The Alt-Right is “Weaponizing” Irony

The leftwing newspaper The Guardian has a piece titled “Hiding in plain sight: how the ‘alt-right’ is weaponizing irony to spread fascism

Until recently, it would have been hard to imagine the combination of street violence meeting internet memes. But experts say that the “alt-right” have stormed mainstream consciousness by weaponizing irony, and by using humour and ambiguity as tactics to wrong-foot their opponents.

Last week, the Data & Society Institute released a report on the online disinformation and manipulation that is increasingly shaping US politics. The report focused on the way in which far-right actors “spread white supremacist thought, Islamophobia, and misogyny through irony and knowledge of internet culture”.

One the report’s authors, Dr Alice Marwick, says that fascist tropes first merged with irony in the murkier corners of the internet before being adopted by the “alt-right” as a tool. For the new far-right movement, “irony has a strategic function. It allows people to disclaim a real commitment to far-right ideas while still espousing them.”

Hmmm… a trope to simultaneously affirm and deny and Alt-Right position, emerging in a climate of intensifying Political Correctness. I wonder why that might be?

In other words, troll culture became a way for fascism to hide in plain sight.


Ryan Milner teaches Communication at the College of Charleston, and is the co-author of a new book called The Ambivalent Internet. The book ponders the implications of Poe’s law, an internet adage that points to the difficulties of online communication and of distinguishing extremist views from parodies.

“Unless you have an obvious marker of another person’s intent, you can’t really gauge their intent. They could be messing around. They could be deadly serious. They could be a mix of both,” Milner says…

Author Alexander Reid Ross agrees that irony has been deployed by the far right in chipping away at whatever prohibitions have existed around publicly adopting far-right politics. His book, Against the Fascist Creep, published late last year, explores the long history of fascists attempting to mainstream their ideas, or even sell them to the left.

“Fascism is more or less a social taboo. It’s unacceptable in modern society,” Ross says. “Humour or irony is one of the ways that they can put forward their affective positions without having to fall back on any affirmative ideological positions.”

He adds: “They’re putting forward the anger, the sense of betrayal, the need for revenge, the resentment, the violence. They’re putting forward the male fantasies, the desire for a national community and a sense of unity and a rejection of Muslims. They’re doing all of that, but they’re not stating it.”

Another, much more simple way to put it: The Alt Right is simply appropriating the successful tactics of the ‘60s-era leftist counterculture. The Left is no longer the counterculture… they are now the mainstream culture.

Now, it is the Right’s turn to be the transgressive counter-culture.

Get ready. It’s gonna be fun.

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