Short Rambling on the Alt Right

The Alt Right tends to make the fundamental mistake the Internet nearly always makes, which is the conflation between “triggering people” and “winning an argument.” Before I get started in my jumbled criticism of this movement I want to get a few things out of the way. I am opposed to mass immigration. I think that Western values/cultures are worth preserving. Finally, I think that multiculturalism is a bad idea. Those tend to be explained as the core beliefs of the Alt Right, and they are entirely agreeable. This curtain however, is swiftly yanked away whenever one speaks with someone who isn’t a prominent figure within the movement. Then it devolves into racial divisiveness, political propositions bordering on 19th century European racial fascism, and flat-out authoritarianism. Many people who oppose the authoritarianism of the radical left, are only opposed to it because it isn’t “their” authoritarianism. Hence, the underbelly of the Alt Right exposes itself.

There are reasons some positions are met with an immediate harsh reaction, because they are stupid ideas that have been tried and end in either slaughter or injustice. For example, if I were to expressly advocate genocide on the internet, was met with harsh logical rebukes, and simply screamed “Triggered” that doesn’t make my position any stronger. I simply don’t understand why this attitude is being taken in regards to this type of thing. The Alt Right tends to fancy itself as a movement that advocates “reals over feels” which is simply a repurposing of anti-SJW points, and are mainly used incorrectly. I’ve noticed a common trend of movements using these points where they don’t belong in order to end discussion with honest critics.

One can be angry with you (“triggered”), and factually correct. Just ask any of Donald Trump’s supporters. It’s strange that a movement basing itself on “reals over feels” would cite how angry and frightened they are so consistently. Members of the movement commonly express that they are necessary in order to fight the rise of the radical left. But what is over-looked is that the radical left arose from combating actual racism and bigotry. The Alt Right is in the process of building a movement functionally equivalent to the radical left, to fight the radical left. One can’t expect they will simply dissolve after reaching their goal, no movement does.

There is also a tendency towards the “Motte-Bailey” strategy within this movement as is customary with nearly every movement throughout history. If you notice someone from the Alt Right making claims which state, “It would be better for everyone if black people just went back to Africa,” and you criticize that particular point you will be swarmed with various irrelevant accusations. Some of these accusations include, but are not limited to:

“You’re a cuck”

“I guess we should just open our borders then”

“Sure, let Muslims just come in and rape your women”

“((( Your name here ))) so typical” [The parentheses are a reference to a Jewish person]

And last but not least: “Disgusting anti-white behavior”

This is entirely expected from any political movement where there is a strong need to hide behind the collective in order to defend your individual insanity. The same sorts of responses are seen from feminists who make insane claims about men:

“You’re a misogynist”

“I guess women just shouldn’t have rights”

“Typical man”

“Disgusting anti-woman behavior”

Why are we currently treating people that simply looking to seek an angry reaction as intellectual power houses? Why are we currently treating any view that is “edgy” and in the minority, by default, more correct? Why in the world are we treating anyone who can make someone angry online a salient dissident voice? Finally, why are we treating any enraged buffoon that opposes the radical left like a genius worthy of praise?

An Allegory

A book is on the ground in the middle of a lush green meadow. It is leather bound and although it has been sitting on the ground it seems relatively unscathed. It doesn’t have a title, but the artwork on the front is spectacular. It’s the most beautiful piece of art you’ve ever seen. You, our observer, see a few people walk up to this book and pick it up. They begin reading the book and they are all enthralled by the stories, promises, and lessons encased in it. The passages blow their minds and make them think about the Universe in its entirety, and they finally realize where they belong in the world. But one of them isn’t too impressed. They think the book is contrived, it’s idiotic, the plot doesn’t hold together well, it’s not believable, and some of the characters aren’t that great. Well, in the back of the book there is a provision that reads, “If anyone you come across in your travels doesn’t recognize the wonder that is this tome, you must whip them until they die, or else I will not keep my promises of riches and paradise to you.”

A whip mysteriously pops out of the book, and the person who likes the book the most begins whipping the dissenter. One person originally in the group runs away in fear and disgust. But the rest stay. They watch the whipping take place. Occasionally they will wince and ask the whipper politely not to whip the poor innocent man so hard. The whipper turns to them and says, “Don’t you want all of those wonderful things in the book?” They reluctantly agree, and watch this nightmare go on. With every lash the man suffering this travesty begins to look less like a human and more like a corpse. Blood flies off of the whip, and they’ve been standing there for so long that the grass beneath their feet begins dying. Every drop of blood that hits a blade of grass in the meadow acts like a poison. Although, with every twenty lashes the man receives, one of the believers standing behind the whipping gets hit by the backlash.

