The alt-right, or alternative right, is a loosely connected and somewhat ill-defined grouping of American white supremacists/white nationalists, white separatists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, neo-Confederates, Holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists and other far-right fringe hate groups. The alt-right intersects with, and partially emerged from, the ideas and rhetoric of men's rights activists, many but not all of whom have come to embrace the alt-right's platform.
Alt-right beliefs have been described as isolationist, protectionist, anti-Semitic and white supremacist, frequently overlapping with neo-Nazism, Identitarianism, nativism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and Counter-jihad, opposition to immigration, anti-multiculturalism, antifeminism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, right-wing populism and the neoreactionary movement. The concept has further been associated with several groups such as American nationalists, paleoconservatives, anarcho-capitalists, national-anarchists, paleolibertarians, Christian fundamentalists, neo-monarchists, men's rights advocates and the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. White supremacist Richard B. Spencer initially promoted the term in 2010 in reference to a movement centered on white nationalism; according to the Associated Press, he did so to disguise overt racism, white supremacism, neo-fascism and neo-Nazism.
The term drew considerable media attention and controversy during and after the 2016 United States presidential election. The Trump administration has included several figures who are associated with the alt-right, such as Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller, Special Assistant to the President Julia Hahn, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. In 2016, Bannon described Breitbart (a primarily online news organization) as "the platform for the alt-right", with the goal of promoting the ideology. After Trump's election, other Republican candidates for office, such as Roy Moore, Corey Stewart, Josh Mandel, Joe Arpaio and Paul Nehlen, ran with the support of the movement. On the other hand, Republicans and conservatives such as Ben Shapiro and Cory Gardner and members of the conservative Heritage Foundation have condemned the alt-right for its racism, antisemitism and prejudice.
According to a Southern Poverty Law Center report published in February 2018, over 100 people have been killed and injured in 13 attacks by alt-right-influenced perpetrators since 2014. Political scientists and leaders have argued that it should be classified as a terrorist or extremist movement. The report expressed strong concern about the alt-right, claiming that its ideologies are radicalizing young, suburban white males and helped inspire the 2014 Isla Vista killings, Toronto van attack, the Charleston church shooting, the Quebec City mosque shooting, the vehicle ramming attack at the Unite the Right rally, the Umpqua Community College shooting, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting as well as other lower-profile attacks and acts of violence. In 2017, terrorist attacks and violence affiliated with the alt-right and white supremacy were the leading cause of extremist violence in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Etymology and scope
The term "alt-right" was first used in November 2008 by self-described paleoconservative philosopher Paul Gottfried, addressing the H. L. Mencken Club about what he called "the alternative right". This talk was published in December under the title "The Decline and Rise of the Alternative Right" in the conservative Taki's Magazine, becoming the earliest published usage of the phrase in its current context according to Slate. In 2009, two more posts at Taki's Magazine (one by Patrick J. Ford and the other by Jack Hunter) further discussed the alternative right. Since 2016, the term has been commonly attributed to Richard B. Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute and founder of Alternative Right.
As of February 2018[update], the scope of the term "alt-right" is still in flux. The Associated Press advises its journalists to not use the term without providing an internal definition, due to its vagueness. The Anti-Defamation League states that "alt-right" is a "vague term actually encompass[ing] a range of people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy". Conservative writer Ben Shapiro claims that the American Left has attempted "to lump in the Right with the alt-right by accepting a broader, false definition of the alt-right that could include traditional conservatism", but other conservatives have advocated for a broader definition. For instance, Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News described the alt-right in March 2016 as "an amorphous movement ... some—mostly Establishment types—insist it's little more than a vehicle for the worst dregs of human society: anti-Semites, white supremacists, and other members of the Stormfront set". On the other hand, the Southern Poverty Law Center states that "[t]he Alt-Right is intimately connected [to] American Identitarianism, a version of an ideology popular in Europe that emphasizes cultural and racial homogeneity within different countries" and also notes that multiple alt-right leaders, including Richard B. Spencer, embrace explicit antisemitism.
In 2016, 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 Associated Press said that it has previously called such beliefs "racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist".
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.
According to a 2016 description in the Columbia Journalism Review, the alt-right is not formally organized and may not be an actual movement: "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". Many of its own proponents often claim they are joking or seeking to provoke an outraged response. Andrew Marantz of The New Yorker describes it as "a label, like 'snob' or 'hipster,' that is often disavowed by people who exemplify it".
The alt-right has been said to include elements of white nationalism, white supremacism, antisemitism, right-wing populism, nativism and the neoreactionary movement. Andrew Marantz includes "neo-monarchists, masculinists, conspiracists, belligerent nihilists". 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. Robert Tracinski of The Federalist has written that the alt-right opposes miscegenation and advocates collectivism and tribalism. Nicole Hemmer stated on NPR that political correctness is seen by the alt-right as "the greatest threat to their liberty".
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". 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. 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".
The key division within the alt-right is between those who embrace explicitly neo-Nazi and white supremacist stances, and those white nationalists who present a more moderate image. Wendling suggested that this was "a distinction lacking a hugely significant difference". The white supremacist and neo-Nazi alt-rightists are sometimes termed "1488s", a combination of the white supremacist fourteen words slogan with 88, a coded reference to "HH", or "Heil Hitler". These neo-Nazi elements represent a minority within the alt-right; many on the less extreme end of the movement are critical of them, believing that they "go too far" or generate bad publicity for it.
White supremacy and white nationalism
The alt-right is a white nationalist movement and is fundamentally concerned with white identity. Not all members of the alt-right, however, actively embrace the term "white nationalist" in reference to themselves. Hawley commented that the alt-right is, "at its core, a racist movement"; similarly, the historian David Atkinson stated that the alt-right was "a racist movement steeped in white supremacist ideas". Attitudes to non-white people vary within the alt-right, from those who desire tighter restrictions on non-white immigration into the U.S. to those who call for a violent ethnic cleansing of the country. In contrast to the majority of scholars, who regard race as a socio-cultural construct, the alt-right promotes scientific racism, making the claim that racial differences represent distinct biological differences. For the alt-right, this view is referred to as "race realism". Unlike earlier forms of racist thought, such as those of the interwar fascists, the alt-right emphasizes the idea of racial difference above that of racial superiority, leaving the latter either implicit or secondary in its discourse.
Some elements of the alt-right are anti-Semitic but others are tolerant of Jews. Many in the alt-right believe that there is a Jewish conspiracy within the United States to achieve "white genocide", the elimination of white people as a racial group and their replacement with non-whites. They believe that a Jewish cabal controls the U.S. government, media, and universities, and is pursuing its aim of white genocide by spreading anti-white tropes and encouraging African-American civil rights groups. As evidence for this supposed white genocide, these far-right figures point to the depiction of mixed-race couples or children on television and the publication of articles discouraging women from having children early in life. They also cite apparent instances of white self-hatred, including Rachel Dolezal, an American woman of European descent who identifies as black.
This anti-Semitic conspiracy theory is not new to the alt-right, but has recurred among far-right groups in Western countries since the 19th century; it was the reason for the Holocaust and various anti-Semitic pogroms in European history. Andrew Anglin, one of the most prominent alt-right ideologues and a member of its neo-Nazi wing, stated "the core concept of the movement, upon which all else is based, is that Whites are undergoing an extermination, via mass immigration into White countries which was enabled by a corrosive liberal ideology of White self-hatred, and that the Jews are at the center of this agenda." In response to a Washington Post article portraying 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". Other alt-rightists, like Spencer, welcome the involvement of Jews within their movement.
