When Donald Trump hired Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon to head his presidential campaign this week, questions and accusations were raised about Bannon’s website Breitbart and it’s promotion of an online movement known as the “alt-right.”
But it is troubling. It’s something voters will likely continue to hear about until November. It is a movement most Americans have never heard of, including most Donald Trump supporters and likely the candidate himself.
It’s also something too many still seem confused about. I’ll do my best to cover all the necessary bases.
One of the most famous promoters and defenders of the alt-right is sharp-witted provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor for Breitbart (who I had a back and forth with in May). Until this week, Yiannopoulos’ boss was Stephen K. Bannon who, again, is now “Chief Executive” of the Trump campaign.
From the alt-right’s perspective, broadly speaking (full disclosure: I’m a libertarian conservative who is not a fan), their movement is a necessary corrective to the out-of-control influence political correctness continues to have on our politics and culture, particularly on America’s college campuses. Yiannopoulos speaks on campuses nationwide taking on ridiculous “social justice warriors”—mostly millennial leftist extremists who are offended by literally everything—on their own turf. Conservative and libertarian kids love it.
This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the alt-right, but unfortunately promoting this movement is also a passion for Yiannopoulos. Young people attracted to him for understandable reasons have a ready and waiting path toward something more troubling. Here’s how Milo describes the alt-right:
Previously an obscure subculture, the alt-right burst onto the national political scene in 2015. Although initially small in number, the alt-right has a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.
… the alt-right, is an amorphous movement. Some — mostly Establishment types — insist it’s little more than a vehicle for the worst dregs of human society: anti-Semites, white supremacists, and other members of the Stormfront set. They’re wrong.
If I am part of the establishment for noting this, someone please tell my former bosses Ron and Rand Paul so we can all finally benefit from these privileges.
The alt-right—primarily and integrally—is a racist movement. It’s not something they merely flirt with. It’s what they do. Racial antagonism is its function (just ask Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones who felt their wrath recently).
The overwhelming majority of the alt-right’s members—judging from the lowliest Twitter bigot with six followers to prominent spokesman like Yiannopoulos—fall somewhere between believing Adolf Hitler had a point, or finding value in people who believe Hitler had a point.
This is not an exaggeration or hyperbole, as Hitler-related accusations often are.
Many Americans reject political correctness. But the way the alt-right rejects it is by becoming the mirror image of it. They believe if you’re accused of being a racist, the best thing you can be is racist (the fact that you already are makes this easier).
Whatever your enemies say you are, own it. Double down, even.
So what does this have to do with Donald Trump?
The alt-right adores Trump because of his anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric. Whereas Trump’s critics and even his campaign worry about reaching out beyond the white Republican base, the alt-right likes that the Republican nominee primarily speaks to whites and ignores other groups.
Breitbart has been the most popular promoter of alt-right-related stories over the past year—a haven for anti-black and anti-Muslim rhetoric in particular—and that activity has increased with the rise of the Trump phenomenon. Breitbart has also been extremely pro-Trump.
Now that Breitbart’s Bannon is in charge of Trump 2016, for many that makes their relationship complete.
Does this mean Trump, Bannon, or even Milo Yiannopoulos are racists? Not necessarily, but it does mean each, to varying degrees, sees racism as either unproblematic or of some political and even societal value. Either way, racism is embraced, intentionally or unintentionally, yet always consciously.
What is the difference between thinking Hitler had a point and finding value in people who think Hitler had a point? You got me.
Yet in this space is where the alt-right lives. This is not where most Americans—including most Trump voters and the candidate himself—are, thankfully.
But now, unfathomably, the Republican nominee for President of the United States is potentially giving this movement its greatest platform to date.