The alt-right, the dissident movement that became relevant during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has seen a decline in momentum due to setbacks mostly caused by poor judgement shown by the socalled «leaders» of the movement. A lot of this has to do with bad optics. Charlottesville is one such example and probably the most damaging thing to happen to the brand «alt-right» ever since it gained popularity. Despite most of the people there ostensibly being good guys, the event gave the media all the ammunition it needed to portray this as a gathering of white supremacists who wanted to commit violence against their political opponents (and also, of course, that they «succeeded» at this because Heather Heyer died of a heart attack at the rally). It’s difficult – if not impossible – to control the narrative when the media is in the hands of the enemy and you give them so much time to prepare for the event. They will always find something they can take out of context to make everyone there look bad. However, the biggest mistake might have been the location. Virginia’s Governor was the Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Charlottesville had at the time a Jewish major, namely Michael Signer, fittingly labelled by Wikipedia as a «Jewish activist». Deciding to have a dissident right wing rally at a place like this doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. And it wasn’t. But sometimes things like these happen and all you can do afterwards is learn from the mistakes that were made and do your best not to repeat them.
After the Charlottesville debacle there has been a lot of discussion about the socalled optics question. Some say that it’s not that important and that the ideas themselves are what matters, while others maintain that being presentable will have a big effect on whether most people will be receptive to your message or not. I’m obviously part of the latter group and I find it hard to sympathize with the opposite view in this case. Just like spelling and being able to form a coherent sentence matters when you want to convince people via the written word, it also matters how a group of people portrays itself when trying to reach an audience via videos on YouTube or wherever else. Some sloppy, unkempt, fat bastard who can barely speak is gonna have a much more difficult time making people want to be associated with the ideas he espouses than someone who is well-dressed, well-groomed and eloquent. This is human nature. People do care about the facts and what’s right and wrong (well, some do anyway), but they also care about what kind of impression the person presenting the ideas gives them. Good optics may often be the difference between someone immediately dismissing something more radical than they’re used to and them actually stopping and considering it (and with time come around to our way of thinking). Them looking into these things on their own may depend on whether they encounter Matt «Cuckbox» Parrot or Nick Fuentes when they’re first introduced to this type of ideas. Anyone who thinks that it makes no difference or that Parrott is going to be a more effective advocate for nationalism than Fuentes (because he’s «more hardcore» or something?) is not living in the real world. Normal people aren’t attracted to losers.
But good optics aren’t just about putting on a suit and striving to look presentable. The ideas themselves and how they are presented also matter. It is for example better to clothe nationalist ideas in the colors of your own flag than to use foreign and demonized ideologies. It is important to spread the truth about what happened during World War II, but it is unwise to lead with this when you’re trying to convert the uninitiated. There’s a time and a place for everything. Don’t go full Prussian blue before you know that the person you’re talking to – especially if it’s not on the internet – is receptible to it. Some people never get that far and that’s fine. If they can become nationalists, rather than continue to be fence-sitting centrists, that is still a significant improvement. American nationalism for example should be associated with ideas and symbols that conservative Americans can relate to. Christianity, the Constitution, the US anthem, the Stars and Stripes and what the Founders intented (not a third world shithole, that’s for sure) appeals to white Americans. This should be used when we try to convince these people, not the flag of their enemy during World War II (even though white Americans have the same enemy as the Germans had, this is not something that most of them are aware of yet) or something else completely foreign to most of those we want to reach. The rhetoric of Patrick Buchanan is going to resonate more with people than that of Patrick Little.
Real life activism can also be done with great effect, as evidenced by the Groyper Wars, but there is no need to march the streets in stahlhelm replicas made of plastic as done by Heimbach’s and Parrot’s TWP. That’s not going to achieve anyting positive. It will only discredit those doing it and make them look like a bunch of clownish buffoons. Some of this seems to be a need among these people to live out their strange fetishes, all the while making nationalism look unattractive and weird to normal people.
Yes, it’s fun to troll the media and to send all sorts of edgy memes to journalists on Twitter, but in real life it’s important to be more careful about what you say and how you present yourself. Almost anything goes on the internet where the main point is to get a reaction from your opponent, but if you’re similarly outrageous in your daily life, it’s gonna get you into trouble. Dissidents have to know how to use dog whistles and irony in order to have plausible deniability. Not everything can be said plainly by those who want to be closer to the mainstream and we do need to have some (preferably many) of these people.
Richard Spencer is now fully discredited in most Americans’ minds and that is largely his own doing because he worked so closely with the enemy media. He used the media to make himself the center of a phenomenon he had little responsibility for creating and predictably ended up associating nationalism with what looked like an arrogant and narcissistic plutocrat (i.e. himself) in exchange for being the top dog in racist metapolitics. No one who isn’t already convinced – and increasingly fewer of those people as well – are going to listen to him speak and give him a fair hearing. No one will want to associate with Spencer because what he has done has made him completely radioactive. There’s no way he can get support from people closer to the mainstream. Contrast that with Michelle Malkin (and others) coming out to defend Nick Fuentes from the predictable disavowals by Conservative Inc. This has to do with Nick being far more careful with he says (it also helps that he doesn’t come across as a pompous ass). As long as Nick can say «oh that was a joke» about the cookie monster sketch and have people believe it, it is possible to have people listen to what he has to say and become comfortable flirting with more radical ideas. The media will look ridiculous if they paint someone as a Nazi based on mere jokes, but it will seem far more credible if those same people are throwing Roman salutes or chanting «Jews will not replace us!» (no matter how true these words may be).
Trump might mostly be a failure (at least politically), but American dissidents will be better able to influence cultural and political change by reminding Trump voters what he ran on than by rejecting him completely. If they do the latter, they will just relegate themselves to the fringes where the white nationalists of the 1990s spent their time. The alt-right did help Trump win the presidency, but the movement (to the extent that it was such a thing) also rode in on his back to relevance before mostly losing it not long after. Groypers and the America First guys must be more careful and hold on to their position longer, hopefully into the 2020 election and beyond. Victory is possible, but good optics obviously matter if we want to win.