Once a small online phenomenon on the fringe of the internet, the Alt-right political ideology has been thrust into the the most powerful office in the world with the election of Donald Trump as US President.
Everything unpredictable and unprecedented that Trump will do to America and the world in the next four years can be somewhat predicted only if one follows the Alt-right, essentially an inward looking movement that gives precedence to culture over economics and trade.
Even though Trump himself has been reluctant to publicly embrace the Alt-Right, the influence it wields in the White House can be gauged from Trump’s choice of appointments. His senior advisor and formerly presidential campaign advisor Stephon Bannon managed Breitbart News, the website that brought the Alt-Right movement to the mainstream. A former campaign advisor of Trump and still a trusted aide, Roger Stone, is a known supporter too. So is President’s elder son Donald Junior. Both Stone and Junior Trump have been in controversy previously for re-tweeting the image of Pepe the Frog, the symbol of the Alternative Right.
Less than a week into his presidency, the effects of the Alt-right on Donald Trump are already beginning to show. Be it his “America First” slogan during his first presidential speech or his decision to unilaterally pull out of negotiations of multinational Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), each word he has uttered and every action he has taken has an Alt-Right imprint.
However, to say the Alt-right is a completely new and original concept will be wrong representation of world history. Closer home in India, we have seen a resurgence of Hindu nationalism recently that has accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power.
In fact, India’s Right seems to be actively backing Donald Trump and the values he stands for.
What does the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) thinks about Donald Trump?
The RSS, considered as the ideological fountainhead of India’s ruling BJP, is widely perceived to be supportive of politics of Donald Trump.
Seshadri Chari, a veteran RSS worker, isn’t at all critical about Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement’s negotiations. Trump’s critics say the decision could leave a trade leadership vacuum in the region which China may occupy. But Chari, also a member of BJP’s National Executive, believes otherwise.
“TPP was a strategic move to isolate China and enter the Indo-Pacific and Asian market. It would have hurt India’s economic interest also. Good riddance,” Chari told InUth.
Chari dismisses widespread perceptions that Trump’s win is a victory of far-right forces.
“Trump’s victory is not a Right win as is being projected. He was able to sense the discontent among the white, rich and struggling middle class in the US and appeal to them.”
India’s post-2014 Hindu nationalism, thus, has more parallels to the Alt-Right movement, the main backer of Donald Trump, than you think. Here are just a few common themes:
The American Alt-right believes in protecting the White American culture from foreign influence. An article on the Alt-Right phenomenon, published on Breitbart in March 2016, explained,
“Their instinctive wariness of the foreign and the unfamiliar is an instinct that we all share – an evolutionary safeguard against excessive, potentially perilous curiosity – but natural conservatives feel it with more intensity. They instinctively prefer familiar societies, familiar norms, and familiar institutions.”
The Breitbart news explainer further read, “Cheap foreign workers on H1B visas make perfect economic sense. But natural conservatives have other concerns: chiefly, the preservation of their own tribe and its culture.”
Chari from the BJP said that national interest is the bedrock of politics, a remark quite similar to Trump’s slogan of “America First”.
In India, snobbery toward dissenters and minorities has been going on unchecked since the present government came to power. Be it on social media or in public life, episodes of public shaming involving those whose views don’t fit the dominant Hindu nationalist rhetoric have been too frequent in recent times.
Reluctance to embrace gender equality
Patriarchy seems to be making a comeback in the the US, thanks to Donald Trump’s controversial remarks on women during his campaign speeches and moreover, the Alt-Right value of worshiping masculinity.
A massive anti-Trump Women’s march saw millions coming out in American and overseas in a show of disapproval against Donald Trump assuming office.
One of Alt-Right’s high-profile supporters, author Jack Donovan, criticized globalisation in his book The Way of Men. “The book contains many a wistful quote about the loss of manliness that accompanies modern, globalized societies,” the Breitbart article said.
In conservative India, instances of blaming female victims of sexual assault for the crime is not uncommon. Most recently, certain politicians and leaders came under criticism for blaming the dressing style of women who were allegedly molested by crowds on New Year’s Eve in Bengaluru.
(Source: Youtube/Young Turks)
What’s even more upsetting is that India’s top leadership, on more occasions than one, has failed to condemn these incidents and the overall culture of victim-shaming.
This one is blaring.
Once considered as the bastion of free speech, America hasn’t seen this much hatred peddled against media as being done by Donald Trump and his coterie of aides. Those who thought that Trump would be moderated in his conduct toward dissent once he assumed presidency were in for a rude shock.
In a presser that Trump gave days before assuming office, the 70-year old just tore into the several media outlets for reporting leaked albeit unverified information, likely sourced from US intelligence agencies, against him. CNN was called “fake news”, while Buzzfeed was branded as “garbage” by Trump, unprecedented remarks in American history.
(Source: Youtube/ABC News)
The Alt-right supporters, who have a front row ticket to enjoy the spectacle of Donald Trump presidency, for the next four years were clearly jubilant. A Breitbart journalist tweeted,
Representatives from every mainstream media outlet, getting roasted, every day of the week. Who wouldn’t watch that?
— Allum Bokhari (@LibertarianBlue) January 21, 2017
(Source: Twitter/Allum Bokhari)
“Long before the alt-right, 4channers turned trolling the national media into an in-house sport,” Breitbart news once remarked, referring to an internet group who espoused the Alt-Right ideology.
In India, the media haven’t been bashed this bad as they have been since PM Modi came to power in 2014. “Presstitutes”, a portmanteau of press and prostitutes is what millions of Modi’s supporters unabashedly refer to sections of Indian press who hold differing political views.
A Prime Minister of a democracy would condemn the usage of this term, which Modi hasn’t, at least not until now.