Frame Game, the pseudonym of an alt-right internet personality, hid his face while pushing racist conspiracy theories. Inadvertent slips revealed details about his identity.
Michael Benz, a former Trump State Department official whose work has been cited in congressional hearings and promoted by Elon Musk, has become a go-to voice for Republican criticism of government and social media censorship in the past year.
But before his stints in government and as a pundit, Benz appears to have been a pseudonymous alt-right content creator who courted and interacted with white nationalists and posted videos espousing racist conspiracy theories, according to recordings, livestreams and blog posts reviewed by NBC News.
The pseudonym, Frame Game, posted videos and participated in podcasts and livestreams during the rise of the alt-right following Donald Trump’s election. Frame Game avoided showing his face in his videos or appearances, during which he pushed a variety of far-right narratives including the “Great Replacement Theory” that posits the white race is being eradicated in America for politics and profits. In others, Frame Game said he was a white identitarian, railed against the idea of diversity and made montages urging white viewers to unite under the banner of race.
In interviews with white nationalists, Frame Game blamed Jews for “controlling the media” and for the decline of the white race. “If you were to remove the Jewish influence on the West,” he said in one video, “white people would not face the threat of white genocide that they currently do.”
Frame Game stopped posting in 2018. A review of his content revealed various details that match Benz’s appearance and life story. Benz, in his public posts and appearances, has not espoused the same racist views as Frame Game…
Hours after publication on Friday, Benz posted a lengthy statement confirming his connection to the Frame Game account. He said the account was a covert effort intended to somehow combat the anti-semitism it espoused. “The account in question was a project by Jews to get people who hated Jews to stop hating Jews,” he wrote. “Let me be clear: I am extremely proud of this.”
Benz, 39, has positioned himself as a leading voice for many conservatives by tapping into a broader right-wing wave of disaffection with perceived social media and government censorship. He heads a group dedicated to the subject, has been featured as an expert in dozens of news stories and spearheaded efforts to bring attention and pressure upon people and organizations involved in social media moderation.
Benz and his organization were also cited in reports and witness testimony from the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, led by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, as well as the Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs. Benz also amplified the “Twitter Files,” documents released by Musk that revealed internal debates about content moderation and communications with outside organizations, governments, journalists and researchers. For months, in videos and threads posted to Twitter, Benz has framed those internal debates as grand conspiracies and maligned the academic researchers and institutions involved as government spies and plants.
Beyond the censorship debate, Benz has posted videos alleging a variety of shadowy doings in line with broader far-right paranoia around many hot-button issues. One video connecting criticism of Musk to a conspiracy theory around Ukraine and global energy markets was reposted by Musk, who added: “Interesting perspective.”
Brandy doesn’t give any credit to Benz for the brave, true and beautiful things he said under his Frame Game Radio persona. People are complicated. If any media report focused on the worst things we’ve all said and done, we’d all look terrible.
When speaking publicly, it is a good idea to think about what your enemy will do with what you are saying. We all speak within a certain context, but your enemy will rip away that context to present your quotes in their worst light.
Benz would have you believe his statements, stuff like this—suggesting Holocaust education is a grand Jewish conspiracy to solidify a victim identity narrative to stay in control of the world—was somehow deradicalizing MAGA people. It’s nonsense. https://t.co/GJYn6AmbN6
— Brandy Zadrozny (@BrandyZadrozny) October 8, 2023
ICYMI we revealed the secret alt-right past of the “anti-censorship” brigade’s favorite new expert: https://t.co/t46pA9ZizZ
And in the wildest admission I’ve ever gotten on a story, here’s his explanation for years of anti-Semitic posting & allying w/ white nationalists. https://t.co/Io1O1eoZaV
— Brandy Zadrozny (@BrandyZadrozny) October 7, 2023
I did a bunch of shows with Frame Game in 2018:
Frame Game was my favorite guest in 2018 because he had a phenomenal mind and he regularly challenged me more than anyone else in my life.