White supremacist Richard B. 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. Spencer has described the alt-right as "identity politics for white Americans and for Europeans around the world".
Many alt-right figures have expressed the desire to push white nationalist ideas into the Overton window: the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse. The alt-right has served as a bridge between white nationalism and traditional conservatism and as a tool used by white nationalists to push their rhetoric into the mainstream. For instance, prominent alt-right figures on Twitter have used hashtag activism focused on the white genocide conspiracy theory, combined with more mainstream-oriented alt-right hashtags, to bring more radical white nationalist beliefs into the mainstream.
Many leaders of the alt-right movement, including include Spencer, Andrew Anglin, Mike Cernovich, John Derbyshire and Kyle Chapman are married to, or romantically involved with, women of Asian descent. Writing in The New York Times, Audrea Lim quotes an alt-right commenter writing that "'exclusively' dating Asian women is practically a 'white-nationalist rite of passage'" and speculates that the trend may be "at the intersection of two popular racial myths", the first that Asian-Americans are a "model minority" that works hard, is high-achieving and behaves itself. The other is that Asian women are subservient and hypersexualized.
Anti-interventionism and opposition to neoconservatism
In foreign policy and international politics, the alt-right (along with paleoconservatives) is fundamentally opposed to neoconservatism. This was particularly reflected by Spencer's reaction in the wake of the Shayrat missile strike. This anti-neoconservative stance is informed by their strong nationalist ideology as well as through their non-interventionism and isolationism, hence the rallying around the slogans "Make America Great Again" and "America First".
The alt-right sought to hasten the downfall of U.S. conservatism, and conservatives were often the main target of alt-right wrath. The prominent alt-right ideologue Brad Griffin stated "Alt Right is presenting itself as a sleek new challenger to mainstream conservatism and libertarianism... Alt Right was designed to appeal to a younger audience who reject the Left, but who don't fit in on the stuffy or banal Right either." Anarcho-capitalist Jeffrey Tucker has said that the alt-right is opposed to libertarianism because the alt-right focuses on group identity and tribalism instead of individual liberty.
The alt-right has no specific platform on U.S. foreign policy. Generally, it opposes established Republican views on the issues, and alt-rightists typically opposed President Bush's War on Terror policies. The alt-right has no interest in spreading democracy abroad and opposes the U.S.' close relationship with Israel. The alt-right often looks favorably on Russia's President Vladimir Putin, viewing him as a strong, nationalistic white leader who defends his country from both radical Islam and Western liberalism. The far-right Russian political theorist Aleksandr Dugin is also viewed positively by the alt-right; Spencer's wife, the Soviet-born Nina Kouprianova, has translated some of Dugin's work into English. Many alt-rightists also regard Syria's President Bashar al-Assad as a heroic figure for standing up to rebel groups in the Syrian Civil War.
The alt-right is anti-feminist and favors a more patriarchal society. Unlike many U.S. conservatives, it does not argue this point from traditional Christian perspectives, but claims its position is rooted in what it calls "sex realism", arguing that as a result of their biological differences, men and women are suited to different tasks in society. Lyons commented that the alt-right was misogynistic and presented women as irrational and vindictive. The Daily Stormer, for instance, banned female contributors and called for reduced female involvement in the white nationalist movement, producing an angry response from various white nationalist women.
Though more popular among men than women, in part due to its gendered rhetoric, the movement does include some women who support white nationalist and anti-feminist stances. Some women who have risen to prominence within the alt-right have been subject to harassment and abuse from within the movement.
The alt-right intersects with the manosphere, an online anti-feminist subculture. There is overlap between the alt-right and the Men's Rights Activist movement, a part of the manosphere which believes that men, rather than women, face more oppression in Western society. It also adopts the Men's Rights movement view that feminism has undermined and emasculated men, and believes that men should aggressively reassert their masculinity so as not to become "beta males" or "cucks". There has been some clear influence between the two movements; prominent manosphere ideologue RooshV for instance attended an NPI conference and quoted anti-Semitic material from white nationalist sources in his articles. Some alt-right figures have distanced themselves from the manosphere and its proponents; Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents Publishing was of the view that "the manosphere morally corrupts men" because it does not promote "the resurgence of traditional and biologically based sexual norms" but rather encourages rape culture.
On social issues like attitudes to homosexuality and abortion, the alt-right is divided; in contrast to the great attention U.S. conservatives have given these issues, they have been of little interest to the alt-right. Hawley suggested that the alt-right was more broadly pro-choice than the conservative movement. Many on the alt-right favored legal abortion for its eugenic purposes, highlighting that it was disproportionately used by African-American and Hispanic-American women. Some on the alt-right consider homosexuality to be immoral and a threat to the survival of the white race. Others adopt a more tolerant stance and have praised gay white nationalists like Jack Donovan, an early contributor to Spencer's AlternativeRight.com. This reflects a broader trend among white nationalists to denigrate gay culture while being more tolerant of gay writers and musicians like James O'Meara and Douglas Pearce whose views they sympathize with.
The alt-right is broadly secular. Many of its members are atheists, or highly sceptical of organized religion. Some alt-rightists identify as Christians: The Right Stuff, for instance, hosted an alt-right Christian podcast called "The Godcast". There are also individuals in the movement who do not believe in Christian teachings but identify as cultural Christians, admiring the Christian heritage of Western society. Others on the alt-right oppose Christianity entirely, criticizing it for its Jewish roots, for being a universal religion that seeks to cross racial boundaries, and for encouraging what they see as a "slave morality" that they contrast with perceived ancient aristocratic values. Some elements pursue modern Paganism. Although it agrees with the Christian Right's conservative stance on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, white evangelical leaders of the Southern Baptist Church have angered the alt-right by expressing support for refugees entering the U.S., calling for measures to help undocumented migrants gain legal status, and urging members not to display the Confederate Battle Flag. Despite this, alt-right hostility to Christianity has waned over time, with many alt-right commentators identifying as Christian while rejecting mainstream Christian politics and most mainstream Christian religious leaders, especially Pope Francis.
Wendling stated that alt-rightists view Islam as a fundamental threat to Western society. Hawley expressed the view that "ironically, people on the Alt-Right are less Islamophobic than many mainstream conservatives". He observed that many U.S. conservatives criticized Muslim migration to the United States because they regarded Islam as a threat to liberty; the alt-right has made little use of this argument. For them, migration from Islamic-majority countries is undesirable not because the migrants are Muslims, but because most of them are non-white; it is equally opposed to non-white migrants who are Christian or non-religious.
The alt-right had various ideological forebears. The idea of white supremacy had been dominant across U.S. political discourse throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. After World War II, it was increasingly repudiated and relegated to the far-right of the country's political spectrum. Far-right groups retaining such ideas—such as George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party and William Luther Pierce's National Alliance—remained marginal. By the 1990s, white supremacism was largely confined to neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups, although its ideologues wanted to return it to the mainstream. That decade, several white supremacists reformulated their ideas as white nationalism, through which they presented themselves not as seeking to dominate non-white racial groups but rather as lobbying for the interests of European Americans in a similar way to how civil rights groups lobbied for the rights of African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Although white nationalists often officially distanced themselves from white supremacism, white supremacist sentiment remained prevalent in white nationalist writings.
