Over this past weekend, more than 200 people gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. to attend the annual conference of the National Policy Institute. The NPI is a white nationalist organization headed by Richard B. Spencer, who popularized the term “alt-right” and is widely considered one of the movement’s leaders. Near the end of the conference, Spencer gave a speech in which he praised Donald Trump, called America a “white country,” and quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. The speech drew enthusiastic applause, Nazi salutes, and cries of “Hail Trump!” Watch it here:
If you had any lingering doubts about whether the so-called “alt-right” is as racist as they are often said to be, that video should safely put your doubts to rest. The alt-right and Richard Spencer have been hot topics of conversation during the 2016 campaign and election; many people are wondering how President-elect Donald Trump and his chief strategist Stephen Bannon may be connected to or influenced by this racist white-nationalist movement. I will do my best to connect all the dots for you.
Well… actually, it only takes a very few dots to connect them. Here they are.
DOT ONE: The Alt-Right
The “alt-right” is a white nationalist movement with elements of neo-Nazism (see video above). Some claim that racist and anti-Semitic views only constitute a fringe element or a few bad actors – however, as the conservative Daily Wire explains, these views are actually central to the alt-right ideology. Richard B. Spencer, the man speaking in the disturbing video above, is the same man who founded the website AlternativeRight.com and is widely accepted to have coined the term “alt-right.” If anyone can be said to represent the views of the alt-right, it is Richard B. Spencer – who in the past has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
(Quick note: in addition to racism and anti-Semitism, the alt-right is also rife with rampant sexism. I’m not ignoring it, but that’s another story for another article.)
DOT TWO: Stephen Bannon
Next we have Steve Bannon. As chief editor of Breitbart, Bannon proudly proclaimed that he was providing “the platform for the alt-right,” and Breitbart consistently worked to mainstream and promote the movement. As Glenn Beck says, Bannon and Breitbart gave a voice to this “truly terrifying” movement. On one hand, Bannon claims that he has zero tolerance for racist and anti-Semitic views – but on the other hand, the alt-right was allowed to flourish and grow through Breitbart under Bannon’s leadership. Actions speak louder than words. Steve Bannon provided a gateway for alt-right writers and ideas into the mainstream.
DOT THREE: President-Elect Donald Trump
Finally, we have Donald Trump. I won’t go into detail here on whether or not Trump himself is a racist – if you want to go down that rabbit hole, you can read thorough analyses on his history of racism and discrimination here, here, here, or a myriad of other places – but it is important to examine his and Bannon’s connections to the alt-right movement. As you probably know, Trump has chosen Steve Bannon as his right-hand man in the White House and chief strategist for the Trump administration. This means a man who provided racist white nationalists with a voice, a platform, and an open door into the mainstream will now be the closest advisor to the most powerful man in the world. If you think racist, sexist, anti-Semitic people cannot have any real influence on Steve Bannon or Donald Trump, those people would strongly disagree with you:
That’s Richard Spencer, seen in the video at the top of this article. Here’s what David Duke, prominent white supremacist and former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, thinks:
And here, Duke seems proud of the role “his people” played in Trump’s election:
Let’s put aside (for the moment) the question of whether Bannon and Trump may embrace racist, white-nationalist, or anti-Semitic policies on their own, without needing any help from the alt-right. At the very least, we know that both Trump and Bannon have been accepting of alt-right ideology; in Bannon’s case, he fostered the growth of the movement and gave them a national platform, and in Trump’s case, he courted their admiration and refused to reject support from known racists like David Duke. Racists and white nationalists are clearly feeling emboldened by the prospect of Trump and Bannon holding the reins of power, and when Richard Spencer and David Duke are happy about something, the rest of us should be alarmed and wary. When jubilant cries like “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” ring out in the meeting halls of our nation’s capital, it’s a clear signal to be on our guard.