When The Devil Is In Your House: Charlottesville, The Alt Right And Conservatism

There is nothing conservative about the resurgent white identitarian movement taking root in America, and all decent conservatives must vehemently reject this toxic ideology – and its adherents – before we are further tarred by association

There seem to be two main responses from conservatives to the awful violence which took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.

One approach – and the correct one – is to forcefully condemn the rise in white nationalism and the specific act of domestic terror which one individual from that movement perpetrated on society, pointing out that no matter what these people call themselves (Alt Right, Far Right or anything else) there is no place for them in the conservative movement.

The other approach is to point angrily at the leftist counterprotesters, particularly the militant Antifa contingent, and point out that these thugs were also violent, punching people, wielding clubs and attacking journalists with very little intervention from the police. This is the “whataboutism” approach – pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye while ignoring the beam in your own.

Sadly, we have seen too much of the second approach and not enough of the first in the days since violence came to Charlottesville.

The video above is a segment of the Andrew Klavan show. Klavan is a podcast host on Ben Shapiro’s conservative website The Daily Wire, and in this segment he demonstrates by example the way that conservatives should respond when racist, far right fanatics try to hijack our movement and sabotage our policy agenda in service of their own warped agenda.

Beginning at 6 minutes into the video, Klavan says:

Let us start among ourselves, because we’re all good conservatives here. Let us gather together and just remind ourselves – these clowns are in our house, okay? These evil, satanic clowns are in our house.

And it’s no good saying “well, they don’t believe what we believe”, of course they don’t believe what we believe. Of course they don’t. They don’t believe in the Constitution, they don’t believe in E Pluribus Unum, they don’t believe in the great American tradition of bringing people in, transforming them into America through our creed that we conservatives are fighting so hard to defend, they don’t believe in low taxes, they don’t believe in any of this stuff. They don’t believe in America, they don’t believe in the whole thing that makes America what it is.

But they’re in our house. They identify themselves as right wing, they vote for the people we vote for, they have their slogans “Unite the Right” and all this stuff. It’s no good – when the devil is in your house you gotta take care of that, it’s no good saying “well, the devil is in the other guy’s house too” – of course he is. But let’s not mince words about it.

Absolutely. And conservatives cannot afford to be hypocrites here. Whenever a terrorist atrocity is committed by a radical Islamist, many of us on the political Right correctly demand that the Muslim community do more to confront and defeat extremist Islamist ideology wherever it manifests in their mosques, their workplaces, their social circles or even their own homes. The state can not be fully responsible for making radical or violent interpretations of Islam unacceptable to susceptible people, and its attempts to do so (through the PREVENT programme in Britain, for example) will only ever be partially acceptable. The ultimate solution to Islamist extremism cannot be enforced from outside, it must be midwifed by responsible people within the community.

But if we make this demand of our Muslim compatriots, friends and neighbours, we conservatives must also be honest when a violent and extremist ideology is lurking in the fringes of our own movement. The domestic terrorist who killed one person and injured many more in Charlottesville, Virginia last Saturday is no more representative of the conservative movement than the depraved Islamist terrorists who kill innocent people in London, Paris or Brussels is representative of all Muslims – possibly even less so. But still we have an obligation to stand up and vociferously object when our movement is hijacked by those who would seek to appropriate our language, policies and even our political parties for their own warped purposes. It is only fair to be morally consistent in this way.

In the face of resurgent (or at least emboldened) white nationalism it is not enough to do what some stalwarts of the American Right did, and loudly proclaim that Nazism is actually a far-left ideology, trying to pretend that the white nationalist identitarian resurgence is not a problem primarily of the Right:

This is just supremely unhelpful, not because Dinesh D’Souza doesn’t have a point but because this “whataboutism” makes it look – quite reasonably – as though conservatives are deflecting. Yet D’Souza seemed to spend most of the weekend labouring this angle of attack, which while technically true does nothing to purge conservatism of the parasites in our midst, or convince sceptical people that we have our house in order.

Right now I don’t think Republicans or many American conservatives realise just what a severe reputational issue they are facing at the hands of this president. Is the media always fair with its coverage? Of course not. Does the media lazily try to fit every story into their “conservatives are racist” framework much of the time? Yes. But that only makes it more important for us to be whiter than white at all times (if you’ll pardon the unintentional pun).

Conservatives know that they will be attacked for racism if there is even the slightest possibility of malice, while leftists will be given a free pass. We know this, so there is absolutely no excuse for acts like Donald Trump’s latest press conference where he opened himself up to valid accusations by the media that he was drawing a moral equivalence between the violence of the neo-Nazi thugs and the actions of the counterprotesters (yes of course violence took place on both sides, but the ideologies in question are not morally equivalent, and only one side committed an act of domestic terrorism).

