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The Far Right Doesn’t Want to Beat the Left; It Wants to Exterminate It

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Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and members of the alt-right march down East Market Street toward Emancipation Park during the Unite the Right rally on August 12th, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In mainstream American media, the political left is frequently portrayed as a nexus of intolerance and out-of-control partisanship. Writers like Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff write entire books warning that left-wing campus protest will undermine academia’s intellectual traditions of vigorous debate and fearless inquiry. The Atlantic ran a report at the beginning of March identifying Boston’s liberal Suffolk County as the most intolerant county in America. Politically correct liberals, we are told, shut down campus speakers, recklessly identify their opponents as racist, and generally try to stifle debate. Their ideological inflexibility is a threat to the public sphere.

This general hand-wringing about the left tends to distract people from one of the central political phenomena of our time: a growing, rabid, conspiratorial anti-leftism on the right. That anti-leftism has been metastasizing for decades, and it has a growing body count. Yet the right’s hatred of and violence against people on the left is rarely treated as a trend by the media. Enforcing “political correctness” is characterized as an obsession of the left, not the right; President Donald Trump‘s attacks on the media, for example, aren’t generally characterized as part of a larger movement of right-wing speech policing.

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