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Samizdata quote of the day

There is some debate as to whether we can conceivably talk about the ‘alt-left’. Does the term have any meaning? Is it but a sly invention of the alt-right in order to reduce its opponents to a level moral footing – as if to say ‘you’re no better than us’?

The term certainly enrages those on the activist left, who regard themselves as championing the poor, marginalised, women and ethnic minorities against the behemoths of ravaging neoliberalist economics and white privilege. There could be no possible moral equivalence between such noble characters and the creepy, brutal voices of neo-Nazism, elitism and white nationalism. Surely?

Surely indeed. Events this summer suggest that the term ‘alt-left’ is justified – that is to say, if the prefix ‘alt’ denotes sulky, rancorous, childish thuggery. This is the year that some sections of the left lost all pretence to holding the moral high ground. The alt-left has become ideologically fanatic, with its lust for instability now clear to behold.

The most obvious manifestation of its evolution into a febrile cult is its new mania for iconoclasm. Remember at the beginning of the 2000s, when we were horrified at the Taliban for blowing up ancient statues? Yet 16th-century-style statue-smashing has become mainstream in the US, as the alt-left has cultivated a craze for pulling down inanimate representations of people.

Patrick West

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45 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • bob sykes

    Steven Hayward refers to them as the “CTRL-Left.”

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/08/the-alt-right-vs-the-ctrl-left.php

    That strikes me as a better name.

  • pete

    I think that alt-left is a good way to describe the large, more authoritarian, hysterical and intolerant sections of academia, the MSM and fascist groups like Antifa.

    It is a good way of distinguishing these awful people from normal left wing people who do not accuse everyone of racism and sexism all the time, or compare them to Hitler, or attempt to inhibit their free speech and freedom to hold marches by using baseball bats.

  • Cesare

    “Activist Left’, an interesting and increasingly loaded term. When I was a child an activist wrote long letters to the local editor, placed sings in their yard and sometimes attended or even organized protests. Now they simply collect bricks, Louisville sluggers, and glass bottles filled with their bodily fluids.

  • The term alt-left was serving quite well to describe a group of mostly techy, often socialist group of people who had rejected the madhouse of egalitariainism the Democrat party had become. Trump has highjacked the term.

    I think some may be trying alt-dissident now, or something like that.

  • EdMJ

    The term certainly enrages those on the activist left

    Good enough reason to keep using it then. I agree that “Ctrl-Left” is a clever idea and perhaps a better term, but I think that “Alt-Left” has won the zeitgeist already, so might as well stick with it.

  • Alisa

    When I was a child an activist wrote long letters to the local editor, placed sings in their yard and sometimes attended or even organized protests. Now they simply collect bricks, Louisville sluggers, and glass bottles filled with their bodily fluids.

    Not really, there have always been extremely violent strains of the political Left, both “anarchist” and explicitly statist. The Antifa types have plenty of historical examples to emulate, no matter what particular period they might pick.

  • bobby b

    pete
    August 29, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    “I think that alt-left is a good way to describe the large, more authoritarian, hysterical and intolerant sections of academia, the MSM and fascist groups like Antifa.

    It is a good way of distinguishing these awful people from normal left wing people . . . “

    “Normal left wing people” – you mean the ones who tacitly cheer on the antiFA so long as they’re doing Good Works like shutting down conservative speech? The ones who helped fund the Occupy camps-for-the-mentally-disturbed? The ones who support Blacks-Who-Gun-Down-Cops-With-Sniper-Rifles-Matter?

    There are no more “normal left wing people.” Normal left wing people would have spoken out long ago. These people won’t speak out so long as they can benefit from the thuggery. Watch them scramble back to “I NEVER liked them” as soon as it all starts to fall apart.

  • Stefan Molyneux has a longish interview with a former Alt-leftish person.
    And yes, since it enrages them I am making a point of using it. It is especially satisfying to conflate the possibly antagonistic BLM and Antifa groups under one umbrella. I’d never heard the term until Trump used it. I’d also never seen Antifa mentioned outside the alternative media until Trump called them out.

  • Mr Ecks

    “Is it but a sly invention of the alt-right in order to reduce its opponents to a level moral footing – as if to say ‘you’re no better than us’?”

    The arrogance on display is breath-taking.

    Those scum have the moral high ground???

    Socialist sewage have murdered 150 million people –so far –and ruined the lives of hundreds of millions more. “No better than you” you pack of cunts?

    May Hell take every last one of you. Including the young dumb middle-class scum on your bandwagon cos its trendy.

  • bgates

    This is the year that some sections of the left lost all pretence to holding the moral high ground.

