Friday, 26 August 2016

The rise of the Alt-Right

(Note: I started writing this piece before Hillary Clinton's speech on 25th August 2016, in which she addressed the Alt-Right; I amended my writing accordingly.)

Over the past few months, I have become increasingly aware of the presence of the Alternative Right (Alt-Right) - a sector of right-wing ideology that has an expanding voice, especially thanks to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, whom the Alt-Right has embraced as its figurehead. The Alt-Right has gained so much attention that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently addressed it in a speech on her campaign trail, in which she tied Trump to the advancement of bigoted fringe views and white supremacy into the mainstream. Rather than being a fresh new perspective, the Alt-Right is dangerous because not only is it yet another re-run of racism, misogyny, white supremacy and other forms of hatred, this time under the guise of being "anti-establishment" and against political correctness (PC), it has become a uniting voice for said hatred and is rapidly becoming its umbrella ideology. While not every racist or sexist is de facto Alt-Right or even identifies with it (bigotry did not spring into existence when the term "Alt-Right" was coined a few years ago), for much of its current support is "young, white, and male", the movement appears to be absorbing much of those people into itself.

In addition, while from past blog posts it is clear that I am not a conservative, I have friends and relatives who are yet despite this, there are subjects on which we find common ground and even when we do disagree, I know they are good people; my problem is not a difference in politics but how hateful someone is. As such, with all its bigotry the Alt-Right is something I find myself becoming more and more alarmed by and I regard it as a threat, both to society and to other forms of conservatism; it must not be allowed to become the dominant force in right-wing ideology and have access to all that political machinery.

- Beth Reinhard with contributions from Janet Hook; Wall Street Journal

Whereas the majority of ordinary conservatives and libertarians acknowledge that racism remains a problem and that it should be addressed, those who subscribe to the Alt-Right ideology appear to reject the existence of any sort of racism - unless it is something they perceive to be directed at white people, in particular at white men. Indeed, a conservative critic of the Alt-Right, columnist and former editor-at-large for Ben Shapiro, refers to it as "an agglomeration of self-appointed radical culture warriors, disenchanted paleoconservatives, and open anti-Semites and white supremacists." who regard "any resistance to actual racism and anti-Semitism to be 'cuck' cowardice and social justice warrior whining.", whereas the Wikipedia article about the Alt-Right notes (with sources) the movement's links to white supremacy/nationalism and anti-Semitism. The Alt-Right condescendingly refers to people who oppose prejudice and support acceptance and equal rights by the pejorative "Social Justice Warrior" (SJW) - thereby treating the notion of speaking up for others as inherently negative. Demonising civil rights campaigners in such a manner is behaviour consistent with anyone associated with hate organisations.

Regardless of links to hate groups, the Alt-Right does not appear to be attached to any political party; rather, they appear to back anyone who they perceive will advance their agenda, even if said person rejects their support. For example, US Senator Bernie Sanders was criticised for misogyny amongst the supporters of his campaign, which he addressed by strongly condemning said supporters; however, these people weren't supporting Sanders because they agreed with his policies (after all, Sanders has a lifetime commitment to anti-discrimination). Instead, they were more than likely followers of the Alt-Right who attached themselves to Sanders because their opposition to Hillary Clinton stemmed from her being female, not because they opposed her on ideological grounds. This can be evidenced by the fact that these people, who made up only a small portion of Sanders' base, have since shifted their support to Trump while the majority of Sanders' followers will vote for Clinton. While Trump did not create Alt-Right and while many of his supporters also aren't Alt-Right, he hasn't made the same condemnations that Sanders did, appears to have an alignment with it and the movement clearly backs him.

Trump's hateful rhetoric in conjunction with his massive prominence as currently obtained through the 2016 presidential election in the United States has given the Alt-Right a perceived anti-establishment leader in him, at least for now. From Trump's extreme comments about immigration to his slurs against Senator Elizabeth Warren, to his promotion of violence against Clinton and against protesters, he has emboldened the likes of the Ku Klux Klan to openly rear their heads and embrace his campaign, while his alliance with (see the linked article) cements him as the figurehead of the Alt-Right movement. This alliance with Breitbart Media can be evidenced by Trump making Stephen Bannon - the former executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC - as the CEO of his campaign. This alliance is significant because Bannon himself has declared that the network is the Alt-Right's media platform and Southern Poverty Law Center noted in April 2016 that Breitbart Media has, over the past year, shifted towards that position, as suggested by its increase in fringe viewpoints and overt racism in its reporting. This amount of power and prominence is sure to advance white nationalism/supremacy towards the mainstream once again.

