Let us pause. Not even two years ago, white supremacists like Mr. Schoep would rant from the fringe of the fringe, their attention-desperate events rarely worth mention. Today, though, the Schoeps of America are undergoing a rebranding, as part of the so-called alt-right: a grab bag of far-right groups generally united by the belief that white identity has become endangered in what they deride as this era of dangerous diversity and political correctness.
An angle used to dismiss the idea that the Make America White Again message resonated with a surprising, depressing number of citizens has been to point out that some Trump supporters also voted for Obama. I think that argument is simplistic. Some bigots aren’t so far gone that they can’t vote for a person of a race they look down on if they feel it’s in their best interests financially or otherwise. That is to say, some racially prejudiced whites voted for President Obama. Trump appealed to them to find their worst selves. Many did.
Likewise the Trump campaign emboldened far worse elements, including white nationalists and separatists and anti-Semites. Thinking they’d been perhaps permanently marginalized, these hate groups are now updating their “brand,” hiding yesterday’s swastikas and burning crosses and other “bad optics,” and referring to themselves not as neo-Nazis but by more vaguely appealing monikers like “European-American advocates.” It’s the same monster wrapped in a different robe, the mainstreaming of malevolence, and they won’t again be easily relegated to the fringe regardless of Trump’s fate.
In the New York Times piece “An Alt-Right Makeover Shrouds the Swastikas” by Serge F. Kovaleski, Julie Turkewitz, Joseph Goldstein and Dan Barry, the journalists explore a beast awakened and energized by Trump’s ugly campaign. It’s a great piece, though we should all probably stop calling these groups by their preferred KKK 2.0 alias of “alt-right.” An excerpt:
The deceptively benign phrase “alt-right” now peppers the national conversation, often in ways that play down its fundamental beliefs, which have long been considered intolerant and hateful. The term’s recent prevalence corresponds with the rise of President-elect Donald J. Trump; alt-right leaders say his inflammatory statements and Twitter habits in the campaign energized, even validated, their movement.
The movement is also acutely image-conscious, seeing the burning crosses, swastikas and language of yesteryear as impediments to recruitment. Its adherents talk of “getting red-pilled,” a reference to the movie “The Matrix,” in which the protagonist ingests a tablet that melts away artifice to reveal the truth. New, coded slurs have emerged. Fewer pointed hoods, more khaki pants.
But the alt-right movement is hardly monolithic…•