| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
“”All bigots and frauds are brothers under the skin.
The horseshoe theory, also known as the horseshoe effect, in political science is a claim that the far-left and far-right are more similar to each other in essentials than either is to the political center.[note 1]
It was formulated by the French post-postmodernist philosopher Jean-Pierre Faye in 1996, but similar ideas existed previously. Faye believed that the extremes of the political spectrum both represented totalitarianism of different kinds; this meant that the political spectrum should not be described as a linear bar with the two ends representing the far-left and right being ideologically the furthest apart from each other, but as a horseshoe in which the two ends are closer to each other than to the center.
Horseshoe theory has been observed in the various competing monotheisms as well, where professed arch-enemies like Christian dominionists and the Muslim Taliban actually share views on many social issues, including consumerism, abortion, feminism, drug use, pornography, homosexuality and other queer orientations, and so on. Nationalists from different nations and racial supremacists from different ethnic groups (white supremacy, black supremacy) likewise share the majority of their political outlook with their rival cranks, not with the majority.
The idea is often used by both centrists and right-wingers to attack the political left (comparing left-wingers to Hitler seems more common than comparing right-wingers to Stalin). However the horseshoe theory ignores the fact that centrists have often made common cause with the far right (seen recently in the rash of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim measures from European centrists and center-right parties), and that while far left and far right may oppose the same things (mainstream politics, globalist capitalism, the European Union, banks, the Federal Reserve) they do so for very different reasons. Critiques of the theory lead to alternative, equally fanciful squiggles such as the "question mark" or "fish hook" theory, which suggests the center and far-right have common ground.
- 1 Critiques
- 2 Anecdata
- 2.1 Far-left vs far-right anti-semitism
- 2.2 Authoritarian parties
- 2.3 Objectivism and Marxism
- 2.4 Marxist economics vs Austrian school economics
- 2.5 Subculture of libertarians and authoritarianism
- 2.6 Fascism, communism and ultra-nationalism
- 2.7 Birchers and communists
- 2.8 Islamists and the Western far-right
- 2.9 Identity politics on the left and right
- 2.10 Immigrants and Nativists
- 2.11 Palestinian nationalists vs the Israeli far-right
- 2.12 TERFs and the religious right/MRAs
- 2.13 Radical lesbians and homophobes
- 2.14 Vladimir Putin's fan club
- 2.15 White and black nationalists
- 2.16 Anti-Semitic ethno-nationalists and Jewish ethno-nationalists
- 2.17 Arab nationalism/Arab socialism/Islamism
- 2.18 The Unabomber
- 2.19 Art and propaganda
- 2.20 In fiction
- 2.21 In religion
- 2.22 Fidel Castro and Francisco Franco
- 3 Similarities
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
The concept of horseshoe theory has been criticized in academia, and the supporting evidence seems to be a large collection of exceptional cases without much in the way of theoretical underpinnings. Simon Choat has noted that there is not much convergence between far-left and far-right on political policy and that few voters switch between the far-left and far-right when given the chance in a runoff ballot. Choat has argued that the perpetuation of horseshoe theory "is that it allows those in the centre to discredit the left while disavowing their own complicity with the far right. Historically, it has been 'centrist' liberals – in Spain, Chile,[note 2] Brazil, and in many other countries – who have helped the far right to power, usually because they would rather have had a fascist in power than a socialist."
Quite a few examples can be given for centrists supporting or making agreements with the far-right, e.g., Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler, centrists' defense of Marine Le Pen, and center-right Republicans backing Connard en masse.
The simplest critiques tend to come from the extremists themselves, naturally, who either see themselves as being complete, utter, Manichaean opposites of the people on the other side of the spectrum, or acknowledge the similarities between the two extremes yet maintain that they are fighting for the "right people" while their enemies are not.
Also, so called "political centers" are socially and historically specific. For example, what was considered a norm in Europe 500 years ago, such as publicly beheading political rivals, would be considered extreme today (Saudi Arabia excepted). See the entry on moral relativism on the morality page.
On the right-wing side, the criticisms are often couched in terms of religion, with right-wingers claiming that they are completely different from left-wingers because they believe in different "gods," or different takes on the same God. One example is the contrast drawn during the U.S.'s Second Red Scare between Christianity and "Godless Communism."
A common gambit on the left-wing side is to claim that few, or none, of the historical communist states are representatives of 'True' (classical Marxist) Communism, which has nothing in common with the evil right-wing fascist extremism.[note 3] One would be mistaken to think that this is an example of the No True Scotsman argument, if it weren't for the fact that Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, described it as 'State Capitalist' (as opposed to Socialist) himself, explaining that State Capitalism was a path to Socialism as proposed in his 1921 New Economic Policy. Leon Trotsky held a similar, more bitter take on the same idea, viewing the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin as a betrayal of 'true' communism and the ideals of the October Revolution. A mirror version of this argument can also be found on the right wing among hardcore libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, who may claim that all historic examples of deregulated capitalism in action (e.g., Galt's Gulch Chile and other libertarian paradises) weren't true laissez-faire societies because there was still some degree of state intervention (or merely the existence of a state) that they didn't like.
Another variant of the same argument is that the term "left-wing" refers to philosophies that promote broader democracy, political participation, and social equality, and that any form of government straying from this ideal is automatically right-wing instead. In considering this criticism it is instructive to look at the origins of the term "left-wing," which originally referred to the people who sat on the left side of the National Assembly during the French Revolution. Among these original left-wingers was Maximilien Robespierre, on whose watch the revolutionary government, still seated on the left wing, staged a series of political purges, executing about 40,000 people in the space of ten months. To which is replied that this proves nothing at all, as just because they said, or even believed, that they were left-wing, doesn't mean they were, if their actions contradict this. Notably, when in power, Robespierre was just as violent towards those on his left as he was towards those on his right.
From the other direction, abuse of the horseshoe theory can lead to the balance fallacy and appeals to moderation. This is a problem common among Very Serious People and radical centrists, who, in their desire to avoid slipping into one partisan extreme or another, often have the opposite problem and go out of their way to characterize both sides as being fundamentally crazy, even if one side or the other may very well be clearly in the right in this instance. More cynically, it can be abused by those in power to frame all opposition to their rule as extremist by connecting their more grounded, legitimate critics with the crazies. Also it should be noted that at one point or another throughout history, people who advocated for a lot of the things we take for granted in the modern West (democracy, abolition of slavery, rights for women and LGBT people, religious freedom, etc.) were often derided as extremists and that things that we nowadays frame as extremist (Apartheid, eugenics etc.) were considered to be moderate options at the time they were implemented.
Political centrism itself is not immune to radicalism and authoritarianism. As a historical example of this instance we've Napoleon Bonaparte, who in a period between fights of republicans and monarchists proclaimed himself to be the centrist in between the two options and then proceeded to establish a dictatorship (by assuming the role of an executive office with unlimited power) in the name of centrism and moderation, although this is a somewhat odd example since he claimed a syncretic politics that transcended left and right, whereas in the actual French Revolution "centrists" were often considered advocates of a constitutional monarchy. Although after he was exiled and King Louis XVIII became a French monarch, people who demanded a return of the Napoleonic empire were considered far-centrist.
Also, as the horseshoe theory relies on the mainstream left-right political spectrum, it runs the risk of over-simplifying political ideologies. One leading argument against a linear political spectrum is that it appears to have no place for ideologies which are less authoritarian than the political center, and as such, there exist alternative systems to delineate political ideologies, such as the Political Compass, the Nolan chart, and assorted surveys and quizzes with even more detailed analyses. For European parties, there exists a three-way system of free-loving vs. authoritarian, left economic vs. right economic, and pro-EU v anti-EU, which allows for eight quadrants — and there are parties at all quadrants. Furthermore, our conceptions of left-wing and right-wing, with "liberal capitalism" being the political center, are largely derived from a modern, Western take of politics. In countries such as China, for instance, the political center is dominated by reformist Communists, while in Russia the center is defined by Vladimir Putin's brand of nationalist politics.
Likewise, extremists themselves tend to have their own warped versions of the horseshoe theory, seeing extremists on the other side as having more in common with (if not mere tools of) the political mainstream than with them, and condemning them both. The definition between "mainstream" and "extremist" depends on perspective and background. On the far left, it is common to see fascism described as the logical end point of capitalism, the point where the bourgeoisie dispenses with the pretense of democracy and embraces nationalism and bigotry in order to more effectively cling to power and stave off the threat of a rising proletariat. On the far right, meanwhile, it is common to see capitalism and Marxism described as two sides of the same coin, both modernist economic systems that subjugate traditional values, religion, and community/ethnic/racial bonds and leave an atomized mass of people ruled by an atheistic, materialistic elite. When it comes to gender and sex similar observations can also be made, as TERFs see trans people, sex workers and MRA's as part of an antifeminist agenda undermining women's emancipation by proposing laws transgressing the autonomy of women while MRA's see feminists and transgender people/queer theorists as people who want to facilitate existing structures of male exploitation. During the Cold War, centrist liberal politicians in the United States and Europe also had histories of propping up and colluding with far-right governments in order to stop the rise of socialist ones, although before the Cold War peaked during the Cuban Missile Crisis, those same liberal politicians also funded several groups within the anticommunist left to overthrow fascist dictators who were hostile to the US.
