I am seeing calls, mostly in Facebook statuses and comments that I will not link, to stop covering the Alt-right. The Alt-right is the marriage of White Supremecist, White Nationalist, Anti-Feminist, and other far right groups into a loose alliance of reactionaries. Its numbers remain modest, but Steve Bannon, who gleefully platformed the alt-right as Editor in Chief of Brietbart, is headed to the White House. It comes as no surprise that there is push back against the coverage these developments are receiving.
And you know what, I kind of get the impulse. Every time there is a news story about them, more people learn about them. And if 2016 has taught us anything, it is that people are more comfortable with misogyny and white supremacy than is comfortable. When we put alt-right leadership in the news, we are giving them a chance to recruit—and they no it. The impulse to bury the story seems like an open/shut case.
For fun* I’ve been following the misogynist wings of the Alt-right since before they really embraced that label. This is part of the reason I am so insistent that alt-right is not merely Nazism or White Supremacy with new branding. There is a large, vocal constituency who passionately believes that feminism is the number one enemy of Western civilization. Make no mistake, one of their biggest concerns is progressive white women destroying the traditional ban on miscegenation, but it part of a larger, fundamentally anti-feminist agenda.
They firmly believe that “the media” is part of a feminist conspiracy—and yes, “the Jews” get credit too. Members of the so-called “manosphere” have argued for years their ideas would be more popular if not for the progressive conspiracy against them. They recruit by saying that feminists deny them a platform and that they are fighting for free speech. The truth was that the combination of their noxious views and small following meant they were not worthy of careful coverage. Alas, they have recruited themselves into being large enough by misunderstanding.
An active campaign to deny them a platform, especially a successful one, would be writing their recruitment pitch for them. While I am a staunch defender of the premise that organizations have every right to refuse to platform anyone whose views do not align with their mission, you have to admit that the Alt-right has a point about coverage. That radical, right-wing groups are organizing and that their sympathizers are headed to the White House is newsworthy. I support the conversation happening at flagship news organizations about how best to cover people who support legalizing rape and the holocaust redux without giving them undo sympathy. (This blog, for example, advocates using “alt-right” to describe the collective of allied radical conservative groups who self-identify with the term, but identifying the constituent groups and ideologies when talking about them individually.) Nonetheless, the mission of news organizations is to responsibly inform, and they must responsibly inform us that there is a growing neo-fascist threat.
The better path is for us to respond by organizing back. There are lot more people firmly committed to feminism, anti-racism, and multiculturalism than there are people involved in the alt-right. When legitimate news outlets tell your neighbors that neo-Nazis, misogynists, and the KKK are organizing in record numbers, it gives you the space to pitch opposition. If they hide it, it gives the Alt-right the chance to claim they are the persecuted ones to your neighbors.
Coverage of the Alt-right is the surest way to vet it—and find it wanting.
*My hobbies include things most people would consider torture, like mathematics and reading about online misogyny.