Benz and I enjoyed the expansion of the Overton Window pushed forward by the Alt Right. We were intoxicated by this new intellectual playing field. We enjoyed the frisson of danger from engaging with the right. In the pursuit of this engagement, we bent over backwards in showing empathy for their point of view, and we said things in pursuit of this engagement that we now regret. This is common among scholars and activists and journalists who want to penetrate forbidden worlds. When we get a new beat, we want to sweeten things with the major players and so we deliver “beat sweeteners” (flattery of important sources). In the pursuit of engagement, activists, journalist and scholars often say things that they later regret in the cold light of day when their entreaties are made public just as job interviewees and men on the make often say things that later embarrass them. In the pursuit of a forbidden connection, it’s easy to sell out. I think I did this at times in early 2018 and I think Frame Game did this too. We were so eager to talk to people in the Alt Right that we short-changed our analytical side. It was such a thrill to get the dangerous people on our shows that we failed to ask the tough questions (to ourselves most of all).
When you create, you leave your analytical side behind. You can’t write and edit at the same time. To put down your best first draft, you must ignore your inner editor. Frame and I created for a few months without normal self-interested inhibition. It was intoxicating to have these forbidden conversations. It was intoxicating to leave the modern buffered reflexive autonomous strategic self behind to experience the joys of the medieval king of the castle persona.
The modern world rewards a courtier morality wherein one constantly weighs every gesture, deed and word for its possible implications. This kills spontaneity and traditional forms of identity. By playing in the Alt Right pen, people indulge traditional ties at the expense of the civic virtue of not harming group’s feelings. For a few glorious months in 2017 and early 2018, we got to feel alive by freeing ourselves from modern concerns about racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry. We had primal engagement at the price of modern decency.
Frame Game was great at framing things. I’ll never forget one time on my show in 2018, he said to me, “Luke, I love you, but you don’t change anything.” Frame was dedicated to changing the world. I was dedicated to understanding the world.
Because Mike was operating with anonymity in 2018, he said more outlandish things than he would have if he were speaking under his real name.
It’s easier to tap into a primal engagement with the world when you operate out of anonymity just as people tend to become more primal when drunk. Going online and sharing your opinion is intoxicating, and intoxicated people are more right-wing than sober people.
First, let me state something for the record. I’m a Jew. I’m a Proud Jew. I’m the descendant of Holocaust Survivors who fled Poland. I was Bar Mitzvah’d, and not just Bar Mitzvah’d, I did the additional 4 years of Hebrew School to get confirmed, meaning I went to Hebrew School until I was 17 years old. My Hebrew name is Moshe, and my rabbi would reiterate to me that that name means “messenger.”
I’m telling you this because one of the most notoriously unethical hit piece journalists in the entire country, Brandy Zadrozny, who is famous for constantly getting her stories wrong, just tried to write a hit piece on me that is the literal 180 degree opposite of what she wrote, and what she thinks she found.
Also, in case it’s not obvious, Brandy’s entire industry beat – “disinformation” – is getting totally crushed right now by work I’ve contributed to on multiple fronts (legal, regulatory, policy, media) and she clumsily must have thought she found something that can shoot one of the leading messengers on Internet freedom with an unrelated attack related to anti-Semitism.
Let me start with the bottom line and then I’ll tell you the backstory.
The account in question was a project by Jews to get people who hated Jews to stop hating Jews. It was a deradicalization project, and it produced deradicalization material. It made contact with groups in the early primordial soup of the MAGA movement in 2016 and sought to move people from a place of hate and division closer to a place of love and unity.
And it was successful. The biggest fans of this account, which was deleted around six years ago and to which I only contributed in a very limited manner, were fellow Jews who saw how effective it was at building a bridge and winning over hearts of people who held anti-Semitic beliefs, and non-Jews who would write in to say, “I’m so glad I found this account, I used to have a lot of hate and heaviness in my heart towards Jewish people, but since I discovered you, I don’t feel that anymore.”
