Monday, November 21st, 2016
By Reed Galen
Welcome to the American Singularity.
In Washington this weekend, the alt-right, the movement of nationalist, nativist, racist, anti-semitic had their coming out party following President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s victory 13 days ago. Per press reports, over the course of a long day at the Ronald Reagan Center, just steps from the White House, the National Policy Institute extolled the virtues of whiteness and racial superiority. This is America, 2016 — not Germany, 1933.
Back in August, I wrote a column outlining the reasons why the alt-right and the GOP establishment could not work and/or live together, and what that meant for center-right and conservative movements going forward. I illustrated the equation like this:
Alt-Right + The Donald + GOP = The End
Like so many other things during this election, I had the variables correct but came to the wrong conclusion about what they meant. With Trump’s victory earlier this month, the equation now reads:
Alt-Right + President-Elect Donald Trump + GOP = The Beginning
But the beginning of what? That is perhaps the most concerning question with mostly unfortunate outcomes. Prior to their rise to prominence, the alt-right’s shiny young fascists lay somewhere between Milo Yiannopolous’ band of happy, if highly insensitive, Twitter rabble rousers, and the truly frightening white nationalists that paraded about the stage this weekend in the nation’s capital. The spectrum is disheartening from one end to the other and few in official Washington appear ready, willing or able to stand in their way.
The odiousness of the alt-right’s beliefs is only the start. The fact that they have garnered so much acclaim, determined how to dominate social media and weaponize conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods says as much about the rest of us as it does them. That a bunch of Trumpjugend can sit in their apartments tapping out completely specious and false information and have so many otherwise reasonable people pick it up, read it, believe it and share it with their friends speaks is as big a problem as their ugliness they spew on a daily basis. Their ability to move their message as efficiently and cheaply as they do directly contributes to the furthering the various schisms we see in this country: black vs white, right vs left, man vs woman, pick your dyad.
The mainstream political media is caught in the middle. The alt-right has undoubtedly made a name for itself — and contributed to Trump’s victory — either by firing up a caste of voters who long felt they had little to vote for, or by depressing those constituencies who might have otherwise shown up to the polls and marked their ballots for Hillary Clinton, a highly damaged and divisive candidate in her own right.
The press will cover the National Policy Institute and their ilk for many of the same reasons they’ve draped non-stop coverage upon Donald Trump the past 18 months: We have to see what they’re going to say next and the morbid fascination with which so many Americans watch will continue to drive ratings and ad dollars. Like the President-Elect, the alt-right revels in the free airtime and the patina of legitimacy that seeing their names in the hallowed pages of the New York Times or as a chyron on CNN brings with it.
While the alt-righters admit they don’t believe that Donald Trump believes everything he says, they present the incoming president with a useful tool for use against his opponents and an in-house conductor who has previously extolled the virtues of this crew-cutted band of misfits. Whether or not it is propping up the nomination of a controversial appointment or attacking Members of Congress for not supporting a given policy position, the alt-right will be there, ready to unleash their swarm of online locusts; devouring everything in their path and leaving barren political wastes in their wake.
If we have, as Charlie Sykes noted on his radio show last week, truly reached the “post-truth” era in American politics, then the alt-right has a significant head start on shaping the message and narrative for a country divided, shaky and uncertain of its own composition and future. As “truth” is very often subjective, where and how we receive our news can say as much about us as what we are willing to believe. If you’re angry about the country and believe Trump is the answer, finding outlets to reinforce your bias is astoundingly easy. The subjectivity of “truth” however, doesn’t make the twisted vision of the alt-right objectively acceptable.
The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the alt-right’s ability to espouse their views, no matter how repellent. However, anyone with a voice should take the opportunity to stand up against what they believe. This is different than denying their ability to say it: intolerance is a two-way street. The American Republic is resilient, as we’ve seen many times before. We maintain our greatness only when we are are committed, each of us, really committed to ensuring that our fellow citizens are equal and respected before the rule of law.
What the alt-right proclaims is nothing new, but their methods are sharper and their audience more receptive and mainstream than ever. Now is the time to stand up and say, “No.” The left, right and center of American politics must join together and set this political Frankenstein’s monster adrift on its lonely iceberg.
Copyright 2016. Jedburghs, LLC.
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