An alt-right makeover shrouds the swastikas

The New York Times reports: A small but determined political organization in Detroit began to worry that its official symbol was a bit off-putting. With the group’s central philosophy suddenly finding traction in the daily discourse, appearances mattered.

So in November, as the country’s divisive presidential campaign became ever more jagged, the National Socialist Movement, a leading neo-Nazi group, did away with its swastika. In its stead, the group chose a symbol from a pre-Roman alphabet that was also adopted by the Nazis.

According to Jeff Schoep, the movement’s leader, the decision to dispense with the swastika was “an attempt to become more integrated and more mainstream.”

Let us pause. Not even two years ago, white supremacists like Mr. Schoep would rant from the fringe of the fringe, their attention-desperate events rarely worth mention. Today, though, the Schoeps of America are undergoing a rebranding, as part of the so-called alt-right: a grab bag of far-right groups generally united by the belief that white identity has become endangered in what they deride as this era of dangerous diversity and political correctness.

The deceptively benign phrase “alt-right” now peppers the national conversation, often in ways that play down its fundamental beliefs, which have long been considered intolerant and hateful. The term’s recent prevalence corresponds with the rise of President-elect Donald J. Trump; alt-right leaders say his inflammatory statements and Twitter habits in the campaign energized, even validated, their movement.

The movement is also acutely image-conscious, seeing the burning crosses, swastikas and language of yesteryear as impediments to recruitment. Its adherents talk of “getting red-pilled,” a reference to the movie “The Matrix,” in which the protagonist ingests a tablet that melts away artifice to reveal the truth. New, coded slurs have emerged. Fewer pointed hoods, more khaki pants.

But the alt-right movement is hardly monolithic, despite a well-publicized gathering last month in Washington — one that might have been mistaken for just another corporate conference were it not for the white-nationalist sentiments and the Nazi salutes. The factions within its ranks can differ on any number of subjects: white supremacy versus white nationalism, for example, or the vexing “J.Q.” — the “Jewish Question.”

James Edwards, a far-right talk radio host who describes himself as a “European-American advocate” — and who interviewed the president-elect’s son Donald Trump Jr. this year — wrote in an email that the alt-right movement was “a group of marauding conservatives who reject both the failures of establishment conservatism and the false gods of political correctness.”

Race is the uniting factor, Mr. Edwards wrote. “One fundamental element of the Alt-Right that brings the disparate factions together is the awareness of the reality of race and the need for European Americans to have organizations and spokespeople that explicitly advocate for our unique group interests.” [Continue reading…]

BuzzFeed reports: On Saturday evening, Twitter reinstated — with verification — the account of Richard Spencer, a leading figure of the so-called alt-right movement, and the head of the white nationalist think tank, The National Policy Institute.

Spencer’s account was suspended mid-November as part of a larger cull of prominent alt-right accounts, including Ricky Vaughn (who was previously banned after a BuzzFeed News story detailing his campaign to disenfranchise voters with false information), former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickenson, and John Rivers. Twitter did provide a reason for the move at the time it was undertaken, leading many to conclude the accounts were suspended for violations of the company’s prohibitions on targeted harassment, incitement, and hate speech.

However, according to Twitter, Spencer was banned on a technicality: creating multiple accounts with overlapping uses. [Continue reading…]

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