Around 2008 the term “Alt Right” starting coming into use by a few extremists disaffected with Right wing and Conservative values. It was short for alternative Right meaning still against contradictory to Left wing beliefs, but not in line with Conservative values and “Establishment” Republicans. Most notable of these is Richard Spencer, a noted White Nationalist who founded the site Altright(dot)com. He communicates that he was led to joining a burgeoning revolutionary movement by his dismissal of Conservative values and the manner in which Republicans failed to live up to their mandate to protect “the culture”. He said this in a 2014 video describing what he believed the Alt Right to be. Around the timeframe of 2010 the Alt Right was really just a collection of various groups with the central theme of White Nationalism.
A number of years later, sensing this to be a failing strategy, the Alt Right collectively attempted to rebrand itself as a White Identity group, arguing that if identity politics rather than ideology was to be the direction of the nation, that if forming alliances based specifically on race, gender, sexuality and so on was what was needed to defend themselves, then whites needed identity advocacy, as well. This began the process of mainstreaming the movement.
Following this, there was a new wave of young, energetic, articulate speakers countering the Left and what is called SJW or Social Justice Warrior mentalities. This included criticisms based on the merits and necessity for free speech in society against advocacy for things like Safe Space, Trigger Warnings, but more broadly the inclusion of speech codes in college campuses and disinviting Conservative speakers on the premise of being hate mongers. This included names like Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, and even feminist Democrats such as Christina Hoff Sommers. Online, the growth of a “skeptic” community formed which questioned everything through analytic research and the dismantling of rhetorical devices instead of arguments. Examples of this would be the UK’s Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) and Paul Joseph Watson. They found a great deal wrong with some of the rhetoric of the Left and made it popularly available to the public. Many of these began referring to themselves as Classical Liberals, not fully embracing philosophical Conservatism, but completely disaffected with the Left. This new batch of young, articulate, intellectual right wing voices created a major groundswell in right wing pushback to the the Left.
The Alt Right capitalised on this groundswell by again attempting to broaden their definition to reach many of these groups. By doing so, they brought in many who felt that if they liked any of the people mentioned, they were Alt Right. If they hated the SJW culture, but weren’t all that happy with the Republicans or the “Establishment” Right, then you were Alt Right. If you hate speech codes or banning speakers because you feel we need Free Speech, you’re Alt Right. If you feel that the Left’s attacks on Western Culture are baseless because the world looks pretty good according to history, then you’re Alt Right. If you hate people countering arguments with baseless ad hominem attacks that people are simply racist or sexist, you’re Alt Right. If you like funny memes — you’re Alt Right. So many things were suddenly alternative Right — the cool Right.
So the term became so broad that people who were decent and benign fell into a lot of the groups associated with the Alt Right. This actually did have the effect of watering it down for a while. It brought together a lot of people who had never been able to interact and openly share their views because there had been such a long campaign of gaslighting such people into feelings that they were terrible people, driving them to isolation. The Alt Right used this to cross pollinate the new groups with radicalized ideologies and recruit into the core. They still do. The fact that it was so obscure and nebulous for so long played to this mentality.
Troll behavior was also common, whereby users in mostly anonymous forums are capable of saying things without consequences. This drives people to saying the most obscene things they can imagine for a game of trying to make others angry. Most know that these trolls don’t really care about anything they say. They are just out to get a desired response for the joy of manipulation. Many people learned to ignore the trolls, but in doing so became unaware of the many who weren’t just trolls, but actively seeking to find others who supported their hate speech in an atmosphere where saying such vitriol was unable to be policed.
Just as much was the fact that many came in from a sensation of resentment for being called racists, sexists, and such, that they developed a callous to calling things racist when it appeared they were. This also played to the Alt Right, in that many of the subtle suggestions were unchecked because these people who were unfairly judged as racist in the past were attempting to be open because of their unfair previous experiences. They wanted people to have open minds when dealing with their views, so they attempted to have open minds with others. When these people, however, were forced to have conversations outside of public forums because their views were not politically correct, it forced them into rooms with others whose views were legitimately hateful and had been relegated to these spheres for good reason. In these environments where jaded but decent people forced themselves to have open minds were forced to interact with extremists, leading many down a dark path towards rationalities of White Nationalism in the core of the movement.
Likewise, the White Nationalists were evolving in this new environment. Beyond the traditional arguments of White Nationalism and supremacy dating back hundreds of years, new groups provided revolutionary ideas almost out of accident. A group known as the Neoreactionaries evolved from a forum in what seems to be a benign website about discussing human rationality. They tried to employ a methodology to thinking and reason as if they were machines, devoid of emotion, empathy, or attachment to the subject of discussion. The mission was to use cognitive science to somehow transcend bias. What they came up with, though, were radical polemic arguments to most of the basis of human society. This included questioning the premises of democracy, egalitarianism, and continuing on to say that there was no basis behind the concept of equality under God and many other political philosophies necessary to the creation of a moral society.
