This is the week when leftist cowards, unwilling or unable to counter opposing ideas with a compelling vision of their own, decided to smear conservatives by comparing the expression of conservative ideas to the radicalisation activities of ISIS
Update: See footnote at bottom for reaction to news that the anonymous Guardian article cited here was in fact a satirical piece designed to lampoon left-wing SJW attitudes
It all seems to be quite co-ordinated.
One anonymously-written article published in the pages of Britain’s leftist press, bashing conservative commentators and describing them as a “gateway drug” to full-blown racism, might be generously seen as an isolated if highly offensive smear. The existence of two such articles strains credulity. But with three such articles across two publications, I think it is safe to say we are looking at the British Left’s new official position on the rising popularity of conservative (or at least anti-statist) ideas.
First came this hysterical effort in the Guardian*, in which an anonymous pinch-faced, wobbly-lipped “white male” social justice warrior described how he had been temporarily led astray by the siren song of the online alt-right, only to realise that he was being indoctrinated into a “cult” and pull back from the brink at the last minute.
(* This article turned out to be a brilliant spoof by the excellent anti-SJW provocateur Godfrey Elfwick, something which was not known when I wrote this piece. The fact that the Guardian’ editorial team did not realise and published the article in earnest only goes to highlight that the establishment Left have swallowed the denialist myth that anybody who disagrees with their worldview must have been “radicalised” by the evil forces of conservatism – thus proving my point about the Left’s intellectual decline.)
The Guardian Man’s tremulous confession:
I am a happily married, young white man. I grew up in a happy, Conservative household. I’ve spent my entire life – save the last four months – as a progressive liberal. All of my friends are very liberal or left-leaning centrists. I have always voted Liberal Democrat or Green. I voted remain in the referendum. The thought of racism in any form has always been abhorrent to me. When leave won, I was devastated.
Because wanting Britain to leave a failing, antidemocratic, supranational political union can only be motivated by racism, naturally.
I was curious as to the motives of leave voters. Surely they were not all racist, bigoted or hateful? I watched some debates on YouTube. Obvious points of concern about terrorism were brought up. A leaver cited Sam Harris as a source. I looked him up: this “intellectual, free-thinker” was very critical of Islam. Naturally my liberal kneejerk reaction was to be shocked, but I listened to his concerns and some of his debates.
This, I think, is where YouTube’s “suggested videos” can lead you down a rabbit hole. Moving on from Harris, I unlocked the Pandora’s box of “It’s not racist to criticise Islam!” content. Eventually I was introduced, by YouTube algorithms, to Milo Yiannopoulos and various “anti-SJW” videos (SJW, or social justice warrior, is a pejorative directed at progressives). They were shocking at first, but always presented as innocuous criticism from people claiming to be liberals themselves, or centrists, sometimes “just a regular conservative” – but never, ever identifying as the dreaded “alt-right”.
So apparently it is a “rabbit hole” when watching one conservative-leaning YouTube video leads to the suggestion of others, but Guardian Man’s inevitable constant feed of prancing, left-wing virtue signallers is entirely healthy? Righty-ho. Left-wing ideological bubbles are good and virtuous, right-wing ones are dangerous and evil, got it.
Before long, Guardian Man had hit rock bottom:
At the same time, the anti-SJW stuff also moved on to anti-feminism, men’s rights activists – all that stuff. I followed a lot of these people on Twitter, but never shared any of it. I just passively consumed it, because, deep down, I knew I was ashamed of what I was doing. I’d started to roll my eyes when my friends talked about liberal, progressive things. What was wrong with them? Did they not understand what being a real liberal was? All my friends were just SJWs. They didn’t know that free speech was under threat and that politically correct culture and censorship were the true problem.
On one occasion I even, I am ashamed to admit, very diplomatically expressed negative sentiments on Islam to my wife. Nothing “overtly racist”, just some of the “innocuous” type of things the YouTubers had presented: “Islam isn’t compatible with western civilisation.”
She was taken aback: “Isn’t that a bit … rightwing?”
I justified it: “Well, I’m more a left-leaning centrist. PC culture has gone too far, we should be able to discuss these things without shutting down the conversation by calling people racist, or bigots.”
The indoctrination was complete.
