The Washington Post reports: For all that he did in Charlottesville, chanting anti-Semitic slogans, carrying a torch through the college town, he wasn’t even aware that the alt-right existed one year ago. It wasn’t until Hillary Clinton condemned the movement in a campaign speech last August that he first learned of it, and from there, the radicalization of William Fears, 29, moved quickly.
He heard that one of its spokesmen, Richard Spencer, who coined the name “alt-right,” was speaking at Texas A&M University in December, so he drove the two hours to hear him speak. There, he met people who looked like him, people he never would have associated with white nationalism — men wearing suits, not swastikas — and it made him want to be a part of something. Then Fears was going to other rallies across Texas, and local websites were calling him one of “Houston’s most outspoken Neo-Nazis,” and he was seeing alt-right memes of Adolf Hitler that at first he thought foolish — “people are going to hate us” — but soon learned to enjoy.
“It’s probably been about a year,” he said, “but my evolution has been faster and faster.”
Last weekend’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which ended with dozens injured, a woman struck dead by a car, a president again engulfed in scandal and another national bout of soul-searching over race in America, was a collection of virtually every kind of white nationalist the country has ever known. There were members of the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and neo-Nazis . But it was this group, the group of William Fears, that was not so familiar.
The torch-lit images of Friday night’s march revealed scores like him: clean-cut, unashamed and young — very young. They almost looked as though they were students of the university they marched through.
Who were they? What in their relatively short lives had so aggrieved them that they felt compelled to drive across the country for a rally? How does this happen? [Continue reading…]