by Anna Gombert
On Monday, Feb. 27 the Center for Holocaust/Genocide Study hosted a speaker to deliver a talk on White Nationalism and the Alt-Right Movement. The event was also sponsored by the Center for Religion, Culture & Conflict. Keegan Hankes from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) delivered the talk. Hankes is a Managing Data Intelligence Analyst for the SPLC, located in Montgomery, Alabama. The SPLC, founded in 1971 by two civil rights lawyers, is, “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality,” according to their website.
After an introduction from Associate Professor of German Joshua Kavaloski, Keegan started the talk by trying to define the alt-right and white nationalist movement, though he made sure to stress that it is extremely difficult to pin down a definition since the movement can change and pivot very easily. He explained White Nationalism, stating, “They want to develop a coherent white identity and a white ethno state that is at minimum dominated culturally politically and economically by white people.” He made sure to point out that there are varying degrees of anti-Semitism within the movement as well. He then launched into brief identifications and explanations of the different sub-movements within the alt-right, some of which, he pointed out, were both contradictory and complementary. He quoted two prominent alt-right figures, Milo Yiannopoulos and Andrew Anglin, for two different definitions of the movement from different perspectives within the movement. He often referred to Richard Spencer, Head of the National Policy Institute, who has become a prominent face for the movement, through public speeches as well as several viral videos. The rise of the alt-right has only really occurred over the past two years, mostly through the help of social media.
The room in which the talk took place, LC 28, was packed with both students and community members alike. Some students even sat on the floor in the front of the room to make room for the many attendees. The talk lasted for about forty minutes and then the speaker answered questions from the audience for about an hour.
Alison Dabrowski (’18) who attended the event, explained, “I learned that the alt-right is much smaller than they make themselves out to be and that their biggest forum for propaganda is the Internet where they often spread false information to get attention for their movement.” When asked why she thought hosting this speaker at Drew was important, she stated, “It was important to host this speaker because it gave us the opportunity to learn about the alt-right without having to potentially put ourselves in harm’s way by visiting their websites where they are known to target anyone who disagrees with them.” She further elaborated, saying, “We learned that it is best not to engage with people in the alt-right but to instead just spread correct information in hopes to overpower the false information they put out there.”