The False Promise Of Conservative Political YouTubers

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For many young conservatives, political YouTube offers a respite from left-wing dominance of popular culture, universities, the mainstream media and other social networks. But while YouTube’s brash new right-wing stars can be beguiling to watch, they do little to advance conservatism as an intellectual movement – and sometimes actively set it back

Young, brash, right-wing political YouTubers may unwittingly deliver the final coup de grâce to conservatism as an intellectual movement, even as they rack up millions of followers and achieve all the outward metrics of success.

But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? For some foolish reason I work primarily on the already anachronistic medium of the humble blog, tapping out my verbose screeds into WordPress which then get read and shared by that tiny slice of humanity who can wade through eight paragraphs on the meaning of citizenship in the Age of Brexit without wanting to run into oncoming traffic. Given recent advances in technology and journalism, bloggers like me are effectively still marvelling at the Edison light bulb while everybody else is busy projecting holograms or firing lasers at each other.

Ironically, despite being somewhat frustrated by my own lack of online reach, I find myself increasingly impatient when forced through necessity to read other people’s carefully and well-written words, be it those of a fellow blogger, journalist or author. Reading requires concentration and an engaged brain, and who has time for that?

Every evening after the day job is done and I have commuted home to begin work on my perennially unrewarding side hustle (this blog), I am faced with a choice: do I expend what little mental energy I have left reading and thinking deeply about a complex idea, researching and refining my thoughts until I have something compelling and unique to share with my readers, or do I take the path of least resistance – flicking over to YouTube and watching a parade of talking heads ranting about this or that development in the culture wars, finding something suitably outrageous to get worked up about and then hitting “publish” on an identikit, stream-of-consciousness rant in response?

And here’s my guilty secret: I choose the path of least resistance easily over half the time. Thinking is hard. So is challenging long-held assumptions and personal beliefs. But nodding along while a talking head on YouTube affirms one’s existing opinions is easy, and addictively cathartic. Yet anybody can do this; it is the millennial or Generation Z equivalent of watching Fox and Friends. At this point I can crank out one of my old-style “I agree with Brendan O’Neill” or “look what crazy campus SJWs did” response pieces with my eyes closed. Just crank my handle, insert the topic and required word count and 45 minutes later you’ll have a fully formed blog post. Sure it won’t be original or really add anything to the national political debate, but still, it’ll be there, taking up room in cyberspace.

Look at some of the biggest political YouTube or cable TV stars (they tend to be American or at least to focus primarily on American politics). Ben Shapiro is probably the best of the conservative personalities, certainly far more serious than conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones or culture warriors like Paul Joseph Watson or the execrable Milo Yiannopoulos. The less said about Tomi LahrenLauren Southern or Mike Cernovich the better. Various people have suggested Stefan Molyneux as a supposedly more serious alternative and the philosopher/podcaster does have his moments. But even this seems to be stretching the definition of “serious” somewhat.

Then you have political comedians like Steven Crowder who at least is funny, one of conservatism’s only solid answers to the leftist monopolisation of comedy – and Lord knows that we need a respite from the unbearable sanctimony of John Oliver, Samantha Bee, poor Jon Stewart replacement Trevor Noah and the pitiful Mash Report in Britain (Bill Maher is one of the few consistently funny and insightful left-wing political comedians). Sargon of Akkad can be quite funny when he gets riled up about leftist excess. And while they generally lag behind conservatives on YouTube, on the Left you have shows like The Young Turks (a growing horde of screechy social justice warriors and Bernie Sanders devotees) and a smattering of others.

(Dave Rubin also deserves an honourable mention as somebody who tackles controversial topics and interviews partisan commentators from both sides of the ideological debate in The Rubin Report).

Conservatives seem to dominate political YouTube, probably for the same reason that an older generation of right-wingers once took refuge in American talk radio – because their views were increasingly misrepresented, slandered, marginalised or ignored by the mainstream media. And today, far away from the reach – and the interest – of those Washington and Westminster journalists marinated in the same groupthink as the politicians they supposedly hold to account, conservative YouTube flourishes:

YouTube has thus provided a useful pressure release valve for the expression of a range of conservative thought, though even on this platform conservatives are now under threat, with demonetisation attacks threatening the livelihoods of content creators whose views fall outside the prevailing pseudo-liberal orthodoxy. But generally speaking, while Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr can be seethingly hostile to right-wing ideas, YouTube has allowed a large number of frustrated conservative and libertarian-leaning people to view and engage with a small number of brash, unapologetic conservative personalities.

