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‘Tis the Season to Sell Extremism: Far-Right Christmas Ads and the Parallel Economy

‘Tis the Season to Sell Extremism: Far-Right Christmas Ads and the Parallel Economy
21st December 2022 Dr. Bethan Johnson
In Insights

During the Christmas period, most companies attempt to entice holiday shoppers with festive jingles and holiday sales. Gab, a social networking and blog site popular among those on the radical right, instead promoted their holiday sales with: “don’t spend your money with people who hate you.” Gab hopes to convert Christmas spenders into patrons of its ‘Parallel Economy’. This economy is one founded on the valourisation of ‘Christian-run businesses’ and the vilification of most mainstream companies. Gab’s Parallel Economy is far from unique, though. Rather, it is part of a broader trend seeking to establish an ‘alternative economy.’  Realistically, Gab’s strategy has a minuscule economic impact. However, this Insight demonstrates the extent to which the philosophy behind the alternative economy represents a threat to the social fabric. Analysing the rhetoric of promoters reveals a heavy usage of a binary ‘us vs them’ worldview, a belief in Christian and/or Western supremacism, plans to drop out from mainstream society and dreams of total societal collapse and reconstitution. Establishing links between such narratives and those of right-wing extremists, this Insight posits that the Parallel Economy and the like serve as a gateway to extremism.

All I Want for Christmas Is a New Economy

Gab’s ‘Parallel Economy’ is a multi-faceted endeavour designed to service the needs of any and all. It builds a  digital marketplace for consumers similar to existing platforms such as eBay, has an electronic payment system designed to rival PayPal, a crowdfunding mechanism similar to GoFundMe, and even a mobile phone plan. This Christmas season, Gab is particularly focused on the development of its digital marketplace, promoting a Christmas ‘catalogue’ – a collection of links to companies selling everything from “handmade bar soaps, gospel focused” to “parts for AR15’s and others.” For weeks, Gab users have been bombarded with advertisements designed to get them to do their Christmas shopping within the Parallel Economy. While recent articles have highlighted (and criticised) the curious collection of goods featured in the Christmas catalogue, it is what Gab’s Parallel Economy sells in the abstract that should be far more concerning.

Gab’s Parallel Economy stems from a philosophy that considers an economy, be it national or global, to be the expression of both the material and moral wealth of a society. Gab claims that the economy as it currently operates has failed consumers. The necessary reaction to this failure is said to be the establishment of an alternative economic system in which buyers and sellers share similar, fringe beliefs. While there are other names for the Parallel Economy – a ‘Patriot Economy’ or an ‘Alt Economy’ being the most common – the underlying philosophy remains the same. Notably, these are terms that are rapidly entering the zeitgeist in right-wing circles, both among the influential and the everyday consumer. The philosophy has been referenced on FOX Business, praised by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, spotlighted by Steve Bannon, and used as a hashtag on social media platforms several thousand times, all in the last six months. Gab claimed last month that its Parallel Economy advertising reached 20 million people per month.

In a material sense, it is hard to imagine efforts such as Gab’s hawking of “patriotic candles” and “sovereignty minded clothing” having any real impact on the market. More generally, on its face, the idea that an alternative economy run by a subset of conservatives could emerge to truly rival that which exists today is unfeasible–the proposed alternative economy poses no threat to the vitality of mainstream Western capitalism. It is nonetheless threatening because it normalises and fuels right-wing extremist narratives.

Conspiracy Theories Wrapped Up in the Alternative Economy

Those promoting an alternative economic policy rely heavily upon an intensely antagonistic worldview, one often articulated via populist principles. Another company named Parallel Economy, which provides payment-processing mechanisms for those looking to transact outside of large financial institutions, bemoaned how “tech tyrants have hijacked our economy through the digitization of our world” and that they used their companies to “[empower themselves].”  Gab’s pitch for an alternative economy has been that “transhumanist nihilists” maintain a “corporate techno tyranny”. In communities professing to contribute to an alternative economy, other companies’ mission statements speak of the need to “be less dependent on billionaire-owned, multi-national corporations that do not have our best interest at heart” or of being “a patriotic alternative to woke corporations who love your $$$ but despise your values.” 

This is language prevalent not only within more moderate populist circles but also at the heart of extremist conspiracy theories. The Parallel Economy and the like promote the idea of a shadowy elite manipulating the economy to the detriment of everyday people is similar to conspiracy theories such as the ‘plandemic,’ wherein global elites unleashed COVID-19 in order to microchip and mind-control the global population or anti-Semitic ones about Jewish-control of banking

While on the surface the alternative economy philosophy discusses the need to establish financial institutions, supporters most frequently pitch the ideology via the conduit of buzz topics like free speech, cancel culture, and social decay. Representative Greene’s Tweet praised a forthcoming alternative economy by describing the current climate as one in which “Corporate communists control the speech of their employees & customers by only allowing Democrat speech and punishing, silencing, and canceling Republican speech.” Another alternative economy organisation said an alternative was needed because those in the tech industry “censor the flow of words. They censor communication. They censor commerce.” 

