“Alt Right” is the Exact Same Tactic that “National Socialist” was.
Did you know that “Nazi” is an abbreviation? It’s a shortening of the German word “Nationalsozialismus,” which is essentially the equivalent of saying “National Socialism.” What you likely know about socialism, though, doesn’t meld too well with Nazism.
Whether you view socialism with contempt as a failed system (which is incorrect; see European nations thriving with varying takes on socialism) or as the logical choice moving forward, Nazism doesn’t even vaguely resemble it.
What exactly was Nazism — systematically speaking? What were they actually doing if it wasn’t socialism? And how is the so-called “Alt Right” eerily similar?
Adolf Hitler was vocally anti-capitalist — though it was essentially only rhetorical. One of the things he stressed (according to The Rise of Fascism) was that “our adopted term ‘Socialist’ has nothing to do with Marxist socialism.” He and his propagandists explicitly separated their “socialism” from what they called “Jewish Marxism” or “Bolshevism,” which they branded (Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution, p. 53) as having three “vices:” democracy, pacifism, and internationalism. You know, things American values are supposedly built on.
Nazism rejected the calls to equalize class present in Marxism, fully embracing social classes. Supposedly these classes were based on “merit and talent” — which where have I heard that before? Hmm. Certainly not the various reactionary movements! Other ideologies aside, this directly contradicts any good-faith economic theory claiming socialism.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler espoused an ideology that championed the seizing of economic resources from other regions by force. In his nationalist ding-dong brain, the only path to economic stability was direct control over resources instead of a trade-based approach. War was his method to gain such resources, and he maintained it was the only way to truly accomplish their goals. As for the distribution of wealth, he believed in private property but beyond that simply said “the basic feature of our economic theory is that we have no theory at all,” which is quintessentially idiotic.
That is to say, his economic approaches are right-wing meritocracy wrapped in nihilism. Fundamentally speaking, Hitler’s economic theory is equivalent of what an “edgy” teen’s might be.
If Nazis were definitely not socialists, what were they? Well, I probably have significantly less to tell you about that you haven’t already heard; they’re regarded as the classic example of fascism, ethno-nationalism, and totalitarianism in modern history. These ideologies are rooted extremely deep in radical right-wing extremism (and eugenics). Why did they call themselves socialist, then?
Well, why does the “Alt Right” call itself the “Alt Right?”
“Nazi” and “Alt Right” both have the same purpose: to obfuscate fascism and bigotry. If you call yourselves “fascists” or “nationalists,” people generally don’t like it. People don’t like eugenics, white supremacy, racial determinism, genocide, and hatred.
However, people do like thinking they’re special. They like being told so even more. Often, the idea one is the hero of one’s own story breeds a culture of rooting for people who are similar to you. What if purporters of an ideology could co-opt this feeling to direct people down a path of bigotry? Ethno-nationalism has done just that. In naming themselves the “Alt Right,” they’ve coined a term that doesn’t automatically conjure fascism — just like National Socialism certainly didn’t during the early 1930s. Very few people worldwide were instantly repulsed by the word “Nazi” before the leadup to World War II. Today, almost everyone is.
“Nazi” was a more effective obfuscation, though, as it has been consistently used as an argument commonly put forward to discredit socialism by extremists. The Nazis were demonstrably radical right-wing totalitarians — that is to say no one looks back and calls the Nazi Party “socialists” in good faith. The “Alt Right” will, though.
You see, fascism will happily try to scare you with other fascism.
“They called themselves socialists! We are conservatives! The total opposite!” This is anything but the truth. You see them go on to various media outlets and act very nice and calm, saying to you that they aren’t so bad — that they’re “sober” even. These things are called “lies.”
The really contentious question is, then, “should we stop calling them the Alt Right?” There’s a lot swirling around imploring people to avoid using their terminology, and I certainly understand it. I just can’t help but wonder how useful it is to pretend a group of fascists isn’t falsely claiming to be an “alternative conservatism.” They’re not; they’re just a bunch of white nationalists.
I really don’t understand the logic behind “never say Alt Right.” Does it not make sense to say “The newest iteration of white nationalism is called The Alt Right?” Why do we not want to ensure people know what “Alt Right” means?
Wouldn’t this be a pretty easy way to let them define what it is? If we don’t say “Alt Right” when we are talking about fascism and bigotry — will we be able to complain when people don’t recognize the term as one of fascism and bigotry? People should recoil from the words “Alt Right” in the same way they do with “Nazi.” How will we ever get to that point if we want to pretend the term never existed?
The intention is to deny the term attention, but the problem is the attention market has already crashed. Neoliberal consensus-by-aggregate is over. Trump just exploited and destroyed all of our normal modes of operation and if we attempt to continue operation within that framework, they’re already ahead of us.
That being said, every oppositional usage of “Alt Right” isn’t a responsible one. Simple reference to the “Alt Right” as “bad” is essentially saying “don’t do drugs, mmm’kay?” If you (particularly if you are a member of the media) say “Alt Right,” it needs to be accompanied by language that correctly characterizes what they are: fascist bigots.
“Alt Right” is the new “Nazi.” The Alt Right is no more a “stronger alternative to conservatism” than “Nazi” are socialists.
They aren’t completely the same, but they’re too similar to pretend they aren’t both just white nationalism. They also aren’t Voldemort, and saying their name doesn’t automatically empower them. That is fallacious thinking — in fact, pretty much any attempt to apply Harry Potter to this horrific state of affairs humanity is living in is fallacious thinking.
Their name can become their detriment if you’re willing to call them what they actually are after you call them the name they’ve chosen. “Alt Right” can be — needs to be — synonymous with “fascist” and “bigot.”
This doesn’t get accomplished by telling people not to say “Alt Right” on Twitter.