There’s been a lot of scrutiny of the "alt-right" this year as the political movement has become increasingly tied to the Donald Trump campaign. Hillary Clinton gave a speech about the movement denouncing it as racist. The media has given the alt-right a lot of coverage as well, including Dylan Matthews’s great explainer for Vox.
But how do some of the people at the head of the movement describe themselves and their views?
In a new video for liberal media watchdog Media Matters, Carlos Maza went to a two-hour press conference held by some of the alt-right’s leaders. Here are just some of the things they said in the course of that press conference, featuring Richard Spencer, who coined the term alt-right, and Jared Taylor, a self-described "white advocate":
- "Race is a foundation of identity. You’re a part of something, whether you like it or not."
- "When you ask whites to celebrate diversity, you're asking them to celebrate their dwindling numbers."
- "I do not want my country to become one in which my children and grandchildren are not only a racial minority, but at the rate things are going now, a hated and despised minority."
- "Why is Africa poor? Why is, on the other hand, Haiti equally poor? … This is because they’re populated by the same people."
- "East Asians have the highest IQ — about an average of 102, 103. Next come whites at about 100. Next come Hispanics, which are a very varied population — hard to put a firm figure on them. And then blacks have an average IQ of about 85."
- "There’s been an overrepresentation by Jews in intellectuals who have tried to undermine the legitimacy of white racial consciousness."
- "Jews have their own identity. They’re not European."
There’s not much room for imagination here. These are some clearly racist messages. And a total misrepresentation of statistics — the race IQ claim in particular has been torn apart time and time and time again.
Yet, as Maza points out, the alt-right — or at least its talking points — are increasingly entering into the mainstream. By spouting the alt-right’s xenophobic, racist views and hiring Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon — who proudly called his website "the platform for the alt-right" — to head his campaign, Trump has pushed the media to treat the alt-right as a serious political actor — and, as a result, given white nationalists airtime to argue for their views. Jared Taylor, for instance, has appeared on CNN and Fox News.
"What is kind of surprising is how aware they are of the media moment they’re having right now," Maza said, shortly after attending the press conference. "They know that election coverage has given them an unprecedented opportunity to move from the fringe into the mainstream."
Maza, of course, isn’t the first to bring up concerns that Trump and media coverage around him have mainstreamed a new racist movement. In a CNN appearance earlier this month, former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien called out the media for mainstreaming white supremacists, arguing that cable news media is "softening the ground for people who are white supremacists, who are white nationalists, who would self-identify that way to feel comfortable with their views being brought into the national discourse to the point where they can do a five-minute segment happily on national television."
This applies to policy too. Consider Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the US: A few years ago, nothing like it — a ban on an entire religious group — would break into the political mainstream. Today? It's an idea journalists regularly discuss and pollsters routinely ask Americans about, all because Trump proposed it and the media, in response, heavily covered it. It’s become a mainstream political position.
Trump has pulled off something similar for the alt-right, even as the alt-right’s leaders describe their cause in some clearly racist ways.