The Alt Right core took this new way of thinking to evolve and rationalize arguments against the equality of other humans (a return to Eugenics) and using the arguments of history to show various cultures who haven’t had success like Western culture as being due not just to the inclusion of philosophies that don’t drive to success and prosperity, but also due to an inferiority of the races that constitute those cultures. This led to a radical political and moral philosophy within the core that radically rejects most of the basic principles of western civilization, while advocating outwardly for the need of its preservation and the race that created it. As yet, that core was still so isolated from the rapidly expanding fringe groups, this evolution was poorly understood by anyone.
That said, the comparisons to the Nazis or the KKK are inappropriate. It isn’t that they are inappropriate because they are mean, but because this is a new political ideology in its early phases we haven’t seen. Yes, in the Alt Right core there are Nazis, KKK, and all manner of such present, but what we are seeing is radically new, and if we dismiss that aspect, we won’t notice it’s resurgence elsewhere. Note, this is also bad, a terrible ideology, but different from Nazis or the KKK ideologically.
It was around mid to late 2016 that these mentalities became better understood by a majority of those who were starting to identify with the Alt Right fringe groups, which now constituted a majority of the movement. Many of those falling under their umbrella of Alt Right began to make it known that they no longer wanted to be associated with the brand and broke off forming the New Right. This groups is still pretty radical in their rejection of the modern political establishment, while accepting the basic premises of the way the government works. They are also defenders of Western Civilization, it’s ideals, and institutions and many support advocacy for various counter identity groups — such as advocacy for whites, men’s rights groups, and Christians, while rejecting arguments for white supremacy or nationalism.
Currently, the Alt Right is in a phase where the obscurity about them is diminishing. People are becoming more aware of their history and how they came to be networked together. But at the same time, people aren’t. People are seeing more information about the core come out, not realizing that most people who casually associated with them, vastly outnumber that group at that core. The problem with this is that the media and individuals are attacking “The Alt Right” as the same sort of racist bigots that drove many there in the first place. When 90% of the people who identify as a thing don’t fit the description of the stereotype, and are still unaware of the 10% who do, they become alienated, angered and fall closer to the support of the people who don’t call them names… the actual Alt Right. Again, this core group knows this and uses this ideology to create rifts between its fringe members and the outer society, drawing them in closer to the core. This process is fundamentalization and is outwardly identical to what we see with fundamentalized Left wing or fundamentalized Islamic radicals.
This is unfortunate, because I could myself falling into this trap if I had run into slightly different sources a few years ago. I became a big fan of Ben Shapiro, who is an outspoken in his condemnation towards the Alt Right while communicating that people who still don’t know think that because of the attributes I described before — young, smart, articulate, in your face and very much against Left wing culture, that made you Alt Right. I’m really glad I went that way, rather than become more of a fan of personalities like Milo Yiannopoulos, who I enjoyed for a while for his analytics and in your face polemics of the Left, but because of more information I’ve recently gained since then, I’ve been forced to change my views on him. I’m very glad, because I could see many like me falling into the trap, not to supporting the White Nationalism, but to looking the other way or living in denial about what the Alt Right is at it’s core. I could see doing this because I would be one of the many on the fringes trying desperately to make the conversation about the values of Free Speech and the values of Western Civilization’s institutions and ideals.
So that’s a lot of why I wrote this series — Understanding and Dismantling the Alt Right — because I know there are many still in that ring of the circle. They are not hateful, but have been jaded by unfair experiences. They have good and decent ideas that they haven’t felt free to communicate outside for fear of being shouted down by a Left that, to them, has shown anything but its open and tolerant side. I’d like to be able to reach them and pull them away from a fundamentalist trap before the core philosophies of the Alt Right make their way into turning someone who was otherwise a fine person. It’s my opinion that there are still many, many people who would fit that description today, but I think that in the next three years, that won’t be the case. Fundamentalization happens fast, and while I think that many will shed their ties with the Alt Right, many decent people today who don’t see it as a hateful organization will be radicalized in that time. I believe that whoever is still in the Alt Right three years from now, if nothing more is done to stop it, will be radicalized into whatever their ideology truly is. At that point, depending on their size and how much influence they’ve maintained, they could be a very dangerous group. I want to ensure that they don’t get that influence by breaking off the groups that don’t want to head down that road and instead, be included in the modern political discussions and policy making platforms of today.
The Alt Right will still be around, but I want to keep it a group isolated and without the resources it needs to grow and affect change outside of its spheres of influence. My belief is that that can be done with outreach and education ourselves about both Alt Right as well as Left wing fanatics. By doing that, I think we can turn the direction of instability in the country from one of escalating violence and less understanding.