Back in August NBC News called the ‘alt-right’ a “blanket term for a loose gathering of conservatives…that can include everyone from critics of so-called ‘political correctness’ on college campuses to hardcore white supremacists and neo-Nazis.”
This movement is not simply “a loose gathering of conservatives.” It has been well reported across the media spectrum, and by hate group watchdogs, that the ‘alt-right’ contains a significant number of people who subscribe to some form of extremist white nationalist ideology.
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), describes white nationalism as, “groups [that] espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Groups listed in a variety of other categories – Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, and Christian Identity – could also be fairly described as white nationalist.”
To some the Trump campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again,’ was a dog whistle to racist factions of white America, a sort of rallying cry to a bygone era where women and people of color knew their place as voiceless and powerless minorities.
Just to be crystal clear; I am NOT talking about good people who voted for Trump out of frustration with the political establishment or the economy and saw Trump as a solution. Although their judgement may be in question, most are not bigoted but have been branded as such by embracing the ‘alt-right’ label.
Richard Spencer who coined the term is a well-documented white nationalist. Since 2011 he has been the president of the white supremacist think tank the National Policy Institute (NPI). NPI’s mission statement says they are, “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States, and around the world.”
SPLC describes Spencer as, “one of the country’s most successful young white nationalist leaders – a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis…Spencer’s clean-cut appearance conceals a radical white separatist whose goal is the establishment of a white ethno-state in North America.”Back in July, Spencer told The Nation Magazine’s Joan Walsh, “When I look at Thomas Jefferson’s writings, the Declaration of Independence, it makes me want to vomit. The idea that a ‘creator’ made all human beings equal? That’s ridiculous. The idea all human beings are equal is such an appalling sentiment. We’re here on this earth for such a short period of time. The idea that we would dedicate ourselves to something as stupid as ‘equality’ or ‘democracy’ is morally insulting to me.”
This is not hyperbole. These are Spencer’s own words.
A major tenant of the ‘alt-right’ is their utter disdain for political correctness in any form. By rejecting respect for basic human dignity, they have given themselves permission to do and say whatever they want under the guise of rejecting anything they consider to be politically correct.
Spencer’s re-branding efforts to make white racists, neo-Nazis and the KKK seem less sinister than they are has been successful. Those that subscribe to, and spew, the ‘alt right’s’ extremist rhetoric have become desensitized into accepting hate speech as something normal and should be allowed.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of Political Correctness is, “Conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”
Spencer must have had his political sensibilities offended because what the ‘alt-right’ label represents is a politically correct inclusive term, deliberately crafted to market white supremacy to the masses and obscuring a white racist nationalist political agenda.
Unsuspecting conservatives who saw the ‘alt-right’ as a legitimate new right republican faction, breaking off from the establishment GOP, are now branded as bigots.
Spencer’s motley crew of haters does not only include garden variety white supremacists; it includes anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers, misogynists, homophobes, Islamophobes, transphobes and xenophobes. This is his ‘alt-right.’
But it is beginning to backfire.
The American media bares an enormous responsibility for the election of Donald J. Trump in its unwillingness to push back against lies and false equivalence. Our media accepted the ‘alt-right’ label at face value; however late to the party they are beginning to see the light.
“When people start throwing Nazi salutes in public it has a way of clarifying where everybody stands,” writes Chicago Tribune’s Matt Pearce, in “The ‘alt-right’ splinters as supporters and critics agree it was white supremacy all along.”
There is no place in civil society for hate speech that too often translates into acts of violence. Mainstream media must do a better job reflecting this value. They must not continue to allow false equivalences to be made by extremists with a perverse agenda. Our media needs to stop giving these radicals ink and air time, other than to show them for what they are, swamp dwellers.
The ratcheted up hatred toward non-whites and non-Christians is a sign white nationalist are in the in the death throes of their demise, at least as a political force in the ‘alt-right.’
We are however still in for a very bumpy ride from the impending Trump administration. Despite statements to the contrary, the president-elect’s administration is shaping up to be a reflection of ‘alt-right’ extremism as evidenced by the anti-LGBT and racist public records of Trumps senior staff appointees and cabinet member nominations.
Things are going to get much worse before they get better.
The effort now is to pull the “hood” off of this extremist right and not let them rebrand themselves. We must call them out for exactly who and what they really are. People need to think KKK when they see ‘alt-right.’
Progressives in the media, and elsewhere, should not let mainstreamed or radical racists get away with “white washing” their image with a name change. They did it before, and they will try to do it again.
Wake Up. Pay Attention. Resist.