In late November, the Associated Press — the preeminent arbiter of journalistic style — issued a sternly-worded guide on using the term “alt-right.”
“Avoid using the term generically and without definition,” the AP’s guide advised, “because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”
The style arbiter then added, “whenever ‘alt-right’ is used in a story, be sure to include a definition: ‘an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism,’ or, more simply, ‘a white nationalist movement.'”
To put the guide’s point “more simply,” the AP was arguing that the “alt-right” is essentially white nationalist, implying the term should only be applied to those who are, in fact, white nationalists. Journalists and media observers cheered on the AP’s guide at the time it was released for laying down the rules on using the term alt-right.
Yet, left-leaning journalists have seemingly ignored accurately applying the term to white nationalists. Instead, they now gleefully use the term without regard for the AP’s rules in an attempt to smear opponents on the Right as Nazis.
Last week presented a great example of this attitude in the controversy over Milo Yiannopoulos receiving a lucrative book deal. Outlets immediately labelled the Breitbart Tech editor and internet provocateur an “alt-right leader” and a white nationalist — even though he is neither of those things. (RELATED: Liberals Are Losing Their Minds Over The Milo Yiannopoulos Book Deal)
Think Progress ran an entire article calling Milo a “white supremacist” who peddles “white ethno-nationalism” without giving any evidence for the commentator meeting the criteria for that term, outside of out-of-context quotes from Ben Shapiro.
Repeatedly, terms like white nationalist, alt-right and racist have been used by outraged leftists to shame Simon & Schuster for offering such an odious figure a book deal. The message is clear: Milo is out of the bounds of acceptable discourse, and to give him a book deal legitimizes his supposed neo-Nazism. Thus, Simon & Schuster should be criticized (or even boycotted) until it backtracks on its decision.
Using explosive terms like white nationalist and alt-right — which according to the AP and the vast majority journalists, is synonymous with white supremacy — is more effective in delivering a message to the book publishers than accurately portraying Yiannopoulos as a gay, right-wing critic of immigration and feminism.
Actual white nationalists are very emphatic that Milo is not one of them as well. A lot of white nationalists absolutely hate him and have declared a “holy crusade” against him. They were also furious about his book deal.
There was even a recent reminder of this fact the same week the provocateur’s book was being pilloried as racist trash.
Outlets such as The Daily Beast, Buzzfeed and Reuters gave ample coverage a “civil war” erupting within the alt-right — and Milo was, of course, involved. A dispute arose over the inauguration party “Deploraball” that essentially pitted white nationalists versus non-white nationalist Trump supporters. A prominent guest, a popular Twitter user “Baked Alaska,” was disinvited from the event after tweeting out anti-Semitic messages and was replaced by Milo.
That set off concerns by white nationalists that they were being suppressed by the so-called “alt-lite” — a new formation that did not care for racialism. So journalists were well-aware of fresh declarations from white nationalists that Milo is not alt-right and is hated by self-proclaimed members of the alt-right.
Yet, they still went with calling Yiannopoulos an alt-right Nazi anyway because he once wrote an in-depth article on the movement that was light on criticism.
That’s because — contrary to the AP’s advice — the term alt-right is now applied as a weaponized term to paint opponents on the Right as Nazis. Critics of the term, such as the AP, thought writing the term without a definition allowed white nationalists to rebrand their extreme ideas as something new.
Now journalists get to use the term to rebrand standard conservative ideas as white nationalism.
Considering how frequently President-elect Donald Trump was called a fascist and white nationalist while running for office, there’s a high chance the alt right will be used to discredit his administration and supporters in the coming years.
And few are going to follow the AP’s advised standards when they fling those dreaded charges.