I mentioned in my last post that in less than a decade internet dissenters who would have been considered on a level with child molesters have gained influence in national politics. Just a few days after this post Hillary Clinton to my complete astonishment and delight directly devoted an entire speech to the “alt-right.” I would have thought this some /pol/ish wet dream if it hadn’t actually happened.
This speech is one of the biggest triumphs ever for internet dissidents. Hillary has unwittingly ushered in a new age where anti-orthodox internet culture is openly acknowledged as real opposition to the establishment when but a few short years ago it was no more than the whispers of a ghost within the mainstream. The term “alt-right” itself is only directly adopted by a narrow slice but a huge spectrum of internet personalities holding underground opinions have been suddenly given official recognition by one of the most famous and powerful people on earth. Hillary is a living symbol of the orthodoxy, representing at once the apotheosis of 60s wishful equalism and the disastrous economics and blindly ideological foreign policy that’s held sway ever since Reagan. In the social cosmology, she lives in the top rank of the heavens as a goddess so any being she sees fit to address must in the public eye be at least a minor god in its own right. As someone who has spent decades in the business of social perceptions she should know better!
The speech itself was highly effective. It was well-tailored to its target demographics of white women and establishment republicans while reassuring her base. Bringing the alt-right into play may have been an effective rhetorical device but for a possible short term gain in one election, she opened a portal into a “dark” dimension. She and others like her will come to regret it.
It is truly remarkable in that a prominent politician in a national election would address something that’s not a movement or even a political party—just a vast milling about of unsatisfied souls.
This sort of loose structure is not only proving successful in modern warfare but increasingly so in politics and culture. I first wondered at this phenomenon in 2011 as the Arab Spring swept the world and almost simultaneously riots and protests rose across the globe. I was especially intrigued by Occupy Wall Street. I noticed that OWS marked a transition from 60s-style activism headed by traditional hierarchies and concrete agendas to decentralized movements of dissenters swimming in schools to enjoy safety in numbers but often cooperating little more than that:
For a few hundred years now, elites have had their own version of Anonymous that has helped them to accomplish their goals. It’s called a corporation.
Shareholders come together to in order to mitigate risk and allow them do things that would ordinarily be too risky. By acting collectively, they can do away with individual accountability.
These elites failed to understand what would happen if technology sufficiently improved the ability of the peasantry to communicate and coordinate their actions.
The result is effectively a counter-corporation.
In just a couple months most of this agitation had fizzled out. I had thought at the time it would go further and looked at where I went wrong in my understanding of the situation. I thought about demographics and realized that the older generations, especially boomers were still too prominent to be seriously challenged. In 2011 there were still just too many adults who read newspapers instead of surfing the internet. But at the time, the first of them were hitting retirement age and I realized by 2015 there would be a generation coming of age that couldn’t remember the 90s, had only ever known corruption and catastrophe, and had access to high speed internet their whole lives. For them, I realized, a functional America would be something from a history book or an 80s movie. I made a guess that around this period the time would finally be ripe for dissident ideologies to begin gaining a serious hold. My guess didn’t require this new generation to be especially radical as a whole, but only that it would have no attachment to the old order and thereby bring the potential for real change.
Things have begun to change right on schedule, though ironically because even a large cohort of boomers has become disenfranchised enough to turn against the Old Regime. Some of the same elders who were screaming at millenials to “occupy a job” are themselves mourning the lack of good jobs. Also, the smartphones and social media that made the unrest of 2011 possible have greatly matured and become an established part of the culture. Presently, with defectors peeling off from the older generations, millennials as disaffected and uninvested as ever, with a new generation hitting adulthood who’ve never known the old prosperity, there’s finally enough mass built up to challenge the established order on a larger scale. The emergence of Trump and Sanders in 2015 was like the busting of a dam and by giving a speech on the Alt-Right, Hillary has given dissident internet-dwellers more direct recognition than her opponents ever have. I cannot help but suspect that this huge miscalculation comes from being disconnected from the culture. She and her advisors may simply not understand what they do.