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Much ink has been spilled here (by myself included) referring to the “alt-right,” the digital-era white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who now either inhabit or aspire to inhabit the Executive Branch of our government. One of the reasons they’ve achieved such widespread recognition is the “catchiness” of their name. If you can evoke the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis and sound kind of edgy, it seems you can make it in a digital age where one’s values and basic human decency can be tossed out the window with a whim and an Avatar.
Think Progress is done with coddling these slimy creeps with cute nicknames. One of their more visible spokesmen these days is Richard Spencer who just held a gala conference in Washington D.C. to celebrate Trump’s victory. Instead of high-fives, people gave each other Sieg Heils and Nazi salutes. Yes, that happened this weekend. He’s head of a White Supremacist organization called the National Policy Institute, whose murky goals amount to complete separation of the races.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, Spencer keynoted an NPI conference in Washington, D.C. Over the course of his speech, he approvingly quoted Nazi propaganda, said that the United States is meant to be a “white country,” and suggested that many political commentators are “soulless golem” controlled by Jewish media interests.
That, in a nutshell, is the face of the so-called alt-right. As Spencer himself has said, the core of alt-right ideology is the preservation of “white identity.”
As the ThinkProgress Editors note, there’s nothing distinguishing these people from the cowardly jackasses in the white hoods who burned crosses in helpless people’s yards and ran around in groups at night terrorizing people because of their skin color. This new group of haters just aspires to do it with the assistance of the Internet. Where they can’t physically harass someone they’ll threaten them on line. And why not? It’s cleaner, most of them don’t ever show their face, and it’s a source of constant reinforcement. Much better than holding furtive meetings in the cold, dark woods.
[Y]ou might wonder what, if anything, distinguishes the alt-right from more hidebound racist movements such as the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan. The answer is very little, except for a bit of savvy branding and a fondness for ironic Twitter memes. Spencer and his ilk are essentially standard-issue white supremacists who discovered a clever way to make themselves appear more innocuous — even a little hip.
So as the Editors point out, Trump’s de facto Chief of Staff, Steve Bannon, can brag about providing a platform for the alt-right with nine tenths of Americans not realizing he’s talking about the KKK and the NeoNazi’s. Alt-Right, huh, what? Like Alt-Rock? It’s sanitized and user-friendly. The cable networks love it—they can have special guest spokesmen from the alt-right come on their shows without ever once acknowledging the uncomfortable fact that they’re enabling White supremacists. It’s all in the name of news, after all, isn’t it?
With that in mind, ThinkProgress will no longer treat “alt-right” as an accurate descriptor of either a movement or its members. We will only use the name when quoting others. When appending our own description to men like Spencer and groups like NPI, we will use terms we consider more accurate, such as “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”
One would hope that the rest of the media follows their lead, but the rest of the media are often slow to move. So if you’re tired of giving people the benefit of the doubt after this election, as I am, these are certainly the type of rotten people who don’t deserve any benefit and certainly aren’t worthy of any doubt. We’re not going to get much satisfaction during the next for years but the least we can do is stop allowing these assholes play their little games.
The point here is not to call people names, but simply to describe them as they are. We won’t do racists’ public relations work for them. Nor should other news outlets.
“Alt-right” needs to go into the trashbin of history. Which is exactly where these people belong.