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There is no such thing as the ‘alt-left,’ say experts

In defending neo-Nazis, President Trump mentioned an opposition group that doesn't exist.
Trump Alt-Left
Photo: Getty Images

President Trump might do well to take a page from "Mean Girls:" Stop trying to make "alt-left" happen. It's not going to happen.

During yesterday's press conference in which Trump defended the white supremacists at Charlottesville, one of his arguments was that the "alt-left" exhibited physical violence upon the neo-Nazis during their rally.

"Okay, what about the alt-left," he mused in response to a question about the culpability of self-described "alt-right" groups in the domestic-terror attack. "What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?"

The short answer would be no, because "they" don't exist.

Experts who study extremist groups say there is no such thing as the "alt-left," the New York Times reports. Mark Pitcavage, an analyst at the Anti-Defamation League, said the term was invented to create a false equivalence between the far right and “anything vaguely left-seeming that they didn’t like.”

“It did not arise organically, and it refers to no actual group or movement or network,” Pitcavage told the Times. “It’s just a made-up epithet, similar to certain people calling any news they don’t like ‘fake news.’”

The president attracted bipartisan condemnation for his initial remarks on the Charlottesville tragedy last Saturday, in which 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed by a car rammed into a crowd of counterprotestors by a neo-Nazi. Trump said there was blame "on many sides" and failed to call out white supremacists and their organizations by name.

After a widespread uproar, Trump gave more specifically critical remarks on Monday. On Tuesday, he reverted to his both-sides argument and went even further, defending the neo-Nazis by saying some of them were "very fine people" and criticizing counterprotesters who physically intervened against them.

There is no equivalence between the acts of the two groups, experts in extremism say. Far-left protests that involve street brawls and property damage, while reprehensible, are “not domestic terrorism,” J. J. MacNab, a fellow in the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told the New York Times.

 
 
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