And yes, sometimes the Republican Party has been too willing to make a home for racists in their house, a fact which is not expunged by the fact that Democrats did the same in the 1960s. Engaging in whataboutism does not shift the spotlight away from conservatives, it merely makes it look to ordinary people as though we have something to hide.

At this point we are rapidly running out of excuses and mitigating factors for Trump’s behaviour. No, scratch that – the reserve of excuses has long since been exhausted, and the barrel is now bare. And if this presidential behaviour continues largely unchallenged by mainstream conservatives then only one of two things can happen – either conservative and Republican elected officials face deserved electoral annihilation in the midterms and the next presidential election cycle, or they are propped up and kept in office not by genuine conservatives but by uber-motivated Alt Right types – at which point small-government, constitutional conservatives will have been definitively pushed out of their own party.

This is untenable. The white nationalist and white supremacist Alt Right is a cancer on conservatism because they choose to align themselves with conservatism and live in our house, and rather than administering a welcome dose of chemotherapy the President of the United States is allowing the tumour to grow unchecked – either for cynical political ends, or else for a much darker purpose.

Meanwhile, every hysterical criticism and slander of conservatism ever made by leftists becomes slightly more plausible when Donald Trump, face of the Republican Party, cannot bring himself to disavow gushing words of praise from white supremacists like David Duke.

Abraham Lincoln once said:

Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation [..] We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility.

We are rapidly reaching the point where all conservatives of conscience who have not already done so – including elected officials at all levels – must take a public stand and declare whether they accept the White House’s inexplicable Entente Cordiale with the Alt Right, or whether they repudiate it as a matter of conscience.

Those people who choose the wrong side of this existential debate, or who shamefully sit on the fence, will be remembered in spite of themselves.  And one day they will have to answer for their cowardice.

 

White Supremacists March with Torches in Charlottesville

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Violence And Death In Charlottesville, And A Morally Compromised President

Charlottesville protest - car attack - far right domestic terrorism

If President Donald Trump cannot bring himself to explicitly condemn an act of domestic terror perpetrated against anti-racism protesters in Virginia, one must question not only whether he is capable of bringing Americans together as one nation, but whether he even intends to try

What hath identity politics wrought?

That was the question that stuck in my mind as I sat and watched footage of the far right and Antifa protests in Charlottesville, Virginia today, culminating in that heinous act of domestic terrorism where a car rammed a group of counterprotesters at high speed, killing one and injuring nineteen – a deliberate copy of the kind of low-tech attack perpetrated by radical Islamist extremists recently in Europe.

As part of my media monitoring watching this story develop, I spent some time tuned into a livestream report from Alt-Right conspiracy site Infowars. Their reporter was embedded with a group of Alt-Right protesters who had been dispersed by the police and were trying to regroup. Several of them openly admitted to being racist on camera. A couple spoke about the conspiracy of “international Jewry”, while others just barked the name George Soros over and over again. One talked about the demographic timebomb that threatened America when Texas finally turns into a Blue state due to Hispanic immigration. Lots seemed to want a complete shutdown of all immigration, legal and illegal. And all this on top of the images we have seen of protesters bearing swastikas and making Nazi salutes.

Nobody is covering themselves in glory at this point – not the far Right white supremacist protesters, not the more extreme Antifa elements of the counterprotest, not the news media, not people on Twitter and certainly not the President of the United States.

Many people have made the point that the Left’s obsession with identity politics has helped to fuel the white nationalist/supremacist backlash we are now seeing from the far Right. They’re not wrong. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the relentless growth of identity politics, aided and abetted by cynical left-wing politicians, has certainly put rocket boosters on right wing extremist sentiment.

But none of that matters in the moments after a car is driven at speed into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, in what can only be described as an act of domestic terrorism. At that point it doesn’t matter whether the counterprotesters were trying to suppress the free speech of the far Right, or whether their own leftist ideology is flawed. At that point, these discussions should be put on hold, to be relitigated after we have condemned this singular and abhorrent act of violence.

If there was a time for Donald Trump to step up and show that whatever his flaws he could be president of all Americans, this was it. He failed that test, making a statement consisting of weasel words that condemned violence “on all sides” but without mentioning the focal violent incident of the day.

