"Antebellum Reasoning"
August 29, 2019 2:07 PM   Subscribe

The "Reasonable" Rebels: Conservatives say we’ve abandoned reason and civility. The Old South used the same language to defend slavery. — Eve Fairbanks on the striking similarity between the rhetoric of leading figures in "intellectual dark web" / "alt-right" circles and that of those who defended slavery in the antebellum South.
So it felt frustrating: When I read Weiss, when I listened to Shapiro, when I watched Peterson or read the supposedly heterodox online magazine Quillette, what was I reminded of?

My childhood home is just a half-hour drive from the Manassas battlefield in Virginia, and I grew up intensely fascinated by the Civil War. I loved perusing soldiers’ diaries. During my senior year in college, I studied almost nothing but Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. While I wrote my thesis on a key Lincoln address, Civil War rhetoric was almost all I read: not just that of the 16th president but also that of his adversaries.

Thinking back on those debates, I finally figured it out. The reasonable right’s rhetoric is exactly the same as the antebellum rhetoric I’d read so much of. The same exact words. The same exact arguments. Rhetoric, to be precise, in support of the slave-owning South.
See also:

A Penn Law Professor Wants to Make America White Again — Isaac Chotiner's interview with Amy Wax, a UPenn professor who's emerged as a central figure in the "alt-right"/"intellectual dark web" movement, particularly on matters of race
During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, Wax expounded on her beliefs that people of Western origin are more scrupulous, empirical, and orderly than people of non-Western origin, and that women are less intellectual than men. She described these views as the outcome of rigorous and realistic thinking, while offering evidence that ranged from two studies by a eugenicist to personal anecdotes, several of which concerned her conviction that white people litter less than people of color.
Leaked Emails Show How White Nationalists Have Infiltrated Conservative Media — Hannah Gais on how The Daily Caller became Stormfront Lite
The group began coalescing on October 13, 2015, when Elliott drew together a few former mentees via email to organize so-called “hateups,” or in-person meetings to discuss racism. (Splinter is including some of the emails both in the body of the article and in a slideshow at the bottom of this piece; we have obscured references to most people other than Bennett and Elliott in the emails.) That’s when Elliott also rattled off the code words the thread used in its chats: “Hawaiians” was a stand-in for “Hebes,” an anti-Semitic slur referring to Jews; “Alaskans” for “N’s” (the n-word); “our good friend” for “AH” (Adolf Hitler); and “our good friend’s son” for Trump.
posted by tonycpsu (45 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I'm reminded of this thesis paper (giant PDF) by Hannah Lanky, in which she talks about how these arguments were used when abolitionists discovered that they could use the postal system to burst the debate outside the bounds of polite private discourse.
posted by clawsoon at 2:15 PM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]

So wack she's Wax.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:22 PM on August 29, 2019

So it felt frustrating: When I read Weiss, when I listened to Shapiro, when I watched Peterson or read the supposedly heterodox online magazine Quillette, what was I reminded of?

Weiss: Propagandist for Nazis
Shapiro: Nazi with serial numbers filed off
Peterson: The guy Nazis use to justify their "science"
Quillette: The journal where Nazis "science" is published

It's not that hard.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:25 PM on August 29, 2019 [32 favorites]

This isn't limited to this particular context. Every day, all of us encounter people that try to take advantage of us, try to get attention from us, try to get things from us, by pushing us in ways that we can't reject without getting called out for making a scene, or not being nice, or making a big deal out of it, or not getting that it is just a joke... or being afraid that we will be called out. It is the worst, and to succeed literally depends on us being civil and accepting their aggression.
posted by davejay at 2:29 PM on August 29, 2019 [14 favorites]

That Splinter link is something else even for someone who's been tracking this for years
posted by The Whelk at 2:32 PM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

The Wax On (Whacks Off) Chair for JAQing-Off Studies.
posted by lalochezia at 2:34 PM on August 29, 2019

More seriously, I refuse to take lectures on "civility" from open enemies of "civil society."

