Frege’s Puzzle & Why It is Important to Call the Alt-Right the Alt-Right

I’ve seen some arguments that the term ‘Alt Right’ is shielding them from a proper description as white supremacists of fascists. I think this is a strong argument in some instances, in particular the appointment of Steve Bannon to a role in Trump’s presidential staff. Saying he is ‘alt right’ in a headline does help disguise the fact that Trump is employing (and has already employed) an extreme white nationalist and anti-Semite to a senior position.

However, in a broader sense I think it is important to still use the term ‘alt right’ to describe that particular subset of political extremism and racism. I say this because without it, the racism still gets hidden.

Frege’s Puzzle is a famous problem in the logic of semantics. The planet Venus is known both as the Morning Star and the Evening Star or as Phosphorus and Hesperus. So looked at strictly the statement “Hesperus is Phosphorus” appears to have no substantial content as it is just saying “Venus is Venus”. Of course, the statement is actually saying something important – two things that appear different (in this case by the time they appear) are actually the same.

To make the identity that the super bright star that is sometimes seen in the evening is the same entity as the one we sometimes see in the morning is important. Likewise the term ‘alt right’ is important so that we can make the point that the alt right is white nationalism.

But why not just cut out the middle-man? Because terms like “white nationalism” have connotations beyond their direct meaning. Because people associate the term with how many older white nationalist groups appear or have appeared in the past, it is easy for people to reject the idea that somebody like Bannon is part of an extreme racist movement on the superficial grounds that he doesn’t look like our stereotypes.

In addition, the difference between the alt right and older forms of organised racism extends not only to dress, levels of education or geography but also to tactics and behaviour. Thinking about organised racism in terms of how it is behaved through the 20th century means people are less likely to make sense of:

  • white nationalists trying to hijack a science-fiction literary award
  • white nationalists building a copy of Wikipedia
  • white nationalist obsessing over a misreading of Aristotle
  • white nationalist co-opting Internet troll culture
  • etc etc

We’ve also seen how the alt right has been effective in both demonising other sections of the right while building alliances with them that other white nationalist groups would have struggled to do. The point being is obfuscation of what they are is more than just a name but also in tactics, appearance, constituency, language and alliances. The term ‘alt right’ captures the cosmetic grouping of these traits and allows clarity of who we are talking about.

So to say that the alt right are white nationalists is to say [who they are]->[what they are] .

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29 comments

  1. thephantom182

    “white nationalists trying to hijack a science-fiction literary award”

    Juuuuust keep telling yourself that. That’s why the whole thing started in the first place. Trump won because of exactly that headspace. Nothing to do with a million guys like me sick of nothing to read at the bookstore.

    Milo loves you. He’s famous because you made him, Camestros.

    Like

    • JJ

      phantom, the Puppies’ tantrum wasn’t about people not having anything to read at the bookstore. The Puppies were a bunch of big whiny babies throwing a tantrum because they wanted to take over someone else’s awards program.

      If the Puppies couldn’t find what they wanted to read in a bookstore, it was because their taste was so far in the minority that publishers and bookstores couldn’t make enough money selling what Puppies liked.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thephantom182

        Sure thing JJ, you run with that.

        Trump’s your new president though, so you might want to think about the consequences of writing off an entire section of SFF fandom as “big whiny babies throwing a tantrum.” Same principle at work.

        Like

      • JJ

        Except that the Puppies didn’t come anywhere close to being a majority.

        And their tantrum had nothing to do with what was available in bookstores.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cora

        The puppies’ problem was not that they couldn’t find anything to read, since they have been managing to find books and stories they like just fine. Their problem was that the tastes of Hugo voters did not match the taste of puppies and that their favoured style of SFF did not get nominated.

        Besides, as events have shown, they obviously weren’t even close to a majority of SFF readers.

        Liked by 1 person

    • sschwartzoak

      Teddy Beale and his ilk are white nationalists.
      Teddy Beale and his ilk tried to hijack (or destroy) an SF award.
      Therefore, White Nationalists tried to hijack an SF award.
      Camestros didn’t say *why* they did; nor did he say “All people trying to hijack an SF award were white nationalists”. He didn’t even say “White Nationalists *started* it.”
      He said what’s above. A are B. A did C. Therefore, B did C.
      Follow?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Aaron

      Nothing to do with a million guys like me sick of nothing to read at the bookstore.

      And here I thought that Correia, Ringo, and all those other authors were the “real” popular writers. How were they able to accomplish that while they were banned from bookstores?

      Liked by 1 person

      • RD F

        The mental universe of a person who claims to have been reading SFF since the 1960’s and cannot find anything of interest to read in an entire bookstore must be very small indeed.

        If you’re rejecting, say, Claire North (Catherine Webb’s pseud) because she’s a girl and there’s not enough guns in her stories, you’re a fool.

        Liked by 3 people

      • KasaObake

        I’m sort of struggling to get into Harry August right now. I liked Touch well enough but so far my favourite Claire North is actually the Gameshouse novellas. Still, I have to get through Harry August and buy & read The Sudden Appearance of Hope before I can know for sure 🙂

        Like

  2. Mark

    I can kinda see the argument against allowing them their chosen moniker as it’s clearly an attempt by them to get some distance from those cartoon white supremacists, a tactic that perhaps works while you’re an obscure little group, but the “alt right” name and what it stands for is now sufficiently well known that they can’t obfuscate what they are. As you say, allowing them a little distance so we can pin an accurate description alongside their chosen label is probably worthwhile, and they’re far too vain to give up on “alt right” even though it’s rapidly getting the reputation it deserves.

