The real fight against the next generation of conservatives is online.
Last Saturday, the "alt-right" held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Counter-protesters clashed with the alt-right protesters who chanted Nazi slogans like “Blood and soil” and "Jews will not replace us!". One ardent alt-righter drove his car into the crowd of counter protesters, killing 32 year old Heather Heyer and injuring 20 others.
The alt-right is a term with different meanings to different people, but there is always a racist component, whether it’s full-on Nazism or white separatists. This march, dubbed “Unite the Right” was promoted on sites that are emblematic of the dangerous young conservative echo chamber that has grown massively since the candidacy and election of Donald Trump.
To understand the alt-right and this relatively new brand of young absolutist, violent, racist conservatives, you have to understand not just their various twisted ideologies, but where they’ve been encouraged/allowed to fester and grow.
There are two main places this if focused online; a subsection of the wildly popular site Reddit, The_Donald, with a userbase 300,000+ strong (including at least some in the White House), as well as the “Politically Incorrect” section of notorious imageboard 4chan, dubbed /pol/.
The_Donald section of reddit is devoted to unflinching, obsessive support of President Trump, a dark, but huge corner of a website almost as big as facebook (1.2bn monthly users vs. Facebook’s 2bn) that can give you a confusing glimpse into the "millennial" support of Trump and "alt-right" politics in the US, Europe and Australia. Memes and self-congratulation fuel an echo chamber that thrives on hatred and racism. Doxxing (exposing the true identity of) online critics of the president, as well as regularly inciting violence are common practices.
The_Donald moderators were promoting the march until things went south, when they quickly attempted to shift the narrative to the violence in Charlottesville being caused by paid protestors controlled by the always-to-blame George Soros (totally not because he is Jewish). The people on /pol/ went a step further with many of them claiming crisis actors and other made up techniques were used to stage the entire violent incident.
We have to face the reality that online right-wing propaganda machines directly aimed at and used by young people are on a rapid rise. I had assumed these ideologies would die out along with their supporters but that is far from the case. We need to wise up to what modern young uber-conservatives are, where they are, what they believe, and how to beat them.
I think it's important to know what you disagree with and why, rather than writing them off simply because you don't like where you percieve their values to be. Knowing and reading places like Breitbart.com, Reddit.com/r/The_Donald, and people like Milo Yiannopolous, Ben Schaprio, Tomi Lahren and Stephen Crowder is userful and important because these are the modern, (semi)millennial voices of the right and they're absolute fuckin' monsters.
The problem is we don't have any counterbalance on the left. We have The Young Turks, who draw as much ire as they do interest and are as profit driven as Ann Coulter. We have tabloids like Huffpo, partisan-beyond-facts places like DailyKos, Occupydemocrats and TV pundits like Rachel Maddow and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! who are lefty echo chambers but who usualy get their facts right. The problem is that smart consumers of news don’t like being inside an echo chamber. The young right has done a much better job of making extreme views cool, fuelling their ability to exist in a bubble.
At the moment in America we have a massive schism in our own (lefty) bubble between the so-called Bernie wing of the left (social democrats) and the more centrist, pro-establishment (Clinton style) Democrats.
This divide is only growing larger: is the divide among the left one between a coherent ideological base and it’s vanguards or a more ideologically undermining phenomenon? With ridiculousness on many university campuses in the US, de-platforming of conservative speakers as well as people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, we must ask if the left is cannabilizing itself to the point of political irrelevance.
Overt efforts to make universities places where thought is classified as correct or incorrect and disallowed are a great way to make them pointless in the world of ideas. If we don’t want to go down the road the young right has, we have to reject extreme and puritanical versions of the left.