BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Is the white nationalist/alt-right movement splintering? Is it becoming even more of an online phenomenon than an out and open political movement? Did the alt-right-inspired racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer force the movement to rely even more heavily on the dark corners of the Internet, then on mass rallies and demonstrations?
Over the past several months, news about the white nationalist/alt-right, no longer seems to draw the attention of the mainstream media. Nevertheless, as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Keegan Hankes and Alex Amend pointed out in its recent report titled "The Alt-Right Is Killing People" there have been over 100 people killed or injured by alleged perpetrators influenced by the so-called alt-right.
"[T]here have been at least 13 alt-right related fatal episodes, leaving 43 dead and more than 60 injured," the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported. "Nine of the 12 incidents counted here occurred in 2017 alone, making last year the most violent year for the movement."
"The Alt-Right Is Killing People" pointed out that "Anonymous and disparate interaction with online extremist content, frequently without any real-world connection to hate groups or far-right extremism, is becoming an established pattern for those on the alt-right who have gone on to commit acts violence."
In fact, a review of some of the names associated with violent incidents is basically unrecognizable except for Dylann Storm Roof, who killed 9 African-American worshipers and wounded one while attending a Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. The average age of perpetrators is 26 and only three have been older than 30 with the youngest being 17.
The SPLC’s "The Alt-Right Is Killing," noted that these days, alt-right propagandists have a larger audience "than that available to ISIS-type recruiters, according to MoonshotCVE, a London-based group that counters online radicalization."
"This accessibility," the SPLC report maintained, "makes it easy for gradual indoctrination, particularly on social media platforms where tech companies long ignored the warning signs that their platforms were contributing to the radicalization of far-right extremists. That so much violence has taken on the shades of a specific subculture like the alt-right quickly shows just how critical these wide-open platforms have been to the growth of the movement."
A Splintering, But Still Dangerous, Movement
Meanwhile, as People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch recently pointed out, "The flaws embedded within alt-right communities online have come to a head recently. Infamous white nationalist Richard Spencer has called off his plans to go on a college speaking tour and the neo-Nazi group Traditionalist Worker Party had its leadership toppled when the group’s founder was arrested on charges of battery stemming from an affair he had with his spokesperson’s wife. Additionally, some of the media personalities who have come to be adored by alt-right activists have had to answer to damning revelations about their pasts."
The more established leaders of the alt-right "know perfectly well that its existence is utterly dependent on an ability to leverage social-media outlets and other -- decidedly less mainstream -- platforms on the Internet," David Neiwert, author of the invaluable Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in The Age of Trump, wrote recently at vice.com.
According to Neiwert, "The best-known players … operate within a zone that is closest to mainstream, reality-based conservatism, and have been labeled dismissively by the more virulent corners of the far-right as the ‘alt-lite.’ These include such media entities as Breitbart News, Infowars, and Gateway Pundit, commentators like Lucian Wintrich, and social-media personalities such as Mike Cernovich, Lauren Southern, and Jack Posobiec."
While infighting may be harming the movement, it still clearly sets sights on recruiting young disaffected white males via the Internet and on college campuses across the country.
"Alt-right propaganda is intentionally designed to foster feelings of grievance, injustice, and animosity, particularly against those considered threats to "western civilization" -- otherwise known as people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized communities," "The Alt-Right is Killing People" pointed out.
It "is giving a growing population of aggrieved young, white men a worldview that experts find is ripe for violence. The externalization of blame for one’s own disappointing circumstances in life -- and particularly its offloading onto minority communities -- is one of several indicators of mass violence."
In June of last year, in "PSA: When the Alt-Right Hits the Street, You Wanna be Ready," Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website -- which takes its name from the Nazi propaganda sheet known as Der Stürmer -- wrote: "Our target audience is white males between the ages of 10 and 30. I include children as young a ten, because an element of this is that we want to look like superheroes. We want to be something that boys fantasize about being a part of. That is a core element to this. I don’t include men over the age of 30, because after that point, you are largely fixed in your thinking. We will certainly reach some older men, but they should not be a focus."
Last summer, after Charlottesville, Vincent Law urged activists to start fundraising, planning actions, and "harden[ing] yourself emotionally, physically and if at all possible, financially." At altright.com he wrote: "If you haven’t noticed, the political climate has changed since Charlottesville. There’s been a crackdown. Who knows what comes next. As a movement, the Alt-Right has to face the reality that the State is hostile to us. In such conditions, we cannot rely on pyramid structures of authority. You the individual have to pick up the slack. Every single one of you has to become an officer capable of independent activism. Our movement needs to start resembling a Leaderless Resistance."