The journalist Vegas Tenold, who embedded himself with neo-Nazi groups for years, explains some key points in the alt-right movement, including its members’ participation in online forums and social media such as 4chan and Twitter.
Tenold says the alt-right movement is smaller than we think and lives mostly online. Following is a transcript of the video.
[Crowd] Replace us. You will not replace us. You will not replace us.
Vegas Tenold: My first encounter was with the National Socialist Movement, which is the largest neo-Nazi group in America.
This journalist embedded himself with white nationalist groups in America.
Vegas Tenold: After that, I started travelling with some various Klan groups, and then I met Matthew Heimbach, who became the main character of my book.
Matthew Heimbach leads the political party Traditionalist Worker Party.
Matthew Heimbach: Our movement is about securing the existence of our people and a future for white children. All of us are engaged in this struggle. And much like a military, there is positions for everyone.
Tenold: Many other people, they come from poor, rural, and predominantly white parts of America, Appalachia. And they look around and they see that their neighbours and their friends are suffering under opioid addiction, that they have no jobs, and no prospects. And they kind of extrapolate from that then that must be what it’s like for white people all over. They don’t have the ability to kind of lift their gaze a little bit, because if they did, I think they’d see that white people on the whole, especially white men, who this movement is mostly consisting of, have it pretty good.
The gatherings are a lot smaller, and you know, that’s the inherent problem in the far right, sort of alt-right. It’s a movement, which in large part, exists online with anonymous Twitter avatars.
“Honestly, sometimes I can’t believe how dumb our movement can be. We have to get serious about things if we want to move forward. This anonymous, online b——- can’t go on.” – Matthew Heimbach, the leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party
Tenold: With the internet, with social media, it becomes that much easier to have your opinions reinforced. And once you try to translate that into real-world action, it becomes difficult. I was at Charlottesville where they were, I would say, around 400 people, which is by far the largest gathering I’d ever been to. And I’d been to dozens of these things.
Yes, there has been a mobilizing effect, and I think people are emboldened, but even so, they’re still struggling on how to translate this into an actionable, physical movement. The current crop of politicians aren’t doing any favours. I think they’re feeding into this as well. So it becomes this pretty toxic place where it’s easy for this kind of rhetoric to grow even more.
President Donald Trump: You know there’s another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group.
Tenold: You know there was a rally in Boston after Charlottesville, where I think five or six nationalists came out, and a few thousand counterprotesters came out.
There are rays of light in this thing. Just recently, a guy, a former Hammerskin, which is the most extreme part of the Skinhead movement, texted me and said he left the movement. And that he might want to help others leave, too. So as awful and abhorrent as their ideology and politics is, some of them can change. Some of them can turn and come back to us.