Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS
Over the last few months, the so-called “alt-right” has become one of the most prominent factions of the conservative media. The movement’s leading outlet is Breitbart News, whose chairman, Stephen Bannon, has just become the CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
In many ways the “alt-right” is a rebranding of classic white nationalism for the 21st century. As BuzzFeed described the movement: “In short, it’s white supremacy perfectly tailored for our times: 4chan-esque racist rhetoric combined with a tinge of Silicon Valley–flavored philosophizing, all riding on the coattails of the Trump boom.”
The “alt-right” opposes diversity and immigration, arguing that those policies are a form of “white genocide.” It embraces racism, sexism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-Semitism and sees its goal as usurping the traditional conservative movement, which it views as feckless and weak, in favor of a brand of nationalism.
With the ascension of Trump, the “alt-right’s” chosen candidate, as the nominee of the Republican Party, its mission is all but accomplished.
The following is a survey of the key concepts of the “alt-right,” the major figures and media outlets in the movement, and reaction to the "alt-right."
Reactions To The “Alt-Right”
A popular concept with the "alt-right" is the idea of “white genocide,” a conspiracy theory claiming that efforts to increase diversity (often via immigration) are actually attempts to decrease the white population. The Anti-Defamation League notes that the alt-right favors “propaganda on subjects such as immigration and ‘black crime’ as ‘evidence’ of this ostensible ethnic cleansing of whites.”
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter, a leading Trump supporter, has invoked this notion on her Twitter account, writing, “‘Diversity’ = nonwhite; ‘White supremacist’ = Not anti-white.” Coulter has also cited the work of the white nationalist site VDare.com and its editor, Peter Brimelow, in her anti-immigration book Adios America. The book has been praised and promoted by Trump.
In January, Trump retweeted a post from a Twitter account with the handle “WhiteGenocideTM” and a feed that CNN.com described as “largely a collection of retweets about violence allegedly committed by African-American suspects and anti-Arab posts.” It was one of several instances of the candidate reposting material from white supremacists.
The alt-right also launched a hashtag campaign on social media, #BoycottStarWarsVII, protesting the casting of African-American and female actors in the lead roles of the latest film in the George Lucas franchise. One Twitter user wrote, “#BoycottStarWarsVII because it is anti-white propaganda promoting #whitegenocide.” “The Force Awakens” went on to become the highest grossing domestic film of all time.
Mother Jones noted that The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit that supports investigative reporting, conducted a Twitter analysis and found that “While only 5 percent of key influencers using the supremacist hashtag #whitegenocide follow the National Review, and 10 percent follow the Daily Caller, 31 percent follow Breitbart.”
The alt-right has branded conservatives who deviate from their racist and sexist message as “cuckservatives,” a melding of the words conservative and cuckold (the husband of an unfaithful wife). The New Republic explained, “The term has emerged out of the white supremacist movement as a term of abuse for white conservatives deemed race traitors unwilling to forthrightly defend the interests of white America.”
National Review writer David French was attacked by alt-right supporters for having adopted an Ethiopian child. He notes that he was given a “‘Cucky’ award for adopting a black child.”
Breitbart News defended “cuckservative” as “a gloriously effective insult,” while conservative radio host Erick Erickson said, “The people who use the term ‘cuckservative’ are racists, not conservative, and not Christian.”
The New Yorker reported that the term “alt-right” was coined by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who “described the movement in December as ‘an ideology around identity, European identity.’” The Anti-Defamation League described Spencer as “a symbol of a new generation of intellectual white supremacists” who “runs a variety of ventures that promote racist ideology.”
Spencer has said, “There are races who, on average, are going to be superior.”
Spencer is also the president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist “think tank” that held an event at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., this March focused on Trump. He told the local CBS affiliate that Trump is “energizing” the white nationalist movement and argued, “He's fighting for us. He's saying we're going to be great again. We're going to win again. And there's this implicit identity to this. There's this implicit nationalism.”
Spencer founded the white nationalist websites Alternative Right and Radix Journal. One writer at Alternative Right wrote that “low-IQ Mexican immigration is the greatest threat to America,” and that “we should be heartened that white teenage girls aren’t passing themselves around in black neighborhoods.”