    The author has a remarkably modern style given that the article was apparently written in 1793 or so.

  • Jacob

    Why “alt”-left ??? Why not just plain “left” ?
    What’s the difference between “alt-left” and “left”? Is there any? Has there ever been a difference?

    “Not really, there have always been extremely violent strains of the political Left, both “anarchist” and explicitly statist. The Antifa types have plenty of historical examples to emulate, no matter what particular period they might pick.”

    Sure. That’s traditional leftism.

    So, no “alt-left”. Trump is wrong, maybe his knowledge of history is incomplete.
    They are just the left. Typical Left.

  • Jacob

    By the way – I also hate the term “alt-right” which is a smear on the “right” (i.e. the conservative and/or libertarian right).

    Call the Nazis “nazis” NOT alt-right. Maybe the Nazis and Racists invented the “alt-right” term to masquerade and conceal their true colors. Maybe the Left invented the term to smear the right. I don’t know, but I hate it.

  • Jacob

    By the way: speaking of tearing down monuments:
    Here is an example why the Jewish law against monuments makes sense.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, above on August 29, 2017 at 2:07 pm, is absolutely 100% correct.

    Here, back in the ’60s many of the alleged grownups supposedly in charge in colleges and Universities went AWOL as far as insisting on plain civil behavior from students. Violence ensued. Of course, there were far earlier instances of leftist violence, but in the 60’s and ’70s violence came out of the closet. For instance, this excerpt from:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2011/01/the_left_not_the_right_owns_po.html

    “But it wasn’t until the 1960s (when Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Ho Chi Minh became idols of the American left) that the left really ramped up the violence. Who can forget Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam? Or Eldridge “rape is an insurrectionary act” Cleaver and his Black Panthers? What about the bombings perpetrated by the Weathermen? Former Weatherman bomber Bill Ayers is, of course, a close associate of President Barack Obama. Ayers managed to escape prosecution (and proclaimed himself “[g]uilty as hell, free as a bird”), but his wife Bernadine [sic –J.] Dohrn served jail time for her part in the violence. Black radicals seized Cornell University at gunpoint in 1969, the same year the SDS and the Weathermen staged the “Days of Rage” riots. Race riots took place in Watts in 1965 and nationwide in 1968; leftists rioted at the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago in 1968. John Kennedy was murdered by a communist, and Robert Kennedy was shot by a Palestinian — hardly men of the right.

    “The 1970s weren’t much calmer. The Army Math Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was bombed by leftist radicals in 1970. Heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped and took part in a series of armed bank robberies by the left-wing Symbionese Liberation Army. The SLA inspired Sarah Jane Moore to try to assassinate Gerald Ford — less than three weeks after Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a disciple of Charles Manson, tried to kill Ford also.”

    A good deal of this came from what was, or in some cases (e.g. the Panthers) purported to be, the “New” Left. But still, I seem to remember some detail from French history about “the storming of the Bastille,” Robespierre, and the French Terror … from a couple of centuries earlier….

  • Paul Marks

    Someone who looks at the modern United States, or the modern United Kingdom, and thinks the problem is that the government is too small, that there should be MORE “Social Justice” spending for “our people” and MORE regulations to “protect people” is radically irrational – essentially a rabid dog.

    It does not matter if the rabid dogs call themselves National Socialists or international socialists (or “liberals” or “Progressives” or “Fascists”) – what matters is that they are rabid.

  • Eric

    Steven Hayward refers to them as the “CTRL-Left.”

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/08/the-alt-right-vs-the-ctrl-left.php

    That strikes me as a better name.

    Perhaps so, but if “alt-left” infuriates them, that’s the one I’m using 🙂

  • Alisa

    But still, I seem to remember some detail from French history about “the storming of the Bastille,” Robespierre, and the French Terror … from a couple of centuries earlier….

    I was just going to say that, not to mention the glorious October Revolution in Russia and all its delights (unfortunately still not known well-enough to the wider public, even to its older members). Also, look up “Sabotage”, one of Hitchcock’s early films – indirectly based on real events. Nothing new under the sun.

  • Alisa

    Paul, people engaging in actual violence are not in it for the Social Justice, or for any kind of spending – they are in it for the violence. All the rest is just window dressing.

  • Julie near Chicago

    And she nails it again — and knocks it out of the park!!!!

    (just above, as of 2 instants ago: August 29, 2017 at 9:35 pm.

    Also, Alisa, thanks for the info on Sabotage.

  • Alisa

    Very welcome, Julie.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, :>)

    . . .

