elizabeth, Edward Snowden, Alan Moore, Björk, Machine Gun Kelly, Cristy Road, Bob Black, Mark Bray, and Noam Chomsky, among countless other individuals, movements, and organizations.
General leftists primarily center their social and economic philosophy around class struggle, as derived from Marx. Rather than viewing the political spectrum as Republican vs. Democrat, they contrast the bourgeois (upper middle-class, colonist, elite, powerful) and proletariat (working-class, immigrant, indigenous, minority, etc.). Leftism is a difficult political identity to define because it includes a wide range of ideologies from anarchism to communism to democratic socialism to social democracy, which then also subdivide into more (often semantic) variations. They could each use their own subgroups, but because leftism has such little mainstream political representation in the United States today, most of them are currently allied with each other under a general umbrella. However, as leftism becomes more mainstream in the Democratic Party, there will be more definitive splits between these identities. Leftists have been a growing minority within the left-wing of the United States in the wake of the Occupy movements and especially since Bernie Sanders entered the 2016 election. Consider how Sander’s policy propositions of free healthcare, education, and a $15 minimum wage were considered extreme in 2016, yet are now mainstream platforms that many Democratic candidates are running on in 2020.
Far-leftists emphasize wealth redistribution by nationalizing the private sector to give workers the means of production with the end goal being some form of socialism, communism, or anarchism. Moderate-leftists like Social Democrats and some left-leaning liberals emphasize mixing private and public enterprises through wealth distribution with marginal tax rates, unions, and other democratized means with the end goal of a mixed economy. General leftists emphasize free healthcare and education for all, similar to European countries, as well as non-interventionism/anti-imperialism, and decreased (or abolished) militarism/policing. They also have a range of approaches to politics from traditional reporting and academia to irony-infused trolling and protesting. There are prominent groups like the amorphous blob of “Weird Twitter” (which strongly intersects with “Left Twitter”), as well as the YouTube community “Leftube” (or Breadtube) that have had substantial cultural impact online in the past several years. As stated before, nearly all far-leftists and moderate-leftists cross-pollinate to a degree in today’s current political system due to lack of mainstream representation.
Prominent Far-Leftist Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Jacobin, Current Affairs (Nathan J. Robinson), AlterNet, Democracy At Work, Citations Needed, Zero Books, Chapo Trap House (Will Menaker, Matt Christman, Amber A’Lee Frost, Felix Biederman, Virgil Texas), r/ChapoTrapHouse, r/communism, r/socialism, r/LateStageCapitalism, r/EnlightenedCentrism, r/breadtube, Contrapoints, Philosophy Tube, Three Arrows, hbomberguy, Shaun, Some More News (Cody Johnston), The Humanist Report, NonCompete, Richard Wolff, David Harvey, Cornel West, Angela Davis, Michael Brooks, Benjamin Dixon, Matt Bors, Katie Halper, Owen Jones, Ben Burgis, Hasan Piker, Briahna Joy Green, Nathan Bernard, Rob Delaney, Patrick Monohan, Matt Bruenig, Slavoj Žižek, Douglas Lain, Bhaskar Sunkara, David Klion, Vic Berger, @KrangTNelson, @fart, @classiclib3ral, @leyawn, @pixelatedboat, and @existentialcoms, among countless other individuals, movements, and organizations.
Prominent Moderate Leftist Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: The Intercept (Glenn Greenwald, Lee Fang), Splinter News, In These Times, TruthDig, Truthout, Haaretz, The David Pakman Show, The Majority Report (Sam Seder), The Jimmy Doore Show, Democracy Now! (Amy Goodman), Secular Talk (Kyle Kulinski), Justice Democrats, Cum Town, Under The Skin with Russell Brand, Anand Giridharadas, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Julie Salazar, Chris Hedges, Yanis Varoufakis, Malaika Jabali, Ashley Feinberg, Jordan Uhl, and Angela Nagle, among countless other individuals, movements, and organizations.
Left-leaning progressivism doesn’t have the same ideological fundamentalism as leftism or liberalism in their pure forms. It sits in this grey area between the two, split by rhetorical focus as well as social and economic perspectives. For instance, some sources in this category may align with 1 or 2 leftist policies, but remain liberal on others. You could subjectively interchange many moderate-leftists with left-leaning progressives as well. Many of them often get accused of being too liberal by leftists, while being too leftist by liberals and conservatives. Since pure leftism is rarely represented in the mainstream, this subgroup is often viewed as the “far-left” in establishment media. They embrace their Democratic partisanship and push for all social justice causes, while also criticizing the extremities of capitalism and conservatism.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: MSNBC, Vox, Mic, Slate, Mother Jones, Washington Post, The Nation, The New Republic, NowThis News, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Right Wing Watch, The Young Turks (Cenk Uygar, Ana Kasparian, Emma Vigeland), r/Progressive, Potholer54, T1J, Boing Boing, The Real News Network, People For The American Way, Newslogue, Democracy Alliance, New Economic Thinking, Pod Save America, Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall), Destiny, r/Destiny, Duncan Black, Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, Ezra Klein, Juan Cole, David Sirota, Andrew Yang, Jim Hightower, John Fugelsang, Nicholas Kristof, Kara Swisher, Ken Klippenstein, Naomi Klein, Paul Krugman, Michael Tracey, Michael Moore, PZ Myers, Anne Applebaum, Chelsea Manning, Nina Turner, Tulsi Gabbard, Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, George Soros, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Fantano, among countless other individuals, movements, and organizations.