While racism and white nationalism/supremacy are core components of the Alt-Right, misogyny is also rampant among its ranks, as evidenced by its assimilation of Men's Rights Activism. Much of its opposition to Clinton's presidential campaign is because she is a woman; however, Clinton is not the sole target of this rage. Comedienne and Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones fell victim to a misogynistic - as well as racist - harassment campaign on Twitter followed by a hack against her website, which replaced it with nude imagery, personal information and racism. This was carried out because Jones is a woman and black, as well as middle-aged. A successful black woman who is nearly 50 and works in comedy challenges both the Alt-Right ideology that only white men should be successful as well as the notion that men should dominate comedy. The harassment campaign on Twitter was incited by tech editor Milo Yiannopolous, champion of the Alt-Right movement and and a Trump supporter, who was subsequently banned from Twitter. Rather than take responsibility, as the Alt-Right is often fond of expecting others to do, he blamed the "totalitarian regressive left" and claimed that his free speech was violated. That Trump has not only not condemned any of this but appears to be aligning himself with it, even if not openly, should be of deep concern; this sort of behaviour cannot be allowed to be anywhere near the American presidency. While the Alt-Right is reported in some of the aforementioned links as mostly being contained to the Internet, the issues surrounding Yiannopolous and suggest otherwise.

With regards to the Internet, in my encounters with Alt-Right individuals there, I have found that debating them can be summed up with a quote from The Terminator: "[...] It [Alt-Right followers] can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear! And it absolutely will not stop, ever [...]". That quote also applies to their actions, as with what has been happening to the aforementioned Jones. During discussions, their tactics to "win" consist of deflections, insults, trivialisation of opponents, multiple verbose irrelevancies and feigned ignorance. For example, If accused of racism and given examples of their racism, they almost always reply by demanding evidence of racism and then calling opponents racist by saying that calling out racism "creates division" or that it's a form of racism in itself. Any sort of discussion about women's rights results in them explaining why women are the real sexists and why men are victims of sexism (they dismiss the gender wage gap by saying that women are lazier and/or less ambitious than men; if a man defends feminism or uses the word |"misogynist|", they throw out hate-filled terms such as "cuck" and "White Knight"). Any sort of criticism of their actions results in them screaming thin-skinned and immature rantings about censorship, oppression and political correctness (mirroring the actions of the aforementioned Yiannopolous) - while they simultaneously savagely mock trigger victims, such as those who have suffered from rape, and sarcastically ask if any critics "require a safe space". Should Trump be defeated this November, neither this behaviour nor the Alt-Right will disappear; Trump will likely be cast aside and the movement will rally behind someone else. This is good news in comparison to the powers the Alt-Right would gain were Trump to prevail in this election.

The Alt-Right appears to be a movement that is anti-Left, anti-civil rights, anti-equality and even anti-Conservative in nature, while simultaneously deceiving its followers that it is merely anti-establishment and anti-PC. It supports the dominance of white men and viciously opposes the rise of anyone not included in that demographic. While the Alt-Right pre-dates the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, he appears to be working with it, as evidenced with his collaboration with Breitbart Media, and the movement has clearly embraced his candidacy, as it has given them greater prominence than any other candidate would have done. However, let's not be fooled: the Alt-Right is not a new phenomenon - it is a re-branding of the hatred of the past, only with some added flavour. As Hillary Clinton herself said, "No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed… Racists now call themselves 'racialists.' White supremacists now call themselves 'white nationalists.' The paranoid fringe now calls itself 'alt-right.' But the hate burns just as bright.". And for all its opposition to political correctness, "Alt-Right" itself is a euphemism for "white [male] supremacy".

Further reading:




4. (note: This article is criticism of the Alt-Right by a conservative; it also covers the anti-Semitic side of the ideology, which I only touched on) 







  1. Wow, Andrew! Wonderfully written! I will have to send you the Time article about trolling and the Alt-Right.

    1. Thank you, Jessica! It was fun to write, even if the subject itself is scary.

      Yes, please. :)