Likewise, just because there are similarities between groups doesn't mean they are exactly the same. One example of this is that, while both fascists and communists claimed to adhere to revolutionary economic agendas and used authoritarianism to carry them out, fascist states largely protected the existing elites and gave them some leniency in what they were allowed to build and sell (so long as it didn't stand in the way of growing the military), while communist states overthrew the existing elites altogether (setting up new ones instead) and attempted to exert more direct control over the economy.
Not all members of all groups are also perfect examples of such an overlap. Eurocommunism is considered to be a communist ideology, but the adherents favor democracy over dictatorship and rejected the authoritarian policies of the Soviet Union.
Scientific research also suggest that Democrats and Republicans have a different brain structure. Although it has been suggested that American Republicans and Russian Communists have a similar brain, if we start to put a Democrat brain on the left and a Republican brain on the right it is rather difficult to justify that the sum of all processes in a far-left brain and that of a far-right brain lead to the same outcome in ideas and thoughts. It's very likely that those brains are different, but that political ideas can be acquired by both.
On the left side of the horseshoe are placed communist countries such as the Soviet Union, Maoist China, Cuba under Fidel Castro, North Korea under the Kim Il Sung, and, well, every other communist country, with "happiest-barrack" countries like Hungary under "goulash communism" and Yugoslavia furthest from the end.
On the right side goes (in order from the end) Nazi Germany, militarist Japan, Pinochet's Chile, Mussolini's Italy, Franquist Spain, and various clerical-fascist regimes, military dictatorships, and absolute monarchies.
One rather explicit example of the horseshoe theory in action is third positionism, which intentionally blends far-left and far-right politics. Fringe political movements such as the one initiated by Lyndon LaRouche also take ideas from both fringes of the spectrum. Certain other ideologies, such as North Korea's Juche, have also been known to mix far-left and far-right politics.
Far-left vs far-right anti-semitism
Anti-Semitism is absurdly common on both ends of the political spectrum. Whereas the far-right will engage in the usual bigoted anti-semitism and Holocaust denial, many third positionist elements within them tend to be anti-capitalist, ranging from ascribing to center-left social-democratic ideals to outright communism (National Bolshevism is a thing).
While most left-wing groups will criticize and combat anti-Semitism, some have trafficked in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, evidenced by some racial justice movements engaging in it (typified by Jesse Jackson referring to New York as "Hymietown" and many BLM members using dog whistles against Bernie Sanders). However, the right and the Israeli government may also smear the pro-Palestinian left as antisemitic, or even "institutionally antisemitic", by claiming that legitimate criticisms of Israeli government policy are antisemitic. On the other hand, in a small proportion of cases, criticisms of Israel are thinly disguised antisemitism, and one can find examples of this on both the far right and the far left. (See, for example, George Galloway.)
Authoritarian type parties on the hard-left and hard-right may not represent the furthest ends of the political spectrum but still mirror each other in significant ways.
Take the anti-pragmatic side of the United States Republican Party (especially the Religious Right) and compare it to the modern Communist Party of the Russian Federation and you can find quite a few similarities (besides the obvious one that both are ideologues focused on the "purity" of their movement), especially on social policies. In fact, if each party's leaders avoided talking to each other about economics they would find more common ground than they may expect, especially considering their vehement hatred for each other. For instance:
- Both strongly endorse "tough on crime" policies and the death penalty.
- Both strongly support "traditional values", meaning hardcore social conservatism, pro-life attitudes and hostility to LGBT rights.
- Both have weaknesses for conspiracy theories, especially the conspiracy theory that there is some deliberate effort to destroy morality.
- Both are fervently patriotic and support some form of nationalism while holding the belief that each of their countries are the greatest in the world. This leads to some supporting a degree of historical revisionism as well.[note 4][note 5]
- Both are reactionary in nature and extremely nostalgic for some sort of "golden age" (Stalin for the commies, Ronald Reagan or the 1950s for the GOP).
- Both support increasing spending on an even larger national defense while rarely questioning if it's necessary. Also, they both tend to admire "masculinity" and militarism.
- Both make populist appeals to the lower classes, mainly by promising to cut their taxes, regardless of whether it will be done or whether it can be afforded.
- Both have a love of dramatic rhetoric, even by political standards.
- Both have strands of anti-intellectualism, with intellectuals who question them being seen as "elitist."
- Both are currently trying to appeal to the religious majority in each of their respective countries, with even Communist Party of the Russian Federation leader Gennady Zyuganov citing the "spiritual values" of communism in his speeches to appeal to followers of the Russian Orthodox Church, despite the party being historically atheist.
- Both support censorship, and passing legislation to stop the "degradation" of national symbols.
- Both support the limiting of free speech.
- Both, hilariously, blame each other for the supposed "degradation" of art, literature, culture, and philosophy. The commies claim that the embrace of capitalism has left these areas bland because artists are only concerned about profit, not quality, whereas the Republicans like to say that "leftists" or "secularists" have ruined these areas because their "hostility" to religion has harmed creativity.
- Both like to reference revolutionary heroes from their nation's past in their arguments,[note 6] usually by claiming that they are fighting for the same values they were, which is commonly followed up by saying that what they stand for is "True American/Russian values," whereas their opponents stand for evil/radicalism. They may also liken themselves to being the "underdogs" in their current fight, like said revolutionary leaders. Expect these historical figures to be glorified and their flaws to be ignored/excused/downplayed.
- Both oppose more moderate factions holding the same ideas, often using terms to distance themselves from them (RINO's for the GOP, Revisionist Communists for the Communist Party of Russia).
(At least on the Republican side, none of this is new: at the height of the New Left movement and the hippie tendency, Americans were regularly regaled with encomia favourably comparing Soviet youth to our own, the Soviets' supposedly being sober, patriotic, sexually puritanical, (if male) short-haired (and never draft-dodging), never foul-mouthed, and eagerly doing as they were told. This was usually presented as a "this is why we're in danger from them, our decadence will doom us" argument, but the admiration was patently unmistakable. If only Soviet youth had been permitted to hear these: they could have used a good laugh.)
Bob Altemeyer's research backs the theory that authoritarian types tend to mirror each other, even if they aren't as extreme to the right or left as they could be.A 1985 study of political extremist groups in the US at the time came to similar conclusions:
…while the two camps embrace different programmatic beliefs, both are deeply estranged from certain features of American society and highly critical of what they perceive as the spiritual and moral degeneration of American institutions. Both view American society as dominated by conspiratorial forces that are working to defeat their respective ideological aims.
The degree of their alienation is intensified by the zealous and unyielding manner in which they hold their beliefs. Both camps possess an inflexible psychological and political style characterized by the tendency to view social and political affairs in crude, unambiguous and stereotypical terms. They see political life as a conflict between 'us' and 'them', a struggle between good and evil played out on a battleground where compromise amounts to capitulation and the goal is total victory.
The far left and the far right also resemble each other in the way they pursue their political goals. Both are disposed to censor their opponents, to deal harshly with enemies, to sacrifice the well-being even of the innocent in order to serve a 'higher purpose', and to use cruel tactics if necessary to 'persuade' society of the wisdom of their objectives. Both tend to support (or oppose) civil liberties in a highly partisan and self-serving fashion, supporting freedom for themselves and for the groups and causes they favour while seeking to withhold it from enemies and advocates of causes they dislike.
In sum, when the views of the far left and far right are evaluated against the standard left–right ideological dimension, they can appropriately be classified at opposite ends of the political spectrum. But when the two camps are evaluated on questions of political and psychological style, the treatment of political opponents, and the tactics that they are willing to employ to achieve their ends, the display many parallels that can rightly be labelled authoritarian.
Objectivism and Marxism
Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism has frequently been described as the "Marxism of the Right" by its many critics. For example, the ex-communist turned conservative Whittaker Chambers, in his review of Atlas Shrugged for the National Review in 1957, suggested that Rand's materialism, despite all protests to the contrary, was functionally almost identical to the Marxism that she so despised. Similarly, Vladimir Shlapentokh, who grew up and lived in the Soviet Union, points out that Rand was more marked by the Soviet system than she was aware or perhaps cared to admit.
