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Normalizing the term ‘Alt Right’ is not okay

This petition had 32,174 supporters


Alt-right is a manufactured label that is a stand-in for white supremacists, white nationalists, and fascists. The media has said it won't use the term without, as The New York Times says, "...a blunt explanation of its meaning." (December 4, 2016). Yet, in that same issue, in a separate article, Richard B. Spencer was referred to as the head of an Alt-Right website and an Alt-Right group from Montana. No explanation, blunt or otherwise.

When I was in sixth grade, my peers and I were ushered into Room 8 at Estabrook Elementary School to watch the devastating Holocaust documentary Night and Fog. In contrast to today’s climate, it’s shocking to think that ten-year-olds were exposed to such nightmarish images of mass, systematic murder. But without that moment, and the many that followed that exposed me to all manner of hateful white supremacist and fascist acts, I’m not sure I would have the passion to speak out today against any toehold such monsters might gain in our society. I don't want my children, their peers, or my community to be in a heightened state of fear, but nor do I want them to feel a false sense of security through the normalization of a term that can only recall the images that struck me with such force so many years ago. It is with that commitment that I ask you to read and sign this petition calling upon the media to ban the term alt-right—a charade—from their coverage.

The undersigned appeal to all media to refuse to use, and thereby appear to endorse, the term Alt-Right. The term is a veil, one designed to confer legitimacy on a threat to all the values that the United States of America stands for.

Right now in our country, growing numbers of people feel they have been given permission to express their hatred. We already have plenty of names for them—white supremacists, white nationals, fascists, neo-Nazis. So far, they are a disparate group, without a universal umbrella under which to gather. When you name something, it becomes a container. It becomes a place where the formerly disconnected can amass, like the magnet of an Etch-a-Sketch gathering to it all the metal shavings and dragging them to wherever you want them to go. Alt-Right is that container which gives those filled with hate a single place to cohere.

We pride ourselves on our freedom of the press, one where censorship and manipulation has no place. Alt-Right is a marketing tool; it is a brand name designed by clever wordsmiths to make its purpose sound benign. It must be delegitimized, beginning with a refusal to accept its usage.

The press has been clear about defining Alt-Right as fascist. But, at some point, the term will become shorthand and shorthand will imply that this vile movement has earned acceptance. When so many people in our country are searching outside of the political status quo for identification and the disenfranchised are vulnerable to leaders who manipulate their frustrations, the media must do all it can to strip the veneer from euphemism and obfuscation and not to be complicit in the validation of a movement that should never be considered an alternative at all.

 Language matters. Do not let Alt-Right become an accepted part of our vernacular and our system.

 



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