Chapter 7: The new American alt-right population / A presidency of hatred?

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The American Alt-Right

All are brothers and all are children of God (Pope Francis).[1]

The American alt-right[2] has been defined as a broad group of people or movement who tend to ascribe to far-right ideologies that include “preserving and protecting the White race . . . in addition to, or over, other traditional conservative positions such as limited government, low taxes, and strict law-and-order” (Daniszewski, 2016). The movement has been considered to be “an offshoot of conservatism” (ibid.) that is characterized by the confluence of racism, White nationalism, and populism (SPLC, 2016b). It has also been critical of “multiculturalism, and more rights for non-Whites, women, Jews, Muslims, gays, immigrants, and other minorities” (Daniszewski, 2016).

Several individuals who ascribe to alt-right mentality, whether declared or undeclared, tend to reject the fundamental right that all human persons are equal under the law irrespective of creed, ethnicity, gender, or race. The core belief held in alt-right mentality is that “‘White identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice,’ to undermine White people and their civilization” (SPLC, 2016b).

The original alt-right. The term alt-right was first coined in 2008 by Richard B. Spencer, the now 39-year-old president of The National Policy Institute (NPI; Wallace-Wells, 2016). The NPI is a far-right think tank in Arlington, Virginia, that is involved with the ideology of White nationalism and the preservation of Western civilization. The motto of NPI (2017) is “For our people, our culture, our future.”

White nationalism has been defined as “the belief that national identity should be built around White ethnicity, and that White people should maintain both a demographic majority and dominance of the nation’s culture and public life . . . [thus] maintaining political and economic dominance, not just a numerical majority or cultural hegemony” (Kaufmann, in Taub, 2016). Western civilization has been defined as “a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe” (Wikipedia, 2017a). Populism has been defined as a Manichean-based “thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’ (Mudde, 2004; Mudde & Kaltwasser, 2013). The goal of populism is to unite the “uncorrupt and unsophisticated ‘little man’ against the corrupt and dominant elites (usually the established politicians) and their camp of followers (usually the rich and the intellectuals;” Wikipedia, 2017b).

According to Spencer, the alt-right was defined by

“A break with establishment conservatism that favors experimentation with the ideas of the French New Right; libertarian thought as exemplified by former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul; anarcho-capitalism, which advocates individual sovereignty and open markets in place of an organized state; Catholic traditionalism, which seeks a return to Roman Catholicism before the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council; and other ideologies” (SPLC, 2016b).

Two revealing examples of alt-right thought are shown below: 

  1. “Immigration is a kind of proxy war – and maybe a last stand – for White Americans, who are undergoing a painful recognition that, unless dramatic action is taken, their grandchildren will live in a country that is alien and hostile” (ibid.);
  2. “This is our home and our kith and kin. Borders matter, identity matters, blood matters. Libertarians and their capitalism can move to Somalia if they want to live without rules. In the West, we must have standards and enforce them. The ‘freedom’ for other races to move freely into White nations is nonexistent. Stay in your own nations, we don’t want you here” (ibid.).

The alt-right and establishment conservatives. The alt-right movement has to date been, for the most part, considered by establishment conservatives to be made up of individuals “young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies . . . [with] a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric . . . born out of the youthful, subversive, underground edges of the internet . . . [with the fora] 4chan and 8chan [being] hubs of alt-right activity” (Bokhari & Yiannopoulos, 2016). As such, it has been reported that many conservative politicians and the conservative press had no qualms about often throwing “these young readers and voters to the wolves” (ibid.) given their, at times, more-than-outrageous behavior, to avoid charges of bigotry from both establishment liberals and the alt-left.