Both Rand's ideology and Stalin's (which was Marxism as she knew it first-hand) dedicatedly divided people into groups of 'productive individuals' and 'parasites', and art and literature into acceptable (ideologically valid) and 'degenerate' types. In the first instance, they strongly disagreed as to who were in these groups, with Marxists seeing the working class as productive and the upper class as parasites while Objectivists held the opposite view, something that led George Monbiot to describe the two philosophies as mirror images of one another. However, they generally agreed about what art was acceptable versus 'degenerate'.
On a last note, despite both philosophies being ostensibly atheistic and naturalistic, both have occasionally supported anti-science crankery, including, in both cases, promoters that opposed both quantum mechanics and relativity, for very similar reasons.
Marxist economics vs Austrian school economics
Despite being on polar ends of the political spectrum (Marxists being radically anti-capitalist and Austrian schoolers being radically pro-capitalist), both schools of economic thought share striking similarities.
Both use pseudo-scientific syllogistic reasoning (called "praxeology" in Austrianism and "dialectical materialism" in Marxism) to justify their theories. Both have a fondness for using thought-terminating cliches in order to deflect criticism (Marxists using "bourgeois ideology" and Austrian schoolers criticizing the use of "empiricism"). Both have a tendency of using conspiracy theories to justify why they're not accepted in mainstream economic circles (Marxists once again criticizing the bourgeoisie and Austrian schoolers blaming Keynesianism). Both are completely unable to realize why their theories are wrong and will cling to them with religious fervor.
Libertarianism contains many strains, and some are more consistent on civil libertarianism than others.[note 7] On one hand, libertarians like Radley Balko support movements like Black Lives Matter, Johan Norberg is well-known for his support of liberal immigration policies and his anti-racism while Julian Sanchez is well-known for his excellent work on surveillance and privacy issues. However, it is necessary to separate the wheat from the authoritarian chaff within the libertarian movement.
The subculture of younger, male libertarians online can be among the more authoritarian strains, as can be older men (they usually are) who, in the US, are often too comfortable with the religious right and other intolerant aspects of the Republican Party. This brand of libertarians loves to single out the crazies on the left, but some (not remotely all) are extremely big tent when it comes to right-wing lunatics on the fringe, including "race realists" and theocratic bigots like Ted Cruz or the Bush-Cheney horror.[note 8] Others, like Gary North, have adopted libertarian rhetoric in the name of advancing a reactionary Christian agenda, seeing the government as restricting the 'freedom' of Christians to form their own private theocracies and lock sexual and ethnic minorities out of society; this brand of the movement is known as paleolibertarianism.
More recently, the neoreactionary movement and Gamergate types have been making inroads into the younger libertarian base and venting their anger and resentment in unexpected directions unrelated to government intrusion on liberties, particularly in terms of race relations and gender theory. This may cause more traditional civil libertarians to modify their own philosophies to win that market of morons, or risk becoming irrelevant. You can no longer rely on just hating the government — you also have to hate culture, intellectualism, feminism, sexuality, ethnic minorities, your mommy, and modernity in general as enemies of freedom (specifically, freedom for straight white males).
Fascism, communism and ultra-nationalism
“” I think the Soviet Union protected Russians from an even worse ideology, that is the liberalism of the United States and Western Europe…
|—White nationalist Richard Spencer|
All the way back since their respective moments of inception, far-right (fascist/ultra-nationalist) and far-left (revolutionary communist/anarchist) movements have been trading players back and forth like the fucking NFL. Irrespective of political wing, every supposedly unique
lone wolf terrorist 'activist' movement positioned in violent opposition to liberal democracy has aligned perfectly with the narcissism of small differences. Illustrative of this fact, the Swedish Security Service and the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention both classify left- and right wing extremism as practically identical, concluding formally that "the similarities are greater than the differences".
During the 1930s, many Japanese Marxists were arrested by the Japanese military government and volunteered or were forced to disavow the Japanese Communist Party. Rather than simply disowning the party, many — but not all — Marxists converted to fascistic ultra-nationalism.
“”Among the reasons were their formalistic radicalism and blind adherence to Comintern and party dictates and, despite their advocacy of "democracy," a lack of real experience or understanding of human rights. Although prewar Marxism was a sharp thrust to the left and away from tradition, its psychological structure had much in common with the ideology of the emperor system, a rote submission to authority. In one sense, Marxism was simply the reverse coin of a banzai-shouting, emperor worshipping statism.
The totalitarian regime of North Korea, despite having originated as a Soviet- and Chinese-backed communist state, has been called, in practice, the last display of "pure" fascism currently in existence. It speaks of the Korean people as "the cleanest race", proclaiming that, because of their purity and childlike virtue, they need strong, parental leadership (i.e. the Kim dynasty) in order to be safe from an outside world that wants to destroy them. This is an ethnic supremacist ideology more analogous to that espoused by far-right white nationalists in the West, or by Imperial Japan in the 1930s and by Japanese ultra-nationalists today, than it is to the "Workers and peasants of the world, unite!" rhetoric that emanated from Moscow and Beijing. Speaking of Imperial Japan, the worship of the Kim dynasty has also been argued to have more in common with the emperor-worship of Korea's former colonizer than with the personality cults of Stalin and Mao, and many of the early leaders that the Soviets installed in North Korea had in fact previously collaborated with the Japanese during their colonization of Korea.
Even with the North Korean regime's fascist roots, however, it had little problem cozying up with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and adopting an officially communist ideology in its quest to get revenge on the U.S. and their "colony" of South Korea. Notably, once communism fell in Russia and their main benefactor evaporated, the North Koreans started dropping all pretense of communism with fairly little effort. On the surface, it had swung from the far-left to the far-right, but on a practical level, virtually nothing had changed. Today, some on the alt-right in the West have expressed solidarity with North Korea, viewing it as a bastion of resistance to 'globalism' that has been unjustly smeared by Western governments; in this, they stand aligned with many of North Korea's traditionally far-left apologists.
The story of Benito Mussolini's conversion from socialism to being the inventor of fascism is a famous one, repeated most often by right-wing pundits wishing to pretend that fascism is left-wing and has absolutely nothing to do with the right. Regardless, even after Mussolini had renounced left-wing politics and moved to the right, his vision for fascism contained many elements borrowed from socialism, most notably in its economic platform, with him dismissing both capitalism and Marxism as "obsolete doctrines" and upholding a corporatist economic system as a "Third Alternative" for Italy.
The Red Army Faction, a far-left terrorist group in West Germany that was most active in the '70s, was a particularly extreme manifestation of the New Left in that country, where outrage over the ruling class' historical, unanswered-for complicity in the Nazi regime was a major motivating factor in protests. Odd, then, that Horst Mahler, one of the RAF's founding members, would himself become a neo-Nazi later in his life after serving ten years in prison for his activities with the RAF. Notably, Mahler insists that his views have not substantially changed; rather, he asserts that his conversion to neo-Nazism, and accompanying espousal of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, stemmed from his opposition to capitalism and the United States, with him coming to see both as being in the hands of the Jews.
Communist dictator Slobodan Milošević has his admirers on both the extreme far left and far right. Tankies love him because he was a strong communist dictator in an era where communism was losing influence in Europe, so a European hardline communist was an inspiration for them. Meanwhile, right wing Islamophobic nationalist conservatives liked his military action against Albanians and Bosnians and saw him as an inspiration for standing up to Muslims. Normally traditional Marxist-Leninist commies and Tea Party traditionalist conservatives don't agree on much, but they both see Melosevic as positive.
Birchers and communists
Historian Richard Hofstadter noted the similarities between the recruiting methods used by both radical left and radical right groups when he wrote "The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through 'front' groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy." Hofstadter also quoted New Right leader Barry Goldwater, who said "I would suggest that we analyze and copy the strategy of the enemy; theirs has worked and ours has not." Cue the historical origins of neoconservatism. Important figures in the parallel development of Thatcherism, such as Keith Joseph and Alfred Sherman, similarly modelled their tactics on the Leftist idea of the "long march through the institutions". Another rather explicit example of this is some Tea Party members reading the writings of leftist Saul Alinsky because of his suggestions on how to have a successful "radical" movement.
Hofstadter also points out the other examples of the radical right and ultraconservative emulating the "enemy". For example, while the "paranoid" may be an anti-intellectual, "the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry." Glenn Beck has been cited as a modern example of this.
In fact despite the dislike and paranoia many hard-right figures have for academia, they often end up mimicking academia in many ways because as Hofstadter notes, their style of writing "is nothing if not scholarly in technique. McCarthy’s 96-page pamphlet, McCarthyism, contains no less than 313 footnote references, and Mr. Welch's incredible assault on Eisenhower, The Politician, has one hundred pages of bibliography and notes. The entire right-wing movement of our time is a parade of experts, study groups, monographs, footnotes, and bibliographies." The modern right-wing pundits' habit of overstuffing their book with unnecessary footnotes has become so cliché that even Stephen Colbert mocked it in his book America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't.
