Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Who Gets To Define What "Alt-Right" Means?

Who Gets To Define What "Alt-Right" Means?

By Dennis D. McDonald

There's a lot of discussion currently about the "alt-right" label. From the Right we have use of the term being praised because it somehow more accurately describes a "movement" than negative terms such as "white supremacy." From the Left we see calls to restrict the use of the term because of fears it will somehow make white supremacy more palatable to the masses despite that movement’s evil tenets.

Viewed from a data management perspective this is an interesting metadata governance issue. It deals not with facts but with the politics of how labels are used as a shorthand way to characterize (or stereotype) how people think, behave, and/or vote.

I have a hard time with trying to restrict or control how people choose to refer to themselves or their political opponents. Labels tend to shift meaning over time, sometimes quite rapidly. Even when people use a particular term or label to self-identify, it's possible through a well-managed metadata management process to define rules whereby word equivalents can be incorporated into an online search transaction. Based on predefined (and constantly updated) rules, for example, an online search hit on an object containing or indexed by Term A can also be instructed to retrieve an object containing Term B, equivalence of A and B having been determined manually or algorithmically.

Such a relationship mapping process gets tricky given how some word meanings and connotations shift at different rates. Can we trust software to keep track of word meaning at the macro level and shift how term relationships change, keeping in mind that word usage reflects political as well as literal meaning? Or should we trust only (expensive) manual editors to validly and objectively make decisions about the accuracy of term meanings and relationships?

Given what I know about the complexities of search engine optimization (SEO) practices, color me skeptical. I have a tough time condoning non-use of the term "alt-right" because it somehow "legitimizes" white supremacy politics. Labels and stereotypes are part of our language and our culture. I don't appreciate someone else making a decision for me about what language is true or accurate, especially when it comes to politics.

So, if you want to use the term "alt-right" to refer to your politics, that's fine with me. Consider me warned.

Copyright © 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald

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