BY ALEXIA JAMES
I don’t buy the Alt-Right. In fact, too often, they seem Alt-Wrong. Just because they are right a lot of the time does not make up for their kookiness which, at times, can be downright inexplicable and unnecessarily offensive.
Who do I mean by the Alt-Right?
I am talking about the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos (who gave a detailed explanation of the Alt Right here) and Paul Joseph Watson. The Post-2015 pockets of commentators who show hostility towards mainstream liberalism and conservatism, who prefer tribalism to libertarian individualism, who use virtual platforms ranging from 4Chan to Breitbart to peddle their opinions and ideas.
As Paul Joseph Watson said himself, there are already two Alt-Rights:
Here I am not even going to bother discussing the Jew-hating Alt-Right with the awful Richard Spencer as its totem – those kinds of racists are not worth giving the time of day.
Here I am talking about the Yiannopoulos and Watson variety, who eloquently postulate their criticisms about conservatives, liberals and Islamists in an often-refreshing way. (Of course, the problem for the likes of Watson is that opponents forever associate the two factions. In a defensive swipe of denial related to media accusations that his Chief of Staff Steve Bannon was Alt-Right, President-Elect Trump disavowed the alt-right movement altogether, saying “I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group.”)
Why am I not a believer?
In a nutshell, the Alt-Right too often descends into reactionary conspiraloon talk. In that respect, it’s as bad as the Far Left, who tend to cluster in Twitter echo chambers and associate around the causes of wingnuts like media restrictionist Dr Evan Harris or get taken in by the banter of champagne Marxists like the DJ James O’Brien.
Take the latest Alt -Right conspiracy doing the rounds – that YouTube, where the Alt-Right commentariat hangs out and posts its videos, is blocking Alt-Right content behind dodgy content barriers for political purposes, under “restricted mode”. Watson claims that because the left is getting an ass-whupping on YouTube (true), they (the Mass Mainstream Media) have decided to censor the Alt-Right (untrue).
It’s when the Alt-Right gets to “THEY” that I lose them and they lose me.
The restricted mode situation was brought up by companies like Verizon and Johnson & Johnson. They were understandably upset seeing their ads alongside undesirable content, such as Daesh videos. Watson claims “THEY” then jumped on the bandwagon and used the advertisers’ complaints to tar with the same extremist brush people like Watson’s content.
I decided to experiment. I turned my computer to restricted mode. “Restricted Mode is an optional setting that you can use to help screen out potentially mature content that you may prefer not to see or don’t want others in your family to see,” says YouTube.
Sure enough, most of the Daesh videos are not accessible, nor were a lot of the sex-related videos (penis extenders and the like) but, while Paul Joseph Watson’s Channel was indeed restricted, there were still videos of his rants still available on a general search, as were the talks of Milo. I decided that the algorithms used by YouTube to decide which content on the site should be restricted were not yet perfected, not that a conspiracy was afoot.
I wonder, how many of those interested in watching Alt-Right content would go in restricted mode On YouTube in the first place?
I am a businesswoman and a mother. I can see why I’d not want my company’s or government’s ads running alongside a fellow calling himself the Dangerous Faggot just as I don’t want my five-year-old clicking on a nice video of a green frog only for it to start shouting the c and f word while ranting about Feminazis. Watson is a big fan of the f word and kids should not have to put up with his expletive-laden rants. In short, restricted mode makes complete sense to me whilst wearing both hats of businesswoman and mum.
Nonetheless, Watson seems to have his knickers in a right old twist about “THEM” and creeping censorship:
Which brought me to think how should one treat the Alt-Right?
I concluded – you don’t. They don’t seem to be doing any harm. People like this don’t believe conspiracies because they’re convinced by the evidence, they believe them because the conspiracy achieves a psychological need they have (or in the case of many Alt-Righters makes for a good story and more clicks). It’s the same with Truthers – you’re going to have about as much success proving that 9/11 wasn’t a conspiracy as you would be trying to prove that an awkward silence means an Angel is passing over.
The few friends I’ve had who have become conspiracy theorists, I’ve dealt with by telling them that I’m not at all interested in discussions about conspiracy, and that, if they’re not willing to respect my boundaries, there’s no room for continued friendship. More often than not, their fascination with the conspiracy passes, and our friendship returns to normal.
I suspect the brighter Alt-Right commentators will simply grow into conservatives if and when they grow up. The Paul Joseph Watsons and Milos will be a flash-in-the-pan that the Left got very upset about between 2015 and 2020 before moving back onto more powerful conservative targets. In the meantime, I conceded they are quite entertaining characters but – if they resent restrictions by algorithm – they should jolly well go and wash their mouths out with soap.