A stranger passes by and sees the horror that is taking place in this formerly green pasture and begins shouting at the person delivering the blows. This stranger begs this man to stop. This stranger calls the person doing the whipping an awful human being. The stranger then gets shouted at by the other book believers. They scream, “Why do you hate us?” “our book is peaceful” “you just don’t understand,” and “not all of us are doing this.” Then, they get hit by the backlash and scream “Do you see what you’ve done? This is what happens when you hate us like that. We get hurt.” The stranger desperately tries to explain that he doesn’t hate them, he just wants the whipping to stop. But as soon as those words leak from his lips the man being whipped draws his final breath. His back looks like it has been stripped of all of its skin, the grass has died around him, and the arc that the blood was flying in created a semi-circle of death.

The man with the whip then slowly turns to the stranger, with blood speckled on his face and asks, “Do you like our book?”

Trump’s Big Deal (Read: Con)

Donald Trump is a figure in politics that has been talked about nearly incessantly with myself being no exception. Anyone with the ability to rub two brain cells together realizes that Donald Trump hardly ever means what he actually says. He seems to become the most passionate when defending himself on a personal level, specifically his hands (allegedly so stubby it looks like he is missing a knuckle). It is tough to pin down what Donald Trump actually believes, considering he spent the first four decades of his life dishing out checks to Democratic politicians. One of these politicians being Hillary Clinton. There are sentiments floating around that he is “anti-establishment.” Well, from his own lips he uttered that he was part of establishment until he decided to run for President. He has switched his position many times throughout the election cycle. Including but not limited to, H1B visas, forcing the military to obey illegal orders, and disavowing David Duke et al (KKK). One of these positions he switched on stage prefacing it with “I’m changing” as he proceeded to weaken on illegal immigration. Not to mention his debacle with the New York Times where he said off the record, “Everything’s negotiable.” Except when he appears on television where he says certain things aren’t negotiable.

Why are people buying into this clear and present con-man? An innocent reason could easily be established. First off, perhaps they aren’t paying attention to the race as a whole and only see Trump when he presents one of his many faces, and they enjoy that face. Another reason is simple idol worship. For some reason, Trump has a certain portion of his following hanging on his every word as metaphorical gospel. No matter the switch Trump is always in the right. He was right to be tough on H1B visas, until it was stupid to be tough on H1B visas because Trump decided so, and therefore Trump was right again. Although, this switch could mainly be due to the fact that Trump has hired foreign workers in the past over American citizens for a quick buck. Thus is the issue with being ideologically wedded to candidates as opposed to having principles and choosing the candidate who most exemplifies those principles. One final reason, is that people are willing to side with whoever says they hate politicians the most, as they proceed to act just like who they claim to hate.

The media frequently report on Trump’s every word as well. They report when he takes an extreme position and then walks back the decision. This candidate is treating everything, even his electorate, as simply people he is negotiating with. He comes out with the most outlandish stance possible, then walks it back if the polls don’t show that position much favor. Just like in a business dealing, you start with a large number so you can implant that range in your partner’s head as reasonable. Trump is not a man of principle, he is a man of “make the best deal,” though instead of dollars riding on this deal it is votes. He is willing to do or say anything in order to make this “deal” possible. Now, detractors to this piece will say that this action is simply what all politicians do in order to get votes. Although with that statement they have admitted that Trump is just another politician. So the only thing you are trusting here is not fact, reason, or anything of that sort. You’re trusting Trump’s word. Pardon me, but Trump’s word is worth less than a German Mark in late-1923. Depending on the day, poll fluctuations, and his mood, Trump will cite whatever media report showed him giving the most convenient position for him at that moment in time. Just forget that he took the opposite view a mere week beforehand, for that’s completely irrelevant.

Rules of the Interview

Let’s talk about the media and how all of them are absolutely terrible at their jobs. Modern-day journalists and I may differ on what the actual job of a journalist is so allow me to lay it out for you. The journalists’ job is to find the truth, and deliver it to people in an engaging way. But, as we all probably know by now, that currently isn’t happening at least when it comes to the mainstream. Over the course of the election, I’ve noticed a couple of very specific tones about Donald Trump and a distinct shortage of a third tone. One tone is that of, “Donald Trump is a raging racist misogynist fascist who will destroy the White House and rename it the Trump House,” and a tone of downplaying certain things that Trump has said which contradicts later things he said. One of which, I believe, is the product of the other. Since the media went completely ass over tea-kettle in regards to Trump and trotted out the standard slanders, they are very wary about criticizing Trump at all. And they wonder why people believe Trump over the media, they made their own bed when they didn’t just keep crying wolf, but cried bear.