That tends to bring the civility types up short, as they also need to protect their ability to bewail any bruising of their frozen peaches when they strike the wrong note being a little too nakedly racist on Twitter.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:35 PM on August 29, 2019 [18 favorites]

I mean, many of them still defend slavery in the antebellum South. You don't need to link them via rhetorical style: it's the same assholes, just in an incarnation without one-piece woolen underwear.
posted by Rust Moranis at 2:47 PM on August 29, 2019 [20 favorites]

King called it correctly of course:
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
posted by sallybrown at 2:49 PM on August 29, 2019 [63 favorites]

While I’ve not seen the context for all of these comments and only alleged screenshots, they strike me as hurtful, foolish, and juvenile. I have not seen any of this behavior by John at the Institute.
"Boys will be boys."
posted by clawsoon at 2:51 PM on August 29, 2019

I'll be perfectly honest as someone who doesn't do pop culture much recently--ten minutes of watching a Shapiro interview left me with some fairly unspeakable apprehensions of either how easily one can be persuaded to believe things one has a vested interest in believing, or how deeply unintelligent discourse has gotten. If people are falling for that level of dialog and pointing to him as some kind of genius!? It might as well have been the Navy Seal copypasta fed into a soundboard set to 1.5X playback speed.
posted by Phyltre at 3:10 PM on August 29, 2019 [20 favorites]

either how easily one can be persuaded to believe things one has a vested interest in believing, or how deeply unintelligent discourse has gotten.

posted by snuffleupagus at 3:16 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

My husband was just telling me today about another text conversation with a friend who's gone down the hard-right Roman Catholic rabbit hole toward white nationalism. Facebook postings about how boring Democratic is a mortal sin, etc. (He tried to change the subject when reminded that he's been living with his girlfriend for a number of years and has several children with her. Also he interestingly seems to think that they won't turn on him as a Latino when they get half the chance.

There are a lot of entryways. But they all seem to lead to the same place, oddly enough....
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:27 PM on August 29, 2019 [7 favorites]

I have not seen any of this behavior by John at the Institute.
I heard it recently in the context of sexual predators, but I think it also applies to Nazis: They groom allies and defenders just like they groom victims. “I’ve never seen him be evil” just means they’ve calculated your value as a shield to be greater than the pleasure they’d get from stomping you.

For now.
posted by Etrigan at 3:50 PM on August 29, 2019 [71 favorites]

Who goes Nazi? is always, depressingly relevant.

It’s not just the rhetoric, it’s a common strategy for emotional regulation, for lack of a better phrase. These are all people who need to see themselves as victims of something in order to justify what they want to do to others. You see this in the constant right wing bleating about leftists or liberals or whoever going too far — “they’re going to start a war,” etc. — when it is the right wing that has been the aggressor. Same thing happened in the run up to the civil war — slave states saw anything but complete capitulation and agreement and validation that slavery was right and good and great and should exist everywhere as an existential threat.

It’s hard not to see it as narcissistic abuse writ large, scaled to the size of a society.

Anyway. Yes, it is the same demon it’s been this whole time. I don’t know how we exorcise it, but we have to, and we have to do it before climate change fucks everything.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:51 PM on August 29, 2019 [39 favorites]

Also he interestingly seems to think that they won't turn on him as a Latino when they get half the chance.

'I never thought leopards would eat MY face,' sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People's Faces Party.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:51 PM on August 29, 2019 [20 favorites]

They groom allies and defenders just like they groom victims.

I wish I could favorite this 10x
posted by schadenfrau at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2019 [13 favorites]

Roman Catholic rabbit hole toward white nationalism

How does that even... no, never mind, the accidental process is scrambled and the inherent process too familiar.
posted by clew at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

I don’t know how we exorcise it, but we have to, and we have to do it before climate change fucks everything.

Ripley's rule
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:59 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

I don’t know how we exorcise it, but we have to, and we have to do it before climate change fucks everything.

