In CNN Special Report “State of Hate: The Explosion of White Nationalism,” Fareed Zakaria examines the deeper reasons behind the issue. Watch Sunday, June 30 at 8 pm ET.
With today’s heated political rhetoric, you’ve probably heard politicians or pundits hurl terms that weren’t even in the dictionary a few years ago:
Alt-right. “Alt-left.” Antifa. The list goes on.
What exactly do they mean? What’s the difference between a white nationalist and a white supremacist?
Here’s a glossary of phrases spreading through our political vocabulary:
“Alt-right,” a self-styled descriptor for many white-rights activists, has become intertwined with the terms white nationalism and white supremacy, said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
“They’re disaffected with mainstream conservative speech, (but) they don’t want to be associated with overt white supremacist neo-Nazi groups,” University of Oregon professor Randy Blazak said.
“They want to express anti-immigration views, anti-multicultural views, economic protectionism.”
The term did not exist until a few years ago, when it started gaining traction after white supremacist Richard Spencer coined it, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Blazak said alt-right activists are typically “moderate-income, working-class white males who are left out of the globalization and … feel left out of all the progress that’s happening.”
Eyebrows and anger rose across the country when President Donald Trump blamed the “alt-left” for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia – where a driver plowed into a group of people denouncing white supremacists.
But Segal said “alt-left” is a “made-up term” used by people on the right to “suggest there is a similar movement on the left.” But there’s no equivalent with the anti-Semitic and bigoted groups that call themselves “alt-right,” he said.
“Obviously, there are left-wing extremists, but there is no congruence between the far-left and the alt-right,” Segal said.
That’s not to say there aren’t radical leftists who have engaged in violence. But they generally don’t use the term “alt-left.”
The Antifa isn’t a group; it’s an ideology that stands for “anti-fascist,” said Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“They frequently engage in violence to make their point,” Lenz said.
He cited a 2012 case in which activists “walked into a high-end restaurant in Chicago where a white supremacist group was eating and literally beat them up with baseball bats.”
The term is used to define a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left – often the far left – but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform.
Antifa activists feel the need to get violent because “they believe that elites are controlling the government and the media. So they need to make a statement head-on against the people who they regard as racist,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
“There’s this ‘It’s going down’ mentality and this ‘Hit them with your boots’ mentality that goes back many decades,” he said.
Neo-Nazis are united by their hatred of Jews, but their antipathy has expanded to include other minorities, gays and even some Christians, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.