Osita Nwanevu writes: Tuesday afternoon, in the wake of this past weekend’s widely covered meeting of Richard Spencer’s white supremacist National Policy Institute, ThinkProgress published an editor’s note telling readers the site will no longer use the descriptor alt-right:
You might wonder what, if anything, distinguishes the alt-right from more hidebound racist movements such as the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan. The answer is very little, except for a bit of savvy branding and a fondness for ironic Twitter memes. Spencer and his ilk are essentially standard-issue white supremacists who discovered a clever way to make themselves appear more innocuous — — even a little hip.
The note goes on to say that ThinkProgress will use the terms white supremacist and white nationalist as it deems appropriate to describe the rising crop of racist far-right groups, individuals, and publications that have risen to prominence before, during, and after the 2016 election. ThinkProgress will reserve the term neo-Nazi, which many in the media have insisted is the most apt replacement for alt-right, for those who refer to themselves as neo-Nazis “or adopt important aspects of Nazi rhetoric and iconography.”
The debate over what to call Spencer and his ilk is more than a purely semantic one. The wrong terminology, ThinkProgress and others have argued, could contribute to the normalization and promotion of virulently racist beliefs. The fact that alt-right is a label Spencer chose himself also places it under deserved scrutiny.
But alt-right, for now, remains the least wrong and most broadly useful moniker. As I pointed out in an etymology back in August, it remains the term that, in its lack of specificity, best encompasses the broad array of beliefs espoused by those who have adopted the label: [Continue reading…]