Orrrrrrrrr, and hear me out on this, we all go down to the beach and do whatever recreational drugs we can in as great a quantity as we can until our kidneys give out.
posted by PMdixon at 4:52 PM on August 29, 2019 [16 favorites]

That’s just my regular retirement plan
posted by schadenfrau at 4:58 PM on August 29, 2019 [27 favorites]

I don’t know how we exorcise it, but we have to, and we have to do it before climate change fucks everything.

They are increasingly the same problem:
  • Climate change denial is becoming explicitly racist and more sexist
  • How right-wing nationalism fuels climate denial
  • Climate Deniers Are More Likely to Be Racist. Why?
  • Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the US[pdf]

  • posted by peeedro at 5:02 PM on August 29, 2019 [19 favorites]

    Koch Family Foundation bankrolls the Daily Caller, in case you needed another reason to be happy that one of them is gone.
    posted by benzenedream at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2019 [9 favorites]

    Koch may be gone but his money lives on.
    posted by octothorpe at 5:25 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

    Koch may be gone but his money lives on.

    The rich are undead
    posted by The Whelk at 5:56 PM on August 29, 2019 [8 favorites]

    I spent a bunch of time in the so-called "New Atheist" community until I finally got sick of all the Islamophobia, misogyny, and other -isms, so it was gratifyingly amusing to see the phrase "podcaster Sam Harris". Of the "Four Horsemen", he was always the most blatantly Islamophobic and also the most obviously-there-just-to-justify-the-phrase-"Four Horsemen".
    posted by tobascodagama at 5:57 PM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]

    I was thinking about something similar today: about the "sincere" right, with its "moral conscience" that we are told we must respect, as a matter of religious freedom and civic duty. And when I say "told," I mean literally, by a whole series of recent and pending Trump administrative rules like the Department of Labor's new proposed rule allowing corporations and groups that do business with the government wide latitude to discriminate on the basis of "sincere religious belief." Or the Department of Health and Human Services' finalized rule allowing employees of health care organizations to refuse to treat people based on their beliefs and "moral conscience."

    Instead of only allowing limited exemptions to antidiscrimination rules for officially recognized, little-disputed, codified religious practices, now people will be allowed to discriminate based on any belief they personally "sincerely" hold. The old policy kept government out of battles over religious belief by refusing any claim based on a belief that is contentious. They new one keeps government out by accepting any and all beliefs, so long as they are "sincere."

    And that is scary, because a lot of people sincerely believe all kinds of repellent and bigoted things. For example, 51% of white evangelicals now voice support for businesses having a right to refuse to serve LGBT people based on "religious freedom." And 16% of Midwesterners believe businesses should be allowed to discriminate against Jews.

    Anyway, the reason this relates to this thread is not just that people on the right are saying vicious things and presenting their opponents as the unreasonable, uncivil and oppressive ones. It's that the U.S. has a long and disturbing history of using religion to justify evil, like slavery and racial segregation.

    I wrote a longish post on the topic; not to be overly self-linky, but to avoid derailing, if you would like to read more about my take on how this relates to issues of trans rights today, it's here.
    posted by DrMew at 6:01 PM on August 29, 2019 [20 favorites]

    do whatever recreational drugs we can in as great a quantity as we can until our kidneys give out.

    I can almost guarantee that this will take much longer and be much more uncomfortable than you're thinking. I guess if opiates are part of the mix a lot of that can be treated. It's not gonna look good, though!

    I kind of love it when kooks drift toward antebellum resurrection. I'm a white guy so this is definitely trading on privilege, but I make up for it with viciousness. "Well why don't you secede, then, ya fuckin' inbred hick?" They never have a response, and that's something I think qualifies as decent pushback. Instill the boundaries that make idealizing the Confederacy and the slavery era get the same reaction as "pretty sexy for a nine year-old, don'tcha think?" Maybe I should go to AZ and volunteer for Arpaio's opponent(s).

    They groom allies and defenders just like they groom victims.

    Exactly, and so make it uncomfortable to get anywhere near harmful ideologies.
    posted by rhizome at 7:04 PM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

    I never liked dealing with tenured radicals when I was in school, but hoe-lee-fuck do I hate tenured trolls.
    posted by ocschwar at 7:29 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

    'But that's so rude!' is the rallying cry of people who have no other argument left.

