Donald Trump likes to make up words. Think of ‘covfefe’, which apparently represented some thought that surreptitiously popped into his head during his early morning tweeting session back on May 31st.
It is what Orwell referred to as ‘newspeak’ in his dystopian novel 1984, and the word has no meaning, though many have applied whatever meaning seemed apt at a given moment. Playing with words is fun, but words are important, too, and one needs to be careful about changing the meaning, even subtly.
Today we seem to have something called ‘alternative facts’. The common use of this phrase has its origin on January 23rd when Trump’s mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway, attempting to explain why Trump and later press secretary Sean Spicer lied about the size of the inaugural crowd, told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet The Press. “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary — gave alternative facts.”
And thus the word ‘alternative’ took on greater meaning in our everyday language. The short definition of ‘alternative’ is: available as another possibility. In the newspeak definition of alternative, it apparently means … well, whatever Trump and his hired minions want it to mean at a given point on a given day. This makes it a bit difficult for those of us with logical minds to keep up with the mixed and often garbled messages that come from the administration.
Alternative, recently shortened to ‘alt-‘ is one word that seems to fly about in any context or no context at all. The ‘alt-right’, for example, by definition is a loosely defined group of people with far-right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of white nationalism, principally in the United States, but also to a lesser degree in Canada and Europe. Paul Gottfried was the first person to use the term “alternative right”, when referring specifically to developments within American right-wing politics, in 2008.
The term has since gained wide currency with the rise of the so-called “alt-right”. White supremacist Richard Spencer coined the term in 2010 in reference to a movement centered on white nationalism, and did so, according to the Associated Press, to disguise overt racism, white supremacism, and neo-Nazism. The term has since expanded to include anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-feminism and homophobia. In other words, if you aren’t a straight, white, Christian male, you are the enemy of the alt-right.
So, there is an ‘alt-right’ movement that is typically considered to encompass all white supremacist, KKK and neo-Nazi groups and individuals. But yesterday, in his erratic and generally disgusting informal press conference, Donald Trump made reference to something I had never heard before …
“What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right?”
Say what???? ‘Alt-left’??? There is no ‘alt-left’? Oh, but wait, we are in the age of newspeak and post-truth, so if ‘alternative’ means whatever Trump & Co. want it to mean at any given time, perhaps at noon yesterday, at least in the tangled-web mind of da trumpeter, there was an alt-left. My research shows that the term ‘alt-left’ initially made its debut earlier this year, when violent riots erupted in Berkeley, California, during protests over an appearance by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley.
But Trump’s use of the word yesterday started quite a buzz. David Duke, former KKK grand poobah, even came up with a newspeak ‘definition’ of the term:
“Alt-left = BLM/Antifa communists who have burned cities, murdered cops & viciously attack thousands. Not morally the same as the Alt-Right.”
Wait … the alt-right, white supremacists have morals? Who knew? Then Fox’ resident idiot, Sean Hannity, came up with HIS own definition:
“The Alt Left Propaganda media will run with every leak to help distract from Obamas & Co’s role in spying on @POTUS.”
And then … Britain’s own alt-right conspiracy theorist and editor-at-large of InfoWars.com, Paul Joseph Watson, had to jump on the bandwagon with his definition!
“I would use “alt-left” to distinguish it from actual liberals, but the inmates took over the asylum. Mainstream left is the alt-left.”
Huh? I must have a bit of fog on the ol’ brain today, for that made no sense at all! According to an article in WIRED …
“… the intent seems to be to frame alt-left as the opposite of alt-right and create a false equivalence between groups on the far ends of the right and left. But here’s the thing: No left-wing group has ever called itself the alt-left. And the groups smeared by the alt-left label don’t include anything like the heinousness of overt white supremacism that has increasingly defined the alt-right.
It’s a blanket term some right-wing media commentators and white nationalists have taken to throwing over groups they disagree with, like the umbrella of “fake news” they use to describe stories they disagree with. Doing so manages to both minimize the ugliness of the alt-right and vastly overstate the actions and intentions of leftist groups.”
Let me go on record at this point as saying that there is no alt-left! Repeat after me, folks … there … is … no … alt-left. Never was. It is yet another label, and the labels are not doing anything to help heal what I have been referring to as “the great divide”. It is true that labels such as liberal and conservative are useful to identify a set of ideologies, a set of beliefs. But beyond that, today they are being used to mock, taunt, and stir the already bubbling pot of hatred and intolerance.
After its use in the Berkeley incident earlier this year, the term rather faded into oblivion, but now that Donald Trump has put it back into play, I think it may well become a part of the common vernacular, and we do not need that. The ‘alt-right’ choose to be called that, for to them it legitimizes their platform of bigotry. As I said in an earlier post, I shall call them what they are: bigots, racists, white supremacists and Nazis. However, those of us with liberal values do not choose to be called the alt-left and I, for one, refuse to be referred to as such. They called me a snowflake, and I laughed, for snowflakes are things of nature, things of beauty. But here I draw the line. THERE IS NO ALT-LEFT.