Pepe and the stormtroopers
FIRST, an apology, or rather a regret: The Economist would prefer not to advertise the rantings of racists and cranks. Unfortunately, and somewhat astonishingly, the Alt-Right—the misleading name for a ragtag but consistently repulsive movement that hitherto has flourished only on the internet—has insinuated itself, unignorably, into American politics. That grim achievement points to the reverse sway now held by the margins, of both ideology and the media, over the mainstream. It also reflects the indiscriminate cynicism of Donald Trump’s campaign.
To most Americans, the purposes to which these gimmicks are put will seem as outlandish as the lexicon. One of the Alt-Right’s pastimes is to intimidate adversaries with photoshopped pictures of concentration camps; a popular Alt-Right podcast is called “The Daily Shoah”. To their defenders, such outrages are either justified by their shock value or valiantly transgressive pranks. Jokes about ovens, lampshades and gas chambers: what larks!
Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, an extremist website, dismisses these antics as “youthful rebellion”. (Mr Taylor is also involved with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which Dylann Roof cited as an inspiration for his racist massacre in Charleston last year.) But the substance behind the sulphur can seem difficult to pin down. The term Alt-Right, reputedly coined in 2008 by Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute, a bogus think-tank, encompasses views from libertarianism to paleoconservatism and onwards to the edges of pseudo-intellectual claptrap and the English language. Many Alt-Righters demonise Jews, but a few do not. Some, such as Brad Griffin of Occidental Dissent, another website, think “democracy can become a tool of oppression”, and that monarchy or dictatorship might be better; others, such as Mr Taylor, disagree. Some are techno-futurists; others espouse a kind of agrarian nostalgia. Many mourn the Confederacy. Mr Griffin thinks that, even today, North and South should separate.
Yet from the quack ideologues to the out-and-proud neo-Nazis, some Alt-Right tenets are clear and constant. It repudiates feminism with misogynistic gusto. It embraces isolationism and protectionism. Above all, it champions white nationalism, or a neo-segregationist “race realism”, giving apocalyptic warning of an impending “white genocide”. Which, of course, is really just old-fashioned white supremacism in skimpy camouflage.