Diana Moreno | The Power of Reframing

By Diana Moreno

As I write this seminar blog, Donald Trump rules as the president of the country I live in. I quickly double check my reality by opening the New York Times. Headlines read “Trump fabrics a migrant crisis and threatens the asylum system[1] and “Hate Crimes Increase for the Third Consecutive Year, F.B.I. Reports[2]. Reality checked, indeed.


As I have been struggling to balance my thought and my feelings around Daniel Friberg’s so called “manifesto of the Alt-Right”, I wish to start by doing an emotional and political standpoint disclaimer.


The past couple of years, I worked defending women’s reproductive rights, as an international human rights lawyer in Latin-America. As much as I tried to read Friberg with calm and contemplation, I must admit I read him with the curiosity and skepticism one listens to an enemy. My reading came along with continuous grumping and gurning, followed in my mind by several “Oh no! He did not say that…”, then usually self-replied by an ironic “off course he did!”.


I feel angry. Reading while being a lawyer who believes in social justice, freedom and equality, I feel angry.  Reading while being a queer woman, I feel angry. Reading while being a privileged but still migrant, I feel angry. Reading while still getting used to been racialized as “latina” in the US, I feel angry. Reading while coming from a colonized country, I feel angry. Reading while studying with “the ever more cult-like Left of the Upper West Side”[3], I feel angry.


But not only I feel angry, I feel afraid. Fear is rooting in me as I see the effects of the raising Right’s ideas in elections, media and in the streets. Fear of the violence that comes with it.  Fear of it scaling to barbarity. Being part of a young millennial generation, I also feel a “duty” to confront this phenomenon and a slight impotence when these groups gain popular support.


Here is my standpoint. I stand somewhere between the liberals and the left. I stand with a vocation for the oppressed. Both, because of my personal and my political, I stand as a counterpart. Thus, in this time in history, I am aware my sight is myopic. Not only I am new to the experience of being a witness of fascism and resist it, I am short-sighted (if not completely blinded) when it comes to understand why different audiences subscribe to and pursue Friberg’s ideas.


I believe these audiences which I cannot really relate to are key when answering to the Praxis seminar question on what is there to do from a critical theory perspective. I do hope that my research, my cleverness or my empathy gets to reach out to them before history retreads itself. In the meanwhile, I will approach the “the Real Right Returns” as what it represents for me: the piece of a puzzle I cannot yet completely put together.


The “Real Right” Project


Friberg’s manifesto starts strong retelling history of the Right from the 1950’s. The end of World War II marked “the retreat, marginalization and constant concession to an ever-more aggressive and demanding Left” in the European society, which lead to the fall of the good old right, the control of the “radical Left” over culture-forming institutions and the reduction of “one of history’s greatest civilizations (…) to a (…) genuinely self-destructive social form”[4]. This now called “establishment” that represents the decay of European Civilization and traditional norms includes liberalism, american imperialism, universalism, multi-culturalism and ideas such as human rights, “equality, feminism, mass immigration, post-colonialism, anti-racism, and LGBT interests”[5].


Friberg then invites the reader to join the emergence of the “ Real Right” or the “New Right”, who’s real task is to “develop an alternative to liberal modernity in its entirety”[6]. They will do so by recovering the “tradition, hierarchy,(…) structure and values which allowed European civilization to flourish in the first place”[7].


For this, the counter-revolutionary project of the New Right considers: i) ethnic identity is a natural point for political analysis, organization and practice; ii) politics should have primacy over economy, meaning traditions and community practices should be valued in and for itself, beyond its market value; and iii) political authorities should defend the interest of Europe and her peoples[8]. It can be deduced some of “Europe’s interests” might include rejecting mass migration and rebuilding the region’s traditional values and political power.


It’s noticeable there is an influence and a resemblance in the critique of the New Right and the one of that left critical contemporary theorist have made to liberalism and globalization in today’s world. The latter has equally discussed the limits of the liberal legal framework, including human rights, and the destruction of cultural practices and identities under the discourse of universalism; the excessive value of the market and society norms and values to the service of a capitalist market system or the negative impacts of US driven policies worldwide.

Different from the critical thought approach, the New Right proposes the reinforcement of traditional values towards the revival of the “European Imperium” and the empowerment of the European ethnicity (which I guess means white).


To be able to develop this political project successfully, it is necessary to defy the political system as a whole, as in the era of liberal human rights institutions, retaking a less sophisticated colonial and white supremacy project requires to overcome the paradox of tolerance. This is, Karl Popper’s idea that an open society can be tolerant to all, except to that who is intolerant enough to threaten the society’s preservation. Different from a critical thought approach, the New Right wont defy having a capitalist system as such, promoting catholic traditions or traditional gender roles either.


From my standpoint, I will continue to call the “Real Right” project as a colonial, patriarchal and white supremacist project. On one hand, such a project totally disregards the historical violence against non-white, female and colonized bodies behind the so called European Civilization and the accountability it should entail. On the other, it is built on fallacies and oversized threats. Let’s not forget contemporary democracies have failed to achieve income and social distribution, that the Left also sees liberal democracies as a failure  to their political project, that 84% of refugees actually live in developing countries[9] and that even when demanding historic responsibility, other ethnic and social reivindications within “the establishment” do not aim to the extermination of the white-european ethnicity.


