“We Put Fascist Symbols on Our Flags” — A History of the Alt-Right
Disclaimer: I want to make it clear that I do not hold any of the views presented in this piece. Quotations reference a DIRECT QUOTE from a website and or a person, NOT my own words. Most quotations are taken from various Alt-Right leaders such as Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer. This is a Medium post, not an academic paper, keep that in mind.
This piece is not intended to change anyone’s mind, so you may end up feeling the same way as you do now, unwilling to engage with the Alt-right in any manner, and that is your choice. I wrote this piece because I did not see anyone on the left taking the time to write about these people, and there could be a good reason for that. By no means do I want to normalize these people as I do not agree with them politically. Many dismiss them as racists or Nazis and while that may be true, continuing to ignore these people or treat them like a joke will only lead to a worse situation than the one we currently have. This piece is a brief overview of the main ideologies and methodologies of the Alt-right, a white identity-based movement. For the sake of this article, Alt-Right and White Nationalism are interchangeable terms. Obviously this movement has deeper historical roots but the focus on this piece is on the modern, internet-driven movement.
Based on recent events, White Nationalism and the Alt-Right have hit the mainstream big time and are seemingly growing in influence and numbers. White Nationalism and white identity are the main driving forces behind the entire Alt-Right movement. While there may be many conflicting ideologies in the movement, the central premise these people share is this notion of white identity and opposition to what they believe is a program of forced diversity. It is a reactionary movement that sets itself in stark opposition to the left and wants to push back against politically correct culture, ethnic diversity, and multiculturalism. In the mind of a white nationalist, there is a collective white identity that is distinct from other cultures, and it needs to be protected.
While there are varying degrees of White Nationalism, the core premise of the Alt-Right is that multiculturalism has failed in America, leading to the promotion of diversity and the erasure of white history. This scenario is coupled with the refugee crisis occurring in Europe, has sparked a flurry of white identity movements throughout Europe and America. Everything else flows from this central premise that the white race will be erased from the world unless a white identitarian movement stops it.
Many people will notice similarities between the Alt-right and the Nazi movements, and while there are many neo-nazis in the Alt-right, many white nationalists want to avoid violence. It’s hard to delineate the movement, really; there are just varying degrees of the same ideologies.
First, it is important to gain an understanding of the modern history of the Alt-right movement, and what its origin point is.
It would be impossible to discuss modern White Nationalism without first discussing the origins of the website 4Chan and its sub board /pol (politically incorrect). 4Chan is an imageboard website founded by Christopher Poole (known as Moot) in 2003. The site looks ancient by modern standards, but mostly it allows users to post text and images, making it a perfect place to create memes and share info graphics.
Originally, 4Chan was known for helping to create troll culture, wherein anonymous posters would try to outdo each other and offend one another by posting incredibly offensive content in hopes of provoking a reaction. 4Chan became known for its “anything goes” nature and randomness, leading to the creation of many popular memes and internet sayings. Eventually, to out troll each other 4Chan users began to make more offensive memes, and say more offensive things to provoke a reaction from people. The phrase “Hitler did nothing wrong” became a staple of the site and eventually, trolls took it to another level by overloading a contest to name the new Mountain Dew flavor with that same phrase.
In the beginnings of 4chan(2003–2010), the trolling took place on a more benign level, but things began to change once Moot created a new board in 2011, /pol (4chan subs are denoted with a /). /pol became a hotbed for conservative ideology as the backlash against Barack Obama began to mount around the same time. Thanks to the permissive nature of 4chan, topics that would normally be off limits in regular discussions suddenly became the go to topics to discuss.
Themes such as Nazism, anti-Semitism, racism, the refugee crisis, and white supremacy became increasingly popular, with many allusions and references to obscure and controversial figures. Eventually, many of those with fringe views began to come to /pol, and the hive mind that was born from this exchanging of ideas codified into the current movement of White Nationalism.
