On Aug. 15, President Donald Trump stood before a podium in the lobby of his New York City home. Trump was ostensibly there to talk about infrastructure, but the conversation swiftly turned to Charlottesville and the administration’s failure to appropriately handle the fallout of the events of the weekend before. A heated Trump brought back his much-derided “many sides” argument from a few days prior . . . and then took it to a whole new level, asking the members of the press gathered before him: “What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right?”
Let’s set the record straight here and now: there is no alt-left; there has never been an alt-left, and there will never be an alt-left. And there’s a good reason why.
The phrase “alternative right” first entered the public consciousness in a real way in 2008 when Taki’s Magazine published “The Decline and Rise of the Alternative Right.” The outrageously highfalutin speech was given by conservative philosopher (and son of Jewish immigrants) Paul Gottfried to the The H.L. Mencken Club, an organization that in and of itself has nationalist-leaning ideologies. Two years later, the questionable association would be concreted when noted white supremacist Richard B. Spencer — who had long been hopping around the conservative blogosphere, facing job troubles due to his extremist views — used it as the domain name for his very own editorial website: AlternativeRight.com.
Spencer, along with like-minded hate-speech enthusiast and white supremacist Jared Taylor, would use the shorthand “alt-right” to describe their following, and the “intellectual” movement that they claim to have given birth to. Fueled by the propaganda issued by the National Policy Institute think tank —an organization in which they both sat at the top of the org chart — and by their respective websites, the two men would slowly nurture a burgeoning neo-Nazi movement in the darkest depths of the internet. Spencer was not satisfied with his underlying claims of ownership of the phrase and would go on to launch AltRight.com in 2017.
For many, the first time they confronted the hatred and rage of the group was during the 2016 election, when the alt-right coalesced behind then-candidate Donald Trump. But it’s important to recognize that there is a difference between the right, conservatives, and even an “alternative” conservative movement, and the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who Taylor and Spencer represent. Therefore, it’s crucial that we are clear in our usage of these phrases when identifying groups of Americans and meticulous about the ideas and actions that we attribute to them. Richard Spencer wants his white nationalist following to be called the alt-right so that they don’t have to be called what they are: hate-filled racists who seek to add inequality and despair to each and every conversation on the national scale.
And so we come to the “alt-left.” While some have tried to equate the alt-right to a left-leaning counterpart, one underlying fact has made this a false equivalent: the alt-right is a movement fueled by sentiments that have been relegated by modern thought to the deepest, darkest caverns for their impossibly hateful rhetoric. Alt-left, for all intents and purposes, is merely an epithet used by these individuals to indicate that they are not the worst . . . to pretend that those who oppose their views are just as bad.
But let’s dispel of that notion right here and now: there is no alt-left. There is nothing worse than the alt-right. They deserve to stand alone in the unique category of evil that has no counterpart. There is no place for white nationalism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, or the KKK in 2017. And no amount of deflection about some countermovement — on the left, right, or anywhere else — can ever change these facts.