Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and the rest of us stuck in the middle with common sense and decency. This is a murky time for liberal politics. The creeping hand of despotism is tightening its grip on developed western nations, causing a groundswell of alternative autocracy on both the left and right of the political spectrum.
Whilst, plenty of people who are less susceptible, whether through their own volition or the benefit of better living circumstances, have managed to stave off the temptation of populist bombast, it is important to acknowledge why these two nativist cult movements have taken off in the first place.
Through a widespread disassociation with a political process which is widely perceived to merely deceive and frustrate, the voting publics of Western liberal democracies have grown tired with the status quo. Coupled with the frustrations of economic downturn coinciding with greater globalisation and with it, instances of greater ethnic plurality, many have turned to reactionary nativist politics, to offer solace from unfamiliar surroundings.
The dawn of the so-called 'alt-right' has been well documented on the pithy pages of political news websites. Infamous mouthpieces such as Milos Yiannopoulos and Katie Hopkins have synonymised the rise of a strongly authoritarian, classically right-wing ideology. They espouse no-nonsense, no-sympathy and no-coherency.
It is a kind summation to refer to the 'alt-right' simply as a right-wing ideology. Scholars note that this group are not only on the right but are ideologically underpinned by some of its most callous tendencies; ethnic nationalism, homophobia, islamophobia and so on. Whilst not all subscribe to these heinous viewpoints, it is important to tackle the most commonly held and threatening of their beliefs.
It is on the endless stream of social media where the 'alt-right' make their pestilence most felt. They commandeer almost every debate with the interjection of a belief system that rejects the perceived move towards 'political correctness', terming proponents of such a culture - 'generation snowflake' - in the process.
They proclaim that the left are seeking to be mortally and unrelentingly offended by every opinion going. Yet, the irony of calling themselves 'alt-right' rather than the more accurately and established label, the far-right, because of the negative connotations surrounding it, has never quite dawned on them. They have unwittingly applied political correctness to their own identity, because they're reluctant to be perceived through the hindsight of historic right-wing groups.
Another trend of the 'alt-right' is 'faux-libertarianism'. Whilst the 'alt-right' can be seen perpetually moaning about reclaiming freedom, they fail to coalesce that with their belief in one-time democracy. It is not libertarianism, to diffuse debate on issues on the back of one vote. As we have seen with a minority, but noisy, group of Leave voters, the 'alt-right' seek to uphold the virtues of democracy as long as it furthers their own agenda.
Remain lost on 23rd June, by a slender margin of 3.8%, whilst no one realistically expects Labour and Lib Dem voters to have joined the Tories after their 2015 election win, the dogma of the 'alt-right' has declared that pro-EU opinions are no longer valid. Democracy for them has ended. The majority has won and now it is time to press ahead with a clandestine hard-Brexit that nobody voted for.
"Take back control!" - that was the rallying cry offered through 40 years of bruising political jousting. But have you ever asked the 'alt-right' for a referendum on the nuanced terms of the complex disentanglements of Brexit? "Boo hoo! Suck it up, you lost, that's democracy!" - it isn't and they know it. Democracy does not require the surrendering of principal and argument when one battle is lost.
It is a monocratic endemic that knows few borders.
A similar attitude has been employed Stateside, where Donald Trump's supporters have lauded their electoral college win over opponents, despite the president-elect losing the popular vote. Similarly, they cite anybody who believes that Hillary Clinton, as the candidate with the most votes, should have won election as sore losers.
Their fight for free-speech is too a despotic farce. The 'alt-right' is not concerned with protecting the democratic institution of free speech but escaping the recoil of airing their views, who many find reprehensible. They want free reign to launch their opinions without being rejected by mainstream society. Their fragility prevents them from being able to handle being correctly termed a bigot - they are just as much "the snowflake generation" as everybody else.
Just last week, former darts player Eric Bristow was dropped by BSkyB for conflating homosexuals with paedophiles, and some 'alt-right' thinkers labelled the online riposte an act of citizen censorship. In truth, it was a groundswell of authentic free speech. People were repulsed by the comments and the free-market acted. Freedom of speech is codified in the circles of the 'alt-right' as freedom from being challenged, freedom to be as inflammatory as possible and face no reprimand.
