The Alternative Right, commonly known as the Alt-Right, is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes, Alt-Righters eschew “establishment” conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value.
The Alternative Right is a term coined in 2008 by Richard Bertrand Spencer, who heads the white nationalist think tank known as the National Policy Institute, to describe a loose set of far-right ideals centered on “white identity” and the preservation of “Western civilization.” In 2010, Spencer, who had done stints as an editor of The American Conservative and Taki’s Magazine, launched the Alternative Right blog, where he worked to refine the movement’s ideological tenets.
Spencer describes the Alt Right as a big-tent ideology that blends the ideas of neo-reactionaries (NRx-ers), who advocate a return to an antiquated, pseudo-libertarian government that supports “traditional western civilization”; “archeofuturists,” those who advocate for a return to “traditional values” without jettisoning the advances of society and technology; human biodiversity adherents (HBDers) and “race realists,” people who generally adhere to “scientific racism”; and other extreme-right ideologies. Alt-Right adherents stridently reject egalitarianism and universalism.
At the heart of the Alt-Right is a break with establishment conservatism that favors experimentation with the ideas of the French New Right; libertarian thought as exemplified by former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas); anarcho-capitalism, which advocates individual sovereignty and open markets in place of an organized state; Catholic traditionalism, which seeks a return to Roman Catholicism before the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council; and other ideologies. It is a reaction to the conservative establishment as exemplified by the nomination of Barry Goldwater for the presidency in 1964. According to Spencer, that solidified several aspects of contemporary conservatism, including an emphasis on liberty, freedom, free markets and capitalism. Spencer considers these ideas to be “anti-ideals” and says the Alt-Right is redefining categories for a new kind of conservative.
Spencer describes Alt-Right adherents as younger people, often recent college graduates, who recognize the “uselessness of mainstream conservatism” in what he describes as a “hyper-racialized” world. So it’s no surprise that the movement in 2015 and 2016 concentrated on opposing immigration and the resettlement of Syrian refugees in America. Although such stances align with older forms of white racism, Spencer insists that the Alt-Right is “a liberation from a left-right dialectic.”
The Alt-Right is intimately connected American Identitarianism, a version of an ideology popular in Europe that emphasizes cultural and racial homogeneity within different countries. One difference is that while European Identitarians indict the generation known as the “68ers,” a reference to the left of the 1960s, their American counterparts attack baby boomers, who are presumed to comprise the bulk of the current Republican Party’s base. But the movements on both continents are similar in accusing older conservatives for selling out their countries to foreigners.
Spencer left his Alternative Right blog on Christmas Day 2013 in order to focus on the Radix Journal, an online journal published by the National Policy Institute that promotes the creation of a white ethno-state. Spencer’s abrupt departure, referred to as the “Christmas Day Purge,” left the blog to two fellow white nationalists, Colin Liddell of the United Kingdom and Andy Nowicki, a former college professor. The blog has struggled since then to stay relevant to the white nationalist movement.
Although Spencer has positioned himself as the effective leader of the Alt-Right, other proponents include several well-known names on the far right, including Jared Taylor , editor of the American Renaissance racist journal; Greg Johnson of the publishing house Counter-Currents; Matthew Parrott and Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Youth Network; and Mike Enoch, who runs The Right Stuff blog. But the general population of the Alt-Right is composed, by and large, of anonymous youths who were exposed to the movement’s ideas through online message boards like 4chan and 8chan’s /pol/ and Internet platforms like Reddit and Twitter.
The movement is not monolithic. The diversity of far-right ideologies that it includes has resulted in some disagreement with regard to Jews, and whether to blame them for the perceived plight of white culture—a belief that has undergirded many sectors of white nationalism for decades. While some Alt-Right leaders are unquestionably anti-Semitic, others, like Jared Taylor, are not, seeing Jews simply as white people. For his part, Spencer has repeatedly brought in anti-Semites to speak at his events.
In March 2016, for instance, Spencer invited former California State University-Long Beach professor Kevin MacDonald, the author of a trilogy purporting to show that Jews seek to undermine the host Christian societies in which they often live, to speak at an event titled “Identity Politics.” After the event, Spencer stopped just short of questioning the Holocaust, telling a Huffington Post reporter that if it “really happened, then of course it wasn’t justified. If it happened differently than what the story we’ve been told [is], then I think that needs to be let out.”
Social media have been instrumental to the growth of the Alt-Right. Legions of anonymous Twitter users have used the hashtag #AltRight to proliferate their ideas, sometimes successfully pushing them into the political mainstream.
The best example of that is probably the term “cuckservative” — a combination of “cuckold” and “conservative,” coined to castigate Republican politicians who are seen as traitors to their people who are selling out conservatives with their support for globalism and certain liberal ideas. The phrase has a racist undertone, as some of its backers have suggested, implying that establishment conservatives are like white men who allow black men to sleep with their wives. It received widespread media attention, including, to the delight of Spencer and others, in The Washington Post.
But the Alt-Right has taken on many more issues than that, including issues of high importance to white nationalists like the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. and Europe in 2015 and 2016, the Black Lives Matter movement and immigration reform. Propaganda campaigns also have been organized around hashtags such as #WhiteGenocide, a reference to the myth that white people are being subjected to an orchestrated eradication campaign; #ISaluteWhitePeople; #BoycottStarWarsVII, a racist campaign to protest the black actor who was cast in a lead role in the 2015 “Star Wars” reboot; and #NROrevolt, which arose after the National Review, a journal that has historically served as the gatekeeper to mainstream conservatism and has vehemently opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy for president.