But as conservatives disengage from regular media outlets, ceding more ground to the forces of the Left, we do ourselves a disservice. A bit of escapism into the ideological bubble isn’t always a bad thing, but it does become problematic when one spends too much time plugged into a partisan medium which can be both shrill and superficial.

As American conservatives flocked to talk radio and stopped consuming mainstream or supposedly objective news, their worldview became progressively more alarmist and conspiratorial. That’s why so many American conservatives still believe that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, while opportunistic companies make a fortune selling gold coins, water filters and survival gear for people who have been slowly convinced that the apocalypse is just round the corner. With no centrists or left-wingers to call BS on their more outrageous claims, conservative media increasingly resembles an arms race to provide the most provocative and alarmist commentary in the hunt for viewers and listeners.

We on the Right correctly rail against universities for becoming little more than temples of social justice and identity politics orthodoxy, where dissenting opinion is relentlessly eradicated through re-education programs, trigger warnings and safe spaces. But we are no better when we retreat to YouTube instead of engaging with the world in all of its fallen, identity politics-soaked left-wingery. Our own outlook is in danger of becoming equally insular when we uncritically clap along as part of Ben Shapiro’s Amen Corner, preferring the catharsis of having our opinions confirmed to the rigour and challenge of debate.

It’s not that political YouTube videos are bad per se, it’s that they tend to be more partisan, superficial and sensationalist than print media and even television (though the gap with TV is lesser). A book can offer footnotes. An essay or feature article, knowing that it has its reader’s attention, can devote some space for context and nuance. A YouTube video, by contrast, has about five seconds to grab your focus before you click away, and must work hard to maintain your attention right through to the end. This inevitably leads to a certain reliance on zingers and soundbites which is actually not dissimilar to the grasping, disjointed way in which many media-trained politicians now speak.

The problem is that for political YouTubers (and other commentators whose careers depend on clips of their media performances being shared widely on that platform) success is measured in clicks, views and the number of times people share their videos accompanied by captions like “Bob McConservative just DESTROYED this stupid liberal on abortion” or “Dumb SJW accuses Righty McRightwing of being a fascist, instantly regrets it”.

For the viewer there may be a short-term emotional payoff in watching “Social Justice Warriors Get Owned In Epic Rant By Steven Crowder” or “Douglas Murray Schools A Muslim Commentator On Free Speech“, but the intellectual rewards of grappling with those same issues and ideas at a deeper level, usually in essay or book form, are more elusive and consequently less sought-after. It is human instinct to prefer the instant gratification of a cable TV or YouTube screaming match to the deferred pleasure of quiet, patient study, and YouTube was designed to deal up this addictive instant gratification, one video clip after another.

But this dynamic can be bad for the right-wing YouTubers as well as their fans. Those right-wing personalities who work increasingly or exclusively on YouTube as opposed to other more traditional (particularly written) media sometimes tend to lose their intellectual edge and become unable to sustain a debate at a more detailed, complex level of knowledge. In a recent column, Andrew Sullivan notes how Ben Shapiro came a bit unstuck during the Q&A section of his recent much-hyped speech at Berkeley University:

He was effectively pwned on at least two questions, climate change and abortion. One student asked whether a revenue-neutral carbon tax wouldn’t be both conservative in that it doesn’t require much of a bureaucracy, and prudent, given the possibility that climate change could be disastrous — and why not prepare for the worst? Shapiro said he’d never considered such an idea and needed to look at it further. Weak; lame. The idea has been banging around forever. And Shapiro can’t say whether he’s for it or not?

Then he was trounced by a liberal student on the question of why women who have abortions shouldn’t be prosecuted. If Shapiro believes, as he does, they have killed a human being, how could they not be? He dodged at first simply saying he’d prosecute abortionists. When pressed, he argued that many women have abortions without knowing that they are terminating a human life (they’ve been indoctrinated into believing a fetus is the equivalent of a polyp), and so you couldn’t prosecute them for murder or manslaughter because they don’t have the specific intent — the mens rea — to kill. But what, the student responded, about those women who absolutely do know what they are doing and still go through with it? Why not second-degree murder, or accessory to manslaughter, or some other charge. In any other circumstance, someone who plays an essential part in a killing would absolutely have to be charged, right? Shapiro retreated to an incoherent position that even though such women have committed a serious crime, in his view, no one wants to prosecute women for such a thing. But that wasn’t the question. The question was whether he should logically support prosecution. And of course he should.