Islamists and the Western far-right
“”In numerous cases of apparently ethno-nationalist conflict, the deepest hatreds are manifested between people who — to most outward appearances — exhibit very few significant distinctions.
Islamists and Islamophobes (as in actual Islamophobes on the order of Britain First, Geert Wilders, etc., rather than people who've been labeled as such by people nervous of racism) seem to have more in common with each other than either mainstream Western or Islamic society, to the point that each could be described as an identical phenomena occurring in different cultures.
Both share extreme social and often religious conservative views, have a clear sense of their own culture's superiority, a tendency to see other cultures as morally deficient and a threat to one's own culture, a powerful sense of group belonging, a tendency to view the opposing side as one homogeneous horde of evil (and thus if one member of the other side does something awful it reflects badly on all of them), a tendency to dehumanise the other side, a desire to "cleanse" their perceived homelands of all foreign influence, a keenness on violence as a solution and a favoritism for anti-immigration policies.
Furthermore, they have a complete blindness to the failures of their own culture and will, without any apparent sense of irony, rip into the other side's culture for things their own is guilty of. For instance, Islamophobes have a nasty tendency to morph into feminists as soon as the subject is Islam, yet will revert to their natural sexist form when discussing their own culture and will gladly call feminists all the names under the sun. Conversely, Islamists see Islam as the only culture in which women are respected, unlike in the West where women are forced to behave like "whores" (that are allowed to drive, leave the country of their own free will, choose who they marry, testify in court, et cetera). Some, to their credit (for a certain value of 'credit'), don't even try to hide the shared misogyny. Vox Day, for one, has been known to defend the Taliban's vicious repression of women's rights as a measure to preserve their birth rate.
“”Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.
Islamophobes quote this because it "proves" that Islam can never make peace with infidels, and Islamists quote this because it "proves" that Islam can never make peace with infidels. Normal Muslims and scholars of Islam don't start in the middle of a paragraph, and instead read the whole thing with preceding verses, in which it becomes a bit more clear that the Qur'an is only referring to "idolaters" that have been working against you. Unless, like most people, they just treat their holy books like a EULA; pretend to have read it, scroll to bottom, press agree. Anyway, if the "idolaters" aren't fighting you or they are keeping peace treaties with you, no, don't attack them.[note 9]
On a similar note, some neo-Nazis have also taken to expressing sympathy for DAESH, with a number of cases of neo-Nazis converting to fundamentalist Islam but maintaining continuity with their fascist views. Despite the often-virulent Islamophobia within the white nationalist and neo-Nazi movements, the common denominators of anti-Semitism and disgust with the 'decadence' of Western society serve as ideological links.
Identity politics on the left and right
Sometimes, statements made by ultra-"woke" leftists who subscribe to identity politics can sound disturbingly similar to those made by people on the far right. Generally, this is because they can be read in one of two ways, although there are also cases where genuine bigotry seems to be present. There is even a quiz-style subreddit dedicated to documenting examples of this phenomenon, called "Stormfront or SJW?"
Immigrants and Nativists
In most great waves of mass immigration, members of the immigrant groups concerned and the nativist conservatives that oppose their immigration oftentimes share very striking similarities.
Both camps are typically very socially and religiously conservative in whichever brand is particularly common in whichever culture they originated in. Both tend to hold racist prejudices against various groups, including whoever is opposed to them. Many members of both camps also tend to be working-class people and, more often than not, hold left-leaning views on economics, which some people might consider surprising considering what was written immediately prior.
Two stellar examples come to mind.
The first is the Irish migration to America before, during and after the famine. The Irish immigrants and the Know-Nothing nativists who opposed them held many commonalities. Both parties were devoutly religious (with the Irish being Catholics and the Know-Nothings being Protestants) who held to whichever brand of social conservatism best jibes with their religious tradition. Both also held a strong sense of national pride and identity. Moreover, most of the most radical members of both camps were out-of-work young men. Most also held varying degrees of anti-Semitic prejudice. Many Irish Catholics held quite progressive views on economics (with the Catholic Church's moderately anti-capitalist teachings being a guide) and many of the Know-Nothing protestants who opposed them holding left-wing Millsian liberal views, which differed greatly from the conservative capitalist establishment of the time.
The second is the mess during and immediately following the European migrant crisis. On both sides of the spectrum (MENA immigrants on one hand and European nationalists on the other), there were many commonalities. Once again, most MENA immigrants are devoutly religious Muslims or Christians and most right-wing nationalities cling to either fundamentalist Christianity or some more modern political religion like far-right neoliberalism. Both are oftentimes convinced of their own superiority and hold deep racist prejudices against one another(with migrants to Sweden openly referring to Swedish women as whores) to the point of ignoring their own failings (like Swedish nationalists failing to acknowledge the rampant sexism within their own camp). Both camps are also deeply anti-Semitic, with Swedish authors Tino Sanandaji and Paulina Neuding noting that both groups hold a very strong hatred for Jewish people. Immigrants, particularly new arrivals, very often vote for left-wing parties (despite their social conservatism) and nationalists oftentimes hold left-leaning, anti-neoliberal views.
It's quite easy to understand why this is. Most immigrants tend to be poor, desperate people who will typically find themselves holding menial jobs at below-market wages and most members of Nativist parties will be the people who's jobs they "took". This is evidenced by the fact that the most hard-line support for Nativist parties tends to be in places where there is high levels of immigrant population and where competition for low-skilled work is the harshest (such as in the working-class suburbs of Sweden's cities, for example). Given both their statuses as working-class, they will typically hold left-wing views on economics. The capitalist establishment of the time will not oppose immigration on grounds that it gives them cheap labor (while probably holding the same racist prejudices as the Natvists).
The mentality of a Nativist is best summed up in a quote from Bill the Butcher (the main antagonist of the movie Gangs of New York) which says "These Irish people do for a nickel what a n***** did for a dime and what a white man used to do for a quarter).
Palestinian nationalists vs the Israeli far-right
On both ends of the Israel-Palestine conflict, both Palestinian nationalists and far-right Zionists have more in common with one another than they're willing to admit.
Both tend to be devoutly religious and socially conservative, with Palestinian nationalists typically being Muslim (though some, like Solomon Solomon, being Christian) and Zionists very often being Orthodox Jews. Many of their beliefs and traditions hold a striking similarity (with both Judaism and Islam being very close in terms of practice). Most have a nasty tendency to de-humanize one another, with Palestinian nationalists trafficking in bigotry many Neo-NAzis could agree with and with far-right Zionists being rancid Islamophobes. Many also see absolutely no wrong in hurting one another (with more moderate representatives of each camp being more pro-peace, like the Israeli center-left and Fatah). Finally, both want a one-state solution, though disagree on which side should remain.
TERFs and the religious right/MRAs
One of the more extreme wings of the feminist movement, trans-exclusionary radical feminism (or "TERF"), has, in the past, worked closely with religious conservatives on some sexual matters, despite their otherwise fervent hatred of each other. The two seem to get along on matters that have to do with being hostile to the transgender community (hence the name), wanting pornography and prostitution to be banned, and a dislike of certain other sexual minorities (bisexuals, the BDSM community, et cetera). Margaret Atwood's feminist dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale even presented TERFs as having helped to pave the way for the theocratic Republic of Gilead through colluding with Christian fundamentalists on such issues.
Similarly, TERFs have been repeatedly compared to men's rights activists due to both having the tendency to direct overly aggressive rhetoric at the opposite sex, which is almost always based around hasty generalizations. Both may also overestimate the power of their enemy, believing that there is an organized effort by the media/society to destroy/oppress their gender. Some MRAs have even emulated fringe radical feminists, such as through the Men Going Their Own Way movement which encourages straight men to avoid women, much like what fringe radical feminists do with political lesbianism, which encourages women to stay away from men. Also, both groups are (obviously) typically transphobic, often repeating the same claims about how letting trans people choose what bathroom to use will be the doom of society, and have both attracted certain homophobes. MRAs also have a tendency to look for bias against them in the media even where none may exist; for example, if a women bests a man in combat on television or in a movie, there is a tendency to immediately assume this is for "PC empowerment" as opposed to more likely reasons such as plot convenience (apparently, the idea this is very possible is too crazy to be taken seriously).[note 10] This is especially ironic considering that this is basically what they decry radical feminists for doing (i.e., eagerly looking for bias against women where none may exist).