U.S. white nationalists believed that the United States had been created as a nation explicitly for white people of European descent and that it should remain that way. Many called for the formation of an explicitly white ethno-state. Various neo-Nazi and KKK groups adopted the term "white nationalism" and its associated rhetoric. Seeking to distance themselves from such groups' violent, skinhead image, various white nationalist ideologues—namely Jared Taylor, Peter Brimelow, and Kevin B. MacDonald—sought to cultivate an image of respectability and intellectualism through which to promote their views. Hawley later termed their ideology "highbrow white nationalism", and noted its particular influence on the alt-right. Taylor in particular became a revered figure in alt-right circles.
Under the presidency of the Republican Party candidate George W. Bush in the 2000s, the white nationalist movement focused largely on criticising mainstream conservatives rather than liberals, accusing them of betraying white Americans. In that period they drew increasingly on the conspiracy theory ideas that had been generated by the Patriot movement since the 1990s; online, the white nationalist and Patriot movements increasingly conversed and merged. Following the election of Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008—making him the first black president of the country—the world-views of a range of right-wing movements, including white supremacists, Patriots, conspiracy theorists, and Tea Partiers, increasingly began to coalesce, in part due to a shared racial animus against Obama.
The alt-right drew upon several older currents of right-wing thought. One was the Nouvelle Droite, a far-right movement originating in 1960s France. Many alt-rightists adopted the Nouvelle Droite's views on pursuing change through "metapolitical" strategies; it thereby shares similarities with European identitarianism, which also draws upon the Nouvelle Droite. The alt-right also exhibited similarities with the paleoconservatism movement which emerged in the U.S. during the 1980s. Both opposed neoconservatism and expressed similar positions on restricting immigration and supporting an openly nationalistic foreign policy, although unlike the alt-right, the paleoconservatives were typically closely aligned to traditional Christianity and wanted to reform the conservative movement rather than destroy it. Certain paleoconservatives, such as Samuel T. Francis, moved far closer to the white nationalist position of the alt-right.
There were also links between the American libertarian movement and the alt-right, despite libertarianism's general repudiation of identity politics. Many senior alt-rightists previously considered themselves libertarians, and the libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard has been cited as a particular link between the two movements due to his staunch anti-egalitarianism and support for ideas about differing IQ levels among racial groups. Also cited in connection with the alt-right was the Dark Enlightenment, or neo-reactionary movement, which emerged online in the 2000s, pursuing an anti-egalitarian message. This movement intersected with the alt-right; many individuals identified with both movements. The Dark Enlightenment however remained distinct in not embracing white nationalism, deeming it too democratic.
The alt-right began in 2008. In November that year, the paleoconservative ideologue and academic Paul Gottfried gave a talk at his H. L. Mencken Club in Baltimore; although titled "The Decline and Rise of the Alternative Right", it did not contain the phrase "alternative right" itself. Gottfried observed that, as the paleoconservative movement declined, a new cohort of young right-wingers were rising to take its place in challenging the neoconservative ideology then dominant in the Republican Party and broader U.S. conservative movement. One of those endorsing this idea was Richard B. Spencer, a fellow paleoconservative. Born to a wealthy family and raised in Dallas, Texas, in 2007 Spencer had dropped out of his PhD programme at Duke University to take up a position at The American Conservative magazine. Spencer claimed he coined the term "alternative right" for the lecture's title, although Gottfried maintained that they were its joint creators. As "alternative right" became associated increasingly with white nationalism in subsequent years, Gottfried distanced himself from it.
After Spencer was fired from The American Conservative, in 2008 he became managing director of Taki Theodoracopulos's right-wing website Taki's Magazine. The website initially contained contributions largely from paleoconservatives and libertarians, but under Spencer also gave space to white nationalists like Taylor. In 2009, Spencer used the term "alternative right" in the title of an article by white nationalist Kevin DeAnna; by 2010, Spencer had moved fully from paleoconservatism to white nationalism. Spencer left Taki's Magazine and in March 2010 launched The Alternative Right webzine. Early issues featured articles by "highbrow" white nationalists like Taylor and MacDonald as well as the Heathen Stephen McNallen. Spencer noted that "if you look at the initial articles for AlternativeRight.com, that was the first stage of the Alt-Right really coming into its own".
AlternativeRight.com consisted primarily of short essays, covering a range of political and cultural issues. Many of these reflected the influence of the French Nouvelle Droite, although this declined as the alt-right grew. Spencer later stated that he wanted to create a movement distinct from the explicit white power image of neo-Nazi and KKK groups, noting that their approach to white nationalism was "a total nonstarter. No one outside a hardcore coterie would identify with it". In 2011 Spencer became the head of the white nationalist National Policy Institute and launched the Radix Journal to promote his views; in 2012, he stepped down from the AlternativeRight website and took it offline in December 2013. By that year, Spencer was expressing ambivalence about the "alternative right" label; he preferred to be called an "identitarian".
It was on the Internet that Spencer's term "alternative right" was adopted and abbreviated to "alt-right"; according to Slate magazine, the abbreviation "retains the former phrase's associations—the mix of alienation and optimism embedded in the act of proudly affirming an 'alternative' direction—but compacts them into a snappier package." The "alt-right" tag was created with public relations in mind, allowing white nationalists to soften their image and helping to draw in recruits from mainstream conservatism. Many white nationalists gravitated to the term to escape the negative connotations of the term "white nationalism". Spencer thought that by this point, the "Alt-Right" had become "the banner of white identity politics".
It was on websites like 4chan and Reddit that the term gained wider usage, and in 2015 began to grow in popularity. Although there had previously been a strong left-libertarian contingent to these online spaces, there was a gradual rightward turn in chan culture centred on 4chan's politics board, /pol/. According to Hawley, the alt-right was "an outgrowth of Internet troll culture", and its emergence was marked by the online Gamergate controversy of 2013. According to the journalist David Niewert, Gamergate "heralded the rise of the alt-right and provided an early sketch of its primary features: an Internet presence beset by digital trolls, unbridled conspiracism, angry-white-male-identity victimization culture, and, ultimately, open racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic hatred, misogyny, and sexual and gender paranoia." Gamergate politicized many young people, especially males, in opposition to the perceived culture war being waged by the cultural left. Through their shared opposition to political correctness, feminism, and multiculturalism, chan culture built a link to the alt-right. By 2015, the alt-right had gained significant momentum as an online movement.
Notable promoters of the alt-right included Spencer, Vox Day, Steve Sailer, and Brittany Pettibone. Earlier white nationalist thinkers were also characterised as alt-right thinkers, among them Taylor, and MacDonald. Another prominent alt-rightist was Brad Griffin, a member of the Neo-Confederate League of the South who founded the Occidental Dissent blog. Also prominent was the American neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, who established the Daily Stormer website—named after the Der Stürmer newspaper active in Nazi Germany—in 2013. By 2016, Anglin called the Daily Stormer "the world's most visited alt-right website". While some of the websites associated with the alt-right—like The Daily Stormer and the Traditionalist Youth Network—adopted neo-Nazi approaches, others, such as Occidental Dissent, The Unz Review, Vox Popoli, and Chateau Heartiste, adopted a less extreme form of white nationalism.
Breitbart News became a popular outlet for alt-right views. The journalist Mike Wendling termed it "the chief popular media amplifier of alt-right ideas"; Spencer described Breitbart as "a 'gateway' to Alt Right ideas and writers". Breitbart had been launched by the conservative Andrew Breitbart in 2005, but after his death in 2012 came under the control of Steve Bannon, who took its coverage in a more aggressively right-wing direction. Bannon was a right-wing nationalist and populist; he was hostile to mainstream conservatism and referred to two prominent conservative publications, the National Review and The Weekly Standard, as "left-wing magazines" which he wanted to destroy. Although much of its coverage fed into racially charged white narratives, Breitbart did not promote white nationalism; its differences from the mainstream conservative press were more in tone than in content. In July 2016, Bannon told a journalist from Mother Jones that Breitbart had become "the platform for the alt-right"; he may have been referring not to the website's official content but to its comments section—which is lightly moderated and contains more extreme views than those put forward by Breitbart itself. Hawley noted that whatever Bannon's motives for making this statement, it was untrue because Breitbart did not embrace the alt-right's underlying white nationalism.
