Reclaiming and clarifying words and ideas


Terms: The Alt-Left

The "alt-left" is a term that was popularized by conservative media. In the wake of Charlottesville, it is being intensely used by Donald Trump and Fox News. The thing is, there is no "alt-left".

Mark Pitcavage, an analyst at the Anti-Defamation League, said the word had been made up to create a false equivalence between the far right and “anything vaguely left-seeming that they didn’t like.”

The term has been applied to moderate liberals, to extreme liberals, and to groups that protest the alt-right. Liberals are once again validating right-wing epithets - moderate liberals have started using the term for people whose views are too far left for their tastes.

The alt-right was created by Richard Spencer to make white supremacy more acceptable to mainstream conservatives. The alt-right has leaders. It has members that identity as "alt-right". It has an ethos and world view.

The "alt-left" has none of that. No one created a movement. People do not self-identify as "alt-left". And there is no consistent set of beliefs that define the alleged alt-left. Indeed, view points that have been labeled as "alt-left" range from mainstream liberals, to anti-racist protesters of all ilks, to GLBTQ proponents, to antifa, to anarchists, to socialists, and to communists. Many of these groups are not at all compatible in their views. Some of these groups actively oppose each other.

Conservatives are using the term "alt-left" to normalize and justify the alt-right. They make statements such as "the alt-left is as bad as the alt-right". They do this to make supporting racists, sexist, anti-semitic, anti-Islamic, homophobic hate groups more acceptable. They do it to justify discrimination, violence, and murder. They are trying to imply that there is something just as bad on the other side.

But there isn't. Not only is there no real "alt-left", but if you look at the most extreme groups that are being given the label, none of them promote forcing their opponents out of the country or killing their opponents. The alt-right does. There is no equivalence. Extreme liberals, at worst, are rioting, blocking traffic, and fighting with the alt-right. Extreme conservatives are attacking and killing people.

The word for someone who opposes the alt-right, Nazis, and white supremacists is not "alt-left", it is "decent human being". All people should oppose fascism. It isn't a liberal issue or an extremist position.

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Challenge the Use of SJW as an Insult

Conservatives use social justice warrior/SJW as an insult for people who speak up for equality and human rights. A surprising number of socially conscious liberals and moderates also use the word in a negative way. That only helps conservatives perpetuate the idea that fighting for social justice is trivial, in a time when increasing hate and discrimination is making protecting people’s rights even more important.

The earliest uses of “social justice warrior” were complimentary, meaning “a hero or crusader for equality and justice”, and date back to at least the 1990s. Between 2009 and 2011, the term began to appear in blogs and on Twitter as an insult. The insult implies an ill-informed individual without deep convictions, who is attempting to appear virtuous, cool, caring, or be politically correct.

Those implications are why many liberals use the term. They use it to describe people who they think are reactionary, uncommitted, phony, or spouting views just “to be hip”. Regardless of whether those are valid complaints, we need to stop using the term “social justice warrior” for such people.

Why? Because one of the most insidious, subtle, yet dangerous things the right does is redefine constructive and noble ideals to sound dumb, petty, shallow, selfish, phony or dangerous. “Progressive”, “liberal”, “intellectual”, and “feminist” have all become political slurs.

When we use such conservative rhetoric, we are helping to publicly degrade our causes and ideals. In this case, we are helping popularize the idea that social justice is something silly and petty. Generally, when conservatives call someone an SWJ, they are implying the person’s views can be written off. Socially conscious people need to stop passively spreading this idea.

Some will say that words such as the N-word, “bitch”, or “fag” have been reclaimed by the people who they were used to insult, and that can be done as a form of empowerment. But liberals are not using SJW as a form of empowerment; we are using it in the same way that Rush Limbaugh would, just on a smaller group of people.

Many of us have bought into the “social justice warrior is bad” rhetoric so much that we apologize for ourselves, like, “yeah, I am a bit of an SJW”. Stop! Standing up for equality and justice is not something to be ashamed of. If anything, people who are complacent about social justice should be ashamed.

Personally, I hope to do enough to call myself a “social justice warrior”, but either way, I am happy to say to anyone, “Yes, I stand for equality, rights, and justice; and I am proud of it. Why don’t you?”

