Recent developments have put the so-called “alt-right” movement in the
news. They highlight the need for clarity around use of the term and around
some related terms, such as “white nationalism” and “white supremacism.”
Let’s tackle them.
The “alt-right” or “alternative right” is a name currently embraced by some white
supremacists and white nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, which
emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States in addition to,
or over, other traditional conservative positions such as limited government, low taxes
and strict law-and-order.
The movement has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism.
Although many adherents backed President-elect Donald Trump in the recent election,
Trump last week said he disavows and condemns the “alt-right.”
The movement criticizes “multiculturalism” and more rights for non-whites, women,
Jews, Muslims, gays, immigrants and other minorities. Its members reject the American
democratic ideal that all should have equality under the law regardless of creed, gender,ethnic origin or race.
“Alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified
as in the “self-described” or “so-called alt-right” in stories discussing what the
movement says about itself.
Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well
known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its
supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the
past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.
Again, whenever “alt-right” is used in a story, be sure to include a definition: “an
offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism,” or, more
simply, “a white nationalist movement.”
Here is an example from the AP news report:
With an ideology that’s a mix of racism, white nationalism and old-fashioned
populism, the “alt-right” has burst into the collective consciousness since members
showed up at the Republican National Convention to celebrate Trump’s nomination
Be specific and call it straight
Finally, when writing on extreme groups, be precise and provide evidence to support the
We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead
should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actualbeliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them.
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