Brilliant Branding and the Far Right

Ask any conservative what the biggest problem they have with modern “liberalism” is and they will invariably tell you something about the left’s disdain for freedom of speech. To many, a sizable portion of Trump’s appeal was in his disregard for political correctness and his unrehearsed speech. A faction of, mostly, young liberals consider speech patterns encoded with racism and misogyny to be a form of institutionalized violence. People outside of this liberal group may consider the labeling of what was once considered regular speech as violent speech to be an exercise in imposing values on them which they do not hold. Liberals have, to a great extent, won the “culture war” of sensitive speech – a host of terms for different racial, disabled, ethnic, gender, and religious groups are widely considered offensive now where they were not even 20 years ago. Backlash against this, including by a variety of different political groupings to the right of the liberals who champion progressive speech, has been sustained and confrontational.

On the radical, or fringe, right openly declaring racism or other hateful ideologies has become too unacceptable and many groups of re-branded themselves to better fulfill their goals. Many declare themselves as part of the “alt-right” – a political grouping that has no real meaning and translates most accurately as “Trump-supporting.” Organizations like the NEI (Nazi ideology, operated by Richard Spencer) or American Renaissance (anti-black racism) are not immediately recognizable as hate groups if you glance through their websites. American Renaissance in particular is an excellent example of the modern “alt-right” re-branding strategy of hate groups. Their website repackages articles, columns, and blogs written by right-wing provocateurs like Pat Buchanan and Ann Coulter as if they were writing for the American Renaissance website. Instead of saying overtly racist and hateful things about black people they refer to their ideology as “race realism.” By giving hate an intellectual veneer and a moderate web presence and it is easy to start agreeing with their agenda until you realize it’s hateful nonsense. All of this re-branding and sanitizing of language provides these groups with cover from the media, sympathetic minds, and politicians. Under the Trump administration they find themselves being elevated to near-respectability by being lumped-in with the rest of the amorphous “alt-right” and having their rallies and conferences covered by the media.

Erasing history, reverse racism, and a host of terms from Orwell’s 1984 have been rallying cries from the right on the issue of the liberal impulse to correct what are viewed as historical wrongs. And this is where the Nazis come in. Tearing down statues is another example, for many, of political correctness run amok. For Nazis and members of the KKK, the statues are a sinister marker of racial dominance and pride. It is either a brilliant maneuver or a stroke of luck that by having members of the extreme edge of the “alt-right” protest the removal of Confederate statues there are conservatives and Trump supporters who will reflexively come to their defense against the anti-free speech left. Finding these commonalities and dovetails increases these groups visibility and respectability and it is something which conservatives and Trump supporters should be careful of feeding in to.

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