Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute and one of the original members of the alt-right movement addressed the organization’s annual conference, opening with “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory” and calling mainstream media “Lügenpresse.” Members of the audience gave repeated Nazi salutes in reply. The NPI’s motto is “For our people, our culture, our future” and declares the institute as being “dedicated to the revival and flourishing of our people.”
There is so much here that raises alarms for anyone who has attended to the history of the twentieth century. As a member of the press, I’ll start with the Spencer’s attack on what he calls the “ Lügenpresse.” He said the term was in the original German, literally “lying press,” and indeed, it comes from the period between the First and Second World Wars, used at first to refer to non-German news, regarded as propaganda from the Allies and then picked up by the Nazis as an attack on the opinions of Jews and communists. What Spencer has in mind when he calls out “the lying press,” he didn’t specify, but the general tone of his organization and the conference suggests that he means any reporter or commentator who is critical of Trump or of white nationalism.
He referred to members of the press as “soulless golem.” This is a typical attack made by neo-Nazis, claiming that the media and the arts are under Jewish control, a reference to Jewish lore about an artificial magical creature raised by a spell to do its creator’s bidding, including at times defending the Jewish people. In other words, we’re all under some sorcerer’s influence, and that’s the only reason we — at least the white members of the press — could present Spencer and his ideology in anything but the best light.
If this were just the endemic racism among a handful of losers playing Nazis, we could label it a disease on its way out and call it a day. But things aren’t so simple. Attacks against Muslims, ethnic minorities, women, gays, and other groups — attacks against them for who they are, not for some ordinary criminal motive — are on the rise. When vile rhetoric is combined with increases in violence driven by hate, we’re headed in a dangerous direction, one that is not in keeping with our national character.
I’m going to sum this up in the clearest terms I can give: Richard Spencer is talking about me. In his mirror universe in which he chose his parents and his skin color well and whites are the only productive members of the human species, what looks like the truth about human rights and about society as our combined effort to provide each of us opportunity to him must seem to be lies.
This armed liberal commentator is not on Spencer’s side. He said that for his people, “it is conquer or die.” If that’s the choice he wants to force on the country, it’s up to all decent Americans — members of the gun community or not, black or white or Arab or Hispanic, of any sexual orientation, of any religion or political party — to stand up and say no. None of our rights are safe if people like Spencer are in power. We have to make it clear to the president-elect and the members of his incoming administration, to Congress, and to each other that we are on the side of humanity and the rights of all of humanity’s members — every one of us, not just the ones Spencer identifies with.
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