SOCIAL JUSTICE PROGRESSIVES
This identity is referred to as the “social justice left” or “identity politic left.” These are left-leaning progressives and general liberals who primarily focus on minority issues such as racism, feminism, anti-Muslim bigotry, multiculturalism, and LGBTQ+. Their ideology is based on group identity by race, ethnicity, and gender, rather than by individuality or class, so it’s hard to pin them on a scale of leftism vs. liberalism. When a major event or tragedy occurs that gains hot media coverage around subjects like gun control, police violence, immigration, or sexual assault, they build activism around it in real time. The adherents included are partially divided among themselves since they draw focus toward people’s inherent differences. This leads to in-group tensions, whether it be third-wave feminists vs. fourth-wave feminists, TERFs and trans people, Black Lives Matter and gay pride, antisemitism in the Women’s March, and so on. Today that’s largely being addressed through intersectionality, a framework that attempts to analyze how interwoven marginalized groups interact with one another in a hierarchy (satirized by political opponents as the “oppression olympics”).
This identity is the most stereotyped on the left by critics, arguably because some of its most vocal members are egotistical young people in college or on social media sites like Tumblr who get turned into caricatures. Some of them make hyperbolic statements like “white men must be stopped” or “kill all men” that perpetuate backlash from cultural majorities like straight, white, Christian, men, who in turn feel confused, personally attacked, or just generally opposed to the rhetoric. Social justice progressives argue that provocative approaches are the most effective at drawing attention to their causes. Since they strongly focus on identity, the fringes do have the potential to slip into bigoted ideologies, one example being the black nationalist group Nation of Islam, which believes that black people have innate superiority over white people. Excluding extreme fringes, the majority of figures within social justice progressivism aim to preserve group heritage, fight injustice, hate, and push for equitable treatment for minorities by empowering their communities in order to progress culture as a whole, so naturally there’s a wide spectrum of good, bad, useful, and not useful approaches included. With social media becoming more centralized, being “woke” to social justice causes is now seen as a cultural standard in popular social media circles and pop culture.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: BuzzFeed, HuffPost, Salon, MoveOn, ThinkProgress, Jezebel, The Root, Refinery29, The Breakfast Club, Teen Vogue, Rewire.News, ACLU, SPLC, Code Pink, Planned Parenthood, National LGBTQ Task Force, GLAAD, NALEO, Association on American Indian Affairs, Feminist Frequency, MTV Decoded, Everyday Feminism, Feminist Majority Foundation, Tumblr, r/Tumblr, r/ShitRedditSays, r/Feminism, Dan Savage, Parker Molloy, marinashutup, Amy Siskind, Opal Tometi, Michael Skolnik, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Ijeoma Oluo, Tariq Nasheed, Tarana Burke, Alyssa Milano, Alicia Garza, Jamil Smith, Bernice King, DeRay McKesson, Larry Wilmore, TheAdviseShowTV, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Shaun King, Ashley C. Ford, Sally Kohn, Carol Anderson, Shannon Watts, Colin Kaepernick, Kat Blaque, Cameron Kasky, Ellen DeGeneres, Al Sharpton, Imani Gandy, Riley J. Dennis, Jamelle Bouie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Tim Wise, Zinnia Jones, Ruth H. Hopkins, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Jesse Jackson, Brittany Packnett, Eddie Glaude, Linda Sarsour, Jordan Peele, Reza Aslan, Lauren Duca, Laurie Penny, Samuel Sinyangwe, Michelle Alexander, Michael Eric Dyson, Shonda Rhimes, Brianna Wu, Arthur Chu, Emma Watson, John Lewis, Jelani Cobb, Gloria Steinem, Kathy Griffin, Roxane Gay, Racism Watchdog, and Clint Smith, among many other figures, movements, and organizations.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS AND GREEN PARTY
Environmentalism has been around for decades and encompasses a range of causes and organizations with various beliefs, from the negative impacts of factories, cars, greenhouse gasses, and mass agriculture, but it became politically charged on the mainstream left-wing in the early 2000’s. This was due to the focus on global warming/climate change in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and the 2007 grassroots demonstration Step It Up. There’s also a major contingent of climate change denial in the U.S., making this a politically polarized issue. These deniers claim that there’s no way to know how much human activity is responsible for current climate change and the data involved is often associated with the Koch brothers, fossil fuels lobby, and conservative think tanks, which make up over 90% of the climate change skeptical papers. The industry itself has an annual income of over $900 million and exists to counter government regulations on certain industries because they view environmentalism as limiting wealth creation and social developments. This attitude began in the 1980’s as conservatives became hyper-individualistic and more skeptical of government, as well as of counterculture movements (e.g. hippies). Today, environmentalism is largely seen as a left-wing position and influences multiple identities within the Democratic Party.
Note: there are countless conservationists on the right-wing as well who work with public lands to conserve them through the purchase of fishing or hunting licenses, gear, merchandise, and subscriptions, all of which are taxed and pour billions of dollars into conservation efforts. That said, these groups are not as politicized as environmentalism on the left-wing.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Earthjustice, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, Deep Green Resistance, Sierra Club Foundation, Greenpeace, The International Union For Conservation of Nature, Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson, Jane Goodall, Peggy Shepard, Will Potter, Al Gore, Jill Stein, Ralph Nader, Laurie David, David Attenborough, Winona LaDuke, Vandana Shiva, Amory Lovins, David Suzuki, Daryl Hannah, Lois Gibbs, Bill McKibben, Pierce Brosnan, Lester R Brown, Erin Brockovich, Julia Butterfly Hill, Jonathon Porritt, David Bellamy, James Lovelock, Peter Garrett, Elizabeth May, Marina Silva, Frances Beinecke, George Monbiot, Sylvia Earle, Leonardo DiCaprio, among countless other individuals, movements, and organizations.
PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANS AND SPIRITUALISTS
This identity is the other side of the coin to the Christian conservative population of the U.S that we’ll cover below. It’s not nearly as large, funded, or culturally represented, but it’s grown significantly in the past 20 years with the rise of secularism and critiques of conservative religion(s). Many people who leave forms of Christian conservatism migrate to this range of ideologies from progressive Christianity to forms of spiritually curious agnosticism. It also runs parallel with new age figures like Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert, Deepak Chopra, or Eckhart Tolle, all of whom primarily appeal to people who are more “open” and subsequently hold left-leaning political ideologies.
