Alt-Right targets women in attack on free speech

President Trump has spent the last several months keeping his campaign promises. From the ongoing push to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the numerous executive orders targeting immigration, abortion care funding, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies, the Trump administration has not eased up.

Many have voiced outrage over the turn the country has suddenly taken, as direct action is one of the few methods of dissent still intact. However, Assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, recently faced death threats after FOX News aired a segment from a commencement address at Hampshire College.

A leading organizer and scholar on Black politics and racial inequality, Taylor is the author of the critically acclaimed book; #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. She spoke on a number of topics, including the growing threat of the Trump administration. “From the terror-inducing raids in the communities of undocumented immigrants; to his disparaging of refugees in search of freedom and respite; he has empowered an attorney general who embraces and promulgates policies that have already been proven to have had a devastating impact on Black families and communities.”

Taylor called the President a “racist sexist megalomaniac” and stated that Donald Trump has “fulfilled the promises of a campaign organized and built upon racism, corporatism, and militarism.” While the speech received backlash after being featured on a number of conservative platforms, including during, conservative “news anchor”, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, it is far from the first time the African American professor has spoken out about the injustices that marginalized communities face. In a statement released on Facebook through the Haymarket Books page, Taylor stated that she was cancelling appearances to various universities due to ongoing threats against her and her family’s safety, “Since last Friday, I have received more than fifty hate-filled and threatening emails. Some of these emails have contained specific threats of violence, including murder.”

While there has been a long history of white institutions silencing black academics, it seems that the increasing popularity of alt-right movements has encouraged censorship from outside influences as well. Taylor has claimed that the segment on FOX was framed as an “anti-POTUS tirade” that was meant to incite violent intimidation from the right-wing viewers, “Fox did not run this story because it was “news,” but to incite and unleash the mob-like mentality of its fringe audience, anticipating that they would respond with a deluge of hate-filled emails — or worse. The threat of violence, whether it is implied or acted on, is intended to intimidate and to silence.”

Similar incidents around the country have featured the same type of censorship patterns towards women activists and political voices. In Iowa, Democratic candidate Kim Weaver abandoned the race against Republican Congressman Steve King (IA). Weaver cited “alarming acts of intimidation, including death threats” and stated that her safety and personal health had become a growing concern.

Across the country, in New York City, Muslim-American activist Linda Sarsour faced death threats before she even had a chance to get on stage. While her speech ended up being well received at the New York City commencement ceremony, the discourse surrounding her in the weeks leading up to the delivery was hostile, with messages like “A good Arab is a dead Arab” and “You’re getting two bullets in your head” being sent to Sarsour on an hourly basis.

The white nationalist movement has long used acts of violence and intimidation to manipulate public discourse. In the past the Klan played a critical role in preventing people from reaching the election polls, and harbored their extensive social network to control facets of the media. Nevertheless, the rise in the mob mentality of cyber-bullying has become a frequent tactic of the Republican party—and provides tools for doing harm to their ideological opponents.

This may seem to some to be ironic, given the anger and outrage that emerged when activist shut down Milo Yiannopoulos was forced to cancel his visit to the University of California/Berkeley after anti-fascist activists caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus in protest. Yiannopoulos however, had threatened to out undocumented and Trans students during his “Dangerous Faggot’ tour. Such potential for harm is a far cry from Taylor’s voice of dissent towards an existing government that has enacted several harmful policies in a matter of months. One speaker demands non-violent liberation and the other uses their platform to “doxx”, and thus endanger, local students.

It seems there are clear patterns to the way in which conservatives chose who they target; women, and specifically women of color, are frequently in the crosshairs of attacks from the right. These individuals are often spammed with misogynistic comments, intertwined with a threat of sexual and/or physical violence. For black and brown women, Like Taylor and Sarsour, these threats are also frequently coded with racism and Islamophobia. It makes it possible for white nationalist to masquerade their attacks as part ‘free speech’ campaign as opposed to confronting the reality of the hate speech they utilize to enact violence.

While ‘free speech’ is often lauded as one of the main talking points of the right, they remain surprisingly silent when it comes to the rights and liberties of marginalized voices. As long as women’s dissent poses a threat to the predominantly white-male dominated GOP, then they will feel the need to retaliate towards any potential threat. This is a status quo that Taylor directly challenges: “this system is led by a billionaire president and a Congress composed mostly of white men who are millionaires,” Despite the setbacks, the fight against the alt-right and their methods of censorship continue. The brilliant women of the movement will continue to be at the front lines.

***When reached out to for comment Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor stated that they are not doing interviews at this time***


Michelle Zacarias
Michelle Zacarias

Michelle Zacarias was a staff writer at People's World. A graduate of the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Zacarias invested her time in raising awareness on issues of social justice and equality. Michelle self identifies as multi-marginalized: as a Latina, a woman of color and a person with disabilities.