By Grant Connery
There has been a growing voice in the Alt-Right and the far-right as a whole that a rebrand is necessary; that we must clean up our image to appear friendlier to the average White man. You might have heard of the idea to hide traditional fascist imagery such as the swastika, to use more sophisticated language, and to dress up in white polo + khaki pants outfits when you go out in public in an attempt to pass the movement off as “normie-friendly.” This voice has become so loud that any opposition to it will be met with accusations of not taking the movement seriously, of LARPing, et cetera.
There are numerous issues with this approach that have become very noticeable since it has been applied. I will be using examples from several factions of the Alt-Right to illustrate what I mean.
First, optics are important, but not the starting point for an organization.
The core message of a White Nationalist group should always be White Nationalism. Shilling for stops on the road to White Nationalism is a complete waste of time and effort. However, what needs to be said here is that optics are dependent on what your immediate goals are and who your target audience is. No one takes a businessman in worker’s clothing seriously, and a worker with a suit on would be laughed out of the workplace. It’s understandable that a middle class suburbanite wouldn’t be interested in joining a working-class organization, nor would a blue collar worker be interested in Identity Evropa. However, you must ensure that the core message is not corrupted. Make sure that whichever class of people you’re trying to appeal to will become White Nationalists through your organization.
It’s easy to see why the optics debate has gotten so big. Groups like the National Socialist Movement have been active for decades, with little result. This is at least partially related to the fact that their overall appearance is that of a stereotypical, slovenly “Romper Stomper” nationalist you’d see in Hollywood movies. It’s important that this mistake is avoided at all costs: This movement is persecuted by the press as is, and we shouldn’t give the press any more ammo than is needed.
However, the pendulum has now swung far into the other direction: You see well-dressed individuals giving speeches and shouting slogans about Donald Trump and making America great again. This doesn’t help matters either.
Secondly, attempting a “normie-friendly” approach will cause your message to be diluted, to be confusing, or lost entirely. The message that you want to spread will inevitably turn into something else entirely.
Because of the very nature of what you are trying to accomplish (making your movement/organization look friendly and uncontroversial), you will begin to either hide or get rid of ideals you stand for that make you controversial. Let’s say, for example, that you are against sodomy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the majority of Whites approve of sodomy. How are we going to sell them on our group now? Either by dropping anti-sodomy from the organization platform, or by trying to surround it with flowery language in an attempt to civilly convince pro-sodomy Whites to switch sides. Instead of saying something like “Gays are 30 times more likely to molest children – Stop the gays!” they say nothing or “Homosexuals have issues with being overly sexual that need to be dealt with.” Either way, you become more accepting of sodomy yourself, whether you realize it or not.
This “normie-friendly” messaging can also be confusing. A perfect example of this would be a poster from the group Identity Evropa. On this poster, the Richard Spencer-coined line “Become who we are” is written on a background of a statue of Julius Caesar. I have been a nationalist for three and a half years, and I couldn’t tell you what “Become who we are” is supposed to mean. What are you trying to accomplish with this? If you’re attempting to convince those on the edge it doesn’t work because it’s too confusing and they won’t understand it. If you’re attempting to convince a radical it doesn’t work because it’s so tame that it effectively stands for nothing.
Thirdly, you are under the misguided belief that people will be fooled into supporting you.
It appears that a lot of Alt-Righters think the average person is a moron who only cares about aesthetics and can be easily fooled into supporting National Socialism if you convince them it’s something else entirely, such as “American Nationalism,” for example. The problem here is that people will inevitably figure out what you’re really attempting to do. You might lure your average “Patriotic American” (or whoever it is you’re attempting to appeal to) in with prospects of regular patriotism, but when they discover what it is you’re really pushing, they’ll be gone in the blink of an eye.
The group “Patriot Front” comes to mind here. On their website, they describe themselves as “American Fascists” and openly state that they want to establish a White ethnostate. One wouldn’t be able to tell this from any propaganda they produce and poster around cities, however. One such propaganda flyer states “Will your speech be Hate Speech?” with “hate speech” struck through with a line. Others include statements such as “Never trust the mainstream media” and “Patriots, reclaim your birthright”. These easily fit with a more mainstream civic nationalist agenda that a normal Trump supporting Republican can nod their head to. They will head to their website interested, read that Patriot Front is actually a fascist movement, and will immediately dismiss the group.
There is an argument to be made here that a toned down message can interest people who wouldn’t be interested in a “balls to the wall” style message. You can gradually radicalize them into genuine White Nationalists afterwards. There’s a risk here, however: These people might get stuck somewhere in the process, and they will instead deradicalize White Nationalists into a weaker ideology. An example of this is Ricky Vaughn, who started out as a generic Trump supporter on Twitter, was invited onto several Alt-Right websites, and is now spreading civic nationalism within these websites.
Lastly, you will be made to look weak.
This is quite a simple concept. Any attempts to rebrand yourself as separate from the nationalism of the early 20th century will be exposed. The media watches this movement like a hawk: All developments within will be reported on, especially any rebranding attempts. Not only will the rebranding attempts be made ineffective, it will also be very easy to spin it into weakness by implying that you secretly are afraid/ashamed of what you believe in, playing into the brainwashing you and everyone else received from a young age.
Take the white polo + khaki pants with cropped sides (“fashy”) haircut that many members of Identity Evropa and other groups sport. Leftist mouthpieces pointed at this new outfit and went “See that look? That’s the new look of White supremacy,” and any “normie-friendliness” it might have had was destroyed. Leftist agitators both online and in real life take this a step further and say things such as “Why do they try to hide their views? Are they ashamed of being Nazis?” and the whole idea backfires. Other forms of “moderating the message” will be seen in the same light, as “Nazis who are afraid of being seen as Nazis,” and any gains from the optics will be neutralized.
I’m not saying that it’s only possible to advance the cause of White Nationalism with the most extreme message possible. However, what I’ve seen in the camps that tone down the message to look a little friendlier is that the message becomes corrupted over time. The Daily Stormer, for example, went from an ostensibly National Socialist website to promoting mixed-race people such as Nick Fuentes. It is crucial that the core message is not lost when you attempt to appeal to normies, or the movement’s future is in a roadside ditch.