• Alt-Right Analysis
  • Additional Resources
  • Works Cited

Introduction: What is the Alt-Right?

Following the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016, groups collectively known as the “Alt-Right” have risen from the fringe of political groups to the center of American politics. With a dive into the mainstream spotlight, the question of what is the Alt-Right becomes an increasingly meaningful one. That question, however, is as much a mystery for members of the Alt-Right as it is for outsiders. Their rapid rise to stardom has revealed it isn’t clear as to who is included under the label and who falls outside it. Attempts to unify the diverse factions that exist at the fringe of conservative politics often fail due to significant ideological differences. Said differences become even clearer when one looks beyond the United States Alt-Right movement to the rest of the world. Various countries in Europe and the Americas have seen Alt-Right groups contribute more to politics more than ever before. Therefore, any attempt to holistically examine the ideologies that may identify with the Alt-Right is destined to exclude some. However, most people who consider themselves Alt-Right share fundamental beliefs regarding race, religion, and gender.

Before beginning our examination of the history, we find it crucial to recognize the impact these ideologies have on us as researchers and on our potential readers. In our opinion, the ideas that are endorsed by the Alt-Right are accusatory, aggressive, and hateful. Labeled as the Alternative Right for a reason, the groups subscribe to what is widely considered deviant ideologies, and with that comes confrontational beliefs pitting those members against the “other.” Those ideologies have been often enacted through extreme forms of violence and terrorism towards minority groups.

Man raising his arm in a Nazi salute faces another man raising his middle finger in opposition

Protestors clash at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017

Because of this, our research has emphasized the importance of objective research and has focused on presenting the various viewpoints of the Alt-Right absent of our own beliefs. We are not endorsing any of the ideas we are sharing. Our primary task with this webpage is to educate, not to critique. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that radicalism is not exclusively conservative, as there are Left-Wing in addition to Right-Wing radicals. “Both tend to support (or oppose) civil liberties in a highly partisan and self-serving fashion, supporting freedom for themselves and for the groups and causes they favor while seeking to withhold it from enemies and advocates of causes they dislike” (McClosky Chong 1985). Therefore, while the viewpoints are unique to the Alt-Right, the extremism is not.

Both left and right-wing radicals criticize the mainstream for being loyal to the state and being too willing to compromise. Many infamous deviant subcultures like punk challenge the mainstream by critiquing power structures and institutions. This page shows that there are also deviant groups that wish to reinforce the existing power structures and feel that the direction mainstream society is taking towards inclusivity is threatening and harmful. The Alt-Right’s newly achieved spotlight makes understanding their perspective even more important, and to understand where they are today, it is important to first look at their history.

History

The Right-Wing subcultures are a broad grouping of people including many supporters and activists of conservative politics, nativists, nationalists, white supremacists, and other conservative hate groups. Today, one of the most prominent culminations of Right-Wing subcultures is the Alt-Right. The Alt-Right is a movement in America that is centered around White Nationalism, anti-Semitism, and Neo-Nazism. The rise of White Nationalism has grown in America since the Civil War and has most recently peaked following the election of Donald Trump and rise of popular sites of internet hate speech such as 4chan. However, Right-Wing subcultures have origins in fundamentalism and Protestant American Christians.

Bearded white man carries a large Confederate flag and raises four fingers

Right-wing ideals and movements often have Southern ties, with the flag of the Confederacy being associated with right-wing protests.

The origins of American Right-Wing culture can be found immediately after the Civil War. Northern and Southern Evangelicals disputed issues of faith and interpretations of the Bible, such as Darwinism versus Creationism. These issues boiled over in what is termed the fundamentalist/modernist split. This split involved a separation between Evangelicals who wanted to maintain orthodox Christian views, and others who viewed some practices and beliefs of the Bible to be antiquated (Stutton 2003). This divide of conservative views, in this case “right-sided views,” continued until right-minded Christians formed early schools of paleoconservatism.

Paleoconservatism is a conservative movement which focuses on restrictions of immigration, decentralization of the federal government, and a restoration of traditional gender roles and race identities. While the views of paleoconservatists were in line with Republican views for a long time, during the Bush administration they began to stray from mainstream Republican politics (Lozada 2017). Beginning to feel as if the Republicans were betraying the American White man and his place in American society, the Alt-Right formed and began to distance itself from mainstream conservatism. White males began to feel as if they were becoming the minority and the deviant group, while African American, Asian, and other previously minority racial group were now becoming the mainstream (Sommers 2011). By beginning to discriminate and continually ostracize these racial groups, white Americans hoped to reestablish their status as the mainstream, non-deviant force in America. Reflections of this marginalization of whites can be shown in lawsuits describing reverse racism (Fiorello 2018), a term which describes the advancement of African Americans as harmful to the status of white Americans.

