Ian Danskin, (Danskin 2018)

This is an entry in the Alt-right Playbook.


Going low is a manifestation of playing to win – it’s a focus on the ends justifying the means. It works most effectively when opposed by a group which holds the means as sacred and would rather not focus on the ends.


You can play this as keeping your integrity, the Democrats seizing the moral high ground. But in response the Republicans… seize the Supreme Court.

When one party can be relied on to do the exact opposite of your worst behavior, good strategy is to do to them, as destructively as possible, whatever you don’t want them to do to you.

[…] building a coalition on the Left is a lot of work, and, faced with this challenge, there is a liberal tendency to turn away from policy and focus instead on process; generally uncontroversial things like bipartisanship, compromise, decorum. And, fair enough, the absence of these things in Washington over the years is certainly something everyone Left-of-Center is sick of, but they’re not things Democrats can make happen all by themselves, and, more to the point, none of them are results. They’re means.

Like, a willingness to compromise is not a position. And when you overfocus on how you should go about things and not what things you should go about, it fosters a certain philosophy about government that is both highly flawed and highly exploitable: The valuing of means at the expense of ends.

Most people would say that “the ends justify the means” is a crap moral philosophy. Democrats would agree. But liberals often overcorrect to the point where thinking about the ends at all is thought of as - in a vague, reflexive kind of way - innately immoral. There’s a very Enlightenment way of thinking that implies that, with the right means, the ends take care of themselves, and immoral behavior becomes functionally impossible.

[…] Democrats keep doing it, because on some level they genuinely believe that, even when it accomplishes nothing, following the rules to the bitter end is the noble thing to do. The captain goes down with the ship.

And I’ll say one thing for Republicans: They believe in something. It’s a bunch of classist, racist, misogynist doolally, but they believe it, and they govern according to those beliefs. There is no contradiction in blocking a liberal Judge and bullying Democrats to confirm a conservative one: They want to overturn the right to abortion, and will do whatever it takes to put a pro-lifer on the bench. It’s fully consistent behavior. And the problem isn’t that they break a bunch of rules along the way, it’s that what they’re trying to accomplish is wrong.

But Democrats focus on the rule-breaking and not the intent behind it because, despite what Republicans will tell you, many Democrats are terrified of talking about abortion, for fear that taking a stand on a wedge issue will lose them their coalition. Believing in a politics where everyone can disagree on everything and democracy sorts it out is wishful thinking born of necessity.

What would be the effective ways to combat the Alt-Right? Kick them off social media, shut down their websites, cut off their funding, police their organizations as hate groups, and, if all else fails, be willing to deck someone at a counter-protest if it will prevent greater violence. So what do they do to us? Falsely report our tweets as hatespeech, DDoS our websites, try to shut down our Patreons, report us to the police as terrorists, and beat and murder people in the streets. Now, these are all things they enjoy doing regardless, but they serve a strategic purpose. If we consider doing to them anything like to what they’ve done to us, we get the performative self-flagellation: “You wouldn’t want to stoop to our level, now would you?”

And when they tell us it would be wrong to kick them off Twitter or stop them from organizing even though they keep killing people, what argument do they give us? They invoke the First Amendment. They defend not their actions but the process. They don’t believe in universal free speech or the right to assemble, but they know we do.

An action has no intrinsic value wholly separate from its outcome. A Kentucky clerk breaking the law by refusing to sign a legal gay marriage license is wrong. And a California clerk breaking the law by signing an illegal gay marriage license is right. There is a moral imperative to disobey rules when following does not lead to justice.


Danskin, Ian. 2018. “You Go High, We Go Low.” Tumblr. Innuendo Studios. https://innuendostudios.tumblr.com/post/179749702607/new-video-essay-this-one-is-about-how.