In March 2016, Breitbart writers Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos published "An Establishment Conservative's Guide to the Alt-Right". In that article, they described the alt-right as being derived from the U.S. Old Right and paleoconservatism, as well as the Nouvelle Droite and older right-wingers like Oswald Spengler, Henry Louis Mencken, and Julius Evola. Bokhari and Yiannopoulos' piece became "perhaps the most widely cited article about the movement" in the mainstream press; CNN described it as being similar to a manifesto. Wendling characterized the article as a work of apologetics for the alt-right, noting that it downplayed its more extreme elements and championed its counter-cultural value. Hawley described the article as "the most sympathetic portrayal of the movement to appear in a major media venue to date". Commentator Angela Nagle suggested that Yiannopoulos did "more than anyone else to give the alt-right a presentable face".
Many alt-rightists responded negatively to Bokhari and Yiannopoulos' article. The Daily Stormer referred to it as "the Product of a Degenerate Homosexual and an Ethnic Mongrel", with Anglin producing a response article titled "A Normie's Guide to the Alt-Right" in which he placed the 1488 scene at the centre of the movement. On Occidental Dissent, Griffin asked: "What the hell does Milo Yiannopoulos—a Jewish homosexual who boasts about carrying on interracial relationships with black men—have to do with us?" Various press sources termed Yiannopoulos "alt-right"; although Hawley noted that Yiannopoulos was "not really part of the Alt-Right" himself. Observers have instead labelled Yiannopoulos "alt-light" or "alt-lite". The term "alt-lite" appeared in the alt-right's language in mid-2016, at which point it was used pejoratively for rightists who expressed some sympathetic views of the alt-right but did not share its white nationalism. As well as Yiannopoulos, other prominent figures associated with the alt-lite included Mike Cernovich and Gavin McInnes.
On September 9, 2016, 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. They proclaimed racialist beliefs by stating: "Race is real, race matters, and race is the foundation of identity". 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."
Donald Trump presidential campaign: 2016
In June 2015, the multimillionaire New York businessman Donald Trump announced plans to campaign to become the Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential election, something that attracted the interest of alt-rightists as well as from white nationalists more broadly, neo-Nazis, KKK groups, and the Patriot movement. The alt-right was exceedingly vocal in support for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. The alt-right approved of Trump's hard attitude to immigration, his calls for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and for a wall to be built along the border with Mexico to curtail illegal immigration. Niewert observed that "Trump was the gateway drug for the alt-right", with many individuals learning of the movement through their interest in Trump.
As noted by Hawley, "the Alt-Right is most definitely far to Trump's right". Many alt-rightists recognized that he did not share their white nationalist world-view and would not bring about all the changes they desired. They were nevertheless grateful that he had shifted the national conversation rightward, and that he had shown that it was possible to successfully challenge the conservative movement from the right. Griffin called on alt-rightists to "join the Trump campaign... to take down the hated cuckservative establishment". A small minority of alt-rightists were against supporting Trump; The Right Stuff contributor "Auschwitz Soccer Ref" complained that two of Trump's children had married Jews, suggesting that Trump was therefore loyal to Israel.
Trump was a keen user of Twitter, and in November 2015 he retweeted a graphic about African-American crime statistics which included the alt-right, white nationalist hashtag "#WhiteGenocide". The alt-righter RamZPaul rejoiced, retweeting Trump's piece with the comment: "Trump watches and is influenced by the Alt Right". Over coming months, Trump retweeted a second tweet that had "#WhiteGenocide" as a hashtag as well as sharing other tweets issued by white supremacists. The alt-right saw this as further evidence that Trump was their champion.
Breitbart's Bannon had been one of Trump's most enthusiastic backers, and in August Trump appointed him to lead his election campaign. That month, the Democratic Party's nominee for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, criticised Bannon's appointment in a speech given in Reno, Nevada. She highlighted Bannon's claim that Breitbart was "the platform for the alt-right", attacking the alt-right as "racist ideas ... anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women ideas" and accusing Trump of taking the alt-right "mainstream". In her speech, she said that while half of Trump's supporters were decent individuals "desperate for change", the other half were "what I call the basket of deplorables ... The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. ... He has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have eleven thousand people—now eleven million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric." Clinton referred to the alt-right as "an emerging racist ideology" and warned that "a fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party". After Clinton's speech, web traffic to alt-right websites rose and the mainstream media gave it increasing coverage; Spencer and other alt-rightists were pleased, believing Clinton's speech gave them greater publicity and helped legitimize them in the public eye. Many of Trump's supporters adopted the moniker of "deplorables" for themselves, and the term was widely used on memes that the alt-right promoted online.
As the election loomed, Trump claimed that Obama's government would rig it to ensure a Democratic victory; far-right websites widely promoted this notion and claimed they would resort to violence or civil war in the event of Clinton's winning. When Trump won the election in November, the alt-right's response was generally triumphalist and self-congratulatory. Many alt-rightists claimed responsibility for the victory. Anglin stated: "Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn't have been possible"; Spencer tweeted that "The Alt-Right has been declared the winner... We're the establishment now." Following his election, Trump announced that Bannon would be his chief strategist, a decision popular with the alt-right. Alt-rightists were generally supportive of Trump's other appointments, such as his decision to make Jeff Sessions his attorney general. While aware that Trump would not pursue a white nationalist agenda, the alt-right hoped to pull him further to the right, taking hardline positions that made him look more moderate, and thus shifting the U.S. Overton window in their direction.
After Trump's election: 2016–
Wendling suggested that Trump's election signalled "the beginning of the end" for the alt-right. Celebrating Trump's victory, Spencer held a meeting in Washington D.C. in which he stated that he thought that he had "a psychic connection, a deeper connection with Donald Trump, in a way we simply do not have with most Republicans." He ended the conference by declaring "Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!", to which various attendees responded with Nazi salutes and chanting. This attracted significant press attention. When questioned on the incident, Spencer stated that the salutes were given "in a spirit of irony and exuberance". Later that month, Trump was interviewed by The New York Times, during which he was asked about the alt-right. He responded that "I don't want to energize the group, and I disavow the group." Many alt-rightists were angered by the disavowal. In April 2017, many alt-rightists criticized Trump's 2017 Shayrat missile strike for being an apparent reversal of his policy towards war in Syria and the Middle East. Ann Coulter pointed out that Trump "campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast" and this was one of the reasons many voted for him.
In 2016, Twitter began closing alt-right accounts it regarded as engaging in abuse or harassment; among those closed were the accounts of Spencer and his NPI. In February 2017, Reddit then closed down the "r/altright" sub-reddit after its participants were found to have breached its policy prohibiting doxxing. Facebook followed by shutting down Spencer's pages on its platform in April 2018. In January 2017, Spencer launched a new website, AltRight.com, which combined the efforts of the Arktos publishing company and the Red Ice video and radio network.
