Thanks to President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon and the actions of some attendees at the National Policy Institute (NPI) annual conference, media scrutiny of the alt-right is at an all time high. Within the veritable tornado of stories “exposing” the alt-right coming out seemingly on a daily basis, three phrases are re-occurring: “white nationalism,” “white supremacy,” and “race realism.”
Many journalists, pundits, and misinformed social media users are treating these three very different concepts as if they are one and the same. Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, and every writer or personality considered to be “alt-right” is being labeled automatically by the media as a racist, Nazi, white nationalist, white supremacist, and race realist.
This is irresponsible reporting at best, and purposeful obfuscation at worst.
Race realism, white nationalism, and white supremacy are separate concepts – much to the chagrin and confusion of the mainstream media. To understand the alt-right, it is necessary to understand each of these distinct concepts.
What is race realism?
There is quite a bit of intellectual diversity within the alt-right. One area where most alt-right leaders agree is the idea of race realism – in other words, accepting the thoroughly researched scientific fact that there are biological differences among the races, and these biological differences are capable of shaping behavior in society. Race realism does not have a political goal, like white nationalism does, it is merely a way to look at scientific fact.
Race realists would acknowledge and accept the connection between race and intelligence, with many citing Dr. Philippe Rushton’s seminal work on the topic, “Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability,” published in 2005.
Rushton and his partner, Dr. Arthur Jensen, come to the following conclusion: “…the average IQ for African Americans was lower than those for Latino, White, Asian, and Jewish Americans (85, 89, 103, 106, and 113, respectively).”
Acknowledgment of a correlation between race and IQ is not the only tenet to race realism. Race realists generally accept that thousands of years of evolution have led to genetic biodiversity in the human species, just like in every other species, and that this biodivesity can be observed through mental as well as physical metrics. For example, race realists acknowledge that black people tend to be much better at sports than other races due to certain evolutionary and biological advantages.
Race realism is clearly not white supremacy or Nazism. The most commonly cited survey on race and IQ demonstrates that the average Asian American and Jewish American both have higher IQs than the average white American. Why would a white supremacist advocate for an understanding of science that directly contradicts the idea of “white supremacy”?
The most notable race realist is Jared Taylor, founder of American Renaissance and author of several books.
Race realism is not, in itself, a political goal. On the other hand, white nationalism is.
White nationalists generally advocate for the creation of a white ethnostate, although there is disagreement about how that goal should be accomplished. One of the leading white nationalist organizations is Richard Spencer’s NPI.
In a 2013 speech to an NPI national gathering, attorney Samuel Dickson argued that the creation of a “White Ethno-State on the North American continent, a project analogous to the creation of Israel in the first half of the 20th century” would be an optimal solution.
Spencer is the prototypical white nationalist: he advocates for a white homeland, subscribes the race realist ideology, and yet is able to avoid the intellectually lazy “white power” trappings of many white supremacists. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Extremist Info” file is unable to provide any explicit examples of Spencer advocating white supremacy.
The white supremacists
Whereas race realism is a method of analyzing scientific data, and white nationalism is a political objective, white supremacy is neither.
The mainstream media has seized on “white supremacy” to be the brush with which the rest of the alt-right must be painted, even going to far as to publish ridiculous pieces claiming that “‘Alt-Right’ Is Not a Thing. It’s White Supremacy.”
White supremacists believe, often without citing data or factual evidence, that white people are “just better.”
This ideology often contradicts the evidence cited by race realists. Belief in absolute white supremacy, that white people are just better at everything by virtue of being white, necessitates the denial of a litany of research on IQ and evolutionary biology.
There are very few white supremacists within the alt-right itself. White supremacy as an ideology has largely disappeared from the United States, and is mostly being kept in the news by the media itself and the largely irrelevant Ku Klux Klan, which had a membership of between 1.4 and 4 million members at one point, but is now down to only 5,000 to 8,000 members.
Covering the alt-right fairly
The media has demonstrated an unwillingness to cover the alt-right fairly. As much as one may disagree with some alt-right figures, that is not a license to lie about or misrepresent their individual political goals.
There are some figures on the alt-right, such as Richard Spencer, who has declared a white ethnostate to be his very clear and well-defined political goal.
And yet there are many others on the alt-right who have no clue about NPI and no idea who Spencer is. Many young people, especially young men, have flocked to the alt-right because of its universal rejection of feminism and PC culture and strong embrace of masculinity and tradition.
White men in this country are tired of being blamed for every failure and hardship experienced by women and minorities. Does this make them alt-right? Not necessarily, but possibly. Does it make them a white supremacist or a white nationalist? Certainly not.
Understanding and acknowledging the differences between race realism, white nationalism, and white supremacy is essential to understanding or fairly covering the alt-right, and unless the media does so, they will continue to set their credibility ablaze.