    There are definitely good reasons to enforce appropriate behavior and even to tell people to shut up. 'They said something that I don't think is good manners' is not one of those reasons. The only people who think that are the people who think their feelings are the most important consideration, and frankly it's a great way to tell who I don't want to hang out with.
    posted by Ahniya at 7:31 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

    From the article: "These are the kinds of questions we should be asking of the reasonable right. I know what they say they worry about, but I don’t know what they want."

    This is an easy question to answer, because they straight up say what they want!

    Sam Harris talks extensively about wanting to derive morals from science and reason. Whether he succeeds or not is debatable, but I trust him when he says it's something he wants because it's been the focus of his career, and I have no doubt that he wants to live in a world where morals are primarily or solely derived through the use of reason.

    Jordan Peterson heavily pushes a model of individualistic self-improvement. When he spends so much time on it and writes a book on the topic - it's clear that he wants to live in a world where that's how people operate.

    You can keep going down the line of people mentioned in the article - Christina Hoff Sommers wants a first-wave feminist world that views women and men as deserving of equal rights but otherwise fundamentally different; Bari Weiss is in favor of Jewish biblical entitlement to Israel and wrote extensively about that - these are all wants they wear on their sleeves.

    I don't disagree that these people have narrow perspectives, invoke dogwhistles, and even at their best, prop up people with much more openly repulsive views - but if you want to know what they themselves want, it's right out in the open. These are not the people participating in the alt-right or engaging in 4chan psyops; they're the people being used by those groups to promote an atmosphere of uncertainty and unknowability. Jordan Peterson without an alt-right-provided platform would be just another bad self-help writer and low-grade professor (and of those two things, there are plenty to go around.)
    posted by LSK at 7:41 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

    I mean...every time someone writes a think piece about how the right it using coded language to work along the well-worn lines of bad-faith arguments, I hiccup a 'smash the state' and wonder why the state ain't smashed yet.

    the system's broken, not breaking, it's done.
    posted by es_de_bah at 8:21 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

    The reasonable right’s rhetoric is exactly the same as the antebellum rhetoric I’d read so much of. The same exact words. The same exact arguments. Rhetoric, to be precise, in support of the slave-owning South.

    Yeah. I've been reading The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War and the similarities and parallels between then and now are just depressing.
    posted by soundguy99 at 8:34 PM on August 29, 2019 [9 favorites]

    Hannah Gais also posted a twitter thread with highlights from her article on Splinter - helpful as a quick summary before reading the whole thing!
    posted by bitteschoen at 6:53 AM on August 30, 2019

    I wonder if the international dork web are hurting because Epstein's evo psych bullshit funding has gone away.
    posted by srboisvert at 9:10 AM on August 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

    Orrrrrrrrr, and hear me out on this, we all go down to the beach and do whatever recreational drugs we can in as great a quantity as we can until our kidneys give out.

    Bonus, as climate change progresses the beach will get closer.
    posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:05 AM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

    One of the more frustrating things I've noticed as the alt-right and intellectual dark web have become more prominent in American political discourse is how often the two tribes seem to be rowing in the same direction despite not having much in the way of coherent first principles or political beliefs shared between them, at least if you go by their marketing materials. The one thing they seem to agree on is that they have a common enemy in the social justice left, and that is apparently compelling enough for them to set aside their political differences on any number of other issues. This isn't surprising given what we know about how central identifying and attacking a common enemy was to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump, but it's frustrating nonetheless, and, I think, an topic worthy of further study and media attention.

    This "fellow travelers" effect has become so strong that I have a hard time seeing where the alt-right ends and the intellectual dark web begins these days. Ben Shapiro objects to being labeled alt-right, but unless support for Trump is a litmus test, I don't see what makes him different from alt-right figures like Bannon or Milo. Maybe some different tactics and packaging, but the same reprehensible beliefs.