The biggest antagonists of the account were people complaining their followers were becoming less radical and less willing to blame their problems on Jews.
Let me be clear: I am extremely proud of this. In another life, this thing I was briefly a part of in 2016 and 2017 would be getting National Science Foundation funds for combatting anti-Semitism.
And this was achieved through dialogue and engagement, instead of shunning and censorship.
You can disagree with the methods, but you can’t argue with the results. And I absolutely will not be lectured by Brandy Zadrozny on what techniques are or aren’t effective at moving people from a place of hate and division towards a place closer to love and unity on the issue of anti-Semitism.
Let me also say: I would not participate today and do not endorse participating in something like this in a general sense. It was a creature of a very bizarre and volatile time in early 2016 in which fellow conservative Jews were facing rising sentiments of anti-Semitism on our right – from people voting the same way for President – and political persecution and censorship from the ADL on our left. Having to move extreme elements from a fixation on identity to a focus on reforming institutions was a Bizarro World situation that called for a kind of Bizarro World logic of which I am proud, but would not repeat today.
To be clear: without this essential context completely omitted by Brandy, there are obviously going to be elements of the account’s contents she quotes that, without context, are going to look like extremist material, in the same way that the Redirect Method her own censorship industry bedfellows champion redirects people to generally unsuitable content only aimed at certain audiences. This was an anonymous account for a limited purpose that was never supposed to be producing content for a mass audience, and had been shut down for 6 years until long-deleted posts were dug up using digital forensics by snooping investigators with basically intelligence agency powers who want to take me out because I’m an effective voice fighting censorship.
I’m grateful for your continued support, and remain wholly undeterred in my mission to restore a free and open Internet.
I remember Benz having a meager background in Judaism. For example, “Moshe” does not mean “messenger.” Instead, it means “savior.” The Hebrew word for prophet, “Navi”, means “messenger.”
Many people argued in 2018 about whether or not Benz is Jewish. He struck me as a highly assimilated Jew.
Richard Spencer responds to the news:
The notion that “frame game” was engaged in “de-radicalization” is absurd. Though he obviously was trying to channel the AltRight in a certain direction for an outside player. He’s just confessed to as much. It’s clear that “Mike Benz” (or whatever name he’ll go by in a few months) is motived to advocate for a “free” Internet so that bad actors like himself can infiltrate online movements and point them in certain directions. He’s a walking, talking argument for greater government regulation of the Web. For what it’s worth, I find the notion that he’s Jewish dubious. He constantly lies. Why should anyone believe he’s now telling the truth?
I agree with Richard that Mike Benz’s response to the news was absurd just as much of Richard’s response to Benz is absurd. Richard is so blinded by his hatred for any competing thought leader that he claims “Mike Benz” will just keep changing his name to pursue his dark agenda. That Mike Benz at a certain time and place used a pseudonym is understandable. I don’t expect he’ll keep doing it. That Mike Benz is a “walking, talking argument for greater government regulation of the Web” is absurd. How so? How exactly does the Frame Game – Mike Benz story argue for greater government regulation of the web? I don’t see it. There’s nothing nefarious about wanting to change your environment. Everybody does it. Every living thing tries to change its environment to benefit its own interests.
My first question about pundits is do they optimize for truth. Very few do. Mike Benz does not. Richard Spencer does not. Mike optimizes for effectiveness. Richard optimizes for attention.
In his public work, Benz is dedicated to framing. When optimize for the frame game, I imagine it is easy to get an exaggerated sense of your own abilities to evade and transcend the truth.
By comparison with Mike Benz, Richard Hanania made an a convincing apology when he was outed as former white nationalist and his career has apparently not suffered.
Like Benz, Hanania tried to have the best of both worlds (saying what he wanted under a pseudonym as well as simultaneously seeking status) and he played the game as effectively as anyone for years.
