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‘In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.’
Amid mounting concerns about the influence of the so-called alt-right—the nationalist, white supremacist movement associated with Breitbart.com—on President-elect Donald Trump, the Associated Press has issued a guideline for when and how journalists should use “alt-right.”
In short? Don’t.
The AP’s Definitive Source blog allows that “‘Alt-right’ (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified as in the ‘self-described’ or ‘so-called alt-right’ in stories discussing what the movement says about itself,” but cautions against letting an extremist movement brand itself.
“Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience,” AP VP for Standards John Daniszewski writes.
“In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”
He does, however, recommend against glibly calling people neo-Nazis. It’s more persuasive when backed up by evidence.
“We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them,” Daniszewski concludes.
If major newspapers and other media outlets take this to heart, you should see a lot fewer mentions of the “alt-right,” even as the white supremacists who identify with it continue to make news.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.