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Words: Covfefe

The Internet is on fire over "covfefe". If you somehow missed it, Donald Trump sent a late night Tweet, "Despite constant negative press covfefe". Then Sean Spicer, true to form, insisted that the Tweet was intentional, and that a limited number of people know what it means. Nothing Trump does can be a mistake, even falling asleep mid-Tweet (or passing out from taking too many pain pills mid-Tweet).

My definition of covfefe is:

A term used by idiots to indicate they cannot admit mistakes

The urban dictionary gives us this:

Covfefe is the once secret name of an ancient tentacle monster that white supremacists fornicate with.

A favorite response of mine on Twitter was "Russian for 'I resign'".

To Trump's rare credit, he later Tweeted a humorous message about "the real meaning of covfefe", but his handlers and apologists continue insist that this ridiculous text was intentional, because "Trump can do no wrong". Almost anyone who has ever sent a late night text, Tweet, or email has woken up to -- drunk or sober, genius or idiotic, and sent or unsent -- something where we say, "what did I type"; but in the desperate and constant chase for Republicans to be apologists for this narcissistic, brain-addled fuckhead, even this little mistake has to be made into a conspiracy theory and not a simple, human mistake.

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Phrases: Drain the Swamp

Swamps seem dirty to some people, but swamps are actually a natural water filter and a source of new life. In the D.C. political ecosystem, the swamp had those elements. As dirty as it was, it cleaned itself somewhat -- not enough, but somewhat. And it was occasionally a place that new ideas could get a footing. That swamp has been dying for a long time, but Trump and the current Republicans certainly have drained the last of it. We now have politics completely split along party lines, unwilling to compromise, and rejecting any alternatives outside rabid ideology.

For draining the swamp, we should have asked for an environmental impact study, and we should have asked what he wanted to build on the swamp. What we have now is devoid of the limited merits of the old "swamp".

Instead, Trump drained the swamp, filled it with hazardous waste, put a slab of concrete over it, and built a gaudy tower, and slapped the name "Trump" on the tower in big gold letters. He filled the tower with the worst of the old swamp denizens, corrupt billionaires, racist alt-right neo-Nazis, Russian spies, dictators guilty of war crimes, religious fanatics that want to make America into a Christian caliphate, sycophants, and morons.

The question is not "did he drain the swamp", but "what has this hideous nut job done to our swamp". I'd like the old swamp back. Maybe we could do a little wildlife restoration and have a better swamp.
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Words: Christianist

Christianists are advocates of fundamentalist Christian beliefs. The word “Christianist” is an intentional analog to Islamist, which means advocacy of militant or fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. Modern Christian fundamentalism began in the 19th century in opposition to modernism, with roots in anti-enlightenment philosophies rejecting reason, science, and some freedoms. Instead Fundamentalism favored decisions based upon a literal interpretation of the bible.

Christianists differ from Christian fundamentalists in their desire to legislate, discriminate, manipulate, and at worst, resort to terrorism in support of their views. While I disagree with fundamentalism, I fully support religious freedom for people to have, express, and live by fundamentalist views, but Christianists are different. Like Islamists, Christianists are not merely expressing religious freedom. They are trying to impose their restrictive, discriminatory, and judgmental views on the rest of society. This has, sadly, become intertwined in modern conservative politics to the point that freedom is threatened by Republicans acting on the Christianist agenda continuously.

We need to call out Christianists on the lies that allow them to promote their agenda, and we need to do it every chance we get:

