Home / World News / Lawsuits. Fundraising troubles. Trailer-park brawls. Has the alt-right peaked? – The Denver Post

Lawsuits. Fundraising troubles. Trailer-park brawls. Has the alt-right peaked? – The Denver Post

By Terrence Mccoy, The Washington Post

Eight months after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia ended in the death of a counterprotester, the loose collection of disaffected young white men known as the alt-right is in disarray.

The problems have been mounting: lawsuits and arrests, fundraising difficulties, tepid recruitment, widespread infighting, fierce counterprotests and banishment on social media platforms. Taken together, they’ve exhausted even some of the staunchest members.

One of the movement’s biggest groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party, dissolved in March. Andrew Anglin, founder of the Daily Stormer, the largest alt-right website, has gone into hiding, chased by a harassment lawsuit. And Richard Spencer, the alt-right’s most public figure, cancelled a college speaking tour and was abandoned by his attorney last month.

“Things have become a lot harder, and we paid a price for what happened in Charlottesville. . . . The question is whether there is going to be a third act,” said Spencer, who coined the name of the movement, which rose to prominence during the 2016 presidential campaign, advocates a whites-only ethno-state, and has posted racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic memes across the internet.

Overall, the number of neo-Nazi groups increased in the United States in 2017, from 99 to 121, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report released this year. That number is likely to decrease this year, said Heidi Beirich, who co-wrote the report. SPLC did not group alt-right organizations together, but some of the neo-Nazi groups were an outgrowth of the movement.

“Imploding,” is how Beirich now describes the alt-right. “The self-inflicted damage, the defections, the infighting is so rampant, it’s to the point of almost being pathetic.”

Even so, there is little doubt that white supremacy remains a potent force that is likely to emerge again as a political one – if not as the alt-right, then as something else. Racial animus remains an entrenched aspect of American life.

The alt-right “is on a downward spiral, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to disappear, and that they’re not going to regroup,” said Marilyn Mayo, who studies hate groups for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. She said one large group called Identity Evropa – which targets college-aged men, is less extreme in rhetoric and has turned away from the alt-right label – has grown recently.

“March was a phenomenal month for Identity Evropa, perhaps our best month,” group spokesman Darren Baker said.

Chris Schiano, a reporter for Unicorn Riot, a decentralized nonprofit media organization that has leaked internal correspondence among alt-right members, called the alt-right “basically done.” It could resurface if it falls out of public view and organizes under newer, younger leaders, he cautions, but they haven’t “gotten much traction yet.”

“The overall level of racism in U.S. society hasn’t improved, it’s just that the organizing space for these types of networks” has largely been depleted, said Schiano, whose group rose out of Occupy Wall Street and documents social protests. “So the latent potential won’t go away unless society becomes less racist.”

Three percent of Americans surveyed this winter as part of a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll said they support the alt-right or white nationalist movement.

Richard Spencer holds a press conference, ...

Photo by Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post.

Richard Spencer holds a press conference, Oct. 19, 2017, at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, Florida.

The zenith of the alt-right – Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally – also appears to have been the moment of its decline, according to hate-group experts and members of the alt-right, most of whom were predicting a surge in membership at the time.

The death of Heather Heyer, 32 – killed in Charlottesville when a young alt-right member allegedly plowed his car into her – and President Donald Trump’s reluctance to disown white nationalism focused a degree of scrutiny on the movement that it hadn’t known until then. People started being fired from their jobs. Families disowned their children. Fundraising websites dropped people associated with the alt-right, making it difficult to raise money. Reporters covered every misstep.

Chris Cantwell, a white nationalist radio host featured in a Vice video on the march viewed by millions, wept on camera in a video he posted to the internet, proclaiming himself “terrified” after Charlottesville police issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of using tear gas in the protest. The Daily Stormer was dropped by its web-hosting company.

Some members have given up on the movement entirely. “I got to go back to my normal life,” Connor Perrin, who drove all night from Austin to Charlottesville to protest what he saw as the oppression of white men in the United States, said in an interview late last year. “I’m focusing on working and being normal. . . . My mom is like, ‘Stop being alt-right. You’re going to get yourself in trouble.’ ” He later added: “We lost.”

Others said they were told they weren’t extreme enough for the movement. “I was unofficially kicked out because I had sex with a half-Japanese girl, and they didn’t like that,” said Jack, 18, of Aurora, Illinois, who spoke on the condition that his last name not be published. “With white nationalists, you’re never white enough.”

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