"Because something is happening here. But you don't know what it is. Do you, Mister Jones?" - Bob Dylan
It was only about a quarter past last Tuesday that I started hearing about some great new enemy-of-all-humanity called the "alt-Right."
Now we also have the "alt-Left"?
My initial assumption was that the so-called alt-Right fills the same political role as Emmanuel Goldstein in George Orwell's classic 1984. That is, my assumption was that the Hillary campaign, along with the Democratic Party, blew life into the image of a dying enemy for political reasons.
By stitching together various largely irrelevant and fading hard-right tendencies into a single menacing whole, Hillary and her supporters could point the trembling finger of blame at Trump (for racism, sexism, and homophobia) in order to rally the troops around a common enemy.
There is nothing particularly abnormal in this. It's just politics, as usual, but I did not think that the so-called alt-Right had much reality to it. There are, of course, individual racists, sexists, and homophobes in the US, but compared to much of the rest of the world, the United States is a regular civil rights Shangri-la.
Totten's argument, however, is that if something called the "alt-Right" gathered around the Trump campaign, so something called the "alt-Left" gathered around the Sanders campaign. He describes the alt-Right as a "ragtag crew of white nationalists, xenophobes, anti-Semites, Muslim-haters, neo-Confederates and “birthers.”"
Now, that is definitely a Mötley Crüe of haters to hate upon. He left out homophobes and misogynists. I am sure, nonetheless, that Totten would include them in the ugly crowd.
I am not certain what he would do with anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Zoroastrian, anti-everything-non-Muslim, Jihadi Bigots. I guess they would have to get docketed onto the alt-Left, though.
The alt-Left and Hillary
Among the alt-Left, Totten finds "assorted Marxists, 'safe-space' activists, cop-haters, anti-Zionists, anti-vaxxers, and blame-America-firsters." (What is an "anti-vaxxer," you may ask? Well, you're just going to have to look it up, as I did.) In any case, while the semi-mythical alt-Left does not seem quite as devoted to sheer hatred as does the semi-mythical alt-Right, it nonetheless has more than its fair share of hate mongers. The anti-Zionists, after all, are veiled anti-Semites and the alt-Left despises white people... for being racist. They are so opposed to racism that students at UCAL, Berkeley, refused to even allow white people through the main gates of the university just a few days ago.
They even dislike some black people for not being "authentically black," whatever that means, exactly.
Thus, "Sanders and Trump are flip sides of the same populist coin." According to Totten:
Both promised to kick over the garbage cans in Washington. Both railed against money in politics. Both claimed that immigration depresses working-class wages. Isolationists in economics and in war, they bucked mainstream Republicanism and Clintonism. And, as Troy Campbell put it in Politico earlier this year, they are both “enabling dissenters” who have “legitimized for discussion ‘fringe beliefs’ that millions of Americans beforehand had been unsure of or too shy to fully embrace, but nonetheless felt strongly about.”"But where does Hillary fit in with all this?
Totten argues - and who would disagree? - that Hillary represents the status quo. It must be understood, however, that this "status quo" is trending Left, not Right.
Since 2008, the political status quo in the United States has moved toward Brussels and Angela Merkel, not toward Main Street and Pat Buchanan. It is moving toward what some are calling a "global elitist" perspective characterized by open borders, non-democratic centralized authority in foreign capitals, and mass Muslim immigration from North Africa and the Middle East into the West, particularly Europe.
This, I would argue, is very much a political trend that comes out of the western-left and that incorporates Totten's "alt-Left" within it.
Whatever else the alt-Left might be, it definitely has its share of young people.
Totten tells us:
According to an exhaustive report by political scientists Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk in the Journal of Democracy, young people today are considerably more authoritarian and antidemocratic by attitude and temperament than any other generational cohort, especially baby boomers. Only 30 percent think that it’s “essential” to live in a country with a democratic system of government, and a terrifying 24 percent actually think that a democratic system of government is a bad thing. Only 32 percent of millennials think that it’s “absolutely essential” that “civil rights protect people’s liberty.” According to a Pew Research Center report, 40 percent of millennials want the government to ban “offensive” speech.If this is true, it means that young college activists are not committed to the ideals of social justice and universal human rights that animated their radical-activist forebears.
Their contempt for free speech is a stunning reversal of the Free Speech Movement on university campuses in the 1960s led by young boomers who fought hard to topple institutional censorship. Many of today’s young adults, by contrast, want to impose institutional censorship—not just on college campuses but across the nation.And what could possibly be more "progressive" than that?