I remember disagreeing with Frame Game about several points including:
* He had a higher opinion of David Irving than I did.
* He was outraged by social media deleting the accounts of Alex Jones. I wasn’t outraged. I thought it was an understandable reaction to the bad behavior of Jones. I was open to being convinced that deleting Jones meant the destruction of free speech online, but I never found any of these arguments credible.
* Frame Game frequently invoked “white genocide.” I was briefly ambivalent about that line of argument, and then I turned against it.
* Frame Game believed you should never apologize nor show any weakness before your enemy. I believed in apologies and admittance of weakness where appropriate, even if it is to your enemy.
* Frame Game was down with what was effective, while I was constrained by the morality of my 12-step programs and Orthodox Judaism.
* Frame Game was more hostile to the establishment and its elites than I was, while at the same time he was more credulous with regard to establishment statistics that served his narrative, such as bogus U.S. Census Bureau data about demographics.
* He wasn’t persuaded by the Cofnas critique of Kevin MacDonald, while I was.
* Overall, Benz’s point of view was apocalyptic. I had enough of that thinking from my father.
I’ve watched some of Mike Benz’s recent videos. They are compelling, but they don’t optimize for truth.
In his Twitter bio, Mike states: “Executive Director, @FFO_Freedom.” In response to Brandy’s article, Mike said about Frame Game Radio: “The account in question was a project by Jews to get people who hated Jews to stop hating Jews.”
I suspect that Mike is exaggerating. I suspect that Mike’s “Foundation For Freedom Online” is primarily just Mike. I suspect that Frame Game Radio was primarily just Mike.
The Frame Game Radio persona never betrayed any group dynamic. It was clearly one guy doing his thing. The idea that Frame Game Radio was primarily about neutralizing hatred of Jews is absurd. A side benefit of his work may have been a reduction in hatred of Jews by some people while for other people he may have increased such hatred.
Mike tweets: “The dirty & despicable tactics of the ethically bankrupt Brandy Zadrozny, whose failed hit on me was Opposite Day from her reporting…”
There was nothing “dirty & despicable” about Brandy’s reporting on Mike Benz. It was basic journalism.
Mike writes: “one of the most notoriously unethical hit piece journalists in the entire country, Brandy Zadrozny, who is famous for constantly getting her stories wrong, just tried to write a hit piece on me that is the literal 180 degree opposite of what she wrote, and what she thinks she found.”
This hyperbolic response does not speak well of Mike. Brandy is not famous for getting her stories wrong. If her stories were consistently wrong, she’d have been fired. NBC News has a protection to protect.
Mike defends himself as a “proud Jew” and “the descendent of Holocaust survivors.” This is painful pleading. He’s mounting a pitiful attempt at the frame game and it doesn’t work. He clearly didn’t run his response by anyone. If he had, he would have been spared embarrassment.
Mike writes: “Brandy’s entire industry beat – “disinformation” – is getting totally crushed right now by work I’ve contributed to on multiple fronts (legal, regulatory, policy, media) and she clumsily must have thought she found something that can shoot one of the leading messengers on Internet freedom with an unrelated attack related to anti-Semitism.”
Brandy accurately pointed out some things he said in the past that he would rather people did not know about. We’ve all said things in the past that we regret. Mike might acknowledge things he’s said that he regrets and point out how other things he’s said in a certain context sound horrible when ripped out of that context but otherwise stand up.
This tweet by Weinstein that Benz retweets is particularly dumb: “Principle: When a person courageously confronts those with immense power, we owe them every benefit of every doubt.”
There’s no inherent reason that those who go up against immense power are any more right or righteous than those who don’t. Did the Taliban and the Viet Cong and the World War II Japanese deserve every benefit of the doubt because they opposed the mighty United States?
My response to the Washington Post.
This is a 40-minute lecture, Part 1 in what I'd like to be an ongoing series, Censorship Industry Decoded.