Journalists have become, simply put, spineless or arrogant. The reason I put it like that is because I’ve also seen a trend of the media either being incredibly soft with candidates, or they shove spears up their asses and demand they say it’s a comfortable fit. The third tone I was talking about was one of calm, rational criticism while sticking to the point in question. I think the art of the interview has been lost on the journalists we have found ourselves with, so I’ll attempt to give them another lesson until they start listening. Interviewers have to walk a very fine line between forcing the candidate to walk out of the room, and simply lobbing opportunities for a scripted speech at them. For example, you should never start a question with, “Excuse me candidate X, how do you feel about…” because that simply opens up the floodgates where candidates can say whatever they “feel” about something, and since you’ve given them plausible deniability on a delightful silver platter in regards to their positions, they will take advantage of it. Just to show you what I mean, here is Chris Matthews interviewing Hillary Clinton:

 

So as you can see, Chris Matthews does a very good job of not keeping Hillary on the point. He sort of feigns it by repeating the question over and over, but he allows it to go. She tells him that she is a progressive democrat, how she’s totally not a socialist, etc. Plus, right off the bat Matthews decides directly after Hillary Clinton says, “Well…” to tell her that she is completely free to not answer the question if she doesn’t want to. What kind of interviewer does that? Clinton is perfectly aware that she doesn’t have to answer the question, in fact, she didn’t answer his question, feigned an answer, and then Matthews answered it for her, which for the record, was also not an answer to his original question.

Now, had I been the interviewer in this segment I would have done things differently. First off, I would have said, “I’m going to help you out here,” as Chris Matthews did to attempt to put Clinton at ease, framing it as a kind of assistance so she can distinguish herself from Senator Sanders. What I wouldn’t have done was give her an path to dodge right at the beginning. I would have waited for her answer and stuck to the point, remaining calm and collected exactly like Matthews doesn’t do by saying, “I’m asking YOU, what’s the difference, how’s that different than a socialist, last question.” None of that works. Interrupting someone mid-answer in order to say they aren’t answering the question makes YOU look just as frantic as the person attempting to dodge your question.

The proper thing to do, in my view at least, is to let Hillary finish her little irrelevant diatribe and then say something along the lines of, “Forgive me for saying so, but you didn’t answer the question I actually asked you so allow me to rephrase it. What is one policy that Democrats generally oppose that Socialists generally support, or is there a lot of overlap between the two?” Now, hindsight is always 20/20 regarding these things, but I think that would’ve been a much more appropriate follow-up. However, there are problems with this approach too because sometimes interviewees will simply keep talking and talking and talking and talking to run out the clock so they can leave the interview relatively scrape free. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman of the DNC, refused to answer this question on two occasions and used the exact same dodge each time:

All of us know the answer to this question, right? Why do you think they have a difficult time answering it? The answer (that they are refusing to say) is that there isn’t much difference at all, if any difference. Or, they don’t want to alienate center-left voters. So, my alternative follow-up would require both of them to either name a specific policy difference, or admit that there is a lot of bleed between Democrats and Socialists. Unless they just refuse to answer the question again. I do have to give Chris Matthews credit where credit is due with coming up with that question, if he is the one that did it. But he just sucks with his delivery. If you look more frantic than your interviewee does, then you’re doing it wrong. You might understand by now why I refer to interviewing as an art. It is the practice of successfully handing someone some rope, and seeing what they do with it. They can decide to tie a lasso and rightfully wring your neck with it, build a hammock, or hang themselves. On the other hand, the interviewer can snatch it away from them and tie the noose and say, let me hang myself for you Mrs. Clinton.

Presenting that rope is a very tough gig and isn’t something to be taken lightly considering it’s where opinions and information are extracted from someone face to face. The spineless personality, and the arrogant abrasive personality, are not excellent temperaments to have when interviewing people. This is why I tend to listen to independent journalists as opposed to ones beholden to “networks,” or at least I try to. Because, generally, they probably won’t get another interview with this important person, and are trying to extract and expose as much as they can about their opinions within that time.

