The Right Wing

The Alt-Right Is Spouting White Nationalism and Doing Hitler Salutes in Washington, D.C.—but Dressed Nicely, so Let's Take Its Members Seriously!

Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer is "dapper" first and a virulent racist second, say media reports.

Richard Spencer
Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot

The anime Nazis — who fancy themselves “alt-righters” and scare pundits who take their meme threats seriously — have landed in Washington. And the media is eager to find out just what’s going on!

The Los Angeles Times called those attending the National Policy Institute’s conference at the Ronald Reagan Building on Saturday “a victory lap after Donald Trump’s election, assuming what they see as their rightful place influencing the new administration.”

The National Policy Institute — a self-styled alt-right think tank — received special media attention over the weekend as much for its overt ethnic nationalism, it seems, as for its photogenic president, Richard Spencer, a decently educated racist with an undercut.

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“An awakening among everyone has occurred with this Trump election,” Spencer began on Saturday. “We’re not quite the establishment now, but I think we should start acting like it.”

“Acting” is the key word.

The Los Angeles Times (as well as The New York Times) fell for the shtick:

Sitting around conference tables, the formally dressed men more resembled Washington lobbyists  than the robed Ku Klux Klansmen or skinhead toughs that often represent white supremacists, though they share many familiar views.

This new generation is aiming to influence Washington in Washington’s own ways: churning out position papers, lobbying lawmakers . . . and perhaps most importantly, removing the cloak of anonymity to fully join the national political conversation.

Wearing suits doesn’t legitimize the members of a  fringe movement, which — save for the hundred or so goons in the conference room on Saturday — the alt-right will remain for as long as first-person shooters exist.

Oh yeah, and Tila Tequila was there.

The alt-right is in so many ways too weak to influence national policy. Its members are only in the national conversation because they’re often overestimated.

“In terms of policy, Trump’s movement was a little bit half-baked,” Spencer said on Saturday. “Moving forward, the alt-right as an intellectual vanguard can complete Trump.”

The alt-right isn’t “an intellectual vanguard,” though. At best, it’s a hundred chest-thumping folks in a D.C. conference room. At worst, it’s an echo chamber of recycled memes.

“The guys in the suits are the ones we have to worry about,” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center warned the LA Times. “Beneath the benign-looking guy and the benign-sounding name, the purpose of the National Policy Institute is to push the idea that all men are created unequal.”

That might be something to “worry about” if every alt-righter were as capable as Richard Spencer. But for each Richard Spencer, there are innumerable Matt Forneys.

Forney, a duck-footed goober who blogs about “traditionalism,” ventured out of doors this past summer for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he nearly got his ass beat by the people he harasses online:

 

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Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer and nonfiction MFA candidate at Columbia University.