The central message of progressive Christianity or spiritualism is that of “inclusion” toward the “other” when it comes to scriptural interpretation, meaning they believe God accepts and wants equity for atheists, LGBTQ+, women, Muslims, and so forth. Many progressive Christians also don’t believe in a literal Hell, which is diametrically opposed to most sects of Protestantism or Catholicism that fit within Christian conservatism. The ideology as a whole is loosely structured to reform Christianity in more contemporary ways. Some of the representative figures are more theologically invested, while others are more politically, philosophically, or socially invested with their rhetoric, but most of them share associations and common goals or beliefs.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Sojourners (Jim Wallis), The Center For Progressive Christianity, Red Letter Christians, Patheos, Faith In Public Life, Rob Bell, The Bible For Normal People (Pete Enns), Peter Rollins, Homebrewed Christianity (Tripp Fuller), Seminary Dropout, ReKnew (Greg Boyd), On Being (Krista Tippett), Bruxy Cavey, Brian Zahnd, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Richard Rohr, Frederick Buechner, Pete Holmes, Kate Bowler, The Liturgists, Science Mike, Jen Hatmaker, Diana Butler Bass, Elizabeth Esther, Brian McLaren, Sarah Bessey, Austin Channing Brown, Broderick Greer, Matthew Vines, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, John Pavlovitz, and Glennon Doyle, among countless other individuals, movements, and organizations.
Establishment Democrats fall into the “general liberal” box listed below for the most part, but they’re more ideologically tied to the party itself, as well as Washington D.C. and the government. They’re politicians who associate with the bankers, billionaires, hedge fund managers, super PACS, and other behind-the-scenes influences that sway political outcomes. They are the face of the Democratic Party and are backed up by the establishment.
Prominent Figures: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Ed Rendell, Amy Klobuchar, Nancy Pelosi, Beto O’Rourke, Maxine Waters, Eric Holder, Ted Lieu, Chuck Schumer, John Podesta, Andrew Cuomo, Al Gore, Claire McCaskill, Tim Kaine, Bob Casey Jr., Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Ann Kirkpatrick, John Delaney, Mazie Hirono, Dick Durbin, Chris Murphy, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, Richard Blumenthal, among countless other politicians.
General liberals believe in a mixed free market economy that emphasizes policies geared toward equality of outcome and social justice. They favor capitalism more than leftists but less than conservatives. The most apparent difference between liberals and conservatives is their social attitudes toward the use of government. Liberals push for government to improve education, healthcare, environmental regulation, and help reduce inequality through means like welfare or affirmative action. Some figures in this identity consider themselves moderate compared to social justice progressives or Establishment Democrats, yet most of their policy positions still align with the party. Bill Clinton leaned into this sentiment during his presidency for those who felt trapped between extreme left and right. General liberals tend to live in cities and have the most influence in academia, pop culture, and establishment media. Most people from centrists to progressives label themselves liberal, so unfortunately the term has lost a succinct meaning. Whereas the most widely popular influences for conservatives are found on Fox News and talk radio, the most popular widely popular influences for liberals are found on late night/comedy shows and center-left news outlets.
Note: leftists define this as “the center” of the political spectrum because the rhetoric and policy from here to the far-right fits into a neoliberal (capitalist) framework, which leftists define as right-wing since the U.S. has no substantial leftist party as defined in most of Europe, etc.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, BBC, The New York Times, The Atlantic, NPR, The Hill, The Daily Beast, Daily Kos, Majority Forward, Highway 31, Al Jazeera, Crooked Media, SNL, TIME, Rolling Stone, Google News, Yahoo News, Hollywood, The Jim Jefferies Show, The Daily Show (Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah), Democratic Coalition, Everytown, The Resistance, Hasan Minjaj, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Late Night With Seth Meyers, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Five Thirty Eight (Nate Silver), James Fallows, r/Politics, r/Democrats, Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell, Real Time With Bill Maher, Center For American Progress, The Monkey Cage, Max Blumenthal, Sarah Silverman, Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, Michelle Wolf, Chris Cuomo, Louis Theroux, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Jim Acosta, Judd Legum, Meryl Streep, George Takei, Van Jones, Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jim Carrey, Stephen King, Shonda Rhimes, Judd Apatow, Rob Reiner, and Warren Buffet, among countless other individuals, movements, and organizations.
CENTRIST LIBERALS AND MODERATES
This identity is where centrists, moderates, fence-sitters, and people who think in ideas over policy are lumped in, separating them from those who hold more rigid political ideologies, but not exempting them from forming group identities. They rarely make absolute statements on political positions, instead they cover topics that affect politics more indirectly, like moral philosophy, comedy, artificial intelligence, education, religion, drugs, sports, and so on. Figures from here to centrist conservatives (and beyond in some cases) often share views in unconventional ways. For example, they may be proponents of free healthcare and also less gun control. The value of free speech (being critical of PC culture) strongly unites them. Anyone this close to the broadly defined political center tends to be skeptical of both major parties and also tends to lean slightly more rightward due to many potential factors. One reason could be that the right has a lower barrier to entry in today’s climate, others could be that they feel disenfranchised by the Democratic Party, the growing trend of social justice progressivism, leftism, or other aspects commonly associated with the party like cancel culture or call-out culture.