  • People trying to legislate religion or interfere with education based upon religion are religious extremists. Christianist are sneakily trying to establish a theocracy or a Christian caliphate, while saying they just are practicing their faith. This is un-American, anti-Democracy, against the Constitution, and threat to all freedom and the future of our country.
  • The views of Christianists are not the views of most mainstream Christians, but by playing the “Christian card”, they get support from other Christians. Christianists market the idea that America is a “Christian nation”, and this appeals to other Christians, however our founding fathers did not intend it to be a Christian nation, but a free nation. Our founding fathers were Christians, free masons, deists, and atheists; and none of them would have supported the merger between church and state that Christianists want.
  • Discrimination is not religious freedom. We have rights, and we have laws to balance our rights with the rights and wellbeing of others. Absolute freedom is not democracy but anarchy.
  • The argument that Christianists should be able the discriminate against LGBTQ people or women or other religion may sound like “religious freedom”, but the same argument could be made for murder. The bible says that people who work on the Sabbath should be stoned to death. If we let the Christianists have freedom to do whatever the bible says, then they should have the freedom to kill people by biblical law. That sounds ridiculous. It is. The discrimination argument is no more valid, but they have manipulated the public to believe it is.
  • While Christian extremists have the right to live by their generally unpopular views because we have religious freedom, they are essentially attacking the very rights thatallow them to practice their extreme religion. In other words, they want religious freedom but only for themselves. That is not freedom; it is religious tyranny, which the Constitution is designed to prevent, not protect.
  • Christianists cherry-pick the parts of the bible that they choose to enforce. The bible forbids eating shellfish and pork just as much as it forbids fornication, but you don’t see Christianists protesting Red Lobster and Hormel. They aren’t demanding that we outlaw these foods. Many of them eat these foods, and work on the Sabbath, and wear clothes made from blended fabrics – all things forbidden in the bible. Their worldview is inconsistent and self-serving, It is not the foundation for either morality or law.
  • Insistence that the bible be read literally has created an anti-science and anti-education movement. It is making America dumber and less competitive globally. The bible says the Earth is flat. You can’t argue against science based upon the bible. People have for over a thousand years, and the bible always loses. If people want to reject modern society and everything science gives for us, they have the right to turn off their GPS and internet and go live in the woods, but they need to stop trying to interfere with progress, science, and education for the rest of us.
  • At their worst, Christianists are terrorists. Bombing an abortion clinic based upon “Christian values” is no different than Muslims blowing things up based upon their religious values. We need to call it what it is: terrorism and religious extremism.
  • We need to challenge Christian extremists on how Christian they really are. They seem to be unfamiliar with the words of Christ. Christ preached love, peace, and tolerance. Christ favored the poor. The behavior of Christianists, and the laws they argue for, are decidedly against the teachings of Christ. Their views draw more of Old Testament biblical law and the writings of Paul, which should be less important than the views of Christ himself, if you are going to call yourself a “Christian”.
  • Christianists have thrown in with conservative groups like the neo-Nazi alt-right and Trump’s administration. These are groups selling hate and discrimination. What is Christian about that?

One of the great failures of freedom and liberalism since the eighties is that we have allowed Christianists to normalize the idea of legislating their religious views, and we have allowed them to infest every level of government with people more concerned with enforcing a narrow view of “Christian morality” than the good of the country, truth, or freedom. Call them out. Say, “This is not freedom. This is against the Constitution. And this is not even a good expression of the teachings of Christ”.

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Alt-Right: A Dangerous Euphamism

When I use the term “alt-right”, I know that it means “neo-Nazi”, but most people do not. The media uses the term “alt-right”, and in general, people seem to think of an extreme wing of conservatism – sort of like the Tea Party on steroids. It is not.

The alt-right is a white supremacist, neo-Nazi movement. The term was appropriated by Richard Spencer – a white supremacist who quotes Hitler – to make white-nationalism more palatable. Spencer advocates creating an all-white state in North America. He is anti-Semitic. He is racist. When challenged, Spencer has publicly refused to disclaim Nazi beliefs.

White nationalist views are an extreme form of racism that advocate violence, massive discrimination, and mass deportation of American citizens who are not white and Christian. They quote and often idolize Hitler. Let me say that again, they draw inspiration from a man who murdered six million people because of their religion, ethnicity, orientation, or disability.

We need to fight against neo-Nazism being normalized. If it is normalized, their more horrific views will bleed into the ideology of less extreme racists and even non-racist conservatives. To a degree, the euphemism was already been successful. I doubt even Trump could get people to accept putting "a leader of the neo-fascist movement" on the National Security Council, but for a time he had a leader of the alt-right – and that is the same thing.

The simplest part of the fight is: stop helping Richard Spencer’s goal by using alt-right as a euphemism for neo-Nazis. Call them what they are: white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, or fascists; or clarify the term, such as “the neo-Nazi alt-right”. Call out journalists who perpetuate the terms without clarifying what it means.

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Reclaiming Words: Values

The values that made this country a free country known opportunity and innovation had nothing to do with religion or who people choose to sleep with. They were about what is required to create a society protected from tyranny and corruption as much as possible, that would encourage as much freedom as possible without imposing upon other people’s freedoms.

Reclaiming Words: Patriot

Liberals have allowed conservatives to steal the word “patriot”. In the Trump era, liberals are the ones standing up for the constitution, the rule of law, freedom, and protecting democracy from foreign tampering – while conservatives are cheering as core American institutions are attacked.