Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Social Movement: The alt-right.

Richard Spencer - Founder of Alt-right
The alt-right is a movement - founded by Richard Spencer - with far right ideologies and reject media’s conservatism as it is too “liberal” for their taste. Members are mainly white, millennial men according to USA Today, which may not surprise some of us who are very socially aware of the racial tensions in America. The group has been heavily associated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, especially in light of Trump appointing Stephen Bannon, head of Breitbart News (who said Breitbart is the platform for the alt-right), to be in his administration. This is not a formal group as there are various ideologies within the alt-right. The alt-right is also known as white nationalists and many, including myself, describe them - as often times they should - as white supremacists, although many members of the movement may not, in fact, call themselves supremacists. They are seen as Neo-Nazis due to their hatred towards Jews, homophobes, sexists, and racists, and are simply called bigots by numerous people.

A vast number of supporters are online and are often anonymous. The Koine (shared space where people come together to share ideas) for this group is primarily social media and other internet outlets. There are those who embrace the movement offline though. For example, a white man set two predominantly black churches on fire and planned to start an alt-right group at UW (Watch the news report here: http://www.channel3000.com/news/crime/uw-student-trying-to-start-alt-right-group-pled-guilty-to-arson-of-black-churches_/295674318).

This movement is growing in size, but is also growing in opposition from both liberals and conservatives alike, as is evident by a video of the alt right leader – Richard Spencer – being punched during an interview (Watch the video here: http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/01/21/richard-spencer-alt-right-punched-in-face-ekr-vstop-orig.cnn).

Stephen Bannon - Head of Breitbart News
But how does a hateful group gain such a following and continue to grow? It is gaining a bigger following through rhetoric; no social movement is achieved without rhetoric. I contend that pathos is the primary mode of rhetoric they depend on. The notion that minorities are tainting “white culture” is the driving force behind their emotional appeal (pathos) and the majority of their appeal in general from what I can tell. By demonizing Jews and other minorities, they can heavily play off of insecurities about white culture being taken away by other groups, which is working to persuade people to join.  The facts (logos) the group presents are highly debatable to be facts at all, as they are not hard defined things within the world, so they may appeal to the “logic” of their members, but these "alternative facts" are far from hard truth. They say the white race is superior and all others are inferior, but this is not a truth in itself. Now… Ethos. The leaders of the movement are convincing for members, but as with everything else, it is highly subjective. Personally, the leaders hold no remarkable credibility or good character for myself and a vast amount others, but to their followers, Bannon and Spencer have the credibility and character to be desired in the leaders of the world that they fantasize.

Judging from their rhetoric, the alt-right has no need to coerce the audience when the audience is swayed so heavily by emotions and the leaders themselves. Members are willingly joining the cause for social change because the alt-right sees diversification of the world as an injustice. And as Castels said about social movements: They stem from perceived injustice in society. If participation truly is the key to Koine... the members are perfectly happy to participate in their commons to achieve their motives of "protection of the white identity" and white supremacy.


The Essentials of Rhetoric

Castels, "Networking Minds, Creating Meaning, Contesting Power"

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