For those that aren’t quite sure what the term ‘alt-right’ refers to, it is effectively a bridge in middle of the gap between conservative Republicanism and white supremacy. Being part of the alt-right doesn’t necessarily mean someone is an outright white supremacist as such, but rather an ultra-conservative with some ties to white nationalism as well as a fondness for ludicrous and bigoted conspiracy theories about their political opponents.
As if the forthcoming Trump Presidency, or Trumpocalypse, wasn’t frightening enough, there are several very serious and troubling connections between Trump and his campaign, and members of the alt-right. It isn’t just the fact that alt-right personalities and organisations declared their support for Trump, but Trump made and confirmed his associations with key alt-right figures.
One of the main examples of such a connection arose during the election campaign with an alt-right extremist called Alex Jones. Jones runs a news-cast and online forum called InfoWars.com. To give you a bit information as to who Jones is, this is a man who parades conspiracy theories of sheer lunacy as if they were outright facts. He has proclaimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are “demons” and that “they smell like sulphur”, and has frequently pushed outlandish conspiracies about Hillary Clinton’s health, claiming that she has had seizures. Most shockingly of all, Jones believes that the more than twenty children who were massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2013 were child actors, and that nobody really died there. Just think about that for a minute.
Alex Jones on his own could quite easily be dismissed as ‘a lunatic but essentially harmless’. However, not only did Alex Jones frequently declare his support for Donald Trump, but Trump has furthered their association. Trump appeared on an episode of InfoWars via video-link, where he praised Alex Jones for doing “a fantastic job” and said that he hoped to make Jones “very, very proud” of his campaign. This sent an incredibly dangerous message. Trump not only believes that InfoWars.com is a credible news site, but he is effectively normalising and accepting alt-right beliefs and conspiracy theories by creating a friendly association between him and Alex Jones.
A second and more significant figure in the alt-right movement is a man called Steve Bannon. He is the former head of the Breitbart news network, which is an alt-right website that also publishes articles ranging from ludicrous conspiracies to outright racism and sexism. One article published on the Breitbart website was titled “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and another referred to a U.S. Congressman as a “renegade Jew”, demonstrating the shocking scope of the lunacy and bigotry that is so readily available on this site. Bannon’s ex-wife has also said that he once declared that he did not want his daughters going to school with Jews.
Naturally, many were appalled when Trump announced this year during the election campaign that Steve Bannon was to become the new CEO of the Trump campaign. Again, this was a horrifying realisation that Trump was willing to normalise and accept the beliefs of the alt-right movement into his campaign. However, this campaign appointment was nowhere near as shocking as Trump’s decision after he won the presidential election to appoint Bannon as his Chief Strategist in the White House. Given that the Chief Strategist will effectively be a co-equal position to the White House Chief of Staff (who will be Reince Priebus in the forthcoming Trump administration) in terms of advisory responsibilities and access to the President, what Trump has done is allowed a man with anti-Semitic views and strong alt-right connections to have one of the most important positions in the White House and to be a part of running the executive branch of the United States Government. Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, when asked about the controversy of this appointment, chose to completely ignore Bannon’s dangerous connections, saying that “you have to look at the full résumé… he was a naval officer”. The deliberate ignorance of Trump campaign officials towards Bannon’s alt-right connections is dangerous, and only elevates fears about how and by whom the Trump administration will be run.
The reaction of the outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), telling Trump to “rescind the appointment… just don’t do it”, is just a small part of the outrage to Bannon’s appointment to this incredibly important position in the Trump White House (Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other key political figures have also declared their fierce opposition to this decision). Trump is normalising extremist views and has given a leading figure in the alt-right movement a front-row seat in his administration. It does not appear likely that President-elect Trump will retract Bannon’s appointment, meaning that alt-right extremism is no-longer on the fringe of American politics, but now right in the heart of the White House.