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Why aren’t more people Nazis? That’s a question I never thought to ask myself until very recently, when I read about a survey conducted by the University of Virginia, Reuters, and Ipsos. They asked more than 5,000 American adults various questions on race, shortly after the deadly neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The good news is that only 4% of respondents said they supported neo-nazis, although that’s not actually “good” because holy shit that’s like 200 people in a random sample of Americans, but I digress. And “only” 8% supported white nationalists.
The bad news is that 31% of respondents agreed that “America must protect and preserve its White European heritage.” Umm…that’s kind of the central tenet that white nationalist neo-nazis abide by. 16% agreed that marriage should only be allowed between members of the same race. They’re not saying they don’t like interracial marriage…they’re saying it should be illegal. Again, that’s some neo-nazi shit.
Also, 39% thought that white people are under attack in the US, and to make matters even worse, 14% of all respondents said that white people are the ONLY race under attack in the US. Like, they literally don’t think people of color have anything to worry about, at all.
And all of that is not to mention the huge number of people who neither agreed nor disagreed with many of those statements. The researchers point out that many of those noncommittal answers came from people who leaned more towards the bigoted side then the progressive side.
So here we have a bunch of people espousing every belief the neo-nazis stand for, and yet they don’t say they support neo-nazis. Thinking this over, I realized that more people aren’t Nazis not because they’re good people who believe in equality, but because Nazis have a public relations problem. Consider the alt-right, which the survey also asked about. Slightly more people said they approved of the alt-right compared to neo-nazis (6% versus 4%), even though they’re the same thing. And about twice as many people said they didn’t support or oppose the alt-right, compared to neo-nazis (19% versus 10%), meaning that way more people oppose neo-nazis than oppose the alt-right.
The alt-right, in other words, was a very smart rebranding move on the part of the Nazis. Kids on 4chan and Reddit proudly declare they’re alt-right because it seems cool — kids who would probably never actually want to identify as a Nazi.
For that reason, it’s more important than ever to publicly voice the fact that the “alt-right” is just a rebranding of Nazism. And even if a person doesn’t identify as either Nazi or alt-right, they need to be told when they’re sharing Nazi viewpoints. They’ll cry about it, the same way people cry when they’re told they’re being racist or sexist, but when they walk away from you they may start to rethink their biases.