September 25, 2017

SCRATCH A TRUMPIE...:

Inside the alt-right: 'Genocidal behind closed doors' : An anti-fascist activist who infiltrated the alt-right describes its growing influence and international connections. (Patrick Strickland, 9/25/17, Al Jazeera)

Patrik Hermansson, a gay anti-fascist activist, would seem like an obvious target for the white supremacists, far-right populists and neo-Nazis who make up the alt-right movement.

Yet the 25-year-old was able to successfully infiltrate the alt-right's ranks as part of a year-long undercover investigation for Hope Not Hate, a UK-based organisation that monitors hate groups.

Posing as a graduate student researching censorship of right-wing political speech, Hermansson documented the alt-right's growing influence in the US and Europe.

The report that followed - The International Alt-Right: From Charlottesville to the White House - exposes the movement's connections to the administration of US President Donald Trump and the impact of alt-right ideas on far-right European political currents.

Hermansson's findings detail a movement rife with racism, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazism and conspiracy theories. [...]

Al Jazeera spoke to Hermansson about his experiences and observations while embedded in the alt-right.

Al Jazeera: How did the alt-right evolve over the year that you were undercover?

Patrik Hermansson: The broader far right developed in several ways. Brexit, Trump's election and terrorist attacks in Europe have all been significant drivers of recruitment for the broader far-right movement.

Trump's election has been the strongest driver for the alt-right. They really perceive themselves as having brought Trump into the White House and have been emboldened. Many of them feel that their ideas have been normalised.

They feel like their ideas are gaining influence in the mainstream. There is a range of different opinions towards Trump, and it is quite interesting. There are online forums that will call him Emperor Trump, but there have been periods in which he's fallen out of favour with many of them over the "deep state" or various conspiracies.

But after Charlottesville, he gained much more support again after he compared the "alt-left" (a widely disputed term the president used to characterise anti-fascists) to the alt-right. Generally, although they disagree with his policies at times, they usually blame the disagreements on outside influences.

You can listen to YouTube or read their articles and they say very racist things, but I can promise you what they say behind closed doors is much worse.

Al Jazeera: How did your own perception of the alt-right change from the time you started your investigation?

Hermansson: I learned a lot about them. I wasn't aware of how internationally connected they are. I'm more afraid of them now than when I started. Their opinions behind closed doors are genocidal in many cases. You can listen to YouTube or read their articles and they say very racist things, but I can promise you what they say behind closed doors is much worse. [...]

Al Jazeera: What was it like to be undercover and witness the violence during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville?

Hermansson: I was standing there at a crossroad on a corner ... I saw shoes flying in the air, people falling. You don't really understand what you're seeing in a situation like that. My immediate reaction was to wonder why the car came there, why shoes were flying in the air. It was terrifying, and the whole crowd panicked.

Yet, people came together and helped. They used protest banners to give shade to injured people. They were bringing water. Everybody did practical small things to support each other, and that was powerful to see.

Posted by at September 25, 2017 6:53 AM

  

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