Wade into the thickets of the pro-Trump, anti-SJW internet jungle, past the#Cuckservative vines and around #TheTriggering tree, and you’ll notice a new species, one that’s spread everywhere and seems to have blossomed overnight:
Well, points for creativity, I guess. Your English major finally paid off, dude. Congrats. So. . . This is dumb. I follow a good number of anti-regressive left folks, and I think Breitbart is the only source that likes Trump in any capacity (and you’ll find that anti-SJW sentiments are really the only thing I and many others have in common with that publication, so acting like we’re in league with the ultraconservative right isn’t all that accurate). Heavyhitters like Dave Rubin and Sargon actively view Trump as bad.
I don’t follow Vine because I’m not a goldfish. #TheTriggering was a fairly good shot at encouraging free speech online even though I personally think it fizzled out before it could have a very significant effect. I don’t even think that what people posted under that hash tag was that offensive.
And the term “regressive left” has been picking up steam for a while. It hasn’t just sprung up from the woodwork out of nowhere. I don’t even like it that much – it’s like calling a Trump supporting Mississippian stupid. It’s not going to convince them to listen to you. And while I do think the beliefs and tactics of this brand of liberal are “regressive,” I think it’s better to bring it up in conversation as opposed to giving someone an immediate label right out of the gate. The name seems more like a witty insult than anything else.
The tag, which plays on the “Progressive Left” of Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter, has become wildly popular among the alt-right. Although it only started popping up on Twitter three months or so ago, now it’s being tweeted hundreds of times a day. Usually, it’s meant to indicate disgust with a backward-looking or hypocritical stance by the left, particularly on campus or in the media. Here’s several examples of typical usage:
Wait. . . What? The alt-right? Really? I’m getting really tired of having to point this out: Calling someone right wing is not an argument. And applying the label to people who patently are not conservative because “conservative” is commensurate to an insult does not help your case. This just goes to show how unwilling you are to acknowledge that this is not an Us vs. Them issue, because your entire movement depends on it. So you can’t have someone who would otherwise agree with you call you out on your bullshit – they must be on the total opposite end if the spectrum! And things on the opposite end of the spectrum are all bad and misinformed by default so we don’t even have to listen to them! Protecting ourselves from cognitive dissonance is fun!
I am a liberal. Dave Rubin and Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and Bill Maher and Sargon of Akaad are liberals. And, yes, you have your Milos and your Steven Crowders and your Adam Baldwins who are part of the argument as well who are on the right side of the political spectrum. But that is the point, Buzzfeed. The fact that liberals are getting along and working with people who they would otherwise be fighting with should go to show how unifyingly awful the “regressive left” is becoming. It has so utterly destroyed nuance in left-leaning circles that liberals like me have no choice but to turn to the more conservative outlets to talk about this because there are no liberal outlets willing to.
So where the heck does it come from?
The phrase “Regressive Left” was originally coined by the British commentator Maajid Nawaz in 2012 to refer to liberals whose cultural relativism aligns them with repressive Islamic theocracies. Though the term is four years old, its rise on the internet is very recent. In the press run for their new book, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue, the controversial atheist writer Sam Harris and Nawaz used the term in a series of interviews.
Yeah, that brown, Muslim Maajid Nawaz is as ultraconservative as they come, am I right? He’s right, by the way. Misplaced ideas of multiculturalism have lead to people dragging their feet on what to say about Islam because lots of Muslims are brown. Shit-talking Christianity for being an arachaic idea written by socially backwards desert tribes who thought that it was okay to own slaves and treat women like slightly more intelligent animals is perfectly fine. You can talk about the “oppressive, patriarchal power structures” of Christianity all fucking day, because that is a Western, “white people” religion. But Islam needs defending, guys.
In an episode of Real Time last October, Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher discussed the term in the context of Islam and safe spaces on campus. And on Dec. 9, Dawkins tweeted:
Regressive left turns treacherous blind eye on misogyny & homophobia because they absurdly think Islam must be “respected” as a “race”.
Well, he’s right. It’s actually rather hilarious. I believe that it’s Faisal Al Mutar who likes to give people this little mind game: “You’d call an ultraconservative Christain in the Deep South who doesn’t believe in gay rights and who thinks women should stay in the kitchen a sexist bigot, right? Congrats on calling X% of Muslims sexist bigots, because they think the same thing, only even more extreme.” And people trip over themselves to take it back.
A Google Trends search shows that interest in the term shot up in the fall of 2015, around the time of Dawkins’ tweet, dropped slightly last month, and is at an all-time high right now. (There are memes!) To feed this interest, dozens of explainer videos and alt-right YouTube news segments have cropped up. Two of the most popular, “The Truth About the Regressive Left,” and “Introduction to the Regressive Left (#Regressive Left)” boast 150,000 views each. (The latter is by the popular men’s rights activist Sargon of Akkad.)
Everything about this is wrong.Neither of those videos are from alt-right YouTubers, Sargon I’m fairly sure does not identify as an MRA, and if you’re going to put political labels on your dissenters it seems like they would be libertarians not alt-righters. And here we go again with the ridiculously bipartisan idea that something coming from a conservative mouth must be the worst thing ever by default. Guess what, Buzzfeed? Some of the first people to noticably engage in the same kind of moral authoritarianism that the “regressive left” does were religious conservatives – this is not a left wing/right wing issue. The horseshoe theory is a bitch.