Now, I’m not saying for a moment that I could or would have handled these questions any better. But you wouldn’t even know that the great Ben Shapiro had been (at best) fought to a draw on these issues judging by the triumphalist YouTube excerpts and subsequent online write-ups declaring that Shapiro had effortlessly dispatched with every stupid leftist opponent in the debate hall:

Shapiro undoubtedly has a bright and incredibly quick mind, but one cannot help but think that his abilities would be put to better use – and be at less risk of eventual atrophy – were he making some smart policy for the Republicans (Lord knows they need it) or writing for a publication which allows more depth, rather than preaching to the choir at his creation The Daily Wire. Even if you allow that Shapiro’s eloquence helps conservatism by bringing more people into the movement, which it probably does, these people are bound to be disappointed when the Republican Party and its diminished intellectual blood bank fail to generate policies which solve real problems in favour of striking cosmetic poses against former president Barack Obama.

There are others in jeopardy, too. Christopher Hitchens once said in an interview that Tucker Carlson (of all people) was a writer that he greatly admired, and that Carlson should not quit the field of writing in order to pursue his then-nascent television career. Now the Fox News host can be found taking easy pot-shots at social justice warriors in his prime-time nightly TV slot, and turning a calculated blind eye to the scandals and calamities emanating from the Trump White House.

Then there are the big beasts of yesteryear trying to reinvent themselves as viral video sensations. Ten years ago, Dinesh D’Souza could be found holding his own against Christopher Hitchens in a series of debates about religion, atheism and the existence of God. Today he makes hysterical conspiracy movies and rants on Twitter about how the Democratic Party is the true heir to Nazi Germany. D’Souza now chases the “Dinesh D’Souza DESTROYS ignorant liberal on gun rights” affirmation and resultant web clicks as his key performance metric, and his output has suffered as a result.

Carlson and D’Souza get away with their shtick because their primary audience of Fox News viewers and secondary audience of conservative YouTube subscribers give them a free pass for making intellectual shortcuts and uncritically lap up everything they say. Were they blogging or writing a regular newspaper column, however, they would find it somewhat harder to stand by some of their least defensible positions, and be forced to refine or discard the most controversial ones. But as video personas they are protected from serious rebuttals – by the time an opponent has researched, written and published a response to one of their videos, the YouTube star has already moved on to three other topics. No retractions (let alone apologies) are necessary or forthcoming when they are proven to have made errors or told falsehoods.

But this is precisely why D’Souza, Carlson & Co no longer operate primarily in print or written media – it has become thankless work, toiling away in a more rigorous medium and subject to higher standards and much closer scrutiny, when the fame, acknowledgement and most of the cash increasingly goes to those people producing (often far more superficial and reactive) video commentary.

Yet were it not for the beat reporters and public intellectuals who work primarily in print, many of the YouTube stars would be starved of half their inspiration and content. Like the megastar football strikers who are dependent on their midfielders to consistently feed them with goal-scoring opportunities, many of the fiesty conservative YouTubers would soon fall silent or become even more repetitious were it not for the journalists and thinkers providing them with a fresh source of rhetorical zingers.

None of this is to say that highbrow print media is necessarily better. In fact, often quite the contrary – the veneer of respectability abused by a charlatan working in the prestige print media can be infinitely more harmful than the ranting of the most popular YouTuber. Just witness how a concerted effort by the print media has normalised the term “undocumented immigrant” over “illegal immigrant”, deliberately downplaying the lawbreaking aspect.

But at least the mere act of writing for the New York Times or some other outlet, as degraded as many of them have become, forces one to go through the motions of laying out a coherent argument, which can then be publicly critiqued and picked apart by others. A five-minute YouTube video implying that Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s disease, on the other hand, is harder to call out and refute even when it is unsupported by fact – and the people who watch the incendiary video are increasingly unlikely to also see the print rebuttal, and vice versa. The disaggregation of the media market, beneficial in many other ways, unfortunately means that we increasingly talk past one another and operate from entirely different sets of “facts”.

Social media is fast. This makes it great for hot takes and lively debates, but much less suited to the more ruminative consideration of ideology and policy. But is the allure of becoming a YouTube sensation (often as a launchpad to a career in cable news punditry) distracting people with the talent to make a more lasting intellectual contribution to the conservative movement? I would argue that yes, it is.