Their quest to hold on to the relics of a darker past will not fly as protestations of democratic defence, it's a shambolic mirage. They are ideologically arrogant, completely consumed by their belief that they espouse common sense and the sentimentality of the common man and woman - they are wrong.
Their real raison d'être is to capitalise on the disillusionment of the working classes and spread divisions based on nationality and class. They arrive promising to subvert the social order, stoking patriotism but invoking nativism through the back door. Their aim is to reverse social plurality and minimise the course of debate much as the 'alt-right's' twin sister, Nazism, did in 1930s Germany.
This may seem like a melodramatic association to make, but is isn't. People seldom remember that fascism arrives in disguise, it arrives as your friend; it gives hope to those bereft of it. The anti-democratic ideal has gathered so much momentum that a new study by the Journal of Democracy found that just over twenty-five per cent of Britons born in the 1980s or later deem living in a democracy as "essential". Twenty-five per cent.
On the opposite economic flank, has sprung the 'alt-right''s economic nemeses cum authoritarian bedfellows - an equally vociferous and archaic splinter group of political ilk who also espouse the most stringent of totalitarian beliefs. They have been not so affectionately called the 'ctrl-left', a label coined by anti-extremist Maajid Nawaz.
Like the 'alt-right', they have capitalised on a niche atmosphere in the public sphere to further their own political aims. The 'ctrl-left' profess to deplore socially conservative politics and their propensity to discriminate against ethnic and sexual minorities, yet their purported respect for human life is clumsily contradicted by their alliances.
Although less likely to, the 'ctrl-left' still has its links to those who disregard human life with many advocates outspoken supporters of Fidel Castro. Their high-profile icon Jeremy Corbyn's extensive links to the IRA, Hamas and the state of Iran, who have all committed atrocities are also well documented and extremely concerning. It is not as if they have much moral high ground.
But, when the 'ctrl-left' are challenged by the 'alt-right' in to debating immigration, and radical Islamism, among other hot topics, do they back the courage of their own conviction and intellectually battle these thoughts in to remission? No.
Their very own ideological haughtiness has created a vacuum where the 'alt-right' has gone from strength to strength. The 'ctrl-left', instead, continues to call for no platforming, safe spaces, and general censorship of unpleasant views - unaware that this course of action only empowers them.
It might sound noble, but it is doing far more harm than good. It really is rather simple, once you treat a view with so much contempt that you silence it, you subsequently give far greater credence to its suitors. This obsession with disallowing debate has led to the atmosphere that has created the post-fact era in which we're all wallowing.
It stokes fears of wider conspiracy, of a metropolitan liberal elite, who appear to be intent on shutting down alternative world views. They appear as though they are on the run from the 'alt-right'. It plants the seeds that the 'alt-right' are somehow the anti-establishment crusaders of truth, and the 'ctrl-left' are the statist zealots hiding actualities from the electorate.
The 'ctrl-left' are quite simply, stupid. Their brand of nicer authoritarianism, does absolutely nothing but destroy progressives' ability to debate the nastier traits of 'alt-right' ideology. It incentivises the socially open-minded to retreat in to obscurity, it's this exact culture that has led to social liberals losing the argument - they've become victims of a culture that discourages debate, and incentivises retreat and denial of alternative views.
I have no doubt that the 'ctrl-left' believe their purpose is to stave of the 'alt-right' nativist clap-trap but their backward logic does the opposite. Liberals desperately need to rally, to shirk the cowardice of the 'ctrl-left's' fear of engagement, and debate back against the vitriol of the 'alt-right', and statist inanity of the 'ctrl-left'.
Liberals can, and will, win the battle of ideas, they have done so all through history - but you cannot win if you're not prepared to have the argument in the first place, and that is the precedent we are currently setting.
The 'alt-right' are responsible for some of the ugliest thinking in contemporary politics; anti-refugee sentiment, anti-LGBT rights, anti-women's rights and, it is a movement responsible for the general rise of xenophobia and hate crime in the West.
We cannot allow them to have a free ride any longer. This is a dangerous time in world politics, one which could have dark consequences. The 'alt-right' have set alight to the torch paper of working-class disenchantment, and the 'ctrl-left' are fanning the flames. Only liberals can extinguish this inferno before it destroys us all.