Depending on how you view a given person in this area, you may consider them on the right or the left. Joe Rogan is the perfect example of someone who could be persuasively labeled as left or right-wing. On one hand, he’s hosted an array of high profile people from the right on his show that has tailored his platform and audience toward that side. He’s pro-gun, exerts libertarian attitudes, and he spends substantially more time and passion criticizing the left than the right. On the other hand, he’s pro-choice, anti-war, agnostic, believes in man-made climate change, wants free healthcare and education for all, has an open demeanor, and still hosts guests from the left. Any high-profile person like this will be subject to polarization and that’s what you get with these figures. They don’t fit into traditional labels, so they’re creating their own. These are your contrarians, freethinkers, independents, and black sheep. The adherents of this identity range from public intellectuals to opportunists and useful idiots, and they are often as praised as they are criticized. Also included here are a few center-left news and media sources.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: The Intellectual Dark Web, Heterdox Academy, Quillette, Areo Magazine, RationalWiki, Bloomberg, PBS NewsHour, TED, USA Today, Bloggingheads, Pantsuit Politics, Sam Harris, Joe Rogan, Dan Carlin, John Dickerson, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Sarah Haider, Slate Star Codex, Rationally Speaking (Julia Galef), Jonathan Haidt, John McWhorter, H3H3, Philip DeFranco, Cult of Dusty, Bari Weiss, Meghan Murphy, Ian Bremmer, Eric Weinstein, Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Stephen Fry, Robert Reich, and Noah Smith, among many other individuals, news sources, and groups.
No universal political center exists because each person defines the left and right through different lenses. People on the far-left believe that centrism is the establishment Democratic Party and people on the far-right believe that centrism is more center-right as seen with individuals who are socially liberal and economically conservative. Others think that the lenses of political policy or public rhetoric are the best label indicators. For example, a commentator like Tim Pool may claim to be on the left, but a glance at his content shows that the vast majority of rhetoric is aimed toward a right-leaning audience, as are his public associations. So what is he? There is no way to satisfy everyone because some people identify as one thing, yet represent another in practice.
When people call themselves “centrists” today, they often mean that they have strong views on both sides of the political spectrum. Some who fall in this category think that this transcends them beyond the two party system and that they are now enlightened compared to everyone else who chooses a “team.” This ideology has been satirized heavily for many reasons because in reality, people will always gravitate toward whatever reaffirms their biases and no amount of moderation exempts someone from forming an ideology. Most media outlets and public figures know that objectivity is impossible, but many of them still strive to be impartial with their work by setting biases aside and approaching news and research with more facts than narratives on whatever side they play for. Although this is an insurmountable task on individual levels, some outlets do a better job attempting it than others. Below are some sources that strike this balance, but again, it will weigh differently for each person so they are not objectively “center.”
Prominent Centrist and Moderate Media Outlets: Reuters, Politico, Associated Press, Foreign Affairs, Big Think, C-SPAN, Gallup, Pew Research, PolitiFact, Intelligence Squared, The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor, International Fact Checking Network, Snopes, AllSides, r/ChangeMyView, r/NeutralPolitics, and WikiNews, among several other sources that attempt to stay impartial.
CENTRIST CONSERVATIVES AND MODERATES
Similar to centrist liberals and moderates, this identity has a wide range from conservative-leaning centrists to classical liberals to libertarians and beyond. Some of these sources could be labeled center-left or far-right as well depending on how you weigh certain rhetoric or associations. Again, this point of the political spectrum is very difficult to categorize because it attempts to reject traditional labels. Many of these people included think more philosophically and focus on culture wars, rather than specific policies or party lines. They tend to be anti-PC, anti-establishment media, and pro-free speech, with conservative-leaning affinities. They are found predominantly on YouTube, podcasts, Reddit, and other online forums. The YouTube skeptic community is included here as well since many of them veered right in the aftermath of Gamergate. Many of them either defend Trump or support him outright, but not necessarily in voting or party allegiance. They claim to do this to counter the establishment narrative that is biased against him (etc.).
A growing minority of disenfranchised professors, comedians, and philosophers who view themselves outside the extreme left and right are also included here. Since this group largely emerged as a reaction to the culture wars of 2013–2016 (Black Lives Matter, fourth-wave feminism, LGBTQ+ movements, college campus censorship) they tend to attract more audiences from the right. Many of them cover topics that are deemed “taboo” by the establishment media of the left, such as Islamic extremism, biological sex differences, and critiquing social justice movements. Since the left rarely addresses these criticisms and has developed an intolerance toward those who do, many people who once identified on the left have moved further right to this identity. Interestingly enough, prior to the culture wars, most of these individuals would have been rejected by the right for their critical views of religion, positive attitudes toward gay marriage, and so on, but the culture wars have shifted the Overton window in a way where a sizeable portion of the right now comfortably allies with these individuals.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: The Intellectual Dark Web, Heterdox Academy, Hoover Institution, Quillette, Areo Magazine, The Fire, RealClear Politics, Subverse, r/KotakuInAction, r/TumblrInAction, The Glenn Show with Glenn Loury, Amy Alkon, Melissa Chen, Gad Saad, Tim Pool, James Damore, Maajid Nawaz, David Brooks, Christina Hoff Sommers, Camille Paglia, Arthur Brooks, Clay Routledge, Geoffrey Miller, Laci Green, David Burge, Karen Straughan, Nick Di Paolo, Bridget Phetasy, Conor Friedersdorf, Jordan Peterson, Tyler Cowen, Josh Barro, Tom Nichols, Andy Ngo, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dr. Debra Soh, Blaire White, Armoured Skeptic, Cassie Jaye, Lindsay Shepherd, My Name Is Josephine, PewDiePie, 1791, Lauren Chen, thunderf00t, The Thinkery, Ian Miles Chong, Bunty King, Shoe0nHead, @neontaster, @Halalcoholism, @TheSafestSpace, @RealPeerReview, @RealYeyoZa, @OrwelleNGoode, among many other individuals, outlets, and organizations.
Libertarians tend to be more socially liberal and economically conservative than general conservatives. They take the idea of individual freedom to its root, believing that each person should have the right to do anything without government oversight unless it comes to infringing on someone else’s rights. The most fundamentalist libertarians could be considered anarcho-capitalists, who want to abolish the government entirely. Short of that, various sects of libertarians want to deregulate corporations and infrastructure like conservatives, but also want to legalize drugs/prostitution and are for free trade/migration, separating them from traditional conservatives and reactionaries on the far-right. More moderate libertarians go issue by issue. Many of the previously listed conservative centrist and moderates share positions and affiliations here, but this identity is more aligned politically.
