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A man holds up a sign saying "DEPLORABLES AND ALT-RIGHT UNITE" with a cartoon frog in the corner.
An alt-right Donald Trump supporter at the March 4 Trump in Saint Paul, Minnesota

The alt-right, or alternative right, is a loosely defined group of people with far-right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of white nationalism. White supremacist[1] Richard Spencer initially promoted the term in 2010 in reference to a movement centered on white nationalism and did so according to the Associated Press to disguise overt racism, white supremacism, neo-fascism and neo-Nazism.[2][3][4] The term drew considerable media attention and controversy during and after the 2016 United States presidential election.[5]

Alt-right beliefs have been described as isolationist, protectionist, antisemitic and white supremacist,[6][7][8] frequently overlapping with Neo-Nazism,[9][10][11][12] nativism and Islamophobia,[13][14][15][16][17] antifeminism, misogyny and homophobia,[9][18][19][20][12] right-wing populism[21][22] and the neoreactionary movement.[6][23] The concept has further been associated with several groups from American nationalists, neo-monarchists, men's rights advocates and the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump.[13][22][23][24][25]

The alt-right has its roots on Internet websites such as 4chan and 8chan, where anonymous members create and use Internet memes to express their ideologies.[6][11][26] It is difficult to tell how much of what people write in these venues is serious and how much is intended to provoke outrage.[21][27] Members of the alt-right use websites like Alternative Right, Twitter, Breitbart and Reddit to convey their message.[28][29] Alt-right postings generally support the policies of Donald Trump and Mike Pence[30][31][32][33] and oppose immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness.[10][18][34]

The alt-right has also had a significant influence on conservative thought in the United States, such as the Sailer Strategy for winning political support, along with having close ties to the Trump Administration. It has been listed as a key reason for Trump's win in the 2016 election.[35][36] The Trump administration includes several figures who are associated with the alt-right, such as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.[37] In 2016, Bannon described Breitbart as "the platform for the alt-right", with the goal of promoting the ideology.[38]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

Richard Spencer is considered a leader of the alt-right

In November 2008, self-described paleoconservative philosopher Paul Gottfried addressed the H. L. Mencken Club about what he called "the alternative right".[39] This was republished in December under the title "The Decline and Rise of the Alternative Right"[40] in the conservative Taki's Magazine, making this the earliest published usage of the phrase in its current context according to Slate. In 2009, two more posts at Taki's Magazine, by Patrick J. Ford and Jack Hunter, further discussed the alternative right.[41] However, the term is most commonly attributed to Richard B. Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute and founder of Alternative Right.[21][42][43]

Beliefs[edit | edit source]

The Associated Press stated:

“The 'alt-right' or 'alternative right' is a name currently embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, which emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States in addition to, or over, other traditional conservative positions such as limited government, low taxes and strict law-and-order. The movement has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism ... criticizes "multiculturalism" and more rights for non-whites, women, Jews, Muslims, gays, immigrants and other minorities. Its members reject the American democratic ideal that all should have equality under the law regardless of creed, gender, ethnic origin or race.[2][44]

There is no formal organization and it is not clear if the alt-right can be considered a movement,[45] according to a 2016 description in the Columbia Journalism Review: "Because of the nebulous nature of anonymous online communities, nobody's entirely sure who the alt-righters are and what motivates them. It's also unclear which among them are true believers and which are smart-ass troublemakers trying to ruffle feathers".[27]  Many of its own proponents often claim they are joking or seeking to provoke an outraged response.[21] Andrew Marantz of The New Yorker describes it as "a label, like 'snob' or 'hipster,' that is often disavowed by people who exemplify it".[25]

It has been said to include elements of white nationalism,[9][10][21] white supremacism,[7][8][34] antisemitism,[9][10][11] right-wing populism,[21] nativism[13] and the neoreactionary movement.[23] Andrew Marantz includes "neo-monarchists, masculinists, conspiracists, belligerent nihilists".[25] Newsday columnist Cathy Young noted the alt-right's strong opposition to both legal and illegal immigration and its hard-line stance on the European migrant crisis.[46] Robert Tracinski of The Federalist has written that the alt-right opposes miscegenation and advocates collectivism as well as tribalism.[47] Nicole Hemmer stated on NPR that political correctness is seen by the alt-right as "the greatest threat to their liberty".[18]

