The Rise of the Grey Tribe 19

Right now, the most important thing that anarchists, libertarians, anti-state radicals, decentralists, anti-authoritarians, paleos, communitarians, and allied others can be doing is growing the Grey Tribe as a third force in U.S. politics beyond the Red Tribe/Blue Tribe dichotomy.

Read the blog post below and then read Scott Alexander’s analysis of present day mainstream politics. Then read my article “Liberty and Populism” from nearly nine years ago, and you will see that the emerging Grey Tribe is more or less what I predicted a libertarian-oriented third force in U.S. politics would be.

Growing the Grey Tribe is one of the primary steps that needs to be taken towards the application of the ARV-ATS paradigm and strategy (along with continuing to increase popular support for the idea of secession).

Also, notice how this writer describes how the Red Tribe is increasingly being marginalized from the mainstream of U.S. politics, and is instead developing its own regional strongholds, while an emerging Blue Tribe/Grey Tribe conflict is taking place. That fits perfectly with my past predictions as well, i.e. that the Red Tribe would become increasingly irrelevant over time, and that the Blue Tribe would become the de facto norm, with the Grey Tribe emerging as the de facto “real Left” opposition to the totalitarian humanism of the Blue Tribe with the left-libertarian/anarcho-leftoids being caught in the middle.

Pax Vobiscum

Everyone knows America has two cultures. Ever since the bitterly contested 2000 Bush v. Gore election we’ve referred to “Red States” and “Blue States”. The states in question of course aren’t monolithically “Red” or “Blue” but the color describes the dominant culture of the population of those states. Red and Blue are more clearly thought of as tribes. Scott Alexander describes the American Red & Blue tribes in one tiny bit of his terrific #longread about outgroups:

The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

The Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe existed long before the 2000 election, of course. In fact these two American tribes pre-date their own nation. They have both existed and been at each other’s throats for a thousand years. Their bitter fight has erupted into open mass warfare three (count em, 1 2 3) times, and their cultural struggle has never ended.

Scott goes on from describing the Red and Blue tribes to briefly and parenthetically mention a third tribe, the Grey Tribe:

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

Partly formed? Someone should do something about that.

The Grey Tribe Is Born

via flickr user LaCrossian

Greys are a libertarian-minded tribe of live-and-let-livers. They tend to dwell online, often adopting shifting pseudonyms and communicating with each other on forums and anonymous imageboards. Amongst the Grey Tribe one would expect to see higher levels of internet savvy, fondness for tech gadgetry, and disillusionment with traditional politics. They support privacy and anonymity, and oppose the NSA surveillance regime. Edward Snowden is a Grey Tribe hero. They revere open source, strongly support an open internet, and it is by no means exaggeration to describe them as free speech fundamentalists.

Greys tend to have nomadic tech industry jobs. Many are freelancers or entrepreneurs. They engage online and don’t congregate geographically as thickly as the other tribes do, except for their noticeable clusters in San Francisco and other technology hubs. They speak in nerd/geek/gamer lingo and signal membership to each other with Internet cultural tropes and catchphrases. All three of the tribes have found a home on the internet but the Grey Tribe is born of the net and has never existed outside of it.

Many of the Grey Tribe self-identify as Blue, agreeing with Blues on many social issues while feeling disagreement with the Blues in areas economic and opposing Blue efforts to enforce political correctness. A few self-identify as Red, strongly agreeing with small government and 2nd amendment rights, but usually feeling strong antipathy or at best ambivalence toward Red social issues like opposition to gay marriage and abortion. Other Greys adopt the libertarian mantle, and many Greys disavow politics entirely. Despite their own failure so far to self label as such, the Grey Tribe does exists as its own independent culture, overlapping in areas but remaining distinct from the Red and Blue cultures.

The Grey Tribe has existed as long as the Internet but in the last few decades a generation has grown up on the internet and on its Grey Tribe culture. The numbers of the Grey Tribe have swelled while the cultural and economic power of the Grey Tribe has also risen along with the power and prestige of the tech industry. Grey industries and cultural products have now entered the mainstream and with entry to the mainstream comes conflict with existing power centers.

The Grey/Blue Conflict

The emerging Grey Tribe is the result of a schism within the Blue Tribe, who have all but won their long war against the tired & woeful Red Tribe. Greys in many ways are moderate Blues, in that they agree with the general Blue cultural positions on gay marriage and abortion but reject Blue economic and cultural extremism. Many of the technology stories of the recent past are best interpreted as part of a Blue/Grey conflict between Grey freedom of expression and moral values.

