Kirchick: The Symbiotic Relationship Between the Alt-Right and PC Left

The always interesting James Kirchick has penned an essay titled Enemies, A Love Story. Here’s an excerpt:

The rise of a majoritarian (i.e., white male) identity politics is the lamentable yet entirely predictable reaction to decades of minority identity politics. The alt-right is literally a reactionary movement, reacting to the perceived denigration of mainstream American culture by grievance-mongering radicals for whom the very word “white” is a slur. Absent the intellectual totalitarianism and bullying hypocrisy of the ascendant social-justice-warrior left, the Trump phenomenon would have lacked potency. The two sides exist in a sick, codependent symbiosis. …

Of course, racism, sexism, and nativism existed long before Trump, and nothing can excuse the demagogy and divisiveness engaged in by the president-elect and his surrogates. But we should be able to critique the excesses of identity politics without being called racists.

That’s what Columbia professor Mark Lilla tried to do in a postmortem essay for the New York Times titled “The End of Identity Liberalism.” A liberal in good standing, Lilla reassessed the prominence afforded to identity politics as the engine of the left’s value system and appealed for a return to a more universalistic politics that focuses more on broad economic concerns than narrow racial, sexual, and gendered ones. “American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender, and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing,” he wrote. For this, a Columbia colleague angrily likened Lilla to David Duke, both men being accused of “contributing to the same ideological project, the former cloaked in a KKK hood, the latter in an academic gown.”

Kirchick concludes, “Those wanting to deflate the allure of the Trumpian right must also tackle the excesses of the social-justice-warrior left.” But from what I’ve seen, it’s “circle the wagons” all round on both the right and the left.

16 Comments for “Kirchick: The Symbiotic Relationship Between the Alt-Right and PC Left”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Kirchick concludes, “Those wanting to deflate the allure of the Trumpian right must also tackle the excesses of the social-justice-warrior left.” But from what I’ve seen, it’s “circle the wagons” all round on both the right and the left.

    Utopians and dystopians of various political extremes are birds of a feather, despising the politically moderate and always ready, as good nannies of higher intellect and discernment, to tell those of us who don’t live on the extremes what we “must” do. We used to call them “Church Ladies”.

    Reply
  2. posted by T on

    The Alt-Right may claim its just “anti-pc” but its just David Duke-style ravis

    Reply
  3. posted by TJ on

    The alt-right is a movement of racists, skinheads and homophobes who want to appear as simply being “un-pc”.

    Reply
  4. posted by Jorge on

    The alt-right is a movement of racists, skinheads and homophobes who want to appear as simply being “un-pc”.

    I agree. This also evades the observation that the alt-right differs significantly from other incarnations of prejudice in that it has adopted new origin stories and adopted a politics that is more moderate than those it opposes. I assume as usual that everyone is racist, sexist, and heterosexist.

    I believe the odds are even the alt-right movement will integrate with the Republican party, separating its white nationalism from white supremacism and white separatism in the process. You’ll start seeing a lot of bloodletting in the process.

    “American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender, and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing,”

    Not to worry, dearies, this ex-liberal is ready to govern. And he takes his orders from progressive grey-haireds of the baby boom generation who more than embrace the notion that liberalism is about good government. Everyone shall be permitted to use the bathroom (singular) of their choice. Instead of presenting ID and birth certificates, transgender people shall scold me for accosting them, thereby providing verbal testimony sufficient to verify their gender. We will avoid disparate impact discrimination by reviewing the research of our progressive-wacko colleagues in academia and implementing recommendations that solve problems before we sued over them.

    Reply
  5. posted by Jorge on

    O_o @ that picture topping the article.

    I did not elect Milo Yahooey to be Pope Old Fashioned (and Dead in a Month).

    One of Yiannopoulos’s prime targets is the gay media and political establishment, which he accuses of being a censorious, humorless, easily offended herd of independent minds.

    >:( Well sorry for having a sense of humor. I swear to you I did not elect him!

    “The excess of this narrow branding of the queer community results in erasure of all those who are not highlighted, an erasure that allows stereotypes, discrimination, and abuse to continue unabated against those invisible intersections.” A free steak dinner if you can tell me what the fuck that means.