Spencer said Breitbart News “has elective affinities with the Alt Right, and the Alt Right has clearly influenced Breitbart” and described the site as a “gateway” to that movement’s “ideas and writers.” He described Bannon’s new role in the Trump campaign as “a good thing” for white nationalists.
Bannon told Mother Jones that Breitbart News is “the platform for the alt-right.”
Bannon took over as chairman of Breitbart News after the death of founder Andrew Breitbart. The site has taken a rabidly anti-immigrant tone, often hyping “reports about crime involving immigrants, with headlines that sound like they came from tabloids” and attacking Republicans who favor immigration reform. Vox notes that “Breitbart essentially functioned as an anti-immigration pressure group, signaling to Republican leaders that any deviation on immigration would earn them the wrath of the base.”
The site has also pushed a white nationalist viewpoint in articles on race and religion. It described the shooting of a white reporter and her white cameraman as a “race murder” and published an article titled “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture.”
Bannon wrote a column on the site accusing the “left” of engaging in a “plot to take down America” by focusing on police shootings of African-Americans. Breitbart also attacked Pope Francis for supporting refugee migration by invoking Camp of the Saints, a book described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a novel that “depicts an invasion of France and the white Western world by a fleet of starving, dark-skinned refugees, characterized as horrific and uncivilized ‘monsters’ who will stop at nothing to greedily and violently seize what rightfully belongs to the white man.” SPLC notes that the novel is “a popular book in Alt-Right circles.”
Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos has made his mark as a stridently anti-feminist provocateur. He declared his birthday to be “World Patriarchy Day” and encouraged his followers to “cat-call at least five women” and to tell a woman, “This isn’t going to suck itself.” He attended a protest against sexual assault and held a sign that said, “'Rape culture' and Harry Potter. Both fantasy.”
In a Breitbart piece on the "alt-right” he praised the movement for its “youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.” He dismissed the movement’s racial undertones, writing, “the alt-right's young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish 'Shlomo Shekelburg' to 'Remove Kebab,' an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide.”
Discussing Islam, Yiannopoulos said, “There is a structural problem with this religion that is preventing its followers from assimilating properly into Western culture. There is something profoundly antithetical to our values about this particular religion.”
In July, Twitter permanently suspended Yiannopoulos’ account after he led a harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones, who is African-American. As BuzzFeed reported, many of the tweets “decried Jones for being black and a woman.”
American Renaissance is a white nationalist online magazine, published by Jared Taylor. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Taylor “believes black people are genetically predisposed to lower IQs” than white peoples and that black peoples “are sexually promiscuous because of hyperactive sex drives.” Taylor has appeared on talk shows to attack the legacy of civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center describes Taylor as “the guy who is providing the intellectual heft, in effect, to modern-day Klansmen.”
Taylor described himself as a Trump supporter and told ABC News, “Sending home all illegals -- the huge majority of whom are nonwhites -- and putting even a temporary halt on Muslim immigration are in the interests of whites, whether Trump thinks in those terms or not.” Taylor also recorded a pro-Trump robocall for a white nationalist super PAC.
American Renaissance also hosts conferences that have featured speakers including Richard Spencer and that are attended by white supremacists like former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.
VDare.com is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as “an anti-immigration hate website” with a white nationalist ideology. SPLC adds that the site “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.” The site was founded by Peter Brimelow, who argued that his contributors are “not white supremacists” but “aim to defend the interests of American whites.” He also is the president of the VDare Foundation, “a nonprofit that warns against the polluting of America by non-whites, Catholics, and Spanish-speaking immigrants.”
SPLC has pointed out that “Brimelow spent much of 2009 pounding the white nationalists message that the Republican Party would do better to spend its time attracting white voters rather than by reaching out to minorities.”
Jared Taylor has contributed to VDare.com, where he wrote, “Our rulers and elites welcome replacement by aliens, they vilify our ancestors and their own, they sacrifice our interests to those of favored minorities, and they treat the entire history of the West as if it were a global plague of rapine and exploitation. This is a disease that is killing us, and we must fight it head on.”
VDare.com was featured at the Republican National Convention when a tweet from the outlet was put on screen in the arena during the roll call vote for Trump’s presidential nomination.
The neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, headed by Andrew Anglin, describes itself as “the world’s most visited alt-right web site.” The website regularly defends Adolf Hitler, attacks “kikes,” and has a section documenting the purported “Jewish Problem.”
