Before November 9th, liberals and mainstream journalists were largely dismissive of the ‘alt-right’. Critics of Hillary Clinton on the left opined that she had erred by identifying them at all. Many suggested that the alt-right was insignificant in electoral terms, a mere fad that would pass if everyone just ignored it.
Now that reality show star Donald Trump has become the president-elect, however, denial about the alt-right has phased into anger and then bargaining. In the days since the alt-right gathered to celebrate the moment at a Washington, DC restaurant with their arms raised in a Roman salute, any number of pundits and journalists have denounced the very term ‘alt-right’ as if withholding recognition will somehow minimize the problem.
They might as well insist that armed militiamen stop referring to themselves as ‘Patriots.’ Lots of people did that in the 1990s, but it did not stop their preferred self-label from eventually being normalized.
Worse, efforts to cast the alt-right as something old and familiar do not help us understand it. To dismiss them as mere ‘neo-Nazis’ and ‘white supremacists’ is to shut one’s eyes to the enormity of the problem, for the alt-right is much worse than these simplistic labels. Whereas the KKK and fascist cosplayers have always been street movements that are relatively easy to identify and debunk, the alt-right has largely emerged out of the limelight in a variety of internet echo chambers. Indeed, the wellsprings of the alt-right have been remarkably diverse.
To borrow the language of liberal politics, the alt-right is intersectional, not monolithic. That is, within the alt-right, we find overlapping social media affinity groups that pursue more than one kind of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Racial separatism is just one of those.
On top of the authoritarians and Nazis and white supremacists, we must add the so-called ‘men’s rights activists’ (MRAs), redpillers, and ‘meninists’ of the ‘manosphere’ — strains of online radicalization that now form an entire subculture of misogyny. Journalist Abi Wilkinson has been watching them for several years.
On their forums I’ve read long, furious manifestos claiming that women are all sluts who “ride the cock carousel” and sleep with a series of “alpha males” until they reach the end of their sexual prime, at which point they seek out a “beta cuck” to settle down with for financial security. I’ve lurked silently on blogs dedicated to “pick-up artistry” as men argue that uppity, opinionated, feminist women – women like myself – need to be put in their place through “corrective rape”.
I know about the “men going their own way” movement, which is based around the idea that men should avoid any sort of romantic or sexual relationship with women. I’m aware of “traditional marriage” advocates, who often argue that you should aim to marry a very young woman as she’s likely to be easier to control.
Rejecting feminism and chafing at the ‘feminizing’ influences of American society, the core element behind ‘gamergate’ formed on such websites as 4chan and Reddit, not Daily Stormer. Starting in 2014, these groups of angry young men engaged in systematic harassment and personal destruction of women who dared to critique sexist imagery and themes in video games.
A year later, many of Twitter’s gamergate hashtag users were employing the racially-loaded term ‘cuckservative’ to attack traditional conservatives from the right, quickly falling into line to support Donald Trump against the establishment.
These online groups found young white men at their most vulnerable & convinced them liberals were colluding to destroy white Western manhood
— Siyanda Mohutsiwa (@SiyandaWrites) November 9, 2016
Let us pause here to appreciate that for most of the alt-right, Trump is a means to power, not an end in himself. The average alt-right enthusiast is more likely to model himself on a digital billionaire like Peter Thiel than an analog fossil like Trump. Why else would Thiel figure so large in the Trump campaign, speaking at the Republican National Convention and as an authority on the Trump transition? Few commentators have made this connection, but it is one of the most telling, for Thiel also represents the cutting edge of anti-democratic philosophies that abound in the alt-right.
Known as ‘neoreactionaries’ or ‘the dark enlightenment,’ this next layer is exemplified by Thiel’s 2009 declaration that “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” Blogger Curtis Guy Yarvin, known to readers as Mencius Moldbug, is most often cited in this vein. Described by one writer as a “fascist teenage dungeon master,” Yarvin idolizes feudal social structures like serfdom and monarchy, proposing to re-create them as corporate models with the benefits of cutting-edge technology. Most Americans have never heard of Yarvin, but his dystopian ideas are very popular in Silicon Valley. And while he gladly links to white nationalists, racial purity is a secondary concern to him.
We could go on and on: many Ronpaulists of 2006 have become Trumpists in 2016; arch-conspiracy nut Alex Jones has come full circle from making up stories about FEMA death camps to featuring voices who ‘joke’ about Donald Trump gassing disabled people; the European Identitarian movement, which is closely associated with white nationalism, has been a deep influence on the alt-right; so has William Lind and his ‘4th Generation Warfare‘ theory. Transhumanists and LULZ hackers and Catholic militants and 4chan trolls and the dregs of the Tea Party do not abide in the same online spaces, but they are parts of a single online movement, united against the liberal values of American political culture.
Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term ‘alt-right,’ was trying to bring these various schools of right wing thought together under a single umbrella. To ignore everything under the umbrella, while arguing about what word to put on the umbrella, achieves nothing.
So is there an alternative that describes this phenomenon without giving Spencer the satisfaction of using his preferred ‘brand name’? Personally, I am ever-more inclined to call the alt-right ‘The New Right.’ After all, the alt-right says they are here to replace the tired old conservatism of yesteryear (‘cuckservatives’) with something more visceral and hateful. By comparison, Donald Trump has laid bare the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of classic conservatism, which opened the door and paved the way for this regressive movement while professing liberal values of inclusiveness (the ‘big tent’). That sort of bloodless politics cannot last long in the age of extremes. We must come to terms with a probable future in which the ‘alt-right’ becomes, simply, the right.Click here for reuse options!
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