Twitter, Reddit, and other online platforms have long faced criticism for failing to adequately respond to abuse their users face, particularly when this abuse is racially motivated.
That’s why it came as a surprise that Twitter suspended several prominent members of the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement. Perhaps people might have seen things heading this way when Twitter banned Milo Yiannopoulos after he incited racial abuse toward Leslie Jones over her role in the Ghostbusters reboot.
Yiannopoulos writes for Breitbart, a far right news website which holds the questionable honour of being the news outlet Trump’s twitter account sources most. Breitbart’s CEO, Steve Bannon, is now President-Elect Donald Trump’s Chief Strategist. Not unrelated to his running of Breitbart, Bannon has been accused of being anti-Semitic, sexist, and a white supremacist.
In fact, it’s hard not to link the rise of the ‘alt-right’ with Trump’s electoral success. When media refers to the ‘alt-right’, they mean the young, white group that voted for Trump because his racism appealed to them. They use euphemisms instead of calling these people what they are – racists and white supremacists – and they allow them space on our TV screens. The BBC aired a man with a swastika on his arm declaring that it wasn’t racism, and offered no rebuttal.
This normalises their behaviour. This allows the world to wave a hand and go, oh, it’s just those ‘alt-right’ kids. The radicalisation of white men, turning them from your average privileged person to someone who spews hatred, both online and off, is going on in ‘alt-right’ communities, forums, and subreddits. When we call them the ‘alt-right’ we deny the problems they are causing. Real people are being hurt by the ‘alt-right’, by their racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, transphobia.
Call these people what they are and condemn them, because the growth of the ‘alt-right’ is showing no sign of slowing, and their power is dangerous.
We can not continue to pretend that racism and other internet abuse is no big deal. We can not continue to have these views aired on every form of media unchallenged. Twitter has finally taken a step in the right direction, but more must be done, particularly by mainstream media. Was the post-Brexit rise in hate crimes caused by racists, or by the ‘alt-right’? Are the chants of “build a wall” from racists, or the ‘alt-right’? When Muslim women who wear the hijab are assaulted and told to get out of the country, are they victims of Islamophobia, or the ‘alt-right’?
We have to speak up in solidarity with every group the ‘alt-right’ targets, and it starts by calling them what they are. Racists.