Classical Grey libertarianism is assailed as “brutalist” by Blue left-libertarianism. The Grey technology industry is mostly fallen to a Blue insurgency war under the cry of “More women in the industry!”. Grey science fiction fandom has been wracked by Blue-instigated civil war. Grey organized Internet atheism has witnessed a breakaway of schismatics in deep Blue Atheism+. And even the apolitical Grey gamers are now under Blue assault.

These varied fights are not separate, they’re the multiple fronts of a single large scale tribal culture war that the Blues are currently waging against the Greys for not being Blue enough. Each of these fronts has simmered independently but of late, especially with regard to GamerGate, the conflict has become so hot that the fronts are bleeding into each other. This war shouldn’t be confused with the mainstream Blue vs. Red culture war, which is all but over, this is a brand new culture war by the Blues against a different opponent and it takes place almost entirely on the Internet.

As they become more aware of the larger picture and notice the other fronts, the Greys will begin to see that each of their fights has deeper stakes and is part of the larger important struggle to maintain their Grey culture. The Blues may have overstepped and awakened a sleeping giant. This war may be what results in the Greys flexing their might and explicitly asserting their independence from the Blues.

Could the rise of the Greys be the rise of a new participant in the thousand year war? Will the Reds survive as more than a southern regional culture if that happens? Will the Blues instead succeed at snuffing the Greys out in their crib?

Stay tuned. It’s an interesting time to be a witness to history.

19 comments

  1. His working definition of Gray Tribe would certainly include me. But this is far from a fully formed tribe; especially if it only exists online. It’s more of an interest group of isolated individuals.

    Of course, nothing bands people together like being attacked. So hopefully the Blue Tribe’s recent attacks on the Grays will bind them together rather than disperse them back into isolation.

    Also, the Gray Tribe seriously needs to be expanded beyond tech-nerd libertarians.

    Greys are a libertarian-minded tribe of live-and-let-livers. They tend to dwell online, often adopting shifting pseudonyms and communicating with each other on forums and anonymous imageboards. Amongst the Grey Tribe one would expect to see higher levels of internet savvy, fondness for tech gadgetry, and disillusionment with traditional politics. They support privacy and anonymity, and oppose the NSA surveillance regime. Edward Snowden is a Grey Tribe hero. They revere open source, strongly support an open internet, and it is by no means exaggeration to describe them as free speech fundamentalists.

    Greys tend to have nomadic tech industry jobs. Many are freelancers or entrepreneurs. They engage online and don’t congregate geographically as thickly as the other tribes do, except for their noticeable clusters in San Francisco and other technology hubs. They speak in nerd/geek/gamer lingo and signal membership to each other with Internet cultural tropes and catchphrases. All three of the tribes have found a home on the internet but the Grey Tribe is born of the net and has never existed outside of it.

  2. I actually think his definition of the “Grey Tribe” is too narrow in that he offers too many qualifiers in terms of specific positions (like Dawkinsite atheism) or cultural/professional orientation (e.g. tech nerds).

    I think it’s better to define the Grey Tribe as those who regard the state (and allied institutions) as the primary political enemy rather than terrorists, communists, liberals, foreigners, homosexuals, etc (in the case of the Red Tribe) or social conservatives, reactionaries, bigots, sexists, homophobes, etc. (in the case of the Blue Tribe).

    One thing that Alexander points out is that the Reds and Blues (and by extension, the Greys) are political cultures rather than specific sets of positions or organizational affiliation. My guess is that the larger the Grey Tribe gets the more internal divisions it will have: reform vs revolution, radical vs moderate, left vs right, thick vs thin, religious vs Dawkinsite, an-caps and minarchists, pro-life and pro-choice, humanitarian vs brutalist, cosmopolitan vs paleo, BHLs vs Hoppeans, Austrians vs neo-classicals vs mutualist vs Georgists, social anarchists vs classical liberals, etc, etc, etc, etc.

    And strands within these will continue to overlap with either the Red or Blue to varying degrees.

    I’m not sure I agree that the Grey Tribe only exists online, either. I know a lot of people who would fit the description of the Grey Tribe identity in various ways who also do real life activism. The Ron Paul thing, strands of the Tea Party and Occupy, marijuana legalization, the Free State Project, bitcoin, Libertopia, Porcfest, etc. etc. etc. are examples of an embryonic “Grey” activist culture emerging. And I think volume of Grey Tribe online activity is having the effect of creating an intellectual foundation for the Grey Tribe (perhaps analogous to Marx and Engels during their “Young Hegelian” period, lol).