A new definition of alt-right and its population. Insofar as the term alt-right, however, has been more narrowly defined as an offshoot of conservatism that is characterized by the confluence of the prime factors of racism, White nationalism, and populism (the three criteria; Daniszewski, 2016; SPLC, 2016b), it can herewith be contended that the American alt-right has become de facto comprised of several establishment conservatives themselves, regardless of whether they (1) admit this or not; (2) consent to the definition or not; (3) are politicians, readers, or voters; (4) are young or not-so-young; (5) are either White, self-identify as White, or identify in full with White culture. This contention holds irrespective of whether the said conservatives (6) are active on the internet or not; (7) ascribe in a declared or undeclared manner to the entirety of the afore-referenced ideologies as long as they fulfill the three criteria in a confluential way; and regardless of whether they are (8) White Christians or non-Christians, White Catholics or non-Catholics.

The narrow definition of alt-right referenced above has arisen from the independent, but converging, work of the multinational nonprofit mainstream media and various nonprofit civil rights and public interest legal advocacy organizations. The new de facto shift in, and definition of, the population comprising the alt-right in and of itself annuls the very break that had characterized it as an offshoot of conservatism in the first instance, thus moving the alt-right into what can now be considered the new 21st century conservative mainstream based on the confluence of racism, White nationalism, and populism. In other words, the alt-right in the US is no longer ‘alt,’ but the new norm.

Specifically, a summary analysis of some of the most prominent sayings of both President Trump and his closest aides manifest a striking and long-standing presence of alt-right mentality as defined in terms of the three aforementioned criteria and their confluence.

Overt racism. Below are samples of some sayings, both former and current, of the US President. The samples reviewed are too numerous to list, thus just the more obvious ones are included here. All samples provided manifest the processes of stereotyping and generalizations based primarily on race or racial characteristics, rather than cause:

  1. “A well-educated Black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated White in terms of the job market . . . I would love to be a well-educated Black, because I really do believe they have the actual advantage today” (D’Antonio, 2016);
  2. “They don’t look like Indians to me[3] . . . They don’t look like Indians to Indians” (O’Connor & Marans, 2016);
  3. “They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes[4] . . . I want to hate these murderers and I always will” (ibid.);
  4. “Maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up”[5] (ibid.);
  5. “It isn’t funny. I’ve got Black accountants at Trump Castle and Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day . . . I think that guy’s lazy.[6] And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in Blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control” (O’Donnell & Rutherford, 1991).

In United States v. Fred C. Trump, Donald Trump, and Trump Management, Inc. (1973), President Trump had been sued for racial discrimination by the DOJ because the company had refused to rent apartments to African Americans (lizbirge, 2016). For example, “a Black man asked about two-bedroom apartments at Trump’s Westminster complex in Brooklyn on March 18, 1972, and a superintendent told him nothing was available. On March 19, 1972, the Black man’s wife, who was White, visited the complex and was offered an application for a two-bedroom apartment on the spot” (Contorno, 2016). The charges brought were based on violations of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act. The Black man and his White ‘wife’ were “undercover testers” (Kranish & O’Harrow, 2016) for a government-sanctioned investigation into what was purported to be ongoing racial discrimination in housing in the Trump properties across Brooklyn and Queens in New York City. The case was considered to be unprecedented in scope at the time and the lawsuit was one of the biggest ever brought by the DOJ for such violations (Nanos, 2016).

Trump denied the claims and filed a countersuit for $100 million in damages (Campbell, 1973) on the grounds that the charges were baseless and irresponsible. The countersuit was dismissed by the court and the case was later settled through a consent decree with the DOJ, which included the conditions that Fred Trump and Donald Trump were prohibited from “discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling . . . [They were also ordered to] thoroughly acquaint themselves personally on a detailed basis” (Kranish & O’Harrow, 2016) with the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Nine years later, the President, as one of the owners of Coronet Hall, Inc., and a senior officer of Trump Management, Inc., was again sued in the US Eastern District Court of New York for racial discrimination in a class action lawsuit by the Open Housing Center (lizbirge, 2016). The lawsuit was brought against Trump et al., after African Americans had been denied apartments in Coronet Hall among others, an apartment building in Queens. The charges were that Trump and other landlords were:

“Steering Black persons away from predominantly White apartment buildings and into predominantly Black or racially-mixed apartment buildings, denying housing or making housing unavailable on the basis of race, discriminating in the provision of brokerage services and representing to persons that dwellings are not available for inspection, sale or rental when such dwellings are in fact so available, based on the race of those persons” (ibid.).

