According to data from Pew, about 9% of Americans hold negative views of Jews, which corresponds to the 9% who think that “neo-Nazi or white supremacist views” are acceptable. This seems somewhat relevant to the recent debate among the ranks of the Alt-Right regarding the appropriateness of Nazi chants, Nazi salutes, and the like. If approximately 9% of Americans are open to such things, then we can safely assume that is the built-in ceiling of an avowed National Socialist movement. In other words, obviously due to historical baggage, we can safely assume that roughly 9 in 10 Americans have a bias against the historical Nazis of Germany. This provides necessary context for the “White Lives Matter” rallies in Tennessee, which involved the Traditionalist Worker Party, National Socialist Movement, and Vanguard America, all of which rather openly espouse National Socialism as an ideology.
Before going any further, it is important to note that the debate about optics and presentation should not be one of “good people” vs. “bad.” There are good people on both sides of the debate, and they are all merely trying to advocate for their principles in the way they believe is best. There has been far too much back-and-forth on social media with suggestions that this side or that is secretly Jewish, that this side or that is less educated, and so on, which needs to stop. Again, both sides are simply trying to do what they think is best, and both sides are advocating for the preservation of their people. No reasonable compromise can ever be reached if the two sides cannot agree on that basic common ground. Having said that, however, let’s look at some ideological positions that are more popular in the United States than Nazism.
For example, in 2015, polling showed that 58% of Americans hold an unfavorable opinion of Islam, and 40% supported requiring Muslims to register with the federal government and provide their home address. Accordingly, a majority of Americans supported President Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban.” On immigration, 4 in 5 Americans oppose so-called “sanctuary cities,” and 27% think all illegal aliens should be deported. Even on the “JQ,” polling has found that how the topic is framed matters. Indeed, while ADL polling shows 10% of Americans are antisemitic, fully one-third believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than the United States, and 20% believe that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust.
Now, let’s consider that latter polling. If you were to say, “Jews are more loyal to Israel than the United States,” 1 in 3 Americans would agree with you. If you said, “Jews talk too much about the Holocaust,” 1 in 5 would agree. If, however, you said, “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars,” only 1 in 20 would agree. Which of those arguments then is the best one to make when you have a large platform to spread your message? Would you rather appeal to 33%, 20%, or 5% of the Americans who hear your message? The answer seems obvious yet the ranks of the Alt-Right are still having ongoing debates about whether or not optics matter to the movement. The person appealing to the larger audience would not be betraying the movement, but he would be stressing the argument more likely to win over the most people.
It is no different when dealing with how the specific message is packaged. Again, only 9% of Americans believe Nazism is acceptable, but a poll in 2012 found that 89% of Americans viewed George Washington favorably and 74% viewed Thomas Jefferson similarly. So, for example, if you were to discuss the issue of immigration, would it make more sense to cite the immigration policies of Nazi Germany, or the 1790 Naturalization Act that limited American citizenship to whites and was signed by President Washington? If you wished to discuss the “JQ,” should you cite some comments on the subject by Adolf Hitler, or should you mention that Thomas Jefferson once wrote that Jews had “such a perversity of character”?
In essence, the “optics” of the movement are nothing more than a Venn diagram between messaging and packaging. The focus should be on crafting a message using the angles and sources that will appeal most favorably to the largest audience possible without sacrificing the principles of the movement, and then that message should be packaged in such a way that it again appeals most favorably to the largest audience possible without sacrificing said principles. As detailed here, it is entirely possible to craft a message that is at least mostly in line with groups such as the TWP, NSM, and Vanguard while using the Founding Fathers as sources, and it is then only natural to package that message in Americana that uniquely appeals to the American people. No principles would need to be bent or broken, but the Alt-Right could go from appealing to 9% of Americans to 20%, 33%, or even 60% on particular issues that are of vital importance.
If none of this is convincing, then ask yourself, dear reader, why the aesthetics of German Nazism matter more than the message or the success thereof. Dressing a certain way, saluting a certain way, chanting a certain way… what do such things actually achieve in the long-term if the message fails in the process?