  3. “Of course, nothing bands people together like being attacked. So hopefully the Blue Tribe’s recent attacks on the Grays will bind them together rather than disperse them back into isolation.”

    I suspect that at least during its developmental stages, the Grey Tribe will include many former Blues who are tired of the crap, and many former Reds who have nowhere else to go.

  4. I suppose he is identifying with his reference group; which is a proto-grey tribe sub-culture when compared to the folks you listed.

    I think it’s better to define the Grey Tribe as those who regard the state (and allied institutions) as the primary political enemy rather than terrorists, communists, liberals, foreigners, homosexuals, etc (in the case of the Red Tribe) or social conservatives, reactionaries, bigots, sexists, homophobes, etc. (in the case of the Blue Tribe).

    A far better definition, in my opinion. Or is it just wishful thinking on our part? Would the recent targets of the PC police in the tech sector agree? My thinking is that a lot of these people will just be bullied into silent, penitent, marginalized Blues and only a few will go full Grey. Of those that do go Grey, I imagine they will go over to either soft MRA’s or full blown Red Pillers.

    There’s also sectors of the Blue Tribe that are potential Grey Tribe such as embattled minorities who would probably put the state and bigots on equal footing as their primary enemies. Among Natives, for instance, it is widely accepted, unsurprising, and fully tolerated that their are families and individuals that have a long standing hatred of the government. These sort of folks generally have the sympathy of the wider community, but are often overshadowed by Blues in leadership positions. I imagine Greys just need to be ready for opportunities like the recent rejection of old guard “peace and forgiveness” Civil Rights leaders in Ferguson.

    Basically we need more Greys, everywhere.

  5. There seems to be a lot of people who have one foot in the Grey Tribe and the other foot in either the Red or Blue.

    I’m sure that’s true of a lot of ethnic minorities as you mention, and I’d say it’s true of the left-libertarian/C4SS sector, many left-anarchists, many of the general hard left. Even some antifa types might fall into that category (like the Tinley 5 people and their supporters).

    There are parallels on the right as well. I’ve noticed since this Ferguson thing started, many on the hard right can’t decide whether they’re more opposed to the cops, or to black people, as Julius Ebola has pointed out. I’ve know a lot of “right-wing conservative” types who will talk about overthrowing Obama’s New World Order communist dictatorship one moment, and called for bombing “the terrorists” the next. Or the religious right’s schizophrenic view of America as “the best country on earth…that’s ruled by godless abortionists, homosexuals, atheists, Hollywood, pornographers, and Muslims.”

    I have friends who are military veterans who are bashing Hillary over Benghazi one minute and asking me serious questions about Bakunin the next.

    As strange as some of this stuff gets, it’s more or less in line with what I always wanted, i.e. the creation of milieus where anarchist and libertarian ideas can be discussed in open forums and among people with widely divergent opinions, even polar opposite ones. Instead of having an anarchist movement that’s just a youth subculture on the fringes of the left, or a libertarian movements that’s mostly academics and tech geeks on the fringes of the Republicans, we seem to be creating something where these ideas can brought into new forums even though it obviously creates conflict at times.

  6. So it’s a grinding culture war. Following some links around from the original article I ended up here, which explains how the blues practiced entryism to take over various groups and institutions.

    The entryism is of the usual type: people with blue/pink ideals join red / gray groups and try to achieve social status with in those groups, then use that social status to push for the admission of – and promotion of – more blue/pink members. Once the blue/pink members achieve a majority they then change the rules of admission to create a lock on their new conquest (in the case of academia, for example, even blue researchers in the Netherlands of all places, were shocked by how blatant the process was).

    The status shaming is also of the usual type: high status blue / pinks follow Alinksy’s battle plan.

    Everybody is an entryist.

  7. To be completely honest I think this is a load of crap, and its only purpose is to reinforce elite ideology and propaganda. The two-party system certainly wants to neatly divide America into two groups, as that makes it much easier for them to rule, and any third party would want to claim a third group. But that is far from reality, most Americans cannot be easily categorized into “red” and “blue”, or “red”, “blue” and “grey”. That is part of what attracts me to the idea of pan-anarchism/pan-secessionism. I think you lose a lot of legitimacy by taking up the view that America can be neatly divided into two or three groups.

  8. Is it necessarily a matter of either/or? Couldn’t there be two dominant political macro-tribes, and lots of micro-tribes found both within and on the exterior?

    The fact that a majority of the population regularly fails to vote for either of the Red or Blue tribe is probably evidence for your position.

