Call the Alt-Right What it Really is: Neo-Nazis & Racists
Over the last year white nationalists have gone from fringe conservative element to mainstream political influence due in no small part to Donald Trump’s abnormal campaign outreach via demonizing “otherness” as well as his ongoing association with the architect of the Alt-Right platform: Stephen Bannon. With his selection of Bannon first as a major campaign figure and now a major administration figure, Trump continues to legitimize the ever-growing Neo-Nazi and white supremacist threat the U.S. currently faces including an exponential uptick in reported hate crimes.
Trump’s appeal to fringe conservative groups didn’t begin with Bannon’s appearance on the national scene (though that appearance catapulted both his publication and its fringe conspiracy theories into the mainstream). Most remember Trump actually began his campaign appealing to the worst in American citizens when he equated undocumented Mexican immigrants with rapists and criminals.
That appeal to hating “otherness” didn’t stop with xenophobia; no, he moved on to fear-mongering against Muslims soon thereafter.
By the time he appointed Bannon CEO of his presidential campaign, Trump’s embrace of fear as a marketing tool to harness the simmering racial resentment across middle America was ripe for manipulation.
While credit for the creation of the term ‘Alt-Right’ belongs to admitted white nationalist Richard Betrand Spencer, Bannon often bragged (when he led Breitbart) that he created the “platform for the alt-right.” In fact, he said just that in an interview with Mother Jones.
“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July. Though disavowed by every other major conservative news outlet, the alt-right has been Bannon’s target audience ever since he took over Breitbart News from its late founder, Andrew Breitbart, four years ago. Under Bannon’s leadership, the site has plunged into the fever swamps of conservatism, cheering white nationalist groups as an “eclectic mix of renegades,” accusing President Barack Obama of importing “more hating Muslims,” and waging an incessant war against the purveyors of “political correctness.”
“Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it,” former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro wrote last week on the Daily Wire, a conservative website. “With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [technology editor Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”
Consider for a moment what Bannon’s role has been in not only harnessing what Spencer organized but creating a platform and hub for the most grotesque, hate-filled thoughts and actions this nation could ever imagine. Now imagine that same man as Trump’s right-hand man.
The new CEO of Donald Trump’s campaign, Stephen Bannon, openly admitted to leading the online platform for the alt-right movement. Ben Shapiro, a lifelong conservative who worked for Breitbart for years before resigning in disgust recently wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post entitled “The Breitbart Alt-Right Just Took Over the GOP” and said it was “shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”
Shapiro continued saying how Breitbart’s own lead writers openly said the primary difference between them and skinheads was “intelligence.”
Fast forward to this week – the week of Thanksgiving, In what should be an otherwise dead news week, media is having to not only cover Trump’s ongoing transition problems but his continued association with the primary architect responsible for the rise of white nationalism to the national political stage.
Over the weekend Spencer – the same man who coined the phrase ‘Alt-Right’ – held a conference in Washington, D.C. for like-minded individuals and groups under the banner of his suit-and-tie white nationalist organization (the National Policy Institute).
He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”
As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute. When Mr. Spencer, or perhaps another person standing near him at the front of the room — it was not clear who — shouted, “Heil the people! Heil victory,” the room shouted it back.
During his speech he not only spoke in German in certain portions to emphasize his Neo-Nazi message, Spencer literally referred to “the struggle” – or, as Hitler said in the title of his book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle).
The movement that the incoming Chief Strategist of the White House brazenly built an online home for is openly quoting Nazi propaganda in German in federal buildings and giving each other Nazi salutes. Not in the 1930s, but this weekend.
We simply aren’t being clear enough.
When you build, fund, and promote the online home for the modern-day Neo-Nazi movement, and openly brag that you have done so, that makes you a supporter and enabler of Neo-Nazis. If someone built, funded, promoted, and openly admitted to creating the online home for the latest iteration of ISIS, you know what they’d be called? Terrorists. Doing any such thing for the latest version of ISIS would likely get someone jailed, but doing it for modern day Neo-Nazis has gotten Steve Bannon access to the highest levels of government.
While he may not be offering his own ‘Sieg Heil’ salute to Spencer at a meeting of Neo-Nazis, Bannon has a large role in normalizing what should be a fringe section of society. Though he may not ally himself with them personally, he had no problem allowing their ideology full access to Breitbart and subsequently no problem having them believe his candidate would ‘Make America Great Again’ explicitly for them. After all, Bannon’s mere presence on Trump’s team as the leader of the platform most favored by racists and Neo-Nazis did what no amount of word of mouth marketing could do: it sent a message.