What one shouldn’t do is take the tone of Chris Matthews, or Bill O’Reilly with his classic, “COME ON.” Our humble interviewer should simply calmly restate the question should someone not have an answer to it, dodges it, or refuses to answer it entirely. This is what I think interviewers fail to do with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They leave things much too open-ended for them to just ramble on and on and on and on (ad segmentitum). It is perfectly fine to bring up a contradiction in a candidate’s statements and press them on it. It is also perfectly fine to take a candidate to task for their answer, let’s watch this disaster that is Chuck Todd’s interview with Donald Trump. Starting with the Obamacare mandate question:

If I were the interviewer in this case I would be absolutely awestruck at how Trump tries not to call what he wants to do a mandate. He says, “Call it whatever you want but people are not going to die on the streets.” Why not just say, “If I can call it whatever I want would it be fair to call it a mandate?” Do not allow candidates to toss around this vagueness in your interview. Chuck Todd, effectively, has to explain what the mandate actually is to Trump before he gives a definitive answer. Stumping the Trump is the easiest thing to do in the world, all you need to do is ask him specifics, and not allow him to dance around the issue which he routinely does. I suppose Donald Trump doesn’t know that it is already against the law for hospitals to not treat people with an actual medical emergency. Specifically the “Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act.” This is why it’s important for journalists to be up-to-date on the information regarding the topics they are discussing with someone.

Now, to exemplify this vagueness I will play Trump’s answer about his 2002 Iraq War comments in this interview to show how he takes multiple contradictory opinions on the same thing, and Chuck Todd just lets it go:

Trump has taken multiple different positions. First, he doesn’t even know what was in his head and what he meant. Second, looking back the correct way of doing it was probably not going in. Third, he thinks they maybe did the right thing in going in. Fourth, he wasn’t exactly thrilled. What is this nonsense?  Todd just lets it go afterwards. Trump is going to take advantage of that. If someone brings up the fact that he said he thinks they did the right thing with going in, and did a good job, he’ll call them a liar and reference the fact that he said “looking back the correct way of doing it was probably not going in.” This is how candidates operate. Pin them down, force them to either take one position or make them say that they don’t know. Don’t allow them to say multiple contradictory things and act as if it’s a completely coherent answer. That’s what politicians hide behind. They cower behind plausible deniability so that they can be, essentially, critique-proof to the American people. Maybe Trump was referring to Bush Sr. some of the time and Bush Jr. other times during the clip; he used a lot of the word “maybe” and “probably.” Those are are two words in which he hides himself. So what’s his position? Whichever one he wants at the present time. That’s how Trump coasts along seemingly unscathed.

If you leave an interview not knowing the definitive answer to a question you asked your interviewee, then you have failed at your job as a journalist. One definitive answer is more valuable than fifty vague ones. So when someone says, “My position on Obamacare is that I don’t like it,” that isn’t good enough. Interviewers need to ask, “why.” Why don’t you like Obamacare and be could you please be specific? That is the crucial question. Anyone can spout off a superficial opinion on anything; it’s the interviewers job to get to the nitty-gritty. It’s their job to get to reasoning behind said position to set-up critique from others. That’s what I see lacking in journalism today. Everyone is very critical of contradictions, and not much interested in fleshing out the reasoning that interviewees have in regards to their views. Anybody can cry hypocrisy. Someone could find something I said at 17 years old that I disagree with now. What journalist’s should be doing is focusing on the “why” and “how” questions when all they seem to care about is the “what.” This hinders the average citizen’s information consumption capabilities.

It’s very difficult to lay out basic ground rules for interviewing someone since it varies so much from person to person depending on who you’re interviewing and what the topic is. But I will attempt to lay out some basic rules for journalists who, ultimately, won’t take my advice and keep setting up interviews that are either filled with meaningless platitudes or unnecessary belligerence:

1. Be respectful, yet stern. Provide a comfortable atmosphere, but don’t allow the person you are interviewing to mistake that for weakness. Wrap the steel block that is your question in a pillowcase.

2. Don’t be weak willed in the face of an unstable guest. If they start throwing a hissy-fit that means you are doing your job as an interviewer correctly. Unless of course you asked them a loaded question like, “When did you stop shooting children in the face?”

3. Don’t ask loaded questions. That one is obvious. Make sure that they have a reasonable answer available to them. In that way, they are forced to either state their actual detailed position (which might cost them in some way), or cop out with a reasonable answer that doesn’t line up with their original stance. You can tell a lot about someone depending on what they do there. For example, “When did you stop shooting children in the face, or have you never shot a child before?” Granted it’s an extreme and stupid question, but if they flounder in the face of this question without taking the obvious reasonable route then you’ve got yourself a lead.

4. DO NOT GO OVER THE QUESTIONS WITH YOUR INTERVIEWEE BEFOREHAND! General topic is fine.

5. One concrete answer is worth more than any number of meaningless vague crap answers.

Since journalists will never take my advice and follow exactly zero of these rules, perhaps it can assist you, dear reader, in analyzing not whether an interviewer is terrible at their job, but precisely how they are terrible at it.