As reflected by the name Alt-Right, this new form of conservative politics was not in line with traditional far-right views. Many of the views of this new Alt-Right align with Nazi, anti-Semitic, and racist ideologies, and thus the Alt-Right has been linked with these groups. Hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and Neo-Confederates have also been closely linked to Alt-Right activism (Ford 2017). The Alt Right originally gained popularity online through social media sites such as 4chan. Most recently, the rise in the Alt Right’s visibility and popularity can be attributed to the election of Donald Trump.

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump capitalized on the Alt-Right’s neo-conservative views (Ronson 2016). He emphasized policies such as a restriction on immigration and pro-life ideals, and even received the support of famous Neo-Nazi and White Nationalist leaders such as Richard Spencer during his campaign. With the Alt-Right’s semi-paleoconservative agenda now represented in the White House, members of the Alt Right have felt galvanized to openly express and rally around racist and white supremacist views. Consequently, Right-Wing subcultures, such as the Alt-Right, to gain greater prominence and representation in the mainstream media.

Contemporary scene

White Nationalist and leading Alt-Right figure Richard Spencer points to the crowd while addressing an audience during a speech.

Richard Spencer is regarded as a leading figure in the Alt-Right movement and is an active public presence within the scene.

The contemporary Alt-Right can be broadly defined as a reaction against the mainstream conservative movement. White Nationalist Richard Spencer is often credited with coining this term, and it refers to people who have renounced their affiliation with traditional conservatives because they believe traditional conservative politicians to be too timid, tame, and accepting of the status quo (CNN 2017). It is important to make the distinction between members of the Alt-Right and traditional conservatives. Unlike mainstream conservatives who are mostly concerned with issues such as moral traditionalism, economic liberty, and a strong national defense, members of the Alt-Right are largely driven by identity politics. That is, their political viewpoints are motivated by their identities as White Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPs) (Lozada 2017). Members of the Alt-Right have expressed concern that traditional Republicans have compromised too much with the Left and have failed to stand up on protecting “white interests.” Therefore members of the Alt-Right perceive that they are active within a resistance movement against the establishment, which is deviant from the mainstream push in America towards diversity and inclusiveness.

Political correctness, feminism, multiculturalism, the mainstream media, and immigration are some of their major points of frustration and contention held by the Alt-Right. More broadly, they target women, religious and cultural minorities, and anyone promoting notions of egalitarianism. In a time in which civil rights, feminist, and queer groups have been increasingly vocal in their challenges to White male privilege, members of the Alt-Right have fought back with a vengeance against anyone and anything that they feel poses a threat or challenge to their identities as White men in America (“What is the Alt-Right?” 2017). Acclaimed sociologist Michael Kimmel claims that this backlash can be attributed to a concept that he calls “aggrieved entitlement.” This concept posits that White men feel betrayed by a society that they believe has unfairly rejected them. Kimmel suggests that recent economic recessions have emasculated and humiliated these men. Furthermore, they refuse to accept that they grew up in a society in which their White male privilege handed them numerous advantages over the years. Refusal of their existing privilege leads them to perceive that minority groups in America are discriminating against them for their identity. Consequently, these men blame their recent troubles on the rise of feminist and civil rights movements who they believe have “stolen their American manhood” and threatened their standing in society (Rosin 2013). The Alt-Right has become a space where white men who feel powerless and disconnected from wider society to feel empowered through beliefs that have historically guaranteed them hegemonic power in society.

4chan website logo.

The webstie 4chan has an everpresent site for right wing extremism and forums on the internet.

Internet Presence

Finally, it is important to note that the Alt-Right has greatly benefited from the rise of the internet. Members take advantage of the anonymity provided by many online platforms to articulate their messages on a larger scale and further their agenda. While they may not make up a majority within the United States, they have succeeded in expanding their presence to create a perception that the movement is far larger than it actually is. Many pride themselves on their ability to attack and bully users across the political spectrum, which adds to the idea that the Alt-Right exists everywhere on the internet. While the internet is useful for spreading messages to wider audiences, some difficulties arise from their dependence on this outlet. Anonymity has led to a lack of long-term organization, a drifting support base, and no clear leadership within the Alt-Right (Barlett 2017).

