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Crying wolf on Trump

Certain words are losing all meaning. Over at Slate Star Codex, where the author is far from a fan of Trump, is a very thoughtful analysis with evidence about why cries of all the various -isms and -emacists are a load of nonsense. We know all this, but this is a good source of dialectic rather than rhetorical argument.

Caring about who the alt-right supports is a lot like caring about who Satanists support. It’s not something you would do if you wanted to understand real political forces. It’s only something you would do if you want to connect an opposing candidate to the most outrageous caricature of evil you can find on short notice.

Okay, I am picking the most rhetorical sounding parts, but it is all backed with evidence in the article.

Dog whistling seems to be the theory that if you want to know what someone really believes, you have to throw away decades of consistent statements supporting the side of an issue that everyone else in the world supports, and instead pay attention only to one weird out-of-character non-statement which implies he supports a totally taboo position which is perhaps literally the most unpopular thing it is possible to think.

And then you have to imagine some of the most brilliant rhetoricians and persuaders in the world are calculating that it’s worth risking exposure this taboo belief in order to win support from a tiny group with five-digit membership whose support nobody wants, by sending a secret message, which inevitably every single media outlet in the world instantly picks up on and makes the focus of all their coverage for the rest of the election.

Here’s another good bit:

Stop fearmongering. Somewhere in America, there are still like three or four people who believe the media, and those people are cowering in their houses waiting for the death squads.

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18 comments to Crying wolf on Trump

  • Watchman

    I think that might rate as one of the best takedowns of an attitude I have seen on the internet. Worryingly half my prior assumptions about Trump appear to be wrong as well…

  • Mr Ecks

    A small dose of reason for the scum of the left.

    But it is still full of sanctimonious , snivelling leftist shite.

  • Watchman

    Mr Ecks,

    I can’t help but wonder if we adopt that sort of attitude, are we not simply being sanctimonious (and snivelling when we lose) in turn – try reading and understanding, rather than criticising.

    Also I missed the sanctimonius bit – the author doesn’t like Trump perhaps?

  • Paul Marks

    Good post – with a lot of truth in it. However there is still the problem that Steve Bannon (now a senior adviser to Mr Trump) said his “Breitbart” organisation (now that Andrew Breitbart was dead and could not stop it) had become a “platform for the Alt Right”.

    Surely that is a bad thing? And should not Mr Bannon, and Mr Trump, say it is a bad thing? Mr Trump is NOT a racialist – and I hope that Mr Bannon is not either. But it is time (indeed well past time) for them to formally break with the “Alt Right”.

  • CaptDMO

    How do you break with the alt right.
    Who are the members?
    What is the Manifesto “they” all abide by?
    (The Declaration of Independence, and The Constitution aside, of course.)
    Why “who Satanists support” rather than “who Feminists support, or “who Communists/ Fascists/ Socialists support. THEY have instruction manuals/ Manifestos.
    What does Alt Right even MEAN?

    Once upon a time there was a little Twittering bird, literally SHAKING from freezing on the ground. The political AGW climate made it too cold to fly away, first class, to Venezuela. An alt right cow came along and landed a yuuuuuge cow pie on it’s head,….
    (The rest of the parable involves a cat that “rescued”, then ate it)

  • The alt-right are semi-fictional and entirely amorphous. There are a few loathsome turds like Vox Day who self-identify with the alt-right but for the most part it is largely an illusion.

  • Watchman

    Not sure feminists support anything more coherent than alt rightists – they are both states of mind. As is socialism and probably fascism. There’s plenty of guidance for all of them, but no single text that occupies the place of Marx’s writings for communism or the holy books of religions that are not satanism (not looked, but I doubt satanists have a single text).

    And it is quite difficult to break with feminists or socialists (I suspect for given values of both I would find myself one) as well, because of the lack of defition. Alt right is simply a key-board command, sorry, another label of limited value (and another indicator that those using it are perhaps too focussed on collectivisim and not enough on individuals).

  • […] Others: The American Conservative and Samizdata […]

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Alt right is simply a key-board command….

