Who Are the "Alt-Right"? On the Rise of Reactionary Hatred and How to Fight it
Date Written: 22/09/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21313
With much of the public discussing strategies for how best to fight right-wing extremism, the need for constructive solutions is greater than ever. First and foremost, its important to point out that public support for far-right extremists is miniscule. The vast majority of Americans reject this movement's violence and hatred. According to a Marist survey from the summer of 2017, just 4 percent of Americans said they support "white supremacy movement" or "white nationalism." Similarly, just 6 percent embraced the term "alt-right" Still, there is a legitimate concern that support for right-wing bigotry may grow in the future if left unchecked.
Race by itself is not a significant defining characteristic for supporters of the white nationalist/supremacist right. White Americans are not more likely than black and Hispanic Americans to support the far right, and the vast majority of whites are no white supremacists of the "alt-right" variety. Rather, the interaction between race and lack of education seems to play a defining role in radicalizing some Americans in favor of the far-right. When white Americans lack basic educational opportunities and lack access to the information necessary to combat simplistic and erroneous claims of white superiority over people of color, they are more likely to slip into the trap of embracing racial bigotry and hatred.
Despite previous efforts to associate the far-right with young and disillusioned Americans, the evidence of this connection is limited. While the 18-29 age demographic is twice as likely to support the alt-right label compared to all other age cohorts, this group is not more likely than other age groups to say they support "white supremacy" or "white nationalism." Furthermore, young Americans are more likely to identify as left in their politics than right.
It would also be a mistake to attribute support to the far-right merely to economic insecurity.
Much of the recent evidence suggests that economic insecurity is associated with increased support for progressive-left political and economic attitudes, and support for progressive social movements representing the disadvantaged such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and the Fight for $15 living wage movement. Rather, it appears to be a convergence of factors that work together to push some Americans to the far right, including gravitating toward one-sided alternative media content that embraces the rhetoric of hate. This point is verified in a recent academic study finding that those adopting the alt-right label are more likely to express distrust of the mass media, and to rely on alternative media for their information.
Combating hatred can be done, and must be prioritized.
But we wont begin to roll back the problem of white supremacy until we recognize the causes of this hatred. There is much talk about actively combating far-right protesters in the streets via violent and non-violent methods. But it will take a lot more than street fights to address the mounting problem of American fascism. It will take an organized, concerted effort on the part of the masses of Americans to pressure government to reverse the economic trends that are fueling the rise of the reactionary right to national prominence.