I am not saying that such movements did not exist before the creation of /pol. However, it is evident to me that the board helped codify a new ideology of White Nationalism that has taken over the public consciousness for the past few years. /pol has helped draw in more members with its trolling and memes. In their own words “The Alt-Right is an online mob of disenfranchised and mostly anonymous, mostly young White men. We have now moved from arguments and debates and become a new political collective, a type of hive mind.”
This ideology is virulent: once someone spends enough time on /pol reading about these issues, they become indoctrinated into the movement, also known as becoming “red-pilled.” This is in opposition to those on the left who white nationalists consider to be “blue-pilled.” Taking into consideration that demographically speaking these are young and disenfranchised young men; it makes it much easier for the hive mind to convince them to take “the red pill.” Since the presidential run and subsequent election of Donald Trump, the entire movement has become emboldened to step out of the shadows and into public consciousness. Now, we’re going to consider their methodology and ideology in more detail.
Control the memes control the planet, fascism is back and the left can’t stand it. — Moonman “Right Wing Death Squads”
The primary method that the Alt-right uses to communicate is through subversive memes that often range from the ridiculous to the vulgar. Meme culture is tied closely to troll culture as subversive white nationalist memes are meant to degrade minorities and deify right wing heroes such as Donald Trump. By being purposefully ironic and humorous with their memes, the Alt-right can openly mock their opponents and deflect criticism from others under the guise of trolling. If someone gets offended by a meme, the default response is “you’re so sensitive, you’re such a snowflake, can’t you take a joke?” The brilliance of this strategy is that it subverts the social status quo of the left, and it makes it difficult not immediately to respond emotionally. Troll culture idealizes this notion: getting people riled up and watching them react negatively. Many memes focus on the deification of Hitler and Nazi Germany, meant to provoke instant reactions. This is used as a tactic to agitate “normies” or people who do not fit into the /pol collective.
The Alt-right is also known to co-opt other memes for their own purposes, turning relatively benign memes such as Pepe the Frog into offensive (and typically Nazi themed) content. Memes are used as a form of cultural transmission and can be considered propaganda.
It is mainly through memes or screenshots of posts on /pol that the ideology is spread around the country (and the world) via the internet. This has created a unique culture that does not have any set borders, enabling rallies such as the #unitetheright rally in Charlottesville last month. Due to their prevalence on the internet, the Alt-right is able to promote physical demonstrations, coordinating the logistics and getting the word out there to all of their followers.
Closely tied to memes are info graphics created by posters on /pol that are based on alleged scientific studies which support their ideology. These are shared and posted all over the internet as well, particularly on social media sites like Twitter. Additionally, sites such as Twitter are used to show the apparent dangers white people face from the minorities they fear so much in the form of screen captures.
The central concept and the main driving force behind the entire white nationalist movement is based on the idea of “White Genocide” which Alt-right leaders elaborate as the concept 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 acceptance of diversity.” The Alt-right is tired of hearing about their need to accept “diversity,” and they want to protect their white, European, history from being erased. They claim that America and Europe are being overrun with savage and unintelligent immigrants and refugees. They also argue that due to this forced assimilation (accepting diversity) and moving in “millions of non-White immigrants into traditionally White countries over a period of years” creates a state of genocide as defined by Article II, part C of the United Nations Genocide Conventions:
“Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
Thus, for the white nationalist they are being told repeatedly that they need to be open to “cultural diversity.” In the mind of a white nationalist diversity means forcibly allowing immigrants into the country and has a negative connotation, that these people do not respect the laws or the customs of the country they are coming into. They think that this type of event only occurs in predominantly white countries such as America and Europe. In addition, members of the movement believe that their history is being erased for the sake of diversity. White nationalists see these events occurring and coupled with lower birth rates for whites they believe that soon what were once mainly white nations will cease to be, and this event causes concern and fear among them. In their minds, ceding their traditional majority means that the rest of the minorities will rise and punish whites for their actions over the course of the past 500 years which will destroy white culture and history.