    The same dynamic exists coming from the other direction as well. Sam Harris's views on race are at this point nearly indistinguishable from those of Steve Bannon, and we've read recently on MetaFilter about how Joe Rogan, while he would object to the alt-right label, seems to be happy to give alt-righters a platform.

    Thinking along these lines after lunch today led me down a bit of a rabbit hole to figure out what the figures inside these movements think about the other, and whether is any attempt within them to grapple with the consequences of their actions. I don't quite have the stomach to dive into the depths on the alt-right side at the moment, but I did find some interesting discussion – including some from within the Quillette-osphere – that I think deserves consideration.

    The rise of YouTube’s reactionary right is perhaps the most accessible starting point for this exercise. In this Vox post from last year, Ezra Klein summarizes the findings of a report by Rebecca Lewis on a "reactionary right" movement that was emerging at that time. The report provides some empirical evidence that being anti-social justice is the defining characteristic of this movement, and Klein uses that to make broader points about how the movement is using anti-establishment framing and rhetoric to reinforce traditional power structures, and how the application of social media algorithms is helping amplify them and push their followers even further to the right, even if that's not what some inside the movement want to happen. Both the report and Klein's post are worth reading in full, and provide some important context for the algorithmic radicalization we're seeing elsewhere.

    Lewis' research and Klein's Vox piece drew a lot of responses from IDW adherents that I'd file under "doth protest too much", but there were also some discussions that come across as genuine self-reflection. Digging a bit deeper into the IDW specifically, I came across a series of posts at Quillette from a writer named Uri Harris, who I hadn't heard of before, but who seems to have emerged as an IDW figure who's willing to challenge some of the movement's dogma and take a more critical view of its leaders and ideology.

    Harris's first piece, entitled "Is the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Politically Diverse?", is a response to a rather unconvincing post from a cybersecurity expert in which the political positions of the IDW's most prominent figures are described as "mostly a collection of disillusioned liberals looking for a place to have honest conversation." Harris refutes this argument pretty thoroughly, writing:
    After gathering a lot of data, it’s important to do a “sanity check,” which means taking a step back and making sure that the big picture that emerges from the data makes sense. In this particular case, if it’s true that the IDW members, with the exception of Shapiro, align almost entirely with liberals on the main issues that divide liberals and conservatives, then we should reasonably expect them in practice to align politically with liberals and not conservatives. Yet, as I point out in my tweet, this is clearly not the case with Rubin, as even the briefest of glances at his twitter timeline reveals: he relentlessly attacks Democrat politicians (but never Republicans); regularly appears at speaking events with conservative organisations such as Turning Point USA; and frequently retweets—and is retweeted by—prominent conservatives like Donald Trump Jr., Charlie Kirk, and Candace Owens. In other words, while the data suggests that Rubin should be politically aligned with liberals and against conservatives on the main issues that divide them, in practice the opposite is true.

    Much the same can be said of Peterson, who Miessler’s chart claims is aligned with liberals and in opposition to conservatives on every issue but one (climate change), yet who nevertheless is admired by prominent conservatives from Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr. to Douglas Murray and Roger Scruton, while many liberals reject him completely. Even if you grant Miessler’s assertion that liberals have been misled about Rubin’s and Peterson’s actual positions, you still have to explain why so many conservatives embrace them. Have conservatives also been misled, in this case into embracing people who oppose them on the issues that matter most to them? It’s possible, I suppose, that a mass delusion has occurred, but a far simpler explanation is that something is off with Miessler’s chart. Either he’s wrong about their positions on the most important political issues, or he’s wrong about which issues truly divide liberals and conservatives.
    Harris then cites the Vox piece I mentioned above, generally agreeing with Klein's observations, and noting the existence of a financial incentive that helps amplify the radicalization even further:
    Having said that, I still think his core argument is correct. A “new” right has indeed been forming online, especially on YouTube, and it includes many people who don’t think of themselves as being on the right, but who nevertheless find common ground with conservatives in opposition to the “new” left, with its focus on identity and structural oppression. As Klein points out, what constitutes left and right changes over time, and this particular division is the basis of the main political and cultural tensions on YouTube. So, in the YouTube world of politics and culture war, it’s largely irrelevant that Dave Rubin is gay married and pro-choice, what matters is that he angrily calls out the “social justice warriors” of the new left.

