Clinton, linking Trump with white nationalists and a “radical fringe,” delivered a blistering attack on what she said was the alt-right’s takeover of the Republican Party. In doing so, she cast a spotlight on the obscure movement, thrusting it into mainstream political discussion.
“She is doing the white nationalism movement a great service by bringing attention to our issues to the forefront of political debate,” said William Johnson, a leader of the white nationalist American Freedom Party who was selected by Trump as a California delegate during the primary, but later resigned.
Jared Taylor, who helps run white nationalist online magazine American Renaissance, said he and those who share his beliefs “appreciate any publicity Mrs. Clinton gives us.” “We have important things to say and are glad for any opportunity to speak to national audiences,” Taylor told HuffPost.
The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that calls itself “the world’s most visited alt-right website,” also cheered Clinton’s speech. “Well guys. We’ve made it,” Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin wrote. “Hillary Clinton is giving a speech about us today.”
Richard Spencer, head of white nationalist think tank National Policy Institute who is credited with coining the term “alternative right,” wrote in an online journal that Clinton’s speech is “empowering.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist groups, calls National Policy Institute’s journal “racist.” Moreover, according to Spencer, it may no longer be accurate to label the extreme right-wing ideology “alternative.”
At the Republican National Convention last month, where Trump formally accepted his party’s nomination, Spencer declared that alt-right had “taken over” the mainstream right. Spencer celebrated that sentiment on Twitter Thursday, before Clinton’s speech by declaring “The #AltRightMeans we are the right wing now!”
On white nationalist website Stormfront, there was a call to use the #AltRightMeans tag to counter Clinton’s rhetoric about the movement. The hashtag was trending before and during Clinton’s speech.
The alt-right is a somewhat amorphous label for a what Southern Poverty Law Center defines as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals” whose core beliefs rest in the notion that “white identity” is under attack by “political correctness” and “social justice.” These forces are acting to “undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization,” according to the law center.
American Renaissance defines the alt-right as a “broad dissident movement” that rejects the principle that all people are equal. Race is central to its philosophy. Here’s American Renaissance in its own words:
What Exactly Is Alt-Right?
This is how alt-right American Renaissance defines the alt-right, from their statement in response to Clinton speech.
The movement, called different things as it festered on the margins of politics for decades, appears to be gaining a boost during this presidential campaign. Google Trends shows interest in the search term “alt right” as very low from 2004 until about April 2015. Since then, searches for the term have quadrupled.
That’s at least in part related to the higher profile that white supremacy groups have received during Trump’s campaign, which has been criticized for not rejecting support from white supremacists like David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard who encouraged other white nationalists to volunteer for Trump’s campaign.
Trump denies he’s a racist, but continues making racist remarks. His ever-changing immigration policies include the deportation of millions. He has pledged to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. And he has a habit of retweeting messages posted by white supremacists and sharing them with his 11.1 million Twitter followers. Clinton’s speech also sparked a flood of news articles about the alt-right.
That widespread coverage is a “lottery win” for the extremists, Brian Levin, director for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, told HuffPost. While pushing extremism into the mainstream conversation may be unpleasant, he said, it remains critical to show the extremism celebrating Trump’s candidacy.
The alt-right, Levin said, is a “cobbled and somewhat amorphous movement that includes a core of bigots has infiltrated part of a mainstream political insurgency.” And as its profile rises, it must at the very least be reckoned with, he said.