The best way to de-escalate the left/right culture wars? Stop participating in it

25 Aug 2017


The shocking events that occurred earlier this month in Charlottesville and the storm of controversy that has raged around them ever since, could be the ultimate climax of a war that has been raging savagely for at least the last two years.


In the wake of the populist upheavals of 2016, politics has become a cultural battleground; a battle between a highly enthused left and right who fight savagely for the ownership of the moral high ground, in hope that they will be granted the authority to define what they think the identity of western civilisation should be.


Predominantly fought on the scorched battlefields of Twitter, Reddit, YouTube and other online platforms, a huge swathe of sects have taken up arms to fight savagely in this new struggle: alt-right, antifascists, brexiteers, socialists, libertarians; fighting an imaginary war of words, in the futile hope that they will make their way, the only way.


Usually squabbling over various cultural and identity based issues, the worst this war ever gets is in the form of hurt feelings as the various combatants angrily tap their accusations at one another into their laptops and iPhones, but the recent events in Charlottesville have showed that this culture war has the potential to erupt into something much uglier.


The recent Charlottesville calamity, in which the largest assembly of far-right extremists in modern US history culminated in the horrific homicide of an anti-fascist protester, was the clearest symptom yet of the increasing physical manifestation of this cultural war.


In a Vice Interview conducted just before this chaos unfolded, neo-nazi activist and blogger Robert “Azzmador” Ray, stated prophetically that:


“we are standing up on the internet in a big way […] at the torch march last night there were hundreds and hundreds of us. People are realising they are not atomised individuals, they are part of a larger whole because we’ve been spreading our ways and organising on the internet.”


It is clear from this statement, that the political storm that is raging online is not only acting as a fertiliser for extremist sentiments, but is also acting as a useful new platform for groups to organise in physical space in a way never possible before.


But this is not the only reason why the left/right culture wars have mutated into something increasingly real and dangerous.

Make no mistake, it is clear who held the moral high ground in Charlottesville.


Many of the participants of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally were some of the most abhorrent fascists, anti-Semites and white supremacists imaginable; any attempt to relativize their activity with that of the protesters who rightly opposed them would be farcical.


But despite this, everyone who participates in the left/right culture wars must be prepared accept a truth few are willing to consider: they are all in part responsible for the ugly new form that the culture war is assuming.


The more that either side participates, left or right, the more intense the war becomes and the more extreme it’s fanatical combatants are going to become in their actions.


The succeeding week to the events in Charlottesville in which activists on the left retaliated by toppling confederate statues in towns and cities across the US, is not in any way aiding their cause of challenging the threat of fascism; it is only going to exacerbate the cause and resolve of their enemy.


The left in particular has much to gain from acknowledging this.


What the left must urgently realise is that ultimately, the side that gains the most from the culture wars is the right.


If anything, the culture wars are actually a distraction from the left’s true cause and aims; a Stalingrad diversion that the right uses to leverage their cause against what they want to paint as an increasingly intolerant and dogmatic left, that wants to dictate what is morally and culturally acceptable.


With the Corbyn/Sanders resurrection of the socialist left gaining genuine momentum on both sides of the Atlantic, the left must embrace its traditional ideals of collective action and class consciousness in order to succeed.


Engaging in a futile war of words with the right will not aid their cause in any way.


If there is one lesson to be learnt from Charlottesville it is this: if we want to de-escalate the left/right culture War, don’t Participate in it; the more either side continues to throw at rocks at one another, the more likely terrifying events like Charlottesville are going to occur.


This is not intended as a call for apathy to allow abhorrent sentiments and individuals to go on un challenged; this is a call for disarmament. 


It’s time for both sides to reflect on the futility of this game, in order to de-escalate it's increasingly ugly symptoms.

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