“We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be.” —Kurt Vonnegut
It has been noted by members of the Alt-Right as well as those in the liberal media the strange tendency for the veil of irony to provide a perfect cover for the incubation of ultra-reactionary ideas. We should be aware of this tendency, and the milieus and habits that encourage such conditioning. Richard Spencer himself, in an interview with VICE, noted that many of those he had talked to about the “Jewish question” had first began their investigation into far-right theories from the perspective of online trolls. They were, according to him, reading fascist and national socialist ideologues in order to become more familiar with the most inflammatory arguments they could then turn against liberal targets on the internet. In the process of a kind of “ironic” investigation into Nazism and the sarcastic defense of its principles, many of these would later become Nazis/Fascists/Alt-Right in earnest.
Not merely restricted to those on the Alt-Right, racist/misogynist “humor” has long provided a sound foundation for reproduction of dominant reactionary ideology. It is through ironic, tongue-in-cheek everyday racism regurgitated by both “left” and right that provides for a much more potent and militant acceptance of its precepts. If we say such things “ironically” and with an obvious contempt for its implications, we often believe we are safe from its effects. However what we see is the opposite: that sense of security allows us to reinforce reactionary habits/ideas. It is the acceptance of those “ironic” affirmations of racist and misogynist tendency that provide strategic cover for the metastasis of subliminal reaction.
After all, who benefits more from the culture of “ironic” racism, fascism, and misogyny than racists, fascists and misogynists? They are free to argue, within the boundaries given by the realm of “acceptable” speech, open season to express deeper ideological leanings. Jokes resonate with a deeper material reality for many people, and beyond cultivating even more bile for those most likely to face harm, there are even broader consequences. For instance, in an environment where individuals “ironically” distribute fascist and racist slogans/literature and ideas, the acceptability of such discussion is already determined. So long as one frames their interest in such texts as fleeting and sarcastic, they are given near-full access to its platform. Such a situation allows for the incubation of genuine fascism, racism and misogyny, even where previously it was only “joking”.
This is not a stretch, since the reaction itself admits that the “ironic” reproduction of reactionary ideology has contributed greatly to their success on the battlefield of culture and propaganda. Long have misanthropic, social darwinist and racist jabs, delivered in an offhand way, resonated with white amerika especially, owing to the wild success of South Park and similar trash. The internet has only streamlined the process, with right-wing memes contributing quite successfully to the “education” of new crops of reactionaries. One can only say “hitler did nothing wrong” so many times before there is an implied belief in such a statement. It may have seemed ridiculous at first, but we are currently faced with the aftermath of such reckless and reactionary cultural norms, and the fact that such things remain acceptable even on the “left” has held back the development of progressive and revolutionary thought and formation. It has further alienated the Communist left from the oppressed masses, and isolated oppressed people within the movement itself. As communists, we comport ourselves accordingly and take seriously the processes of criticism and self-criticism. Discipline breeds discipline. Reaction breeds reaction. We do not need help accentuating the reactionary tendencies we all carry around with us, least of all through the toleration of dispositions hostile to the oppressed masses. Indeed, we criticize these tendencies in ourselves and our comrades and propagandize against them.