In August 2017, the Unite the Right rally took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, bringing together alt-right activists with members of other white supremacist and far-right movements. Many alt-rightists thought that the rally would mark a turning point in the transformation of their movement from an online phenomenon into a street-based one. At altright.com, Vincent Law for instance predicted before the event took place that "People will talk about Charlottesville as a turning point". However, the event and its aftermath proved demoralizing for many in the movement. A right-wing protester rammed his car into counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others; this incident brought much negative publicity to the event and its participants. Trump claimed that there were "some very fine people on both sides" of the Charlottesvile protests, stating that what he called the "alt-left" bore some responsibility for the violence. Spencer stated that he was "really proud" of the president for those comments.
Alt-rightists who attended the rally often found themselves facing personal and legal repercussions for their involvement, while Internet service providers and mainstream social media websites subsequently terminated many alt-right accounts and sites. Prominent figures like Spencer became reticent about organizing public protests of this kind in future. He experimented with the use of flash demonstrations, returning to Charlottesville with a much smaller group for an unannounced protest in October. Unite the Right exacerbated tensions between the alt-lite and more extreme elements of the movement. Breitbart distanced itself from the alt-right and criticized other media outlets that described them in such a manner, as did Yiannopoulos, who insisted he had "nothing in common" with Spencer.
Although the movement saw significant gains in 2015 and 2016, it began significantly declining in power and membership in 2017 and 2018. This has been due to multiple reasons, including the backlash of the Unite the Right rally, the fracturing of the movement, more effective banishment of hate speech and harassment from major social media sites and widespread opposition by the American population. There has been widespread concern that as the chance of a large-scale political movement dies out, that lone-wolf terrorist attacks from members will become common. In 2017, terrorist attacks and violence affiliated with the alt-right and white supremacy were the leading cause of extremist violence in the United States.
In April 2018, The Washington Post reported that the alt-right was in "disarray" and quoted Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center as saying that it was "imploding" while Marilyn Mayo of the Anti-Defamation League said that it was "on a downward spiral", but it indicated a possibility that the alt-rightists would "regroup". Chris Schiano of Unicorn Riot said that the movement was "basically done". The problems facing the movement included "lawsuits and arrests, fundraising difficulties, tepid recruitment, widespread infighting, fierce counterprotests, and banishment from social media platforms". The article cites the dissolution of the Traditionalist Workers Party, the fact that Andrew Anglin, founder of The Daily Stormer, was in hiding due to a harassment lawsuit and the canceling of a speaking tour for high-profile alt-rightist Richard B. Spencer as signs that the alt-right may have "peaked" as a political movement. On the other hand, at least one group which has taken steps to minimize their identification as being part of the alt-right, Identity Evropa, was reported as having increased their enrollment.
Several alt-right candidates are running in 2018 elections as Republican candidates, such as the holocaust denier and neo-Nazi Arthur Jones for an Illinois congressional seat and the white supremacist Paul Nehlen for the Wisconsin seat of Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House and neo-Nazi Patrick Little for the United States Senate election in California, 2018.
According to Hawley, the alt-right was "a disorganized mob that broadly shares a number of goals and beliefs". The alt-right is not an organized movement, and has no formal institutions or leading elite. It is a predominantly online phenomenon, lacking print newspapers and little radio or television presence. It had no think tanks that influenced government policy and could not command the open allegiance of any major politicians or mainstream pundits. Unlike many counter-cultural movements, it lacked soft power in the form of original bands, songs, films, and other cultural artifacts, of which it produced very few. According to Hawley, it was the movement's success in using the Internet that allowed it "to punch above its weight in the political arena".
The alt-right made use of a large number of blogs, podcasts, forums, and webzines in which it discussed far-right political and cultural ideas. The use of the Internet by the far-right was not pioneered by the alt-right; the white supremacist web forum Stormfront had for instance been active since 1996. Where the alt-right differed was in its members willingness to leave far-right websites and engage in trolling on other parts of the Internet, such as the comments sections of major news websites, YouTube, and Twitter. According to Hawley, it was the alt-right's use of trolling which put it "into the national conversation".
The movement's online structure had strengths in that it allowed members to say things anonymously online that they would not be willing to say on the street or in another public place. The lack of any formal organisation also meant that nobody could be kicked out of the alt-right.
As the alt-right developed, a number of formal, real world events were held, particularly through the National Policy Institute. Members of the alt-right have also attended events organised by an older far-right white nationalist group, American Renaissance. These events have gained a more limited audience than the alt-right's online activities. This may be because operating online allows members of the alt-right to operate anonymously, while to attend events they must often expose themselves to journalists and protesters, thus making it more likely that their views will become publicly known.
The alt-right makes strong use of humor and irony in its rhetoric. It also makes heavy use of memes. The alt-right adopted much of its "image- and humor-based culture", including its heavy use of memes, from the online subcultures active at 4chan and later 8chan. As noted by Nagle, the alt-right's use of humor renders it difficult to tell "what political views were genuinely held and what were merely, as they used to say, for the lulz."
One of the tactics employed online by alt-rightists is to parody their leftist opponents. One teenaged American alt-rightist for instance created a Twitter account for a fictional individual whom they described as an "LGBTQ+ pansexual nonbinary POC transwoman" who was a "Journalist for BLM. Always stayin woke [sic]". Another recurrent tactic is to present themselves—as white men—as victims of oppression and prejudice; this subverts many leftist arguments about other social groupings being victims and is designed to infuriate leftist opponents.
Nagle suggested that the alt-right's use of such tactics made it strongly transgressive and thus part of a tradition that she traced back to the work of the Marquis de Sade in the 18th century. She argued that it was with the alt-right that "the transgressive anti-moral style" reached "its final detachment from any egalitarian philosophy of the left or Christian morality of the right".
Use of memes
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 and through the use of Twitter, has been widely reported. Among the most widely used are the following terms:
- "Cuckservative", a portmanteau of "cuckold" and "conservative".
- "Snowflake", short for "special snowflake", a pejorative for entitled people.
- Triple parentheses or "echoes" to identify and target Jews online, which originated on the neo-Nazi podcast The Daily Shoah.
- Variations of the Pepe the Frog and "Emperor Trump" memes popular in alt-right circles, leading to references of "Nazi Frogs" in the media. These variants of the Pepe the Frog meme attracted significant media attention after the meme was criticized in an article published on Hillary Clinton's campaign website.
- Satirical worship of the Ancient Egyptian frog-headed deity Kek has become associated with alt-right politics, as well as satirical nationalism of the nonexistent nation of "Kekistan".
- The use of alt-right music such as Trumpwave and Fashwave, which is a neo-Nazi, Neo-fascist subgenre of electronic music microgenre vaporwave.
- The use of "Deus Vult!" and various other crusader iconography as a means of expressing Islamophobia.
- Ironic support of the Black Egyptian hypothesis, often using stereotypical African-American vernacular such as "We wuz kangz n shieet."
- The use of the phrase "dindu nuffin", a bastardization of "Didn't do nothing", in reference to claims of innocence for African-American victims of police violence, especially about Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
- Usage of "helicopter ride" memes, which endorse documented cases of leftists being dropped from helicopters by Chilean and Argentine juntas. Similarly the term "Right-Wing Death Squad" (usually abbreviated as RWDS) also callbacks to the "helicopter ride" meme and to refer to far-right, fascist death squads.
- Usage of the Moon Man meme an alternate version of a 1980s McDonald's mascot named Mac Tonight who promotes terrorism, race war, and genocide.
- Usage of It's OK to be white as a way of expressing a supposed reverse racism towards white people by minorities.
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, 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. The political scientist Marc Hetherington sees these memes as an effort to legitimize racist views.
