As this current administration continues to wreak havoc, it’s crucial that we don’t normalize the behaviors of radical conservatives. Those who call themselves the “alt-right” are distracting us from who they really are: white supremacists hell-bent on dismantling democracy. That’s why I refuse to call them “alt-right” and instead call them what they really are: my brother’s friends.
When we use the name “alt-right,” we acknowledge the legitimacy of their ideas as a new political faction, instead of what it always has been: my brother’s dumbass friends being racist fuckers. Saying “alt-right” distances the situation, making it seem like a valid political system we must respect. In truth, it’s just Pete, Jack, and Carson getting drunk on Bud Light, feeling insecure about their romantic or job prospects, and trying to make themselves feel big by talking about “real America.” By calling them my brother’s friends, I am undermining their power and talking about them on my terms.
Another problem with “alt-right” is that the term is so vague that it can be dangerous. Using such an innocuous term hinders us from calling them what they are—my brother’s friends. “Alt-right” might sound like they won’t hurt you, but anyone who knows my brother knows that those dudes are reckless partiers. They clean up fine in a polo and khakis, but most nights you’ll find them at the neighborhood bar getting into fights with Chucky from high school for no fucking reason. Those types of bumbling, destructive men are what make up the so-called “alt-right”, and it’s important to call them a name that communicates that.
What we need now is a sense of accountability from journalists and citizens alike. Yes, many who claim the title of “alt-right” proudly spout overtly racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, and homophobic views, advocate for fascism, and promote violence—and at least one of them still sleeps in his childhood bed, in the home that I grew up in. “Alt-right is a legitimate political party,” one of them may say. “And I barely even talk to your brother anymore.” But it’s important to drill the truth as much as possible so that they don’t get off so easy; these dudes see my brother at least three times a year and they’ve all been in each other’s weddings. That is who they are. It might be hard for them to hear, but it’s the truth.
Even if you aren’t a supporter of the radical, white supremacist right, there’s a lot you can do to make sure you aren’t furthering their agenda. That’s why you should do as I have, and stop calling them by their preferred name. I call them what they really are: my brother’s awful fucking friends.