    The piece was a whitewash that excluded black people. The secondary meaning is that it excluded women, transgender people, and Muslims. Here is the explanation:

    The key ideas are at the beginning and end of the sentence: a narrow branding of what LGBT is harms invisible intersections. Intersections refers to intersectionality, the view that it is important to look at the intersection between two or more diversity categories (race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.). Intersectionality theory tends to posit that because white, male, straight, and protestant perspectives are privileged in the US, there is a tendency in portrayals of women or any single minority group to examine them from the perspective of the white, male, straight protestant minus x (with x being the group that is being studied).

    Intersectionality is most commonly studied with reference to race and sex. Thus, in the LGBT community, there is a division between whites and blacks, as well as between homosexuals and transgendereds. Given Milo’s particular history, however, a criticism that the article didn’t attend to intersectionality is also likely a criticism that the article didn’t seek the perspectives of women and Muslim people who are often subject to his criticism.

    I’ll pass on the steak. As a nonwhite American, steak (by which I presume you mean broiled without battering or spices) is a rare exoticism for me, and I just had it this week.

    Reply
  6. posted by Throbert McGee on

    Attention, copy-editors! Ahoy, I say, wake up! Is this machine on?

    Anyway, has Milo actually accused the “gay media and political establishment” of being “a herd of independent minds”? This scarcely makes sense.

    Possibly those WITHIN that “establishment” might insist that holding a coalition together is an exercise similar to herding cats, because a lot of establishment-members really do have “independent minds.”

    But presumably Milo is more likely to see the gay media and political establishment as a “censorious, humorless, easily offended herd of Borg drone-units.”

    Or maybe Kirchick simply meant to write “a herd suspicious of independent minds”?

    Reply
  7. posted by Throbert McGee on

    I second this comment by Jorge:

    This also evades the observation that the alt-right differs significantly from other incarnations of prejudice in that it has adopted new origin stories and adopted a politics that is more moderate than those it opposes

    This is important — the alt-right may have a nasty, extremist worldview, but (at least for the time being) they aren’t advocating nasty, extremist politics.

    Reply
  8. posted by Lori Heine on

    I’m heartened to see sensible commentary here from Tom, Jorge and Throbert. Stephen is pointing out something that I keep telling people, and the usual response is mindless leftist or right-wing boilerplate team rah-rah.

    When the majority of this country wakes up to the fact that Team Red vs. Team Blue is nothing but a huge scam and a fraud, we can finally put an end to it.

    There’s no need for anyone to change their convictions or concerns. All across the spectrum–from Left to Right–our input is crucial. What those who flame-war with me online, or in person, never seem to realize is that I’m not saying “be more like me and care about what I care about.” I’m saying “look at what you’re doing to other people,” and “look at the real-world effects of what your political leaders are doing.”

    I suppose I’m a libertarian centrist. That means that mindless sheeple on the Right think I’m a leftist, and mindless sheeple on the Left think I’m a right-winger. It also explains the pearl-clutching that Stephen did when I mentioned Chomsky.

    I listen to both sides. But I make up my own mind. It’s good to see other commenters here doing that, too.

    Reply
  9. posted by Houndentenor on

    Since I block the alt-right types, I don’t get into many fights with them. I don’t find racists and sexists worth talking to. I’m far more likely to get into it with “regressive leftists”. One called me a “free speech absolutist” recently. I think I might get that on a t-shirt. Indeed I am. This poor misguided soul actually thought she could count on the courts to only shut down the speech she considered bad but would of course never censor her speech. That’s what people like that never get. If we can do it to them, then they can do it to us. Free speech rights shouldn’t be dependent on who is in charge at the moment. What a horrifying idea especially considering who is about to be appointing federal judges. No thank you. Let everyone say what they want (with exceptions for libel, slander, assault/threats, etc.) and whoever has the best ideas will win. Also what people like that can’t understand is that silencing people doesn’t make them go away. It just forces them underground where their toxic ideas go unchallenged. Let it all out in the daylight. If I’m not confident that my ideas are valid, then what do I have to fear from people who disagree? No, the leftists are just as bad as the far right in that regard, but of course since it’s from the far right that they learned their tactics of shouting down what they don’t like. Of course the alt-right types like Milo live to be shouted at. His persecution routine is his entire act. If liberals would learn to ignore him and Ann Coulter and their ilk they’d have nothing. All they do is say horrible things, wait for liberals to overreact (they always do) and promote the reaction to sell books and personal appearances. it’s quite the racket. It also distracts from the fact that they have nothing of substance to say. It’s not that there are no conservatives with interesting things to say. Evan McMullin and David Frum have been on fire lately on twitter. Unfortunately you can hardly hear them over the alt-right shrieking morons.

    Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      I agree with this wholeheartedly, Houndentenor.

      I think that political extremists exist at the fringes of all political philosophies across the spectrum — liberal/conservative, authoritarian/libertarian, left/right, religious/secular and so on — and I think that extremists are birds of a feather, sharing many/most of the following characteristics:

      1. Attacks, overblown rhetoric, cultish language. Political extremists have a propensity to launch personal attacks on an opponent rather than deal with facts, issues and arguments, to resort to epithets (racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, unAmerican, anti-Christian, Nazi, authoritarian, and so on) as a substitute for reasoned argument, and use specialized language (“Patriot”, lamestream, “Diversity”, 14/88, sheeple, and so on) with specific in-group definitions not commonly used in ordinary English or normal political discussion.

      2. Absolutist, catastrophic, last-chance thinking. Political extremists have a propensity for black and white, absolutist thinking, more often than not casting all issues in moralistic, right or wrong, terms, refusing to recognize a middle ground or intermediate positions, typically use imperatives to demand action, rather than persuasives to obtain action, frequently posit dire, catastrophic consequences (nuclear destruction, economic/societal collapse, massive civil disruption, and so on) if their positions are not adopted and warn that we are being given a last chance to set things right.

      3. Claims of moral and/or intellectual superiority, gnosis, paranoia. Political extremists often claim intellectual and/or moral superiority over their opponents, typically claim to be acting in service of a higher ideal rather than self-interest, frequently claim to have knowledge not available to the rest of us, and claim to be ignored/persecuted by mainstream media and culture, finding persecution in almost everything.

      4. Censorship and intimidation, imperatives. Political extremists typically advocate some degree of censorship/repression of ideas (blacklisting, banning, quarantining, and so on) and engage in intimidation tactics (doxxing, hate mail/e-mail campaigns, targeted social media abuse, and so on). Ironically, political extremists almost always decry societal efforts to provide any level of “safe space” for their opponents while whining that they are persecuted and unprotected.

      Our culture, it seems to me, has landed in an odd place. At one level, a personal level, we seem to more civil to one another (for example, I don’t hear “nigger” much more than once a month now, a significant change from 20-30-40 years ago, and other derogatives such as “fag” and “cunt” seem to falling away in common usage as well), but we also seem to be less civil toward one another in our political and cultural interactions, attacking rather than engaging, politically and culturally acting, as often as not, as if we were political extremists.

      I hasten to point out that lack of civility is nothing new, particularly in politics (read the political newspapers of the 19th century), but it seems to me that the kinds of behaviors exhibited by political extremists have become more widespread among ordinary people, particularly in social media, and have become expected behaviors in the mainstream of American discourse at the macro level. As I see things, that development poses as great a threat to the marketplace of ideas as attempts by political extremists to impose censorship on ideas. If few are engaged in serious attempts at rational discourse, most preferring attack-dog sound bites, where is the marketplace of ideas, and how is it supposed to function as a means of separating out good ideas from bad ideas?

      And I’ll readily admit that my thoughts may be the mutterings of an old man, living in the past, imagining a day when discourse was more civil, a time that did not exist in reality. (After all, I am of the generation that saw protesters surrounding the White House, 24×7, shouting “Hey, Hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?” while the rest of us were off fighting a world away.) But it does seem to me that the center held sway in the 1950’s, 1960’s and even the 1970’s in a way that no longer holds true. I’ve seen a number of studies that suggest that Americans are becoming increasingly polarized, divided into (as Lori puts it) “teams” that are more interested in engaging in cross-combat than in solving problems.

      So I’m at something of a loss. I try to do my part by ensuring that my comments on IGF and elsewhere are civil and (to the extent that I have the capacity) contribute something to the marketplace of ideas. And, as this thread shows, most commenters on IGF do that as well. IGF, for all my frustration with Stephen’s posts more often than not, remains an island of sanity when compared with the comment stream on most political blogs. That’s a good thing.

