The evolution of the online ideological and political landscape

When did the left begin to fall out of favor online? The OWS movement and the reelection of Obama marked the apex of online liberalism, and then starting around 2013 or so, the culmination of several events saw the online-left splinter and lose influence and appeal: the failure of OWS to change anything, a growing backlash against online atheism, a backlash against status-quo conservatism, and the gamergate movement. Gamergate marked turning point for the left, in choosing political correctness and diversity over individual artistic and creative freedom, which proved unpopular.

To backtrack a bit, before 2013, the online ideological tapestry was composed of activist-liberals, mainstream democrats, Ron Paul type libertarians, mainstream conservatives, paloecons, and the Stormfront far-right.

Activist liberalism arose during the George W. Bush administration and opposed war, corporatism, were strongly pro-environment and same-sex marriage. Some of these liberals took to the streets in protest of the Iraq War. This group followed Huffington Post and other left-wing publications, strongly supported Obama in 2008 and 2012, and backed OWS in 2011. The 1999 Seattle WTO protesters could be considered a precursor to antifa and left-wing campus activism.

Mainstream democrats are democratic voters, but are less activist-minded and less socially liberal. They tend to read and follow mainstream publications such as CNN and the New York Times. This group was more inclined to support Hillary in 2008, although they would eventually come around to Obama in 2012.

Ron Paul libertaranism originated in the mid-2000’s as George W. Bush’s war efforts proved increasingly unpopular and the 2008 financial crisis lessened young people’s trust in the US government and major corporations. Similar to activist-liberalism, it peaked in popularity in 2012, during Ron Paul’s presidential bid.

Gamergate split the left into many ideological factions, those being the alt-middle/center (such as the IDW), the alt-lite, and the social-justice left. Some on the activist-left joined antifa and BLM, but also the ranks of the social-justice left. SJWs, although they share many of the same views as activist-liberals on social issues, are more inclined to support censorship and corporatism if it’s to advance social-justice causes (what has been dubbed ‘woke capitalism’), whereas activist-liberals tend to focus more of their energy on larger entities such as governments and corporations rather than individuals. Feminism and concepts such as intersectionality are also very important for this group. Similar to the activist-left, they engage in activism offline, such as the various women’s rights marches in response to Trump’s win, as well as campus protests. But online activism, as shown by the rise of #metoo, is paramount.

In order from left to right:

Antifa, SJW-left, Chapo-left, mainsteam democrats, rationalist-left, alt-center/middle, alt-lite, the_Donald right, mainstream conservatives, paleocons, alt-right, and the Stormfront-right.

The Chapo-left, named after the podcast, is composed of mainly young male liberals who are not as inclined to activism as SJWs and do not take politics as seriously.

The origins of alt-middle/center date back to gamergate, as a repudiation of left-wing activism, which many classically-minded liberals and libertarians saw as too repressive. It saw a huge second wave of growth following the election of Trump, as what is now called the ‘IDW’, which is composed of academics and pundits such as Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, Eric Weinstein, Sam Harris, and Ben Shapiro, but also non-academics such as Joe Rogan and Dave Rubin. Although individual IDW members may be biased, it rejects identity politics and emphasizes contemporary classical-liberal values of personal responsibility and individualism, but also opposition to censorship.

Similar to the IDW, the alt-lite also dates back to gamergate, and saw huge growth after the election of Trump. It shares many similarities with the alt-center/middle, but ideologically is further to the right and supports Trump. Similarly, adherents tend to be young or middle-aged.

The rationalist-left ideologically lies on a spectrum between the Chapo-left and the alt-center. They tend to have higher than average IQs and look at issues from a more academic and detached perspective, and like the IDW, tend to oppose identity politics and are less inclined to activism. Journalists, bloggers, and academics fall into this group.

As the name suggests, the_Donald-right are Trump supporters, but unlike like most mainstream conservatives, they spend their time on Reddit and 4chan and other ‘smart’ online communities rather than on Facebook, Drudge, or watching Fox News. Similar to the alt-lite, they tend to have higher IQs than mainstream conservatives and are composed mostly of millennials and gen-z, and tend to be more socially liberal than mainstream conservatives. Like above, it owes some of its success to gamergate and the backlash online against social-justice liberalism. The_Donald-right are fiscally pragmatic, meaning that unlike Ron Paul libertarians and paleocons, they support a proactive government and spending to advance conservative and American interests, and are not averse to deficit spending. Although further to the right than the alt-middle, they are strongly allied in opposing political correctness and SJWs, even more so in some regard than the alt-right, and both are in agreement about the decay of academia and about left-wing censorship and de-deplatformings.

Mainstream conservatives are the right-wing analogue of mainstream liberals. They tend to get their information from mainstream sources such as Rush Limbaugh, Drudge, and Fox News and tend to be more socially and fiscally conservative and are older.

Paelocons are further to the right on social issues than mainstream conservatives, oppose deficit spending, oppose free trade, and oppose interventionism, although other palocons are more neutral about social issues.

The alt-right, unlike the_Donald-right, are not resolutely and uniformly pro-Trump; some support Trump, but others consider him to be a ‘shill’ and a ‘sell-out’. Like above, they are socially and fiscally conservative and oppose foreign intervention. Similar to the_Donald-right, they engage in heavy meme warfare, tend to be of high IQ, and are composed mostly of millennials and gen-z.

The rationalist-right is the smallest category and is the right-wing analogue of the rationalist-left. Kevin Williamson and Ross Douthat may fall into this category.

The Stormfront-right still exists but is smaller and less influential than before the rise of the nationalist and alt-right. Unlike the alt-right and various chan groups, its members are older, the most socially conservative, and it puts lot of emphasis on offline activism such as rallies.

What does the future hold? In 2 or 6 years, the_Donald-right will no exist, obviously, as Trump will be gone and I doubt his successor will garner the same intense online enthusiasm that Trump has benefited from. Can you image the_Donald equivalent for someone like Mitt Romney? Me neither. I predict the alt-center and alt-lite will maintain their large followings, and that social-justice liberalism will remain out of favor (with the exception of certain woke parts of Twitter). Similar to in 2008 and in 2004, it would probably require a major recession or some sort of crisis under a Republican administration, or a major blunder such as a repeat of the Iraq War, to shift online public sentiment back to the left.