Friday, August 26, 2016

The Alt-Right and Donald Trump's Campaign: A Brief Primer

As Charles Pierce wrote yesterday, this is "the week everyone in America started saying 'alt-right.' " As a service to you readers, here's a list of article I've read in the past two days about the alt-right and its mainstreaming via Trump's campaign, which have struck me as helpful. I don't by any means pretend that this is an exhaustive list of articles commenting on these themes. They're only ones I happen to have read in my daily scanning of the news, which I'd like to share with you.

As Rachel Maddow points out in the video at the head of this posting, we're having this conversation now because of Donald Trump's choice to mainstream, from the top management levels of his campaign, some really dark, strange right-wing political views ("the Breitbartization of Republican presidential politics," she calls this phenomenon) that are mystifying and alienating even longstanding Republicans. And here's further commentary on these issues:

Katherine Krueger at TPM Cafe:

In one of her most forceful and surefooted speeches to date, Hillary Clinton on Thursday eviscerated Donald Trump for "offering a dog whistle" to stir up the white nationalist, anti-immigrant, alt-right fringe supporters of his campaign. 
Clinton's Reno, Nevada speech was a show-stopping denouncement of Trump's worst ills during the campaign, from branding undocumented Mexican immigrants as "rapists" on day one to tweeting a Star of David, being slow to repudiate an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and, most recently, hiring a new campaign CEO who ran the far-right news site Breitbart. 
From the beginning, the GOP nominee has built his campaign on "prejudice and paranoia," Clinton said, all the while inviting the "radical fringe" to take over the Republican Party.

Gideon Resnick at Daily Beast:

Hillary Clinton reminded a crowd in Reno, Nevada, that [Alex] Jones, a friend of former Trump adviser Roger Stone and a major booster of his campaign, is not only a conspiracy peddler whose site frequently purports that Clinton is near death and sells snake-oil pills and bulk survival food for the end times, but that he also believes the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary were planted by the government in a longtail effort to take away Americans' guns. 
Clinton's speech was an effort to force Trump to disavow the innumerable fringe groups that have fully embraced his campaign—or face the consequences of aligning with leaders like Jones, who once told his InfoWars viewership that government programs are producing "people with gills" and "humanoids crossed with fish." 

Jamelle Bouie at Slate:

If these white supremacists are relevant, it's because of Donald Trump. In ways small and large, the Republican nominee for president has legitimized their presence in public life, from retweeting alt-right Twitter accounts and sharing anti-Semitic memes to his followers, to hiring the executive chairman of Breitbart (an online haven for the movement), to courting figures such as Nigel Farage, the Brexit tubthumper who stirs up similar sentiments of racism and xenophobia. Trump is their avatar, and he welcomes their attention. . . . 
That Clinton gave this speech at all is another stark reminder that this election is not normal and that the stakes—the potential elevation of outright white supremacists in government and society—are incredibly high. And if there's a question to take away from Thursday, it's this one: Why couldn't Republican leaders say this when they had the chance?

Simon Maloy at Salon:

If you've spent any time criticizing Donald Trump on social media, then you've likely had some bracingly unpleasant exposure to members of what's come to be known as the alt-right, an amorphous online blob of racists, anti-Semites, neo-reactionaries and trolls who are extremely excited for the prospect of President Trump.  . . . 
The alt-right is having its big breakout moment now that Trump has hired Stephen K. Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News, to oversee his campaign. Bannon once proudly boasted to reporters that he had transformed Breitbart News into "the platform for the alt-right," and that boast is backed up by the tenor of Breitbart’s political coverage: anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and relentlessly pro-Trump. It used to be that Trump simply appealed to the alt-right through the campaign themes he stressed, but now the movement has an acolyte inside his campaign calling the shots. That's why Hillary Clinton was in Reno this week: to address the fact that her chief opponent's campaign has been co-opted by a putrid mélange of racist, pseudo-intellectual trash.

With the hiring of the former chief of Breitbart media, ground zero for the alt-right movement, as Trump’ campaign chairman, the interest in it has now gone mainstream. . .  
Alt-right white nationalism is an apt term for a campaign that has electrified white supremacists so it makes sense that most people would focus on the racial angle. According to this analysis in the Guardian, the rising right-wing ethno-nationalist movement in Europe is the progenitor of this American version, which adheres to its basic premise but brings its own special brand of deep-fried racism. Both share a belief that the white race is under siege and that "demands for diversity in the workplace which means less white males in particular forms the foundation for the movement." So it stands to reason that Trump’s border wall, Muslim ban and bellicose appeals for "law and order" (along with his overt misogyny) is a clarion call to this faction.

Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch

If anyone still had doubts, Trump's hiring of Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon was the clearest sign yet that the Republican Party has become a vehicle for what in the U.S. is known as the "alt-right" movement. 
The alt-right thinks the mainstream conservative movement has been compromised by feminism, racial tolerance and "globalism," and that only a reactionary, populist movement that speaks to the plight of white men can save America from political correctness and multiculturalism. The alt-right is drenched in racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and misogyny.

Oliver Willis at Media Matters

"In many ways the "alt-right" is a rebranding of classic white nationalism for the 21st century. As BuzzFeed described the movement: "In short, it's white supremacy perfectly tailored for our times: 4chan-esque racist rhetoric combined with a tinge of Silicon Valley–flavored philosophizing, all riding on the coattails of the Trump boom." 
The "alt-right" opposes diversity and immigration, arguing that those policies are a form of "white genocide." It embraces racism, sexism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-Semitism and sees its goal as usurping the traditional conservative movement, which it views as feckless and weak, in favor of a brand of nationalism.

At Huffington Post, Matt Ferner underscores the point that the choice of Donald Trump to mainstream such views is what ought to be occuping our attention in this election cycle. Donald Trump has brought the alt-right into the limelight and normalized it — something a healthy society never permits to happen with the denizens of its dark sewers of hate, which are present in every society everywhere around the planet. 

As John Avlon notes for Daily Beast, Trump and his campaign have deliberately linked to known white-supremacist (and outright hate) groups in Europe — a point central to the analysis of Josh Harkinson in Mother Jones, too:

Among Trump's fans across the pond are National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, whom [sic] has been fined in France for "inciting racial hatred"; Dutch Party for Freedom founder Geert Wilders, who has likened the Koran to Mein Kampf; and far-right Belgian politician Filip Dewinter, who spoke on the 'Islamization of Europe' at the May conference of American Renaissance, a white nationalist group. Far-right leaders in Russia, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Italy, and Greece have also endorsed or praised Trump. Golden Dawn, the ultra-right-wing Greek nationalist party, made a pro-Trump video starring neo-Nazis. The Trump campaign has not publicly disavowed any of these endorsements.

And, finally, as Kali Holloway reminds us for Alternet, all of these political choices have real-life, here-and-now consequences for vulnerable groups in our society: 

Membership in white supremacist and anti-government groups has steadily climbed. A study by the SPLC found that Trump’s rhetoric is creating an "alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color" while emboldening some white students, and is directly tied to "an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been... verbal targets." Just days ago, a Trump fan posted a video urging compatriots to shoot black women and children. Trump supporters have sent death threats to Jewish reporters on social media. Hate crimes against Muslims are rising precipitously, and now stand at levels higher than just after 9/11.

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