Modern usage of the term “classical liberalism” is virtually identically to libertarianism. This term has been reemerging by way of figures like Dave Rubin, who began building a platform in 2015 by labeling himself a classical liberal who was “on the left,” yet he began to exclusively host figures from the right and express libertarian ideas. The case of Rubin is important in discussing how language is crucial to how we perceive and discuss political labels. Someone can claim to have certain beliefs, but the ultimate measuring stick is their public work, associations, funding, audiences, and influence. Libertarianism and classical liberalism appeal to people who want less government involvement in their lives and believe that private institutions like churches, non-profits, and corporations would do a more efficient job at programs like social welfare or our current tax model.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Reason (Nick Gillespie, Matt Welch, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Michael Moynihan), The Fifth Column, Instapundit, Freedom Caucus, Cato Institute, Adam Smith blog, The Rubin Report (Dave Rubin), The Volokh Conspiracy, Learn Liberty, r/Libertarian, Kmele Foster, Penn Jillete, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Jeff Bezos, Adam Carolla, Charles Koch, David Koch, Walter E. Williams, John Stossel, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Shermer, Cathy Young, Peter Thiel, Thomas Sowell, Howard Stern, Jesse Ventura, Larry Elder, Charles Murray, Glenn Beck, Greg Gutfeld, Niall Ferguson, David Weigel, Clint Eastwood, Styxhexenhammer666, and Mike Rowe, among other individuals, outlets, and organizations.
General conservatives favor tradition, hierarchy, religion, authority, and property rights. Many of them oppose modernism and wish for society to move slower or go back to the way things were. They favor free market capitalism in its purest form and reject criticisms of it, while viewing the government’s role as small, except when it infringes on their religious beliefs or when it comes to expanding national security and military. They also believe that if social justice should be progressed, it should be through individuality, not group identity, which is a fundamental difference between the two major parties. Since general conservatives are against most government regulation and certain sects of science (e.g. climate change), they’re against enforced environmental practices, education reform, healthcare reform, and so on. They believe that if these problems are real, that the private free market should take care of them. General conservatives are highly patriotic, tend to live in rural areas, and dominate AM talk radio, as well as most alternative media.
Some sources here could be considered Establishment Republicans, some more far-right, while others are more moderate. In recent years many people in this identity have stopped referring to themselves as “Republicans” and started using various labels from “constitutionalists” to “independents” to “populists” to “#NeverTrumpers” to “Tea Party” and so on, as a way to distance themselves from the establishment. This subgroup includes some sources who identify in these camps, but it’s worth noting that there are other sources who may use these labels, but fall on other parts of the spectrum. For example, neoconservatives tend to be more hawkish in their foreign policy positions and strongly believe in American exceptionalism. They could fall into the general conservative subgroup, but many people on the far-right are neoconservatives as well (as are some Establishment Democrats). General conservatives see the world through lenses like pro-America and pro-liberty, both of which are attractive to anyone who temperamentally values security, tradition, and individuality.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Fox News, NRA, New York Post, The Daily Caller, Conservative Talk Radio, The Wall Street Journal, National Review, Drudge Report, RedState, The Blaze, The Spectator, American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute, Newsmax TV, The Federalist, The Daily Wire (Ben Shapiro), PragerU (Dennis Prager), One America News, Campus Reform, The American Conservative, Young America’s Foundation, The Washington Free Beacon, Freedom Caucus, Accuracy In Media, Media Research Center, Newsbusters, Live Action, The Next News Network, Conservapedia, Project Veritas (James O’Keefe), Twitchy (Michelle Malkin), The Fallen State (Jesse Lee Peterson), r/Conservative, r/Republican, The Wilks Brothers, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Roger Ailes, Rush Limbaugh, Dana Perino, Mark Levin, Sebastian Gorka, Dan Bongino, Sheldon Adelson, Ana Navarro, Rick Wilson, Lou Dobbs, Hugh Hewitt, Dana Loesch, Bill Kristol, David Frum, Amy Kremer, Allie Beth Stuckey, Joe Walsh, Diamond and Silk, Actual Justice Warrior, Sinatra Says, Keemstar, Turning Point USA (Charlie Kirk), Colion Noir, Scott Adams, Candace Owens, Steven Crowder, Matt Christiansen, Tomi Lahren, Anthony Brian Logan, Stephen L. Miller, Ross Douthat, Kaitlin Bennett, Chad Felix Greene, Jonah Goldberg, Ramesh Ponnuru, Max Boot, Bret Stephens, David French, The Amazing Lucas, Andrew Klavan, Jeff Foxworthy, James Woods, Mollie Hemingway, Rod Dreher, Steve Schmidt, Nigel Farage, Ezra Levant, David Cameron, Katie Pavlich, Foster Friess, Ben Sasse, Joe Biggs, Ryan Saavedra, Theresa May, Dave Ramsey, Rob Schneider, Shelby Steele, Michael Medved, Tom Gresham, Chuck Baldwin, Roger Hedgecock, Neal Boortz, David Horowitz, @allahpundit, @comfortablysmug, among countless other individuals, movements, and organizations.
Establishment Republicans fall into the “general conservative” box listed above for the most part, but they’re more ideologically tied to the party itself, as well as Washington D.C. and the government. They’re politicians who associate with the bankers, billionaires, hedge fund managers, super PACS, and other behind-the-scenes influences that sway political outcomes. They are the face of the Republican Party and are backed up by the establishment.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Laura Ingraham, Meghan McCain, Mike Huckabee, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Mitch McConnell, George W. Bush, Marco Rubio, Betsy DeVos, Herman Cain, Paul Ryan, Jeanine Pirro, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Clarence Thomas, Evan McMullen, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Roy Moore, Mitt Romney, Allen West, and Kellyanne Conway, John Bolton, Rick Perry, Elliott Abrams, and Mike Pompeo, among countless other politicians.
