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'Alt-Right' Trolls Weaponized Irony to Spread Fascism

By jazz_music following x   2018 Feb 9, 12:30pm 6,052 views   208 comments   watch   sfw   quote     share    

This is the new ugliness.

[May 23, 2017] Earlier this month, hundreds of so-called alt-right protesters occupied the rotunda at Boston Common in the name of free speech. The protest included far-right grouplets old and new, from the Oath Keepers to the Proud Boys. But there were no swastikas or shaved heads in sight.

Instead, the protest imagery was dominated by ostensibly comedic images, mostly cribbed from forums and social media. It looked a little like an animated version of a favorite “alt-right” message board, 4chan.

At least one attendee was dressed as the cartoon frog Pepe (a character co-opted by the movement against the wishes of its creator). Others carried the flag of “Kekistan," the imaginary country created by 4chan members. Kyle Chapman, the man who became the “based stick man” meme after attacking anti-fascists armed with a gas mask and a Captain America shield, also addressed the crowd. The same crowd later confronted a counter anti-fascist protest in the street.

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.”

Marwick says that from the early 2000s, on message boards like 4chan, calculatedly offensive language and imagery have been used to “provoke strong reactions in outsiders”. Calling all users “fags”, or creating memes using gross racial stereotypes, “serves a gate-keeping function, in that it keeps people out of these spaces, many of which are very easy to access”.

Violating the standards of political correctness and the rules of polite interactions “also functions as an act of rebellion” in spaces drenched in adolescent masculinity.

This was played up by Milo Yiannopoulos in an infamous Breitbart explainer last year, in which he insisted that the “alt-right” movement’s circulation of antisemitic imagery was really nothing more than transgressive fun.

“Are they actually bigots?” Yiannopoulos asked rhetorically. “No more than death metal devotees in the 1980s were actually satanists. For them, it’s simply a means to fluster their grandparents.”

What Yiannopoulos left out, according to Marwick, is that these spaces increasingly became attractive to sincere white supremacists. They offered them venues for recruitment, and new methods for popularising their ideas.


Marwick points to another guide to the “alt-right”, published last on Andrew Anglin’s prominent Nazi site, the Daily Stormer, which credited “troll culture” with bringing about “non-ironic Nazism masquerading as ironic Nazism”: It also allows individuals to push boundaries in public, and to back away when they meet resistance. When Richard Spencer led a fascist salute to Donald Trump at his National Policy Insitute conference in the wake of Trump’s win, he said it was done in “a spirit of irony and exuberance”.

A compounding difficulty for opponents of the “alt-right” is that online, it’s always been difficult to tell the difference between sincerity and satire.

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.

But ironic, playful content can have effects in real life. Milner offers the example of Edgar Welch, who turned up at Comet Ping Pong Pizza in Washington DC with a gun after imbibing too deeply of the so-called Pizzagate conspiracy theory. The theory was ginned up by forum trolls and amplified by fringe rightwing media. It asserted, on the basis of some of John Podesta’s leaked emails, that the restaurant was the hub of an elite pedophile ring.

Last December, Welch drove to Washington from North Carolina with three firearms. When he arrived, he texted a friend: “Raiding a pedo ring, possible sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many.” He fired shots inside the restaurant, but fortunately was arrested without harming anyone.

“A lot of the people propagating the Pizzagate conspiracy were doing it winkingly. But in the moment that somebody walked into that shop with a gun, then that playful buzzing participation around that conspiracy turned into real consequences,” Milner says.

More generally, every “ironic” repetition of far-right ideals contributes to a climate in which racism, misogyny, or Islamophobia is normalised.

“Every time you see a viral video of somebody shouting down a person of Muslim descent in a supermarket line, what you’re seeing are the effects of an environment where it’s increasingly normal, increasingly accepted and expected to speak in this register, whether or not that started out as a joke,” 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.”

The best response is to stubbornly take the “alt-right” at their word. Angela Nagle’s book about the “alt-right”, Kill All Normies, will be released next month. She says that for the “alt-right”, online irony “is a mechanism for undermining the confidence of their critics”.

“The thing that people have to realize is that it isn’t that complicated. We know what they believe in, and if you say that you’re ‘alt-right’, presumably you believe in those things too.”

Rather than getting lost in the weeds of a fast-moving internet culture, we should be bearing down hard on those core beliefs.

“Journalists should be saying, ‘I don’t want to talk about Pepe memes and hand signs. Tell me what are the limits of what you’re prepared to do’. We should force them to talk about what they really stand for,” Nagle says.

In future, the best step may be to meet irony with sincerity.


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201   CBOEtrader   ignore (2)   2018 Mar 11, 12:09am   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

jazz_music says
Why ignore Trump's military actions so far?

Obama started how many extra wars? Obama also set a record for bombs dropped, almost all of which killed brown people. Obama= warhawk.

