Thursday, August 25, 2016

A few thoughts about the alt right.

Pepe the frog, looking smug, an common meme used by small factions of the alt-right. 

As you may know, Hillary Clinton gave a speech today blasting Donald Trump because he has supporters that are members of the "alt right". In doing so she failed one of the most basic rules of the internet. Don't feed the trolls. Hillary Clinton, losing her advantage in the polls, decided that she needed to shake things up. Instead of trying something new she did the same thing she has been doing since the convention, by implying Trump and his supporters are racist. 

So what is the alt right? Good question. It really depends on who you talk to. I consider the term to be rather useless because it encompasses so many things, at least according to the liberals denouncing it today. It includes things like chan culture, weird political movements like Neoreaction and even more mainstream places like Breitbart. Committed troll and conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones was specifically brought up. Not mentioned was his scathing criticisms of George Bush. Either way it's not a very useful definition being used by the Clinton camp and journalists.

My definition, and the one that I have heard the most in the past before today, would be anyone on the right that isn't part of the ruling neoconservative class. This would include just about everyone on the right these days, with the exception of leading republicans like Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush and John McCain. Ted Cruz would count as the alt right and a case could even be made for Marco Rubio. Given the fact that Cruz and Trump got way more votes then the establishment this year, I think it's pretty clear that the alt-right, by this definition, isn't really alt-right anymore. It's mainstream since neoconservatives are dead in this country. They just don't know it yet. I'd say that by this definition I am alt-right, even though I would argue against it because it is such a loaded and unspecific term.

Typical alt-right beliefs include a rejection of political correctness, criticism of leftist causes like feminism, multiculturalism and acceptance of Islam and the general belief that mainstream Republicans don't fight when it comes to fighting the left. There is also a massive amount of disgust with mainstream media. Other then that, their political beliefs are all over the map, ranging from left libertarian all the way to neoreaction, with a lot of stuff in between. The only really definition I can think of is everyone on the right that isn't a neocon. 

I think that the Democrats and Hillary Clinton want people to believe that everyone in the alt-right is a raving racist. They want to make anyone that isn't part of the elite easier to dismiss by associating them with racist trolls on 4chan and twitter. I don't think it is useful for people trying to understand the alt-right to do so. The alt-right is way more then just chan culture, and to denounce everyone on the right that isn't part of the neocon mainstream is a huge reach. Chan culture is part of the right, but only a small part of it. 

I don't really want to get into what makes up chan culture. I think I know more about it then most journalists these days, but that doesn't mean I would get it right. Chan culture changes so much and so rapidly that it would be inevitable that I would get most of it wrong. And getting things wrong about 4chan and 8chan is a good way to get their attention, which is never a good thing. If you really must know what chan culture is like, you could go visit one of the boards, but I would not recommend it, especially if you are at work or are sensitive to gross stuff. 

But are there racists on the alt-right? Sure. Some of them, like those that post on Stormfront, are literal Nazis. Are they common? Not really. There are a lot of people on the alt-right that originated on 4chan. That board is all about triggering normal people so a lot of people pretend to be more racist then they actually are. That doesn't mean that they aren't racist, but it does mean that the actual threat is being exaggerated greatly. 

And it also depends on how you define racism. People on the right are so used to being called racist by the left for stupid reasons, it's hard to see real racism. Will you find real racism on alt-right sites? Sure. But you will also see a lot of things that are called racism by the left but really doesn't count. Things like being opposed to black lives matter or being critical of Islam aren't really racist, no matter how much the left wishes it was. 

You have to remember, people have been on the right have been denounced as racist for about a decade now, the word has lost most of its meaning. When someone like Donald Trump is denounced for racism because he criticizes immigration, it makes it a lot harder to take accusations of racism seriously. even when there is something there. Hell, John McCain and Mitt Romney were called Adolf Hitler by the left and they were even more mainstream then Trump! If you wonder why the people in the alt-right don't get rid of the racists, that's why. For us, racist=an unfounded accusation of being evil from the left.

A lot of these people are trolls. It also makes it seem like there are a lot more of them then there actually are. The whole point of trolling is to make your target upset using whatever tactic necessary. And what better way is there to troll people then to challenge them on racism and politics? I'm not convinced that all of these trolls actually believe the terrible things they are saying. Some do, undoubtedly, but not all of them or even most. They just see weakness to be exploited. 

Was this a good idea for Hillary Clinton? I would say, in no uncertain terms, that it was a terrible idea. Beyond terrible. Though most people on the alt-right aren't part of chan culture, this will probably give sites like 4chan and 8chan a boost. I checked 4chan's political board /pol/ today and they seemed both excited and worried. On the one hand they were mad that "normies" were coming to their site and were concerned about "Hillary Clinton shills". But they also think that this is a great opportunity for them to "redpill" the masses. 

And that is probably the biggest mistake about Hillary Clinton's speech. She didn't mention chan culture directly, but a lot of the news articles released today did. People are going to go to these sites wondering whats up. Many will be repulsed but a few will sign up for their ideas. The chans are very good at propaganda, much better then the left is, so I wouldn't be surprised if they get new recruits from this. Even if it is just one in ten that start visiting these sites regularly, I think that is a loss for leftism. I mean, everyone on the left already things everyone who has ever even thought of voting for the GOP is a raving racist grand wizard of the KKK. This isn't really going to change anyone's mind other then a few independents, some of which will probably go on the join the right. 

The other problem for Clinton is that she just denounced a lot of completely innocent people. Is the twitter troll harassing journalists a racist? Maybe, but you can't argue that every single one of Donald Trump's 11.1 million twitter followers, including me, is racist without pissing people off. As I have mentioned, even mainstream conservatives are so used to being called racist by people on the left, the word has lost most of its meaning. I know that I will vote against Hillary Clinton just for the insult, though to be fair I was never going to vote for her anyways.

Does this hurt Donald Trump? I don't think it will in the long run. Very few people saw Clinton's speech and given the dislikes I saw on the stream, most of them were the very trolls she was complaining about. Even if this doesn't blow over in a couple of days, like I said before, most people on the left have already made up their minds on Trump. People on the right won't care and I doubt many independents are even aware that this is an issue. Those that do will probably go visit more mainstream sites like Breitbart or Reddit's The_Donald and wonder what all the fuss is about.

I also think that people are generally aware that guilt by association isn't going to cut it anymore. And it, of course turnabout is fair play. If Clinton can bash Trump because of the actions of trolls on twitter, then he can denounce the actions of far-leftist groups that are attacking his supporters. Given that one group of people is just trolling on the internet while the other is actually physically hurting real people, I think that Clinton made a tactical error here. 

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