Remember: this is a president who is happy to shoot his mouth off on Twitter about terror attacks in distant lands, offering certainty and condemnation even before the facts are fully established (and sometimes getting it plain wrong in the process). This is a president who can be frighteningly specific when a particular person or group has roused his anger – when he wants to be. As one Twitter user noted, it would have been nice to hear the President of the United States condemn the mowing down of protesters with the same stridency and tone he uses to attack the likes of Rosie O’Donnell or any of the other celebrities he likes to feud with.

But instead Trump said this:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

Well yes, there were certainly acts of bigotry and violence committed by Antifa and others among the counterprotesters. But to paint any kind of equivalence when violence from one side has resulted in death and multiple injury is morally questionable, and politically self-destructive.

There exists a preset media narrative that the Trump White House is staffed with people who are white nationalists at best, and white supremacists at worse. This is mostly media hysteria – while Trump certainly made racist comments during the presidential campaign (not least of which suggesting that Judge Gonzalo Curiel would be incapable of ruling fairly in a Trump University pre-trial hearing because his Mexican heritage would create bias because of Trump’s border wall policy) he has not yet taken any executive action which a reasonable person could construe as being motivated by white supremacist leanings.

Nonetheless, Trump should have realised – and probably was fully aware – that anything less than irreproachable behaviour on his part on any issue touching race would be jumped on by political opponents and the media, bogging his administration’s agenda down and giving Americans just cause to fear that their president was in fact not equally concerned with the welfare of all citizens regardless of race.

And yet when given the lowest of hurdles to jump over – unambiguously criticising violence committed by white supremacist protesters – Trump failed to clear the bar, instead preferring to issue a meandering blanket condemnation of violence which was never going to be enough to satisfy the politicians, media outlets and commentators sniffing for blood.

Why not? Well, to my mind there are only two potential explanations. Firstly, Trump did not specifically condemn the white supremacists because he sympathises with their cause. Or secondly, Trump does not agree with (or is ambivalent about) their cause, but values the votes and political support of this subgroup too much to risk displeasing them by making an overt criticism.

In the first instance, this would make Donald Trump utterly depraved and unworthy of political support from any decent elected official. And in the second instance, this would make the President of the United States a coward for failing to risk taking a political hit in order to tell the kind of harsh truths and specific admonishment to the far Right that much of America needed to hear. Complicity in racism or rank political cowardice – neither characteristic befits the office of president.

Rod Dreher gets it right:

Trump’s response to the racist rally has been — how to put this? — underwhelming.  No, I’m sorry, it’s not “underwhelming”. It’s disgusting. And given that professional racist David Duke invoked Trump’s name favorably at Friday night’s rally, Trump has every reason in the world to condemn this rally and its attendees in no uncertain terms. But he didn’t do it.

[..] Yes, we can and should talk about how left-wing racism and antifa violence are feeding this right-wing racism and violence. But that can come later. Today, all that needs to be said is: these white thugs who desecrated Charlottesville today are evil, and must be condemned and resisted by all decent people. And also, by the American president.

The National Review’s Rich Lowry also makes a fair point:

I don’t have a problem with Trump condemning both sides, since both sides resorted to violence. And he did denounce bigotry and hatred. But I agree that it was mealy-mouthed and wrong not to specifically name and slam the white supremacists whose march was the precipitating event here. Putting aside the merits, if you are a president people suspect is allied with the nastiest forces on the right, you should leap at the opportunity to denounce violent white nationalists. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Trump takes a second bite at the apple sometime soon, but this shouldn’t be so hard.

While Michael Brendan Dougherty is even more appalled:

This weekend in Charlottesville Richard Spencer organized his “Unite The Right” march.  David Duke was there too. Fights broke out between the demonstrating racists and the people protesting them. A motorist driving a Dodge muscle car rammed into a group of anti-racist protestors, injuring several and killing at least one.

Even if you believe as I do, that Spencer’s form of white nationalism is a marginal movement granted far too much attention, the sight of hundreds of unmasked young men marching through Charlottesville with torches and chanting racist slogans inspires genuine fear in many Americans. Trump was given a chance to speak to that fear today, and to offer the same moral condemnation and deflation he’s given others. Instead he essentially repeated his disgraceful half-disavowal of Duke. He refused to call out these white supremacists by name, and condemn them. He merely condemned “all sides.”  An energetic law and order president who had any sense of the divisions in his country would have announced today that he was instructing his Justice Department to look into the people in these groups, and zealously ferret out and prosecute any crimes they turned up.

