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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Leonardi

What is the Alt-Right?

On October 19, Richard Spencer, chairman of the white supremacist think-tank the National Policy Institute, took the stage at the University of Florida’s Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Upon his entrance, he was greeted with the chant, “Go Home Spencer! Go Home Spencer! Go Home Spencer!”.

After the event was scheduled, The President of the University of Florida, Kent Fuchs, issued the following statement:

“Over the past several months our nation’s great public research universities have increasingly become the targets of individuals and groups who intend to gain national publicity for their messages of racism and hate by inciting protest, which has led to violence. We have watched this occur at the University of Virginia and the University of California, Berkeley. Now, one of these individuals, Richard Spencer, a white nationalist from the National Policy Institute, and his followers intend to do the same here at the University of Florida on Thursday, October 19.

The values of our universities are not shared by Mr. Spencer, the National Policy Institute or his followers. Our campuses are places where people from all races, origins, and religions are valued equally, welcomed and treated with love, not hate. Our mission is to engage in the world’s preeminent scholarship and education for the public good, not to sow lies, discord, and violence.”

Although President Fuchs intended to target hate groups and racist ideologies, some understood his statement as a disparagement towards conservatism. Fuchs mentioned that individuals with messages of hate and racism attempted to speak at the University of California, Berkeley. The only right-leaning individual who spoke at the University of California, Berkeley was Ben Shapiro, who is not a part of the alt-Right. Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos, both outspoken political personalities, were both prevented from speaking at Berkeley due to increased threats to their personal safety. The alt-Right’s once ambiguous political platform has become more focused. This change requires a new analysis which identifies the characteristics of its leadership and the foundations of its “ideal” political structure.

The term alt-Right began as an amorphous expression and was sometimes associated with conservatism. The original champion for “alt-Right” ideas was Milo Yiannopoulos, who is radically different from current alt-Right leaders. Although he is an economic nationalist and foreign policy isolationist, which are policies commonly associated with the alt-Right, he is gay and Jewish (neither of those characteristics are warmly welcomed among the current alt-Right). Following the 2016 election, Milo began to distance himself from the “alt-Right” movement, citing that he was “pro-Iraq and pro-Israel.”

In 2017, the term “alt-Right” was redefined. Its new central tenets reject mainstream conservatism and embrace white nationalism. These principles are personified in Richard Spencer. A self-proclaimed white nationalist, Spencer summarizes his entire platform in the following statement: “Our dream is a new society, an ethnostate that would be a gathering point for all Europeans. It would be a new society based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.”

Spencer essentially advocates for a system of white separatism. White Separatism is a system which calls for the literal removal of all non-whites from a specific territory. In Spencer’s case, he calls for a “white-only” America. This not the same as racial segregation. Racial segregation is based on an idea of “separate but equal.” It is an idea cloaked with the facade of equality. Spencer rejects the notion and facade of equality altogether. In many interviews, Spencer has categorized equality as “bulls**t.” To summarize, racial segregation is covertly immoral and white separatism is overtly evil.

In his interviews, Spencer reveals not only what he idealizes, but what he disdains. It calls for a system of government that has categorically different principles than the Declaration of Independence. Our government is a constitutional, democratic republic based on the ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in our Declaration of Independence. The ultimate authority in the United States lies within the Constitution. In February of 2017, Richard Spencer tweeted “The Constitution, or any text, has no meaning in and of itself. There is only a reader reading it.

Spencer is just wrong. The Supreme Court of the United States interprets grey areas of meaning within the constitution, but that does not mean the document has no meaning. If it had no meaning, there would be no reason to interpret it. If it had no meaning, there’d be no checks and balances. If it had no meaning, the people of the United States would not have the freedom of speech (which Spencer, ironically, loves to invoke), press, petition, religion, or to peacefully assemble. Spencer’s argument is simply a “straw-man” fallacy.

Spencer is not the only individual within the alt-Right who calls for the abolishment of the constitution in order to implement an “ethnostate”. A notable alt-Right blogger named Theodore Robert Beale encompasses the alt-Right’s view of the Constitution in the following quote:

“We aren’t conservatives. We aren’t philosophers. And we don’t care about the Constitution, the Rights of Man, the Enlightenment, the Holocaust, or anything else with capital letters that is likely to get in the way.”

Beale and Spencer’s ideal world would require the dismantlement of the constitution and the institution of a racial hierarchy. To understand the extent of evil within this concept, we must visualize the following scenario:

Richard Spencer has become elected President of the United States. The Congress has been filled with a super-majority of Spencer’s followers. 35 out of 50 State legislatures within the United States has also been filled with Spencer’s followers. In order to establish an “ideal” society, the following constitutional amendment is proposed: “From the effective date of this amendment, all sections of the Constitution other than this one are hereby repealed.” Spencer and his followers then call for the immediate removal of all non-Whites from the United States. This effectively begins the process to establish an “ethnostate”.

Even though Spencer states he believes the activities and rhetoric of Adolf Hitler are “despicable,” it seems that his ideas, activities, and rhetoric are reiterations of Hitler’s Reich.

It is times like these that liberals and conservatives are reminded they have more in common than what divides them. Although there is disagreement, all our ideas are rooted in the concepts and ideas of our Founders, which are transcribed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We all believe in the notion of equality. The alt-Right does not. We all believe in the notion of liberty. The alt-Right does not. We all believe it is the inherent right of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex to pursue happiness in America. The alt-Right does not.

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