This first video cut through the tricks & traps in WaPo's verbage. These tricks are stock for the industry & essential to understand. pic.twitter.com/XWHdRatY3G
— Mike Benz (@MikeBenzCyber) June 8, 2023
Baya Rae comments below this video: “Frame Game is best described as a paleoconservative libertarian that was allied with the Alt Right and wanted to be the rightwing Saul Alinsky. He’s utterly benign if not a valuable asset to the global rightwing. I was saddened by his departure because he was sincere and gave great advise on how to effectively shift the Overton Window rightward. Glad he’s back, hopefully he remains back.”
Ricardo: “He was a psyop bro.”
God Hand: “How was he a psyop? I remember his YT channel. FG was a Jay who explained how Jayish special interest groups operate to undermine Wyte interests. He was 100% honest about who he was and his goals.”
Inter-dimensionallizard1028: “In 2018 when Starbucks got into trouble for having two black loiterers arrested, Frame Game had a good analysis of the pressure groups involved and the whole diversity cartel that makes these companies bend the knee.”
Myst: “If you want the case of a strong opponent of FG, I suggest Norvin Hobbs. He’s very intelligent and he arguably caused his departure from the space back in the day.”
Ricardo: “He admitted that he and the Gevalt Right was an op. Now, we know where Halsey got all that superchat money.”
GodsOwnPrototype: “FGR was/is by all known content, a Righteous Jew, up there with Paul Gottfried as one being able to actually percieve & empathise with traditional Europeans & articulate balanced arguments. I’m not sure he stuck to his remit then because some of his content clued me into JQ lore I’d not encountered despite years of interest & was also formulated in such a way as to make it family shareable – which I did quite a lot. …[H]e was open that he was a fellow traveller on the train only so far; he wanted to reach out a hand of friendship & understanding as a Jew in a time of growing hostility partly as someone who concurred with the many complaints but also to grow a bridge, ironically, of broad racial solidarity as Western Caucasoids, across the ethnic hostile divides, in a time of demographic shift & rising hostility against the pale ones.
Granted this was a longshot at best & a laughable proposition given the hateful subversion of so many of his influential co-ethnics; however, the facts on the ground show there is a pragmatic case.
The Zionists both worked for the British in a world war on the one hand, also carried out a terrorist campaign against them elsewhere & even made overtures to the Nazis (the Stern gang) for assistance against them & the Haavara transfer agreement were real facts that helped found the modern state of Israel.”
Almost all of our major institutions today are controlled by the left who have a radically different conception of masculinity from the traditional one. The challenges men face now at work are similar to the ones faced by the feudal lord who had to move to court and code-switch from lord-speak to courtier-speak, as Rony Guldmann explains in his work-in-progress, Conservative Claims of Cultural Oppression: On the Nature and Origins of Conservaphobia:
* Beset on the one side by the ever-expanding political power of the centralized monarchies and on the other by the new economic prowess of an emerging bourgeoisie, the old feudal nobility found itself progressively emasculated, both militarily and economically, stripped of the glorious self-sufficiency that was the hallmark of an earlier, more anarchic period. Retaining any vestige of their former power and prestige now required, not physical prowess and military excellence, but cultivating the right relationships with the founts of power. And this, at its limit, came to mean taking up full-time residence in the absolutist monarchic court. One of the most decisive developments in the Western civilizing process, writes Elias, was the transformation of warriors into courtiers.92 For this political transition entailed a set of thoroughgoing psychological changes that would eventually spread beyond the monarchic courts and profoundly affect the identity of the modern West, shaping our basic concept of what it means to be “civilized.”
* “He is no longer the relatively free man, the master of his own castle, whose castle is his homeland. He now lives at court. He serves the prince. He waits on him at table. And at court he lives surrounded by people. He must behave toward each of them in exact accordance with their rank and his own. He must learn to adjust his gestures exactly to the different ranks and standing of the people at court, to measure his language exactly, and even to control his eyes exactly. It is a new self-discipline, an incomparably stronger reserve that is imposed on people by this new social space and the new ties of interdependence.”