Wendling noted that campaigns of abuse for political ends were "a classic alt-right tactic". The Daily Stormer for instance targeted the British Member of Parliament (MP) Luciana Berger, who is Jewish, by encouraging its followers to send her photoshopped images in which a yellow star appeared on her head; the hashtag "Hitlerwasright" also featured on the images. Anglin termed this program of harassment "Operation: Filthy Jew Bitch". One UK-based alt-rightist was arrested and convicted for his involvement in the campaign. In another instance, Anglin commented on the June 2016 murder of the British MP Jo Cox by a far-right activist by saying that "Jo Cox was evil and she deserved to die. Her death was not a tragedy, it was justice." While celebrating violence, The Daily Stormer is cautious to remain on the legal side of U.S. incitement laws.
In December 2016, the 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 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 which inspired said harassment has drawn comparisons with the Gamergate controversy. 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".
Links to violence and terrorism
Debate over classification
The alt-right movement has been considered by some political researchers a terrorist movement and the process of alt-right radicalization has been compared to Islamic terrorism by political scientists and leaders.
A paper on the subject stated that it clearly fell under an extremist movement, saying that "alt-right adherents also expressed hostility that could be considered extremist: they were quite willing to blatantly dehumanize both religious/national outgroups and political opposition groups".
In 2017, Hawley noted that the alt-right was not a violent movement, but that this could potentially change. Conversely, Wending noted that there were individuals on the extreme end of the alt-right willing to use violence. He stated that "the culture of the alt-right is breeding its own brand of terrorists: socially isolated young men who are willing to kill."
In February 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center assembled a list of 13 violent incidents between 2014 and 2018 perpetrated by alt-right influenced people, in which 43 people died and 67 people were injured. The earliest perpetrator listed is Elliot Rodger. The list also includes Dylan Roof. The perpetrators of these events were all white men between the ages of 17 and 37, with an average age of just over 25 years old (only three of them were over 30). All but one was American, the other was Canadian.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
[T]he dark engine of the [alt-right] movement is reactionary white male resentment. Alt-right propaganda is designed to nourish the precise grievances recited by the disillusioned and indignant young men that dominate its ranks. It provides a coherent – but malicious – worldview. For a recruit, the alt-right helps explain why they don't have the jobs or the sexual partners or the overall societal and cultural respect that they believe (and are told) to be rightfully theirs ... The alt-right worldview, this rebranding of old hatreds, will remain compelling to disaffected white males and those who claim to speak for them for the foreseeable future. Worse, as this study suggests, punctuated violence will continue. For the same vision of society that the alt-right promulgates—its externalization of blame that lands on a host of enemies seen to be in the ascendancy—also aligns with the indicators of mass violence.
The Southern Poverty Law Center's analysis of these violent alt-right incidents leads it to believe that the killings it studied are not isolated events, but that the alt-right is structurally responsible for them by alienating those it attracts from participation in their communities and giving them reasons to continue to be disaffected and indeed to increase their alienation to the point where they can perform acts of violence without concern about the consequences to themselves or others:
The sprawling networks the alt-right has built around its poisonous, racist ideology have violence at its core in its pursuit of a white ethnostate. The white, male grievance culture that the leaders of the alt-right are incubating has already inspired more than 40 deaths and left more than 60 people injured.
And unfortunately, the alt-right seems likely to inspire more, as it moves further into the real world. Its leaders continue to abdicate all responsibility for the violence their ideology inspires and are becoming increasingly recalcitrant in the face of widespread condemnation.
... After a year  of escalating alt-right violence, we are probably in for more.
2017 Aztec school shooting
On December 7, 2017, gunfire erupted at Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico, United States. The shooter, 21-year-old William Atchison, a former student at the school, killed two students in a classroom and then committed suicide.
William Edward Atchison (born in 1996) lived in Aztec with his parents and was a former student at Aztec High School, but he did not graduate. He worked at a local gas station. When Atchison entered Aztec High School at approximately 8:04 a.m., he was "disguised as a student" and carrying a backpack with a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic pistol inside. Atchison was investigated by the FBI in March 2016 due to posts he had made on an online forum indicating that he was planning a shooting, but he was not charged because he had not committed a crime and did not own a gun at the time. He legally bought the pistol used in the attack in November 2017.
Atchison's online activity included posting pro-Hitler and pro-Trump thoughts on alt-right websites like The Daily Stormer under such usernames as "Future Mass Shooter" and "Adam Lanza" and joking about school shootings, in particular the Columbine High School massacre. He also posted about his frustration with life in rural New Mexico and bleak career prospects.
At the shooter's home, a schedule for the killings was found with the last entry being "8:00 a.m. die". He also had a thumb drive on his person with the same schedule. He had no criminal history but he was investigated by the FBI in 2016 when he had asked on an Internet forum "where to find cheap assault rifles for a mass shooting". The shooter told the FBI that he was simply trolling and thereafter the FBI dropped the matter.
Antipodean Resistance is a neo-Nazi, fascist and alt-right group in Australia. The group, which makes use of Nazi symbols such as the swastika and the Nazi salute, has explicitly called for the legalisation of the murder of Jews.
Counter-terrorism experts have suggested that Australian authorities should focus more on alt-right extremists such as Antipodean Resistance. Anne Aly, the Labor MP, has suggested that the group may turn to terrorism, stating: "For a terrorist attack to succeed, it really only takes one person". Aly also called for the group to be banned: "I would like to see some of these groups proscribed ... as terrorist and violent organisations".
The Atomwaffen Division ("Atomwaffen" meaning "Atomic Weapons" in German) is a neo-Nazi terrorist organization based in the United States. Founded in 2013 on the now defunct neo-fascist forum Iron March, the group's main base of operations is in Florida, but has members in other states such as Texas and Montana. The group is part of the alt-right, but is considered extreme even within that movement. Atomwaffen encourages members to burn the United States flag and the Constitution, and to attack the U.S. government and minorities (especially Jews). The group's members are mostly young white males, and the Atomwaffen Division has been active on university campuses recruitment postering. The San Antonio, Texas, chapter is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Atomwaffen has engaged in plans to cripple public water systems and destroy parts of the American electric grid. Atomwaffen has also been accused of plans to blow up nuclear plants to cause meltdowns of American nuclear energy sites. The organization aims for a violent overthrow of the United States government by use of terrorism and guerrilla warfare tactics. Since 2017, the organization has been linked to five killings.
The leader of Atomwaffen Division, Brandon Russell, is alleged to have described Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to ISIS and perpetrated the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, as "a hero". A member of Atomwaffen Division, Stephen Billingsley, was photographed at a vigil in San Antonio, Texas for the victims of the Orlando shooting with a skull mask and a sign saying "God Hates Fags".
One 18-year-old member, Devon Arthurs, converted to Islam and described himself as a "Salafist National Socialist". In May 2017, Arthurs allegedly killed two of his roommates and fellow Atomwaffen Division members in retaliation for ridiculing his conversion. Arthurs was arrested following a hostage situation during which he told police he shot 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk earlier that day.
After Arthurs' arrest, his third roommate and fellow Atomwaffen Division member, a 21-year-old, Brandon Russell, was arrested by the FBI and Tampa Police Department, who found in Russell's garage an explosive compound known as hexamethylene triperoxide diamine which has been used by other groups in improvised explosive devices such as the 2016 New York and New Jersey bombings. The police bomb experts were drawn to Russell's bedroom due to the presence of thorium and americium, radioactive substances. Russell, a former student of the University of South Florida and a Florida National Guardsman, had a framed photograph in his bedroom of Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing.
