NYT: “Why the Far Right Wants to Be the New ‘Alternative’ Culture”

The NYT is finally realizing the Alt-Right represents today’s counter-culture. Stop the press!

From “Why the Far Right Wants to Be the New ‘Alternative’ Culture” by John Herrman:

A wide-eyed observer of today’s political media wouldn’t just see different voices and outlets with contrasting tendencies. It would see a disorienting game of rhetorical appropriation, in which it is constantly unclear who stands for which principles and why.

An essential feature of the rise of Trumpism has been the brazen inversion, that trusty maneuver in which you wield your critics’ own values against them — say, borrowing the language of social justice to argue that the “oppressor” is actually oppressed or suddenly embracing progressive social causes in the service of criticizing Islam. It’s a blunt but effective rhetorical confiscation, in which a battle-ready right relishes its ability to seize, inhabit and neutralize the arguments and vocabularies of its opponents, reveling in their continued inability to formulate any sort of answer to the trusty old ‘‘I know you are, but what am I?’’

There’s something similar in the right’s gradual appropriation of the word ‘‘alternative’’ — an appropriation that, for lack of a stronger claim by disappearing alt-weeklies or leftist publishers, seems to be working…

An ‘‘alternative’’ culture, of course, can’t just consist of a cluster of media outlets. It must evoke a comprehensive way of being, a system of shared habits and sensibilities. There are plenty of right-wing media personalities who see this possibility in their movement and are fond of referring to their various brands of conservatism — whether simply Trump-supporting or far more extreme — as ‘‘the new punk rock’’ or the defining ‘‘counterculture’’ of the moment. These claims are both galling and true enough for their speakers’ purposes. Expressing racist ideas in offensive language, for example, or provoking audiences with winking fascist imagery, is, on some level, transgressive. (Both behaviors do have some precedent in the history of actual punk music.) And portraying yourself as the rebellious ‘‘alternative’’ to the people and systems that have rejected you is at least a precursor to familiar American expressions of cool.

Herrman condescendingly asserts that the Alt-Right’s “rhetoric and style want to evoke, in some ghoulish upside-down way, heroic rebellion” but warns that “fresh eyes might help us avoid underestimating what is happening here.”

They seem to be getting increasingly nervous.

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