Over a year ago, in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, I spoke at a Christian college in California. The administration was less than helpful to the conservatives who wished to have me on campus; the students fought hard and made the event a success.
Afterward, we all went out to dinner, as I often do with the student groups with whom I work. One of the students wore a Trump hat, and announced that he was a fan of Milo Yiannopoulos. I told him that was fine, and then detailed why I thought that Milo’s popularization of the alt-right was a serious problem for the conservative movement. The exchange was just a few minutes long, and the conversation quickly turned to other topics.
The dinner concluded, and we all shook hands. As I shook hands with MAGA hat guy, he leaned in, smiled, and stated, “Anuddah Shoah.”
For those who don’t know much about Kekistan, “Anuddah Shoah” is an anti-Semitic meme used to mean that Jews constantly whine about the Holocaust as a defense mechanism when discussing political issues. Here are a few examples of such brilliance aimed at me during the last election cycle:
Now, I didn’t think this kid was particularly anti-Semitic. But his use of the phrase disturbed me, and so I said, “What now?” He repeated the phrase. I told him that he’d be better off disassociating from such nastiness and never using it again.
Unfortunately, this kid wasn’t alone.
A few months earlier, I received a call from a conservative college student. He was crying. He told me that he’d gotten involved with an alt-right message board, and, caught up in the supposed jocularity, used the n-word. He was worried that he might now be outed for having used it. I told him that the best he could do would be to apologize for it, come clean, and say that he’d made a mistake, and that he knew better.
The alt-right is seductive to some young conservatives. That’s not because they’re racists or anti-Semites. It’s because popularizers of the alt-right have cleverly pushed a meme culture designed at “triggering” the Left.
Being a college conservative means existing in a world in which you are the minority, and in which you are constantly being attacked as a racist, sexist, bigoted homophobe who hates the poor. After being told by administrators, fellow college students, and the media that you’re a beneficiary of “white privilege” simply by dint of skin, the temptation to fight back with any tool that’s handy grows strong. That means a lot of college conservatives may be tempted to use alt-right memery, up to and including the anti-Semitic and racist “jokes” they frequently distribute.
The problem with that is obvious. Let’s say “Anuddah Shoah” guy drops that “joke” to a “snowflake.” Let’s say the “snowflake” is Jewish, and rightly offended at the snide reference to supposed Holocaust-exploitation. “Anuddah Shoah” guy is likely to regard that triggering as either a triumph (hey, I triggered somebody!), or a proof that Jews are oversensitive about the Holocaust generally because there’s truth to the joke, or both. That perspective can quickly morph into taking seriously other “triggering” falsehoods about various ethnic, racial, and religious groups — after all, if they’re triggered, there must be something to the joke itself!
This logic isn’t applicable to the vast majority of college conservatives who just enjoy meme culture but eschew bigoted memes. It’s not applicable to the vast majority of conservatives generally — virtually everyone should and does disown the anti-conservatives of the alt-right. But to pretend that the alt-right doesn’t have its own seductive allure is to lie by omission.
And to pretend that the Trump administration hasn’t glommed onto the alt-right meme culture is obviously untrue. President Trump has taken memes from that culture. He’s used them. He retweets them. His own chief strategist, Steve Bannon, apparently “cautioned the president not to criticize far-right activists too severely for fear of antagonizing a small but energetic part of his base.” Don’t alienate the memesters — even the truly evil ones — because you might be alienating those who won the Meme Wars of 2016! They loved Trump because he triggered SJWs! They’re your allies!
There’s no need to trigger leftists with bigotry. Leftists are triggered by truth. Until the Right understands that telling the truth should be the goal, and triggering leftists is merely a byproduct of pursuing that goal, a certain segment of conservatives will continue to value triggering over truth. And that’s a recipe for philosophical evil.