In January 2018, Samuel Woodward was charged in Orange County, California with killing Blaze Bernstein, an openly gay Jewish college student who went missing earlier in the month while visiting his family. Woodward is an avowed neo-Nazi and a member of the group who had attended Atomwaffen Division events and training camps, according to ProPublica. According to chat logs subsequently published by ProPublica, one member wrote of the killing "I love this" and another praised Woodward as a "one man gay Jew wrecking crew". The new logs suggest there are around 20 Atomwaffen cells across the U.S., that some members have taken part in weapons training, and show members praising Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, and Norwegian mass-murderer and white supremacist Anders Breivik. Bernstein's was the fifth killing tied to the Atomwaffen group.
Rise Above Movement
The group, based in Southern California, claims more than 50 members and a singular purpose, namely the "physically attacking its ideological foes". The group, which portrays itself as a defense force for Western civilization, has been described as an alt-right street-fighting club and many of its members have criminal records. There have been several documented episodes of violence by the Rise Above Movement, including beatings dispensed by member Ben Daley at the Unite the Right rally.
Unite the Right rally
After the aborted rally at around 1:45 p.m., a man drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters, hitting several and slamming into a stopped sedan, which hit a stopped minivan that was in front of it. The impact of the crash pushed the sedan and the minivan further into the crowd. One person was killed and 19 others were injured in what police have called a deliberate attack. The man then reversed the car through the crowd and fled the scene.
The ramming occurred at a pedestrian mall at Water and Fourth streets, about four blocks away from Emancipation Park ( Heather D. Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal from Charlottesville, was fatally injured in the attack and pronounced dead at the University of Virginia's University Hospital. Video footage recorded at the scene showed a gray 2010 Dodge Challenger accelerating towards crowds on a pedestrian mall, hitting people and sending them airborne, then reversing at high speed, hitting more people. The moment when the car was driven into the crowd was captured on video by bystanders and in aerial video footage taken by a drone. A photographer present at the scene said the car "plowed into a sedan and then into a minivan. Bodies flew. People were terrified and screaming". According to The Guardian, Bystanders said it was "definitely a violent attack". Of the 19 injured survivors, the University of Virginia Medical Center reported that five were initially in critical condition. By the afternoon of August 14, ten patients had been discharged from the hospital and the nine remaining patients were in good condition.).
Shortly after the collision, James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old from Ohio who reportedly had expressed sympathy for Nazi Germany during his time as a student at Cooper High School in Union, Kentucky, was arrested.
Fields had been photographed taking part in the rally, holding a shield emblazoned with the logo of Vanguard America, a neo-Nazi, antisemitic, white supremacist organization. Vanguard America's leaders later stated he was not a member and that "[t]he shields seen do not denote membership" as they were "freely handed out to anyone in attendance". On August 14, Fields was again denied bail. He is being held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville County Regional Jail.
National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and several Senators described the alleged ramming attack as an act of domestic terrorism as did various commentators. Late on the night of August 12, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Department of Justice would open a civil rights investigation into the incident, with federal investigators investigating whether the suspect "crossed state lines with the intent to commit violence". Later, Sessions said the ramming meets the definition of "domestic terrorism" and that it was "an unacceptable, evil attack".
Heyer's mother said she wanted Heather's name to become "a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion". Heyer's memorial service was held at Charlottesville's Paramount Theatre on August 16 and Heyer's mother spoke to hundreds of mourners, asking them to honor Heyer by acting against injustice and turning "anger into righteous action".
Separate GoFundMe pages were set up for the Heyer family and for those injured in the crash, with the latter being organized by the Anchorage co-chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America. The UVA Health Foundation created a fund for medical expenses of "patients at UVA Medical Center and Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital who were injured and impacted by this unwanted violence in our community."
Two motorists injured in the vehicle incident have sued the organizers of the event and the driver. Fields was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop following an accident resulting in death and held without bail. On August 18, Fields was charged with three additional counts of aggravated malicious wounding and two additional counts of malicious wounding. The murder charge was changed to first-degree murder on December 14.
Additionally, other acts of domestic violence committed at the Unite the Right rally were an African-American man named DeAndre Harris assaulted by white supremacist members and a Klansman named Richard W. Preston (an Imperial Wizard for the Maryland-based Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan) shooting a gun towards counterprotestors including Corey A. Long (who was black). In January 2018, a court hearing was held in which November 26, 2018, was set as the date for Fields' trial to begin. Trial is anticipated to take three weeks.
During the rally, Vasillios Pistolis, a U.S. Marine and a member of the terrorist group Atomwaffen Division, was recorded chanting "White Lives Matter" and "You will not replace us!" with his fellow torch-bearing protestors on the first day. On the second day he beat up a transgender woman named Emily Gorcenski with a modified version of the Confederate flag which incorporated the neo-Nazi Schwarze Sonne (Black Sun) symbol in the center, even bragging about the beating in private chats in which he said "So to sum it up what I did Friday, dropped kicked that tranny that made video crying", "Today cracked 3 skulls open with virtually no damage to myself", and "I drop kicked Emily gorcenski". Pistolis had promoted the Unite the Right rally on Twitter under the account of @Gopnik_Gestapo, and posted an image of a car running over a left-winger with the caption "Good Night, Left Side". He also mocked the death of Heather Heyer calling her "a fat cunt who died of a heart attack. She wasn't even in the way of the car". Although Pistolis denied that he attended the rally or committed an act of violence, he was investigated by the Marine Corps and was court-martialed in June 2018 for disobeying orders and for making false statements.
Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
Robert Bowers opened fire on a temple, killing 11 and injuring 6. He was a member of a fringe social network called Gab, where he posted a message indicating an immediate intent to harm just prior to the shooting; Bowers had a history of extreme antisemitic postings on Gab. The website is a favorite of alt-right users who are banned or suspended from other social networks.
An alt-righter named Taylor Wilson who had attended the Unite the Right Rally was charged with attempting a terror attack on an Amtrak train in October 2017. It was reported that he held a business card from the American-based neo-Nazi political party National Socialist Movement.
The anonymized and decentralized nature of the alt-right makes it difficult to determine how many individuals are involved in it or the demographic attributes of this membership. The movement's members are concentrated in the United States, but with participants present in other Anglophone countries like Canada, Britain, and Australia, as well as in parts of continental Europe. The movement is majority male, although Hawley suggested that about 20% of its support might be female.
From the nature of the online discourse as well as the attendees of events organized by NPI and American Renaissance, Hawley believed that the majority of alt-right participants are younger on average than the participants of most previous American far-right groups. Spencer suggested that "if we were to make a composite image of the Alt-Right, I would probably say someone who is thirty years old, who is a tech professional, who is an atheist, and who lives on one of the coasts." Wendling however suggested that "the alt-right's self-image of themselves as a force made up of ranks of hipsterish, erudite well-educated men is misleading". In contrast to the movement's self-presentation as "a cool posse of young intelligent kids", through his research he found that many of those active on alt-right forums were middle-aged men from working-class backgrounds.
On interviewing young members of the alt-right, Hawley noted that many articulated the common theme, stating that they embraced far-right politics in response to the growing racial polarisation of the Obama era, in particular the public debates around the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Hawley suggested that many of these young people were willing to embrace the idea of dismantling the United States in favour of a new, white ethno-state because they had grown up in the U.S. during the post-civil rights era. In contrast, he thought, older white nationalists were keener to retain links to patriotic American imagery because they nostalgically recalled a period of U.S. history when segregation and overt white dominance were a part of life and believed that this system could be reinstated.