At present, Guardian Man can be found tightening his cilice and loudly flagellating himself for having dared for even one moment to consider points of view which run contrary to the leftist One True Faith. With the tortured mind of an actual criminal, he is trying to find a way to apologise to his wife for having subjected her to such salty language and non-conforming ideas:
I haven’t yet told my wife that this happened, and I honestly don’t know how to. I need to apologise for what I said and tell her that I certainly don’t believe it. It is going to be a tough conversation and I’m not looking forward to it. I didn’t think this could happen to me. But it did and it will haunt me for a long time to come.
And offers his wise conclusion:
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Online radicalisation of young white men. It’s here, it’s serious, and I was lucky to be able to snap out of it when I did. And if it can get somebody like me to swallow it – a lifelong liberal – I can’t imagine the damage it is doing overall.
It seemed so subtle – at no point did I think my casual and growing Islamophobia was genuine racism. The good news for me is that my journey toward the alt-right was mercifully brief: I never wanted to harm or abuse anybody verbally, it was all very low level – a creeping fear and bigotry that I won’t let infest me again. But I suspect you could, if you don’t catch it quickly, be guided into a much more overt and sinister hatred.
And there it is – the official soft rollout of the term “radicalisation of young white men”. Expect every leftist commentator in the country to be using it multiple times in every piece by the end of next week, with Owen Jones, Paul Mason, Laurie Penny and Polly Toynbee all vying with one another to take primary ownership of the slur.
Writing in the Spectator, Douglas Murray – while outraged that his own name was not flagged as part of the “slippery sliding slope” to racism – calls out the Guardian for seeing radicalisation where it does not exist and denying it where it does:
At least at long last the Guardian has published something acknowledging the possibility of ‘online radicalisation’. When they’re not busy running puff pieces for Muslim radicals or joint-letters defending Muslim radicals by other Muslim radicals, the Guardian tends to pretend no such thing exists. Only now do they admit it does because – as their correspondent ‘Anonymous’ shows – ‘online radicalisation’ occurs among ‘young white men.’
This – it should be remembered – is a paper that complains solemnly about ‘post-truth politics’ as though they haven’t been practising it for years. The Guardian has spent years denying the reality of Islamist terror. The only mentions such terror does get is in the news pages, when Paris, London, Brussels or any other city suffers a major Islamist attack. Of course the paper tries to demonstrate that these things only happened because the attackers were the victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, low self-esteem, government austerity or all of the above. But the ‘I’ word does occasionally slip through because even the Guardian finds it has to report some of the news some of the time. The comments pages, on the other hand, are filled with people who doggedly deny that any such terrorism or extremism exists. Indeed its comment pages tend to be filled with people who, like ‘Anonymous’, stared at themselves in the mirror, realised they had become arseholes but chose to enjoy the view.
So here we are, with the Guardian pretending that Sam Harris – a man who has never called for anyone to be Jihad-ed, killed or oppressed and who is about the sanest, sweetest and most thoughtful person you could imagine (really a Buddhist, but with a bigger brain) is in fact a horrible hate preacher and gateway drug.
While Murray’s conclusion is bang on the money:
Let me tell you what is actually going on here. Someone at the Guardian – perhaps everyone at the Guardian – has it in for Sam Harris. So they have decided to publish an ‘Anonymous’ hit-job in order to try to smear him and damage him as much as possible. That is all. It tells us nothing, except that the state of the left is so incredibly poor that in 2016 Britain’s only remaining lefty newspaper is willing to publish an ‘Anonymous’ hit-job on an actual liberal to try to help save itself from going bust.
One marvels at the intellectual insecurity it must take for leftist commentators to be so incapable of rebutting opposing arguments and so lacking in confidence in the persuasiveness of one’s own position that the best strategy now available to them is to warn the public not to listen to other points of view lest entertaining conservative ideas sets them on the path to becoming Hitler.
Guardian Man’s article was swiftly followed up by a piece in the New Statesman, in which a supposed Jeremy Corbyn supporter “confessed” to watching YouTube videos and media appearances by conservatives and alt-right stars and (pass the smelling salts) furtively enjoying them.
Alex Shattock writes:
As a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, former public sector worker and all-round lefty, I have a confession to make. I am a little bit in love with Milo Yiannopoulos, highly-paid internet troll and alt right poster boy.
Well, everyone has a guilty pleasure.
Out of context, it is difficult to see how anyone could enjoy listening to the person making these arguments, let alone be persuaded by them. But as Abi Wilkinson has pointed out, alt right arguments like the ones above are gaining ground online, and contributing to the radicalization of young white men. How is this happening?
