Jonathon Shafi: The alt-right's in a confused meltdown over Trump's Syria strategy

CommonSpace columnist Jonathon Shafi says the alt-right has been filled with fury, tantrums and, er, glitter this week…

IN recent days the Trump train has come off the rails as figures from the alt-right declare that he has betrayed the 'America First' doctrine by launching a missile strike on a Syrian airbase.

This came after two significant events. Firstly, Steve Bannon, the ideological driver of the new radical right in the White House, was removed from the National Security Council. And secondly, Hillary Clinton, just hours before the strike happened, called on Trump to launch military operations over Syria. So when Trump went ahead and ordered the strike, the response from his base and the online alt-right propagandists was one of outrage and betrayal.

Paul Joseph Watson, the editor of he cretinous 'Infowars' and 'Prison Planet' - which became engines of online Trump propaganda - couldn't hide his anger and disappointment. "It's been fun lads, but the fun is over. I'll be focusing my efforts on Le Pen, who tried to warn Trump against this disaster," he raged.

Paul Joseph Watson, the editor of he cretinous 'Infowars' and 'Prison Planet' couldn't hide his anger and disappointment. "It's been fun lads, but the fun is over. I'll be focusing my efforts on Le Pen, who tried to warn Trump against this disaster," he raged.

Well at least he's got a proper fascist to campaign for in France. A few hours later he backtracked a little: maybe the Trump betrayal would recede, and the neocons and establishment democrats could be fended off? "Guys, it's OK to have disagreement and dialogue. Don't worry, I'm not going to start wearing a pussy hat and marching with Michael Moore," he said. 

And so the political gymnastics continued as bets were hedged, alongside the bizarre adverts blasted out by Infowars host Alex Jones, for a range of super charged nutritional potions such as 'Cave Man' - the supplement that guarantees 'super male vitality'. Saucy.

Speaking of super males, Richard Spencer, the founder of the alt-right, took a more direct approach to the situation. He announced a gathering of his motley crew in Washington to oppose the strike - the worst ever anti-war demo in the history of anti-war demos. 

"Could someone make giant print-outs of Trump's 2013 tweets?" he asked his Twitter followers. As it turned out, his tiny demo was cut short after anti-fascists sent him packing in a haze of glitter. He survived, of course, and thankfully let us all know when he tweeted "im ok fam". But maybe the damage was more emotional, as days later he tweeted: 'I can't look at a Trump meme anymore.' Sad.

The alt-right YouTubers were in a serious rage about the situation as liberal commentators lavished The Donald with praise. All it took was to launch a few missiles to relieve them that the deep state had done enough to get US foreign policy back on track. The meltdowns were real - and they continue as I write today. Something is changing in the White House, and suddenly the most revolutionary figures of the regime look to be in a bad way, further enraging the far-right.

Richard Spencer, the founder of the alt-right, took a more direct approach to the situation and announced a gathering of his motley crew in Washington to oppose the strike - the worst ever anti-war demo in the history of anti-war demos. 

It's looking increasingly like Trump is dumping, or at least hugely diminishing Steve Bannon’s role. He said this week: "I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve. I’m my own strategist, and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary." 

This really does have a significant burn factor for Bannon and the Bannonites as in reality it is he who has a grasp on strategy for he radical right. Has Trump not been taking his Cave Man supplement? One can only conclude that he hasn't - and that a batch is being sent urgently from the Alex Jones command centre.

If watching the reactions of the alt-right to the Syria strike made for some belly laughs, seeing the reaction of the liberals and neocons of yesteryear turned the stomach. After months of saying how outrageous and offensive Trump was they all jumped on the Trump train just as the first missile left its silo.

'We back Trump' they said in unison as whole sections of the American media lavished him with praise. Theresa May, of course, was keen to get in on the action. Maybe she is lining up American support for the coming Gibraltar expedition? Who can say. I'm not so sure, as you could also see the quite pathetic sight that was Tim Farron flapping at the back, arms flailing around with gasps of 'I support the strikes too!'. Or maybe he's lining up the Lib Dems for another coalition with the Tories.

It took Alex Salmond to make the very simple point that one can't look at this strike on isolation from the broader context of the return of Team America after a short break for Obama's more covert drone wars. 

As it turned out, his tiny demo was cut short after anti-fascists sent him packing in a haze of glitter. He survived, of course, and thankfully let us all know when he tweeted "im ok fam".

Cheering on Trump deploying a missile strike is a lot like praising a known school bully for working out how to make a gun in tech class. Sure - cheer him on. Show him that military strikes lead to better media attention and wider political support from the 'leaders' who seemed to fall like dominos behind the action. Show him that he can camouflage his domestic agenda by engaging in foreign wars. Let him know hat unilateral action is acceptable. And watch the whole thing spiral.

George Osborne did especially well, taking the opportunity to not only elevate Donald Trump's moral standing, but that of 'the West': "So it takes Trump to re-establish the West's 100 yr old redline against the abhorrent use of chemical weapons," he said. 

Ah yes, apart from all that Agent Orange in Vietnamn, or the White Phosphorus dumped on Fallujah just a few years ago - to give but two examples. Hypocrisy is the currency of the day when it comes to war. Although maybe there really is confusion among them about chemical weapons. White House press spokesperson Sean Spicer seemed to provide evidence for this when, at a press conference discussing Syria after the strike, he claimed that Hitler never used chemicals to murder innocent people. Why on earth do these people want to attack public education when it is so obviously needed?

Ultimately none of this is really about the hellish suffering of the Syrians. Instead, this is about how the old order can divide Trump from his base, re-establish American power, and - of course - fight their petty factional disputes. 

Just like Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, who went out of his way to praise the attack after Jeremy Corbyn released an entirely sensible statement, joining Salmond as another of the few of the saner voices in the mainstream. But more importantly the foreign policy establishment see this as a real victory. Now they can look to pursue the disastrous policy outlined by Clinton and backed by Republican hawks like John McCain.

Has Trump not been taking his Cave Man supplement? One can only conclude that he hasn't - and that a batch is being sent urgently from the Alex Jones command centre.

Watching the whole thing unfold, you couldn't help but feel that from the alt-right through to the likes of Tom Watson, John McCain and Hilary Clinton, the world needs a new pole around which to rally. Not the old imperial order, nor the Cave Men at Infowars, but around seriously and fundamentally changing how the global system works so that it is not driven by war and weapons; building cooperation and sharing our vast resources instead of fighting proxy wars over the scorched earth of the Middle East after being riven with conflict and ravaged by imperialism for so long. 

A system where real anti-war movements - not the Richard Spencer farce - from Russia to the UK and America - agitate against permanent war and instead for a massive campaign of reparations and infrastructure to ensure civilians in places like Syria can be provided with safe passage. The situation in Syria requires a genuinely global effort - not more Western bombs.

We can't go back in time to undo the damage done to the region by the West. The invasions launched and the vacuums left. The groups funded one year to be fought against the next. The dictators armed and financed and the people's movements sabotaged. There are no easy solutions. The whole region is in disarray - a mess of almost incalculable proportions. 

That's why we need to stop looking for easy answers, and start thinking of more radical ones. In that effort Trump, the alt-righters and the old establishment of the extreme centre only impede the development of a new politics and economics that can that can take humanity forward.

Picture courtesy of Jonathon Shafi

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