Yes, it’s absolutely awful that about 200 white nationalist guys – or maybe 199 guys and former reality television star Tila Tequila – got together at a Washington D.C. convention center, give Nazi salutes, yelled “Hail Trump!” and generally made asses of themselves.
Then again, it’s about 200 attendees, according to USA Today. The Washington, D.C. metro area has about 6 million people.
It is not that hard to gather a couple dozen or couple hundred people together for just about any idea or concept, no matter how obscure or outlandish. About 80 Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln presenters – don’t call them “impersonators!” – gathered for their convention in Vandalia, Illinois. The white nationalists couldn’t gather as big a crowd as the 300 mermaids and mermen at “MerFest” in Cary, North Carolina last year. Of course, all of these gatherings shrink in comparison to “BronyCon”; about 7,000 grown adults attended the last convention for My Little Pony fans. (You may find that a completely different sign of the Apocalypse.)
Yet from the headlines, you would think that this was some sort of burgeoning mass movement, marching through the streets and taking over the nation’s capital.
The Washington Post chose the headline, “attendance rises at annual white nationalist conference in D.C.”, without any actual numbers in the article. CNN declared, “White nationalism, a term once on the fringes, now front and center.” The San Diego Union-Tribune declared, ‘Trump’s win brings ‘white pride’ out of the shadows.”
Again, remember: about 200 guys.
A lot of the coverage quotes the members and leaders, discussing how quickly their membership is growing and boasting of how influential they will be in the incoming Trump administration. They really seem to believe that they represent a wide swath of Americans, and that they’re coming out of the closet and many will follow. Jared Taylor, editor of a white nationalist journal, tells Vox, “I see a kind of awakening — I think we will see this in local elections. School boards, city councils, mayor, maybe Congress in certain districts,” and Vox’s correspondent concurs, “This kind of politics is on the rise in America.”
Is it really? Or are we witnessing a confluence of media eager to spotlight something that horrifies them and white nationalists eager to believe they’re on the verge of taking over? Because right now, candidates who appeal to the adult My Little Pony fan demographic still appear to have the numeric advantage.