And there’s that phrase again, gradually being forced into our collective consciousness as though saying it often enough will make it a real thing.
A lot of the alt right’s appeal has to do with the delivery mechanism of their ideas: colourful entertainers who are a bit outrageous and disarmingly self-effacing. This is why, despite myself, I like listening to Yiannopoulos. He jokes, exaggerates, pushes the boundaries. It is all to provoke a reaction, get online attention, and rack up the view count. It works. One of his recent videos, “BBC tries to ambush Milo,” has over a million views. Like his right-wing bedfellows, he is genuinely entertaining to watch.
Contrast the polished media performers of the right with left. When I get my daily fix of social-liberal political news, there is a deadly serious style of debate that turns people off straight away. Whenever Nigel Farage or Yiannopoulos appear on a Sky News debate with a dour-looking lefty academic, they’ve already won.
Really? As a holder of more right-wing (or at least classically liberal) opinions, I often chafe at the fact that the people they wheel out to defend “my side” of the argument on television are grotesque caricatures, while the people found to defend the centre-left status quo are inevitably the well-manicured picture of reasonableness.
And I’m not alone in this thinking. As a friend of Pete North’s memorably mimicked the BBC’s EU referendum coverage:
And now on BBC Radio 4, to talk to us about the EU, we have Professor Claus van der Reasoning, an expert on the European Union and a jolly good chap. Professor van der Reasoning is the Clegg Professor of Europe at the European Institute of Europe and has absolutely no axe to grind.
Here to give the anti-European perspective is Sir Henry Bigot MP, a foam-flecked lunatic who hates and little else, and was once reported by the Guardian to have felched David Duke while singing Horst Wessel Lied. He may experience technical issues.
Welcome both of you to this balanced programme that represents both sides of the argument.
That pretty much sums up every single Brexiteer vs Remainer clash on the broadcast news in the weeks and months leading up to referendum day. If Shattock thinks that the British political Right is brimming over with so many winning, articulate spokespeople that it constitutes an advantage over the Left then he is living in a parallel universe – one in which nobody from UKIP exists, for a start.
Not that Shattock is wrong about everything:
Boris Johnson, another master of the art, wrote in this magazine a couple of years ago that “lefties…are much more likely to think that right-wingers are genuinely evil.” At times, we certainly give that impression. Now, I’m not saying there has never been a Tory activist who has, on a misty moonlit night in East Surrey, sacrificed a newborn to hasten the awakening of Azathoth. But if we stop assuming they all do that, the tone of our arguments will change accordingly, and Tory voters would feel less patronised.
A more self-effacing and less self-righteous approach can work wonders for public engagement, as Ed Balls seems to have discovered on the dance floor. Whether or not this means giving Sunday Politics interviews in spandex is the way forward for Labour, I’m not sure. But our current Foreign Secretary is a prime example of how not taking yourself too seriously can go down well with the public.
Well, quite. It’s funny how people switch off and stop listening when you scream continually in their faces about how evil they are and how enlightened you are.
Shattock then indulges in some unbridled sanctimony:
But we also need to learn from the things the alt right commentators don’t say. At the heart of their appeal is the fact that, behind the jokes, their arguments are bracingly simple.
This is a huge advantage when it comes to persuading people. Instead of debating policy in detail in the national media, we should take a leaf from their book and go on the offence, attacking individual opponents and saying why they are unfit to govern as people, not flag-carriers. When Tony Blair called John Major “weak, weak, weak”, that was more effective than a hundred policy explanations. Where they are needed, our policy arguments need to be short, sharp and self-explanatory, or they are no good at all.
Admittedly, it is far easier for the right to make simple arguments than the left. On the left we are naturally more inclined to nuanced positions and complex explanations, and tend to look down on simple generalisations (try explaining to yourself why political correctness is important, in one sentence, with no commas). This intellectualism can too easily be used against us in debates. It was, quite literally, impossible for Ed Miliband to say that Labour overspent in government, because it would have been intellectually dishonest and a gross oversimplification.
What Shattock calls the “nuance” of left-wing arguments, many on the right might describe as woolly, hand-wringing moral relativism and a craven refusal to acknowledge basic truths and realities. But sure, if believing in a maximalist approach to free speech and civil liberties makes right-wingers “simplistic” then we shall wear the insult as a badge of honour. Rather that than sell out our freedoms one by one under the false guise of “tolerance”.