TERFs also tend to share their right-wing counterparts' hostility for third-wave feminism. While religious conservatives and MRAs oppose it because they don't like feminism in general, TERFs often come out against it because they see third-wavers as allowing transgender "infiltrators" into the women's movement, as well as their more permissive views on sexual matters and resultant opposition to the TERFs' hardline stances against pornography and sex work.[note 11] In fact, some otherwise dyed-in-the-wool anti-feminists have taken to developing an appreciation for TERFs, seeing them as "real feminists" versus the "modern feminists" with their embrace of transgender rights, intersectionality, and that hippity-hoppity jungle music the kids these days are into.
Radical lesbians and homophobes
Much like the above, both groups tend to have a very dogmatic mindset, and it can be very difficult to argue with them because of their sectarian nature. Both groups think there exists a conspiracy against them, and that they really are right on everything but any criticism is motivated by hate against them. Both groups have been seen spreading fake news.
Both groups think that sexual orientation is a choice, that it is possible or even desirable to change it, and maintain a deliberate confusion between sexual orientation and political ideology.
Both groups seem to think that children belong first and foremost to their parents, and support authoritarian family models where children are not expected to question their parents' decisions[note 12]. They both have a very passionate, ideological view about what a family should be. When discussing families, they often implicitly confuse "sex difference" and "heterosexuality", "father" and "sperm donor". Both reject testimonies and empirical studies about the relationships between child welfare and family models (or use them selectively).
Vladimir Putin's fan club
Extremists sometimes champion surprising causes célèbres, which can lead far right and far left to back the same horse. Their responses to Vladimir Putin illustrate this. When U.S.-Russian relations chilled in 2013 amidst controversy over a proposed U.S. intervention against Assad in Syria, a vocal minority of Western leftists went beyond opposing the intervention and actually praised Putin. This tendency, most visible on tankie websites like Globalresearch.ca and Counterpunch, continued throughout the crisis in Ukraine, in which the Euromaidan that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich was portrayed as a mob of neo-fascists. Around this time, American conservatives also began warming up to Putin, seeing him as a stalwart defender of Christendom against homosexuals, Muslims, and riot grrrl punk bands who made their favorite boogeyman, Barack Obama, look "weak" in the bargain. It's no secret that sections of the American "libertarian" movement have deep strains of authoritarianism and power-worship, and Putin has crafted an image that appeals to such people. The logical conclusion of this came in 2015, when Donald Connard accepted Putin's de facto endorsement for the presidency. Putin's moonbat supporters (probably) don't share many of his wingnut supporters' motives, apart from reflexive loathing of the Western "establishment", but their behavior has still dovetailed.
Another example is how in Europe, for example, Putin is generally associated with the far-right, linked with (open or secret) support of parties like the French Front National and Austria’s Party for Freedom that, conversely often praise Russia and Putin and propose a more Euro-Russian stance instead of Atlantism, whilst in places like Latin America Putin is associated with the far-left and seen as a strong sponsor of far-left regimes like those in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, to the point that some people in Latin America still think that Russia is socialist. Nevertheless, both the European far-left and the Latin American far-right also praise Putin. This is probably not entirely a coincidence, apart from both groups’ love for authoritarian anti-American and anti-NATO regimes, Putin indeed tries to get closer to every regime that is critical of the US for geo-strategic reasons whether it's a far-right ultra-Conservative theocracy like Iran or a far-left socialist regime like Nicaragua.
White and black nationalists
White nationalist and black nationalist groups have been known to get along and even collaborate in the past. The founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell, was invited by Elijah Muhammad to speak at a Nation of Islam rally; in turn, Rockwell "praised" Muhammad as the "Black People's Hitler." White supremacist Tom Metzger has also praised the Nation of Islam for their anti-Semitic views. Future British National Party leader Nick Griffin worked with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and allegedly distributed Nation of Islam publications in the United Kingdom in the early 1990s.
From a purely ideological perspective, it makes sense. Both white and black nationalists believe that their respective races ought to be kept separate so as to "protect" their ethnic/cultural identities from being diluted through contact with the other, and would thus see a movement trying to enforce such separation from the other side as a natural ally. As a result, both sides have little love for the pro-integration wing of the civil rights movement, as represented by Martin Luther King and the NAACP. During the '70s, for instance, black nationalists opposed the use of busing to desegregate schools and the adoption of black orphans by white families, and argued that black people ought to be living in majority-black communities instead of multiracial neighborhoods. "Integration" was treated as a synonym for "assimilation" and the destruction of black culture and eventually the black race through absorption into white America, with integrationists seen as self-loathing "pleading beggars" who sought the approval of the white power structure at the expense of their communities. The integrationists countered that this often made the nationalists strange bedfellows with white reactionaries opposed to civil rights, such as when the National Economic Growth and Reconstruction Organization (NEGRO) supported white residents of the New York neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens who opposed the construction of low-income housing in their neighborhood. Corey Robin, in his book The Enigma of Clarence Thomas, has also argued that the ultra-conservatism of the black Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas is fundamentally rooted in black nationalist ideas, specifically a belief that racism is too deep-rooted in the white American psyche to even try to correct, leading him to conclude that black people should be establishing self-reliance separate from white America and that measures supporting racial integration ultimately amount to "white paternalism" that leave black people worse off. A similar tendency can be seen in the more extreme condemnations of white people who take from black American, African, or Jamaican/Caribbean cultural influences, with leftists attacking them for cultural appropriation (or simply "theft") and rightists attacking them for being "race traitors" (sometimes glossed up, especially in Britain, by calling them "class traitors").
There also exists shared belief in racialism and historical revisionism, albeit in somewhat different forms. While white nationalists tend to follow the discredited ideas of turn-of-the-20th-century scientific racism and fetishize European history (Greece, Rome, the Vikings, and the Middle Ages are popular targets), black nationalists likewise have melanin theory and various forms of Afrocentric pseudohistory, particularly the fetishization of Ancient Egypt. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories also circulate widely in both white and black nationalist circles, with the latter in particular claiming that the Jews were responsible for slavery. Finally, both white and black nationalists are often stridently misogynistic and homophobic and indulge in similar rhetoric on such, seeing the "proper" place of women as in the home and of LGBT people as in the closet or the grave, and viewing feminism, homosexuality, and abortion (and/or birth control) as part of a plot to weaken the men of their race and drive down birthrates in order to achieve either white genocide or black genocide.
Anti-Semitic ethno-nationalists and Jewish ethno-nationalists
If one looks at the behavior of neo-Nazis, black nationalists and the Israeli far-right, one cannot help but notice that they have more in common than they want to think.
All of them seem to believe that they have some kind of inalienable right to a particular locality (regardless of the legality or the feasability of such a plan) and will viciously defend this (with white nationalists whining about the non-white "invasion" of Europe and the Israeli far-right wanting to steal Palestinians' land to build settlements). All of them have a fondness for blaming their problems on some bugbear (with non-Jewish ethno-nationalists blaming Jews and Jewish ethno-nationalists blaming anti-Semitism, even if said action isn't motivated by real anti-Semitism (like criticizing Israel)). A lot of them are viciously anti-communist and will typically hold centrist views on economics (with European nationalists typically being social-democratic on economics and with both wings of the Israeli nationalist right (Shas and The Jewish Home respectively) being centre-left to moderately right-wing.
Many of them also are very welcoming towards traditionally marginalized groups within their identity. White nationalists will typically promote a kind of "Europe, A Nation" view of the white race and will oftentimes include historically and currently marginalized groups like Irish people or Eastern Europeans whereas Kahanists (another term for Israeli nationalist) will typically be very welcoming towards Sephardic and Mizrahic Jews (who have been historically marginalized within Israeli society).
And, most strikingly, many seem to have a cordial working relationship. Richard "Heil Connard, Heil our people, Heil Victory" Spencer vehemently supports Israel, as do anti-Semitic figures like Viktor Orban and Donald Connard. Bibi doesn't seem to mind this.
These ideologies, while often virulently opposing one another on paper, are very similar in many ways. For starters, they all have a near pathological hatred of the West and Israel and blame almost all evils in the world on them. Many of them oftentimes engage in anti-Semitic behavior (with more moderate Arab socialists engaging in dog whistling while Islamists will simply engage in straight up pogroms of Jews). All these ideologies will also hold fairly left-leaning views on economics, criticizing capitalism for reasons as varied as Marxist critique to Islamic anti-usury laws.