Trump is a hero to the Alt-Right. Through a series of semi-organized campaigns, Alt-Right activists applied the “cuckservative” slur to every major Republican primary candidate except Trump, who regularly rails against “political correctness,” Muslim, immigrants, Mexicans, Chinese and others. They have also worked hard to affix the Alt Right brand to Trump through the use of hashtags and memes.
The movement is not limited to the Internet. At least twice a year, Spencer reserves the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., for a coat-and-tie gathering of his followers. The events are open to reporters but also cloaked in secrecy — attendees regularly use false names or refuse to identify themselves for fear of being labeled as racists. Topics and themes vary. The gathering in March 2015 was titled “Beyond Conservatism” and capitalized on the strength of the “cuckservative” meme. “Identity Politics” in March 2016 focused heavily on the continued success of Trump’s presidential campaign. Each of the speakers featured there addressed a different facet of Trump’s influence of politics and American culture. Kevin MacDonald classified Trump’s rise as part of an implicit white backlash against present-day politics, while Spencer declared that Trump was merely creating a political space, intentionally or not, in which the Alt-Right could grow.
The Alt-Right also has a stable of publishing houses. Most notably, both NPI and Counter-Currents have publishing arms — NPI’s is Washington Summit Press — that focus on historical and contemporary extremists. They distribute the works of such well-known white nationalist writers as Alexander Dugin, Corneliu Codreanu, Guillaume Faye and Alain de Benoist, along with more contemporary authors like F. Roger Devlin, Andy Nowicki, Greg Johnson and Richard Spencer.
In March 2016, Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos wrote an article for the right-wing Breitbart news site that claimed that the Alt-Right was fundamentally about youthful provocation and subversion, rather than simply another “vehicle for the worst dregs of human society: anti-Semites, white supremacists, and other members of the Stormfront set,” a reference to an online forum run by a former Alabama Klan leader. Yiannopoulos, who was instrumental in the online harassment campaign against women in the electronic gaming world known as Gamergate, was not well received. Virtually every mainstream conservative publication, from the National Review to The Federalist, condemned it. And some on the furthest extremes of the Alt-right attacked him as a “Jewish homosexual,” in the words of Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, which Anglin describes as “The World’s Most Visited Alt-Right Web Site.” Anglin said Yiannopoulos had “a history of engaging in sneaky Jewish tricks” and added that “this is how they get you. Clearly, the man seeks to undermine right-wing movements for Jewish purposes.”
That last attack, which came despite the fact that Yiannopoulos has been photographed wearing a necklace with the German Iron Cross symbol, illustrates the diversity of opinion within the Alt-Right world. But, at the end of the day, neo-Nazis like Anglin, coat-and-tie racists like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor, and oddball figures like Yiannopoulos have more in common, in terms of sharing a vision of society as fundamentally determined by race, than they disagree about.
In their own words:
“Martin Luther King Jr., a fraud and degenerate in his life, has become the symbol and cynosure of White Dispossession and the deconstruction of Occidental civilization. We must overcome!” —National Policy Institute column, January 2014
“Immigration is a kind a proxy war—and maybe a last stand—for White Americans, who are undergoing a painful recognition that, unless dramatic action is taken, their grandchildren will live in a country that is alien and hostile.” —National Policy Institute column, February 2014
“Since we are fighting for nothing less than the biological survival of our race, and since the vast bulk of Jews oppose us, we need to err on the side of caution and have no association with Jews whatsoever. Any genuine Jewish well-wishers will understand, since they know what their people are like better than we ever can. Saving our race is something that we will have to do ourselves alone.” —Greg Johnson, “White Nationalism & Jewish Nationalism,” August 2011
“I oppose the Jewish diaspora in the United States and other white societies. I would like to see the white peoples of the world break the power of the Jewish diaspora and send the Jews to Israel, where they will have to learn how to be a normal nation.” —Greg Johnson, “White Nationalism & Jewish Nationalism,” August 2011
“At the core of the JI [Jewish Identity] is a malevolent supremacy. This is the manifest in their rejection of outgroups who wish to participate and innovate traditional Jewish cultural activities. Why reject diversity and progress within your community if not a false feeling of ‘betterness’? The root of this problem is, of course, a sexual feeling of inferiority. Mighty psychosexual urges must not be downplayed within group dynamics. As a remedy to this, the JI must be infiltrated with foreign members to procreate with their men and women. That way, the deep psychological psychosis can be treated at the root.” —“A Critical Analysis of the Jewish Identity,” The Right Stuff, January 2016
“The new left doctrine of racial struggle in favor of non-Whites only, a product of decolonization and the defeat of nationalists by egalitarians after WWII, must be repudiated and Whites must be allowed to take their own side in their affairs. A value system that says Whites are not allowed to have collective interests while literally every other identity group can do so and ought to do so is unacceptable.” —“The Fight for the Alt-Right: The Rising Tide of Ideological Autism Against Big-Tent Supremacy,” The Right Stuff, January 2016
“This is our home and our kith and kin. Borders matter, identity matters, blood matters, libertarians and their capitalism can move to Somalia if they want to live without rules, in the West we must have standards and enforce them. The ‘freedom’ for other races to move freely into white nations is nonexistent. Stay in your own nations, we don’t want you here.” —Matthew Heimbach, “I Hate Freedom,” Traditionalist Youth Network, July 7, 2013
“Those who promote miscegenation, usury, or any other forms of racial suicide should be sent to re-education centers, not tolerated.” —Matthew Heimbach, “I Hate Freedom,” Traditionalist Youth Network, July 7, 2013
This article was published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.