ThinkProgress, a left-leaning news outlet, announced today that it will refer to members of the alt-right movement as “white nationalists” from now on:
We will only use the name when quoting others. When appending our own description to men like Spencer and groups like NPI, we will use terms we consider more accurate, such as “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”
There is a certain logic here. “Alt-right” communicates nothing obvious about the movement’s inherent racism. But while ThinkProgress’s statement is technically accurate—the alt-right is indeed a white nationalist movement—it only gives readers one piece of useful information. It doesn’t explain what sets the alt-right apart from other white nationalist groups.
And these details matter, as the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage noted on Twitter:
White nationalist groups share prejudices, but sometimes differ on political goals and tactics. They split and form rivalries. Some groups, like the KKK, decline over time as new groups and ideologies emerge. If you’re going to cover white nationalism, you need to know your kinists from your klavern members. So do your readers.
It’s not a sop to white nationalists to call the alt-right by its chosen name. It’s careful reporting.