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Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump Paperback – Nov 27 2018
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“The seemingly sudden reemergence of the far right in America has left many in a state of panic and bewilderment. Alt-America will be essential in helping us to comprehend the depth of its foundations in national life.”
—Angela Nagle, author of Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right
“Over the last two decades, David Neiwert has been one of our finest analysts of the American far right, paying sustained, serious and careful attention to the seemingly fringe movements of conspiracy theorists and insurrectionists. Now it turns out these movements are not so fringe after all but have helped elect Donald Trump as president. This crisply written book, grounded in his solid reporting, tells the whole sordid story with clarity and force. More than anyone else, Neiwert understands that Trumpism has deep roots in American culture and history. In this book, he lays out those roots for all to see.”
—Jeet Heer, Senior Editor at the New Republic
“For over a decade, David Neiwert has been America’s canary in the coal mine—our national early-warning system on the spread of corrosive, eliminationist, right-wing hatred in our midst.”
—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
“David Neiwert is among the most astute analysts of the contemporary right.”
—Joe Conason, author of Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth
“Neiwert has not only earned his investigative chops over the past decade or so by exploring the dangerous side of right-wing extremism—he’s proven himself to be one of the more lyrical and elegant writers on the beat.”
“An alarming, well-researched account of how the far-right extremist underground became empowered in the era of Trump … A prescient discussion of one of the darkest issues facing America today.”
“Offers the most comprehensive account of the United States’ renewed extremist cultures … Alt-America excites in its ability to connect the seemingly extraordinary alt-right to the broader culture of wing-nut conservatism, drawing white nationalism, 4chan, Donald Trump, Alex Jones and Fox News together into a wonky negaverse version of political life.”
—John Semley, Globe and Mail
“Neiwert’s book masterfully exposes so many of the interstices between Trump, the far-right nationalists and the toxic manipulators of social media, each feeding off the others.”
—Michael Hirsch, Indypendent
“Tracing the ebbs and flows of this far-right extremism in the United States over the last 20 years, Neiwert argues that white nationalist activity in the age of Trump is simply the latest flare-up of what he calls ‘Alt-America,’ or the segment of the American population that has fed on conspiracy theories, racist misinformation, and deep distrust of federal institutions for decades.”
—J.C. Pan, New Republic
About the Author
David Neiwert is a journalist and author and an acknowledged expert in American right-wing extremism. He has appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Newsroom, and The Rachel Maddow Show. His work has also appeared in the American Prospect, the Washington Post, MSNBC, Salon, and other publications. His previous books include The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese-American Community, as well as And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border, which won the 2014 International Latino Book Award.
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The Southern Poverty Law Center documented an upswing in hate groups and extremist organizations in 2008 through 2013 and then noted a decline starting in 2013. The evidence appears to indicate a migration to the Internet, where one can operate more anonymously. He calls these groups as being in an alternative dimension “beyond fact or logic, where the rules of evidence are replaced by paranoia.” In this book he welcomes us to Alternative America or Alt-America for short. He sees the beating heart of this alternative version of America as “the ancient drumbeat of white identity politics, a fear of nonwhite people who speak foreign languages and follow alien creeds.” In this alternative reality we had false flag operations carried out by New World Order agents – think the Boston Marathon bombing and the 2014 Paris massacres, for examples.
It is noted that these people are not stupid or unlettered, but they appear to be oddly gullible to latch on to any fact that supports their worldview. Of course, the official explanations of mainstream media narratives are the real gullible fools or “sheeple” according to them. These people operate in the same universe as everyone else, which is why they can seem so normal and likable at times. That is, until their worldview bangs up against ours and they need to assert their ideas. Any authority with even a tint of mainstream liberalism (Obama, Clinton, the Democratic Party) is viewed as illegitimate and needs to be vehemently opposed.
Conspiracy theories are a leitmotif throughout the book. These theories offer an explanation as to why our country is not the way they wished it should be. There are deeper truths about our world. These deeper truths can be reinforced by putting themselves in “an epistemological bubble that insulates them from facts, logic, and reason.”
