'They fester in darkness:' Seattle journalist explores the alt-right in the Trump era | KUOW News and Information

'They fester in darkness:' Seattle journalist explores the alt-right in the Trump era

Oct 24, 2017

In the late 1970’s, David Neiwert was just getting his journalism career started. He worked at a small daily newspaper in Sand Point, Idaho, about 20 miles outside the Aryan Nations compound.

He had to figure out how the paper was going to cover the hate group.

“We thought we'll do the smart thing and ignore them. We'll pretend they're not there because they just want publicity,” Neiwert said.

“But that doesn't work. It has the opposite effect. They fester in darkness. They grow in darkness. They interpret the silence as tacit acceptance and tacit approval.”

After ignoring the Aryan Nations for a few years, Neiwert said there was a wave of hate crimes in Northern Idaho. So he took a different approach. He decided to shine a bright light on right-wing extremism. And that's what he’s been doing for the past three decades.

He talked with Bill Radke about his new book "Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump."

In it, he writes about the emergence of the alt-right, a movement of mostly young, white men who ground their grievances in identity politics.

“They believe that Western civilization is under assault from a tide of brown people, feminists, social justice warriors and liberals —  who they believe are degrading Western culture,” Neiwert said.

Neiwert said the ultimate goal of the alt-right — especially its white nationalist component — is to establish an white ethno-state in the United States.

“They have an actual strategy,” Neiwert said. “It's essentially an extension of the nativist strategy of self-deportation. You get illegal immigrants to deport themselves by making conditions here so harsh and unpleasant for them that they just want to eventually remove themselves.”

According to Neiwert, another goal of the alt-right is to destroy democracy and impose authoritarian rule.

“They're profoundly anti-democratic,” Neiwert said. “They have nothing but open contempt for democracy and its institutions, including free speech.”

In the age of President Trump, Neiwert believes the alt-right is a very real threat and democracy is under seige.

“Right wing extremists have never really held power in America to the extent they do now,” Neiwert said.

“If they have the opportunity to consolidate that power then I think we're in very serious trouble. I think they do intend to do away with the power of the vote and and the institutions of democracy.”

When asked how to fight back against the alt-right, Neiwert said using violence isn’t the answer, because that’s what the alt-right feeds on.

“Look, I'll admit Richard Spencer has the world's most punishable face. But I don't recommend punching him, because that's what he wants,” Neiwert said.

Instead, Neiwert said the best solution is simple: vote. He said too many people have become disconnected and cynical about politics. 

“There are more of us than there are of them. A lot more of us,” Neiwert said. “It's just a matter of getting people out of their chairs and into the voting booth.”