We all already know this election season took a pieces of our collective souls: media frenzy of fake news, real news, hopefully fake news that turns out to be real news; insane press releases, press conferences, interviews; conspiracy theories, sound bites and debates have all created so much confusion that finding even a nugget of truth seems an impossible task. One of the biggest issues hitting the major networks is the “alt-right” – what is it, where is it, what do they believe? More importantly, what will its role be in the White House? Richard Spencer coined the term “Alt-right,” a new google chrome extension calls them “neo-nazis” and Seth Meyers compared this difference in title as the difference between “post-life brain foodies” and “zombies.” Are they conservatives, Nazis, trolls – or some unholy combination?
There are a few key players involved in characterizing the “alt-right”: Steven Bannon, leader of Breibart magazine; Richard Spencer, “alt-right” punching bag”; and last but not least, Redditors or “neckbeards” who function solely online with surprising impact. George Hawley, a professor from the University of Alabama who was interviewed by the Washington Post, classified the “alt-right” as typically “white millennial men, either in college or with a college degree who are secular…and not interested in the conservative movement at all” – but if they’re not interested in conservatism why are the conservatives interested in them?
Bannon was characterized as a “Jekyll-and-Hyde figure” by Bloomberg.com, receiving both praise and condemnation by many news outlets- the media doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. What do you say about an anti-semite, media conglomerate, Trump’s chief strategist and someone who hands out flasks with internet memes on them at parties he hosts? Bannon is a known and proud anti-semite, proven in recent weeks by old testimony about what schools he wanted his children to attend, as well as the viterol published on Breitbart under his reign. His recent role in the Trump administration seems to be The Trump Whisper (pattent hopefuly pending) meaning he seems to be the devil standing on the President of the United States of America’s shoulder whispering things like “they’re radical islamic terrorists dressed as refugees” and “all feminists are bitter witches and ugly whores.” Even described as a “back door puppet master” by Bloomberg.com due to his role in business deals that dont really have to do with him: Disney chief Michael Ovitz’s, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, John Boehner to name a few. When men like David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK, says Bannon’s appointment to chief strategist is “excellent” – our collective eyebrows go up, as well as our defenses. Thomas Robb, the current National Director aka Grand Wizard, of the Knights of the Klan, aka Klux Klux Klan says his organization is part of the “alt-right” and he must be thrilled as well to see a literal demon standing in the oval office. Would anyone notice a ring of salt around the oval office – or better question, would any of Trump’s staff be able to cross it?
Then there’s Richard Spencer, many keep confusing him with someone fashionable or “millennial,” but rather he is a leader of the “alt-right” movement and a real life version of the comments section. Spencer is just as unapologetically racist as Bannon, even joking about it during the Republican National Convention by walking around with a sign that read “Wanna Talk to a ‘Racist’?” Spencer argues the “alt-right” seeks “something that is truly European and truly heroic” – is leading a “hail trump” rally cry now deemed heroic? Spencer has been a steady follower of Trump, applauding Trump’s effect on the country as bringing up an “existential sense, of are we a nation?” – I have to agree, I think Trump has definitely forced an existential crisis on all of us, except I believe the answer is: we are a nation, a nation of people who don’t like you. Spencer brands himself as a young, serious, ethnocentric “alt-right” leader but in reality he seems akin to a Nazi sidekick no one asked for.
The face of the “alt-right” takes a very different form online, in chatrooms and message boards on Reddit, 4chan, 8chan and the like. Followers like Milo Yiannopoulos,who are young, media-savvy and whose career started wholly online, represent the rebranding of the “alt-right” movement to make it more understandable to the mainstream media. Alexander Marlow, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart compared Yiannopoulos to Jon Stewart, saying “he uses entertainment to put out the news.” However Yiannopoulos says we live in a “post-fact era” and that “it’s wonderful” – it is this exact line of thinking that has ruined Reddit, which can no longer control the 4 million subreddit visitors spewing hate and false information for the word wide web to see. Even Breitbart explains that these groups within the “alt-right” are not there because of an “intellectual awakening” but because it’s “fun…[to] challenge to social norms they just don’t understand” – so why are they there, just because it’s fun to be weird and counter-culture? These Redditors, internet trolls and “alt-right”ers like Milo Yiannopoulos are described as “young rebels” who are “addict[ed] to provocation” of the mass media, social justice warriors and any concerned citizen. In all reality, Milo and his band of merry neckbeards seems more analogous to sadistic alt-right hype-men who reap great pleasure from pissing everyone else off.
Reddit, one of the most-trafficked websites in the world, has effectively been taken over by the “alt-right.” The website’s laissez-faire approach has lead to “nationalist trolls…holding the rest of the site hostage” – meaning, although Reddit believes in the truest form of freedom of speech they did not intend for people to use the website to propagate racist and explicitly discriminatory speech. In 2015 a Reddit poll discovered the number one reason its users don’t recommend the site to others is because they fear exposing their friends and family to offensive and hateful content (i.e. /r/the_donald and /r/altright). These subreddits represent the dark side of Reddit, where trolls live in anonymous accounts instead of underneath bridges, but due to Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential race can they be banned outright or taken down permanently, now that they represent a political party and a president-elect’s constituency, validating it as what the people want? Apparently yes, since Reddit has recently taken down the alt-right subreddit due to its “proliferation of personal and confidential information.”