This new social space generated a new personality/affective structure, a new “peculiarly courtly rationality”97 under whose aegis “the coarser habits, the wilder, more uninhibited customs of medieval society with its warrior upper classes, the corollaries of an uncertain, constantly threatened life” became “softened,” “polished,” and “civilized.”98 Medieval mayhem and wantonness could become suppressed because it is only at this point in Western history, with the radical heightening of the level of the day-to-day, and indeed minute-to-minute, coercion which one individual was capable of exerting on another, that “the demand for ‘good behavior’ is raised more emphatically,” and that “[a]ll problems concerned with behavior take on new importance.”
…More primitive social arrangements unmarked by complicated chains of human interdependency generally encouraged either “unambiguously negative relationships, of pure, unmoderated enmity” or else “unmixed friendships, alliances, relationships of love and service.”111 Hence, for example, what Elias describes as the “peculiar black-and-white colouring of many medieval books, which often know nothing but good friends or villains.”112 But the extended chains of functional dependencies in which one was enmeshed at court—and which were simultaneously arising within the wider society as a whole—encouraged heretofore unknown levels of ambiguity, contradiction, and compromise in the feelings and behavior of people. These now became marked by “a co-existence of positive and negative elements, a mixture of muted affection and muted dislike in varying proportions and nuances.”113 The courtiers had to become more calculating, less wholehearted in their sentiments—less “sincere” and “authentic,” we might say. Such was simply inevitable given the new intertwining layers of social interdependency. If people developed a new moral sophistication, this was the product, not of advancing knowledge, but of the gradual introjection of social exigencies, the muting of affect-structure required by the peculiarly courtly rationality.
This new social and psychological sophistication emerges hand-in-hand with the lowering of the threshold of shame, embarrassment, and repugnance in the social relations of the European upper classes, as “people, in the course of the civilizing process, seek to suppress in themselves every characteristic that they feel to be ‘animal.’”114 There was an intensification of disgust before the ejection of saliva, which becomes increasingly surrounded by taboos.115 Attitudes toward food, and meat in particular, also became transformed. Whereas the carving of a dead animal at table was previously a matter of indifference, or possibly pleasure, the new standard required eliminating any reminders that a meat dish has something to do with the killing of animals. The animal origin of meat dishes had to be “so concealed and changed by the art of its preparation and carving that while eating one is scarcely reminded of its origin.”116 In the same spirit, eating with one’s hands becomes increasingly taboo, as the fork and individual cutlery and crockery were introduced into the dining experience.
Much of Rony Guldmann’s book can be read as Masculine Claims of Cultural Oppression: On the Nature and Origins of Manaphobia, just replace “liberal” with “feminine” and “conservative” with “masculine”:
Enjoying the plausible deniability provided by a façade of democratic idealism, the liberal elites have quietly colonized a host of powerful social institutions—the judiciary, academia, public public schools, large foundations, the media, entertainment, and others—through which they now pursue unofficially what earlier clerisies had to pursue officially. They do not marginalize or excommunicate in the name of some codified orthodoxy like Catholic teaching or Talmudic law. But conservatives believe that the cumulative social prestige arrogated by this “rising class” is the functional equivalent of such an orthodoxy, imbuing the liberal elites’ pronouncements with a special power to cut off debate and silence dissent. Seeking above all to maintain this power, this new secular priesthood will badger, scold, and bully all who defy it. And this means conservatives. If they strike liberal professors like Connolly as angry and obstreperous, this is as a natural reaction to this new regime, to provocations whose very existence the elites refuse to acknowledge.
* Liberalism is not just a political orientation, but a totalistic worldview and way of being that has by now crept into the American psyche itself and can always be discovered at work in the seeming trifles of social life and pop culture—suffocating conservatives from all sides. Liberalism is not sustained by reason and argument, but by the mores and pieties that liberals have quietly entrenched as the unquestioned, taken-for-granted background of things—a parochial ethos into which the populace has become progressively indoctrinated by small, often imperceptible increments. In issuing their claims of cultural oppression, conservatives seek to awaken their fellow Americans to this hidden reality.
