Wikipedia describes horseshoe theory as the idea that the far left and far right, rather than being opposites, actually resemble each other. It’s often used to compare the totalitarian left (communism) with the totalitarian right (fascism). On this page I look at horseshoe theory and identity politics, comparing the social justice left and the alt-right.
The alt-right (alternative right) rejects the civic nationalism (race-blind nationalism) of mainstream conservatism. It embraces white identity politics, particularly white nationalism—the desire for historically white countries to become overwhelmingly white again, demographically. Examples include Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance, The Daily Stormer, The Right Stuff, and /r/altright. (Excluded are “alt-light” figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, who are sometimes lumped in for criticizing illegal immigration and Islam, but whose ideology involves culture and economics, not race.)
The social justice left moves beyond the left’s traditional fixation on the poor, taking up identity politics and the cause of groups it considers to be the demographic (gender/race/etc.) equivalents of the poor, including women, non-whites, LGBTQ, and Muslims. They commonly identify with concepts like anti-oppression, anti-racism, feminism (especially intersectional feminism), and, of course, social justice. Examples include EverydayFeminism, SJWiki.org, Feminist Frequency, and many departments at North American universities in the humanities (especially gender studies, sociology, etc.).
These seem like polar opposites and in many ways they are, but there are striking similarities (especially since we’d expect them to be complete opposites). Most notably, they share two key identity-based grievances, but targeted at different groups.
- That group is a problem because they have too much power and influence.
- Alt-right: Jews
- Social justice left: men (and whites).
- That group is a problem because they’re too violent and threatening.
- Alt-right: blacks (and Latinos and Arabs).
- Social justice left: men.
Others have noticed these similarities. One article did an experiment replacing “men” with “black people” in an EverydayFeminism article, and there’s a subreddit called /r/StormfrontOrSJW where people compare white nationalist and social justice rhetoric. There are differences between the movements, of course. The alt-right focuses more on biological reasons for group differences. And the alt-right generally wants to address these group conflicts with segregation or separation, ideally into different countries (Richard Spencer talks of ethno-states). Some on the social justice left want this (black separatism), but it’s not the predominant view, at least on a large scale. Small scale, women-only or black-only spaces seem to have wide support from the SJ left.
I’m aware that demonstrating the parallels between these two movements isn’t actually an argument against either, but that’s not the point of this page. The point is to show that identity politics groups that on the surface seem like exact opposites can actually have a lot in common. It’s even more fascinating when they recoil at the thought of their logic being used against groups they care about (can you talk of “male power” and “male violence” and be shocked to hear talk of “Jewish power” or “black violence”?), and when we realize that a lot of the same people are targeted by both sides, but in different ways. Black men are covered under “male violence” and “black violence”, and Jewish people in Hollywood are targeted by “the whiteness of Hollywood” (their skin colour) and “the Jewishness of Hollywood” (their ethnicity/religion, though note that the alt-right’s main concern is ethnicity/race, and they see Jews as non-European and thus non-white).
With that said, I’ll still clarify that I don’t identify with either group or their ideology. Not because I deny group differences in crime rates or likelihood of being rich and powerful, but because I can’t accept using such statistics as justification for mistreatment of individuals, which people who base their ideology around these group differences generally do. I’ve addressed this for social justice before, but the alt-right idea of a white ethno-state (in a country that already has a substantial non-white population, like the United States) would require forced relocation or expulsion based on ethnicity, which is a Nazi/Soviet-level injustice and downright terrifying. That’s without addressing whether their goal ethno-state is even desirable (my answer is no). (Some on the social justice left also hint at ethnic relocation and expulsion with “decolonization”.)
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1. That group has too much power and influence
Both the alt-right and the social justice left are concerned with certain groups being disproportionately powerful and influential, especially in government, business, and the media. A page on David Duke’s website complains that more than half of the people on Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment” list (the top 100 influential figures in the U.S.) are Jewish. Feminist columnist Jessica Valenti laments that straight white men “still hold the majority of political, economic and social power in the world”. The alt-right talks about “Jewish power”, “Jewish hegemony”, and the “Jewish Power Structure”, while the social justice left talks about “male power” and “white supremacy”.
