The "alt-right" is an ambiguous but very real force, one that calls up associations with racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy. Saturday Night Live has a name for its members: Nazis. Or so Kate-McKinnon-as-Angela-Merkel suggested in the show's most recent "Weekend Update."
"In America, you call it the 'alt-right,'" she said. "In Germany we call it, why grandpapa lives in Argentina now."
McKinnon's quip came in response to host Colin Jost's comment about the global resurgence of nationalism, a subject with which Germany is unfortunately well acquainted. After World War II, South America infamously became a "Nazi haven," in the History Channel's words. Argentina, which remained neutral throughout the conflict, was particularly bad in this respect; Its president — Juan Perón —covertly authorized his government to smuggle in thousands of National Socialists via so-called "ratlines."
Which is to say, the reason a German grandpapa now lives in Argentina may just be that grandpapa was a prominent Nazi fleeing the Vaterland at the fall of the Third Reich.
While it's safe to say that the alt-right played a prominent role in the election of Donald Trump, what exactly the movement is has proved more difficult to pin down. Its adherents would seem to share a common goal, which was recently asserted by alt-right founder Richard Spencer: Return America to white men. The alt-right's white nationalist proclivities prompted Late Night host and "Weekend Update" alum Seth Meyers to drag the media for its failure to call the movement what it is: A Nazi rekindling.
"Get your shit together, media," Meyers said. "Calling Nazis and white supremacists the 'alt-right' is like calling O.J. Simpson a 'cutlery enthusiast.'"
McKinnon-as-Merkel was less frank, but still did a German scream — a scream sucked down into the pit of one's stomach, she explained — about the issue. Merkel has a lot to internally scream about. The German chancellor has been hailed as the last vanguard against the rising tide of white nationalism in Europe, an impossibly tall order in and of itself, plus her 2015 Time magazine Person of the Year win has been tarnished by Trump's taking the title in 2016.
"It kind of undermines the honor for me," McKinnon's Merkel said. "It's like winning the Nobel prize for physics and the next year they give it to Hoobastank."
But, in light of all this Nazi talk, it's worth remembering who held the title before both of them: Adolf Hitler. And a few other dangerous white men.