It was also reported that “Trump employees had coded applications from minorities with a C for colored” (Corn, 2016). The case was settled two years later without admission of guilt.

Confluence of racism, White nationalism, populism. Here are more former and current samples of various sayings by President Trump, all of which manifest stereotyping and sweeping generalizations based on race or racial characteristics, White nationalism, and populism rather than cause. These samples also include stereotyping, more sweeping generalizations, Manichean-based fear-mongering, and ‘demonization of the other’ processes based on religious biases:

  1. “Total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States . . . our country cannot be victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life” (Bobic, 2015);
  2. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say, she probably – maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,[7] you tell me” (DiversityInc, 2017);
  3. “We must keep ‘evil’ out of our country!”[8] (Trump, 2017a);
  4. “Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision” (Trump, 2017b);
  5. “The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!” (Trump, 2017c);
  6. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” (Trump, 2017d);
  7. “Our legal system is broken! ‘77% of refugees allowed into the U.S. since travel reprieve hail from seven suspect countries.’ (WT) SO DANGEROUS!” (Trump, 2017e);
  8. “He’s a Mexican.[9] We’re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings” (O’Connor & Marans, 2016);
  9. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best . . . They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and their bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people” (Moreno, 2016). “Tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border” (Lind, 2015);
  10. “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed” (Lopez, 2017);
  11. “The overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by Blacks and Hispanics – a tough subject – must be discussed” (Trump, 2013);
  12. “Jeb Bush has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife” (Trump, 2015a);
  13. “Jeb Bush is crazy, who cares that he speaks Mexican, this is America, English!!” (Trump, 2015b);
  14. “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our Southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall” (Marie Claire, 2017);
  15. “A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation . . . we’ve defended the borders of other nations, but while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross – and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate . . . Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need. Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve. Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land. Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and, ultimately, stop. And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity . . . by finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone . . . we cannot allow our country to become a sanctuary for extremists . . . We have withdrawn the United States from the jobs-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership . . . We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 . . . I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore” (Trump, 2017f).

Furthermore, the President instructed DHS to establish an office for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (ibid., Rubin, 2017). This instruction was given despite empirical evidence showing that immigrants are both better able to withstand crime-facilitating conditions and are underrepresented in a consistent manner in criminal statistics across the US (Martinez & Lee, 2000).

Below are a few samples of the most prominent sayings of the President’s chief strategist, Steven K. Bannon, in terms of the three criteria of racism, White nationalism, and populism. Bannon at present serves on the National Security Council (NSC) of the US and is the former executive chair of Breitbart News,[10] a network he had described with great pride as “the platform for the alt-right” (Flegenheimer, 2016; Posner 2016):

  1. “We don’t believe there is a functional conservative party in this country and we certainly don’t think the Republican Party is that. It’s going to be an insurgent, center-right populist movement that is virulently anti-establishment, and it’s going to hammer this city, both the progressive left and the institutional Republican Party” (Schultheis & Boccagno, 2016);
  2. “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment” (Radosh, 2016);
  3. “Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty” (Victor & Stack, 2016);
  4. “Two-thirds or three-quarters[11] of the C.E.O.’s in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia” (Shane, 2016).

It has also been reported that Bannon declared, “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing,” in response to a film colleague who had both mused about limiting voting rights in the US to property owners and commented that such a measure “Would exclude a lot of African Americans (ibid.).

