Note: I will update this post periodically as I see people using terms they may not understand, and appreciate anyone’s help to make certain I am properly translating, defining, and contextualizing terms.
EDITED: Here is a great rundown of terms from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/us/politics/alt-left-alt-right-glossary.html?_r=0
Feature image comes from http://www.full-stop.net/2011/08/29/features/essays/michael-schapira/how-to-master-the-culture-wars-in-two-weeks/ which shows just how long the culture wars have been going on.
Antifa versus So-Called Alt right
For anyone who may have just heard of “antifa”, let me see if I can help.
According to altrighters I have chatted with on Twitter, antifa means anti First Amendment. It is a label given to leftists who seek to shut down alt-right protests and speeches, sometimes with violent means.
Those currently operating under the label of antifa draw inspiration from anti-fascism movements that arose to counter the rise of the Nazis (see https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/08/economist-explains-11). However, people who violently protest capitalism at World Trade Organization and G20 summits seem to be how the right views these more militant leftists, as the antifa are often equated with communists (as in fascist communists, not real ones).
The so-called alt right (aka a mixture of white nationalists) will say any counter-protestors (even peaceful ones) are just antifa, and they use this designation as the reason to come heavily armed to protests like the one at Charlottesville. For more on the designation, see how AP has decided to label them: http://www.avclub.com/article/ap-style-clarifies-its-alt-right-rule-because-word-259522
And just like people on the left have embraced SJW (aka social justice warrior) given to them by the alt right, others have labeled themselves, or embraced the older understanding of the label, as anti-fa to mean anti-fascist. And I have seen altrighters calling themselves anti-antifa. That was how I learned that the alt right defines antifa as essentially anti free speech.
Also, engaging with the alt right on Twitter was how I knew Trump was going to win.
And then you have the Kek warriors of Kekistan, which seem to be a combination of altrighters and shitlords/edgelords, which are essentially trolls and rightwing provocateurs.
And a lot of young liberals are done with the more moderate liberal strategy of “live and let live,” and instead prefer the “punch a Nazi” strategy after altrighter Richard Spencer got punched at the Trump inauguration. And that is why the alt right is trying to control the narrative over Charlottesville by saying the violent young liberals of the antifa are truly to blame for the violence.
A lot of it is the alt right trying to control the narrative so that they do not come off as the villains but the victims here. They work to spin/rebrand their hate as pride, and to make anti-fascists into anti free speech and thus fascists. The rhetoric of the alt right is fascinatingly scary.
And for anyone equivocating the two sides as being the same in terms of violence, here is a list of acts done by white nationalists and supremacists: http://fozmeadows.tumblr.com/post/164164615366/you-antifa-guys-are-actually-more-hateful-and.
People in social media are trying to identify the Nazis from the March. There have already been repercussions for some, and there have been false identifications.
However, we should not be calling such identifications doxxing. Really gotta push back against the use of that term and here’s why.
It was used to describe what happened to people online when their anonymity was pierced through organized campaigns to reveal who they are, often to allow for physical harassment.
Often this was done to women who thought they should have the ability to speak back to men. Women have been driven from their homes, fearing for their safety, because of doxxing (which sometimes could involve SWATing, or calling police out on you), and those who did the doxxing have rarely suffered repercussions for the harassment. Many, in fact, gained pleasure and notoriety for doing so.
If you are in a public space and not attempting to hide your identity, that is different than being online, where your physical identity may not be directly linked to your online identity.
A lot of these altrighters were the ones organizing these doxxing campaigns as an attempt to silence women and POC. To say that they are now being doxxed is them attempting to play the victim card and again say that the antifa is the problem, not them.
This is the same tactic that happened in GamerGate, when the harassers claimed it was those being harassed doing the harassing (and yes that is as circular as it seems, but I talked to several people claiming that, and they still claim it).
The alt right is waging a war for the unindoctrinated to the cultural war, who they call normies, who have not yet chosen a side. They are hoping to paint the left as the real villains in this story while they are just the victims to the left’s antifa ways, which includes oppression, doxxing, and harassment.
It also subverts and perverts the experiences of women and POC who have sought legal action against their harassers. If now people only care about doxxing because it is happening to white men, then that further denigrates their experiences.
So while these current actions are definitely meant to identify the Nazis, and should only be done with verified information, these actions are not the same as doxxing.
Gaslighting, Virtue Signalling and Splaining
Three very different things, but all involve how people perform and communicate with one another.
Gaslighting involves people communicating with one another in such a way as to create a specific perception of reality as if it is reality itself.
Yeah, I know, what?
Say you are uncertain about something, like whether or not someone did the act you have heard rumors about their doing — like Richard Gere and that gerbil story. Maybe you have heard something, but you do not know if it is the truth or not. Well, since you only know the facts through people talking about it, you tend to go with what you heard — even if you do not know for certain if what people are saying are facts or opinions.
Gaslighting is when someone — or a group — work to continually talk about an event or person to put opinion over as fact. By continually talking about that thing in a certain way, and not allowing the actual facts to be properly circulated and represented, they are purposefully distorting how people see and understand reality. And since people make choices based on how they understand reality, gaslighting can severely sway what happens.
Gaslighting thus involves campaigns of misinformation (lies) and even outright disinformation (completely fabricated and thus truly fake news). Gaslighting is done to control a narrative and make a certain version of reality more accepted by a large group of people. Thus, you have people performing in a specific way to gain control and thus power over a group of people.
Virtue signalling is typically done by a person to seem good in the eyes of people. This communication involves how people will post in social media that they have done something great. But because it is just a communication, there is no real way to know if the person actually did that action. Thus, people who virtue signal are considered to be attention-seekers, as really good people would not need to talk about their deeds just to be congratulated for them.
Others see virtue signalling as thinking people are being hypocrites for acting moral only online or long after the fact to get attention. That these are not people who actually care, but just want people to think that they care. The view is that such people are performing online in a specific way that may be distorting the reality of what happened, just so that others will see them in a certain way.
Virtue signalling also relates to the idea of hijacking a marginalized person’s experience and making it seem to be about you: yes, you are good, and so am I. This communication concerns the idea that privileged people are only allies because it makes them look good.
On the other side of the spectrum is splaining. Splaining often occurs with some type of prefix (man-, trans-, black-, etc) used to point out when someone is explaining from privileged position a marginalized experience as if they lived it. Thus, a man might be trying to explain to women what it is like to actually be catcalled.
Such splaining is often seen as being disingenuous because the person doing it does not actually care to listen to the marginalized person’s experience and thereby learn from it. Instead, the person is more interested in disrupting and drowning out those voices so that their voice continues to be the primary one heard on the topic.
While all three involve different types of communicating, they all deal with the idea that communicating can and does shape how people make sense of reality (i.e. the world, other people, and themselves). Because of this ability, it is important to recognize when these problematic communications are happening and to disrupt them. Even when they are done in good faith, the end results for each can be detrimental to the community.