In a tremendous victory for truth over euphemism, the Associated Press Stylebook now counsels against using the term “alt-right” without further definition of the movement as a racist white supremacist group. In a blog post published today the AP’s Vice President for Standards, John Daniszewski, laid out the case against the normalization of fascism and white supremacy that accepting the term “alt-right” implies.
In his post he counseled writers to “avoid using the term generically and without definition… because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past,” he notes, “we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”
Donald Trump’s surprise electoral victory and the wave of hate crimes that has swept the country since have prompted journalists and other analysts to seek an explanation for the re-emergence of overt fascism in the United States. Many such commentators have turned to an investigation of the “alt-right” for answers, particularly since Steve Bannon, whose quasi-news site Breitbart has been described as the “voice of the alt-right,” was appointed Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor by President-elect Trump.
The “alt-right” itself is a loosely-organized collection of individuals united in the darker corners of the internet who have combined traditional conservative values like limited government and low taxes with an emphasis on protecting the white race in the West against the dangers of “multiculturalism” and rights for minorities, which they view as “white genocide.” The “alt-right” was prominent in its support for Donald Trump and feels emboldened by his victory. Its ideology is essentially fascistic but, ironically, its champions realized that such a label was too ‘politically incorrect’ and have instead resorted to the more benign moniker “alt-right,” which is akin to terming Stalin’s gulags the “alt-left.”
As Daniszewski notes, it is incredibly important that we as a nation do not “limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves” but rather describe them accurately as the fascists they are. Towards that end, the new AP style guidelines suggest using the term in quotes or “modified as in the ‘self-described’ or ‘so-called alt-right’ in stories discussing what the movement says about itself.” They also counsel journalists to include a definition whenever the term appears in a story, such as “an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism, and populism” or “a white nationalist movement.”
The United States and the wider Western world is in a very dangerous position, facing a backlash against liberal progressivism from a group of disaffected white men who feel threatened as the hierarchical power structures they benefit from are gradually eroded in favor of greater equality. The hate this equality has engendered in the bigoted is so powerful that it has elected the manifestly deplorable Donald Trump to the presidency and led to a re-emergence of organized fascism fist in Europe and now in the United States. One of the most important ways that we can resist this fascist revival is to take a page from Trump’s book and call it like it is rather than resort to cheap euphemisms like the “alt-right.” The AP’s decision towards that end is a powerful step in the right direction.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.