Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Interview: Bill Mitchell says "the ‘alt-right’ label is broken because it’s confusing"

Editor's note: This article was originally published in February 2017.

This is the fourth part of my discussion with Bill Mitchell. The firstsecond, and third segments are available on-line. Quoted text below appeared in previous articles, offering background on our conversation.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto

There are a great many talk radio hosts, and all of them are clamoring to be heard. Just how many, though, really offer something which deserves your time and consideration?

While the number is far too small for my liking, Bill Mitchell certainly makes the cut.

He has not been a force in the chattering class for long. Before Donald Trump's candidacy took off, Mitchell could best be described as a talent recruiter for various businesses who just happened to dabble in politics via the Internet. Today, he is a bona fide on-line celebrity. Last year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology named him the foremost average fellow impacting election season.

Among all those influencing the race -- including Barack Obama, CNN, and Harry Reid -- Mitchell came up twenty-sixth. He beat Paul Ryan, The Associated Press, and Michael Moore, to mention a few.

What makes Mitchell so popular is not strategic positioning in FM markets -- his program is Internet-only -- or access to the most powerful names on the District of Columbia-New York City-Boston/Los Angeles-San Francisco-Seattle culture corridors -- he lives in Charlotte. Rather, Mitchell knows how to handle Twitter, focus on pertinent data, and explain complex, contentious matters in a down-to-earth yet coherent fashion.

Despite being in his late fifties, Mitchell is one of American conservatism's rising stars. His star is powered at a time when 'conservatism' is in rapid flux; changing from its family values, pro-free trade, immigration-friendly Reagan-Bush incarnation to a model built around national sovereignty, economic protectionism, and cultural cohesion. 

Essentially, 'American' conservatism is becoming Europeanized. 

Mitchell and I had a candid discussion regarding right-leaning politics and their relation to American life. Some if it is included below.

Joseph Ford Cotto: Richard Spencer’s now-infamous speech, in which he hailed Trump and some audience members responded with a Nazi-like salute is said to have been the driving force behind the alt-right’s disintegration. While this is undeniably true to some extent, could it be said that the alt-right was destined to fracture as this was a loosely-bound coalition to begin with?

Bill Mitchell: Well, I honestly think that the problem with the alt-right is sort of a misunderstanding. What happened is that – a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of people who were involved in the Trump campaign, the Trump base, were relatively new to politics. A lot of these people had never even voted before. They’re sort of neophytes in the political game and they came on and they wanted to be anti-establishment.

We used to use this little acronym – GOPe; meaning GOP establishment,’ that’s what we used on Twitter. People would see that and they would want to fight against the establishment. Then they heard the expression ‘alt-right,’ and many of these people who didn’t have a racist bone in their body thought, “Oh, I’m ‘alt-right,’ then, because I’m alternative to the right and alternative to the establishment.”

That’s what they thought that meant, but guys like Spencer are full-blown white supremacist racists, and he created the alt-right, meaning something completely different. So, what happened was you had a large group, a small fringe of which thought ‘alt-right’ means white supremacy, anti-Semitism, all this, and then the vast majority though it just meant anti-establishment. A large group of people used the same expression, but they didn’t mean the same thing. This is what we call “bad branding” because it’s confusing.

Good brands should not be confusing and this alt-right is a very confusing brand. It’s the same thing with this Pepe the Frog – this frog symbol that the alt-right uses. It looks like a man with a frog’s head. So, a lot of these racist types would use the Pepe the Frog meme and various types of these memes online, but then a lot of alt-right people who were not racist would also use them. It was confusing; was Pepe the Frog a racist symbol or was it not a racist symbol?

So this is what I’ve been saying on Twitter, and it’s a bit of a battle: Folks, the ‘alt-right’ label is broken because it’s confusing, and if we stay with the ‘alt-right’ label, we are just teeing it up for the liberal media to attack us as racists because there is a racist element within the alt-right. It’s led by this guy named Spencer and we don’t want to associate ourselves with it.

We need to move away from that alt-right terminology, and my standpoint was ‘Why do we need to be alt-anything? ‘Alt’ means ‘alternative to something else.’ We’re not an alternative to something else – we’re something in and of ourselves. We are a brand new, real thing in and of ourselves.’ I like the expression ‘America First.’ Donald Trump chose this and then someone said, “Well, the racists in 1945 used ‘America First!’”

I’m like, “Listen, they can’t have all our words, okay? They can have ‘alt-right,’ but we get to have ‘America First.’ I don’t care if they used that before, they don’t count. ‘America First’ is our word and hashtag.” That’s what I’m saying – I’m saying I’m Trump Train, America First, MAGA, but I’m not alt-right, and that’s because, like I said, it’s confusing and it’s tied to these racist guys. 

This is why nobody names their cola ‘Nazi soda,’ because the word ‘Nazi’ has got a negative connotation to it, so don’t name your anti-establishment movement something that a bunch of racists call themselves. It’s just not smart.


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