Many YouTubers are probably good for nothing more than ranting into their webcams every night, but some – again, I think of Ben Shapiro – could and probably should be doing something better with their time. Shapiro has the #1 rated conservative podcast in America (and hence the world). And that’s great. But somebody with his IQ and intellectual pedigree should be more than an Inquisitor for Socialist Wrongthink – they should be helping to formulate the conservative policies which might one day make the Republican Party worth voting for again.

I get the appeal of being a YouTube sensation though, just as I understand from personal experience the allure of watching these people perform rather than, say, cracking open a difficult book at the end of the day and engaging one’s brain. After all, it is tremendously cathartic to watch people you disagree with – whose fundamental worldview is deeply at odds with your own, and whom you find personally irritating – being rhetorically smacked down night after night, generally with the same unchanging set of workhorse conservative arguments.

But we should be wary. If leftists are allowed to complete their occupation of universities, popular culture and the prestige media while we skulk around on YouTube, their worldview will prevail. YouTube can remain our “safe space”, if we must have such a thing, but we must constantly be operating outside our comfort zone if we want to translate our ideas into policies and our policies into outcomes. Representing the YouTube constituency is not enough – we need an active presence in the places where decisions are actually made.

Right now this is sorely lacking. That a Republican congressional majority in America and a (theoretical) Conservative parliamentary majority in Britain have resulted in almost zero good conservative policies being implemented in either country only proves that ranting about the dangers of leftism (Sanders or Clinton in America, Jeremy Corbyn in Britain) is not the same as coming up with a compelling conservative vision with logical policy offshoots.

So how to effect this conservative renewal? The best thing I’ve done all year is to temporarily unplug from the internet, restrict my use of social media and return to tried and tested ways of learning and thinking – by reading books.

On vacation in Greece last week I actually had time to relax, unwind and read a number of books deeply and critically, rather than scanning them urgently, superficially and with the overriding need to produce a hot take, extract an argument or otherwise take a public position on their content. Instead, I lingered over each book and marked them up with comments and questions to be explored at a later date, and while there will be no immediate payoff for having done so, the gradual increase in the baseline of my knowledge should (hopefully) manifest in the overall quality and empathy of my writing. Recognising my tendency to choose saying what I think over thinking about what I think, it was important for me to flip that around for awhile and spend some time recharging the intellectual batteries.

But that’s just me, as a humble blogger. Those with actual power and influence will need to do more, and yesterday I blogged about one such attempt at conservative renewal in Britain. But while I am willing to be proven wrong, I do not believe that this renewal will come from the depths of YouTube.

Donald Trump is walking proof of what happens when someone is swept to the White House not on the back of a coherent conservative policy platform or a particularly inspiring vision, but by angry rants on YouTube and lurid six-way screaming matches on cable news. Yes, this fractious power base can deliver a majority (in the electoral college, at least) but once in power and tasked with being for something rather than against a list of real and imagined foes, nothing gets done.

For how long will Donald Trump boast about having put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, as though he himself trawled through endless lists of potential jurists, scouring their opinions and dissents in a personal quest to find the quintessential constitutional originalist needed by America? At this rate, Trump will be dining out on that solitary achievement until the end of his term of office – because no further accomplishments are on the horizon right now, that’s for sure. “Build the wall” worked great on YouTube and Fox News, where a policy consisting of three words (seven if you include “and make Mexico pay”) could not be easily picked apart and proved both pointless and unfeasible. But in Washington D.C., where things have to be paid for, policies justified and egos stroked, having the enthusiastic support of Milo Yiannopoulos doesn’t really count for much.

So by all means indulge in a little YouTube time when the mood strikes. It would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise since it can be darn good fun, and I have no intention of quitting altogether. But many of us, myself included, could probably do with dialling it back a notch – or at least seeking out the better quality lectures and debates freely available on that platform. The second-hand opinions of political vloggers are generally (though by no means always) worth less than the first-hand opinions of serious authors, and even a good book cannot compete with doing one’s own primary research.

But since this is the real world and none of us can become experts in everything, those of us with a public audience and the desire to help rather than hinder the conservative movement should at least ensure that we draw our knowledge from a healthier, more balanced information ecosystem.

So there you go: Sam Hooper TOTALLY DESTROYS political YouTubers, and it only took me 3,669 words.

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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.

 

harm-button-keyboard-online-radicalisaion

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On International Video Copyright Restrictions

Rant Of The Day.