Trump, otoh, has started no wars. He is on the cusp of crushing ISIS and solving the NoKo problem. Trump is ending war and bringing relative peace to the world. So yes Trump = hero.

jazz_music says

jazz_music says
up until government reigns it in by force

Exactly who in the government would you describe as selfless? They are all greedy as fuck. History shows that govt is the worst of all possible solutions to managing the economy and/or 'reign"ing in greed "by force". Just a terrible idea. Read a few books bro.
202   CBOEtrader   ignore (2)   2018 Mar 11, 12:11am   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

FortWayne says
I can't believe you support these crooks!

CNN syas the D's are the good guys. CNN wouldnt be lying to us, right guys?
203   TwoScoopsOfWompWomp   ignore (2)   2018 Mar 11, 8:51am   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

jazz_music says
False dichotomy. Why so hypothetical? Why ignore Trump's military actions so far?

You ignored Obama's multiple regime changes and bombings all over the world for 8 years. At one point the guy was bombing like 5 countries simultaneously.

The only country Trump is bombing today is Syria,
204   Fivelbsbrowntrout   ignore (2)   2018 Mar 11, 9:03am   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

TwoScoopsPlissken says
jazz_music says
False dichotomy. Why so hypothetical? Why ignore Trump's military actions so far?

You ignored Obama's multiple regime changes and bombings all over the world for 8 years. At one point the guy was bombing like 5 countries simultaneously.

The only country Trump is bombing today is Syria,

Is it really that hard to leave the word "you" out? What's with the personal comments?
205   FortWayne   ignore (2)   2018 Mar 11, 10:17am   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

jazz_music says
FortWayne says
You mean like government greed

No, the greed to maximize return on investment is killing and will continue to kill more right up until government reigns it in by force, yes force is required.

I can't believe you can function and not be aware of this very very basic fact.

There has never been a society that decided government was unnecessary. NEVER!

Government addresses (what it can). I'm not opposed to having government, don't want anarchy.

But I'm against government that thinks it's job is to run our lives for us, pick winners and losers, CA style government. They overtax us, highest in the nation. They provide piss poor service for the money they get, all while government unions are milking the system for personal gain. CA government decided that if you are white you are a second rate citizen (open racism), if you live in a well off neighborhood your children need to be artificially impoverished by having resourced taken away from schools (again open racism). They've said if you are black, you can't accomplish anything on your own and need their assistance immediately. They've restricted housing throwing thousands of people into homelessness, they've promoted drugs further creating drug addiction epidemic. And all they do is spend their time telling us that we are all racist and bigots if we disagree with their stupid failed policies, and just spend all day long bashing Trump and promoting faggots and some global warming bullshit story.

This is the government I'm opposed to.
206   TwoScoopsOfWompWomp   ignore (2)   2018 Mar 11, 10:22am   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

5lbsbrowntrout says
Is it really that hard to leave the word "you" out? What's with the personal comments?

Looking at the context, I'm pretty clearly referring to the argument.
207   Strategist   ignore (1)   2018 Mar 11, 11:31am   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

jazz_music says
CBOEtrader says
He is the hero

For doing what exactly? No one in his past would ever describe him as hero.

CBOE was talking in the present tense. Trump is a hero.

jazz_music says
FortWayne says
You mean like government greed

No, the greed to maximize return on investment is killing and will continue to kill more right up until government reigns it in by force, yes force is required.

I can't believe you can function and not be aware of this very very basic fact.

The greed to maximize return on investment saves lives.
Greedy drug companies invent new life saving drugs. Dying patients take life saving drugs. Lives are saved.
208   Feux Follets   ignore (0)   2018 May 15, 3:37pm   ↑ like (0)   ↓ dislike (0)   quote        

President Trump Unveils Meme War Memorial

An emotional President Trump unveiled a new memorial in the nation’s capital Thursday, commemorating the efforts of those who have fought in the Great Meme War which has raged since the beginning of his campaign.

The memorial features a stone imprint of Pepe the Frog, with dozens of commemorative plaques displaying the heroic efforts of some of the dankest memes of the election season and first year of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“I owe a great debt of gratitude to Pepe, and all who have fought so valiantly under his banner, mercilessly lobbing meme after meme at all of my detractors,” Trump said at the ceremonial presentation of the memorial.

“And I cannot forget to specifically mention famous Redditor dank_meme_guy_420, who has created over 300 memes during the war. Just a tremendous, tremendous troll—the very best. A true hero.”

The president went on to describe some of his favorite memes to date, including one depicting a Predator drone dropping Pepe the Frog bombs on Hillary Clinton, and another video of President Trump as Rambo annihilating CNN with .50 caliber machine gun fire while Alex Jones body slams NBC in the background.


“We owe an infinite debt of gratitude to brave heroes who have fought so valiantly,” he said. “May this memorial stand for all time as a tribute to their bravery.”

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