“Do you consider Breitbart to be the platform of the Alt-Right, aka America’s white supremacist movement?” link here
Vagabond asks a question that I think has been on the hearts of many Americans, those of us who genuinely care about people, those of us who are concerned about extremists and extremism. It’s a convoluted mess in our culture right now in part due to the hyperbole of the media and the way words like “racism” and “white supremacists” have been so over used they have been rendered almost meaningless.
Nearly a decade ago I was trying desperately to convince people of the truth behind the words, “when everyone is a racist, no one is.” Words, accusations, lose their potency when they are doled out with too much frequency. The truth of that wisdom has been crashing down all around us.
There’s really only two possibilities here, either everyone in America is a hater and a racist…..or else the narrative has gone all wrong and the ideology is false.
The ideology is false. The narrative went awry.
Here’s how I know that. I spent nearly a decade plunging into the Alt-Right, the Red Pills, the Christian Nationalists, The National Policy Institute, Richard Spencer, trying to get a feel for the actual “white supremacists,”and “racists,” the big, bad, ugly people I’d been hearing so much about.
First let’s talk numbers. There are perhaps 5000 of them in the entire country, a rough guestimate, but it seems about right. 5000 in a population of about 319 million people. They do have about another 5000 tag-a-longs, minions, wannabees, people dabbling in extremism from afar, pretty much just blowing hot air and navel gazing their epidermal superiority. Then there are the onlookers, those who politely step over the little piles of racism and ignore them, seeking out the underlying politics like what one might find on a site like Breitbart.
We need to be really clear here, the Alt Right and the Red Pills are this vague and nebulous group that insists on not really allowing itself to be defined. The Alt Right is like the “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy,” it’s an idea that encompasses a whole lot of things. If you believe everyone to the Right of you is a racist and hater, well than you’ve been suckered. The vast majority are not.
However, about 5000 of them really are, and I have to tell you it’s been somewhat comical trying to root out a dozen or so of them to attempt to actually engage in a discussion. I am a girl, extremism is kind of scary, I don’t much care for radicals. I’m timid, a wimp, so I was expecting big, bad and scary, but what I found was actually insecure, terrified, and extremely paranoid. I actually scared them. So much for the big bad wolf of white supremacists. They like to think they are very important, shaping the world, changing public policy, but they’re actually just kind of sad and really paranoid. You have to be pretty paranoid to perceive me as some kind of threat.
There are no roving gangs of white supremacists out indoctrinating people to be at war with our country. There is no “whitelash” going on, as Van Jones so irresponsibly declared. This is all just mediated reality, emotionalism and hyperbole run amuck. True, when you turn up the heat and start spouting off rhetoric, you do provide a path for some unstable person to turn towards extremism as the vehicle for what ails them. That is a valid concern and something I do fear, no matter what side is fueling the hysteria. So the best prevention for that is to turn down the heat and let calmer heads prevail.
Something I can also say, the Far Left has its own share of extremists too, people who have been hoping for a race war since the days of the Weather Underground and Bill Ayers. I grew up on the fringes of far left radicals, I assure you they’re just as real and just as extreme, but also quite small in numbers.
I think a really good question to be asking ourselves as a country is how do we contain our own extremists, how do we rein them in and reduce their influence? One thing we need to do is to turn down the heat and rein in our own hyperbole. Screaming “you’re a Nazi” to an actual Nazi, is an exercise in complete futility. Second, rather than driving them into the shadows, you allow them their platforms to speak. Maybe some will manage to reason themselves away from their own ideology, but regardless, driving people into the shadows and attempting to silence them tends to just make these things grow and fester. Also, if they’re out in the sunlight we can keep a better eye on them.
But lastly, we need to drop this idea that “we” are the only ones who care about people, this concept that America is composed of nothing but haters who want to oppress everyone. “We” meaning I, my group, my politics, my tribe. That’s a form of extremism all by itself. The vast majority of people in this country are kind, generous, and very concerned about the well-being of others. I didn’t spend all this time plunging into the darker aspects our own potential extremists and sliming my way through much of the Alt Right because I hate people. I am not alone either, there are literally hundreds of thousands of us who have a heart for the people of this country and no intention of just standing by silently while others are treated unjustly.