On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League released a list of 36 key figures in the alt-right/alt-light movement(s). The list included lifelong Charlottesville resident Jason Kessler, a violent “alt-right activist and white supremacist” and one of the organizers of the August 12 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. ADL’s list also includes Corey Stewart, failed gubernatorial candidate and Kessler supporter.
According to the ADL, “In just one year, the alt-right has gone from relative obscurity to being one of the United States’ most visible extremist movements. This stratospheric rise is due in large part to the rhetoric employed during the 2016 presidential campaign, which granted implicit approval to the once-taboo hallmarks of the far right—overt racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, and anti-Muslim bigotry.”
ADL’s list serves as yet another reminder to our local media to resist normalizing racist rhetoric—particularly during a presidency that already gives platform to white supremacist voices—and instead to identify these ideas precisely as what they are: white nationalism.
Local media have time and (time) again permitted Kessler to self-identify as “activist blogger,” which only serves to legitimize his extremist views and thus provide cover for white nationalist encouragement of unlawful and often lethal attacks on structurally marginalized groups. Democracy relies on a fourth-estate that is robust, fearless, and willing to tell the whole truth even, and especially, when it is not balanced. As accurately stated by the ADL, Kessler has consistently promoted white supremacist and white nationalist viewpoints in the media and at rallies; he is no more a “local blogger” than Richard Spencer is merely a “UVA graduate.” Any reporting that fails to acknowledge the white nationalism and hate Kessler represents and espouses normalizes these extremist ideas.