The author covers a lot of ground going back to the incidents of Ruby Ridge, Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Freemen standoff, and through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff. In reading this, we see another recurring theme – the New World Order (NWO). The NWO uses “false flags” to justify neutralizing Patriot’s and other groups. In 2007, Ron Paul announced his candidacy for president and managed to unite nearly the entire far right behind himself. His declared goals were typical far-right populism: fighting the NWO, eliminate the Federal Reserve, eliminate the IRS and most federal agencies, get out of the UN, end gun controls, and reinstate the gold standard. Of course, Obama won, and then we see the rise of the Tea Party. In time the Patriot movement began to meld with the world of Fox News watchers and the Tea Party and the author sees this as the first outline of Alt-America appearing on the horizon.
An entire chapter is devoted to the Bundy incident with the Bureau of Land Management and how this became “a last-gasp fight for American freedom against federal tyranny. I heard about it in the news, but the author provides much more detail. Another chapter is devoted to the Malheur incident, and again, the author gives us all the details. We then segue into the gamer gate controversy. Here I learn some new terminology, such as cultural Marxism, social justice warrior, and flaming. In time, especially after the 2008 election of the first black president, we see a “gradual coalescence of the alternative-universe worldviews of conspiracists, Patriots, white supremacists, Tea Partiers, and nativists,” according to Neiwert. This union ultimately gave birth to the alt-right.
Eventually, we see the rise of Donald Trump, who enjoyed the general support of the alt-right movement. They certainly weren’t going to support Hillary. Right-wing extremism has always been woven into the fabric of society, but Trump “had the charisma to become a national-level coalescing figure for these many threads, and for the first time united them under one banner – his banner.” With Trump’s election to the presidency, the alt-right was claiming victory.
The book concludes with a discussion of fascism, noting that Trump does not fit the definition, but rather Trump’s ideology and rhetoric are more in line with the European populist right movements of recent history, such as Marie Le Pen’s National Front. It was interesting to note that right-wing populism is actually self-defeating. Those who primarily benefit from this ideology are the wealthy. This is why they are willing to underwrite it.
What we need to do now is put ourselves in other people’s shoes even if that is not comfortable –for our sake as well as theirs. Empathy is called for here, for we can’t slide down the slippery slope that might lead to fascism. The author sees it as vital for “liberals, progressives, moderates, and genuine conservatives to link arms in the coming years and fight back against the fascist tide.
In, “Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump,” David Neiwert walks the uninitiated into a massive underground world of far-right American movements. With the practiced hand of an award-winning journalist, he carefully exposes the self-radicalized terrorists that have been the cause of so much recent death and destruction.
Neiwert’s work resonates with me personally, in another life I knew the conspiracy community, the gun nuts, and the militia patriot movements. They are extremely dangerous, like a toxic cloud of vapor, waiting for a spark. Back then, indoctrination into these communities required reading books and physically meeting people. Today, anyone can sit down at a computer and undergo the self-radicalization process that has led to a steady stream of mass shootings and other crimes. Just this month, three of the radical right was found guilty of attempting to bomb an apartment complex in Kansas. Catching them was the result of an extremely lucky break that occurred when one person tipped off the FBI. In preventing the next attack by the radical right, you could be that person.
Mr. Neiwert hints at what I know from my own experience. That everyone in America knows at least one person who is on this journey toward radicalization. It could be your racist relative watching Fox News 24/7, a loaded gun tucked between the seat cushions within arm’s reach waiting for a cause to be their own hero to a manufactured crisis. Someone like retired firefighter Jeffery Zeigler, 53 who just this month shot at a 14-year-old boy who having gotten lost had the temerity to knock on Zeigler’s door and ask for directions. The self-radicalized person you know could be that teenager or twenty-something tuned into Alex Jones convinced by Jones’ constant stream of propaganda and lies that there is a global conspiracy afoot. Jones’ propaganda has already caused some of his listeners to engage in shootings and in one case a young man was so convinced of a conspiracy he stabbed his own father.
It would be a mistake to write off the radical right as lone wolfs and disturbed individuals. Many of them are attached to larger, heavily armed “militia” and racist groups who are plotting American’s next civil war. If you’d like to understand who these people are, why they believe the things they do and learn how to recognize them then the ideal starting place is for you to read “Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.”