      Reply
    • posted by JohnInCA on

      ” Let everyone say what they want (with exceptions for libel, slander, assault/threats, etc.) and whoever has the best ideas will win.”
      Huh?

      Unless you’ve creatively defined “best”, that’s not how humans work. They tend to be pretty tribal with their thinking, and expand and shrink their idea of their “tribe” as necessary to minimize cognitive dissonance. An idea opposed to one’s tribe doesn’t just have to be better to be accepted and adopted, it has to be overwhelmingly, undeniably better.

      Which, of course, runs into problems with modern information sources and media. It’s trivially easy these days to dismiss reports and information that conflicts with your preexisting biases.

      So no. The “best ideas” don’t win out. The most persuasive ideas win out. To confuse the two is to assume humans are far less emotional and far more reasonable then they really are.

      And don’t mistake this for any advisement on Free Speech. My views on Free Speech are wholly distinct from the realities of how humans reason and decide.

      Reply
  10. posted by Jorge on

    Thank you, Throbert.

    Yes, I really did choose my words that carefully.

    There’s no need for anyone to change their convictions or concerns. All across the spectrum–from Left to Right–our input is crucial.

    I agree with that.

    It may have been noticed that I came to take the competing expository articles by Milo and that white nationalist guy very seriously, and that I believe the latter is slightly more true, even in spite of conventional wisdom coming to the same conclusion.

    No thank you. Let everyone say what they want (with exceptions for libel, slander, assault/threats, etc.) and whoever has the best ideas will win. Also what people like that can’t understand is that silencing people doesn’t make them go away. It just forces them underground where their toxic ideas go unchallenged. Let it all out in the daylight…

    You think you’re stronger than the alt-right!

    You think you can bore Milo Y to death!

    Not everyone actually says they want attention, but if you ask me it’s not too much to ask to treat someone who goes around bragging about his money and sexual desirability with enough civility to leave it at pearl-clutching. I mean my goodness isn’t that the treatment David Duke got?

    It’s like people are allergic to using the word “No.” If they use it, it’ll be used against them, so they’ll try to destroy people. It’s madness.

    Reply
    • posted by Dave Ekstrum on

      Yes, I think Milo’s entire popularity is based on the fact that he gets under the skin of liberals. Ann Coulter’s too. Without the liberal reaction to everything they say, they’d get no publicity at all and without that publicity they’d just be people trolling the internet. They’d still exist, of course, but no one would care and they certainly would’t be getting book deals. Nothing could have helped Milo’s popularity more than a lefty college student smacking the mic out of his hand. It was a stupid move on the part of the student because it didn’t silence him. It just made him look like a victim of the left. He knows how to play that crowd and they let him. And I think in part that’s Stephen’s point. But the regressives and the alt-right need each other to have a purpose. They certainly don’t have any ideas or any solutions. Just hate for each other.

      Reply
  11. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    The always interesting James Kirchick has penned an article titled “How Trump got his party to love Russia“. Here’s an excerpt:

    Though the opportunists outnumber the ideologues, it’s the true believers who could pose the greatest damage to U.S. foreign policy over the long term. Their proposed strategic realignment with Moscow, predicated upon shared opposition to vaguely defined “Islamic terrorism,” is seductive but wrong: Far from being a potential partner in the fight against Islamic terrorism, Russia does much to stoke it.

    A representative bellwether is former American Conservative Union chairman David Keene, who, writing in the Washington Times, cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessments regarding Russian hacking and favorably quoted right-wing former Czech president Vaclav Klaus (who lost a sinecure at the libertarian Cato Institute for his pro-Putin views ) to the effect that “a nation and its leaders may be detestable without being dangerous.” (Like secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson , Klaus has received a state prize from Putin.) “There are new monsters out there and we need to focus on the threats they pose rather than wishing for the return of those already slain,” Keene advised, sounding like a Cold War-era leftist accusing conservatives of “red-baiting.”

    Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) is the perfect embodiment of this ideological makeover. In the late 1980s, he was a rock-ribbed Orange County Republican speechwriter for Ronald Reagan who actually fought the Russians alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Today, Rohrabacher (who praised Russian hacking as “terrific ”) is Capitol Hill’s greatest defender of Putin, whom he portrays as an opponent of radical Islamic terrorism.

