Headlines lit up Tuesday morning with the news that a vicious “alt-right” white supremacist group had spent the prior evening hailing Donald Trump’s presidential victory and casting Nazi salutes in support of some misguided vision of white nationalism. Media outlets rushed to report with almost a perverse glee about how Trump’s shocking election had launched leagues of neo-Nazi racists back into the spotlight (although there were only about 200 attendees at Monday’s meeting), finally giving them the megaphone they’ve long desired to lash out against Jews, blacks, immigrants, Muslims and anyone else of the non-Aryan variety.
But herein lies the problem: the media controls where the spotlight shines. And they point it with great deliberation.
Monday’s 11-hour meeting was led by Richard B. Spencer, whose name you’ve probably never heard because he’s been of very little consequence for…well, ever. Back in 2011, Spencer took over as director and president of the National Policy Institute, a group with that’s been around since 2005. According to the group’s own definition, NPI is “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”
And if you’re scratching your head trying to think of any policy that’s been affected by NPI’s influence, or any tangible effect the group has had on American life or society, that’s because they haven’t. They’ve held events, written papers, published reports, and they’re still less-known than the KKK, who’ve been most notable in recent memory for occasionally passing out poorly printed fliers and maintaining embarrassingly outdated websites.
To be fair, a fool in a suit preaching white power and inspiring Nazi salutes while standing in a building named for a president who brought an end to the Cold War is disturbing, to say the least. The mere existence of a group that thinks its supremacy is derived from some genetically prescribed amount of melanin is grossly offensive. And yet a small, sad gathering of roughly 200 people – about 0.00000062 percent of the entire American population – is hardly cause for this level of national alarm.