Pulp’s guide to the Alt-right
In August 2016, three months before the US election, Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Nevada denouncing what has become known as the ‘Alt-right’ or alternative right. During her speech, Clinton labelled the group ‘anti-women, anti-immigration and white supremacists’. She also took the opportunity to denounce Pepe, a cartoon frog, which has become an emblem for the movement.
The Alt-right, since the election of Donald Trump, has become a force represented in the media as the rebranding of fascism. In spite of this rebranding, proclaimed members of the Alt-right, such as Milo Yiannopoulos say that the Alt-right is a response to the “safe space culture and language policing of the left”.
During Clinton’s speech, a person in the crowd shouted “Pepe” as Clinton described the racist characteristics of the Alt-right. The moment in this speech raised questions as to the essence of the Alt-right. Was it, as Clinton described, a group with a highly organised, fascist ideology or an amorphous group of neckbeards and disaffected liberals tired of a political establishment? Who exactly is the Alt-right?
Depending on whom you ask, the alt-right is all of these things. Though, it appears the Alt-right can be classified into three distinct groups:
Of course, Clinton’s claims of a rebranded neo-fascist ideology gathering around Donald Trump are all too true. In fact, white-supremacist Richard Spencer coined the term ‘Alt-right’ as a means to masquerade a movement devoted to preserving the interests of Americans of ‘European descent’.
Though, while the white-supremacists of the internet certainly do not shy away from the label of ‘Alt-right’, they seem to reject other aspects of it. Websites such as The Daily Stormer and Storm Front, two neo-Nazi forums, have declared a ‘Holy War’ on Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos (the supposed no. 2 in the Alt-right movement, behind President Trump) for being a gay Jew.
This portion of the ‘Alt-right’ represents a reconfigured, racist, sexist segment of the internet (which has always existed), though has gained the aura of legitimacy with the rise of Donald Trump, as well as a concerted decision to trade in shaved heads for sleek suits and tattooed swastikas for pseudo-intellectualism and internet memes.
Within this portion of the Alt-right, I have also included conspiracy theory proponents such as Alex Jones and Roger Stone. With the rise of Donald Trump, they have become bigger voices in a larger conservative movement. In fact, Donald Trump has appeared on Alex Jones’ show Info Wars, describing Jones as having an “amazing reputation”. For context, Alex Jones believes the US government was responsible for 9-11, believes that various mass-shootings in the US were highly orchestrated “false flag” attacks, believes the government controls the trajectory of tornadoes and even challenged Piers Morgan to a boxing match over his views on gun control. Roger Stone has speculated that Hillary Clinton was personally responsible for the death of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
This ‘malicious’ section of the Alt-right makes up a significant portion of the movement, and should be carefully monitored; particularly, because of the inordinate influence this segment appears to have through figures such as Alex Jones and Steve Bannon (Trump’s chief strategist), as well as the obvious danger neo-Nazis have always posed.
The Keyboard Warriors
The next portions of the Alt-right convalesce on the internet, primarily, on the ‘The Donald’ subreddit. They are eclectic, anonymous, and are entirely reliant on outraging the sensibilities of ‘normies’.
Aside from popularising words such as ‘cuck’, their support for Trump was unwavering. They post offensive memes, not necessarily because they believe in their content, but to be intentionally provocative in the hope of magnifying their message.
While the ‘Malicious’ section of the ‘Alt-right’ has a centralised, fascist ideology, the Keyboard Warrior segment’s ideology is amorphous. What can be said is they are fundamentally anti-establishment and anti political correctness.
The final section of ‘Alt-right’ is disaffected liberals. In September of last year, YouGov estimated that only 51% of Bernie Sanders voters planned to cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton – instead, 49% planned to vote for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or disconcertingly, Donald Trump. A massive 15% planned on voting for Trump. Arguably, the group of former Bernie supporters that traded hands for Trump following Sanders’ defeat to Clinton make up a segment of the Alt-right.
Though they describe themselves as classical liberals and often reject the label of ‘Alt-right’, anger at the corruption displayed by the DNC in attempting to rig the primaries for Hillary Clinton, as well as their anti-trade and anti-mass immigration stances make this group a powerful ally to the Alt-right.
Figures such as Sam Harris, and Dave Rubin embody this part of the movement. They are broadly on the left on most issues. Indeed, their arguments against mass immigration are not based on race baiting and xenophobia. Every effort needs to be made to reengage this subsection with the broad left in the fight against the racists and sexists of the ‘Alt-right’.
Describing all members of the Alt-right as ‘white supremacists’ plays into their narrative perfectly. They are, in their own words, tired of a ‘grievance culture’ which labels everything that way.
Are some members of the Alt Right racists or sexists? Undoubtedly. In fact, while the movement may well have started as a white nationalist movement, it has been co-opted by an internet sub-culture, fed up with what they describe as ‘political correctness’ and are happy to accept any alternative.
The fact that self-described liberals voted for Donald Trump in spite of their own political leanings may well be stupid, but it is also indicative of the broad left failing to connect with its traditional constituents. That it is acceptable for JK Rowling to label YouTuber PewDiePie as a ‘fascist’ for a poorly executed joke, makes one shudder how we will label real fascists.