Milo Yiannopoulos claims that some "young rebels" are drawn to the alt-right not for deeply political reasons but "because it promises fun, transgression, and a challenge to social norms".[48] According to The New Yorker, "testing the strength of the speech taboos that revolve around conventional politics-of what can be said, and how directly", is a major component of alt-right identity.[48]  The beliefs that make the alt-right perceptible as a movement "are in their essence not matters of substance but of style", and the alt-right's tone may just be concealing "a more familiar politics".[48]

Ties to white nationalism[edit | edit source]

White supremacist[1][49][50][51] Richard Spencer coined the term in 2010 in reference to a movement centered on white nationalism and has been accused by some media publications of doing so to excuse overt racism, white supremacism and neo-Nazism.[2][4][52][53][54] Spencer has described the alt-right as “identity politics for white Americans and for Europeans around the world".[55]

While the label of white nationalism is disputed by some political commentators including Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos,[56] alt-right figures such as Andrew Anglin of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer and Marcus Halberstram of Fash the Nation have embraced the term as the core philosophy their movement is based on.[57][58] In response to a Washington Post article that portrayed the movement as "offensiveness for the sake of offensiveness", Anglin said: "No it isn't. The goal is to ethnically cleanse White nations of non-Whites and establish an authoritarian government. Many people also believe that the Jews should be exterminated".[59][60]

Anti-feminism[edit | edit source]

The alt-right is often described as "misogynistic" and supporting an "anti-woman" view.[18] Opposition to feminism and intersectionality are common.[61] The alt-right has a significant overlap in supporters with the men's rights movement.[24]

According to The Daily Stormer: "As with the claim that 'all races are equal,' the claim that 'men and women are equal' is looked at as entirely ridiculous by the Alt-Right. We believe in abolishing feminism and reestablishing traditional gender roles in society, a process which would involve sending women back to the home to produce and raise children, largely removing them from the workplace".

History[edit | edit source]

Jared Taylor, a prominent white nationalist, is a figure in the alt-right community

According to economist Jeffrey Tucker of the Foundation for Economic Education, the alt-right "inherits a long and dreary tradition of thought from Friedrich Hegel to Thomas Carlyle to Oswald Spengler to Madison Grant to Othmar Spann to Giovanni Gentile to Trump's speeches". He states that alt-right proponents "look back to what they imagine to be a golden age when elites ruled and peons obeyed" and believe that "identity is everything and the loss of identity is the greatest crime against self anyone can imagine".[62]

In March 2016, Breitbart News writers Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos published a piece on the alt-right, which CNN described as being similar to a manifesto.[63] In that article, they described the alt-right as being derived from the Old Right of the United States as well from various New Right movements of Europe, citing the movement has been influenced by Oswald Spengler, Henry Louis Mencken, Julius Evola and modern influences such as paleoconservatives Patrick J. Buchanan and Samuel T. Francis.[56] Jeet Heer of The New Republic likewise identifies the alt-right as having ideological origins among paleoconservatives, particularly with respect to its positions restricting immigration and supporting an openly nationalistic foreign policy.[64][65]

An analysis by The Guardian described the ethno-nationalism of the New Right as the alt-right's progenitor.[22][66] Writing in the Washington Post, Matthew Sheffield said the alt-right has also been influenced by anarcho-capitalist and paleolibertarian theorist Murray Rothbard, specifically in regards to his theorizing on race and democracy and had previously rallied behind Ron Paul in 2008.[67] Anarcho-capitalist Jeffrey Tucker has said the alt-right is opposed to libertarianism because the alt-right focuses on group identity and tribalism instead of individual liberty.[62] American professor and scholar Benjamin R. Teitelbaum compares the alt-right in the United States to identitarianism in Europe and notes that both were influenced by thinkers in the French New Right or Nouvelle Droite.[68]

Notable current promoters of alt-right ideology include Vox Day,[69] Steve Sailer,[70] Richard B. Spencer[71] and Brittany Pettibone.[72]

Trump presidential campaign[edit | edit source]

The term drew considerable media attention and controversy during the 2016 presidential election, particularly after Trump appointed Breitbart News chair Steven Bannon as CEO of the Trump campaign in August. Steve Bannon referred to Breitbart News as "the platform for the alt-right".[38] The alt-right was exceedingly vocal in support for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.[21][73][30][31][32][33] During the campaign, Hillary Clinton attacked the alt-right as "racist ideas ... anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women ideas" and accused Trump of taking the alt-right "mainstream".[74]