The American domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, has been embraced as a hero by people and groups on both the far left and the far right. On the left, a number of hard greens have embraced his anti-industrial, neo-Luddite ideology on environmental grounds. The anarchist collective CrimethInc., for example, has an extended hagiography declaring Kaczynski "a hero for our time", claiming that the actions of his targets against people and the environment made his bombing campaign justified. On the right, he's also won the affection of radical traditionalists and other reactionaries due to his view that modern technology was responsible for the decadence, crumbling moral values, and tyranny of the modern world. Right-wing pundit Keith Ablow, for one, has defended Kaczynski's ideology; while he took great pains to state that he thought Kaczynski's actions were wrong, he went on to state that his ideas "are increasingly important" and "cannot be dismissed", saying that his manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, deserved a place alongside Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World. According to Ablow's logic, since the NSA is spying on us and Barack Obama heavily employed the internet as a key campaign and outreach tool, that means that the internet is totally rotten to the core and that Kaczynski was right about technology.
Art and propaganda
Within the art world, the state-sponsored artistic styles of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union have been described as having more in common with each other than either side might have been willing to admit, with art historians sometimes using the term "heroic realism" to describe both socialist realism and Nazi art. Both were characterized by a firm rejection of modernism in the arts as 'bourgeois' or 'degenerate', instead seeking to depict idealized figures representing the common man with the intent of use for propaganda purposes, and their state sponsors cracked down on alternative, modernist styles. During the Cold War, the CIA, as a reaction to socialist realism, sponsored modern artists to serve as a counterweight to the Soviet state style, even though, in the US, their main critics traditionally came from the right rather than the left.
One of the most famous demonstrations of the horseshoe theory was in George Orwell's Animal Farm, a satirical critique of Soviet communism and how it had betrayed its working class revolutionary roots. The animals' revolution, after overthrowing the farm's cruel human owners, quickly turns into exactly the same sort of tyranny that the humans had once imposed upon them — all in the name of stopping counter-revolutionaries, of course. To represent this evolution, the pigs, the leaders of the revolution, start taking on an increasing number of human-like qualities, until at the end they cannot be distinguished from them.
The BioShock video game series also likes to feature this with its villains. The hyper-capitalist Andrew Ryan in the first game is mirrored by the hyper-collectivist Sofia Lamb in the second, with both their ideologies turning out to be rather hollow and easily discarded out of self-interest. BioShock Infinite, meanwhile, has Zachary Hale Comstock and Daisy Fitzroy, the former being the theocratic, racist tyrant running the city of Columbia with an iron fist, and the latter a working-class black woman who rises to become the leader of a communist-flavored resistance against Comstock — and, upon attaining power, turns into a tyrant in her own right by launching purges against Columbia's upper class.
The horseshoe theory can be seen in other ways besides far-right/far-left politics. Anti-Catholicism and Traditionalist Catholicism, seemingly opposites, share the same predilection to anti-Semitic, anti-Masonic, and New World Order conspiracy theories, and to conspiracy theories about the current Catholic Church leadership. One can see similar parallels between the conspiracist views of Mormon writer W. Cleon Skousen and anti-Mormon writer Ed Decker, and between New Ager David Icke and fundamentalist Christian, anti-New Age writer Texe Marrs.
Even when it comes to religious prejudice, Richard Hofstadter can note examples of extremists emulating the "enemy". For example, he references the fact that despite the Ku Klux Klan's extreme Protestant views and anti-Catholicism they ended up imitating Catholicism "to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy." The infamous Klan hoods and robes are actually based on the garb Spanish Catholic priests worn in certain ceremonies.
Fidel Castro and Francisco Franco
For many years, the only Western leader to openly condemn the US embargo on Communist Cuba was Francisco Franco, Spain's far-right dictator. He was also the first Western leader to establish full diplomatic and economic relations with the Communist regime. (Granted, at least some of this surprising affinity may be explained by a mixture of realpolitik and the two dictators' sense of ethnic affinity due to their shared Galician heritage. Nevertheless, the fact that Franco threatened to expel US military bases from Spain if they interfered in Spanish-Cuban relations showed that there was more than just expediency involved in this).
There are several common features of far-left and far-right politics and political movements.
Use of othering in rhetoric
Both far-right and far-left movements portray their enemies in a dehumanizing manner as a faceless mass. Often the enemy group is portrayed as having much more power than they actually have, approaching the near-omnipotence of Satan.
Enemy groups used by the far-right can be defined by ethnicity or class; common targets are local ethnic minorities, as well as international bankers and foreigners in general. The far-left largely uses class to define its enemies, such as bankers (these guys just can't catch a break!), industrialists, and other Bourgeois Capitalist Oppressors; however, some anti-colonial and similar movements associated with the left-wing, such as Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, use race or ethnicity as the defining factor. Both extremes tend to toss the groups on "their side' that fit the horseshoe theory in with the other side (such as how conservatives insist that Nazis were left wing and progressives sometimes consider TERFs and SWERFs right wing).
The "othered" group is portrayed as having to be swept aside in some way in order to make things better; this has led to the groups in question being marginalized, or further marginalized, or subjected to mass slaughter as in Nazi Germany, the Holodomor, communist Cambodia, the slave trade etc.
Insistence on orthodoxy
Far-left and far-right movements often require adherents (or all people in their jurisdiction, if they get into power) to adhere to a very rigid set of beliefs, expelling or punishing heretics and dissenters. These beliefs are often accompanied by an ad hominem to be used against any dissenter; for example, that a non-communist has false consciousness, or that a non-Nazi is of Jewish descent, or that an opponent of apartheid in South Africa is a communist, or the simple "sheeple."
In a cult-like manner, people who defect from the "true faith," or else are insufficiently doctrinaire, are not merely said to have changed their minds or voiced dissent: they are viewed as traitors and apostates, who have have sold their souls completely to the hated enemy for the most venal of motives. This is the logic that motivates Tea Party supporters to accuse pro-bailout Republican presidents of being secret socialists (a sure sign that the accuser has read neither Marx nor any mainstream economic textbook). It also explains the mutual loathing between the various strains of communism (e.g. between Stalinists, Trotskyists, and Maoists[note 13]).
Often, this can take form in accusations that anyone who disagrees with them must be an extremist working for the other side. An example of this would be American radical right pundits constantly trying to "prove" that fairly moderate presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower or Barack Obama were/are political radicals/socialists (or in Ike's case a communist agent) in order to portray them as dangerous. It can also be seen in the infighting between libertarians, paleoconservatives, and neoconservatives, with the first group accusing the other two of supporting "intrusion by big government", the second one accusing their rivals of supporting policies that "degrade" the nation's morals, economy, and identity, and the last one accusing the others of being of like mind with dovish liberals on foreign policy. Likewise, Stalinist groups label(ed) anyone who broke from the Soviet Union's idea of communism, including Trotskyists and social democrats, as secretly being fascists or agents of capitalism. The Communist International even coined the term "social fascism" in the 1930s as a disparaging synonym for social democracy. The Trotskyists themselves, of course, turned around and labeled the Soviet Union itself as a betrayal of "true" communism. Of course, this makes a kind of sense: if you're very far from the political centre, then anyone even slightly closer to it, on any issue, would appear (to you) to be far to your "right" or "left".
The most obvious manifestation of this is the hundreds and hundreds of splinter-sects that have grown out of right and left-wing movements through disagreements on fairly minor points, with more infighting than cooperation going on between them. This was satirized in the film Life of Brian as a dust-up between the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea.
Due to both communists and the online alt-right's strict ideological bubbles and obscure theories, both groups frequently indulge in jokes that are absolutely incomprehensible to outsiders (although calling the alt-right's ideas "theories" would be a bit of a stretch - "memes" would be more accurate).
The frequent incomprehensibility of their jokes is probably a blessing, as both on the extreme far left and the extreme far right, a lot of the "humour" involves joking about killing political opponents - by gulag or by guillotine on the left, or by helicopter or by gun on the right.
“”Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools.
|—Ferdinand Kronawetter[note 14]|
Fringe ideologies often appeal to neurotic and paranoid types, and actual political positions often take a back seat to their mental states. Thus, conspiratorial thinking beyond the bounds of reason tends to characterize political extremes, so much so that the libertarian right and the anarcho-(your movement here) left seem interchangeable. Take the 9/11 truther movement, which thrives on both political fringes because conspiratorial ideation and extreme values are correlated. This is not, of course, to say that all belief in the existence of conspiracies is irrational. But when someone views conspiracy as the prime mover behind history, or sees a unified conspiracy theory behind the fall of every leaf, they've gone off the edge of the map.
Historical revisionism is common on the political fringes. A wide selection of isolationist weirdos and unreformed anti-Semites on the Old Right have famously sought to rationalize, downplay, or flat-out deny the Holocaust. So too have a vocal minority of crazy assholes within the anti-Zionist movement.