This is a target-rich environment. Some of these scummy racists in Charlottesville wore chainmail, others went around shouting their devotion to Adolf Hitler. A president with Trump’s intuitive sense of depravity should be able to call them what they are: evil losers. More pathetic: evil cosplayers.  Just as Spencer took Trump’s “I disavow” without a direct object to be a kind of wink in his direction, surely he’ll take today’s statement about “all sides” as another form of non-condemnation. With his performance today, Trump confirms the worst that has been said about him. He’s done damage to the peace of his country. What a revolting day in America.

What stubborn obstinacy exists within Donald Trump that makes him unable to do the sensible thing, to follow the path of least resistance, time and time again? Trump knows that his every statement and every tweet will be parsed by the media, many of whom are actively antagonistic to his agenda (see CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta’s preening, virtue-signalling battle with Stephen Miller over immigration at a recent press briefing). So why feed them more ammunition? Surely Trump knows that given widespread concerns about his attitudes to race, he needs to be whiter than white (if you’ll pardon the pun)?

More importantly, Trump should realise that criticisms of identity politics from his administration and other conservatives will be even less likely to get a fair hearing than would otherwise be the case, so long as he refuses to condemn white nationalist violence with the same zeal that he criticises violence committed by other identitarian movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Maybe somebody smarter than me can come up with a better and less worrying theory as to why Trump deliberately avoided the path of least resistance when making his statement. But to my mind, the only reason the president would refuse to explicitly condemn white nationalist violence – when he knew that the entire country was watching and waiting for him to do so – is because there is a certain constituency he is sufficiently keen to keep on-side that he is willing take the political hit for issuing a mealy-mouthed, non-specific condemnation of the violence in Charlottesville.

There is an exceedingly unpleasant subgroup within Donald Trump’s support base that holds utterly abhorrent views which need to be acknowledged and confronted, not just by ordinary grassroots conservatives or sycophantic GOP politicians but by Trump himself. And every day that the president fails to denounce that racist element, what little moral authority he has left will continue to ebb away.

 

Charlottesville protest - Unite the Right - white supremacists salute

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The Left Compare Conservatives To ISIS, Warning Of The ‘Radicalisation Of Young White Men’

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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”.

More:

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.

 

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Top Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Donald Berlusconi: What If Trump News Network, Not The White House, Is The Real Goal?

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Donald Trump either knows he has already lost the election, or is planning a corrupt presidency to rival the rule of media empire-owning former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi

With just 21 days to go until the US presidential election, there are new signs that Donald Trump (or at least those around him) are increasingly coming to believe that the game is up, and looking ahead to life after the election under the presidency of Hillary Clinton.

The Financial Times reports that Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, has been making confidential overtures to investors about funding a new startup Trump News Network:

Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has informally approached one of the media industry’s top dealmakers about the prospect of setting up a Trump television network after the presidential election in November.

Mr Kushner — an increasingly influential figure in the billionaire’s presidential campaign — contacted Aryeh Bourkoff, the founder and chief executive of LionTree, a boutique investment bank, within the past couple of months, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

Their conversation was brief and has not progressed since, the people said. Mr Bourkoff and Mr Kushner both declined to comment.

However, the approach suggests Mr Kushner and the Republican candidate himself are thinking about how to capitalise on the populist movement that has sprung up around their campaign in the event of an election defeat to Democrat Hillary Clinton next month. Mr Trump has in recent days ramped up his criticism of the “dishonest and distorted” mainstream media, which he accuses of being biased against him in collusion with the Clinton campaign.

This would certainly explain an awful lot about how Trump has been behaving since seizing the Republican Party presidential nomination in the summer. Since that time, Trump has overwhelmingly defaulted on his promises to switch gears and become “so presidential” and to reach out to centrist voters left unmoved by shrill denunciations of Hillary Clinton as a traitorous criminal.

In fact, rather than any tack back to traditional Republican values, Trump has doubled down on his conspiracy theorising and weaponised victimhood, preferring to drive the segment of America already well disposed to him wild with glee rather than expand his support base or help the prospects of down-ticket Republicans.

In this context, the idea that Trump either never intended to seriously challenge for the presidency (still a stretch, I think) or gradually gave up on that original ambition as he lurched from disaster to disaster (more plausible) starts to gain credence.

As a serious attempt to build an election-winning coalition of voters or persuade a majority to abandon their doubts and embrace his “ideology”, Trump’s continued behaviour has been entirely counterproductive. But as a strategy to enthuse his most ardent supporters and drive a further wedge between them and all mainstream sources of news (even including Fox News) it has been a masterpiece. Journalists are now routinely booed at Trump rallies, while the candidate himself accuses the media of being part of an organised establishment plot to swing the election for Hillary Clinton.