Since the formation of the Moral Majority in 1979, Christian conservatives have been the largest voting demographic in the United States with some studies citing that around three-quarters (73%) of Republicans belong to a white Christian religious group. Christianity is foundational to the majority of rural America and is funneled into communities through churches, radio networks, media companies, public figures, and so on. It’s been one of the biggest influences on U.S. politics since the 1980’s with nearly every politician identifying as Christian, including 88% of Congress. That said, Christian conservatives also have little to no sway in establishment media or pop culture, both of which are dominantly liberal and secular. To reiterate a common theme throughout this piece, most people don’t form their political views directly from politicians, but rather from culture, families, communities, media habits, and personal interests. This is relevant because just as liberal politics are being preached covertly (or overtly) in establishment media, conservative politics are being preached either covertly (or overtly) in most churches throughout America today, especially around topics like abortion and gay marriage, which often appeal to single-issue voters who Republicans win by default. Many religious teachers also drum up nationalism by teaching that America is a Christian country and LGBTQ+ people, atheists, Muslims, and liberals are changing the country’s culture for the worse by uprooting their values. This is why so many of them are homeschooled or put through private institutions. Many churches teach that America is God’s chosen country, hence the strong correlation between the religion and forces like police or military who protect it.
Going back to the idea that Christian conservatism has little to no representation in establishment media and pop culture, this plays into their narrative of oppression (or “trials and tribulations”). Despite America being overwhelmingly Christian in population, the most culturally influential cities like Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and New York City, are all hubs for secular, liberal culture. This creates a stalemate where Christian conservatives are still an influential majority across the country and in political office, but due to the rapid rise of secular, liberal culture in major cities (and social media), it’s increasingly more common for Christian conservatives to be ridiculed or harassed for their identity. Those on the left demean this reality by saying that it’s marginal compared to what most minorities have faced throughout history, which may be true, yet doesn’t cancel out the perceived reality that Christian conservatives are currently feeling. The beliefs within Christian conservatism vary from more fundamentalist sects that believe the bible is literally true or homosexuality is a sin, to more moderate ones that view the religion more culturally, such as with people who may live secular lifestyles, but still pray before dinner, go to church, and so forth.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Focus on the Family (James Dobson), Trinity Broadcasting Network, Christian Broadcasting Network (Pat Robertson), Christian Coalition of America, Christianity Today, Charisma Magazine, The 700 Club, Desiring God (John Piper), Hillsong, The Gospel Coalition (Timothy Keller), Bethel Church (Bill Johnson), MorningStar (Rick Joyner), Catholic League, Creation Festivals, Relevant Magazine, Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, International House of Prayer, The Veritas Forum, Franklin Graham, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Jerry Falwell Jr., Matt Chandler, Ravi Zacharias, Rick Warren, Mike Pence, Beth Moore, Kirk Cameron, Randall Terry, Andy Stanley, Cindy Jacobs, Ted Baehr, John Hagee, William Lane Craig, Ray Comfort, Matt Walsh, Benny Hinn, Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, David Platt, Albert Mohler, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick, Ken Ham, Robert Barron, Paula White, Creflo Dollar, and the Duck Dynasty family, among countless other figures, networks, and churches.
The term “far-right” is as widely used as “progressive.” It can refer to someone who flirts with racist views or associations, someone with extreme nationalist attitudes, populist rhetoric, authoritarian tendencies, or someone who hyperfocuses on immigration, anti-Muslim sentiments, or anti-left sentiments. Similar to how liberals can crossover into progressivism on certain topics or associations, conservatives can crossover into the far-right. Some people label the Tea Party movement as far-right, as well as the Patriot movement, the popular opinion shows on Fox News, and others include white nationalists and neonazis in this category as well — but for our purposes here, those identities are listed separate. This can be considered the bridge between fringe conservatives/libertarians and the alt-right/white nationalists. It may be subtle in some cases, but it’s worth pointing out that although someone like Rush Limbaugh could be considered a far-right conservative in the sense that he’s hyperbolic and a nationalist, he doesn’t spend his public career citing race and IQ stats, low birthrates, changing demographics, and so forth.
The individuals in this category spend the bulk of their time appealing to the base nature of humanity by way of fear, pride, security, and identity. They cover immigration in a way that portrays Mexicans and Muslims as “the other” coming to take white American’s or European’s jobs, threaten their safety, and replace their heritage. They also focus on American (European) exceptionalism and nationalism to bolster patriotic attitudes that work in lockstep with this fear of the other. That national pride can easily transfer to white pride in an aim to prioritize white heritage by actively discriminating other races. Fear-based rhetoric easily becomes hate for many of the figures in this category and their audience members who view Mexicans, Muslims, black people, and so forth, as inferior or threatening in some way. From here to fascism, there is a pipeline that reinforces anti-individualistic, tribal in-group/out-group rhetoric that appeals to people’s fears and is attractive to mainly young, disenfranchised white men. Similar to how most left-leaning progressives spend a large portion of their careers criticizing the fringes of the right, most far-right conservatives do the same back to them.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: The Gateway Pundit, Rebel Media, r/The_Donald, Lauren Southern, r/HillaryForPrison, r/MensRights, Jacob Wohl, Sargon of Akkad, Count Dankula, Tommy Robinson, Katie Hopkins, Owen Benjamin, soph, Nick Monroe, Andy Warski, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Stephen Miller, Ted Nugent, Ann Coulter, Tommy Sotomayor, ACT! for America (Brigitte Gabriel), Douglas Murray, Dinesh D’Souza, Chuck Johnson, Peter Sweden, and Naked Ape, among countless other figures, groups, and anonymous online users/networks.