Likewise, a few hard-core leftists have denied that the conduct of the Bosnian War constituted a genocide. Some of the absolute worst revisionists, like Edward S. Herman, even claim that the Bosnian Serb militias' massacre of at least 8,373 unarmed Muslim civilians at and around Srebrenica was a legitimate act of self-defense, a shadowy Muslim mass-suicide, or an elaborate hoax. Presumably, these deniers fear it would be "imperialist" to say that big bad NATO, which eventually intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo, once did a good thing. Even Noam Chomsky has occasionally indulged in this intellectual dishonesty: he once claimed that the Trnopolje camp was not a concentration camp, because "people could leave if they wanted" (although he has since backed off on this). In this particular debate, moonbats align with Orthodox Christian fundamentalists (defending the Serbs as they're predominantly Orthodox too), pan-Slavicists in Russia, neo-fascists like Golden Dawn, paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan, and Islamophobic "thinkers" like Pamela Geller and Michael Savage; strange bedfellows indeed.
Conspiracism and its subset, revisionism, is endemic in all these groups because their members hold all their beliefs to be both true and self-evident to anyone of good will who knows the facts, leaving open (though not begging)[note 15] for them the glaring question of why these beliefs are so unpopular in the general populace. The usual answers are some sort of anti-democratic thought (most people are 'sheeple') and a belief that one or more conspiracies must be keeping them from knowing the facts and possessing the mental equipment necessary to arrive at the correct conclusions.
Quite a large number of extremists have but little regard for science, and are often openly dismissive of it, seeing it as part of the bourgeois/liberal/Jewish/Marxist/what-have-you establishment. As a result, they are very prone to promoting various pseudoscientific ideas. Well-known examples include:
- Christian, Muslim, and other religious fundamentalists deny any scientific findings contradicting their religion, such as evolution or the big bang.
- Racist groups likewise deny any scientific findings suggesting that the races are not separate sub-species or something of that description, while promoting bullshit claims designed to elevate their own race/ethnic group above all others. Among white supremacists, this manifests in claims taken from The Bell Curve and discredited scientific racism from the late 19th/early 20th centuries, while among black supremacists, you can find the Nation of Islam teaching that white people were created by a mad scientist six thousand years ago.
- Many forms of mutually-exclusive national mysticism claiming a divine/supernatural heritage for a particular people.
- Marxists promoted their philosophy as "scientific socialism."
- Stalin, out of sheer will to give the impression that massive developments were happening, banned scientific disciplines such as genetics and Darwinian evolution. Nikita Khrushchev also promoted the pseudoscience of Lysenkoism after Stalin's death, but allowed freedom of the scientific press. After his death science saw a rapid development in the Soviet Union, even if it was still way behind Western developments.
- Nazi Germany attempted to suppress the work of Albert Einstein and other Jewish physicists simply because they were Jewish, instead promoting Deutsche Physik as an "Aryan" alternative, by educating about Ayran physicist Jew sympathizers such as Werner Heisenberg.
- Fringe groups on both the left and the right are prone to promoting crankier forms of alternative medicine, global warming denialism and anti-GMO whackery, often accompanying it with appeals to nature and conspiracy theories about Big Pharma and Monsanto. Survivalists, New Agers, Occupiers, Teabaggers, Huffington Post readers, Alex Jones readers, and Christian and Islamic fundamentalists all can be found in the big anti-vaxxer and anti-GMO tent. Likewise, in the 1990s, HIV/AIDS denialism infected both the religious right (who saw AIDS as a consequence of "sinful" lifestyles and quite possibly divine retribution) and radical gay and black activists (who saw AIDS as part of a government conspiracy to wipe them out). That being said, anti-GMO opinions still tend to be way too common on the political centre, as the EU 1997 GMO-moratorium clearly demonstrated, suggesting that anti-GMO is still mainstream consensus despite clear contradictory scientific evidence.
- 9/11 conspiracy theories are a recreational sport on both the far right and the far left.
- Both Hard Greens and anti-environmentalists tend to deny the danger of certain pesticides that have scientifically been shown to be dangerous (the former on rotenone and the latter on DDT) and tend to invoke post-apocalyptic doom scenarios that are scientifically improbable.
- Crank magnetism
- Eric Hoffer, and his observation about the interchangeability of mass movements
- Balance fallacy
- My enemy's enemy
- Zeal of the convert
- Poe's Law
- Political Compass
- The "political center" in question often just so happens to refer to the exact beliefs of the speaker, making their position the "moderate" one—evoking a sort of inside-out balance fallacy
- The centrist Christian democrats in Chile basically called upon the military to stage a coup, leading to the Pinochet dictatorship.
- See, for example, Noam Chomsky discussing how non-socialistic the Soviet Union was.
- Such as Texas "revising" textbooks to fit an American exceptionalist point of view
- Or wingnuts such as Glenn Beck who claim MLK was a conservative.
- This can be said for many other political parties, but authoritarian parties are especially abusive.
- For example, neoconservative pundit Jennifer Rubin laments that: "Some libertarians, including Richard Epstein, argue that an isolationist foreign policy reflects a misunderstanding of true libertarian principles, but in practice the overwhelming number of libertarians vehemently oppose U.S. interventionism and want to eliminate foreign aid and slash defense spending… Libertarians have gotten the notion that the Bill of Rights supplants the laws of war and protects, for example, American jihadists from being droned and data gathering to detect terrorism plots. In that they often seem to be mimicking the Obama administration's fetish with applying criminal justice concepts to anti-terrorism policy. Most Republicans resist that leap of logic and constitutional misinterpretation.
- For instance, self-identified libertarian Glenn Reynolds ceased being anything but an authoritarian during the Bush era.
- Of course, in the mind of a fanatic, any action that isn't doing exactly what the fanatic wants is "betrayal".
- This is also an odd complaint, considering that weaker men regularly defeat stronger men on television, so long as they're the hero.
- Tumblr, famously viewed as an online stronghold for the social justice left and third-wave feminism, is also well-known for its very laissez-faire attitude towards porn, drawing the line only at actually hosting it. About a fifth of all Tumblr traffic is porn-related, and the porn and feminist sides of the site cross over more than you might think. Draw your own conclusions.
- In the case of radical lesbians, this is most evident with the issue of gamete donor anonymity. It is advised that, even in the case of an entirely anonymous donation, parents should maintain an open dialogue with their children when they have questions about this, as suggested by https://www.colage.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DIguide-FINAL.pdf. This would seem to be more difficult in radical lesbian families, as they reject the most commonly used terms (like "origins") and insist on using language that would make this dialogue very difficult for their own children (such as denying the involvement of any man in any part of the conception process). In France, when a law aimed to both extend donor conception to all women and ending donor anonymity was proposed, the opposition included a strange coalition of homophobes (who opposed the first part) and radical lesbians (who opposed the second part).
- It was pretty much de rigueur for every proper communist dictator to get his own -ism. Hence Albanian Hoxhaism, North Korean Kim Il Sungism (Juche), Yugoslav Titoism, and so on and so forth.
- The saying is frequently attributed to Bebel, but probably originated with the Austrian democrat Kronawetter; it was in general use among German Social Democrats by the 1890s.
- Begging the question is a logical fallacy where someone assumes what they're trying to prove — it doesn't mean "raising the question"
- Faith-Based Fraud: Jerry Falwell's foul rantings prove you can get away with anything if you have "Reverend" in front of your name by Christopher Hitchens (May 16 2007 12:46 PM) Slate.
- Le Siècle des idéologies by Jean-Pierre Faye (1996) Armand Colin. ISBN 220001441.
- The Conscience of a Movement: American Conservatism, the Vietnam War, and the Politics of Natural Law: A Dissertation by Matthew Kyle Yates (2011) The Ohio State University, page 136.
- It's time to abandon 'horseshoe theory', Noah Berlatsky, The Week (originally published in Pacific Standard), March 24, 2018
- ‘Horseshoe theory’ is nonsense – the far right and far left have little in common, Simon Choat, The Conversation, May 12, 2017
- Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort by Chip Berlet & Matthew N. Lyons (2000) Guilford Press. ISBN 9781572305625. page 342.
- The Left or the Right: Old Paradigms and New Governments by Miroslava Filipović & Marija Đorić (2010) Serbian Political Thought 2(1–2):121–144. doi:10.22182/spt.2122011.8.
- ‘Horseshoe theory’ is nonsense – the far right and far left have little in common by Simon Choat (May 12, 2017 8.18am EDT) The Conversation.
- See the Wikipedia article on 1973 Chilean coup d'état.
- Let's Put an End to 'Horseshoe Theory' Once and for All: Accusing the left of fascism only helps the real fascists. by Noah Berlatsky (Feb 9, 2018) The Guardian.
