The Irish Times found itself in the eye of the storm this week when it published an uncritical piece on the ‘Alt Right’ movement, penned by a far right advocate of the movement. Here, Sami El-Sayed talks about the piece, and what it tells us about both the mainstream media, and the self-described ‘Alt Right’. This piece was originally published here.
On 4 January, The Irish Times published an article titled “The alt-right movement: everything you need to know”. Though the term “article” is quite generous for what is essentially a crypto-fascist taking an opportunity to get out a list of slurs and underhandedly push their far right political views through a major paper, for purposes of this post it’ll be referred to as such.
Should it have been published?
The publishing of the article, written by Nicholas Pell, a man who(going by his twitter) is himself certainly on the far right, has since been defended by the Opinion Editor at The Irish Times, John McManus, in an article titled “Why we published Nicholas Pell’s article on the Alt-Right”. In that article, McManus defends the publishing of Pell’s piece by arguing that the editorial line of The Irish Times is quite clearly in opposition to the alt-right’s politics and that it was well established that the paper published views from across the spectrum in order to better inform the readership of all sides.
I don’t want to get into that debate given the complexities and arguments to be made around the issue, but let’s be straight here; There is no equivalency between advocates of social and economic justice (The left) and those who trade in anti-semitism, xenophobia and so on. It is intellectually dishonest to suggest otherwise and it’s a line that the extreme center frequently tows in an attempt to make themselves seem rational and level headed in opposition to “the extremes”. Thus, arguing that because The Irish Times publishes from all sides(Though I am yet to see a Communist producing articles on Marxist theory – just letting you know I’m available, John!) and therefore it’s automatically OK that Pell’s article has been published simply doesn’t ring true – there’s a qualitative difference.
The real problem at hand here with the logic of McManus is that his argument that Pell’s article would better inform the readership simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Let’s investigate briefly the content of Pell’s article, a supposedly neutral primer on the alt-right, shall we?
Now, McManus feels that the potentially offending language of the piece was worth the readership getting informed on the ideas of the alt-right and thinking for itself. Now, on the surface that seems like a reasonable stance(or at least a stance you could argue for), but when we uncover that the so-called ideas of the alt-right are painted by Pell as “the perfect stance for a young rebel with a cause” one can only be left to question the wisdom that lead to a supposedly liberal paper like The Irish Times to publish an article of what is essentially recruitment propaganda for the alt-right.
Keep in mind that the justification thus far for the publishing of this piece by Pell was its educational value – that the readership may be better informed on the ideas of the alt-right so as to make up its own minds on current affairs. We can see that Pell’s article simply does not limit itself to mere educational aspects, but also roams into the realm of advocacy. Beyond that breach of conduct, however, how does Pell stack up on actually accurately informing the readership?
Unsurprisingly, not well! Let’s drift into the lexicon, which comprises the majority of the article. My eyes were drawn to the term “Cathedral” – curious given that this article is supposedly about the alt-right. “The Cathedral” is not a term coined nor used by the alt-right, it’s a phrase adopted by the neoreactionary Dark Enlightenment “movement”, a movement comprised of Monarchists, Anarcho-Fascists and all sorts of bizarre, nonsensical, anachronistic or incoherent ideological tendencies.
That’s not the last of mistakes, though I have no interest in going through each word in the “lexicon” and explaining its relationship to the alt-right and other reactionary forces, it seems that The Irish Times has production of fascist propaganda well in hand so there’s no reason for me to wade into that field of work.
Neo-Fascism, not mere nationalism
Perhaps one of the biggest errors in publishing this piece is the relatively docile and placid picture that Pell paints of the alt-right. Pell “fails” to highlight the ideological origins and the leadership of the alt-right, comprised of the likes of Richard Spencer(who coined the term, and gained global notoriety with his “Heil Trump” speech!), former KKK Grand Wizard, David Duke, right down to Andrew Anglin(editor of the Daily Stormer) who is currently organising a Neo-Nazi march against Jews for 15 January. That is the alt-right – fascism in the vein of Hitler and Mussolini.
With all of this casually brushed under the rug, Pell feels free to market the alt-right as merely “envelope-pushing nationalism”, ignoring and failing to note the rampant anti-semitic, xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-trade unionist trends which dominate the movement, and the dominating influence of Neo-Fascist ideology within the alt-right itself.
It boggles the mind, then, how this article can be viewed as informative to the readership of The Irish Times in the slightest? Was there literally no independent research done? When McManus argued that opponents of the alt-right should want people to know what the alt-right stands for, he wasn’t wrong. I do, because the ideas and methods of the alt-right are utterly repulsive to the vast majority of ordinary people. What was published by The Irish Times was, in fact, playing quite directly into the alt-right’s campaign of disinformation in its attempt to portray itself as a respectable force as opposed to a gaggle of Neo-Nazi thugs and pseudo-intellectuals. If educating and informing the readership was truly the aim here, independent research would’ve been done on this issue, the paper could have put feelers out to those who are authorities on the politics of the alt-right. Instead they seem to have picked the closest adherent to the politics of the alt-right who could string two words together.
This isn’t the first time that such uncritical and high profile coverage has been afforded to the far right in Ireland by this paper. The free and uncritical coverage afforded to the far right has been succinctly highlighted here, and frankly it doesn’t strike me as surprising. If history and current events has taught me anything, it’s that the supposedly liberal media will give the worst reactionary a megaphone and a pat on the back – one must only look to the US for the huge coverage given to Trump versus the non-existent coverage for Sanders.
If The Irish Times was serious about informing its readership, it would retract the article and put out a better piece, one which can’t be reduced to what is essentially a fascist listicle. However, the liberal media has disappointed on so many occasions, I hold little hope for such a responsible course of action to be taken. The more curious minded might ask – why?