I’m sure the Pied Piper was regarded as funny until kids started disappearing.
Similarly, although there is a connection between the Alt-Right and earlier white-nationalist and white-supremacist groups, and some of those groups and their supporters have engaged in violence and terrorism, I am not implying that the Alt-Right is a terrorist movement. At the time of this writing, I am aware of no acts of physical violence directly connected to the Alt-Right—online harassment is another story, but I believe we should make a distinction between threatening tweets and real-world bombings, assaults, and murders. This is not to say that racist violence is not a real threat in contemporary America. We have, as just one example, the chilling case of Dylann Roof, who murdered nine parishioners at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Yet Roof’s manifesto suggests he was more influenced by older white-nationalist writers and organizations, such as the Council of Conservative Citizens (the offspring of the Citizens Councils that once flourished in the South during and following the civil-rights era) and Harold Covington’s Northwest Front, than by the Alt-Right.1 It is possible that the Alt-Right will morph into something more dangerous and tangible in the real world,2 and for that reason vigilance is necessary.
Times have changed. Back in 2016, the Alt-Right were regarded as merry pranksters. Now they’re regarded as dangerous. The Sydney Morning Herald reports Jan. 27, 2021:
Neo-Nazis go bush: Grampians gathering highlights rise of Australia’s far right
“There were 40 white males, many with skinheads, some chanting ‘white power’. That is intimidating for anyone, let alone the young Asian families sharing the barbecue space,” he says…
They were once widely dismissed as little more than disorganised attention-seeking misfits spruiking racist political manifestos, but Australia’s policing and security agencies are increasingly concerned about the capacity of a group adherent or lone wolf feeding off social media posts to commit an act of domestic terrorism.
The 2019 terror attack by an Australian on a mosque in New Zealand that left 51 dead served as an ideological rallying point for some far-right groups, and a reminder of the potential consequences of underplaying the potential threat.