- Saudi Arabia seeks 'unprecedented' beheading for woman activist: The accusations against a group Israa al-Ghomgham is part of include chanting slogans hostile to the regime and attempting to inflame public opinion. by F. Brinley Bruton (Aug. 22, 2018, 5:06 AM PDT / Updated Aug. 22, 2018, 9:51 AM PDT) NBC News.
- See the Wikipedia article on Capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.
- Chomsky comparing US and Soviet Union (Uploaded on Oct 9, 2011) YouTube.
- Chomsky on Socialism (Uploaded on Aug 2, 2009) YouTube.
- Leon Trotsky: The Revolution Betrayed
- From a 1948 letter from Orwell to Muggeridge, quoted in Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life by Ian Hunter (1980) Thomas Nelson. ISBN 0840740840.
- Avi Shlaim, "Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in British politics," Al-Jazeera, Jan. 12, 2017, accessed Sep. 23, 2019.
- A bit of racialism from a leftist pro-Palestinian (but also antisemitic) Twitter account. Accessed Sep. 18, 2019.
- Far-right Twitter profile whose name claims "regime change wars are for Israel, not big oil," accessed Accessed Sep. 18, 2019.
- Communist leader proposes reinstatement of death penalty for terrorists: Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov proposed on Monday the death penalty be reinstated as a part of the Russian penitentiary system (17:54 29.03.2010) Sputnik International.
- Russian communists attack liberalism and abortion (April 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm) Global Communist.
- Gennady Zyuganov "…Zyuganov declared that national culture and morals are being deliberately destroyed in Russia."] (Webpage of Dmitri A. Gusev)
- The New Right & The Secular Humanism Conspiracy Theory (Political Research Associates). A popular talking point for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others]
- Communist Party of the Russian Federation: Party Platform See: "The peaceful development of the USSR was interrupted by the perfidious attack by Nazi Germany and its satellites."
- Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change by James C. McKinley Jr. (March 12, 2010) New York Times.
- Communists lay carnations for Stalin (December 22, 20105:15am). news.com.au. They openly call for the "Re-Stalinization of Russia. Seriously.
- Can the GOP be saved from its obsession with the 1950s? by John Aravosis (2/18/13 1:07pm) Americablog
- Obama's good for GOP, Boehner says by Mike Wereschagin and Salena Zito (Tuesday, June 29, 2010). Tribune-Review Live. "They're snuffing out the America that I grew up in"
- Zyuganov and Mironov: Back to the future: Communist party's Zyuganov and A Just Russia's Mironov call for a return to the socialist model Al Jazeera. Who'd have thought the commies don't like taxes either?
- Zyuganov and Religion: On the Current State of the Russian Communist Party by Roland Boer (31.12.12) Monthly Review.
- Amendment on Flag Burning Fails by One Vote in Senate by Carl Hulse & John Holusha (June 27, 2006) New York Times. Wanting to outlaw flag burning is common for wingnuts and commies
- Tennessee Tea Party ‘Demands’ That References To Slavery Be Removed From History Textbooks by Marie Diamond (Jan 23, 2012) Think Progress. Stop the lies about the Founding Fathers and slavery!
- Communist Party of the Russian Federation: October Is Forever. Stop the lies about Stalin and Lenin!
- Similarities and Differences Between Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals by Herbert McClosky and Dennis Chong. British Journal of Political Science. Volume 15, Issue 3. July 1985, pp. 329-363. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123400004221
- Big Sister Is Watching You by Whittaker Chambers (28 December 1957) National Review.
- The Marxist and Bolshevik Roots of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy by Vladimir Shlapentokh (August 10, 2010).
- How Ayn Rand became the new right's version of Marx: Her psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats by George Monbiot (Monday 5 March 2012 15.30 EST) The Guardian.
- Why conservatives and libertarians are at odds by Jennifer Rubin (September 11, 2014) Washington Post.
- A partial list of pundits, politicians and media outlets who used Joseph Gliniewicz's death to push the 'war on cops' narrative by Radley Balko (November 5, 2015) The Washington Post.
- Privacy and Government Surveillance by Julian Sanchez (January 26, 2017) C-SPAN.
- Libertarians and the Republican Party — Irreconcilable Differences by Glenn Greenwald (Friday, July 07, 2006).
- Guided By The Way of Their Weapons: An Analysis of Theodore Beale and His Supporters by Elizabeth Sandifer
- Black women hate men and "do an [expletive deleted] job with their sons," white MRA lady JudgyBitch explains (July 25, 2015) We Hunted the Mammoth.
- Ted Kaczynski’s Manifesto Predicted The Catastrophe From Technology And Liberalism by Roosh Valizadeh (October 14, 2015) Return of the Kings (archived copy from 17 Oct 2015 04:48:36 UTC).
- The 'alt-right' don't belong in the American conservative tradition by Jamie Weinstein (Tuesday 22 November 2016 13.21 EST) The Guardian.
- Våldsam politisk extremism — Antidemokratiska grupperingar på yttersta höger- och vänsterkanten, page 51.
- The Pacific War: 1931-1945 by Saburo Ienaga, 1978. Pantheon Asia Library, pp. 121-122. ISBN 0394734963.
- The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B. R. Myers (2010). Melville House. ISBN 1933633913.
- The single most important fact for understanding North Korea by Max Fisher (Jan 6, 2016, 2:20pm EST ) Vox.
- Enemy's enemy? The Connard-supporting 'alt-right' and North Korea by Oliver Hotham (Jan 19, 2017) North Korea News. (Behind a paywall.)
- Alt-Reich: North Korea and the Far Right by Bradley Jardine and Casey Michel (July 6, 2017) The Diplomat.
- "Federal Constitutional Court Issues Temporary Injunction in the NPD Party Ban Case." German Law Journal, Vol. 2 No. 13 — 1 August 2001 (recovered 17 September 2017).
- The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter (1964). Harvard University Press, p. 33. ISBN 0674654617.
- The paranoid style in American punditry: Richard Hofstadter's seminal take on right-wing crackpots sheds light on the current anti-Muslim panic by Laura Miller (Wednesday, Sep 15, 2010 12:30 PM UTC) Salon.
- America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't by Stephen Colbert (2012) Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0446583979.
- The Narcissism of the Small Differences, Slate
- "Vox Day: The Taliban's shooting of Malala Yousafzai may have been 'perfectly rational and scientifically justifiable.'" We Hunted The Mammoth, 23 October 2013 (recovered 29 May 2017).
- Mathias, Christopher. "The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend: What Neo-Nazis Like About ISIS." The Huffington Post, 26 May 2017 (recovered 29 May 2017).
- Stormfront or SJW?, Reddit.com
- Sheila Jeffreys speaks on beauty practices and misogyny (April 7, 2006) Andrea Dworkin Commemorative Conference. Sheila Jeffreys supports the radical right
- "Quick, while I have the TERFs and MRAs distracted, go solve all the problems!" by Jason Thibeault (March 3, 2014). The Orbit. Skeptics seem to agree on this actually.
- TERFs, MRAs and lies about trans people by Natacha (Tuesday, 23 April 2013) UnCommon Sense.
- SJWiki: "Trans-exclusionary radical feminism: Against the third wave." Recovered May 5, 2017.
- "The third-wave fight: TERFs vs. trans women." by moultingphoenix (October 1, 2014).
- "Hmm... these radfems aren't entirely wrong..." MRAs on Voat discover TERFs.
- Why Does Ron Paul Keep Defending Putin? by Mark Splinter (29 July 2014) The Skeptical Libertarian.
- "Hate Bus," 1961 by Howard Zinn (October 3, 2012) History by Zinn.
- The Rise and Fall of Britain's Most Famous Racist Politician by Gavin Haynes (Oct 3 2014, 10:05am) Vice.
- Hamilton, Charles V. "The nationalist vs. the integrationist." The New York Times, 1 October 1972 (recovered 30 June 2019).
- Illing, Sean. "The enigma of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas." Vox, 15 October 2019 (recovered 15 October 2019).
- The Unabomber: A Hero For Our Time CrimethInc.
- Fox News' Keith Ablow: Unabomber Was Right That Liberals Are "Psychologically Disordered" by Thomas Bishop (June 26, 2013 5:29 PM EDT) Media Matters for America].
- Dr. Keith Ablow's Political Hero, the Unabomber (28 June 2013) Respect the Blankie.
- "Fine Art: Heroic realism."
- Saunders, Frances Stonor. "Modern art was CIA 'weapon'." The Independent, 21 October 1995 (recovered 8 July 2017).
- The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans (2005) Penguin Group. ISBN 0143034693. p. 496. See the Wikipedia article on August Bebel.
- Edward S. Herman: Genocide denier caught
- Victims of the Srebrenica Massacre The Polynational War Memorial.
- Noam Chomsky's Denials of Serbian War Crimes (June 27, 2016) Balkan Witness.