A couple of years ago I started following a white nationalist online. Based in England but very much involved in American politics, this woman, whom I shall not name, started a website/podcast that quickly became popular among extremists. It was there and on social media where she discussed her thoughts on the creation of a white ethno-state, her opposition to homosexuality, miscegenation, and immigration, her research on IQ and race, her hatred for SJWs and the growth of the alt-right movement. My personal ideologies were the complete opposite of hers on every point. So why would I, an independent liberal with a Bernie Sanders-style brand of politics, keep tabs on someone who in my mind was so full of ill-begotten information and was spouting dangerous ideologies? As senior fellow of The Sikh Coalition Simran Jeet Singh says regarding the alt-right:
“If we don’t even know what their arguments are how are we going to address them?”
Director Adam Bhala Lough’s new documentary Alt-Right: Age of Rage tells the story of right wing extremists, and the antifa activists who fight their every move, in the events leading up to the August 2017 Charlottesville, VA car attack. The film focuses on four key figures. On the far right there is Richard Spencer, white separatists and alt-right leader and Jared Taylor, white nationalist and founder of the American Renaissance. On the far left there is antifa activist and founder of One People’s Project Daryle Lamont Jenkins and Southern Poverty Law Center’s expert on extremism Mark Potok. Other figures including antifa activists and right-wing provocateurs.
Richard Spencer coined the term “alt-right” in 2008 in response to a call for an “alternative right”. The alt-right movement was born from a resistance to a baby boomer generation who allowed for interracial marriage and non-white immigration and who were frustrated with mainstream conservatives. Spencer created a website that helped catapult the movement that came to a critical point during the election of President Trump. The internet has been the biggest breeding ground for the alt-right and YouTube in particular has become one of the primary ways for alt-righters to disseminate information. In response to alt-right, the antifa activist movement, which Potok argues is not the extreme radical leftist movement the alt-right perceives them to be, protests the alt-right’s every move making it harder and harder for them to demonstrate and hold meetings. The biggest threat to alt-righters is doxxing, the practice of exposing individual’s identities online. For alt-righters this puts their reputation and livelihoods in jeopardy. Antifa activists are also gravely concerned with their privacy. The punch heard round the world, an incident between Richard Spencer and an antifa activist, is still shrouded with mystery. No one has identified the man who delivered the punch and the people who do know aren’t talking.
It’s impossible to watch this without some bias but Lough does a marvelous job delivering a very even-handed film. Alternating views are spliced together, one on top of the other. The heart of the documentary is these four key figures. The film profiles these subjects, digs into their backgrounds and tries to unearth their motivations. Their stories are told through the events surrounding the Unite the Right rally and the violent car attack in Charlottesville, VA during August 2017. This was a culmination of much fervor in the alt-right movement, a strong opposition from protesters and delay in the authorities stepping in to break up the violence. This maelstrom is captured with a lot of very difficult to watch footage include the attack itself which left protester Heather Heyer dead. It’s also difficult to watch David Duke making anti-Semitic remarks, watching Jenkins suffer from a pepper spray attack, and to hear Spencer poking fun at Jenkins’ weight.
The scariest takeaway from Alt-Right: Age of Rage is how divided we are as a nation. Spencer doesn’t think the United States can continue as is and in the documentary he claims, “America is going to have to fragment for this new ideology to emerge.”
Captivating, thought-provoking, Alt-Right: Age of Rage gets under your skin. This documentary is a wake-up call to look at what’s really going on in America. A must-see.
Distributed by Gravitas Ventures, Alt-Right: Age of Rage hits theaters August 17th.