    ‘It does not matter if the rabid dogs call themselves National Socialists or international socialists (or “liberals” or “Progressives” or “Fascists”) – what matters is that they are rabid.’

    –Thus Paul, above.

  • Bruce

    The Ctl-Left need to be aware that that they are just “firmware” running under very dodgy code.

    They WANT things to escalate things, so that their enablers in high (and low) places can strike back at their TRUE enemy; “REAL PEOPLE”.

    That is when the “hardware” will come into play.

    The famous “three-fingered-salute”; Ctl-Alt-Delete.

  • John Galt III

    In the US the Democrats “muscle” for 100 years was the KKK – 100% Democrat. 100% Terrorist and totally backed by every Southern County Sheriff. From 1865 to 1964 there wasn’t an elected Republican anywhere near the South.
    Now it is Antifa and the Democrats say zippo against them.
    The Democrat Governors and mayors tell their police “to stand down” at every demonstration of free speech where the Antifa are present.
    Same shit, different century.

  • Slartibartfarst

    As @EdMJ puts it – August 29, 2017 at 1:57 pm:

    The term certainly enrages those on the activist left
    Good enough reason to keep using it then. I agree that “Ctrl-Left” is a clever idea and perhaps a better term, but I think that “Alt-Left” has won the zeitgeist already, so might as well stick with it.

    All it is is a LABEL really, but it is a damagingly pejorative label nonetheless and that is probably what “…enrages those on the activist left”.
    For years now, the left liberal luvvies have been using label guns firing damagingly pejorative labels, in place of rational debate, for anyone whose views they disagree with and/or when they might desire to “name and shame” (stigmatize) and shut down discussion/debate on opposing viewpoints. This is really nothing more than just using the tools of fascism, after all. From a sort of Brownshirts Mark II training manual.

    So when they are themselves labelled with a pejorative (but arguably highly appropriate and accurate) label, then of course it could infuriate them – I mean, it’s effectively rather like their own weapon being used against them, isn’t it? How dare you do that to them?

    So, yes, USE a label like “Alt-Left”, and especially if it happens to be one that has already captured the zeitgeist, so is likely to be readily appreciated/understood by the majority. Give the target the opportunity to hypocritically dissemble and position/hide themselves within “the normal left” domain, rather than the oh-so-detestable fanatics. It doesn’t matter that they might be hiding their true selves by engaging in protective colouration, as their words and actions will reflect their true position and out them. Don’t waste time arguing about its precision or dreaming up another one. Regardless of how “accurate” it might be, Trump has apparently already helped do the heavy lifting with that, as “The Great Persuader”.
    Pretty soon “left” and “alt-left” could start to blur together, indistinguishable (as reality bites in the public’s perception). But this would be unlikely to remove the pejorative implications of the label once it has been attached.
    Touché!?

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    It’s always about America, isn’t it? Doesn’t anyway care that Australians are being told to knock their monuments down because some people don’t like them? Captain Cook didn’t discover Australia, so tear down the statues! Some people might have had racist attitudes- eradicate them from history! Maybe we should give everyone an amnesia drug, so we forget all about history, and we’ll all live happily ever after!

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray – August 30, 2017 at 3:17 am

    Doesn’t anyway care that Australians are being told to knock their monuments down because some people don’t like them?

    Well, I for one could never quite figure out why there were monuments to Cook in Oz. I mean, I think he might have lived there, but, so what? He apparently still, currently, has a good record here on the other side of the ditch, in NZ, but no doubt that could change once a “preferred history” is identified by the PC brigade and/or The Ministry of Truth™.

    The Aussies seem to have it all wrong. Maybe they are ashamed of their history? It used to be that Aussies were proud of the fact that many of them were largely descended from ruggedly tough survivors of a British penal colony, but having a criminal record is nowadays a reason to bar entry to Oz, rather than it being a mandatory requirement, as formerly. It all seems to have been turned upside-down.

    The thing about history is that we need to accept it – that we are descended from savages, and still occasionally behave like savages. My Anglo-Saxon ancestors apparently used to go to war with other tribes, with their faces daubed in blue woad, or something – especially for the occasion. So what? I don’t feel inclined to daub blue woad on my face today. I’ve been able to “move on” from those cultural roots that would in any event hold me back in this age.

    My Kiwi mates include not a few Maori people – who, whilst they want to preserve their culture (before it gets wiped out by the colonial cultures) sometimes prefer not to discuss certain cherished tribal customs – e.g., cannibalism. The Maori, being more aggressive, apparently killed and ate all of the earlier indigenous race of NZ – the Moriori. The last authentic account of cannibalism in NZ was the case at Tauranga, in 1842 or 1843, by Taraia. But what’s so bad about cannibalism? They were savages then, but not now, and when they invite me over for a meal, I don’t expect to be on the menu. They have “moved on” as well.

    No, it seems to me that any attempts to rewrite history are likely to be the thin end of a totalitarian wedge that will eventually make it illegal to think or state anything about one’s history that does not conform to the PC dogma of the prevailing religio-political ideology.

  • Bruce

    Totalitarian sociopaths do what criminally malicious, totalitarian sociopaths gotta do, apparently.

    Load, Action, Instant. In your own time, go on.

  • NickM

    Bruce,
    I like that. I have pressed that combo many times. Many times.

    Slarti,
    When you have quite finished getting it bang-on correct could you give me a quote for some fjords?

  • Bruce

    Slarti:

    I hear you. In the Python spirit, just don’t mention the Moriori.

    Oh, you did…………

  • EdMJ

    @Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray – August 30, 2017 at 3:17 am

    Doesn’t anyway care that Australians are being told to knock their monuments down because some people don’t like them?

    Most of them are culturally appropriated from NZ anyway (Phar Lap, the Pavlova, Crowded House, Russell Crowe, the Flat White)… 😉

    @Slartibartfarst, the Moriori were indigenous to the Chatham Islands, and it is not considered ‘accurate’ these days that they were a pre-Maori population in mainland NZ: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moriori#The_Moriori_in_New_Zealand

    The cannibalism though is not in any doubt. And it wasn’t just against the Moriori, the Maori regularly cannibalised other tribes after battle.

    An interesting part of the invasion of the Chatham Islands was the Moriori’s “Nunuku’s Law”, which forbade war, cannibalism and killing in any form. Needless to say, this didn’t go so well for them in the invasion:

    They proceeded to enslave some Moriori and kill and cannibalise others. “Parties of warriors armed with muskets, clubs and tomahawks, led by their chiefs, walked through Moriori tribal territories and settlements without warning, permission or greeting. If the districts were wanted by the invaders, they curtly informed the inhabitants that their land had been taken and the Moriori living there were now vassals.”…

    Despite knowing of the Māori predilection for killing and eating the conquered, and despite the admonition by some of the elder chiefs that the principle of Nunuku was not appropriate now, two chiefs — Tapata and Torea — declared that “the law of Nunuku was not a strategy for survival, to be varied as conditions changed; it was a moral imperative.” A Moriori survivor recalled : “[The Maori] commenced to kill us like sheep…. [We] were terrified, fled to the bush, concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to escape our enemies. It was of no avail; we were discovered and killed – men, women and children indiscriminately.”

    I wonder if there are some lessons to be learned from this on the effectiveness of non-violence and passive resistance against invading hordes who do not share the same moral framework? A “clash of civilisations” if you will.

    Speaking of the Maori, I fondly remember the aghast reaction I got from my social studies teacher back in high school when I challenged her narrative of how they were such “great environmentalists“. It’s a shame really, it’d be amazing to see Moa still running around, not to mention a Haast’s eagle.

    In terms of being ‘more aggressive’, there’s some interesting research on the so called ‘warrior gene’ which caused a bit of an uproar in NZ a while back. This is an interesting long read on it if you’re interested in finding out more: https://scientiasalon.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/the-extreme-warrior-gene-a-reality-check/

  • John B

    alt-left? Why invent a new term when there exists a perfectly apt one: Fascists?

  • Jamesg

    There are 3 segments on the left.

    The old-school left of Orwell that believes in free speech as part of its activism and does not focus on identity politics to achieve its economic ends. They are the real alt-left in terms of numbers.

    The activist left that believes the ends justify the means and can’t be bothered with the niceties. Now labelled the alt-left.

    The majority of the left who essentially believe the same as the alt-left but who ignore the reality of what this inevitably entails through various cognitive dissonance coping mechanisms. Such as ignoring Antifa violence and pivoting to focus on the far right.

    The right comes off much better in comparison in that apart from the far right – which has more in common with the alt-left – they are basically a bunch of conservatives and libertarians. With the alt-right being bad taste internet users with no power beyond meme warfare. The left is trying to equate the more social conservatives with the far right to get the numbers up. But calling them Nazis is obviously ridiculous.

    Ultimately the public will support the side that stands up for free speech and has a sense of humour. It”s the governments, institutions and corporations where the battle must be won.

  • lucklucky

    alt-left is an obfuscating term because it explains nothing.

    They are the Marxist Left.
    Only in Marxism you can support at same time two,three,four…. opposing logic.

  • Monty James

    I’m old enough to remember when we just called them ‘commies’.

