When Drexel University politics professor George Ciccariello-Maher was targeted by the alt-right for Tweeting about “white genocide,” he later clarified that he was not advocating any violence but mocking anyone who believed that such a killing spree was occurring.

The term is used by the alt-right to dismiss everything from affirmative action to mixed-race marriages, he noted. But with no mass graves of innocent whites or evidence of a final solution being plotted then it should stand that we should reject the term outright.

But the intense response to the affair showed just how pervasive this idea is and that a white victim complex is at the heart of the alt-right movement that has caused violence at various college campuses and is largely seen as one of the movements that propelled Donald Trump, with his campaign talk against Muslims and Latinos, into the White House. It’s connected to what were once obscure racial theories about the contemporary era that are now, with alt-right propagandist Steve Bannon in a high ranking White House post, at the center of American politics.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer goes to great lengths to insist that he’s not a neo-Nazi or aligned with groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and while some anti-racists believe that the distinction between neo-Nazi white supremacy and Spencer’s rebranded white nationalism is hair-splitting, we need to see the difference to understand why this movement is on the ascendance. Oppressive orders such as Jim Crow or apartheid South Africa operated on the assumption that the white was scientifically superior to the other races, and that society depended on whites running show, lest chaos ensue if the darker races got any power.

The alt-right flips this around. So-called post-racial society burdens today’s whites with the crimes of the past, condemning them for their constant failure to see their own “white privilege.” On campuses, they complain that entire curricula are drafted to guilt trip whites while the slightest micro-aggression against a minority by a white will result in a punishment that is other administratively sanctioned or simply socially imposed. Student activists demand safe spaces for non-whites, women and LGBT people, leaving the implication that all straight, white men are potential predators at worst and pariahs at best.

Spencer’s ideology of peacefully creating a white homeland borrows from his enemy, because what he’s saying is this: You seem to dislike white people and prefer we didn’t get into your business. Fine, we’ll create our own safe space. If you, the multicultural social justice activist, has a problem with this, then you have a problem with your own ideology.

Genocide in actual practice: 3 victims of Dylann Roof, murdered in Charleston, in 2015.

This siege mentality, with its rebellious faces in people like Spencer, provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous and one of the co-founders of the hipster Vice media kingdom Gavin McInnes, can seduce white youngsters feeling isolated from the dominate culture. This comes straight from the “white genocide” mythology of recent neo-Nazi thought that, like Spencer, flips the white from the oppressor to the oppressed.

As historian Paul Jackson wrote in an essay in the Routledge History of Genocide David Lane, founder of the neo-Nazi group the Order, is an intellectually central figure, as Lane argued in his 1999 collection of essays that “white people are being subjected to a deliberate attempt to destroy their culture, especially via government-led policies promoting cultural integration…designed to make white people an ‘extinct species,” and noted that these arguments later influenced KKK leader and Trump supporter David Duke—Lane died in prison in 2007, serving time for his role in the 1984 murder of Jewish attorney and talk show host Alan Berg.

The Turner Diaries, by William Luther Pierce under the nom de plume Andrew Macdonald was a sort of white nationalist version 1984, a dystopian future where whites were the oppressed subjects of a fanatical liberal surveillance state, in which a brave white revolutionary force ultimately succeeds in their liberation. Jackson also cited the more recent book Fighting for the Essence by Pierre Krebbs, whose theory is that all multiculturalism is inherently violent because all race mixing robs man of his right to be different or have a distinct identity.

The unifying theme is that every workplace diversity program and easing of immigration restrictions by liberal governments are the slow machinations of thinning out Europeans, a long-term policy of anti-white ethnic cleansing.

These works of literature and propaganda were once laughed off as dust-gathering leftovers at second-hand bookstores, the last relics of a white supremacist movement that was reaching its death agony. But the popularity of the alt-right and the movement’s emboldening since Trump’s election mean these texts aren’t to be dismissed, and they have left a river of blood. The Turner Diaries played a significant role in Timothy McVeigh’s plot against the Oklahoma City federal building, which before 9/11 was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.

Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in the 2011 attacks in Norway, was influenced by the blog Gates of Vienna, a digital version of the theme that multiculturalism and immigration in Europe would ultimately lead not to peaceful and diverse society but a world in which Europeans would live in oppressed dhimmitude in the new Muslim majority. Even Dylann Roof, who was recently convicted and sentenced to death for killing nine people at black church in Charleston, wrote in his manifesto that Jim Crow segregation was not a form of oppression but a white “defensive measure…[that] protected us from being brought down to their level.”

So then what danger awaits us with the alt-right, especially on campus? All too much, if both this history and more recent events are any indication. One anti-racist protester was shot outside an event for Yiannopolous at the University of Washington in Seattle. The anxiety around “anti-white” liberalism and white genocide was violent among neo-Nazis, and it’s clear that strain has taken hold within the alt-right. How we fix this is a longer conversation, but to start we have to understand that it comes from an abnormal and illiberal place, from a tradition that’s opposed to modern democracy, the enlightenment and peaceful coexistence.

Photographs courtesy of The Advise TV Show and Stephen Melkisethian. Published under a Creative Commons license.