I like mental models – ways of simplifying complex real world events to the point where they are useful enough without becoming grossly misleading. In current politics, we are seeing a resurgence of an extreme nativist right that rejects the free-market/libertarian-lite elements of recent conservatism. That phenomenon is complex, multifaceted and playing out on different stages in different ways.
So I must give some brief and limited praise to Vox Day – a minor player in the reassertion of crypto-fascism but one who acts like a petri-dish culture of the essence of it. His plays tend to either echo or pre-empt what we see playing out by more dangerous and powerful forces elsewhere.
I was working on a post describing one element of mental model of how the alt-right operates when Vox Day posts an elegant example of exactly what I wanted to talk about: https://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/mailvox-sjw-convergence-at-baen.html Warning: nonsense follows:
Despite what many SJWs think, Baen is not actually on our side, rather, Baen is the No Man’s Land between the SJW and the Right. I suspect we’ll know Baen has fully converged when it abandons its garish trademark covers in favor of the washed-out faux literary style favored by Tor. Not that there is anything right about one or wrong about the other, but SJWs always have the need to let everyone know they have taken control, and that would be the most public way of making it clear to all and sundry.
Anyhow, should Baen eventually go the way of its big brother, Castalia will be here to assist any of its authors who prefer to align with the Alt and Traditional Rights rather than with the cultural Marxists.
I’d love to say I saw that coming but sadly I never said anything overtly pointing that out. However, it is so obvious that Castalia would eventually have to start bad-mouthing Baen from both a commercial and political point-of-view that it almost hides the wider process.
The process is this:
- Attack the left, vehemently, vocally but not necessarily EFFECTIVELY. They do not need to win a vote (although they are happy if they do) or stage an effective boycott, they just need to ESTABLISH CREDENTIALS. The point is to show that they are the ‘true’ right by being loudly (even absurdly or self-damagingly) anti-left. An actual coherent right-leaning ideology isn’t needed.
- Attack the right from the right. Having established their credentials in step 1, the alt-right then attacks the right on whatever point they are weakest rhetorically. This can even include co-opting left-leaning critiques but may be more focused on nativism.
This process can be repeated recursively at multiple levels. Take a basic Trump example:
- Attack President Obama by full-on birtherism. In the last US presidential election cycle, Trump adopted birtherism – the confused claim that Obama was somehow not a natural-born-citizen. For Republicans, this had become a self-damaging position to take that tended to lose them appeal rather than gain it. To a wider audience, it made Trump seem *less* relevant. However, the pay-off was that the self-damage to his wider public credibility enforced his rightwing credentials.
- Attack Bush, the GOP establishment and lingering neo-conservatism during this election cycle by using the Iraq War as an example of incompetence. True, the libertarian wing of the GOP had been doing this for longer but Trump could make it stick without sounding like he was siding with the left.
In terms of Vox Day you can see lots of micro-examples:
- 1. Publish SJWs Always Lie to establish credentials. 2. Follow-up with a book attacking conservatives.
- 1. Validate and boost Sad Puppy leaders such as Sarah Hoyt in a supposedly anti-SJW attack on the Hugo awards 2. Follow-up with personal attacks on Hoyt’s Portuguese background.
- 1. Publically announce a list of SJW’s to help ’employers’ identify dangerous leftist. 2. Populate said list with ex-Brietbart journalists, centrist Jewish people etc.
- 1. Push a quixotic boycott of supposedly ‘SJW converged’ Tor Books. 2. See above for the start of bad-mouthing Baen books.
This is not to say that the alt-right has a wider objective of actually attacking the left and social progress. Obviously, they do. However, their shorter-term goals are competing against the more established forms of rightwing ideology.
With Castalia, Baen and Tor, the commercial strategy and the political strategy work in exactly the same way. Castalia positions itself very loudly as the anti-Tor. Aside from publicity and branding (which are important), this is not a deep commercial attack – Castalia isn’t actually going to win over many readers from Tor books nor is the apparently on-going boycott of Tor Books going to hurt Tor. However, it is publicity of a kind, branding and *credentials*. In terms of winning readers, Baen is a bigger competitor.
If Sad Puppies had remained a stronger coalition then we would probably now be seeing more aggressive attacks by Rabid Puppies on them as a group. As it is, the more low-key approach for Sad Puppies 4 has probably saved them a lot of Vox-directed vitriol.