  • lucklucky

    Communists are only one of Marxist heads, Fascism also originates from Marxism.

  • Chip

    Speaking of cannibalism …

    British Columbia schools have saturated the curriculum with indigenous culture, but only a highly stylized and romanticized version because – of course – the real intention is to indict western civilization.

    So the kids won’t learn that the dominant tribe along the coast – the Kwakiutl – were not only enthusiastic slavers but that they worshipped cannibalism. Of their four secret societies, the most exalted was the Hamatsa. The cannibals.

    Indigenous history – like our own tribal past is fascinating and worth learning, but only as a cautionary tale. Unfortunately, like the LA council has recently done in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Day, indigenous culture has now been redefined as a proof that western civilization is evil.

  • bobby b

    “The last authentic account of cannibalism in NZ was the case at Tauranga, in 1842 or 1843, by Taraia. But what’s so bad about cannibalism?”

    Kuru, the really fun TSE disease that leaves your brain looking like a sponge.

    As late as 1957, there were still about 200 deaths per year from this cannibalism-caused disease in PNG. It finally died out in 1990 or so, which, given the longest incubation times known, means that cannibalism finally ended some time mid-twentieth-century.

  • Slartibartfarst

    @NickM August 30, 2017 at 6:29 am

    …Slarti,
    When you have quite finished getting it bang-on correct could you give me a quote for some fjords?

    My apologies @NickM, but I don’t do fjords any more. I have “moved on”…
    😉

  • Bruce

    “Kuru, the really fun TSE disease that leaves your brain looking like a sponge.”

    Following political and other news lately, I reckon there may have been a global resurgence of the practice, just like the slow return of polio and leprosy.

    What next? Communism? Feudalism?

    Hell of a nostalgia trip coming.

  • Rich Rostrom

    “Alt-Right” is a self-chosen description, by a group which wants to be known as different from traditional or “mainstream” conservatives. In particular, they want to be known as nationalist, chauvinist, “race-realist” out to just plain racist – unlike the alleged weaklings of the Old Right, who are afraid to speak on these issues, or foolishly believe in principles like free trade, and who refuse to associate with the brave new alt-righters.

    Those who have been labeled “alt-left” occupy a very different position. While some of them are contemptuous of conventional liberals and the Democratic Party, there doesn’t appear to be a deliberate effort to attack them in the same way – as de facto traitors to the True Cause.

  • Jacob

    OK. So “Alt-Right” is a self-chosen term of the racist nuts. (An unfortunate choice).
    But:
    1. The left-liberals use the opportunity to smear any one who is right of Che Guevara as “alt-right”. They have always done that: called the main stream conservatives/libertarians “racists” and “Nazis”.
    2. The main-stream “right” (conservatives/libertarians ) need to make an extra effort to distance themselves from the crazy “alt-right”, denounce them, and shun them.

  • Thailover

    I call them the Left as a matter of convinience. As Reagan said in his A Time For Choosing speech in 1964,

    “You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream – the maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order – or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”

    That’s it in a nutshell.

  • Thailover

    P.S. Actually, that deserves a more fleshed out quote.

    “You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: up, man’s age old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.”

  • Thailover

    “Ultimately the public will support the side that stands up for free speech and has a sense of humour. It”s the governments, institutions and corporations where the battle must be won.”

    Where were “the public” when their European masters made free speech and free think a criminal action, punishable with a prison sentence?

    No. Unless someone with vision and a voice inspires people to push back, “the people” are innert sheep content to be brutalized into submission. We know this from history. This is the difference between leadership and rulership.

  • EdMJ

    When asked to define Alt-Left, I would describe it as a leftist but illiberal authoritarian ideology rooted in postmodernism and neo-Marxism that supports censorship, condones violence in response to speech, is obsessed with identity politics (much like the Alt-Right), and functions like a secular religion that gives its believers a sense of moral self-worth. It masquerades as a form of liberalism, but it has more in common with authoritarianism than its true believers can (or want to?) admit. It claims to speak for the marginalized, but it either ignores or attempts to hatefully shame members of marginalized groups who do not subscribe to the ideology. It is not simply Antifa; it is the ideology that undergirds Antifa, and it has swallowed much of BLM and intersectional third wave feminism. It wishes to swallow the whole of the left, the country, the world. It is rooted in nihilism, resentfulness, and arrogance, though it presents itself as being rooted in equality, justice and morality. It favors collectivism over individualism, statism over liberty, forced equality of outcome over freedom.

    Excellent article: https://medium.com/@KeriSmith/a-liberal-definition-of-the-alt-left-72ce53cad35c