Censoring The Alt-Right Is Not Defeating The Alt-Right

The decision by the Irish Times to publish an article on Wednesday introducing its well-heeled readers to the political culture of the alternative right movement in the United States, including a lexicon of favoured alt-right terms, has created a bit of kerfuffle on Twitter and Facebook. Written by Nick Pell, an American conservative now resident in Ireland, the tone of the piece certainly seems a bit odd, the featured list of pejoratives reading more like a far right primer than a critical overview. There is a fair argument to be made that the article should have been subject to stricter editorial control. However, now that the piece has been published I strongly disagree with those who are calling for its removal. Actively censoring those perceived to be unduly sympathetic or understanding of the alt-right party in America (or indeed, Europe) is a dangerous step to take. Such policies simply bolster the ultra-right’s vainglorious image of itself. Indeed the alt-right almost invites such responses. Its eagerness to turn popular dismay at its tenets into a plus not a negative has given rise to its message-board mantra, “Your hatred feeds me!”.

Whether we like it or not, the presidential election of the New York real estate tycoon, Donald Trump, has made the alt-right mainstream in the politics of the United States – and by extension the rest of the Western world. This brings with it the strange mix of elitism, Silicon Valley libertarianism, xenophobia and old fashioned racism which characterises the Millennial far right and which we ignore at our peril. Such ideas – however inimical – need to be openly debated, contested and defeated not driven underground or behind closed doors. Making something so dangerous that we cannot see or hear it merely grants it a form of glamour and mystique that makes it all the more attractive to the curious and malcontent. If we cannot kill the alternative right with the strength and validity of our beliefs then the fault is ours not theirs.

And, as always, censorship is a double-edged sword. The censors of today can be the censored of tomorrow.

Update: There is some fun to be had, though, from seeing the staff at the Irish Times moving into lockdown mode on social media. Not to mention our own right-wing tendency – foreign and domestic, as the Americans might say – predictably taking to the conservative Twittersphere in defence of the controversial article.

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19 comments

    1. Thanks, Eoin. One of the definitions of liberal politics should be a principled stand against political censorship, even if we think it serves our own needs. Every voice needs to be heard in a democracy, however disagreeable the things being said. Otherwise you end up with Brexit and Trump. Or maybe Le Pen in the near future.

      1. I see Brexit,Trump and Le Pen as all good things. You know a lot of republicans in the north voted Leave. I think it was Colum Eastwood who chastised them for it.

        1. Oh, if was a voter in the Six Counties I might well have put my mark beside the “Leave” option as a tactic to destabilize the British occupation and accelerate the process of reunification. I support the EU but there are bigger national concerns.

  1. When the media is in the hands of a few right wing billionaires who own most of the media as in the UK. about 80% and more in the USA and in Ireland, in the case of radio and a certain newspaper, they have the control over the political direction and a few bloggers with contrary views is not any real opposition . The Nazi were well aware of the power of news control and the alt -right work in the same direction, false news, exaggeration, ad hominem attacks and so on.

    1. True. Though the publicity/propaganda core of the alternative-right is a collective of blogs and blog-like news sites feeding into more professional-looking websites as well as social media networks. The alt-right took to the internet early, flourishing in obscure – though in some cases, influential – corners of the world wide web. Their status as early adopters makes them more dangerous. The non-mainstream politically-orientated internet, in a sense, belongs to the alt-right. Trad-leftists were too busy printing and selling weekly newspapers to notice what was happening elsewhere.

    2. The thing with the media is that they are whatever political conviction that sells the paper. The same owner publishes right wing in Europe that publishes left-wing in the U.S. The predominant media giants both on-line and traditional in the U.S. are owned by folks supporting generally “left” views in the U.S. (Turner, Zuckerberg, WP, NYT, LAT, BT, etc…) Hence the big “surprise” when Trump won despite all of the polls. The traditional Nazi tactics, intimidation (few people to this day will admit they voted Trump for fear of retaliation), breaking up opposition gatherings, defamation by association, shutting down college speeches and visits by opposition speakers, assaulting supporters showing their affiliation, assaulting people based on the mere assumption they might be supporters based on race and economic status, were all leveraged by persons in support of the left in the U.S.

      The incredible, outright and unapologetic bias of the media was sickening, even for a traditional liberal like myself. I was truly appalled. There is still behaviour now by the left in the U.S. that is absolutely undemocratic, completely contrary to everything liberalism stands for, and shocking the conscience. This is about the ideas of egalitarianism, personal liberty, freedom of speech and thought, and defeating the enemies thereof with intelligence, the better argument, humanitarianism, stability, and prosperity. It is not about oppressing people who think differently, it is about winning them over.

      1. The greatest failing in the Irish press is the lack of an avowedly left-wing/liberal national newspaper. A “Guardian”, for the want of a better example. Even an online publisher would be something, a news and current affairs website that editorially tacked well to the left.

  2. Not more of this alt right nonsense. The alt right is a made up imaginary movement made up by the media to slander Trump and his supporters. I never heard the word alt right until Trump came along. The media are creating a bogeyman to frighten people. The elite want people who are opposed to them to be portrayed as some shadowy nazi movement. When in reality the real nazis are the elite,the mainstream media and their muslim friends.

      1. Funny how I never heard of the alt right before 2016 and its only the mainstream media that talk about it. Sort of like “fake news” which became a thing on Nov.9 2016. With Hillary Clinton,Obama,Merkel and even the pope warning us about it and making plans to censor it.

  3. Oh come on. That Irish Times article was ****. Snowflake is a leftie who cannot take criticism. Most other definitions there were inaccurate. As for Twitter, it is now a joke site. Alt Right falls down by blaming “ze chews” and Muslims.

    1. It was a pretty poor article, or at least poorly worded, researched and tonally troublesome. However it seems to have done its job – drummed up free publicity for IT online. The newspaper’s determination to defend its publication, and the extreme defensiveness of some of its correspondents on social media over the last 48 hours, was pretty amusing, to be honest.

      Yeah, Twitter is becoming Trollheim for the fringe, extreme and crazy.

  4. Now Seamy. Wisdom comes from being able to see through the eyes of others. Other beliefs no matter how supposedly repulsive hold some truth and their adherents arrived at that truth honestly☺

      1. I see the left or so called left increasingly living in a bubble. I defined myslef as left most of my life. I didn’t leave the left. The left abandoned me.

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