* Diagnosing the roots of liberal hostility toward home-schooling, Kevin Williamson observes: “The Left’s organizing principle is control, and the possibility that children might commonly be raised outside of its control matrix is an existential threat from the progressive point of view. Institutions such as free markets and free speech terrify progressives, because they are the result of arrangements in which nobody is in control… Home-schooling isn’t for everybody, but every home-school student, like every firearm in private hands, is a quiet little declaration of independence. It’s no accident that the people who want to seize your guns are also the ones who want to seize your children.”
* Like many on the Left, conservative claimants of cultural oppression believe that “the personal is the political.” Given liberals’ insatiable lust for control, what were once purely private preferences on how best to educate one’s children have now become political acts—“quiet little declarations of independence” through which to hold off left-liberal hegemony for yet another day. Conservative claims of cultural oppression seek, not primarily to highlight liberalism’s flaws as a political philosophy, but to expose its transgressions as a social practice that works to demoralize and delegitimize those who remain steadfastly loyal to “traditional American values”—gun owners, home schoolers, housewives, church goers, the police, ranchers, small business entrepreneurs, and others. The ordered liberty of the conservative is a basic threat to liberal control and so must be targeted at every turn as a danger to the civilized order, the idea of which has now become identified with liberalism itself. If liberals are hostile toward the home-schooling to which some conservative parents are drawn, this is because those parents cannot be counted upon to civilize their children in the manner prescribed—that is, to raise their children as liberals. That is why those children must be seized.
Conservative claimants of cultural oppression see themselves, not only as the losers in a “war of ideas” that was always rigged against them, but furthermore as a quasi-ethnic group being encroached upon by a foreign colonial power that is endlessly contemptuous of their native folkways and bent on replacing these with its own supposedly more advanced culture. The National Review laments: “The crusade against private gun ownership is, for the Left, a kulturkampf. The sort of people who are likely to own or enjoy firearms are the sort of people who are most intensely detested by the social tendency that produced Barack Obama et al. — atavistic throwbacks and “bitter clingers,” as somebody once put it. The Left’s jihad against hunters, rural people, shooting enthusiasts, and Second Amendment partisans will do effectively nothing to prevent lunatics from shooting up schools or shopping malls. That they would exploit the victims of these awful crimes in the service of what amounts to a very focused form of snobbery is remarkable.”
Notwithstanding their ostensible egalitarianism and pragmatism, the liberal elites are committed to their own particular brand of identity politics, complete with its own special kind of otherization. The “bitter clingers” who stand in the way of gun control are not merely criticized as misguided, but despised as occupants of a lower moral and cognitive order, atavisms of a barbaric past that liberals alone have superseded. Whereas now eclipsed traditionalist hierarchies revolved around perceived differences in things like sexual purity, work ethic, religious affiliation, family pedigree, and ethnic bona fides, the new status hierarchy of liberalism is rooted in “cognitive elitism” and centers around a morally charged division between those who are “aware” and those who are not, those who possess the psychic maturity to accede to liberalism and those who lack it and must be reformed. This kind of identity politics will always take refuge in some pragmatic-sounding pretext—e.g., the dangers of firearms or the inadequacies of home schooling. But conservatives dismiss this pragmatism as an elaborate façade for a status hierarchy that liberals refuse to acknowledge. If this hierarchy can go overlooked by “thinking people,” by the “educated,” this is because thoughtfulness and education are themselves now defined by the liberal dispensation. These have become mere badges of honor to be conferred on liberals and withheld from others. Liberals’ near-monopoly on the means of cultural reproduction lets their own kind of identity politics pass under the radar screen, camouflaged in an aura of hard-nosed utilitarianism.