With protests appearing across the United States over the last year or so, and now compounded by the tragedy in Charlottesville, the general public is becoming increasingly familiar with the term “alt-right,” but what does this expression really mean?
The definition of this fringe political ideology is becoming progressively more elusive as current President, Donald Trump coined the term “alt-left” in an interview regarding the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. While individuals may not consider themselves a part of the “alt-left,” certainly many left-wing extremist views line up similarly to those on the alt-right, and the behaviour of these two groups is almost indistinguishable.
The alt-right is a political ideology that rejects mainstream and contemporary conservative thought in favour of a more fanatical position with a primary focus on nationalism, protectionism, race based politics, and xenophobia. Because of this, neo-nazis, and other white nationalist groups are drawn to the alt-right due to the congruence of their beliefs. The alt-right, while not wholly or inherently racist, is still dangerous as it is primarily caters to individuals who hold racist beliefs. In other words, the Venn diagram between the alt-right and other groups such as the KKK and other neo-nazi organizations seems to be increasingly growing in its overlap.
Therefore, the alt-right should be treated by the Right with the same skepticism and disgust as left wing extremism.
On the other hand, Trump’s newly coined “alt-left” describes current groups and individuals on the radical Left quite well. Mainstream news outlets have quickly dismissed Trump’s statement, but have ignored the meaning behind his choice of words. True, there are no politically motivated groups that claim to be members of the “alt-left” like many alt-right groups do, but this does not mean that they do not fall under this category of fanatical political ideology.
What I believe President Trump meant by the ‘alt-left’ was a loose definition and grouping of left-wing extremist groups and individuals who continually antagonize, and in many cases attack Republican supporters, not to mention white people as a distinct group. All you need to do is Google search “Antifa protest” and you will find plenty of examples of left wing extremist violence. This is similar to the way that the Charlottesville protests unfolded.
Examples of these “alt-left” groups include Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, as well as the many groups across university campuses in Canada and the United States who are attempting to destroy free speech in an unnervingly Orwellian effort to create newspeak. By demonizing and attacking white people and those who hold centrist or right of centre political views, these groups are creating and stirring up those on the direct opposite of the political spectrum, and they are responding in kind.
With Black Lives Matter organizers attempting to force white people to stand at the back of the group at a rally in Philadelphia, they are clearly exhibiting not only racism, but exactly what Donald Trump meant when he referred to the “alt-left.” BLM showcases as much modern liberal values as a neo-nazi groups do of conservative values; absolutely nothing. Groups such as Antifa act in much the same way by implementing militant tactics in order to get their message across. Once again, this is in the same vein as what the white nationalist protestors did in Charlottesville just a few short days ago. These left wing extremists are creating a breeding ground for alt-right members, and their inflammatory rhetoric is counterproductive to their cause.
In Toronto, for instance, Black Lives Matter created a list of demands – many of which are extremist in nature. For example, one of their demands is an “end to public jails.” If politicians had happened to be swayed by this demand in particular, what would happen to all of the criminals who are behind bars for good reason? This is clearly an extremist point of view, and extremely short sighted. I would classify getting rid of public jails to be a policy held by members of the alt-left, as well as an inherently bad idea. BLM Toronto also demanded increased funding for historically black institutions, such as black colleges. Does this not sound eerily familiar to the rhetoric being spewed from the alt-right who would presumably want increased funding for historically white institutions? Race based politics have no place in modern Western society. In fact, in an interview on Fox, a Black Lives Matter member actually advocated for the segregation of blacks from whites, and for the creation of black only events. There are clear parallels to be drawn from these demands and wishes to those of the alt-right.
It is well-established that many left wing extremists have long used inflammatory rhetoric when referring to conservatives in general – and this has been the case since long before the election of Trump and the emergence of the alt-right. But, in recent months, many of these groups that can be reasonably grouped as “alt-left” have begun aiming the same rhetoric at simply white people. This, along with the alt-right’s almost identical behaviour towards other groups, should be condemned with no holds barred.
In no way, shape, or form, am I sympathizing with the atrocious acts that occurred during these protests in Charlottesville. I am merely providing a reason as to why they occurred, and why they occurred with the intensity that they did: groups on both the Left and the Right have been radicalizing in recent years, and now they’ve become open to the prospect of fighting in the streets. When Antifa showed up in Charlottesville, determined to cause a stir, the equally radical white nationalists present refused to back down. As a result of the radicalization of terrible individuals, a woman has been killed.
It is important that we recognize the alt-right for what it is: a hate-filled, racist political ideology and movement that plagues America, Canada, and Europe. But it is also equally important that we understand what the alt-left is as well, as they too contribute negatively to our society. Members of the alt-right, and members of the alt-left, are two heads of the same hate-filled, bigoted coin, and it is important that we call out any extremists regardless of what side of the political spectrum they lie on. It would also be wise for members of both the respectable Right and the respectable Left to police their own side, and cast out those among them who seek to do harm to people or who espouse ideas not welcome in polite society.