    Incoming national security adviser Mike Flynn published a book last year listing Russia as a charter member in “an international alliance of evil countries.” But he also infamously sat next to Putin at a 2015 Moscow gala for RT, the Kremlin’s global disinformation network, a curious invitation for the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency to accept. “We have to begin to understand that this is not an East-West world, folks,” he told the audience at the dinner. It’s “actually more of a North-South world.”

    Trump’s supporters in the white-nationalist alt-right also venerate Russia as a reactionary regime standing athwart a liberal, cosmopolitan West that promotes feminism and homosexuality. When I interviewed him last year, alt-right leader Richard Spencer gushed about how the “Trump-Putin understanding” presented “a vision of a white world that is not at war.”

    Kirkchick also comments on “losers” John McCain and Lindsey Graham:

    Some Republicans, such as Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), are putting principle before party by protesting Trump’s coziness with a regime that the GOP’s previous nominee, Mitt Romney, rightly labeled America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” Yet they appear to be losing. This past week, facing pressure from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the two backed down from their bipartisan push to establish a select committee charged with investigating Russian election interference.

    Kirchick concludes:

    In an interview recorded more than 30 years ago, Russian defector Yuri Bezmenov revealed the KGB’s counterintuitive approach to recruiting. “This was my instruction: Try to get into large-circulation, established conservative media. Reach . . . cynical, egocentric people who can look into your eyes with angelic expression and tell you a lie. These are the most recruit-able people, people who lack moral principles, who are either too greedy or suffer from self-importance.” Say this for Bezmenov: He knew his mark.

    Indeed he did. Politics makes strange bedbugs.

    Reply
  12. posted by Jorge on

    My antennae noticed a reference to the great and smartiful Sen. Lindsey Graham. What is it?

    Some Republicans, such as Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), are putting principle before party by protesting Trump’s coziness with a regime that the GOP’s previous nominee, Mitt Romney, rightly labeled America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” Yet they appear to be losing. This past week, facing pressure from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the two backed down from their bipartisan push to establish a select committee charged with investigating Russian election interference.

    McCain is the one who is apt to put principle before party. Graham’s m/o is to put party before principle. Over and over and over again in a neverending game of wuss-out chicken until principle makes an end run through the remaining path of least resistance. I have already lost count of how many times Graham has raised and squelched a protest at something Donald Trump did or said since he was elected. He will be no less formidable a foe to the Trump administration as he was to the Obama administration, and he might also be no less friendly.

    Reply
  13. posted by Kirchick, Always Interesting? Ha! on

    It never ceases to amaze me how bereft of media literacy or critical thinking skills people are at recognizing propaganda. Kirchick, a Senior Fellow at Foreign Policy Initiative (PNAC 2.0), exists for one reason and one reason alone: to excoriate Russia and, in this last election cycle, to carry water for Hillary Clinton since she was the neocon establishment candidate.

    Trump was, bizarrely, considered the threat to the foreign policy establishment and the District of Criminals, at large, because of his views on Assad, IS, Russia, the Fed, ¨currency manipulation,¨ and more. He represented, whether you believed him or not, a campaign that resonated with people´s genuine economic pain and hunger for change since 2004, not 2008 that everyone else has cited because of the herculean failures of 8 years of the Obama presidency.

    How Kirchick could be ¨always interesting¨ is absolutely bewildering to me. Like Eli Lake and other Millennial (or 29 and holding since MySpace was cool) writers at VICE and The Daily Beast, he´s nothing but a jackboots militarist and rabid Zionist pushing the Kagan-Kristol propaganda that more war, more colonialism and more Balkanization is ALWAYS good and ¨right.¨

    And, clearly, as we see in Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Nigeria, Ukraine, Somalia, the 70 countries weŕe engaged in military action, the NATO bases encircling Russiaś borders, and the missiles surrounding China…itś all a stunning success thatś made America safer, more prosperous, increased global peace and security, stabilized relations between countries, reduced international terrorism, and reduced trade barriers.

    Oh, that´s right. Itś done none of those things.

    But it´s ¨always interesting¨ to read the rabid PNAC presstitutes like James Kirchick sell their sludge and indoctrinate lobotomized New Cold Warriors who read The Daily Beast who know nothing about imperialism and everything about identity politics.

    Reply

Leave a Comment