    Also, the alternative is to call them something ridiculous like “neo-racists” or “twitter supremacists”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thephantom182

    Camestros, according to the local news the majority of the Portland Anti-Trump rioters arrested were not registered voters and did not vote in Oregon. 25 out of 112 arrested voted.

    Tell me again about the dangerous and violent Alt-Right, because I have seen zero examples of these dreaded beasts out there beating people and breaking stuff.

    Oh, and Google/Facebook/Twitter is moving to censor “false news.” Their term, not mine. From the article, “false” has a decidedly political interpretation. As in, anything the DNC doesn’t like get censored. Kind of like the New York Times, but they do it to your Facebook wall.

    That seems like it will end well, eh?

    Like

    • Aaron

      Tell me again about the dangerous and violent Alt-Right, because I have seen zero examples of these dreaded beasts out there beating people and breaking stuff.

      Well, probably because you’re too busy reading fake news. Here’s some. Here’s some more. Oh, and here’s another.

      Oh, and Google/Facebook/Twitter is moving to censor “false news.” Their term, not mine. From the article, “false” has a decidedly political interpretation.

      If by “political interpretation” you mean stuff that is demonstrably untrue, sure. On the other hand, you keep peddling the bullshit idea that Hillary is in poor health, for which there is zero evidence, so your ability to separate fact from fiction is highly suspect already.

      Like

      • thephantom182

        Aaron, you are a fabulist sir. To date most of the swastikas and whatnot being “found” by journalists have been painted by Leftists trying to start something. All the people rioting are Lefties. 60% of the arrested rioters in Portland are out of state imports. Same as Charlotte NC, and so forth. They are bussed in and paid. Just admit it and move on.

        Oh, and you are a useful idiot working for tyrants. Who decides what news is “false” Aaron?

        Noam Chomsky came out today and called the Republican party “the most dangerous organization in history.” That’s false news. Should it be banned? Shall Facebook, Google and Twitter remove Chomsky from the web?

        Personally, I prefer the man to disseminate his views as widely as possible. Everybody in the world should know exactly how mental the guy has gotten.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aaron

        To date most of the swastikas and whatnot being “found” by journalists have been painted by Leftists trying to start something.

        You see, that’s false. You’ve been fed lies. and you’ve hoovered them up.

        Who decides what news is “false” Aaron?

        The facts do. You appear not to know what facts are.

        Noam Chomsky came out today and called the Republican party “the most dangerous organization in history.” That’s false news. Should it be banned?

        That’s an opinion. An editorial. You seem not to be able to distinguish between fact and fiction. It isn’t surprising, since right wing news sources report false “facts” all the time. That’s what is meant by false news.

        But then again, you’re an intellectually dishonest coward, so I expect nothing less that this from you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aaron

        60% of the arrested rioters in Portland are out of state imports. Same as Charlotte NC, and so forth.

        Also false. Once again, minimal fact checking reveals that your claimed “facts” are completely wrong. How are you gullible enough to keep falling for this kind of thing?

        Like

  4. Lurkertype

    It also differentiates them from the old-school right, who often were basically decent people. Bob Dole, f’rinstance. Genuine war hero. Went into politics because it was public service, not to get big bucks and egoboo. Never pretended to be hip. I disagree with him on many things and never voted for him, but I respect him.

    And, he too was dissed by the new right/alt-right/Trumpets.

    Like

    • Mark

      I’ve seen a lot of similar sentiment. Think Progress are saying they’ll use “white supremacist”, not neo-nazi, unless they’re explicitly nazi.
      I think this may be a reaction to how quickly the old-school white supremacists have come crawling out of the woodwork.

      Like

      • KR

        They came out oh-so-very quickly. I particularly appreciated this section: “Spencer and Bannon are of course free to describe themselves however they’d like, but journalists are not obliged to uncritically accept their framing. A reporter’s job is to describe the world as it is, with clarity and accuracy. Use of the term “alt-right,” by concealing overt racism, makes that job harder.”

        The left has been terribly ineffective at battles on the discursive plain. They appeased and let things take root in the culture like “Clear Skies Act” (2003), “death panels”, “welfare queen”, “death taxes”, “political correctness”, “enhanced interrogation”, “extraordinary rendition”, “Homeland Security”, “liberal” as a pejorative, “sharing economy” and all manner of dogwhistles. By legitimizing and using the preferred language of their opponents, the Dems really undercut themselves and hindered honest understanding of what things really are.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mark

        There’s also Scalzi saying:

        “However, I wouldn’t worry about the phrase “alt-right” being a cover for these little turds’ white supremacist stylings. I think it’s becoming pretty clear what “alt-right” means, and quickly. It’s not actually fooling anyone.”
        http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/11/22/two-weeks-in/

        Perhaps the answer is that what’s most needed is for everyone to be very clear about what’s behind the alt-right label – warmed-over C20th fascism and timeless racism with a leavening of 21st Century tech – because so long as the stench coming off it is readily recognised then it’s not a label anyone can hide behind.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Alt-right and misogyny | Camestros Felapton

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