This is, unfortunately, the world we live in now. Johnson, Farage, Yiannopoulos and, of course, Donald Trump, are all pioneers of post-truth politics. If we’re going to win, we have to fight them on their terms. If you think the strategy of “we go high when they go low” worked out well for Hillary Clinton, then you’ve been inhaling the same thing her husband didn’t. It is no longer good enough, if it ever was, to have sensible, rational economic arguments, and naïvely hope the truth will emerge from our public debates. That is just not where we are at in 2016.
Nowadays, if you want people to listen, you have to mock, exaggerate, cajole, put on a show. In our post-truth world, when it comes to persuading people you’re right, presentation is 90 per cent of what matters. The truth alone is no longer going to cut it.
Let’s ignore the free shot we could take at the ludicrous assertion that the British Left have at any point in their history “gone high” in terms of their political rhetoric, or that “post-truth politics” was somehow pioneered by Evil Brexiteers while those honourable, upstanding Remainers clung nobly to the trusty shield of truth. This blog and others have debunked that fatuous assertion more times than I care to remember.
And newsflash: better “presentation” by future witty young leftist YouTube stars will not solve the fundamental problem that the Left’s message is deeply unappealing to millions of decent people who are by no means racist, sexist or prejudiced, but who simply want to live their lives free from overbearing, hectoring, leftist moral guardians. Owen Jones has a YouTube channel with 82,000 subscribers. He might have many more, if only his output did not consist of finger-wagging screeds accusing his fellow citizens of being evil, heartless racists.
Look: this isn’t complicated. The reason that conservatives have increasingly fled to new media, starting with talk radio in 90s America all the way up to YouTube today (and yes, sometimes including fake news, though the Left are also guilty of consuming such propaganda) is because the mainstream media unapologetically persists with a left-leaning bias. Doubt it? Note the way that American newspapers and television networks all speak about “undocumented” rather than “illegal ” immigration now, under pressure from the social justice wing to avoid calling lawbreaking by its proper name. Or the way that British media peddle the idea that Brexiteers are anti-immigration (and therefore racist) as opposed to anti-uncontrolled immigration.
In a thousand small ways (and a few egregiously large ones), the mainstream media in Britain and America has taken a clear position, usually against those with conservative or classically liberal beliefs. And pumping out a one-sided product day after day is a surefire way to force your viewers and listeners to go elsewhere, often ending up in the arms of the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich or even Alex Jones and the InfoWars crowd.
But left-wing versions of these shows do already exist. Look at The Young Turks in America, a very successful left-wing YouTube channel founded by Cenk Uygur, a former MSNBC host. There may be fewer such outlets on the Left than the Right, but that is largely because the Left can fall back on nearly all of the television news media to give them succour and reflect their views. When you control the mainstream media it is unreasonable to expect to dominate the counterculture, too.
Here in Britain, there is a dearth of good online commentary altogether because the mainstream media (including the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Spectator) all stubbornly refuse to engage with the blogosphere, jealously horde readers for themselves and throttle the limited independent political blogosphere in the crib. Want more fun, humorous political commentators? Well, maybe try acknowledging them when they publish things or try to make a name for themselves instead of studiously ignoring them and insisting on recruiting from the same old predictable, nepotistic “talent” pool.
And finally, here is Abi Wilkinson, peddling the same idea that white young men are being “radicalised” in the same manner as brainwashed ISIS recruits:
When we fret about young people leaving western countries and going to fight with Isis, it’s common to focus on the role of the internet in their political radicalisation. It’s time we discussed the radicalisation of angry, young white men in a similar way. The manosphere gave us Elliot Rodger. He was a regular on the forum “PUAhate” – populated by bitter men who had tried the techniques advocated by so-called “pick-up artists” to attract women and failed.
Reading through the posting history of individual aliases, it’s possible to chart their progress from vague dissatisfaction, and desire for social status and sexual success, to full-blown adherence to a cohesive ideology of white supremacy and misogyny. Neofascists treat these websites as recruitment grounds. They find angry, frustrated young men and groom them in their own image. Yet there’s no Prevent equivalent to try to stamp this out.
How many neo-nazi terror plots were thwarted in Britain this year, Abi? How many men’s rights massacres were narrowly averted by MI5? When young, disaffected and unassimilated Muslims radicalise, they have an unfortunate tendency of skulking away to Syria to join ISIS, plotting murderous attacks on the streets of Britain or at least turning a blind eye when others do so. When young white men watch too many YouTube videos from the “manosphere”, they become insufferable, obnoxious clowns. Where is the equivalence?