Very, very quickly, the term spread to encompass much more than stories of cultural tolerance gone too far, to the point that it’s rarely applied to Islam at all. #Regressiveleft can now append tweets about the perceived repression of free speech for left causes in general (e.g., the infamous former Missouri lecturer Melissa Click); about the “Ivy League lynch mobs” rushing to hang Dr. Luke; about Bernie Sanders’ claim that white people don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto; aboutthe harm done by a BuzzFeed writer’s tweets about the new all-female Ghostbustersmovie; about the “scam” of climate change; and, of course, aboutethics in games journalism. It’s become a catchall for any element of the dominant new media culture that the anti-SJW internet doesn’t like.
What is with your hate boner for GamerGate? You realize how old news that is, right? Fun fact, though: the treatment of video games and the gaming community – the insistence that the community is toxic and its art promotes dangerous ideas – is very similar to how rock n’ roll and later role playing board games like D&D were treated by morally righteous conservative groups. The rock music makes you hate women and glorifies anti-social behavior, don’t you know? And D&D is obviously about Satanism and murder.
All of those seem pretty legit besides the climate change one. And I will admit that Rebel Media’s weird libertarianism-fueled climate change denial is stupid and should be argued against. But that is once again what you have to deal with when your counter-movement isn’t on a political spectrum but an anti-authortarianism spectrum. You’re gonna have people you disagree with.
And, since we all live in his world now, #Regressiveleft is also about Donald Trump. Frequently the tag comes next to tweets comparing Trump and Hitler. Others use it to suppose that the “liberal failure to take on Islamism” has opened the door for Trump’s xenophobic pandering. Chanterculture diehards use it to refer to the class of educated liberals whom a Trump presidency would purge. Here it bears almost no resemblance at all to Maajid Nawaz’s original coinage.
I feel inclined to point out that Maajid Nawaz has appeared on the Rubin Report multiple times and seems to support the use of “regressive left” in these political contexts. I also believe that the lack of nuance has lead to Trump getting popular. Liberals should be being, well, liberals, by upholding Muslim religious freedom and safety to practice but also pointing out the Islamic clash with many liberal ideas.
They don’t do that though. You have one side insisting that there is absolutetly nothing wrong with Islamic ideas and that Muslims never did nothin’ because of their religious beliefs. This side shuts down any and all comments to the contrary. So of course the equal and opposite reaction will be people who are mad about Islam never being questioned flocking into the arms of an actual bigot because at least the bigot admits that there is an issue.
But that’s what’s so fascinating about the spread of #Regressiveleft. Unlike #Cuckservative, it doesn’t come from an alt-right message board. Instead, it comes from people, like Maher and Dawkins and Nawaz, who, controversial as they may be on the internet, would almost certainly identify as big-L Liberal.
Oh my God! You acknowledged it! Are you going to acknowledge that it didn’t spin out of control and that liberal voices are still very much prevelant in “regressive left” conversations? You’re acting like the term got wrongfully co-opted by horrible, horrible right-wingers, but I don’t see that personally. While many anti-SJW speakers get together from multiple points on the left/right spectrum it is not out of the question that they argue about other points.
Indeed, it reveals the wiring by which the kind of cable news–appropriate Western values–traditionalism practiced by Bill Maher and Sam Harris can flow through the substations of the alt-right internet —Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, 4chan — to emerge overnight as a power source for cutting-edge internet rhetorical warfare.
You’re so fucking close to actually realizing what’s happening here. So fucking close. But instead you’re still stuck at the mental road block caused by you being unable to acknowledge that liberals can disagree with you. Do you want to know the horrible, horrible “cable news- appropriate Western values – traditionalism” that Maher and Harris subscribe to?
It’s the “traditionalism” that says gay people should be allowed to get married if they want without being thrown off a roof or forced into sex change surgery for their sexual orientation. It’s the “traditionalism” that says a woman should be able to go to school, should be able to drive and show her hair and shouldn’t have to worry about being killed or harmed for touching a man her parents didn’t want her to marry. It’s the “traditionalism” that says you shouldn’t be thrown in jail or killed for saying something bad about a sacred topic. Those are the horrible, horrible Western values that you scoff at, because how dare the West be such a cultural imperialist, am I right? As long as we can blame everything on solipsistic Western imperialism where the West is the perpetual bad guy, the world is good.
In other words, it’s a sign that the sentiments behind the alt-right may not be as far out of the American mainstream as some of us would like to think.
Fuck this writer. Because these are such awful sentiments, right? And here we are a-fucking-gain finding some way to make everyone who opposes us out to be evil, evil conservatives. Yeah, the people saying these things may be liberals, but they’re liberals who are dangerously close to being conservatives. They have conservative sentiments.
Liberals disagree with you! Capital-L Liberals! And you could have used that realization as a chance to truly reflect on why. But instead you stuck your head in the ground and decided that it must be because they are channeling alt-right ideas even if they aren’t alt-right themselves. Them disagreeing with you is a sign of danger! It is a sign that the dangerous, evil right wing that hates us so is gaining so much power that it’s sunk into the left an infected it too. It is a sign that you are more oppressed, more surrounded on all sides by the enemy than ever before! It can’t be that people who are on your side are trying to tell you that you’re doing something wrong, that’s ridiculous.
You say you stand up for minorties, that you care about them to the point of being okay with discriminating against majority group members. Okay.
What about the atheist in Saudi Arabia? What about the woman in Bangladesh? What about the black kid who gets beat up every day by his black classmates because he’s not authentic enough? What about the white people who are being oppressed somewhere in the world? What about the Chinese kid who can’t afford to have points deducted from his SAT score? Do you give a Fuck about any of them? Or are the people abusing them off-limits for reasons of skin color and good intentions?