Donald TrumpThere exists an unfortunate dichotomy in the modern political discourse. There are those who restrict speech to degrees where only baseless rhetoric is allowed, and those who no longer have any filters whatsoever. These are, of course, the Social Justice Left, with their regime of speech policing, and the Alternative Right, who in an effort to counter the draconian laws of the Left, have left all decorum behind.

Like many dichotomies, this is one that we do not need to rely on – yet it seems that if you are not on either side, you are ignored or presumed as one of the usual combatants. What this has resulted in is a choice between pansy authoritarians and hooligans.

The latter choice has resulted in the rise of a counter-cultural movement known as the Alternative Right (or Alt-Right), who by no means truly represent the right-wing. Rather, those who were angered by the Social Justice Left have formed a movement to oppose them, by taking the literal oppositions of what they perceive the Left to stand for. Rather than standing for freedom and reason, the Alt-Right stand for rudeness and anti-establishmentarianism without any basis. Rather than just being intellectually honest, the Alt-Right are rude just for the sake of it.

There are plenty of criticisms to be made of this toxic movement, such as their dogmatic and ignorant views of cultural purity, but that will be a topic for a different article. This article wishes to deal with the problem of subtlety as a political tool and as rudeness as a response to Leftism.

Rudeness as a reasonable response

It is hard not to be rude sometimes. Just before writing this article, I was arguing with someone who was fabricating what he thought my argument was, based on what he presumed it was. This is a typical strategy of the Left, but in this case I was arguing with an Alt-Righter. Leftism and the Alt-Right are both collectivistic theories. They both heavily categorize and judge people based on irrelevant factors, and both conflate their opposition’s views due to their own assumptions. In this way, the Alt-Right have conflated the views of the Left and deemed the appropriate response to be rudeness for the sake of rudeness and offense just to ‘trigger’ people.

While these can be fun activities in disturbing the toxic Left, they are de-intellectualising. The reason that the Left is regressive is because they refuse to listen to arguments. The fact that we want to say things that they find offensive is not to offend them, but to illustrate an argument. The Alt-Right have forgotten this crucial point, and rather offend for the sake of it. The end game is no longer the pursuit of knowledge and reason, but to upset those that the movement doesn’t like.

In this way, rudeness as a form of response can be dealt with by primary school common sense. Being rude is pointless. It doesn’t add value to the discourse, and just makes the movement unappealing to the wider public, whose support will eventually be needed to enact policy. In engaging with anyone, be it ideological allies or Leftists, it is crucial to aim at adding value to the discussion, not just ridiculing or upsetting the opposition.

Subtlety as a political tool

Many people conflate rudeness with bluntness. This is not true. As has just been said, rudeness inherently aims at upsetting people. Bluntness is simply the unencumbered truth. While people may construe is as rudeness, it is not. There is a huge difference between correcting someone’s assumption and calling them an idiot, after all. As an intellectual movement, we have to aim for the former.

With this in mind, we must still not collapse into subtlety. While it may be tempting to want to trick an audience into following your ideology through subtlety, it almost always backfires. Those who aren’t a part of the regressive left want intellectual honesty. They want to be able to read an article and know where the writer stands and what they are being told. Subtle invocations and fence-sitting won’t help convince them, it will alienate them.

The Alt-Right formed because of the vacuum that overly subtle politics left us. Liberalism has collapsed into fence sitting that is more concerned with pleasing people than stating the truth. As a result, it has lost its way and become a catch-all term for a variety of contradictory views. With Liberalism as a seemingly lost cause, the Alt-Right formed and rallied behind inflammatory leaders like Donald Trump. The Left was restricting them, and Liberalism, in its subtlety, wasn’t committing to any side. As a result, they moved to a movement structured around being rude – further damaging the discourse and not adding any value to policy making or the pursuit of knowledge.

The subtlety of Liberalism lost them a large swathe of individuals who were looking for honesty. In trying to please everyone, Liberalism has come to please no one. This is a sad fate for the legacy of Mills, Locke, Hayek, and others.

But their legacy can be saved – by being blunt and honest. People want honesty, and if a classier movement isn’t going to give it to them, then they’re going to join the hooligans. Liberalism needs to start shouting more. Not shouting expletives, but their honest views. Only then can people once again understand what Liberalism stands for, and can rally behind it for a better discourse and a better form of politics.

Nicholas Woode-Smith is co-founder of the Rational Standard and its Technical and Marketing Director. He is a student at the University of Cape Town, with majors in Politics, Philosophy and Economic History. He is the youngest council member of the Institute of Race Relations in history and the Regional Director of Southern Africa for African Students For Liberty. He also writes science fiction – prominently, the Warpmancer and Cape Zero series.