The internet of 2016 had the displeasure of bearing witness to one of the quickest and most public spate of ‘shitposting’ that it has probably ever had to endure to this point. Political figures were demeaned, attacked, and ridiculed under the vague banner of this new political movement: the ‘Alt-Right’.
At its inception, many believed the ‘Alt-Right’ to simply be a catch-all term that referred to the more provocative right side of politics. It encompassed: Traditional Conservatives, Classic Liberals, and Libertarians – quickly growing into one of the most popular and publicised groups on the entire internet.
It appeared like this was the logical counter to the perceived gentrification of the more liberal media.
It reflected a wave of opinion among the popular ‘right’ as they believed that pursuing a more Milo Yiannopolous-brand of provocateur conservatism was the way to compete in the almost universal trend in political discourse toward unbridled hyperbole. In the endless mud-slinging contest that is modern political discourse, this was a clear attempt by the younger subsect of conservatism to ‘give as good as they got’ – as they saw it.
Some may disagree about the logic behind such a wave of thought but this is the idea that soon became prevalent among increasingly popular right-wing thought.
This proved to be remarkably effective in the immediate short-term; granting increasingly larger platforms for the promulgators of a more youth-driven ‘New-Wave Conservatism’ – of sorts. The media opportunities for the likes of the aforementioned Milo Yiannopolous, Gavin McInnes, and Ben Shapiro grew exponentially in an extraordinarily small window of time. All seemed prosperous for a more libertarian, tightly focused right-wing ideology – if a bit provocative in its approach.
Quickly, though, this movement – and indeed the very name: the ‘Alt-Right’ was taken over. This movement that exploded overnight became usurped almost just as quickly. Nowadays – just a few short months removed – if you were to look at the self-purported views of those calling themselves the ‘Alt-Right’, you would find a seedy underworld of White Nationalism, National Socialism, Neo-Nazism, and Anti-Semitism.
A term that used to be regarded as a catch-all for the libertarian right, has since been usurped by their very antithesis: the authoritarian left.
I would love to properly explore the specifics of the battle for semantics in modern politics but that is for another time. The important part is this: the ‘Alt-Right’ is no longer on the right – at least by traditional bounds.
In fact, the new ‘Alt-Right’ has even viciously attacked its former (unofficial) figure-heads with the likes of Milo Yiannopolous and chiefly Ben Shapiro topping the charts for the most amount of targeted abuse on the entire internet – the bulk of which is Anti-Semitic in nature.
This has left the increasingly popular libertarian sect of Traditional Conservatism with an identity problem. With the ‘Alt-right’ being taken, this set of focused conservative ideas needs a name – and one might already have been found…
‘Conservatarianism’ – an obvious amalgam of ‘conservatism’ and ‘libertarianism’ – is the term that seems to be collecting the most traction among the right and it isn’t difficult to see why.
For generations, the main problem with ‘Conservatism’ was the inherent hypocrisy of its ideology. It propagated Individualism and Free-Market Economics – empowering the individual and enabling fiscal responsibility. This has always typically been a vote-winner. This isn’t the problem, and indeed, we can still see huge popularity for traditional Conservative fiscal policies across the world. The problem is when you contrast the free and laissez-faire economic attitude with overbearing, old-fashioned, and regressive social views.
Conservatism was wildly popular when it promised people the freedom to live their life as they see fit, it falls when it starts to dictate this to them. It’s the old habit of curtailing social freedoms that’s where Conservatism, ideologically, falls down. The regressive social policies that once went hand-in-hand with what Conservatism was is its undoing.
Social progressivism, in this day and age, is non-negotiable in the political sphere. And if the right hopes to compete on ideological grounds then it must cut the proverbial fat from its mandate.
Libertarianism had always promised to be the ‘best of both’ between the right and left but it always lacked a cohesive identity and popular wave of support.
As is always the case in politics, one movement needs to be built on the remains of the last. History has shown this multiple times: the Conservatives being built from uniting the old Tory Party; Labour picking the bones of the Liberal Party are examples from just this past century.
If this is what ‘Conservatarianism’ could prove to be then it would mark a huge leap for the right side of politics. It has already garnered a growing and vocal following and, if this all goes unimpeded, we could well be witnessing the birth of the next major ideological force in world politics.
By Aaron Dellapina