AP Deems Term 'Alt-Right' A 'Public-Relations Device' That Enables Racism

The media is using the term more than ever before now that it's linked to a top presidential adviser.
The AP Stylebook's new "alt-right" guidelines.
The AP Stylebook's new "alt-right" guidelines.
Associated Press

The term “alt-right” has been thrown around loosely following the election of Donald Trump.

It’s primarily due to the fact that he added Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News ― which Bannon has called “the platform for the alt-right” ― to his list of top advisers. It’s required many in the media to rethink appropriate ways to use the term.

The Associated Press’ standards vice president John Daniszewski published a blog post Monday titled “Writing about the ‘alt-right,’” in which he describes the ways in which the news outlet differentiates between the term and other terms like “white supremacists” and “white nationalists.”

Daniszewski recommends that the term be put in quotation marks or referenced as the “so-called alt-right,” followed by a more specific explanation:

“Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, 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.

We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them.”

Richard Spencer, founder of a white nationalist group called the National Policy Institute, coined the term. The Southern Poverty Law Center has defined it as a “loose set of far-right ideals centered on ‘white identity’ and the preservation of ‘Western civilization.’”

Spencer expounded on the connection between the movement and the Trump administration at a white nationalist conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

“The alt-right is here, the alt-right is not going anywhere and the alt-right is going to change the world,” Spencer said.

He clarified that Trump and Bannon are not “alt-right.” But he did suggest that the two were aligned, calling the “alt-right” a “head without a body” and the Trump campaign a “body without a head.”

Trump himself has disavowed and condemned the movement.

The AP joins a list of other notable news outlets, including The New York Times, NPR and The Washington Post, who have also clarified their terms of usage in recent days. ThinkProgress editors have decided not to use the word at all.

The Huffington Post issued guidance to editors last week, recommending that the euphemism be translated and unpacked for readers.

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