    Interestingly. ‘alt-right’ sends you forward one page, and ‘alt-left’ sends you back. That bodes, that does. 😆

  • gunit

    The Alt-Right has a very wide lexical range. At one extreme it means White nationalism, on the other hand it simply means anyone on the Right who is not part of the Respectable Right. By Respectable Right, I simply mean anyone who accepts to the right of the Left to dictate the legitimate bounds of discourse. For example, a consistent Libertarian who believes businesses should be allowed to refuse business on grounds of race may or may not consider himself alt-right, but many would certainly consider him to be alt-right. This is why Rand Paul, who secretly believes this, has to pretend not to. When Steve Bannon said he wanted Breitbart to be a platform for the alt-right, it is most reasonable to assume that he was referring to what Breitbart has in actual fact become under his management, namely a place where certain views that were (are?) considered unnacceptable in polite conservative circles, particularly to do with immigration and Islam, are propagated. It is not remotely reasonable to assume he meant it to be a platform for something it has not become a platform for and which he does not personally believe in.

    The author of Slate Star Codex is actually extremely well informed about trends in the non-respectable Right. He wrote a comprehensive “refutation” of neo-reactionary thought, which must have, literally, taken him weeks.

  • gunit (November 17, 2016 at 5:06 pm) makes good points. Summarising him (and slightly paraphrasing), I’d say that a very general (too general?) meaning of alt-right is those on the right who deny the right of the left (aided by RINOs and suchlike) to define ‘acceptable’ views.

    Another definition – a subset of the first – is those on the right who apply the identarian logic of the left to groups the left love to hate, either to hold up a mirror (some) or in the spirit of “that’s the game you enforce on me so I’ll play it – and play it to win” (others).

  • Mr Ed

    Well Bernie Ecclestone seems to rate Mr Trump.

    “Trump’s election is the best thing that could have happened to the world,” Ecclestone said in an interview with Brazil media outlet Globo. “I have met him a few times, and, believe me, it will be better for the world.’

  • Stephen K

    Good article, with some actual research in it. Thanks for posting the link.

  • mike

    I read that Scott Alexander piece this morning. His stuff is of a consistently high standard but this one is particularly good.

  • Exasperated

    The author limited the scope of this article to keep it readable and widely disseminated.
    He did not include the monetary pressures on media. For example, the click bait after an inflammatory headline that goes no where, nor is it intended to; it’s meant to expose the reader to as many ads as possible. Professional or ethical media, to the extent it exists, must compete with this tactic, which continually ramps up, as people become inured to the current outrage. He didn’t cover false flags and hoaxes either.
    I wonder how much insight Trump had; some have claimed he was playing chess to the checkers of his rivals. Did he have a strategy to manipulate the weaknesses of the media, did he assist them in sabotaging their own credibility, or was he prepared to just roll through all the flak? Maybe he just figured he was damned either way and hoped the voter would see through it.
    One other thing, lest we forget this works both ways. There is a lot of contrived kr@p written about Clinton as well. For example, Clinton’s senior paper is alleged to be an adoring article of Saul Alinsky. It wasn’t; though it was boring.

  • Laird

    “I wonder how much insight Trump had; some have claimed he was playing chess to the checkers of his rivals.”

    Personally, I don’t scribe to that theory. Trump is undoubtedly reasonably smart, but I don’t think he has a coherent philosophy of politics and certainly no grand and novel strategy to bamboozle his opponents. At least, not on the conscious level. He has a showman’s intuitive feel for what plays well to the crowd, and he tapped into the zeitgeist.

    Trump’s campaign was the quintessential response of the entrepreneur: he saw a need (one which most people didn’t even realize they had, which is the very best sort to exploit) and he filled it. He was selling “new and improved, with extra crunchy bits” while Hillary was selling “old and familiar, just like Mother used to make”. In our society, “new and improved” usually wins in that contest, even if there is really nothing really “new” there. It’s just marketing, at which Trump is a master.

  • Exasperated

    “I wonder how much insight Trump had; some have claimed he was playing chess….””he tapped into the zeitgeist”…..
    Not disagreeing, but that’s some zeitgeist he tapped into. How could he have been so savvy and in tune with Middle America?
    Could he have anticipated that when the media piled on him, that they were by extension piling on the disaffected, and that it provided a bit of immunity with his voters? All the initial comments, I posted on Trump, were not in defense of Trump but were in defense of his supporters.

  • bobby b

    . . . Hillary was selling “old and familiar, just like Mother used to make”.

    That’s a tough sell when the Mom in question is reasonably accused of multiple felonies over her career.