Media attention grew after the election, particularly during a post-election celebratory meeting near the White House hosted by Richard Spencer. Spencer used several Nazi propaganda terms during a meeting and closed with "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory". In response, supporters of Spencer gave the Nazi salute and chanted in a similar fashion to the Sieg Heil chant used at the Nuremberg rallies. Spencer defended the conduct, stating that the Nazi salute was given in a spirit of "irony and exuberance".[75][76] Following the episode, the Associated Press described the "alt-right" label as "currently embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists" that "may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters' actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience". The AP said that it has previously called such beliefs "racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist".[2]

Reactions[edit | edit source]

Template:Neo-fascism Although some conservatives have welcomed the alt-right,[46] others on the mainstream right and left have criticized it as racist or hateful,[46][77] particularly given its hostility towards mainstream liberalism and conservatism.[78][79]

In The Federalist, conservative political scientist Nathanael Blake stated that Christianity and Greco-Roman philosophy, rather than race, are the foundations upon which Western Civilization was built and that the alt-right is actually attacking Western Civilization rather than defending it.[80]

Writing for National Review, David A. French called alt-right proponents "wanna-be fascists" and bemoaned their entry into the national political conversation.[81] Writing for The Weekly Standard, Benjamin Welton instead described the alt-right as a "highly heterogeneous force" that "turns the left's moralism on its head and makes it a badge of honor to be called 'racist,' 'homophobic,' and 'sexist'".[82]

Writing for The New Yorker, Benjamin Wallace-Wells described it as a "loosely assembled far-right movement", but said that its differences from the conventional right-wing in American politics are more a matter of style than of substance: "One way to understand the alt-right is not as a movement but as a collective experiment in identity, in the same way that many people use anonymity on the Internet to test more extreme versions of themselves".[21]

Professor George Hawley of the University of Alabama suggested that the alt-right may pose a greater threat to progressivism than the mainstream conservative movement.[83]

In an interview with The New York Times on November 22, President-elect Donald Trump disavowed and condemned the alt-right[84] to the dismay of many of his alt-right supporters.[85]

In December 2016, artist Arrington de Dionyso, whose murals are frequently displayed at the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, described the alt-right's on-line campaign of harassment against him in detail[86] and averred of the attacks in general: "I think it's a very deliberate assault, which will eventually be a coordinated assault on all forms of free expression". The Pizzagate conspiracy theory has drawn comparisons with the Gamergate controversy.[87] A wave of threats against Jewish Community Centers starting in 2017 were blamed on the alt-right in a January 2017 article by Slate's Elissa Strauss, who said members of the alt-right viewed them as "a practical joke".[88]

The activist group Stop Normalizing, which opposes the normalization of terms like alt-right, developed the "Stop Normalizing Alt Right" Chrome extension. The extension went viral shortly after the release of Stop Normalizing's website.[89] The extension changes the term "alt-right" on webpages to "white supremacy".[90][91][92][93][94] The extension and group were founded by a New York-based advertising and media professional under the pseudonym George Zola.[95]

In 2017, Reddit banned the r/altright subreddit for violating its anti-doxxing policy.[96][97]

Many alt-right populist media figures criticized Trump's 2017 Shayrat missile strike reversal of policy towards war in Syria and the Middle East.[98][99][100][101] Ann Coulter pointed out that Trump "campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast" and this was one of the reasons many voted for him.[98] [102][103][104][105]

Commentary[edit | edit source]

In National Review in April 2016, Ian Tuttle wrote:

“The Alt-Right has evangelized over the last several months primarily via a racist and antisemitic online presence. But for Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right consists of fun-loving provocateurs, valiant defenders of Western civilization, daring intellectuals—and a handful of neo-Nazis keen on a Final Solution 2.0, but there are only a few of them, and nobody likes them anyways.[106]

Bokhari and Yiannopoulos describe Jared Taylor (founder of American Renaissance) and Richard B. Spencer (founder of Alternative Right) as representative of intellectuals in the alt-right.[56][106] Writing in The Federalist, Cathy Young stated that the website Radix Journal had replaced the Alternative Right website and describes a Radix Journal article on abortion which proclaimed that the pro-life position is "'dysgenic,' since it encourages breeding by 'the least intelligent and responsible' women".[107] Kevin B. MacDonald is also mentioned as an alt-right thinker.[2]

In Newsday, Young called the alt-right "a nest of anti-Semitism" inhabited by "white supremacists" who regularly use "repulsive bigotry".[46] Chris Hayes on All In with Chris Hayes described alt-right as a euphemistic term for "essentially modern-day white supremacy".[108] BuzzFeed reporter Rosie Gray described the alt-right as "white supremacy perfectly tailored for our times", saying that it uses "aggressive rhetoric and outright racial and anti-Semitic slurs" and that it has "more in common with European far-right movements than American ones".[109][110] Writing for Haaretz, Yishai Schwartz described the alt-right as "vitriolically anti-Semitic" by saying that "The 'alternative' that the alt-right presents is, in large part, an alternative to acceptance of Jews" and warned that it must be taken seriously as a threat.[111] Also writing for Haaretz, Chemi Shalev, has observed that alt-right supporters of Trump "despise Jewish liberals with same venom that Israeli right detests Jewish leftists".[112]