  9. For instance, where do neo-reactionaries fit into this? They’re not blue, not really gray, and not really red. They’re outside these paradigms.

    I don’t that the miltiamen are really Reds. They might have their origins in the red zone, but they seemed to have moved out of it. I don’t know that Afro-centrics are really Blues. An authentic Christian conservative like our friend Todd Lewis doesn’t really fit into any of these categories so easily, nor would many immigrant communities or smaller groups of religious minorities.

    Perhaps an analogy could be made to Iraq, where you’ve got the Sunni and Shia as the dominant macro-level groups, with the Kurds as a kind of third force. But many subgroupings are contained within each of these, and there are plenty of groups that don’t fall into either of the dominant ones.

  10. Lulz. Dont kid yourself. Attackthesystems only outside the red tribe because its redder than the red tribe can be seen in public. If you think youll get along w/ grey STEM techies your kidding yourself. Their way too multicultural & materialist & too much into pure competence to be interested in your racial stuff. Even if you dont technically have racial stuff your followers do & its your brand.

    The neoreaction people is what happens when greys try to be reds on grey terms as a stunt & it doesn’t work with either greys or reds.

    Im a grey. Well I work as a grey. Your no grey.

    • I might agree with that if the goal were to merely be popular, but that’s not the goal of ATS and it never has been. If anything, the goal is to be unpopular by constantly pushing the limits.

      ATS naturally has a large audience among the “reddest reds” because those are the folks who are most currently outside the system, and in opposition to the system. The hard-core extremism of ATS and total rejection of mainstream institutions obviously appeals to the “redder than reds.” I suspect that will only increase in the future as the Reds continue to lose power politically and come under an ever greater attack by the wider society. The Reds will increase their militancy and become redder even as they dwindle in numbers and become increasingly marginalized. In fact, I suspect the entire spectrum of the right-wing, from the Tea Party type Republicans to the Alex Jones conspiracists will eventually become as militant in their opposition to the system as the fascists, white nationalists, and neo-nazis are at present.

      But that’s really only a side issue. The goal of ATS is not to build “the ATS Fan Club.” The goal is to disseminate ideas that have an increasingly radicalizing effect on the Grey Tribe, on political dissident generally, and on the wider society.

      For instance, as the Grey Tribe grows, as pan-secessionist activism grows, even an pan-anarchism grows some of the participants in these movements may be affiliated with ATS, but many more will not be, and some will even be adamantly opposed to ATS, But when anti-ATS factions begin to adopt ATS ideas and tactics, then ATS still wins.

      Decades from now, there may well be left-wing anarchists who are organizing pan-anarchist federations, creating secessionist movements, and building resistance networks of greys, grey/blue hybrids, and new political colors that emerge over time, all the while saying “Keith Preston? Yeah, he was a fascist, racist, homophobic, transphobic asshole” even as they are doing exactly what I said they should have been doing all along.

      • My ambition is that sometime in the mid to late 21st century, the U.S. will be dissolved into many smaller nations, and that the political movements described in paragraph 2 of our statement of purpose, or point 4 of our 25 pt program, will be politically dominant in the majority of these.

        That’s it. That’s all that matters.

        • As one who lived through the entire era of Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush watered down fascism, I’m quite happy with the way the political winds are currently blowing (indeed, you might even say thrilled).

    • I don’t think ATS is red at all, I think it is antifoundationalist. Republicans and Democrats are mostly foundationalists.

  11. I think you dont have the most accurate picture of you. You think your a neutral gray in the culture when your really red outside the mainstream and come across to everyone that way. You should read Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians about how most rightwingauthoritarians think their way less rightwingauthoritarians than they are on the psych data. Sames true of you even if you do it your own freaky flag way. No offence to you we all do it but you should check your selfdeluding narcissism.

    • I’m familiar with Altemeyer’s work. It’s just a regurgitation of Adorno’s “F-scale” theory which insists everyone who isn’t an ultra-leftist is mentally ill. I regard all that kind of thinking as pseudo-science. But to make you happy, I looked up and took Altemeyer’s test. The results may surprise you. Here are my results. Apparently, I’m one percent authoritarian.

      Your result for The Altemeyer Authoritarian Test …
      1% Authoritarian!

      You scored 1% Authoritarian.

      A Low Score

      You are skeptial of or don’t trust the authorities.

      On a jury you would take mitigating circumstances into account when determining a sentance.

      You are less aggressive.

      You are less likley to join a military service.

      You are less likley to care about “fitting in” with others.

      You are less likley to belong to a fundamentalist religion.

      A High Score

      You tend to trust the authorities.

