Just nine months prior to the August 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, a New York Times profile of the alt-right explored the potential force of the movement but tempered the immediacy of the threat, explaining, “…at this point, [they] would have trouble holding a serious street rally, let alone turning into a mass political party.” Many journalists and scholars alike highlighted the “nebulous,” “loosely-assembled” nature of the alt-right, as a disparate collection of largely anonymous online communities – white supremacists, anti-Semites, nativists, neo-fascists, masculinists, conspiracists, nihilists – without any clearly shared goals or motivations. Yet, less than a year later, they marched unified through the grounds of my alma mater, tiki torch-wielding young men clad in polo shirts and khaki pants, angry faces illuminated in collective rage. Horrified publics grappled with the seemingly spontaneous re-emergence of overt, unapologetic white supremacy, the explosive violence in the streets, and the question of how our political polarization reached such depths. Continue reading
On the weekend of August 11, 2017, right-wing extremists, or what many call the Alt-Right, gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the pending removal of a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee from a city park. Many were shocked to see images of the protest on Friday, with Neo-Nazis and other extreme right supporters carrying torches en masse, in one of the largest extreme right protest events in recent history, and were horrified when participants in the protest on Saturday murdered a counter-demonstrator and injured dozens more. President Trump suggested that both sides were to blame for the violence, generating an outpouring of dismay and arguments that he was “Giving the right a boost,” and sanctioning the violence. However, while many may have been surprised by the protest, those of us who study the extreme right were not. And, while President Trump’s support for the Alt-Right does enable them, their mobilization started long before he became a candidate for President. I argue here that social movement scholarship on extreme right mobilization predicts this contemporary mobilization. Particularly relevant are theories regarding the mobilizing effect of economic and political threat, including power devaluation theory, as well as scholarship on political and discursive opportunities. Continue reading
Since the 2016 US presidential election, observers have tried to explain the sudden rise of the “new alt-right.” This focus on newness belies the persistent and continuous aspects of US white supremacist activism. In our new research, we explore the ebbs and flows in white supremacy over the last several decades. We identify two phases and describe the longest one as a period of “active abeyance,” in which white supremacists embraced a conscious strategy to withdraw from traditional public activism and recruitment, in favor of more informal, private activism directed at sustaining the movement. Recently, white supremacist leaders and networks have pushed to more openly advocate for white supremacist goals. The “alt-right” is one manifestation of a broader effort to rebrand racial and anti-Semitic extremism and move it from the shadows into mainstream politics, culture, and consciousness. Continue reading
The press in the US is under permanent attack by President Donald Trump. But the press is also under fierce attack by presidents and other elected officials in many deeply polarized countries, including Russia, Hungary, Venezuela, and Mexico. Whether through smear campaigns, strict regulation, or physical attacks, including abduction and murder, journalists who publicly expose illegal actions by government officials in a wide variety of democratic, semi-democratic, and undemocratic countries have become targets of aggression – covert or overt, lethal or non-lethal. This dialogue invites social movement scholars and journalists to consider attacks on the press as a case of state repression. While the nature and mechanics of these attacks might be different across countries and political regimes, this dialogue strives to find similarities among uncommon cases.
Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.
Lance Bennett, University of Washington & Steven Livingston, George Washington University (essay)
Katherine Corcoran, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Jennifer Earl, University of Arizona (essay)
Anita Gohdes, University of Zurich (essay)
Samuel A. Greene, King’s College London (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
Researchers interested in repression have historically seen repression as something independent from regime type (even if certain kinds of regimes may be more likely to repress), something that is costly and hence scarce (creating important allocation decisions for states where they decide who to repress, how much, and how often), and something that primarily has impacts on extra-institutional action. In other words, while non-democratic states may be more likely to repress movements, democratic states also engage in repression. Also, even non-democratic states don’t necessarily repress all extra-institutional engagement because they cannot afford to, they fear backfire if they tried, or they simply don’t see a need to. Moreover, there are many things that create political opportunities for protest (or limit them) and repression is only one element in the larger political environment. Indeed, even in states that are very antagonistic to protest (e.g., China), repression is still selective. Continue reading
The Committee to Protect Journalists has been alarming the public for the past few years: journalists are being killed in increasing numbers and the vast majority of perpetrators continue to go unpunished. Why are journalists killed, and how can we understand the political context in which these egregious murders occur? For the past three years, Sabine Carey and I have been collecting information on the characteristics of journalist killings across the world. In particular, we are interested in understanding how journalist killings fit into more general politics. Here I will highlight two main insights the data has provided: 1) The killing of journalists is a manifestation of localized repression, and 2) that most journalists are killed in democratic countries with low levels of judicial accountability. Continue reading