Breitbart News has become a popular outlet for alt-right views.[113][114][115]

On August 25, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gave a speech accusing Republican candidate Donald Trump of "helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party".[116] She identified this radical fringe with the alt-right and noted that Trump's campaign chief executive Steve Bannon has described his Breitbart News Network as "the platform for the alt-right".[38] Some members of the group were delighted and described Clinton's speech as "free publicity", noted that Google searches peaked afterward and suggested that millions of people were hearing of the movement "for the very first time".[117]

On September 9, several figures of the alt-right community held a press conference, described by one reporter as the "coming-out party" of the little-known movement, to explain their goals.[118] They proclaimed racialist beliefs by stating: "Race is real, race matters, and race is the foundation of identity".[119] Speakers called for a "White Homeland" and expounded on racial differences in intelligence. They also confirmed their support of Trump by saying: "This is what a leader looks like".[119][120][121]

Use of memes[edit | edit source]

The alt-right's use of Internet memes to express and advance its beliefs, often on websites such as 4chan, 8chan and The Daily Stormer, has been widely reported.[11][26][122][123] Among the most widely used are the following terms:

The prevalence of memes in alt-right circles has led some commentators to question whether the alt-right is a serious movement rather than just an alternative way to express traditionally conservative beliefs,[11][21] with Chava Gourarie of the Columbia Journalism Review stating that provoking a media reaction to these memes is for some creators an end in itself.[27] Marc Hetherington, professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, sees these memes as an effort to legitimize racist views.[142]

Alt-left[edit | edit source]

"Alt-left" is a term used by some conservatives to refer to people and social activist groups aligned to the left of the political center-left as a contrast to the far-right. The term became known for its use by President Donald Trump in an August 15, 2017 press conference at New York City's Trump Tower.[143] While doubling-down on his initial statement in response to the vehicle-ramming attack against rally counter-protestors committed by a 20-year-old white nationalist during the August 12 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (in which he stated that there was "blame on both sides" for the violence at the rally), Trump criticized what he called the "very, very violent ... alt-left", contrasting them with the alt-right.[144][145][146]

Its usage later spread around some conservative circles, after its use by Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity to suggest the existence of a similar ideological fringe movement on the political left.[147][148][149] According to George Hawley, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, no such label has been adopted by any members of the progressive left.[148][150]

Both the term itself and the concept of an "alt-left" as an opposite-but-equal mirror of the alt-right have generated controversy for "likening" the "socialist critics" of neo-Nazism "to neo-Nazis".[151][152][153] The term has also been criticized as a label that unlike alt-right was not coined by the group it purports to describe, but rather was created by political opponents as a political smear implying a false equivalence.[152][147] While acknowledging that there are anti-fascism activists on the left who engage in physical confrontation against members of the far-right, Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, concurred that no equivalent to those who identify as being part of the "alt-right" exists, stating that anti-fascist groups were not consciously aiming to brand themselves in the manner that white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other members of the far-right had undertaken to mainstream their ideology.[148] According to Mark Pitcavage, an analyst at the Anti Defamation League, the term was invented to suggest a false equivalence between the alt-right and their opponents.[154] The Washington Post stated the term originated on websites promoting conspiracy theories such as WorldNetDaily.[155]

In a Los Angeles Times article, historian Timothy D. Snyder stated that "'alt-right' is a term … meant to provide a fresh label that would sound more attractive than 'Nazi,' 'neo-Nazi,' 'white supremacist,' or 'white nationalist.' With 'alt-left' it's a different story. There is no group that labels itself that way. There are a few people who have decided to resist Nazis with violence, but they are not representative of the much larger group of Americans who oppose racism".[156] Professor Thomas J. Main commented on the alt-right by saying: "They don't think blacks and Jews should have equal rights. On the left, there is nothing analogous".[156] Washington Post writer Aaron Blake says that unlike the alt-right, "alt-left" was "coined by its opponents and doesn't actually have any subscribers".[147]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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External links[edit | edit source]

  • The dictionary definition of alt-right at Wiktionary
  • Media related to Alt-right at Wikimedia Commons