Comparatively though, Breitbart has taken this “alt-right” movement and ran with it – under Steve Bannon’s tenure the site quickly become explicitly anti-semitic, anti-progress, anti-immigration and anti-nonwhites. Bannon is purposefully and unabashedly making Breitbart a platform for the alt-right, even expanding to a bigger newsroom in Washington to cover the president-elect Trump and what his presidency will hold. This news is concerning to many within journalism’s inner circles, as well as many informed citizens: given that Bannon has been named chief strategist for president Trump, and Bannon’s news organization will be right down the street, has Breitbart news become state run media to feed us propaganda and anti-semitic jokes? The content on Breitbart is not hiding its bias, being overtly aggressive and “race-tinged” (aka racist) as well as being explicitly “pro-Trump.”
So in the cage match for alt-right fame: we’ve got Steven Bannon in one corner, weighing in with a chief strategist position under president Trump and a wholly formed anti-semitic “alt-right” ideology; and Richard Spencer in that corner, weighing in with a hefty following of “alt-right”ers who believe in wearing “Wanna Talk to a ‘Racist’” t-shirts and want to get punched publicly ; and lets not forget, “neckbeards” in this corner making racist memes online and purposefully putting out fake “news” to confuse the mainstream media and its followers; unfortunately, there’s Thomas Robb in yet another corner of this hateful cage match of awfulness, weighing in with a heavy load of guano that the Holocaust never happened and there is currently a “white genocide” happening somewhere/somehow if you just believe and don’t ask about any details. As for the rest of us, staring into this cage match of the “alt-right” stand in disbelief that a country founded by religious refugees could have sunk so low.
But, even if we know all the players and know where they’re playing – do we really understand the game? From afar, it looks like a bunch of white dudes throwing around a ball called “ethnocentric” or “reddit memes” or “news” and no one seems to be playing by the same rules. The ideology of the “alt-right” stems from years of suffering, outrage and unfair treatment – just kidding, it stems from a bunch of upper-middle class, educated, white dudes not getting enough participation trophies all their lives. The “alt-right” believes that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization but I think they have some confusion on the definitions of “justice”and “oppression.” Given that Donald Trump has won the presidency what does that mean now for his followers who believe in this ideology – and what does it mean for the rest of us? Milo seems to think Trump is explicitly “alt-right” and has dove right into the body of politics in his name: “I don’t care about politics…I only talk about politics because of Trump.” Then Richard says he doesn’t actually think Trump is “alt-right” but that they still share “a psychic connection, or you can say a deeper connection, with Donald Trump in a way that we simply do not have with most Republicans.” Bannon backs them both up by clearly having a “connection” with Trump as well as becoming more explicitly political by joining Trump’s staff and his ever expanding role under this presidency. We understand the “alt-right” is focused on immigration and that for them that means banning people from muslim-majority countries because they are concerned with the fact that America is a multi-shaded country and white men are bound to become a minority in less than a 100 years. The current leader of the Knights of the Klan (formerly known as the KKK, Klu Klux Klan) Thomas Robb and Richard Spencer agree on one thing: that at it’s core, both Trump and the “alt-right” are about white nationalism.
So, if Richard Spencer, Steven Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and President of the United States of America Donald Trump are all “alt-right” supporters, and the “alt-right” consists of white nationalists who do not believe in conventional conservatism, do not believe in “political correctness” nor truly care about “politics” while simultaneously leading this country – where are they leading us to? There are concerns that that future entails “hail trump” speeches, and rallies that involve in purposefully “jeering” and “hissing” at the national press, and wringing hands about a “race war.” What are we to do when Steve Bannon says the media needs to “be embarrassed and humiliated, and keep its mouth shut” while simultaneously publishing articles on Breitbart by Sarah Palin about refugees and how terrorists are “disguised as refugees” – is Breitbart truly the only accepted media now by the White House? What about Bannon saying Breitbart represents the “alt-right” and Spencer considers it a “gateway” to the alt-right – gateway to what exactly seems unclear.
The facts remain clear, and in the days/weeks/months/years to come they will remain clear: Donald Trump, as President of the United States of America, is single handedly promoting, hiring and directly searching for anti-semites and “alt-right”ers who blindly follow him and Steve Bannon’s gilded footsteps – gilded with fool’s gold that is. When we all look back on our lives we have but one question to ask: Did I do everything I could to help my fellow man/woman/child and the world? Donald Trump may believe that by keeping the freely independent press at arm’s length, by discrediting any dissenter, and making sure no one other than him and his nazi-pals know what is coming next may lead to a cultural shift, or a gilded age for America. But let’s be real: even if you did vote for him the direction he is attempting to kidnap this country towards should be thoroughly concerning if not outright terrifying. Ask your neighbors, your facebook pals, strangers at the supermarket: do you feel safe, valued and respected under this administration? Three million people said no to that question on the day after Trump took the oath of office at the Women’s March, and I believe as time passes and people come to their collective senses it will become clearer: the alt-right are internet trolls with Nazi idealism and violent aspiration who do not and never will represent the glorious, free, and variegated United States of America.