As Hillary Clinton assailed Donald Trump on Thursday for fanning the flames of racism embraced by the “alt-right,” the community of activists that tends to lurk anonymously in the internet’s dark corners could hardly contain its glee.
Clinton’s speech was intended to link Trump to a fringe ideology of conspiracies and hate, but for the leaders of the alt-right, the attention from the Democratic presidential nominee was a moment in the spotlight that offered a new level of credibility. It also was a valuable opportunity for fundraising and recruiting.
Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, live-tweeted Clinton’s remarks, questioning her praise of establishment Republicans and eagerly anticipating her discussion of his community.
“Come on, Hillary,” he wrote. “Talk about Alt Right.” In an ode to Trump’s characterization of Jeb Bush, Taylor described her speech as “low energy.”
Other white nationalists mocked Clinton, saying she sounded like a neoconservative and a “grandma,” while welcoming the publicity.
Trump has publicly kept his distance from the alt-right, but his critics have accused him of offering subtle cues to invite its support. His appointment of Stephen K. Bannon, the head of Breitbart News, to be chief executive of his campaign was cheered by alt-right members who are avid readers of the Breitbart website.
The alt-right claims to support the preservation of white culture in the United States, and many of its members want to see an overhaul of the entire political system. However, its views are widely seen as white supremacist and anti-Semitic.
Many who align themselves with alt-right philosophies say that they do not subscribe to all of Trump’s policies, but that electing him would be a step in the right direction because of his “America First” worldview and his hard line on immigration. This week, some expressed disappointment that Trump appeared to be softening his tone on deporting people who are in the country illegally.
Although the alt-right tried to put its best foot forward, there was plenty of venom directed at Clinton, and the conspiracy theories ran wild.
By addressing the alt-right in such a prominent setting, Clinton ran the risk of helping its cause. But Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, dismissed the idea that Clinton was doing the public a disservice by drawing attention to the alt-right.
“I think every public official ought to denounce racism, and that is what Secretary Clinton did,” Cohen said, noting that the alt-right ideology opposes the notion that all people are equal.
Referring to the term “alt-right,” which was trending on Twitter, he added, “It is a fancy, almost antiseptic term for white supremacy in the digital world.”