1.1 Business, Government, and Universities
For the alt-right, The Occidental Observer explains the difficulty of political success “without the approval of the Jewish financial elite in Britain”, and The Daily Stormer talks about “the absolute domination of campaign financing by Jewish extremists”. Steve Sailer writes at Taki’s Magazine that “Jews are roughly 17 times more likely per capita to make the Forbes 400 than is the rest of the American population”. David Duke talks about the “Jewish privilege” of being over-represented at Ivy League institutions.
On the social justice side, EverydayFeminism explains that women “occupy just 15% of upper management positions and less than 4% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies”. An article on The Guardian says that “the faces remain stubbornly male” at the top of industry and government. EverydayFeminism mentions a report finding that “white students are still overrepresented in the nation’s 468 elite institutions”.
1.2 Banking and Finance
For the alt-right, see this thread (132 upvotes) on /r/altright that mentions Jewish representation in “international banking, and the finance industry”. Another thread (235 upvotes) gives a shoutout to Andrew Jackson for fighting “the (((Banks)))”—triple parentheses or (((echoes))) are used by the alt-right to signifiy Jewishness.
On the social justice side, the book Feminist Perspectives on Equity and Trusts (page 17) refers to finance as a “patriarchal institution”. Jeff Hearn (giving a talk called “Men and Gender Equality: Resistance, Responsibilities and Reaching Out” at the 2001 Men and Gender Equality conference in Örebro, Sweden) refers to the “widespread, stubborn persistence in men’s dominance” in many areas, including finance.
1.3 Media and Hollywood
For the social justice left, the book Feminist Perspectives on Equity and Trusts (page 17) says that “men have also dominated the dissemination of knowledge”, refers to “[m]en’s control of publishing, the media, and advertising”. An EverydayFeminism article asks “if men are in control of the media (and they are – over 95% of clout positions in media are held by men), then what does that do to stories about women?”. The “whiteness” of Hollywood has been criticized recently (#OscarsSoWhite).
On the alt-right side, Rense asks “[d]o the Zionist Jews own Hollywood and the media?” and replies “[t]he answer is so blatantly ‘Yes!’ that you wouldn’t think these questions are even worth pursuing”. The Institute for Historical Review (known for Holocaust denial) has a page “The Big Hollywood Lie: Denying that Jews Control the Film Business”. The Daily Stormer says “it is an objective fact” that Jews control the media, with this image of high-ranking figures in media companies, with Jews in red.
2. That group is violent and threatening
The social justice left is very concerned that men commit more violence than women on average, and doubly concerned when this violence is cross-gender (male-on-female).
- FeministCurrent has an article “Male violence is the worst problem in the world”.
- NameTheProblem.com (“the problem” it refers to is “male violence”) says that “[s]tatistics bear out that males commit most violent crimes”.
- It talks about how it is “uncomfortable for males to take responsibility for the disproportionate violence they commit”.
- The UK-based Million Women Rise (MWR) Movement says that “male violence against women and children is a global pandemic”.
- The Transgender Day of Remembrance blog calls “male violence” a “crisis”.
- Feminist writer Louise Pennington has an article “The Problem is Male Violence”.
- Atlanta therapists Dick Bathrick and Gus Kaufman Jr. write that “[m]ale violence and male abuse of power are undeniable facts of our lives”, whose effects are “felt by women, children, other men with less power and the earth”.
- They co-founded of “Men Stopping Violence” (“an organization whose mission was to engage men in ending male violence against women”)
Many on the social justice left lament the negative reaction they get when they bring up “male violence”. Writer Alicen Grey:
Every damn time a woman tries to talk about male-pattern violence, even when she’s polite as pie, here come teh menz in droves to shut her up with sandwich jokes and suck-my-dick’s and you-fucking-cunt’s and I’m-gonna-kill-you-in-your-sleep’s.
Similarly, the alt-right is very concerned that blacks and Latinos commit more violence than whites and Asians on average, and doubly concerned when this violence is cross-racial (especially white-on-black). The Color of Crime: Race, Crime, and Justice in America, hosted on the white nationalist American Renaissance, emphasizes that “[b]lacks have notably high crime rates” overall, and that black-on-white crime is much more common than white-on-black (“a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa”). They say that if New York City were 100% white, “the murder rate would drop by 91 percent, the robbery rate by 81 percent, and the shootings rate by 97 percent”. The following is an infographic making a similar point, from /r/altright.
Jared Taylor emphases “the overwhelmingly black-on-white nature of interracial crime” in this interview with Al Jazeera.
3. Other people’s comparisons
Here are a few other comparisons, in image form, that I’ve come across.