WRD 104: Composition & Rhetoric II Rotating Header Image

“We are past being a literate culture and are now a visual culture”

Related to our discussion of “establishment” or mainstream political rhetorical traditions and emerging Alt-right discourse:

Twitter user @Ricky_Vaughn99, who is among the most vitriolic and impactful of the alt-righters (at least in terms of retweets and mentions), exhibited a shrewd understanding of the fury that is powering insurgencies on the left and right. “There is definitely anger among the youth,” he told me in a Twitter direct message. “The Bernie people are angry. The #BlackLivesMatter people are angry.”

But what distinguishes this from the anger of other generations, the fact that “people are always angry,” in Brent Boyea’s terms?

At least in part, it comes down to the way that this anger can be showcased. “We are past being a literate culture and are now a visual culture,” said @Ricky_Vaughn99. “Obama understood this, and so does Trump.”

For Vaughn and other trolls, a meme-able moment is worth millions of words. Most of the alt-rigthers with whom I spoke cited Trump’s immigration rhetoric as opening the “Overton Window”—the range of discourse about which public conversation is permissible—to more extreme points of view. This, in fact, is what many perceive to be Trump’s lasting legacy: even if he doesn’t prevail in the general election, he opens the possibility of heretofore unspeakable ideas being entertained by future politicians.

And the terms “rhetoric” and “discourse” show up in close proximity in one paragraph:

The alt-right understands the inexpensive power of this kind of discourse, given that they have been honing their skills in internet flame wars for most of their lives. Those seeking to contest and defeat such hateful rhetoric should, too. However, such a victory over the nascent political trolling culture may entail more face to face meetings and civil conversations with angry, disenfranchised individuals who harbor some beliefs we find abhorrent.

Vice: Understanding Trump’s Troll Army