The Alt-Right: Racism Rebranded
The reach of alt-right leaders and publications is evidence that the general public is more vulnerable to the alt-right’s influence than one might think.
Perhaps no crusade in recent memory has gained notoriety and influence as quickly as that of the “alternative right.” The movement is a new brand of conservatism, tailored for the internet age, and therefore not without its share of controversy. The country was widely introduced to key alt-right players when Stephen Bannon took over as CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in August of 2016.
Bannon had previously served as executive chairman of Breitbart News, a popular right-wing outlet accused of having white nationalist ties. Bannon once described Breitbart as “the platform for the alt-right.” Given that Bannon went on to serve as a Chief Strategist in the White House, and the President himself seems to be a patron of InfoWars (a conspiracy publication under the alt-right banner), it is critically important that the American people understand what exactly the alt-right is and just how influential it has become in the modern political landscape.
Though the alt-right stands accused of stoking racial tensions, most members of the movement do not identify as racist and instead claim to champion more simple values. Standard members may describe themselves as socially conservative and populist. Social conservatives place a high value on traditional ideas of family and morality. Populists claim to prioritize the needs of the working class — they stand up for American jobs and oppose trade deals like NAFTA or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, fearing they could move jobs overseas.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with being a social conservative or a populist, these are only the surface claims made by alt-right standard bearers about what they represent. Often times, the “social conservatism” of the alt-right has given way to prejudiced statements about women and minorities. The “populism” of the alt-right has previously manifested itself as anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“A significant element of the alt-right ethos involves identity politics for white people,” says Guy Benson, a Fox News contributor and the Political Editor of Townhall. Indeed, a closer look at prominent alt-right figures and publications demonstrates links to nefarious actors that embrace prejudiced ideas.
Take Breitbart, the website that Steve Bannon has since regained control of after exiting his post at the White House. Allegedly, it is nothing more than a fiery right-wing publication. As the term alt-right has increasingly become associated with racism, Breitbart has attempted to distance itself from the label once proudly applied by Bannon himself. Despite that, it is pretty clear that not too long ago, the site was gearing up to be a leading voice in the movement.
An article published in spring 2016 by tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos titled “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” is a perfect encapsulation of Breitbart’s desire to embrace the alt-right and its willingness to jump down the rabbit hole of fringe ideologies in order to do so.
According to a recent exposé by reporter Joe Bernstein, Yiannopoulos reached out to white nationalists to gather information and later allowed the same individuals to preview and critique the piece. Among those contacted by Yiannopoulos were Curtis Yarvin — who once wrote that while he does not consider himself a white nationalist, he was “not exactly allergic to the stuff” — and Devin Saucier, who wrote an article under the alias Henry Wolff titled “Why I Am (Among Other Things) A White Nationalist.” According to Bernstein, “Yiannopoulos passed the article back to Yarvin and the white nationalist Saucier, the latter of whom gave line-by-line annotations.”
Other controversial Breitbart articles, penned by Mr. Yiannopoulos and others, include “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew,” “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy,” and “Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.”
On the other hand, InfoWars is a site that has not made any effort to downplay its alt-right foundations. Alex Jones — the conspiracy-prone host of The Alex Jones Show (based in Austin, Texas) and mastermind of InfoWars — has promoted several racially charged, unfounded stories. Jones once said of former President Obama, “Obama is a hardcore Wahhabist; he is al-Qaeda” (Wahhabism is a strain of radical Islam).
InfoWars also ran a story calling the 44th president the “global head of Al-Qaeda.” Other false and incendiary claims made by Jones and company include the theory that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a hoax that utilized child actors. Jones produced a movie in 2005 called Martial Law 9–11: The Rise of the Police State in which he alleged that the attacks on 9/11 were an inside job. To traffic in conspiracy theories is a hallmark of the alt-right, a deliberate effort to erode trust in long-standing institutions and authority figures.
In December of 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump appeared on The Alex Jones Show and complimented Jones on his “amazing” reputation. At the time, Jones’ positions on 9/11 and Sandy Hook were widely known.
InfoWars and Breitbart are only the most prominent in a sea of increasingly disturbing voices. The primary home of the alt-right is the internet, and its primary constituency are millennials. The Daily Stormer is a popular Neo-Nazi website that exclusively caters to millennials (whose system administrator pitched in on Yiannopoulos’s alt-right piece) and has reportedly received $200,000 in bitcoin donations since 2014.
In the aftermath of a deadly stabbing last year at the University of Texas at Austin, fliers appeared around campus that bore the Daily Stormer’s logo and the slogan “around blacks, never relax.” A host of other, larger, alt-right groups exist online, including a Reddit page promoting male superiority called “The Red Pill” which has more than 200,000 subscribers. Popular Reddit forums specifically devoted to the alt-right were recently shuttered for “doxxing” (disseminating compromising personal information) about enemies of the movement.
The phrase “alt-right” is a fallacy. It is not an alternative to modern-day conservatism — as advertised — but instead a discriminatory movement that looks to blame diversity for every American failing.
The reach of alt-right leaders and publications, from the fringe Daily Stormer to the relatively mainstream Breitbart, is evidence that the general population is more vulnerable to the alt-right’s influence than one might think. These key players will continue to reach out to members of society that feel alienated and ask them to turn to prejudice to solve their problems. Americans should be wary of this plan and recognize that the alt-right is not committed to truth — it is only committed to sowing division and anger on a national scale.
This article was originally written in November of 2017. It was later published in issue #8 of ORANGE Magazine.