THE PIPELINE SCHEMA
Updated: Jun 9
Opinions: Stanley Black
WHAT IS THE PIPELINE SCHEMA?
I have the formal art education of anyone my age who was trained in England. Basic education at my local comprehensive, the completion of a foundation studies course at the nearest art college and finishing my undergraduate and master's degrees slightly further afield, in my case London. During my MFA it was advised that we should have an 'elevator pitch' a short summary of what type of artist we were and the type of art we produced, delivered in a concise and pithy manner. The idea being that you could give someone an impression of yourself within the time it would take to ride a lift. I settled on "My name is Stanley Black and I describe myself as a political artist but in the left leaning sphere of the art world, culturally I promote the wrong type of politics." But what does this mean?
I am a natural contrarian and I use my art as a vehicle to explore ideas and philosophical concepts. Using my process as a mechanism to understand and make sense of the world around me. I often try to inject humour into my work but because of my subject matter and the world of art being a particularly tough audience my jokes rarely land. My initial aim when I returned to art education was to explore being and identity through the use of persona however after displaying a particularly contentious and offensive work, I was drawn into the realm of politics (against my better judgement) through the debate surrounding free speech/expression. It means my current art practise reflects the intellectual journey I have been undertaking for the last five years. From the hard left, through the centre, past the centre right to the right and now I have broken and smashed the Overton window and climbed through to the other side.
The purpose of this blog is to articulate the ideas that have led me to this place and how they have informed my research. A few years ago, there was a slew of articles online that described a particular trend on YouTube. Someone very young (late teens/early twenties) would describe how they had started watching quite milquetoast conservative political content and this had led them to more right-wing figures and finally to far-right content. That they had started to hold the wrong beliefs, dangerous beliefs. This became known as the 'alt-right pipeline’, so the name of my blog is intended as a gag. It was clear this trend was an example of online signalling. A post or statement that shows you hold the correct ideas, that you are on the correct side, the moral side, that you are a good person.
The articles would talk about being hateful and resentful but offer no evidence or examples, their grappling of right-wing ideas was superficial, the kids understanding was as shallow as they were. The act was a Mea culpa. An attempt to distance themselves from one online community and cosy up with another. A confession of their sins in the hope of absolution and of course clicks. The right-wing sphere understood this and it was justly mocked. The left however seized upon it and used it as a weapon (as they always do) to further their agenda to demonise right wing thought and justify their stance for online censorship. The main reason Leftists (especially Progressives or even worse their more radically rabid cousins the Wokesters) always try to shut down discussion and conversation is that they realise (quite rightly so) that ideas are dangerous but the trouble they have is their ideas are at the best misguided and at the worst malicious.
Another online commentator has remarked that both the hard left and the hard right actually share presuppositions in their respective world views. Both can see that there is something wrong with society. That the neo-liberal world the ruling elites have crafted for us is rotten to the core and clearly not working (or only working for them). Although they differ on solutions, the diagnosis the same. He believes therefore the left are primed for turning, if only we could talk them out of their false belief in equality. I am a little more sceptical about conversions as I subscribe to Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory and believe political belief is more about intuition than reason.
If I have learnt one thing from my adventures as a right-leaning political artist that it is fundamentally a worthless pursuit. Not only are you viewed with suspicion because you do not peddle “The Message.” Those who disagree with your viewpoint will refuse to engage through a curious mixture of falsification bias and denial. Or the work is simply reaffirming people’s own beliefs in an act preaching to the converted. Political Art as virtue signal. An act of solidarity to the others in your tribe. I believe world views and political ideology are so ingrained into being and a fundamental cornerstone of identity that most people do not want to have their assumptions challenged, in fact want they want is affirmation and they rarely change their minds, especially through the medium of art. So, this blog is not an exercise in persuasion but a blueprint for understanding. Welcome to the groundwork at the start of the pipeline.
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