The Charlottesville Clashes of last month have inspired me to take the chance to do something I’ve had a mind to do for a while. I want to have an honest conversation about the Alt-Right.
I’ve held off because until recently I’ve known very little about them. I’m not a member and am not part of their information sharing networks. After some initial exploration to find out what they were about, I moved on to other sources. I really don’t like speaking on matters I know I don’t understand, so I left it at that. But this is an issue that is affecting the way people view and interact with the Right, the actual Right, so I felt it deserved my time to research. I’ve put a lot of research into what drives them, what their different factions represent, and most importantly, which factions the rest of us can reach common ground with and which factions need to be isolated and stamped out.
There is good and bad in there, but to dismiss everything, like with all other movements, is to invite greater hostility. It’s my belief that the current way we handle the alt-right, to label them all as racists and bigots, is working to empower them. Followers of my blog know that that sort of mentality is the kind of thing that enrages people, particularly those who haven’t deserved it. It builds chasms between people who could find a lot of common ground and pushes people towards radicalism — because the radicals don’t call them names.
“They say you’re a racist, huh? They said I was too.”
I had this same sympathy for the Alt-Right maybe a year or so ago. I got curious because I believed that most of the hysterical reporting was probably not true, as with so many other things. On the surface, they didn’t live up to the hype. That initial inspection, absent what hysteria and accusations puts you in touch with a lot of their surface ideas that many people would agree with. For example, they are strong advocates of free speech and fighting corruption in Washington, which I think most people can agree with.
I’ve heard that called “Alt-Lite” because eventually you get much deeper. At some point you come to the realization I did.
“Oh s***! These guys really are racists!”
Most of us high-tail it out at that point. I’m glad I realized this early on. I redirected to better sources, Ben Shapiro, Thomas Sowell, Dinesh D’Souza, as well as older philosophers in the Conservative field. That correction, led me into a deeper understanding of Conservatism and how the traditional Right is so much different than the alternative one, specifically the racist tones of it.
But now the alt-right is center stage, and it is my belief that the way the media portrays them, is driving more to their membership as well as helping to fantasize their core. There is a lot of misinformation that comes out after events such as Charlottesville. The story the media describes is often biased and one-sided, which is a problem because in an information rich age we live in, the other side is going to come out. When people feel they’ve been lied to, that information is being withheld, they sympathize and want to know more directly from the source.
Through this self investigation, they are introduced to the outward aspects that many can agree with— the “Alt Lite”. They find they have common ground and that the news reports must have been lying. The Alt-Right is a diverse group, with many powerful thinkers able to articulate their views. They become sympathizers. Many groups within are benign, but through cross pollination with other groups, before long, they fall closer to the core and into the hardline beliefs of the Alt Right’s more dangerous elements. The few that reach the center start adopting irrational and dangerous practices and stop hearing the views of others. This process is identical to the fundamentalization I’ve described in both the far-Left and with radical Islamic fundamentalists. Call them extremists if you like, but fundamentalism knows no religion or ideology, but is a process of converting minds and ideologies to hateful degrees.
The way we inoculate ourselves from fundamentalism is through the sharing of knowledge about them. That’s real knowledge and not more fear and hatred. It’s my belief that many who are beginning the path by growing curious about the alt-right can be turned and be better citizens by finding common ground with better ideas, like Conservatism, which I proudly stand for. What won’t work is broadly shaming them, as I’ve described already. The truth is that the Alt-Right is still a loose group of many competing ideas, even so much to the point that within them rages a civil war for the future of the Alt-Right. But painting them all as every kind of evil only serves to strengthen their common bonds and pushes more potential members to them.
The thing is, they know this. The extremists in the Alt-Right know what they are doing. They are professional provocateurs who use public outrage to their advantage. They chose Charlottesville, and protested in a very particularly way because they knew what they were doing. They trolled everyone. They use events like this week to recruit more members. Events like Charlottesville were good for the hardline alt-right, particularly when other parts of their story start reaching out which go against many of the narratives of the popular media. The violence wasn’t one-sided and that simple fact will make many people curious about them and skeptical of where they get their information. Make no mistake, I’m not a supporter of the Alt-Right, but they will grow from this because the information coming out about Charlottesville is simply missing a lot of key details.
So I want to do something very different. I want to try to surface what I think represents a good picture of what the alt-Right really is. I want to dismantle its ideologies and empower people to recognize them, debate with those who might be influenced by them, and recruit them away before they fall into the Alt-Right trap. Many on the fringes need to be brought back into the political fabric of the United States.
Like so many have said, we can’t paint with wide brushes, and “The Alt-Right” can’t become the new buzzword for “Evil people we disagree with.” That’s only going to help them radicalize more. I’m a firm believer that what lives in the dark dies in the light, so I would like to take the next week to apply my methodology to bringing light to what the alt-right actually is to help others fight it.
I hope to change the narrative to one of understanding so that people like me, the rational debaters, can do more than scream and throw rocks, as people like that only serve to empower those who wish to remain in the dark.