      On a jury you would be concerned that someone who had committed a henious crime received punishment.

      You are more aggressive when the circumstances require it.

      You are more likley to join a military service.

      You want to “fit in” with others.

      You probably don’t attend church services.
      Your Analysis (Vertical line = Average)

      Authoritarian Distribution

      You scored 1% on Authoritarian, higher than 9% of your peers.

    • “I think you dont have the most accurate picture of you. You think your a neutral gray in the culture when your really red outside the mainstream and come across to everyone that way.”

      LOL. Could be. Although I’ve encountered flag-waving “USA! USA!” types who think we’re leftist revolutionaries, which is probably closer to the truth than what is often said about us.

      A political extremist tendency in the US is naturally going to be perceived of as part of the far right. Particularly one like us that is anti-PC, pro-gun, pro-secession, etc.Because U.S. culture normally associates political extremism with the far right. Left-wing extremism is not as prevalent here as it is in Latin America or Europe or Asia.

      • Once again, the goal is not to build some kind of “ATS fan club.” I don’t care whether we’re politically popular or not. Instead, the goal is to promote ideas, activism, movements, organizations, and social currents that will eventually have the impact of bringing down the U.S. federal system.

        I support the Tea Parties, even if I think their ideas are just milk toast talk radio “conservative” nonsense. Many of them would no doubt think I’m an un-American Marxist traitor. So what? Why do I support them? Because they’re a gateway drug to more radical forms of anti-statism.

        I support the Occupy groups, even though I think they’re more like a rock concert than a revolutionary movement.. Many of them would think I’m a racist, fascist infiltrator. I support them for the same reason I support the Tea Parties. They’re a gateway drug to more radical ideas.

        I support the militia movement even though I think many of their conspiracy ideas are insanity. Why? Because militant opposition to the state is what we want to encourage.

        I support the entire spectrum of libertarian/anarcho-capitalist/voluntarist thinking: Thick and thin, paleo and cosmopolitan, humanitarian and brutalist, reformist and revolutionary even though I would have plenty of criticisms of many of these tendencies. Why? Because on the most important issues, virtually all of them have it right.

        I support the left-wing anarchist movement even though many of them detest me. Why? Because they’re against the system however limited they’re thinking can be at times.

        I support serious socialists like Eugene Puryear.

        I support all secessionist and independence movements everywhere: Conservatives like League of the South, Christian Exodus, and the Texas Nationalist Movement. Left-leaners like Second Vermont Republic and Cascadia.

        I support all self-determination movements among minorities; Black, Hispanic, Native, etc.

        I don’t support white nationalists who are just about hating minorities for its own sake or engaging in terrorism, but I support the ones that are about seriously decentralizing the US in a peaceful and equitable manner.

        I support the Alex Jones people? Why? Because they’re against the system even if some of the specific ideas are just paranoia porn.

        I was happy to see outright criminal groups like the Hells Angels and the Crips join Occupy when it happened. Because they’re against the system.

        I support all single issue movements who are against the state: drug legalization, gun rights, tax resistance, home schooling, sex worker rights, gambling legalization, abolishing the drinking age, prisoners rights, against the death penalty, etc.

        I agree with the critique of immigration as driven by capitalism and big capital’s aim of wage suppression. But I support immigrants rights movements that have the genuine effect of weakening law enforcement. I’m certainly no Joe Arpaio supporter.

        I support all weirdo religious cults and hippie communes that reject the system.

        I support the sovereign citizens.

        I would gladly support any LGBTQ secessionist, decentralist, or separatist movement.

        I support the late Andrea Dworkin’s idea of a feminist separatist homeland.

        I would support a Republican secessionist movement in the red zone or a Democratic secessionist movement in the blue zone.

        The goal is to promote among all these tendencies the tactical concepts we talk about here: pan-secessionism, core demographic theory, fourth generation warfare, anarcho-populism, inside/outside strategy, the left-right-center tripartite strategy, a pan-anarchist federation, an third-party alliance, alternative infrastructure, the 25 point platform, building coalitions of anti-state interest groups, a peoples’ economic front, legal defense organizations, civilian defense organizations, identitarian organizations, regionalist movements, and a free nations coalition.

        What is the purpose of all this? To overthrow the federal system that is the primary sponsor of the ever growing police state, the political arm of the corporate class, the provider of corporate welfare, the military arm of the international plutocratic system (see Negri and Hardt’s “Empire”), and the primary purveyor of the war on drugs domestically and internationally.

        That is the goal. Not popularity. Not being cool. Not making friends. Not being a do-gooder.

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