The president of the United States has weaponized his rhetoric and driven fear of the “other” into the hearts of Americans. Who is this “other” that both Trump’s base and the “alt-right” fear? It isn’t just one group, it’s an age-old trick often employed by fascist leaders. In the case of America and President Trump, the designation of the “other” has been bestowed upon the press, immigrants, liberals, and minorities both religious and ethnic to garner fear and sew division.
The president’s tactics dance dangerously on the precipice of classic fascism. John McNeill, writing for the Washington Post, wrote that extreme nationalism, a glorification of a golden-age long gone, and mass mobilization are all common threads in historical fascist movements. A cursory look at the aforementioned tactics sends shivers down the spine of any American paying attention. Not only are many of those tenets attributable to the President himself, but extreme nationalism and the glorification of a bygone golden-age are the very pillars of the “alt-right” movement.
Enter the “other.”
When the President refers to the press as “the enemy of the people” or drums up fear of immigrants by referring to a caravan of migrants as an invasion, he’s creating a perceived threat for his base to direct their ire. His fear mongering has strategic value in that it motivates his base to vote and thus keep their beloved country secure from the threats that the president has laid out. Fear drives his movement. The trouble is that immigrants, journalists, and minorities aren’t threatening the country, and so the hysteria born of the fear is not only undeserved but baseless and dangerous.
In the Vice News documentary, “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” marchers aligned with the “alt-right” can be seen chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” and carrying torches for their cause. The “alt-right” arm themselves not only with actual weaponry, but also information from internet forums hawking conspiracy theories based on fabricated tangential evidence. These conspiracy theories are, in their own way, a new religion in that they’re acted upon violently with minimal evidence.
President Trump, who ran on a platform pushing fear of the “other,” was at it again in the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. Mass mobilization, another of the common characteristics associated with historic fascist regimes is yet another tool employed by the president, who never stopped holding his “campaign” rallies after being elected. At these rallies, he riffs with little to no factual basis, playing on his base’s devotion to God and country with statements like, “If you don’t want America to be overrun by masses of illegal immigrants and massive caravans, you better vote Republican.”
His rhetoric and fear mongering all but explicitly give the “OK” to groups like the “alt-right” to mobilize, violently if need be. According to research published by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Family Studies, which is based in Charlottesville, 5.64 percent of America’s 198 million non-Hispanic whites’ beliefs align with those of the “alt-right.” That percentage, while seemingly small, amounts to roughly 11 million Americans. President Trump might refer to liberal democrats as a “mob,” but it’s the “alt-right” that has mobilized as a well-armed militia – and they vote.
What are we to do, we poor saps? Well, for one thing, we cannot get hysterical. Calmly but assertively, President Trump must be held accountable for his fear mongering and xenophobic rhetoric that has empowered the “alt-right” to take violent action. Trump gives credence to the “alt-right” notion that they’re the victims as though somehow the press and immigrants have conspired together to take down those white Christian males. First, if you really wanted to take down white Christian males, you need only to cease production of cargo pants and golf shirts.
In all seriousness, the narrative that the “alt-right” are victims merely reacting to a realistic fear of a perceived threat needs to be put to bed. President Trump must take responsibility for the power and reach of his words – the mobilization of an armed racist militia is not happening independently of him; his fingerprints are on those Tiki Torches as well.