    Klein is also right in claiming that YouTube is, “where tomorrow’s politics are emerging today.” We’ve already seen this in action the past few years, on both political sides. On the left, appeals to identity and structural oppression have become increasingly mainstream, while on the right, criticisms of these appeals have become similarly popular. Mainstream conservative outlets like National Review, The Spectator and Fox News increasingly express the kinds of arguments and phrases that a few years ago were mostly found on YouTube channels like Rubin’s. [...]

    There’s also a commercial aspect to this. The new left provides an endless supply of monetisable outrage for conservative news outlets, even more so than more traditional social issues. Once someone is immersed in a worldview where the left is characterised by intolerance of diverse opinions, mob behaviour, and divisive identity politics, it’s easy to produce a steady stream of articles and news segments confirming what they already believe.This is what popular new right YouTube channels like Sargon of Akkad have been doing for years: scanning the news every day for examples that confirm this worldview and presenting them with outrage. Mainstream conservatives, perhaps most notably Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, are adopting a similar approach. This further exacerbates the shift in the political divide, as mainstream conservatives become more and more convinced that the new left represents an existential threat that supersedes all other political issues.
    Harris's conclusion in this piece seems to be that the IDW isn't as ideologically diverse as they say they are, and that the supposedly non-partisan IDW needs to be more inclusive of people with opposing views on social justice issues if they want to reach people outside of their bubble. The piece drew many responses from IDW types, running the gamut from qualified defense to strong disagreement. Harris chose to respond to one of the more critical responses with a post entitled "Caricaturing the Left Doesn’t Benefit the Intellectual Dark Web, that's not so much a defense of progressive ideology itself, but a defense of progressives' right to be taken seriously by the IDW:
    In other words, unlike classical liberalism—where individual liberty and critical thought go hand in hand—progressivism is intellectually lazy and replaces rational thought with feelings and simple slogans. Does this make sense? Let’s stop for a second and do a sanity check. Progressivism is held in some form by a significant portion of academics, including those in the sciences. Even if we assume Emmons is talking only about modern progressivism with its focus on identity and structural oppression rather than progressivism more generally (this is not entirely clear), we’re still talking about a substantial group of highly intelligent people. Does it make sense that all of these (highly educated and intelligent) people have abandoned classical liberalism, with its supposed emphasis on logic and reason, for an ideology that is intellectually lazy, based on feelings, and which doesn’t meld with rational thought?

    Not so fast. Modern progressivism, with its emphasis on identity and structural oppression, has replaced classical liberalism among many people for a reason: it provides a more coherent explanation of social phenomena and clearer solutions for improving society. The majority of people who identify as progressives hold the view that beliefs and behaviour are socially constructed to a significant extent, that discourse influences/normalises behaviour, and that identity plays an important role in how people experience the world, among other things. Whether or not these axioms are always true is not really the point: they are a set of beliefs that help people make sense of the society they live in. For the people that hold these ideas they are more nuanced, not less nuanced, than classical liberal ideas.

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of examples where these ideas have been taken too far to the kind of absurdity Emmons describes, but they shouldn’t detract from the bigger picture: the gradual adoption of an ideology that in many ways provides many people with a more coherent way of understanding society and addressing its problems than classical liberalism does. (Part of the problem, as I pointed out in the previous article, is that commercial incentives encourage conservative media to seek out and publish the most absurd examples of progressive-ideas-gone-crazy, presented with sufficient outrage, thus making them seem far more pervasive than they are.)
    I recognize that a lot of these discussions are at the periphery of the IDW, and that very little of this self-reflection is going to permeate the bubble that the central figures of the movement live in. I get the feeling that most of them would privately rather be mistaken for an alt-righter than a progressive, even if their branding requires them to be outraged whenever someone dares to suggest that their opposition to social justice and platforming of fascists makes them functionally part of the alt-right no matter what they call themselves. Nonetheless, I'm glad there are attempts to reckon with the contradictions of a movement that seems built around no defining principles other than opposition to social justice. With luck, maybe it will lead to the movement collapsing under its own weight, but I'll certainly take anything that slows down its merger with the alt-right and co-option by fascist political leaders.
    posted by tonycpsu at 2:09 PM on August 30, 2019 [19 favorites]