Anglin attacked a GQ reporter for a piece he deemed unfair to Melania Trump, telling his followers to “go ahead and send [the reporter] a tweet and let her know what you think of her dirty kike trickery.” She then received a barrage of anti-Semitic messages and death threats, which she described as “the most obscene, anti-Semitic stuff I have frankly ever seen directed at me in my life.”
“The Political Cesspool” is a white nationalist radio program hosted by James Edwards that wishes “to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility.” The show was given press credentials by Trump’s campaign for a Tennessee campaign rally and was given “all-access” credentials to the Republican National Convention, where the show interviewed a Trump adviser and Republican congressmen. Edwards also interviewed Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., who agreed with Edwards’ contention that the media is “the enforcer of political correctness.”
The Right Stuff is an anti-Semitic blog with an affiliated podcast called The Daily Shoah. The site is run by Mike Enoch, who has said the core principle of the “alt-right” is “ethno-nationalism, meaning that nations should be as ethnically and racially homogeneous as possible.”
The site created a meme called the “parenthesis meme” in which Jewish names are surrounded by parentheses, often in order to target them for online abuse on social media: “(((name)))”
According to the Right Stuff’s editors, this was done because “all Jewish surnames echo throughout history.” They add: “The inner parenthesis represent the Jews' subversion of the home [and] destruction of the family through mass-media degeneracy. The next [parenthesis] represents the destruction of the nation through mass immigration, and the outer [parenthesis] represents international Jewry and world Zionism."
The Anti-Defamation League has added the symbol to its online database of hate symbols. According to CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, “The echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or taunting someone verbally.”
Enoch said Breitbart “is the closest thing to sympathetic to our position that is out there in the mainstream.”
Mike Cernovich is an “alt-right” activist who operates the website Danger & Play.
The site publishes numerous articles, essays, and audio recordings that attack feminists, "SJWs," (social justice warriors) and disputes the validity of date rape claims. Some headlines from Danger & Play include "Matriarchy has Created a False Rape Culture" and "Feminists Don't Care About Rape."
On his Twitter accounts, Cernovich has dismissed the possibility of date rape, writing, “the hotter the sex, the more closely it resembles rape,” “the only rape culture is Muslim rape culture,” and asking “why should I care when women are raped?”
Cernovich has promoted the false rumor that Hillary Clinton is suffering from health problems and also promoted a long-debunked conspiracy theory that Clinton aide Huma Abedin is affiliated with Islamic radicals.
Reactions To The “Alt-Right”
Traditional conservative outlets and figures have pushed back some on the “alt-right” movement.
Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat described the “alt-right” as “racist pro-Trump Twitter accounts and anti-P.C. provocateurs.” The Federalist wrote that it’s “a mix of old bigotries and new identity and victimhood politics adapted for the straight white male.” In National Review, David French wrote of the “alt-right”: “Many of them are unapologetically white-nationalists, hate interracial adoption and other ‘race-mixing’ practices, and think about the issue of immigration primarily, if not exclusively, in racial terms.”
A contributor to Spencer’s Alternative Right site, Jason Richwine, co-authored an immigration report at the conservative Heritage Foundation, which later disavowed him when writings he had made mocking the IQs of Latinos surfaced. Breitbart has recently highlighted Richwine’s work, and Bannon praised him on his radio show.
The alt-right has also found some support from mainstream conservative outlets. After conservative writer Ben Shapiro described the “alt-right” as a “national, populist movement that is shot through with white supremacism” and "anti-Semitism," Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway defended the movement by claiming it’s “much more” than that.
Similarly, last year Rush Limbaugh told a caller who spoke about the “alt-right” movement in Europe, “There is a thriving youthful conservative emergence happening in this country. They may be borrowing from what’s going on in Europe.”
The cumulative effect of the rising popularity of “alt-right” media on the right, along with Bannon’s position leading the Trump campaign, means that a movement that was recently on the fringe is becoming central to conservative politics.
The Washington Post reports that Trump’s decision to hire Bannon was the latest sign for white nationalists that “their worldview was gaining popularity and that the old Republican Party was coming to an end.” The paper added that Trump’s electoral “strategy now resembles the alt-right dream of maximizing the white vote — even as polling shows his standing with white voters falls short of Mitt Romney’s in 2012.”