A few samples of the most prominent sayings of Steven Miller, senior political adviser to President Trump, White House policy director, and one of the prime architects of Protecting the Nation, are also given in terms of the three aforementioned criteria:

  1. “I can’t be your friend anymore because you are Latino” (Peinado, 2017);
  2. “Everybody who stands against Donald Trump are the people who’ve been running this country into the ground . . . Everything that is wrong with this country today, the people opposing Donald J. Trump are responsible for” (Merica, 2017);
  3. “Foreign workers . . . they’re competing against you, and your children, and your grandchildren, and your brothers, and sisters and neighbors for jobs. Low-wage foreign workers being brought in to take your place at less pay” (Miller, 2016);
  4. “We could have lived with the Indians, learning how to finger paint and make tepees, excusing their scalping of frontiersmen as part of their culture . . . We do nothing for American holidays, but everything for Mexican holidays . . . That is why we invited a Muslim leader to the school to explain the splendor of Islam, but no such proclamation was ever made about America” (Miller, 1999);
  5. “America without her culture is like a body without a soul – yet many of today’s youth see America as nothing but a meeting point for the cultures of other nations . . . We must come to the defense of our heritage . . . As we obsess over, adulate and extol the non-American cultures, we ignore the culture we all hold in common . . . our language and religious values were brought to us by those who settled and founded our nation” (Miller, 2006).

A Presidency of Hatred? 

Each one of us is called to be an artisan of peace, by uniting and not dividing, by extinguishing hatred and not holding on to it, by opening paths to dialogue and not by constructing new walls! (Pope Francis).[12]

Given all the above data that show, at the very least, more than significant contempt for the different other as manifested by the ongoing and longstanding patterns of stereotyping, sweeping generalizations, the prevalence of Manichean-based thinking, and incessant fear-mongering based on racism, implicit or explicit; blatant White nationalism, equally blatant populism, and relentless demonization of the other based on religious biases, the following questions arise:

  1. Is the current presidency of Donald J. Trump a presidency that is run on the basis of the subjective emotion of hatred, implicit or explicit, rather than on the objective bases of neutrality, reason and evidence, despite all the political white-washing and repeated attempts at verbal rhetoric to the contrary?
  2. If yes, what does that indicate about the underlying sentiments present in the hearts of 81% of White evangelical Christians and 52% of Catholics in America, who elected the President to office and enabled his like-thinking strategists to become the most powerful influencers in the White House?
  3. Again if yes, what made such a comparatively large number of Christians and Catholics – people and groups of people called to the higher standard of “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mt 22:39) by the virtue of their baptism and faith – decide to engage in what can now be considered as material, if not outright formal, cooperation in an electoral campaign – now, a presidency – that both was and seems to have remained characterized by such a degree of hatred toward the other; in particular the non-White and/or non-Christian other, local or foreign?
  4. Is hatred an emotion that comes from God or from someone else?
  5. How do the Christians and Catholics who elected the President justify their vote in face of the present charge of material, if not formal, cooperation?
  6. Can such cooperation with this level of hatred ever be justified in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, Christianity, and the Catholic Church?

[1] In Scalfari (2013).

[2] Alternative right.

[3] Said to the House Subcommittee on Native American Affairs in 1993.

[4] Said about the Central Park Five: five teenagers of color who were wrongfully convicted for the 1989 beating and rape of woman in Central Park, New York. DNA evidence showed that the teenagers were innocent of the charges that had been brought against them.

[5] Said about an African American protester who started chanting “Black Lives Matter” during a 2016 campaign rally in Alabama. The protester was shoved, tackled, punched, kicked, and beaten by supporters of the President even after he had fallen to the ground.

[6] Said about an African American employee.

[7] Said about the Muslim wife of Khizr Khan, whose son, the US Army Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, had given his life in 2004 fighting for America in Iraq.

[8] Said after the Executive Order Protecting the Nation was suspended by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

[9] Said about the federal judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who is an American citizen born in Indiana.

[10] Breitbart has been described by the SPLC as part of “the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas – all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as ‘alt-right’” (Piggott, 2016).

[11] This figure was found to be inaccurate upon fact-checking.

[12] In Address (2013a).