What is the alt-right?
Charlottesville, Virginia saw an act of domestic terrorism committed by an Alt-right member. The Department of Justice is opening an investigation into the matter in which they will find the above to be true. The car attack is in no way different than those seen in Nice, France or at the London Bridge.
In the time since the attack, the alt-right has been thrust into the nation’s spotlight. The issue here is that there is not an established definition of what the alt-right is. Just look at this exchange during a recent press conference, where President Trump was asked to address the issue of alt-right violence:
REPORTER: Senator McCain said the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that
same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Well, I don’t know – I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know
what he’s talking about. But when you say the alt-right – define alt-right to me? You
define it, go ahead. No, define it for me. Come on. Let’s go. Define it for me.
No definition was offered at the time, but the answer to the President’s question remains important.
The alt-right is unequivocally a white nationalist, white superiority movement and ideology. According to Richard Spencer, a figure head and thought leader for the alt-right, it is a form of identity politics for whites. Jared Taylor, editor of the American Renaissance, a self-advertised white supremacist publication, explains just what this identity politics entails:
“… equality is a dangerous myth. The alt-right is united in rejecting the current dogma
that all races are equal.”
“There is no reason to think non-whites can maintain Western civilization, the
civilization that whites created.”
What the alt-right has done, however, is expand the definition of alt-right to include a number of different beliefs. The rationale behind this strategy is simple; by expanding the meaning of the term alt-right, they can claim a much larger constituency than what is actually true. They have successfully deceived people into thinking that the alt-right means being against PC culture, or against establishment politics, or posting frog memes on Twitter. And so people unwittingly align themselves with Neo-Nazi’s in the name of triggering other users online.
Even still, this is a movement and ideology that threatens, and runs counters to, the American principle of equality under the law, and the very fabric of our democracy. Efforts need to be taken to root out and ultimately end the alt-right. The strategies and measures employed to do so, need to actually be effective, though. Otherwise, the alt-right serves only to gain.
Counter-protests are an excellent tool. The moment those protests turn violent, as is the case of many an Antifa gathering, they only empower the groups they are trying to work against. The simple fact is, whenever violence is used against a political opponent, no matter how vile and vulgar they are, you lose. The alt-right, and every person that subscribes to their ideology, are evil. But when violence is used against them, they will assume the role of the victim and any claim to moral high-standing is lost.
What’s more, violence is not effective. Violence has never been an effective means of producing positive social change. Martin Luther King Jr., preached non-violent resistance, which lead to, among other things, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The more violent movements that followed his assassination produced little to no change, and arguably did more damage than good.
Leadership from our elected officials is just as important. The leadership coming from the White House, or lack thereof, also aids and abets the growth of the alt-right. The press conference referred to before is a stunning example.
Before the content of that conference is discussed, it is important to preface that with the fact that not everything Trump said is not deserving of condemnation. Trump rightly identified the violence coming from Antifa as wrong, and outlined concerns people have in regards to the new debate concerning confederate monuments and statues. That being said, by not displaying any where near the same strength and indignation when referring to the alt-right, Trump absolutely granted legitimacy to the alt-right.
As was mentioned before, during the press conference, Trump asked the press to define the alt-right. There is one problem with Trump’s apparent lack of knowledge in this instance; he knows exactly what the alt-right is. For him to act and pretend otherwise is obscene. His former chief strategist, was Steve Bannon, a man who founded Breitbart, which is, in his own words, a “platform for the alt-right”. This isn’t the first time Trump has claimed ignorance in situations like this. He did the same thing in a nationally televised interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper during his campaign, wherein he claimed not to know of David Duke or the KKK.
Trump was also asked why it took him a full 48 hours to explicitly condemn the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, in the wake of the Charlottesville march and attack. He explained that the delay was a result of his waiting for all of the facts to come in. Ask yourself, in what other instance has the man who claimed former President Obama was born in Kenya, waited for all of the facts to come in before making a statement. This is an excuse that absolutely grants credence to the alt-right.
Of course, those weren’t even Trump’s most absurd comments that afternoon. The President of the United States went on to say that not all of the people marching in the name of “Unite the Right” were bad people; that not all of them were white supremacists. In reference to the Friday night tiki-torch rally, the one that preceded Saturday afternoon’s violence, the President said “you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people.” Journalists across the country are scouring footage of the crowd chanting “Jews will not replace us” looking for the reported ‘very fine people.’ It is unlikely any will be found.
Luckily, there are a number of representatives, on both sides of the aisle, that are displaying the leadership this country needs. Ted Cruz, the former Republican Presidential hopeful, was among the first, if not the first, elected official to call on the DOJ to initiate an investigation into what he called “a grotesque act of domestic terrorism”. In fact, every major candidate, both Democrat and Republican, issued statements condemning white supremacy.
It is incumbent on all of us, college student and elected official alike, to fight against the alt-right. If we continue to take actions that only empower them, we will lose. Intent means little to nothing – it isn’t enough. So long as Antifa and our President lead the charge against this putrid movement, we run the risk of exacerbating an already bad situation.