Ultimately white nationalists want to see an end to ethnic and cultural diversity because of its perceived drain on the economy and drain on society. They claim that the races are not meant to mix in society and doing so has directly lead to the problems of today. The wave of support for Islamic terrorism in the middle east, the black on black violence in America, and the violence that has plagued Europe during the refugee crisis of recent years are all used as examples. In their view minorities abuse government handouts and do not want to become productive members of society. This feeling causes them to reject immigration efforts in favor of protectionist policies.
There is a fear of retaliation that is present in White Nationalism, which is why they fight so hard to keep their traditions going. In their eyes, they see the growing diversity being forced upon them to end them and end their dominance finally, thanks in part to a media culture that they think is out to get them and prevent them from organizing and defending their rights and culture.
Their stance is a dark, cynical outlook on humanity, one in which racial lines can be easily defined, and tribalism runs rampant, leading to retaliatory action. They are careful about what kind of examples to pull out, and they point to the apparent rise in violent crime in South Africa after apartheid (not correct since homicides peaked in 1993 and have dropped since) and the killings of white farmers in South Africa as evidence of this trend: that once whites are thrown out of power by the “Other” there will be payback and retaliation.
For the white nationalist, it boils down to the notion that whites are inherently superior and fit to run nations and that any change to that status quo will be dangerous and lead to the destruction of modern civilization, one that was founded by Europeans. The Alt-right believes there are defined genetic markers of race that separate people based on their geographic ancestry. Also, the Alt-right subscribes to the notion of genetic differences in intelligence as the main reasoning behind keeping the current power structure intact, if not creating ethnically homogeneous countries or ethno-states. In their minds, only European countries and America/Canada are being forced to accept diversity while the rest of the world remains ethnically homogeneous. They cite evidence such as The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, lectures by Jared Taylor, and research conducted on race based intelligence as examples as to why there will be a permanent lower class of minorities in America because their IQ’s are on average, lower than whites and why the entire notion of a multicultural society is bound to end poorly.
A phrase often repeated by members of the movement is “Why don’t whites deserve a homeland?” or “Why can’t whites have their own country?”
The point they are getting at and continue to rally around is this concept that the white race needs to be defended where currently that is not happening. The members of the Alt-right fear being replaced and erased from traditionally white countries and this has whipped them up into a fervor. Thus, in the figure of Donald Trump, they see someone that is going to give jobs back to working class whites and kick out illegal Mexican immigrants who are a “drain” on society. Such actions will ensure that there will be less ethnic diversity coming into the country, which they see as a positive. They do this through as many antagonistic means as possible in order to get better media coverage, and, in our hyper media-focused society, that is just what they get. The more controversy that they stir up, the more people are exposed to their line of thought.
At this point in time you’re most likely thinking something along the lines of:
So what? I disagree with their definitions of “diversity” and their racist outlook on life, I’m not going to engage in them, what’s the point of all this?.
We can debate just how large their following is but it appears that for the time being, the Alt-right is not going anywhere and their organizational efforts and meme capabilities will continue to grow their numbers and promote their ideology. What kind of impact that will have on the political landscape is still unclear.
The Alt-right is a product of the modern social media and internet crazed society we live in, and the continued polarization of our political landscape has only led to even greater division. A constant antagonistic relationship between the two competing political ideologies of conservatism and liberalism has created an environment where the Alt-right’s ideology has taken root across the country. The more antagonistic the left becomes the more antagonistic the right becomes. We can choose to continue to ignore these people and reduce them to caricatures as we have been doing, that is certainly a valid tactic. However, I do not believe that such tactics will stem this right-wing wave that has been sweeping the country.
The main point of this whole article was to take a deeper look into the movement from an outsider’s perspective, not to offer up some grand solution for dealing with them.
I hope that this piece has illuminated a bit more of what the Alt-right is about, how they started and what their ideology is.
I hope that this information will help in the dialogues to come.
My solutions and refutations are for another post,
Thanks for reading!