At this point, I should recognize- not the “marginalization”, but – a certain real or perceived loss of privilege of the white working class male in the US and some European countries. Just as when thinking of new masculinity narratives that follow positively the transformation of gender dynamics, I wonder if new positive non-violent and non-supremacist narratives of whiteness can be built as a way of addressing the grieving and identity crisis out of losing such privileges.


Metapolitics and the power of reframing


Friberg will also declare a cultural war against the Left after supposedly describing Antonio Gramsci’s concept of metapolitics. To his view, metapolitics is “the process of disseminating and anchoring a particular set of cultural ideas, attitudes, and values in a society, which eventually leads to deeper political change”[10]. According to Friberg, the Left has a successful metapolitics strategy and took over modern society institutions. The task of the New Right should go beyond the political apparatus (such as parliamentary elections) to engage with the “so-called civil apparatus seeking to gain the social and psychological support given by the masses”[11]. As Friberg would say “in order for any political ideology to maintain its grip on power, it must support itself by establishing and disseminating these cultural assumptions among the masses”[12].


Even though Friberg does not openly disregards democracy as a political system, the definitions of totalitarism, hierarchy and aristocracy in the glossary section indicate the merely instrumental and temporary value  of that system to his political project[13]. His main struggle with the Left, will not be political, but a cultural one.


As I read this, I can connect this cultural purpose piece of the puzzle with some strategies of the rising Right during the last 5 or 6 years. I recall the accurate message production, segmentation and digital isolation of Cambridge Analytica Right-Wing electoral campaigns[14], the adoption of the concept “gender ideology” instead of feminism or gender studies[15] and the systematic attack over independent and opposing journalism as “fake news”[16].


The main effect of the undermining of “truth” in this context, more than the loss of objectivity, is the continuous reframing of the political spectrum and practice. The definition of what is possible/permissible to say/do and in what terms. By repetition of messages directed to behavioral impulses, by appropriation of new language around their conflicting agendas and by the disruption and questioning of legitimate sources (such as academia, science or media), the “Real Right” is changing the rules and limits of the political game. What is radical in 2018 seems so much different of what could be considered radical in 2014.


As an example, we could observe Donald Trump. His election gave these “New Right” political power within the United States executive branch and the media attention. Trump’s consistently outrageous executive orders (such as the first drafts of the Muslim ban) and media statements, normalize his political posture and transfer them from an unimaginable or unacceptable posture, to a possible one.


The multiple “Real Right(s)”. What about the rising Right in Latin America? 


The rise of the Right in Europe is parallel to other emerging Right-wing discourses in the US and throughout certain countries in the Global South. There might be discursive and financial relationships between them. For example, Daniel Friberg was co-founder of the website alt-right.com with american Richard Spencer[17] and Latin-American anti-rights groups are financed by US and Spanish Alt-Right organizations[18]. However, understanding their differences and similarities, both, theoretically and politically, can be important in the quest of rejecting their political project.


For example, Friberg’s handbook does not develop clearly the anti-Semitic position that american George T. Shaw defends on “An Alternative to Failure”. Neither the Americans complain about their own imperialism or about market dynamics in the way that Friberg does.


Even more different is the discourse of the rising Right in Latin America, in countries like Brazil or Colombia, where the ethnic european project seems less attractive that a manly heterosexual military discourse. Is not that Latin-Americans do not have racist societies, but being migration receptors or guarantying the survival of the white culture might not be the center of their agenda. In contrast, attacking women and LGBTI rights under the need of “protecting family values”, conserving local elites political and economic power and “having a strong hand” on corruption or crime have had a protagonist role.


What are the similarities and differences among these emerging worldwide Right leaders and their audiences? What does this tell us about their theory and praxis? What does this tell us about our own theory and praxis?

[1] The New York Times. Trump fabrica otra ‘crisis’ migratoria y amenaza al sistema de asilo. November 13, 2018. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/es/2018/11/13/editorial-trump-caravana-asilo/?action=click&clickSource=inicio&contentPlacement=4&module=toppers&region=rank&pgtype=Homepage

[2] The New York Times. Hate Crimes Increase for the Third Consecutive Year, F.B.I. Reports. November 13, 2018. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/us/hate-crimes-fbi-2017.html

[3] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.44

[4] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.1-9

[5] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.8

[6] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.15

[7] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.16

[8] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.16

[9] World Economic Forum. 84% of refugees live in developing countries. Available at:  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/eighty-four-percent-of-refugees-live-in-developing-countries/

[10] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.4

[11] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.22

[12] Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p.22


[13]Daniel Friberg. The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition, p. 67-117

[14] See, e.g, Concordia Summit. Steve Nix talk on Cambridge Analytica – The Power of Big Data and Psychographics. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Dd5aVXLCc

[15] The Economist. Latin-Americans’ battle over “gender ideology”. Available at: https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2017/09/30/latin-americas-battle-over-gender-ideology

[16] BBC. How President Trump took fake news intro the mainstream. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-46175024/how-president-trump-took-fake-news-into-the-mainstream

[17] Available at: https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/meet-swedish-mining-tycoon-bankrolling-alt-rights-global-media-empire-1608221

[18] According to AWID organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom and Hazte Oír have financed campagings against reproductive rights and LGBTI Rights in Latinamerica. Available at: https://www.awid.org/es/noticias-y-an%C3%A1lisis/webinario-derechosenriesgo-como-se-organizan-las-fuerzas-anti-derechos-en