That doesn’t mean Bannon hasn’t personally espoused opinions that align with that ideology. Specifically, he’s on record as having made anti-Semitic comments.
In a 2007 court filing Bannon’s now ex-wife alleged that he didn’t want his daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in LA because Jewish students attended school there. In the court documented statement – on the record before anyone knew who Stephen Bannon was – ex-wife Mary Louise Piccard stated, “The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend.”
“He said that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews,” she added. “I told him that there are children who are Jewish at (a competing school), and he asked me what the percentage was. I told him that I didn’t know because it wasn’t an issue for me as I am not raising the girls to be either anti-Semitic or prejudiced against anyone.”
She isn’t the only one arguing Bannon is a-okay with the ideology behind the so-called ‘Alt-Right.’ The Washington Post reported in August that his former Breitbart staff admitted Bannon openly embraced the hate and vitriol his publication stoked.
And now he has the ear of the most powerful man in the nation. And he’s backed by hordes of white nationalists spouting propaganda such as Spencer’s “conquer or die” directive over the weekend.
Since the election hate crimes have spiked across the nation. In New York City alone reported hate crimes increased by 31%. In just one week – from November 9 through November 16 – the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) tracked an astounding 701 hate crime incidents.
When confronted with the insurmountable evidence not only of the so-called Alt-Right’s goals, actions and support – in addition to their conference in D.C. over the weekend – the incoming Trump administration offered a vague and decidedly confusing statement.
“President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American,” Trump-Pence Transition spokesman Bryan Lanza said. “To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”
When exactly has Trump denounced racism?
The closest he’s come to actually denouncing anything said by racists and Neo-Nazis occurred during his 60 Minutes interview when he literally had to be goaded into saying “Stop it” when asked about those committing hate crimes in his name. That hand slap is a far cry from actually denouncing racists and Neo-Nazis and calling for an end to hate crimes committed in his name following the election.
In fact, he became angrier on Twitter over perceived slights against Mike Pence at Hamilton than about literal Nazis saluting and speaking in German in his name.
While Trump doesn’t seem to be bothered by the racist and Neo-Nazi propaganda surrounding his election, one important source does: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In a statement they called out the rise of white nationalism and Neo-Nazis saying:
The targeting of Jews was central to Nazi racist ideology. The Germans attempted to kill every Jewish man, woman and child they could find. Nazi racism extended to other groups. By the end of World War II, the Germans and their collaborators had murdered six million Jews and millions of other innocent civilians, many of whom were targeted for racial reasons.
The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words. The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.
But that’s the point though: Donald Trump is less bothered by the rise of white nationalists than he is by how theaters in New York City treat Mike Pence. While he demanded an apology from the Hamilton cast on his Twitter account, he has yet to apologize for any of the wink-and-nod shout outs to the vitriolic right he made during his presidential campaign.
He’s flippant when Neo-Nazis literally quote Adolf Hitler and speak German to salute him but extremely offended when mainstream media points out the literal foreign financial conflicts of interest that could result in impeachment.
He retains the literal and self-admitted promoter of racism and Neo-Nazis as a key portion of his administration while taking time out of his tumultuous transition to throw a childish tantrum over being criticized on Saturday Night Live.
(And that’s not even mentioning future National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s promotion of the Alt-Right as well.)
It’s no coincidence that Trump campaigned on a platform of fear of ‘otherness’ while stoking the underlying resentment across white America only an authoritarian can truly appreciate. It’s no coincidence he hand-picked Stephen Bannon to lead that campaign after it became clear his initial strategy was working. It’s no coincidence that Neo-Nazis are literally saluting trump in conferences and racists are throwing parades for him in the streets.
Don’t let the suits, ties, and polite labels fool you. The Alt-Right is the same hate and violence the world has seen for generations from 1930’s Germany to 1960’s America. It’s the amalgamation of racists, xenophobes and Neo-Nazis that see a leader and representative in Trump. And their primary goal – normalization of white nationalism – is within reach so long as Trump refuses to take off the kid gloves and put them in their place.
Here’s video featuring key excerpts from this past weekend’s Neo-Nazi conference in D.C. courtesy of The Atlantic:
If you want a more succinct explanation of why the term Alt-Right is inappropriate and should be discontinued in lieu of calling a spade a spade, AJ+ has your answer: