If they raise their right arms and chant “Hail Trump” (carefully avoiding the Heil) are they really Nazis?
It’s springtime for people like Richard Spencer’s odious column of avowed alt-right racists, who felt that they could openly make the salute at a Washington, D.C., meeting. Although by any account they are at the outer limits of neo-fascist hate mongering they reflect a new energy as hate crimes flourish across America.
But we should exercise extreme care when invoking the Nazi connection. It’s just too simple to resort to German history when instead we should be looking at American history. This stuff has happened here before. Once put in the context of American rather than European history the comparisons are more instructive—and more alarming.