The “alt-right” was a fairly unknown entity during the election campaign, until Hillary Clinton mentioned it at campaign speech in August.
“This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not Republicanism as we have know it,” Hillary said. “These are race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas, anti-woman –– all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’ Now Alt-Right is short for ‘Alternative Right.’”
The campaign’s desperate maneuver to associate these white supremacist supporters with a strain of conservatism had its fair share of critics. As the New York Times headline put it quite aptly, “Hillary Clinton Denounces the ‘Alt-Right,’ and the Alt-Right Is Thrilled.”
The editor of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, a man by the name of Jared Taylor, wrote in mocking terms: “Come on, Hillary,” “Talk about Alt Right.”
Others echoed that sentiment:
Thanks for the free PR Hillary. The #AltRight will long remember the day you helped make us into the real right.
— Timothy Bryce
Michael Tracey, writing at American Conservative, spelled out the surge in interest that Clinton had given the movement:
At 9 p.m. Eastern on Thursday night, Google searches for the term “alt right” were at peak popularity: more people were entering the search term at that point than ever before in internet history, as determined by Google’s tracking metrics. This was an easily predictable consequence of Hillary Clinton earlier in the day choosing to take the once-unthinkable step of coming right out and directly denouncing the “movement” by name, thrilling its adherents and accelerating wider public interest in their purported beliefs.
It was a stunning development. That Hillary would have crafted an entire nationally televised speech around attacking the group—an amorphous, loosely amalgamated online phenomenon whose organizing principle is evidently to torment Twitter personalities with deranged and frequently racist meme-blasts—boggles the mind.
Shortly thereafter, one of the leaders of the alt-right movement, Richard Spencer, organized a meeting in Washington D.C.. As noted by The Rolling Stone:
Just two weeks after Hillary Clinton delivered her August speech decrying Donald Trump’s ties to “an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right,’” the Alt-Right movement’s leaders host a press conference – a coming-out party of sorts – at Washington, D.C.’s tony Willard Hotel. Sponsored by the National Policy Institute, a small non-profit “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States,” the conference prominently features the institute’s president, Richard Spencer, a trim and tidily dressed 38-year-old with grandiose ambitions to usher in a white “ethno-state.”
The National Policy Institute has resurfaced recently in the news with a disturbing video showing the white nationalist group, using terms reminiscent of Germany’s Nazi era, hailing Trump and his victory.
The Atlantic obtained the video:
“Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” Spencer thundered.
As the video made the rounds, media outlets have been calling for the president-elect to condemn his alt-right supporters. The Huffington Post, for example, associated Trump with Spencer:
If you want to know why the unabashedly racist and Nazi-sympathizing “alt-right” movement is making a mark on the Trump administration and beyond, look no further than Tila Tequila and her white nationalist friend, Richard Spencer.
The New York Times noted that civil rights groups had called on President-Elect Trump to denounce the hate speech:
Civil rights groups called on President-elect Donald J. Trump on Monday to publicly condemn extremist movements that are espousing racism in his name after hundreds of white nationalist sympathizers spent the weekend in Washington debating ways to preserve white culture.
Mr. Trump has been accused of fanning the flames of hate groups with his hard-line positions on immigration, his hesitance to denounce the former Klansman David Duke and his occasional promotion of white nationalist accounts on Twitter. While Mr. Trump has called for an end to hate crimes and said he wants to bring the country together, he has not been full throated on expressing disapproval of the alt-right, a rebranded white nationalist movement.
The denunciation began with a statement condemning racism of any sort.
Trump transition statement on alt right conference where neo nazis and white nationalists were praising Trump's election pic.twitter.com/XZCxVSS6Jt
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 21, 2016
While this kind of blanket statement might appear to cover the ideological terrain, it was not specific enough to address the alt-right in particular. But the Trump transition team has now done that, as well:
Trump on alt-right supporters: "It's not a group I want to energize. And if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why."
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 22, 2016
This does not put all issues to rest, however. A statement by his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, former Chair of the Breitbart website, was unabashed in his approval that the alt-right had gravitated to the media outlet. As reported by 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.
The reaction to the denunciations thus remains mixed. While Trump’s rhetoric certainly strikes a hopeful chord for many, serious concerns remain about the views of Stephen Bannon, a senior adviser to his transition team, who in the past has been absolutely clear about his embrace of the alt-right. As Trump commented about Bannon:
On Bannon:"If I thought he was a racist or alt-right or any of the things, the terms we could use, I wouldn't even think about hiring him."
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 22, 2016
The Trump transition team’s statements denouncing racism and the alt-right are certainly a positive start. But it may take more than words to satisfy the majority of Americans.From IJR.