With the appointment of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist in the Trump Administration, it is no longer possible to ignore the movement he has founded. Sure, he’s a vindictive strongman who has no morals or beliefs to speak of, but that doesn’t exactly make him stand out in the President Elect’s inner circle.
What does is his position as chief executive of Breitbart News, and gleefully oversaw its transition from “news organization aimed at dismantling the left’s media narrative” to “mouthpiece for the Trump campaign”. His obsession with destroying the GOP and the Left, adeptness at aggressive social climbing, and instinct for preying on the weak has served him quite well.
Under his chaotic rule, the website has turned into a cesspool that has spawned what is known as the “alt-right”. This fringe group believes, as former Breitbart reporter Ben Shapiro has said, “that Western culture is inseparable from European Ethnicity”. If that sounds like a White Supremacy movement to you, you’d be wrong. In their own words, the difference between them and a gaggle of skinheads is “intelligence”. Just what the philosophy has been missing; it takes a lot of ego to claim you’re the master race, but the alt-right has somehow managed to up the ante.
It’s difficult to suss out exactly what they are railing against- but the most urgent matter seems to be “political correctness”. They revel in breaking the norms of polite society, such as editing pictures of reporter’s children so they’re in gas chambers, and then congratulate themselves for being so brave.
I don’t want to give Steve Bannon more credit than he deserves- he will bend in whatever direction he deems advantageous, first cursing Obama for not being hard enough on Putin, then immediately jumping aboard the Trump train. But we have to remember that this man will have the President’s ear. Now that America has given him all the power he could want, let’s see what he does with it. Small men always make grand gestures.
Minutes after the election was called. My liberal newsfeed exploded with comments about not being able to look at their neighbors the same way. Never mind that the posters neighbors physically lived in the same coastal enclave as the poster. The sentiment is intended on a national level. It wasn’t that the left didn’t know how many disagreed with their tactics. It was the ease we can type a long worded fuck you and unfriend. Now the world was all left again. Until of course it wasn’t. When all disagreements end with loud name calling, no one learns of new perspectives.
We don’t trust anymore in a grander sense as well. About 3 months before the election I had an argument online with 3 Bernie supporters and 2 libertarians. The argument revolved around the poverty level in America. Of the 6 only I believed the statistic that 15% of Americans and their children struggle with hunger. The Bernie bros questioned each phrase’s word choice in the study as the libertarians claimed you could be broke as a joke and still have housing, food, unlimited entertainment and a big screen TV. As I read the words, I looked outside my bus as I traveled to a hipster food festival at Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Blocks of tents and souls looking for a break. As the faces passed, I wondered how many took a bullet for my freedom. I glanced back to my phone and the conversation turned to another thought experiment and the chat revived as the members proclaimed their ideologies. I closed my phone and waited to enter the gentrified section before hopping on a return bus home to donate the budget to the festival to the people who were building a better America one meal and blankets at a time. Yet this isn’t an one off experience. Every statistic and fact no matter the source is either accepted or rejected on the audiences ideological lines. Never engaged on their own merit.
Granted the internet and its zero barrier publishing has made falsehoods easy to present. To say it has demeaned all information including the past means we live in Oceania. In that world view there are three main groups: Inner Party, Party Members, and Proles. The Inner Party in this thought experiment is the the “wealth creators” or “corporate fatcats” if you prefer. The Party is the Punditry class, professional class, and the general “creative class”. The rest of us “slobs” pedigreed diplomas or no form the proles. In lieu of external threats, our conflicts stem internally. Regional preferences become weapons. The text books revised to create strife as needed and irony above all communication is valued. Indifferent and indirect with irony any statement can be twisted for the current conversation and retwisted for any future discussion. A serpentine inner life always in sync with the Good Truth.
We need to return to a society where we embrace the uncertainty of time and endeavor to rebuild shared institutions that have our conjoined faith. A world where facts aren’t fashion statements. A world where change is possible.