Clearing up meaning of new political vocabulary

Clearing up meaning of new political vocabulary
Posted at 6:13 PM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-17 18:13:00-04

(RNN) – Today’s political climate has spawned a terminology that can be hard to navigate. Terms like "alternative right," "social justice warrior" and "anti-fascist" have become commonplace. It seems new political affiliations and pejoratives are created on a daily basis, and the definitions are wide and varied.

The internet has been the breeding ground for the new vocabulary. Whether the terms first appear on Reddit, YouTube or even 4chan, they often gain notoriety or popularity because of the outrage they receive.

It can be hard to separate vile opinion from harmless trolling - when someone comments with outrageous thoughts or opinions to get a rise out of viewers or other respondents. Often, these internet-born ideas or symbols have no connotations attached until larger organizations take credit for and begin using them.

Let's look at some of the terms:

Alternative right/'alt-right'

The "alt-right" is described by The Associated Press Style Guide as "a grouping or tendency mixing racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism." The term was first used by American political philosopher Paul Gottfried in a 2008 address to the H.L. Mencken Club's Annual Meeting. It wasn't until 2013 that white nationalists Richard Spencer and Colin Liddell launched the Alternative Right blog, where they used the term freely. Since then "alt-right" has  served to identify groups and individuals who are opposed to multiculturalism and identity politics.  Milo Yiannopoulos, the former columnist for Breitbart became an ardent flag-flyer for the far-right movement.  Former executive editor Steve Bannon, now a top adviser in the Trump White House called Breitbart the forum for the “alt-right.”


Anti-fascists see themselves as in direct opposition to those on the "alt-right." AP defines the group as "far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations and other events." They are not an interconnected organization, and are, according to The Washington Post, made up of "communists, socialists and anarchists who reject turning to the police or the state to halt the advance of white supremacy." While those in the alt-right proudly identify with the movement, the term "alt-left" is used almost exclusively by those on the right to describe Antifa or unaffiliated far-left activists. Sean Hannity helped popularize the term on his late-night talk show on Fox News.

'Blood and Soil'

Translated from "Blut und Boden", "Blood and Soil" was a phrase popularized in Nazi Germany from 1933 until the end of World War II in 1945. It was a rallying cry for German nationalists who wanted to keep other races out of their territories, and was featured prominently on Nazi Germany-era architecture. At an August rally in Charlottesville, VA, white nationalists chanted the phrase and many others, including "Jews will not replace us." While "Blood and Soil" has seen a resurgence in the United States, Germany - whose history is uniquely burdened - has a zero tolerance policy for anything relative to Nazi ideology.

White nationalism

"Nationalist" is a term that, without any adjective attached, can be positive. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes nationalism as "loyalty and devotion to a nation." When you put "white" in front of the term things start to get murky. White nationals follow "a subset of racist beliefs that calls for a separate territory and/or enhanced legal rights and protections for white people," according to The Associated Press. Many white nationals claim they aren't racist, but instead want to slow "white dispossession" of the United States; this is also referred to as "white genocide," which refers to a more general deconstruction of white culture.

Social justice warrior/SJW

Social justice warrior is defined by the Oxford Living Dictionaries as "a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views." The term started seeing widespread use in 2011 after an Urban Dictionary entry went viral. Describing someone as a SJW is generally seen as derogatory. They are often the target of those who believe political correctness has no place in politics. SJWs are decried on social media for attempting to defend feminists, transgender rights, civil rights, multiculturalism and identity politics.

Deus vult

Like "Blood and Soil," Deus vult, which in Latin means “God wills it,” has been appropriated by anti-immigration groups as a battle cry. The phrase's origin dates to the First Crusade into Jerusalem in 1095, were it was used by crusaders and the supporting populace to boost morale and strike fear into opposition. In 2013, it was used in memes across the web and in 2016 was appropriated by "alt-right" constituents to shout down opponents of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Its usage online has dropped sharply since his election.

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