    I feel like the Intellectual Dark Web is telling us something up front by naming their website Quillette. Quillet is an archaic term for quibble - which is an informal rhetoric ploy to troll your debate opponent with irrelevant, minor and besides the point complaints.
    posted by srboisvert at 11:38 AM on September 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

    So, the rather conservative Washington Examiner has an opinion piece up by AEI scholar Tim Carney (largely in response to the Hannah Gais piece) entitled, "It's time to create a conservative ecosystem that doesn't welcome racists":
    What’s needed is not mere “outreach” to black, Hispanic, or Jewish voters. Conservatives ought to make elevation of African Americans, immigrants, and religious minorities so central to conservatism that all dedicated racists will be thoroughly repelled. If we can't make them stop calling themselves the “Alt-Right,” because they won’t want to be associated with us, we can at least disgust them with such a focus.
    A fine sentiment, indeed. Good luck with all that. However, though the headline hints at it, the article itself doesn't seem to grapple at all with what makes the currently existing conservative ecosystem so welcoming to racists. In fact, he poses the question in the article: "Why the hell did racists seek homes in conservative and liberal institutions, and why the hell were young conservatives easily won over to racist views?" when, as far as I can tell, the racists weren't trying to seek homes in liberal institutions.
    posted by mhum at 6:00 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

    I think like with the NRA, there will be a growing realization that Successful Republicans do not in fact have the little peoples' interests in mind. We'll still see the Keyes Constant of course, but there is likely to be (aka "I hope") a realization that none of the threats that Republicans fire up their torches for do not actually exist, and that they are still alive and unharmed and WTF has been going on with their votes and taxes?
    posted by rhizome at 10:18 PM on September 4, 2019

    So, the rather conservative Washington Examiner has an opinion piece up by AEI scholar Tim Carney (largely in response to the Hannah Gais piece) entitled, "It's time to create a conservative ecosystem that doesn't welcome racists":

    I went to college with Carney. It is completely in character for him to correctly observe the white supremacist fascist dumpster fire of the US right but then complain that the real problem is that the left is smug about not being a white supremacist fascist dumpster fire.
    posted by hydropsyche at 6:12 AM on September 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

    I can't tell if Carney is really that naive to think that you could possibly make conservatism not-racist or if he's just being intentionally stupid.
    posted by octothorpe at 6:40 AM on September 5, 2019

    So, there's an aphorism I heard from some UK political commentator (maybe Ian Dunt? or maybe a guy with a radio call-in show?) that went something like "Not all people who voted Leave are racist, but all racists voted for Leave." I'm not close enough with any conservatives (American or otherwise) to know if they've realized the same sort of aphorism holds for Republicans and/or US conservativism (e.g.: "Not all Republicans are white nationalists, but all white nationalists vote Republican") or if they're too far into denial to have to face the cognitive dissonance. I guess, like some many things, Simpsons did it first when they had a caption over a Fox News logo that read "Not racist, but #1 with racists".
    posted by mhum at 12:57 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

    I don't know if or where I heard it before, but I've been saying "Racists are Republicans" for at least several months now. If I went to a protest, it's what I'd put on a sign.

    I arrived at it when thinking about the insult of "Republicans are racists" going too far and losing impact for being over the top, and that it worked just fine the other way around. It might sound like "Republicans are racists," and those offended by the association might protest at that interpretation, but you can just point out the logic and cap it off by asking whether they believe it should be legal for adults to have sex with teenagers.
    posted by rhizome at 6:05 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

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