Saturday, December 3, 2016

The alt-center, censorship, and the weaponizing of poverty: a scattershot note

I love this quote. I have seen too many examples of people online trying to silence their opponents with financial threats instead of simply refuting them.

Perhaps the best thing I can point to about Trump's election is fewer people who claim to be on the left are mocking "freeze peach". It's a little sad that the ACLU's support is divided between people who believe in free speech and people who would like to censor their opponents but are afraid they're in danger of losing that fight, but I suspect that's always been the case. During McCarthyism, the left strongly supported free speech. During the rise of left-identitarianism, the right did. What we'll have under Trump's gonzo conservatism, I can't guess, but I know we'll need the ACLU at least as much as we always have.


I don't know who coined "alt-center", but I love it for at least two reasons:

1. The people who fall under labels like "social justice warrior" and my previous alternative, "censorial left-identitarian" are not leftist in any meaningful way. They tend to support Clinton's right-of-center neoliberalism. They are extremely conformist and they love trying to get people banned or fired for expressing ideas they disagree with. Their solution to the problems of racism and sexism is not to redistribute the wealth to end economic inequality but to advocate the ancient solution of education, which for all its virtues only helps the poor people who're lucky enough to have the resources that will let them graduate with honors. The US's two-party system makes these angry identitarians think they are leftists because they're to the left of the far right, but the fact that their champion in the current election, Hillary Clinton, won many wealthy neighborhoods that had traditionally voted for Republicans should show that their politics are consistent with those of moderate Republicans.

2. What distinguishes the alt-center from the center is what distinguishes the alt-right from the right: they're loud and obsessed with social identity. "Alt" is shorthand for smug, furious, and superficial—both the alt-right and the alt-center are content with a skin-deep analysis of injustice that ignores capitalism.

Yes, there are self-proclaimed socialists like Sady Doyle whose identitarianism made them support Clinton's neoliberalism. Their existence does not mean we need a category for them like alt-left or one I had liked, ctrl-left. The internet has countless videos of animals who seem to think they're a different animal—but just as a prancing cat is not a horse, someone who supports a neoliberal is not a socialist.

Now, I'm not saying alt-center is the perfect name for the loud group of people who've taken the religious concept of social justice and turned it into something that would embarrass social justice workers like Dorothy Day and Dom Hélder Câmara, but it's the best I've found. If ever the alt-center adopts a name, I'll happily use it—I believe you should call people what they like to be called so long as that name does not create confusion. Until they adopt a name, I'll just follow along with what works best at the time. Right now, that's "alt-center".