Currently these voters are served only by the more fringe conservative media – sites such as World Net Daily, Breitbart, InfoWars and alt-right personalities like Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich. And while many of these outlets are professionalising their operations, there probably still exists a gap in the market for a well-funded, professional-looking television news network that looks like CNN but talks like Alex Jones.

And now there is compelling evidence that Donald Trump, rather than seeking to help unite America in either victory or defeat, instead intends to capitalise on the partisan rancour and mutual distrust which will be left in the wake of this toxic presidential election campaign.

All of which raises a couple of rather pressing questions.

If Donald Trump is planning to set up a television news network regardless of the outcome of the election – raising the prospect of the most powerful man in the world also having a media empire to sing his praises from dawn to dusk, like Silvio Berlusconi (in so many ways) on steroids – is that not yet more evidence of his authoritarian, almost dictatorial intentions?

But if the Republican presidential nominee really has given up any prospect of winning the election and is instead abusing his platform to whip up a narrower subset of supporters with the hope of turning them into a loyal viewer base for his new television news network, then should he not be summarily removed from the GOP presidential ticket and replaced with somebody who is actually running to win for party and country?

 

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Top Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Donald Trump’s Second Presidential Debate Performance Was Red Meat To The Alt Right

Who is Donald Trump trying to impress? And why?

If you were wondering exactly what audience Donald Trump was playing to with his combative debate performance in last night’s second presidential debate, here’s a clue.

Donald Trump’s “braggadocious” threats to prosecute Hillary Clinton if he wins the presidential election will do nothing to temper the fears of undecided voters who have no love for Hillary Clinton but harbour reservations about throwing their support behind an authoritarian wannabe strongman.

But this kind of language is absolutely lapped up by Trump’s strongest source of support – the conspiracy-tinged alt-right, who see Hillary Clinton not merely as an ethically challenged creature of Washington D.C., but as evil incarnate – the “wicked witch of Benghazi, cackling over her cauldron” as one pro-Trump social media user put it.

And the conspiratorial InfoWars site certainly lapped up Trump’s second debate performance, as seen in the instant reaction video shown above, and again at far greater length in that site’s six-hour coverage of the debate at Washington University in St. Louis.

But in the midst of the pro-Trump cheerleading, InfoWars reporter Owen Shroyer actually makes a very pertinent observation:

You know, it is an amazing dynamic where it seems like if you like Donald Trump, no matter what, he wins, if you like Hillary Clinton, no matter what, she wins. How do we break any ground on that? How do we break through that paradigm where only your candidate can win the debate? I think that that illustrates the polarisation that we’re seeing in this country in this election cycle.

Indeed, different sites and journalistic outlets have called the debate in line with their partisan leanings or the supposed proclivities of their readers, preferring to pander than to challenge or upset. The Guardian declared a victory for Clinton, while the Spectator and numerous American conservatives (even those opposed to Trump) declared him the victor.

As this blog commented following the debate:

My initial assessment: if you disregard actual facts (as we now seem to do), Donald Trump probably had the better of this debate. He went on the (nuclear) attack, hit Hillary Clinton hard, gave his supporter base something to cheer about and managed to do enough incendiary things to bump the Trump Tapes story fallout down the news agenda. Hillary Clinton didn’t commit any significant gaffes and was more poised, but again there was nothing tremendously inspiring about her sales pitch for the presidency.

And it seems that we do now disregard facts and adherence to them when judging a candidate’s debate performance. While Hillary Clinton certainly was not consistently truthful during the debate, Donald Trump made significantly more blatant falsehoods. But can he still be said to have “won”, by virtue of having been more combative in tone and unapologetic about his deceits? Apparently so.

What is clear is that more than ever – even more than four years ago, when Republicans trapped in an ideological echo chamber of their own making were convinced that Mitt Romney was going to lead them to victory – is that both sides have retreated to their respective ideological bubbles, hermetically sealed safe spaces of bias confirmation in which awkward facts or revelations are diminished or entirely ignored in order to avoid the slightest cognitive dissonance in the minds of their supporters.

Donald Trump’s combative performance and willingness to step into unprecedented territory in his attacks on Hillary Clinton will have been red meat to those of his supporters already firmly ensconced in the bubble. Threatening to send “crooked Hillary” to jail is red meat to the ascendant alt-right movement.

But will it have done anything at all to convince wavering voters that Donald Trump is capable of carrying out the duties of the presidency in a calm and measured way, or that he represents a safe choice for those unwilling to vote for Hillary Clinton? Almost certainly not.

And with less than a month to go until the election, Donald Trump still has all of his work ahead of him to reach that low but mysteriously elusive bar of acceptability.

 

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