Jonah Goldberg calls on the conservative movement to “Jon Birch” the alt right. I completely agree with him, but I wonder if we’re a bit too late. While the actual numbers on this “movement” are debateable, it’s likely they still constitute a fairly small number of people. Their ubiquitous online presence likely makes them appear to be more significant than they really are. That said, even if the alt right itself is not a huge presence, their avatar, namely Donald Trump, is a major party presidential nominee, and despite the poor polling, I still think he has a semi-decent chance of ascending to the presidency.
True, Donald Trump is likely, as Charles Cooke categorized him, sui generis, as so far those of his ilk have failed to win other primaries. Yet I can’t help but feel the alt right has already made more significant strides than the Birchers ever have.
To the degree alt righters have gained in ascendency, I’m willing accept a bit of personal responsibility. Oh, I didn’t do much myself to promote the alt right. After all, I’m just a nobody in the social media world. But I did turn a blind eye to just how vile an element this community was.
Growing up in a New York City where Al Sharpton was a major character, it became somewhat easy to dismiss most cries of racism as pure hogwash. The left has called us all racists, sexists, and bigots for so long I just tuned those cries out. I scoffed at the casual dismissal of all opposition to President Obama as racism. And yet I would see a Facebook or newspaper comment section (when I had the stomach to read the comments) littered with the occasional racist diatribe. But I dismissed these outliers as just that – outliers. Most conservatives I knew and read were principled individuals whose opposition to the president’s agenda stood on solid ideological grounds.
Still, I’d wander across an occasional Breitbart post (post Andrew’s death) that made me chuckle. I followed Milo Yiannapoulos on twitter for a while and thought most of what he did was just schtick. When it came to Gamergate I didn’t have a dog in the fight, but cheered on the rowdies opposing the SJWs, even when it seemed like they clearly crossed the line. It was all schtick, or so that’s how I dismissed it.
Even early on in the primary season as I saw more and more heinous tweets pop up on the people I follow’s timelines (in response to them, not by them), I didn’t think the vileness was for real. I’d open up a random twitter account littered with Nazi imagery and immediately I’d think, this has to be satire. If it wasn’t satire, it had to be something of a put-on.
It wasn’t satire. These people meant it. Surely nobody in 2016 who called themselves a conservative could believe this sh#$. Wrong I was.
So all this percolated and I just dismissed it or ignored it. Many of us did. Oh, I’m sure there are those who have been on the vileness of the alt right from the start, but I think I just didn’t want to believe this senseless idiocy could be so prevalent.
Can we Birch the alt righters? Yes, but I fear they have a firmer toe-hold in the mainstream than the Birchers had, and it’s going to be a tougher slog. And I’ll point some fingers of blame at myself for this.