Headlines lit up Tuesday morning with the news that a vicious “alt-right” white supremacist group had spent the prior evening hailing Donald Trump’s presidential victory and casting Nazi salutes in support of some misguided vision of white nationalism. Media outlets rushed to report with almost a perverse glee about how Trump’s shocking election had launched leagues of neo-Nazi racists back into the spotlight (although there were only about 200 attendees at Monday’s meeting), finally giving them the megaphone they’ve long desired to lash out against Jews, blacks, immigrants, Muslims and anyone else of the non-Aryan variety.
But herein lies the problem: the media controls where the spotlight shines. And they point it with great deliberation.
Monday’s 11-hour meeting was led by Richard B. Spencer, whose name you’ve probably never heard because he’s been of very little consequence for…well, ever. Back in 2011, Spencer took over as director and president of the National Policy Institute, a group with that’s been around since 2005. According to the group’s own definition, NPI is “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”
And if you’re scratching your head trying to think of any policy that’s been affected by NPI’s influence, or any tangible effect the group has had on American life or society, that’s because they haven’t. They’ve held events, written papers, published reports, and they’re still less-known than the KKK, who’ve been most notable in recent memory for occasionally passing out poorly printed fliers and maintaining embarrassingly outdated websites.
To be fair, a fool in a suit preaching white power and inspiring Nazi salutes while standing in a building named for a president who brought an end to the Cold War is disturbing, to say the least. The mere existence of a group that thinks its supremacy is derived from some genetically prescribed amount of melanin is grossly offensive. And yet a small, sad gathering of roughly 200 people – about 0.00000062 percent of the entire American population – is hardly cause for this level of national alarm.
But the size and speed with which this gathering landed on Tuesday’s headlines perhaps revealed something even uglier about 2016 America. This year's presidential election not only pulled back the filthy curtain of American politics, but it also exposed the depths to which the American media will dig to spin a story. Fueled by an agenda not to report, but rather to create the national narrative, a campaign was launched to defame a presidential candidate, and the 60 million of Americans who voted for him, for political gain, regardless of the price.
But there are inherent dangers in lumping all Republicans, conservatives, Trump voters, or any other segmented category of generally law-abiding Americans in with a taboo, marginalized and relatively miniscule group of vocal bigots who haven’t had a significant platform in more than a half a century.
Will it suddenly cause the millions of anti-Hillary voters to suddenly recognize their inner racists and admit they’re all truly bigoted creatures at heart? Of course not.
Will it help heal the racial divide so many on the Left claim to fight against? No.
At best, it will simply give a louder, infinitely more amplified voice to a group that has for decades sought to wedge its foot back into the crack of the door to society. At its worst, it will help spread their vile message. Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the whole ordeal is that the media has become so desperate to paint Trump as the Antichrist that they’re now handing a microphone to a group that had been successfully relegated to the sidelines for years, which will ostensibly inspire them to now speak louder.
Newspapers, camera crews, reporters, and the collective We, all have a moral obligation in moments such as these, to lay aside political expediency and low-blow tactics aimed at defacing millions of our political opponents in order to silence a group that doesn’t deserve one more moment of free publicity. One more microphone shoved in the face of one more pathetic, prejudiced attention-seeker, no matter who they said they voted for, is another window of opportunity given to someone who arguably doesn’t deserve the air it would take to speak.
There are good reasons to be skeptical of a Trump presidency, and many Americans on both sides of the political aisle have been left with unanswered questions heading into the next four years. But the hyperbolized notion that Trump and the 60 million Americans who voted for him will suddenly usher in a new age of radical white domination is, by all logical reasoning, ludicrous.
But for now, we can expect the media to simply grasp at the lowest hanging fruit, promoting small sects of sidelined zealots as symbols of some nefarious shadow assumedly hidden in the hearts of half the populace, and sacrificing any hope for national unity on the twin altars of agendas and ratings.
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