Thursday, September 15, 2016

How Trump Made the Hateful Fringe Mainstream

Over the years as I have traveled overseas it has often been interesting to get a foreign perspective on American politics and politicians.   The comments have run from admiration for Barack Obama more recently to comments that "America deserves better" while in Canada back in the 2008 prior that year's presidential election.  Back in the Reagan years when I traveled extensively as in-house counsel for an oil company, it was a mixed bag.   When not traveling, foreign publications are the next best window into foreign thinking on the madness that is American politics, especially in 2016. A piece in The Economist, a well respected British publication, shows the dismay that many of America's allies and members of the international business community feel towards Donald Trump and his frightening supporters.  Here are article highlights:
FIRST, an apology, or rather a regret: The Economist would prefer not to advertise the rantings of racists and cranks. Unfortunately, and somewhat astonishingly, the Alt-Right—the misleading name for a ragtag but consistently repulsive movement that hitherto has flourished only on the internet—has insinuated itself, unignorably, into American politics. That grim achievement points to the reverse sway now held by the margins, of both ideology and the media, over the mainstream. It also reflects the indiscriminate cynicism of Donald Trump’s campaign.
Much of the Alt-Right’s output will seem indecipherably weird to those unfamiliar with the darker penumbras of popular culture. It has its own iconography and vernacular, derived from message boards, video games and pornography. Its signature insult is “cuckservative”, directed at Republicans supposedly emasculated by liberalism and money.
One of the Alt-Right’s pastimes is to intimidate adversaries with photoshopped pictures of concentration camps; a popular Alt-Right podcast is called “The Daily Shoah”. To their defenders, such outrages are either justified by their shock value or valiantly transgressive pranks. Jokes about ovens, lampshades and gas chambers: what larks! 
Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, an extremist website, dismisses these antics as “youthful rebellion”. (Mr Taylor is also involved with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which Dylann Roof cited as an inspiration for his racist massacre in Charleston last year.) But the substance behind the sulphur can seem difficult to pin down. The term Alt-Right, reputedly coined in 2008 by Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute, a bogus think-tank, encompasses views from libertarianism to paleoconservatism . . .
Yet from the quack ideologues to the out-and-proud neo-Nazis, some Alt-Right tenets are clear and constant. It repudiates feminism with misogynistic gusto. It embraces isolationism and protectionism. Above all, it champions white nationalism, or a neo-segregationist “race realism”, giving apocalyptic warning of an impending “white genocide”. Which, of course, is really just old-fashioned white supremacism in skimpy camouflage.
That is why the term Alt (short for “alternative”) Right is misleading. Mr Taylor—whom Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, a watchdog, describes as the movement’s “intellectual leader”—says it represents an alternative to “egalitarian orthodoxy and to neutered ‘conservatives’.”
[I]t is the latest iteration in an old, poisonous strain of American thought, albeit with new enemies, such as Muslims, enlisted alongside the old ones. “Fifty years ago these people were burning crosses,” says Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League. . . . Online, they have achieved sufficient density to warrant wider attention. There, too, they and Mr Trump found each other.
The association precedes Mr Trump’s hiring as his campaign manager of Stephen Bannon, former boss of Breitbart News, a reactionary news website that Mr Bannon reportedly described as “the platform for the Alt-Right”, and which has covered the movement favourably. Already Mr Trump had echoed the Alt-Right’s views on Muslims, immigration, trade and, indeed, Vladimir Putin, whom Alt-Righters ludicrously admire for his supposed pursuit of Russia’s national interest. Pressed about these shared prejudices (and tweets), Mr Trump has denied knowing what the Alt-Right is, even that it exists—unable, as usual, to disavow any support, however cretinous, or to apply a moral filter to his alliances or tactics.
Mr Trump’s rise and the Alt-Right were both cultivated by the kamikaze anti-elitism of the Tea Party, rampant conspiracy theories and demographic shifts that disconcert some white Americans.
Unquestionably, however, Mr Trump has bestowed on this excrescence a scarcely dreamed-of prominence. As Hillary Clinton recently lamented, no previous major-party nominee has given America’s paranoid fringe a “national megaphone”. Many on the Alt-Right loved that speech: “it was great,” says Mr Griffin. “She positioned us as the real opposition.” Because of Mr Trump, the Alt-Right thinks it is on the verge of entering American politics as an equal-terms participant. “He is a bulldozer who is destroying our traditional enemy,” says Mr Griffin. Mr Trump may not be Alt-Right himself, but “he doesn’t have to be to advance our cause.”

Suffice it to say than many in America's longest ally other than France, are appalled by Mr. Trump, as should sane, decent Americans.

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