Some time ago I read an article by The Independent1, which concerned itself with the growth of Alt-Right Groups on social media. This growth is in fact of such an exponential nature that it apparently outranks ISIS’s growth on Twitter (which appears to be their chosen social media platform). If this is really true, we should consider re-examining the amount of attention we pay to Islamic terrorism in relation to other threats infiltrating our communities. We have ample evidence that right extremist ideology can result in terrorist attacks, such as in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette2, although of course we frame these events usually in the context of ‘lone wolves’, ‘mental instability’ and ‘isolated incidents’. Some have even argued3, that since 9/11 more people have been killed by white supremacist terrorism than by its brother stemming from a radicalized Islamic ideology.
Apparently, this Alt-Right networking predominantly takes place on Facebook. At the time, that sounded believable enough to me, and of course considering the shift in public discourse I would have classified some currently socially accepted narratives as part of the Alt-Right movement, such as Milo Yiannopoulos’s take on Black Lives Matter4.
For me, that was back then about the end of it until I stumbled upon a Facebook page called ‘God Emperor Trump’s Dank Meme Stash’, whose description advertised “We have the best memes, tremendous memes. Nobody has better memes than us”, which made me laugh.
Naturally, I thought that this was a page designed to critically engage with Trump’s actions, narratives and policies via internet jokes – Boy, was I wrong!
They do, in fact, make use of memes as a way of expressing their opinion, but not only was the title of the group not chosen ironically but as well within this group I found a number of things that make to look upon Mr. Yiannopoulos opinions in a very different light by comparison.
I made a decision to abstain from posting any specific images here on this blog, because I know that minorities and those at the receiving end of discrimination and oppression are confronted with these and similar attitudes often enough in their life.
But I also believe, to appropriately engage with the realities of right-wing extremism, we need to know what we are up against. Not only to be able to assess accurately the threat it poses, but also to enable ourselves to go through a reality check, to burst our ‘bubble’ – even if it is really worrying and hurtful.
I myself was not aware that people could not only hold extreme opinions such as Holocaust denial, Antisemitism or White Supremacist Advocacy and express them that openly and without fear of some kind of social censorship. Of course I recognize that the Alt-Right always had spaces to proclaim these kind of opinions, however, in the past I experienced their arguments to be largely void of these extreme points within the public sphere.
Furthermore, it surprised me how easily these groups were to find – I did not actually have to look very hard.
But Facebook is not the only place where such messages have been found. Mic5 just published a video featuring white supremacist Richard Spencer articulating his belief that America really belongs to White Man.
On the one hand we of course need to oppose not only such attitudes but also the ideology behind it, on the other hand we need to be clear about what they are: terrorists.
Terrorists commit vile acts on the basis of a flawed belief system. Please let us not allow their rhetoric to distract us from the fact that they make our communities less safe, not more.