Power Lunch

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Let them eat hugely important topics

Media coverage of the alt-right has been profuse in the wake of the recent election. Based on the near-uniform reporting in mainstream outlets, it appears as though journalists covering the phenomenon have little prior familiarity with it. Normies affronted for the first time in generations with a resurgent far-right and a critical mass of unapologetic white racial consciousness originating—no less—with millennials savvily harnessing new media, evince not a little sputtering cognitive dissonance.

Maybe they’re right that this is all just a fresh face on fascism. But if so, such repackaging is not so much a subterfuge on the part of alt-righters, but the peculiar ambiance of the times that have given the alt-right momentum. Either way, one reason we keep hearing that there’s nothing novel about the alt-right is because media and academic conformists simply have no ready vocabulary to describe it that’s worthy of its novelty and moment. If the left-liberal hegemony of late-modern Americanism fails to suppress and supersede this new development, it will be because its pundits and cogitators failed to grasp its implications.

Of all the commentary I’ve seen in any mainstream publication, Atlantic editor David Frum’s comes closest (while failing) to treating the alt-right with any real depth or dispassion:

Over the past two decades, Americans have constructed systems of intellectual silencing that stifle the range of debate among responsible and public-spirited people. They’ve resigned hugely important topics to the domain of cranks and haters. If the only people who’ll talk about the risks and costs of a more diverse society are fascists, then the fascists will gain an audience.

A better way to put it might be, ‘If anyone who ever talks about the risks and costs of a more diverse society gets peremptorily maligned as a fascist in publications like the Atlantic, then anyone who speaks of such things will be a fascist according to the Atlantic which—not incidentally—is now a blog.’ But whaddoo I know? I’m not the editor of the Atlantic.

Obviously, David Frum cannot be arraigned individually on this charge he so richly levels at Americans as a whole, but his CV would seem to indict him quite a ways ahead of most others. What we have here is the unintentional concession from a ranking establishment figure, that public discourse in America is a consensus environment subject to peculiar ideological controls.

But whether ‘we’ or David Frum, or whomever, enable so-called cranks and haters to have a voice is much less interesting a question than whether those cranks and haters are saying anything true and worth hearing. Either Frum takes issue with the message regardless of the messengers, or there’s no need to peremptorily tar anyone as a crank and a hater. Even Frum acknowledges that the alt-right is responding to something. For those unbeholden to the interests he represents, a more interesting approach would be to ask whether other—cogent and visceral—interests are threatened, that the alt-right is advocating for. If so, then you’ve got to figure those interests, being prime targets of ‘systems of intellectual silencing,’ had rather not be serviced by the scarcely-chastened likes of David Frum.

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