Wendling believed that a large portion of the alt-right were university students or recent graduates, many bearing a particular grudge against political correctness. The alt-right ideologue Greg Johnson suggested that the alt-right was drawing in better educated people than previous white nationalist movements because the career prospects for college-educated European Americans had declined by the late 2000s. Whereas a college degree was previously perceived as a guaranteed ticket to a middle-class lifestyle, he noted that this was no longer the case and that many college and university educated people felt resentful and, due to unemployment or underemployment, had growing amounts of time on their hands which they could spend on the Internet.
A research study of 447 self-identified alt-right members found higher levels of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism compared to the general population; and that members of the alt-right were more likely to express prejudice against black people and admit to engaging in aggressive behavior. Alt-right members also had significantly high levels of dehumanization, with the mean alt-right scores comparable to how the general public views the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Alt-right members viewed Hillary Clinton, Muslims, feminists, Nigerians and journalists as the least well rated groups on the dehumanization scale while white people, men and Americans were rated the best.
The political scientist Philip W. Gray proposed several reasons as to why the alt-right emerged in the period in which it did. Some of these were linked to technological changes: an increasing focus on research into genetics, as reflected by the popularization of the Human Genome Project and the growth of private genetic testing services, helped to foreground the idea that genetics has a determining effect on human behaviour, a notion that the alt-right could politicize. Rapid changes in telecommunications and the emergence of new media since the 1990s meant that the conservative movement was unable to self-police its ideological borders as successfully as it had during the Cold War, allowing far-right voices to gain an increasing audience. The growing distance of the Second World War may also have been a factor, with pride in the U.S. victory over Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy providing less of a barrier to the American far-right than it had when there were still large numbers of people who remembered the conflict.
The growing racial and social agitation within U.S. society was also a likely contributing factor, in particular the more militant activities of those whom alt-rightists labelled "social justice warriors". The Black Lives Matter movement, race riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, the shooting of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the harassment of Trump supporters, and the shouting down of speakers at universities were all, Gray argued, contributing factors. The popularization of concepts from the "intersectional Left" such as white privilege, male privilege, and mansplaining, as well as the increasing use of the terms "masculinity" and "whiteness" in explicitly negative ways, also contributed to the alt-right's growth. Gray argued that it was the American left's increasing use of identity politics as the basis of its mobilization that "helped open space for increased popularity of an identity-based politics from the Right", and that the "intersectional Left's" vilification of whiteness as a source of oppression created the atmosphere for a far-right response exulting whiteness as something positive. The commentator Angela Nagle suggested that "the hysterical liberal call-out" culture of the 2010s, in which "everyone from saccharine pop stars to Justin Trudeau [was called] a 'white supremacist' and everyone who wasn't With Her a sexist" made it more difficult for people to recognize when a far-right movement really emerged online; she compared the situation with the tale of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
The scholar of American studies Annie Kelly argued that the alt-right was "both inspired and defined by a discourse of anxiety about traditional white masculinity", a discourse which was "dominant in much of the political and cultural mainstream". In her view, much of the "groundwork" for this discourse was set forth by the conservative movement in the years following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Hawley concurred that American conservatism was "at least somewhat responsible for the rise of the Alt-Right" because some individuals within the conservative movement, such as Ann Coulter, had "effectively delegitimized complaints about hate speech and racism" as part of their attacks on political correctness in the years before the alt-right's appearance. This is something acknowledged by some conservatives, like columnist Matt K. Lewis. Nagle articulated the view that should the alt-right grow to generate great violence, those on the right who helped to make the alt-right look attractive, such as Yiannopoulos, "will have to take responsibility for having played their role".
The alt-right presented "a unique set of challenges" to journalists, progressives, and conservatives. The political scientist George Hawley suggested that the alt-right may pose a greater threat to progressivism than the mainstream conservative movement. Hawley was of the view that, because of its use of novel tactics not previously used by the far-right, "the Alt-Right represents something genuinely new on the American political scene". Lyons stated that the alt-right "helped revitalize White nationalist and male supremacist politics in the United States". Kelly noted that it was "important not to overstate the numbers of the alt-right, nor their power as a voting bloc", but that their success could be measured "in terms of their ever-increasing dissemination of extreme right-wing ideals and their ability to project an updated rhetoric of anti-left antagonism into the Overton window of acceptable political discourse."
A poll by ABC News and The Washington Post found that 10% of respondents supported the alt-right, to 50% who opposed it. An Ipsos and Reuters poll found 6% of respondents supported the movement. Such polls indicate that while millions of Americans are supportive of the alt-right's message, they remain a clear minority. Gray suggested that the alt-right may have benefited from the manner in which—in the years building up to its appearance—progressives often attacked the Tea Party movement and other right-wingers by accusing them of racism. He suggested that this left many right-wingers with the impression that they would be accused of racism "regardless of how near or far they are from the centre" and that this made them more willing to listen to the alt-right's message.
There was much discussion within U.S. public discourse as to how to avoid the "normalization" of the alt-right. 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. The extension changes the term "alt-right" on webpages to "white supremacy". The extension and group were founded by a New York-based advertising and media professional under the pseudonym George Zola.
Some opponents sought to undermine the alt-right's stereotype of leftists as being devoid of humor and joy by using its own tactics of humor and irony against it. For instance, when alt-rightists became angry or upset, some of their opponents described them as "snowflakes" who were being "triggered". Anti-fascist activists also adopted the alt-right's use of pranks; on several occasions they publicized events in which they were purportedly meeting to destroy Confederate monuments or gravestones. Alt-rightists mobilized to publicly defend these sites, only to find that no such anti-fascist event was happening at all.
In June 2017, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to "'decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ'".
U.S. conservatives were generally quick to condemn the alt-right as a racist movement. However, condemning it in this way placed conservatives in an awkward rhetorical position; for several years, conservatives had widely presented themselves as the challengers of liberal political correctness, but in condemning others for racism they opened themselves to the accusation that they too were upholders of political correctness.
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".
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. Writing for National Review, David A. French called alt-right proponents "wanna-be fascists" and bemoaned their entry into the national political conversation. 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'".
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.
Writing for The New Yorker, Benjamin Wallace-Wells described it as a "loosely assembled far-right movement", but he 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".
In Newsday, Young called the alt-right "a nest of anti-Semitism" inhabited by "white supremacists" who regularly use "repulsive bigotry". Chris Hayes on All In with Chris Hayes described alt-right as a euphemistic term for "essentially modern-day white supremacy". 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".
Writing for Haaretz, Yishai Schwartz described the alt-right as "vitriolically anti-Semitic", saying that "[t]he '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. 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".
In an August 15, 2017 press conference at New York City's Trump Tower, President Donald Trump used the term "alt-left" 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. While stating that there was "blame on both sides" for the violence at the rally, Trump criticized what he called the "very, very violent ... alt-left".
Various experts have pointed out that the term "alt-left" was not created by the left and has not been adopted by any members of the progressive left.
The term "alt-left" has 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 smear to imply a false equivalence. 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.
In a Los Angeles Times article, the 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". 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".
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Look for this phrase primarily in comment sections of stories about slain African Americans. "Dindu nuffin" (often abbreviated as "dindu") is a bastardization of "didn't do nothing," in reference to the claims of innocence that parents, friends, and community members make about the victims of unlawful police shootings. Even in cases not involving police or criminal acts, black people, simply referred to as "dindus," are still the targets of alt-right memes. The presumption of guilt every time a black person is injured or accused of a crime is the small price these white supremacists are willing to pay for the opportunity to mock grieving mothers.
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