When discussing Ye’s purchase of Parler on Fox Business, George Farmer, CEO of its parent company Parlement Technologies, said this was a win for the patriot economy because it was a counter-strike to the shadowy establishment’s efforts to silence and vilify those, like Ye, it deemed guilty of “wrong think.” These and other discussions of the philosophy of the alternative economy therein argue that corporations drive cancel culture, with the economy not only picking monetary “winners and losers” but also social ones. Implicit in this argument is the idea that participating in the mainstream economy is to support efforts to restrict free speech. Gab took this argument a further step by implying that transacting in the mainstream economy implicates one in companies’ efforts to “run anti-American ad campaigns promoting communist groups. They hire ‘diversity trainers’ to force hateful anti-White propaganda into the workplace. They run ad campaigns promoting and encouraging anti-Christ, anti-God narratives.” 

Promoters of the alternative economy philosophy do not stop there. They frequently foment distrust of all mainstream institutions. Supporters can be found discussing the ideological links between the need for an alternative economy and their feelings on the existence of a deep state, their belief that all big tech are “#groomer supporters”, and their anxieties over the degradation of Western, Christian values. Perhaps summarising the philosophy’s characterisation of contemporary society best, when launching the Parallel Economy, Gab declared, “The entire system is corrupt. Banks, tech companies, media companies, schools, government, and on and on”. More recently an article explained, “Our culture is swimming in filth, and our economy is corrupt. Therefore, Gab’s founder is urging the construction of a parallel one”.

These ideas echo right-wing extremist conspiracy theories: Jewish-run media and Hollywood; the deep state; QAnon (a cult of Satanic child sex traffickers run the government); the New World Order (elites set about to establish a totalitarian global government); and ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government, i.e. a Jewish cabal controls all banking and government institutions in an effort to enslave the Gentiles). Consider, for example, how those supporting Ye’s purchase of Parler emphasised its benefits to establishing a patriot economy, all while he was directly espousing anti-Semitic theories about Jewish-controlled business and government.

Dreaming of Total System Collapse

At the heart of the alternative economy is a worrying end goal for users: dropping out of society in order to facilitate its collapse. As one company stated, its mission was “to deplatform them. To demonestize them.” Farmer said, “woke corporations, be afraid, because we’re coming for you.” Gab stated, “We must exit this broken and failing system and start building a new one immediately.” Gab’s Parallel Economy manifesto told users to: withdraw all money out of ‘Big Banks’ and the stock market in favour of investing it in cryptocurrency, ammunition, gold, and foodstuffs; refuse to participate in elections; withdraw their children from public school and either home-school them or send them to Christian private schools, and shop only from stores that refuse to be ‘woke.’ The intended outcome of mass support for the Parallel Economy is “the house of cards collapses on the globalist regime” and men of value could rebuild along the lines of ‘our’ values. 

At the most extreme end of the spectrum, the principle of dropping out reflects the accelerationist playbook. Accelerationism promotes dropping out of society as contributing to the ultimate aim of total system collapse. This ideology is ultimately a violent one and has fuelled white supremacist terrorism. Reading past the positive veneer of terms such as liberty-loving and freedom-oriented, emerge values of illiberalism, Christian nationalism, and at times racial separatism/supremacism. As one Gab user wrote, such an economy would reject “anti-White critical race theory”  and would be a “‘great reset’ that [put] Jesus Christ at the center of this new economy.”

Conclusion 

Ultimately, Christmas provides the perfect setting to promote this far-right ideology. In the so-called War on Christmas, everything from saying ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ to Starbucks changing their coffee cup designs to be less Christmas-themed are all viewed as microaggressions made by corporations pandering to a woke, secular mainstream culture. The War on Christmas is metonymic of the idea that in attacking Christmas, society is attacking Christians and the faith at the very foundation of Western societies; some have framed the threat of multiculturalism on Western society as an attempt to take both Christ out of Christmas and Christmas out of December. The solution offered for this has long been to boycott corporations and ‘spending your values’ with small retailers who hold a similar worldview. Gab is taking full advantage of this. Thus, Christmas is fertile ground for those seeking to make alternative economy true believers out of Christmas shoppers. In doing so, far from encouraging a Christmastide of love, unity, and charity, those promoting alternative economies are profiting off of sowing the extremist seeds of discord and division.