FAR-RIGHT CONSPIRACY THEORISTS
This identity consists of people who propagate unfounded conspiracy theories to create and further right-wing political ideologies. People all across the spectrum partake in conspiracies (consciously or not), but this is a whole industry. They believe that the “elites” control the media, education system, pop culture, and government, therefore the highest standards of scientific, journalistic, academic work are essentially all “fake news.” Far-right conspiracy theorists will rope people in by taking a grain of truth then attaching their ideological spin to it. A great example is Alex Jones saying that the government is turning the frogs gay as part of a government conspiracy where they’re putting chemicals in the water that make boys more feminine. The truth is that research shows exposure to atrazine (a pesticide) can cause 1/10 male frogs to essentially turn female, and more studies have been done that show chemicals in suburban ponds and road salts can also affect a frog’s sex. What happens is that (1) a conspiracy theorist like Jones will make a crazy statement attached with ideological rhetoric, (2) people will Google search to find the crazy statement was actually true, then (3) pin Jones’ rhetoric as also being true. Another example is Julian Assange (WikiLeaks). WikiLeaks was as a conspiracy revealed to be true, but as an organization it has now been fueling partisan political content for years at this point.
It’s important to acknowledge that some political conspiracies are found out to be true, such as Operation Northwoods. Others stem from some truth, meaning there was misleading or false information involved, like with the assassination of JFK or the US government faking moon landings. As mistrust in government has increased over the decades, more people have taken cases like these and snowballed into more and more outlandish territory. A trajectory might look like this: you start with thinking the U.S. government was behind 9/11, then get into the government poisoning people with vaccines and chemtrails, then using crisis actors for riots and shootings like Sandy Hook, then you end up believing there’s a “deep state” or “new world order” where Jews control the media, banks, and government. Many of the outlets and figures in this subgroup hold similar or identical views to the alt-right or white nationalists when it comes to believing in The International Jewish Conspiracy (often referred to as “globalists” or “global elites”) or the White Genocide conspiracy theory. This identity does not include all conspiracy theorists, but anyone with a propensity toward conspiracy will be susceptible to it.
Note: There are plenty of virtually innocuous conspiracies like Bigfoot, Ancient Aliens, or Chuck E Cheese’s pizza.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: InfoWars (Alex Jones), Prison Planet (Paul Joseph Watson), QAnon, /pol/, 8chan, gab, r/Conspiracy, Globalist Report, Above Top Secret, Mark Dice, Roseanne Barr, Jerome Corsi, Roger Stone, Mouthy Buddha, Laura Loomer, Hotep Jesus, TruNews (Rick Wiles), David Icke, James Corbett, Notch, and Henry Makow, among countless other individuals, fringe blogs, YouTube channels, and organizations.
The alt-right may be a distinction without a differences from the far-right or white nationalists, depending on your biases. White nationalist Richard Spencer coined the term initially, but the majority of public-facing adapters to this subgroup don’t align themselves as extreme as him. For the sake of these categories, we’ll say that the alt-right consists of trolls, provocateurs, chauvinists, punks, and people who teeter on racist, sexist, (etc.) views. Some refer to this category as “alt-lite” then call the more overt white nationalists “alt-right,” but we’ll cover a separate category for them. The alt-right formed an elaborate online presence through the ironic promotion of internet memes like Pepe the Frog with a central demographic of disenfranchised young, white men, who blame(d) their social conditions on factors like feminism, identity politics, social justice movements, immigration, and so on. Many of them are gamers, techies, incels, and social outcasts that don’t fit into mainstream culture (and often don’t want to). They reject establishment media and popular narratives. Some are more innocuous troublemakers, while others are more malicious, but you can rarely interpret the difference through layers of irony. Either way, the effect of their views tend to be the same. They often dox, harass, or threaten people online, and they particularly hate the left because of PC culture and their propensity to deplatform conservatives and extremists who defend them.
The factor that most separates the alt-right from overt white nationalism is explicit views on race. People in this subgroup may be closeted racists or crypto-fascists, but they’re constantly trolling and acting provocative, which makes their rhetoric hard to categorize. Affiliates of the alt-right identify closer to libertarian than they do conservative in some ways, while closer to fascist in others. They call traditional conservatives “cucks” for being old-fashioned and dull, and look to Trump as a model of confident, bombastic chaos that they aspire toward. Many of them dress like hipsters, are confident in debate, and know how to grow their movement by earning media attention from outrage. They associate with conspiracy theorists and white nationalists, so there’s inevitable ideological crossover between these related subgroups.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Breitbart, The Proud Boys, /pol/, 8chan, gab, Voat, Milo Yiannopolous, Gavin McInnes, Mike Cernovich, Stefan Molyneux, Brittany Pettibone, Curtis Yarvin, Millennial Woes, Jack Posobiec, Robert Mercer, Vox Day, NoBullshit, Nick Land, and Steve Bannon, among countless other individuals, anonymous online users, and organizations.
WHITE NATIONALISTS AND SUPREMACISTS
White nationalists and supremacists make up the fringe of the right. It includes people and groups who identify as white identitarians, race realists, racial separatists, neonazis, and so on. There are slight differences between these identities, but much like the current social standing of leftism in the United States, this identity isn’t represented in mainstream politics so most of the affiliates ally through associations and organizations with their differences coming down to nuanced branding. Most of them believe in a future white ethnostate, which they portray as being a “peaceful” and strategic process, but historically ethnostates have led to mass deportations, racial segregation, and genocide, such as in Nazi Germany or Apartheid-era South Africa. Adherents of this identity focus on race and IQ stats, immigration problems, and integrated race relation conflicts as means to reinforce their views on Muslims, Mexicans, Jews, black people, and so on. Like conspiracy theorists, they define “globalists” and “elites” (Jews) as their primary enemies who control the world’s media, money, and general power.