So apparently some crazy stuff went down at the VMAs last night. Something about Miley Cyrus gyrating inappropriately, Justin Timberlake reuniting with the Backstreet Boys (or is it ‘NSync?) and all manner of Hollywood elite naughtiness that promised to both amuse and titillate the audience.

I know this because various websites that I read to pass the time – Buzzfeed, Slate, et al. – have been writing and posting articles about the VMA shenanigans throughout the day. The format of said articles (and this doesn’t just apply to the VMAs, but about more or less anything that happens in America) generally follows this pattern:

1. EYE-CATCHING HEADLINE

2. FERVENT ASSURANCE THAT I REALLY WANT TO READ THIS STORY

3. BREATHLESS PARAGRAPH FILLING ME IN ON THE SCANDALOUS DETAILS

4. EMBEDDED VIDEO OF SAID SCANDALOUS HAPPENING IN ALL ITS SALACIOUS GLORY

5. THE “WASN’T THAT SH*T CRAZY?” PERORATION

Only I happen to live in the United Kingdom. Which means that the whole process falls apart when I reach Step 4. Instead of seeing the embedded video (from YouTube, or MTV, or Comedy Central or whoever the hell else), I get this:

4. SORRY, THIS VIDEO IS NOT VIEWABLE FROM YOUR CRAPPY THIRD WORLD COUNTRY. SUCK IT.

Thanks, Slate.com for linking to a video that only 4.45% of the world's population can watch
Thanks, Slate.com for linking to a video that only 4.45% of the world’s population can watch

But – and here’s the kicker – not before they make me sit through the obligatory 30-second commercial for J-Lo’s latest crappy perfume or whatever other shoddily-conceived and made wares that they want me to purchase. As a result, for viewers that God has chosen to curse by not conveniently placing them within the contiguous 48 states of the USA, Step 5 then becomes this:

5. WASN’T THAT GREAT THING THAT YOU DON’T GET TO SEE REALLY AWESOME?

I wouldn’t know, would I? I wouldn’t bloody know.

Comedy Central at least tries to be amusing about the fact that their bloodsucking intellectual property lawyers want to extinguish any last drop of enjoyment that I might possibly derive from their shows:

Even Colbert is in on the heinous conspiracy
Even Colbert is in on the heinous conspiracy

But somehow this lame attempt at humour just makes it all the worse.

And no, it isn’t one of the “detriments of living under a monarchy”. It is one of the detriments of living in a modern digital age still governed by dinosaurs and fossils from a previous era who seriously think that today’s web-savvy, enlightened global consumer will put up with their bullshit and tolerate a smug, scornful, condescendingly second-class service.

And the fact that many such content providers, such as Comedy Central above, offer to redirect you to “your local country website” – which is, without exception, massively inferior to the US version in every way, from design to content – merely rubs additional salt into the wound.

THIS IS WHY INTERNET PIRACY HAPPENS. THIS. RIGHT HERE.

Do the suits seriously think that I am going to shrug my shoulders and hop on a plane to the US of A so that I can watch their two-minute-long, mildly entertaining video clip, or else sorrowfully abstain from ever viewing it?

No. In my rage, I will turn to Google and hammer out a stream-of-consciousness search request into my long-suffering keyboard, and fifty websites of dubious legality will instantly offer to show me the same goddamn video clip, without asking me to move continents, kill my firstborn son or jump through a fiery hoop.

The bottom line is that I get to watch the thing that I wanted to see. Semi-Partisan Sam wins. Always. In fact, the only people who lose out are the blood-sucking corporations who tried to throw pathetic, unenforceable legal obstacles in my path, and – sadly – the content creators, who would have materially benefited had I been able to watch on the official site, maybe sit through a couple more ads, and even make a purchase from the online store once in a blue moon.

But I don’t expect much from the likes of ViaCom-NBC-Universal-CBS-Fox-MediaTron-Gargamel-Corp.

It would be nice, however, if the news and entertainment websites that I frequent – respectable websites and publications that should know that much of their readership originates from outside the continental USA and does not appreciate being titillated with the promise of content that they cannot watch – smartened their act up and linked to sources that do not enforce petty, control-freakish regional access restrictions (or at least pressured content providers to stop their errant ways for the good of humanity).

Henceforth, I will be naming and shaming any site that falls short of this entirely reasonable standard of behaviour on this blog.

Fair warning.