A counter-extremism strategy which aims to prevent the commissioning of terrorist attacks and physical violence is potentially justifiable. A “Prevent” scheme designed to stop young white males from thinking or expressing certain nonviolent thoughts on the internet is several steps further down the road to tyranny. Perhaps that’s why even Theresa May’s droolingly authoritarian government hasn’t suggested re-education camps for those who .
Whether these articles are anonymous or penned by star columnists, all of them reflect an insidious new effort by the British Left – which increasingly seems morally adrift and intellectually dead, utterly unable to counter conservatism with intelligent ideas of their own – to instead portray conservative thinking as a sign of intrinsic disorder, an unnatural and dangerous state of thinking which can only be brought around by foul play and manipulation.
That’s why we now see prominent left-wing publications like the Guardian and the New Statesman talking with a straight face about the “radicalisation” of young white men. Having spent much of the past decade fervently denying that radicalisation of young British Muslims is a problem, they are now screeching that the real danger is radicalised young white men. Somebody who marinates 24/7 in a stream of jihadist propaganda and lives as part of a community which exists in parallel to the rest of British society rather than fully assimilating is apparently A-OK. But beware the young white male gamer who watches one too many Milo videos and might one day be tempted – shock, horror – to say something triggering in a university lecture or public place.
This is offensive beyond measure, putting the legitimate (if sometimes juvenile) political views of young conservative media watchers – and in reality both the viewers and the media outlets span a wide spectrum, and should not be lumped together like this for the purposes of demonisation – on a par with the murderous ideology of fundamentalist Islamism. There is simply no comparison. While lone right-wing extremists have always existed and continue to lurk in the margins of society, the terrorist threat they pose is nothing compared to the threat currently posed by radical Islam. I see what the leftists are trying to do with this snide new comparison, and they need to stop.
The PC credo of many leftists may make them exquisitely uncomfortable criticising Islam without commensurate criticism of other, more “privileged” groups, so one can understand why left-wing commentators are starting to seize on this narrative of “white male radicalisation” because it allows them to defray criticism of one of their most favoured victim groups and suggest that radicalisation is problem throughout British society, and not just within Islam. Unfortunately, it is a massive overreach – the evidence simply does not back it up. If Abi Wilkinson has documentary proof of the “slippery slope” from watching alt-right YouTube stars to committing politically-inspired murder then I will hear her out. Until then, she should stop peddling misinformation.
But more than anything, the fact that we are now being peddled the myth that young white men are somehow being indoctrinated by flashy right-wing shock jocks reveals the extent of the Left’s intellectual decline. At this point it is utterly inconceivable to them that somebody might embrace patriotic, civic nationalist, anti-PC and pro-free speech positions held by the alt-right and popular right unless they were brainwashed or “radicalised” into doing so. They simply cannot understand why anybody would spurn their infantilising, identity politics-ridden world view unless a Big Bad Man is grooming them for an evil terrorist purpose.
That is how far the modern British (and American) Left have drifted from the people, and many of their own former voters. Furious with an electorate that does not respond warmly to their exacting Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, leftists are now lashing out, accusing anybody who refuses to support their dodgy candidates and tired old policies of not only being unreasonable, but actually having succumbed to Evil Tory radicalisation.
Back in the real world, ordinary people will sit back and watch the Left throwing this tantrum, accusing people who reject leftist orthodoxy of having been “radicalised”, and conclude that the Left, not the Right, represents the dangerous and intolerant cult in modern politics. And they would be absolutely right to do so.
In between their screaming tantrums, left-wing commentators in Britain and America might consider pausing to consider just how much reputational and intellectual harm this total war against conservatism is inflicting on their own movement.
Update: The first anonymous Guardian article cited in this blog post turned out to be a brilliant spoof by the excellent anti-SJW provocateur Godfrey Elfwick, something which was not known when I first wrote this piece. The fact that the Guardian’ editorial team did not realise and published the article in earnest only goes to highlight that the establishment Left have swallowed the denialist myth that anybody who disagrees with their worldview must have been “radicalised” by the evil forces of conservatism – thus proving my point about the Left’s intellectual decline.
Top Image: Wikimedia Commons
Support Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:
Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.