One of the interesting and frightening things we’ve seen in recent years is people who would consider themselves left-wing not only turning right, but turning far right. Some of the most extreme examples do so after public humiliation destroys their credibility – Naomi Wolf is a good example of that – or after online criticism hurts their ego. Some do it after losing faith in specific institutions, or to seek the Murdoch dollar or MAGA votes. And often, they take many people with them.
This excellent piece by In These Times looks at what happens when the left turns hard right.
It’s easy to dismiss many of these high-profile defectors as crackpots or spotlight-seekers, as never truly serious in their political principles or as plain grifters. Because of course there is money to be made by saying, “Once I was blind, but now I see.” It permits the Steve Bannons of the world to affirm their political faith not as an argument, but just the truth. But, in some ways, the peculiarities of the celebrity drifters are beside the point.
The point is who they bring along.
One of the key points in the piece is that there’s a pipeline between being a controversialist and becoming a fascist, and it’s a pipeline we’ve known about for a very long time. “Strategic irony” is a well-worn tactic of the far right: what begins with “edgy”, taboo-busting humour or saying the supposedly unsayable soon becomes a lot less funny. As one of the people quoted in the piece puts it, you can only be ironic for so long; you can only post so many George Wallace memes before you start thinking that two sets of water fountains aren’t a bad idea.