Once again, the alt-right has entered into mainstream conversation. And once again, it is not by virtue of anything positive. In a march named, ‘Unite the Right’, the alt-right came out in force in the small campus town of Charlottesville, Virginia. Tragedy followed.
‘White lives matter’, ‘blood and soil’ chanted the alt-right, and before you know it an innocent woman had been murdered and another nineteen injured. Locate the epicentre and you will find the statue of Robert E. Lee, an American general known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his eventual surrender in 1865. A man who believed that slavery was more harmful to the White man than the Black race due to in his mind, Black people being wholly better off enslaved in order to be taught the way of the White man. Essentially, he was an extreme racist.
No wonder then that his statue, where he sits proudly upon his horse since 1924 causes some warranted offence to those who are not on the right side of his beliefs. Residents, city officials, as well as organisations such as the NAACP have called for its removal over the years. Thus, in February, the City Council voted to remove the statue from the park. The fight was not over, later in March, opponents of the move sued, arguing that the city did not have the authority to do so under state law.
Nevertheless, the alt-right, emboldened by the current United States political climate marched on the University of Charlottesville. Hundreds, armed with torches reportedly attacked a much smaller group of counter-protesters who had linked arms around a statue of Thomas Jefferson.
The alt-right asks us to believe that taking away the statue of Robert E. Lee is part of a wider conspiracy of ‘PC culture’. A removal of the statue is an attack against themselves and their identity, they say. ‘You will not replace us’. The statue is however, a ‘false flag’ as Alex Jones would say. It is an excuse, an excuse for the far right to ‘take their country back’ (don’t ask me when it got taken away from them).
Founder of the term ‘alt-right’ is Richard Spencer, who is the oft forgotten phenomenon, the well-educated bigot. His website, ‘Alternative Right’, along with Breitbart, is alt-right HQ. ‘Battle of Charlottesville: Big Win for the Alt-Right’, blasted across your screen, the name of one of their most recent articles. With that title you would not think someone had just died, but instead we were in some post-apocalyptic tribal world. Like a weird cocktail of Mad Max and American History X. Indeed, the article dismissively states;
‘The one death and several injuries that occurred as a result of this incident can effectively be chalked up to a self-inflicted antifa death, aided by police sanctioned anarchy.’
A complete dehumanisation of the victim identified as 32 year old social activist, Heather Heyer, as some sort of collateral damage.
The alt-right is a young movement, its participants equally as young. White, male and angry. Despite their anger at ‘sensitive lefties’, the alt-right consistently feel attacked. Feminism attacks their masculinity, multiculturalism attacks their identity, immigration attacks their culture and Islam attacks their civilisation.
But is the alt-right, despite their hip name, any different from typical conservatives? Yes, in a way, no in others. Yes, in the fact that they do not converge in their local church or conservative club, and neither are they traditionally devout Christians. It is easy, however, to view movements and ideologies through a narrow lens, instead of incorporating it into a logical evolution of the movement or ideology in question.
‘Feminism attacks their masculinity, multiculturalism attacks their identity, immigration attacks their culture and Islam attacks their civilisation.’
Of course, with the reduction of churchgoers among the young, the new generation of the far right are more likely to converge on internet forums such as Reddit and 4chan than within their local church group. The themes are similar, however. If you do not want to believe me, take renowned existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s word for it;
‘Never believe that anti‐ Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.’
The above is a quote from an essay Sartre wrote in 1946. ‘Bad faith’ is the term Sartre utilises when a person, under social pressures, adopts false values and beliefs, disowning their innate freedom and thus acting ‘inauthentically’. However, what is incredible is how the methods in which Sartre explains, used by the anti-Semites of his day, are almost identical to the tactics used by the alt-right today. You could apply the above not only to the anti-Semitism that the alt-right employs, but to any form of intolerance they profess. It is the phenomenon we have now coined ‘trolling’. 1946 or 2017, a troll is a troll. The alt-right have always been with us.
We cannot allow the alt-right to dictate how they are portrayed. They are not new and they are not some hip political ideology. They are the same old noise, the same old worn out arguments, just this time the arguments do not echo from the old cracked walls of the conservative club, but instead from ‘Pepe the frog’. They are white supremacist Nazis.
In the words of Heather Heyer’s cover photo on Facebook;
‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention’