News has been made this week from a video of Richard Spencer speaking to a group of white nationalists and (most shocking to some) shouting “Hail!” (or Heil) and members raising their arms in a Nazi Salute or Hitlergruß, “Hitler Greeting.”
Understandably, this shocked most everyone around America. If you’ve been an ardent reader of my site (something only my wife might claim) you shouldn’t be in that camp as I wrote about the Alt-Right here. I’ve laid out this article in a bullet point format because it seems clear that these are where most questions aim.
What is the Alt-Right?
There isn’t really one definition or set of guiding principles or philosophy. In general, they are nationalistic, protectionists, who believe that the Western Culture is far superior (morally as well) than all others and should be the only focus of America. For these reasons, they are MAGA fans. Vox Day, one who claims a large part of the formation of this “group,” wrote a definitional piece here.
However, Richard Spencer – who also claims definitional rights over this term – is an honest to goodness racist White Nationalist. He’s the kind of person who wouldn’t mind being a part of the Aryan Brotherhood (though they’d beat the daylights out of him for reasons that the LA Times and Mother Jones made clear). Racism is not distant to the Alt-Right, though denied and rejected by some in the group.
In real numbers, it is difficult if not impossible to gain any sort of quantitative data as many of them can be seen only through Anime Avatars or Pepe memes. Twitter recently tried to excommunicate many of them from the site, though in the land of infinite email addresses and pseudonyms this hardly seems useful, just like turning on the lights and watching the roaches scatter does not kill said insects.
And when they do come out into the light it is in small numbers with Nazi Salutes abundant.
Who is Steve Bannon?
Bannon, in relevant context, is the CEO of Breitbart and was the CEO (a misapplied title) for Trump’s Campaign. He has recently accepted the position of Chief Strategist for the Trump Administration. With Breitbart, Bannon was proud of making it into an Alt-Right friendly site, that’s disheartening and disconcerting.
Should I be concerned about Steve Bannon?
Not for reasons of racism or White Nationalism, for if he believes this he has never shown it (minus one bit of a divorce hearing, which should always be taken with a heavy dose of salt and soap-in-the-mouth). What I am more concerned about, with Bannon having the ear of Trump, is that Bannon is quite power-hungry, against Wall Street economics (his use of crony capitalism is not quite the Yuval Levin meaning), anti free trade, and centristic in philosophy. In essence, Bannon wants to see the downfall or transformation of the Grand Old Party into a more European-Right political wing. All of this concerns me much more than Breitbart and its Alt-Right pandering.
Should I be concerned about the Alt-Right/White Nationalists?
Any ethnonationalist movement should concern you, just as The Nation of Islam concerned MLK jr. and how BLM and its ethno-elitist/isolationist rhetoric holds rise for concern. These White Nationalists are far worse, in my view, in that they are an embodiment of the strawman used against conservatives for quite some time. And Just as Bill Buckley fought to purge the John Birch Society from any association with his political standings, so must we.
Is Donald Trump Alt-Right?
If a group shouts “Hail Trump” you would think that their views are in line with whom they are hailing. However, there is so much confusion within this group that it doesn’t make much sense for them to hail anyone as Leader. Nor did people suppose that President Obama was a member of -or adhered to the ideology of- the New Black Panther Party upon their endorsement. Trump’s MAGA views and anti-establishment rhetoric are the only things that connect him with a Vox Day sort of Alt-Right. But Trump has denounced them and doesn’t seem to have any real interest in them (in fact, he made fun of the NYT’s obsession with the group in his recent interview with their editorial board).
How do we fight these White Nationalists?
Skipping over the “should we” question (an obvious answer I think) I believe one way in which we fight them is by denouncing them just as Trump and credible Republicans or right-leaning figures have done. I do not think this is a fight for the left, as Mother Jones and the LA Times have demonstrated a lack of tactic or understanding and, in fact, encouraged the group. Many have taken to a mockery approach, and while this is quite enjoyable to watch it doesn’t seem to weaken their presence in the media (let’s face it, these boys, with their cheeto-crusted fingertips and nocturnally adjusted eyes from staring blankly at a computer screen in their mother’s basement, have already faced the worst kinds of mockery we’ll throw at them). Instead, let’s go for the throat. Let’s attack the formation of their ideology and the logic on which it stands. Hardly ever has “They’re literally Nazis!” worked to convince anyone of a flawed philosophy. Instead, those of us on the right must rain down upon the silly nature of their arguments.
And then, we give no credence to them. Because this is an interesting, strange, and rare occurrence, the media have jumped upon its coverage. I don’t fault them for it but I think they have had their day in the sun. This is a fringe of a fringe, but clearly, it has seen growth this year. We should snuff it out at the core of its ideology and present a better argument for those to whom it panders.