December 27, 2016

GOA Students Still Unclear About The Alt-Right

Alex Beigelman ‘18

For a long time now, especially since Donald Trump was elected to the presidency, the term “alt-right” has been circulating and used ad nauseum. Trump has been seen as a part of this mysterious, dangerous sect of the Republican party supporting white supremacy, anti-semitism and general bigotry.
Recently, the alt-right has been in the news for various controversies. The first of these controversies was the appointment of Steven Bannon, the former editor-in-chief of Breitbart, the media center of the alt-right, to Trump’s cabinet as a senior advisor.
Trump has had a connection to Bannon for a while; he was Trump’s campaign manager during the nominating convention period during the summer. Bannon has caused an uproar in the media for various comments and jokes he made, intimating anti-semitism and racism. The response from many has been that Bannon works closely with many Jews and many Jews and Jewish organizations including the RJC, ADL and ZOA have absolved him of any alleged anti-semitism.
The second controversy to arise from the alt-right was the saluting of 200 neo-Nazis to Trump chanting, “Heil Trump,” a modified version of the WWII-era Nazi salute. The Trump camp has not responded to this incident, although some other members of the alt-right movement have come out against the neo-Nazis. The lack of response has caused some concern from some, while others argue it is not representative of Trump or the alt-right movement at large.
All this begs the question: What is the alt-right, really?
According to a small polling sample of GOA students, the alt-right is wholly or partly racist (86 percent of respondents), extreme right wing (86 percent) and anti-semitic (57 percent). Other popular characterizations of the alt-right movement by GOA students include fanatic (50 percent) and fascist (43 percent).
The media and the general left-wing, who are very opposed to the alt-right, refer to them as a fringe group of right wing, white nationalists who attract racists, Nazis and xenophobes; however, the alt-right refer to themselves as provocateurs and “economic nationalists,” according to a 2016 CNN interview with Bannon. The alt-right’s main media platform, Breitbart, employs Jews, gays and immigrants, meaning that they are not anti-semitic or bigoted, according to them.
The alt-right could, in reality, be seen as a revival of paleoconservatism, which supports strict immigration laws, decentralization, traditional values and opposes multiculturalism, but the alt-right also encompasses an obsession with ridding society of political correctness and sometimes pursues this goal through provocation, debates and internet engagement (also known as trolling).
They also oppose modern feminism and the mainstream media, although, there is still plenty of vagueness surrounding the alt-right’s official stances and ideas because they are not a party or caucus, but rather, a movement of many people.
There may be Nazis, racists and other extreme people who are attracted to the alt-right and this has caused controversy, but it can’t be confidently said that this is the majority of the alt-right’s platform. Despite all the vagueness surrounding this movement, one thing can be said for sure: they are no longer just a fringe sect of the Republican party, since “their candidate” won the presidential election.

It is very likely the alt-right has the silent support of the majority of the country as it was shown on November 8th.

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