Recent articles on the AltRight reveal a peculiar problem: all critique reads like an advocation. This article defines it neatly:
“Given the ideological anarchy inherent in shitposting, it tends to defy analysis. Shitposters, who are bound by nothing, set a rhetorical trap for their enemies, who tend to be bound by having an actual point. Attempts to analyze what shitposters are doing, or what their posts really mean, does nothing to defuse them; instead it reinforces their project by amplifying their signal. Shitposting can’t be refuted; it can only be repeated.”
This superconductive loop is one technology that has propelled the AltRight into global prominence. It seems to be a perfect application of hyperstition, the Landian recipe for impact generation, defined as:
1. Element of effective culture that makes itself real.
2. Fictional quantity functional as a time-traveling device.
3. Coincidence intensifier.
4. Call to the Old Ones.
Here are some (non extensive) examples of the Left co-opting tactics from the Right in order to extract their political traction:
Of course, we are witnessing tactic transmutation on both sides, with right-wing groups co-opting left-wing tactics of ‘calling out’ and the academic boycott as in the case of George Ciccariello-Maher (which, given the right’s emphasis on free-speech, seems particularly contradictory). Another (perhaps more painful) example is the AltRight’s usage of Nazi symbolism in a deliberately provocative upheaval of norms, reminiscent of 70’s punk.
The following study ‘Right is the new Left’ draws attention to the parallel between fashion and politics with reference to class mimicry and self-differentiation within groups. The author identifies a breed of intellectualism that seeks to disassociate itself from peers, siting NRx as an example of this. Quite simply, the Left has lost it’s ‘cool’. The article concludes with a nod to rationalism:
“Fashion does not accrete, but maybe reality does. And I would like to think that the rationalist movement is a part of that. And if that’s true, that’s a way in which reality will eventually come to overpower fashion and the arc of the universe might tend toward justice after all.”
In what has been called our newly ‘post-truth’ reality, in which fake news proliferates on both sides of the debate, the failure of rationalism has been made abundantly clear. Paul Ennis captures this clearly: “Oftentimes I quite simply believe things because they are austere and minimal and I have a soft spot for that kind of thing.”
The meme-magic of past months suggests that what we are witnessing is a kind of viral, memetic Darwanism- and may the best meme win. In order to properly participate in this exchange the Left will need to revitalize their claim to ‘cool’; to refine their aesthetic beyond the rejection of aesthetics in favour of false clarity.