They organize on anonymous-based social media sites like 4chan, 8chan, Gab, and even parts of Reddit, but they also occupy corners of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Many of the figures have rebranded their hateful ideology to fit into polite society and will not give straight answers about their beliefs because it damages their public perception. The fact that they lie and sanitize their views is why it’s been argued that platforming them only results in their movement growing. One example of this is when right-leaning host Lauren Chen platformed Richard Spencer and didn’t push him on his rhetoric. Contrast that with when progressive host David Pakman interviewed him and pushed his rhetoric, exposing that Spencer refused to give straight answers. Most people today expect nazis to be overtly racist and wearing swastikas, but in reality most of them use more subtle tactics through euphemisms and dog-whistles. This allows them to blend in with other political identities like the far-right, libertarians, or the alt-right. They also use free speech as a weapon to pressure spaces to platform them so they can play the victim when they don’t. In the past several years, many figures in this identity have been deplatformed, driving some of them underground, while driving others to adjust their rhetorical strategies. It’s a constantly evolving group that requires constant media literacy and diligence to interpret.
Note: some people compare this identity to leftism (communists, socialists) in terms of historical atrocities. The biggest difference between the two is that leftists are theoretically driven by social inequality and criticism/hatred of capitalism, with intentions toward a more egalitarian society, whereas white nationalists are theoretically driven by cultural differences and criticism/hatred of people based on identity (gender, race, nationality, religion) with intentions toward a segregated or “pure” society. Both ideologies have historically resulted in violence so if you’re a consequentialist, their intentions may not matter since the outcomes can be similar, but if you’re driven by virtue ethics, you may draw distinctions.
Prominent Media Outlets, Groups, And Figures: Stormfront, The Daily Stormer, American Freedom Party, The Right Stuff, VDARE, American Renaissance, Radix Journal, Occidental Dissent, National Policy Institute, National Alliance, American Identity Movement, New Century Foundation, National Socialist Movement, American Nazi Party, Vanguard News Network (Alex Linder), Red Ice TV, /pol/, 8chan, gab, Council of Conservative Citizens, Counter-Currents, Mike Enoch, Jared Taylor, David Duke, Richard Spencer, Andrew Anglin, Paul Nehlen, Peter Brimelow, Nick Fuentes, Don Black, Lana Lokteff, Greg Johnson, Baked Alaska, James Allsup, Matthew Heimbach, George Burdi, Tila Tequila, Tara McCarthy, Jean-Francois Gariepy, Christopher Cantwell, Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, and Faith Goldy, among many other individuals, online forums, movements, and organizations.
To reiterate once more, these identities are generalizations categorized by their public work, associations, funding, audiences, and influence, with many of them crossing over with one another in various ways. Each media outlet, group, and individual hold distinct views on various topics that make aligning them on a left-right spectrum virtually impossible. Models like the political compass or the Nolan Chart have attempted to draw more accurate categorizations, but there is no perfect system. It’s also important to understand each individual’s role in society. Some people’s jobs are to be political pundits, cultural critics, interviewers, artists, and so on. You wouldn’t expect a comedian to present their views the same way as a journalist, but both still have the power to influence their audience. This analysis doesn’t contextualize how influential each of these identities are in their respective capacities since there’s no easy way to measure it. One may have the most influence on YouTube, another on cable news, another in podcasts, the justice system, pop culture, religious demographics, and so forth. Not all identities are equal but they each have unique sway over large demographics.
The right and left generally tell themselves completely different stories. The identities of the right are more unified through the story of American and European history. They focus on the founding fathers, America as a Christian nation, the “American Dream,” western culture being built on Judeo-Christian values, and tradition, with a common thread of homogeneity. Their moral compass is grounded in religion and individual freedom. The identities of the left are unified through the story of progress. They focus on the history of minority groups like African Americans, women, LGBTQ+, and secular people, with a common thread of diversity. Their moral compass is more grounded in education and intellectualism. There is a vast chasm between these very different stories that people are telling themselves. This is tied in with the temperamental differences between the right and the left. Using the trait of openness as an example, people on the left are more open to new ideas and experiences, which makes them more intellectually curious and could partially explain why they dominate fields like academia and journalism. People on the right are less open to new ideas and experiences, which makes them more prone to familiarity and ethnocentric social change, which could partially explain why they dominate fields like agriculture and finance.
Everyone sees the world through an ideological lens but most of us go through life assuming our lens isn’t there because it’s become the default in our communities or societies. People on the left tend to see life in terms of group identity, whereas people on the right tend to see it through individualism. Reality requires a mixture of both. For example, America is a white majority country, so white people rarely see through the lens of race, whereas black people as a minority are often forced to face their race in daily situations. This lens is beneficial when addressing systemic issues that affect their group identity, but on the other hand, it can be difficult to draw clear conclusions on a case by case basis. With policing, you could conclude that black people face systemic racism, but you couldn’t use that probability to conclude every negative or deadly encounter between a police officer and black person is the result of racism. A potential compromise between people on the left, who see the world through group identity, and people on the right, who see the world through individual identity, would be to acknowledge that black people face disproportionate discrimination from law enforcement, while simultaneously acknowledging that each individual encounter with law enforcement will not necessarily be the result of racism.
People are inherently different. We consume our information from different mediums in different ways and that’s not going to change. All we can do is attempt to understand people outside our experiences and biases. Consider this: of the identities listed above, how many do you follow for news and information? The only way to truly understand where another person or group is coming from is by going to the source, even if you vehemently disagree with them. Going to your own preferred group(s) to define those on the outside will likely feed you straw men and caricatures. Studies show that people naturally find validity in their political side, while finding a lack of it in their opposing political side. Most people don’t have the time, energy, or patience to sift through all this, but we owe it to ourselves and the people around us to try. After all, the blanket labels of “left” and “right” only go so far in a political spectrum that’s constantly splintering and evolving.
If you think any of the analysis or categorized media outlets, groups, and figures listed here are substantially off-base, please reach out with your reasoning. As long as you don’t tell me to kill myself or whatever, I’ll try to stay open — even though I know I’m right and you’re wrong.
Go now and enjoy being mad about politics online™