A few weeks back, I saw an advertisement for a session at a writer’s conference titled, “Living in an alt-right world.”
“How can people still believe this nonsense?” I thought to myself. And then I made the mistake of allowing it to trigger me. I know for a fact that we are not now and never have been living in an alt-right world. The problem is that framing our local world this way smears the entire right wing. And it also pathologizes the left.
Indeed, it has been months since I heard much mention of the alt-right in the press. It used to be an almost everyday affair that we would hear denunciations from overheated progressive journalists fulminating about how the administration Trump would usher in would be tantamount to the Third Reich. The truth is very different. Indeed, a video recently surfaced of President Bill Clinton delivering the State of the Union Address in 1995. And his discussion of illegals sounds almost word for word like that of President Trump. Twenty-two years later, these thoughts are not fascist. And branding them so is simply a tactic to shut down political debate.
While I still know certain die-hard progressives genuinely believe this nonsense, the fact is that the mainstream media seems to have come to its collective senses, at least on the matter of the alt-right. They know very well that they cannot push this line, since most people with sense will not believe it. President Trump has turned out to be the most openly pro-Israel president since the nation of Israel was created in 1948. So it is simply not persuasive to the vast middle of the country, to non-ideologues and independents, to keep insinuating that President Trump and his administration are anti-Semitic.
Let us recall some facts. Practically no one had even heard of the alt-right before autumn 2016. When it burst onto the scene, mainstream conservatives had to research the movement because no one knew what it was. Lately, I’ve read an article arguing that it was largely a group of displaced Ron Paul fans who shapeshifted into a moment in the sun. One hopes it has sunk back into the mire it came from, never to emerge again.
Scott Adams, the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip and a commentator on the 2016 election who famously predicted a Trump win, stated a year ago, when there were no signs of progressive hysteria letting up, that it was as if people in the country were living in two different film narratives. Conservatives believed a somewhat idiosyncratic and morally fallible president had just been elected and they were expecting a mixture of results from his administration, whereas progressives were interpreting everything as if they were immersed in a genocide film, which allowed them to interpret every event in the most dire way. I saw the truth of that then. And I still see it.
Many progressives have not yet emerged from this narrative blindness.
The question is why. Why can’t they snap out of these restrictive political blinders?
Back in the 1960s, the late German author and socialist, Günter Grass (himself posthumously outed as a one-time Nazi), commented at a round table with the author Tom Wolfe on the nature of the American progressive scene. He was discussing its obsessive belief about a coming police state in the United States. “For the past hour,” [Günter Grass] said, ‘I have my eyes fixed on the doors here. You talk about fascism and police repression. In Germany when I was a student, they come through those doors long ago. Here they must be very slow.’” Tom Wolfe, when he later wrote up this affair, paraphrased Grass’s message this way: “He was saying: ‘You American intellectuals—you want so desperately to feel besieged and persecuted!”
Bingo! The amazing thing is how perfectly true this summation rings at this hour. And how nothing at all has changed.
In a land of untrammeled freedoms, the progressive mindset views itself as fully activated only when it feels besieged and persecuted. Its members feel more justified and heroic when they can identify “raging injustice” everywhere. As a result, progressives become subconsciously attached to seeing those moral conditions everywhere, even, as now, when they don’t exist.
Mara Schiffren, a Campus Watch Fellow, is a writer and functional medicine health coach who lives in North Salem.