White Nationalism

Three notable elements of the Alt-Right movement are White Nationalism, anti-Semitism, and the manosphere. We would define each of these beliefs as deviant to the mainstream, though there is important nuance that should be pointed out. The mainstream is made up of white male privilege. White men have held the reins of power long before the inception of America. So how could the promotion of whiteness and masculinity be deviant? Historically, it was not. However, the United States has seen a dramatic increase in recognition and critique of the hegemonic systems of power white men have benefited from. Today, groups like ANTIFA and the #MeToo movement directly challenge white men’s power in America. The ideals of the Alt-Right are deviant because they represent that which an increasing number of people work towards removing and shunning from American society. This adoption of deviance can be seen by Richard Spencer, a White Nationalist who is credited with being the preeminent figure in the Alt-Right movement. He opposes multiracial societies and instead supports the creation of a White ethno-state (Ford 2017). As the world has become increasingly globalized, multiculturalism and non-White immigration have become more significant in America. The Alt-Right views these trends as threat towards their hegemony in the United States: “White people are being suppressed and ‘must be allowed to take their own side’” (Lyons 2017). They believe that one of the greatest threats to America is the corruption of the country’s White European gene pool, and therefore view themselves as valiant defenders trying to save the country from destruction. With expanded access to participate in the American democracy, the country “gives power to the worst and shackles the fittest” (Lyons 2017). Promotion of “biocultural diversity” through respecting “differences” is a more moderate perspective that is also articulated by the Alt-Right regarding race. Biocultural diversity is the belief that biological differences exist between different races and cultures, and therefore rather than attempting to force equality, they should be celebrated for their differences.

Anti-Semitism

Nazi ideals in right wing subcultures.

Nazi symbols, such as the swastika, and ideals, such as anti-Semitism, are prevalent in Alt-Right demonstrations.

Tied closely with White Nationalism is anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism has been prevalent in conservatism around the world for over two thousand years, and therefore its presence in the Alt-Right is not surprising. The Alt-Right often blames Jews for various problems or issues that they find with the world. A historical rhetoric that continues to be prevalent is the view that Jews are puppeteers that manipulate geopolitics for their benefit. “Jews as a group have engaged in ‘2,000 years of non-stop treachery and backstabbing’ and are ‘remorseless enemies who seek the destruction of the people they hate, which is us’” (Lyons 2017). The Alt-Right associates Jews with many of their complaints with America and the world, including the decline of America’s democracy and the rise of feminism and women’s rights. The extent of Alt-Right hate goes as far as to call for a second Holocaust. However, other members believe that the Jews should be viewed as allies against non-whites, especially in the Middle East. Overall, Judaism is framed as another existential threat to Alt-Right members power in society.

The Manosphere

Finally, the “manosphere” refers to promotion of “men’s rights” in response to the feminist movement, which they see as being oppressive towards men. There is a large spectrum of views that the manosphere encompasses. On the baseline, traditional views of natural gender roles and the sanctity of family are at the core. Yet many push it further–“Alt rightists have embraced an intensely misogynistic ideology” (Lyons 2017)–arguing that women want and need men to rule over them. They connect the rise of women’s rights to the disintegration of social stability. At the extreme, women are seen to be central to the destruction of Western Civilization due to the Jews easily manipulating them. Various patriarchal subcultures, all online, which at one time were not connected to any Alt-Right movement, have also been infused into the group. Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) argue that the legal system and media unfairly discriminate against men. Pickup Artists (PUAs) teach men how to manipulate women into having sex with them. Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOWs) protest women’s dominance by avoiding relationships with them. All of these movements emphasize male victimhood, believing that men in the US are oppressed/disempowered by feminism or by women in general.

The Cost of Extremism

While the three ideologies expressed are in some way incorporated in the vast majority of Alt-Right groups, opinions on these issues are also large points of contention between groups and is at the core of Alt-Right authenticity. Fierce critique and criticism occurs on how non-Whites, Jews, non-men, and other groups should be viewed and treated. Some wish to “Make America Great Again” by restoring early 20th century structures of racial and gender segregation. Others push it much further, envisioning systems like ethnic patriarchal tribal states where the physically strongest men rule over others. This can be highlighted by various Alt-Right members’ views of President Trump. While mostly united at the time of his election, there now exists a variety of opinions on the Presidency due to him being too extreme or not extreme enough. Clearly the intensities of the ideas expressed by the Alt-Right stand as a fundamental barrier preventing cohesion.

Related Subcultures 

Ideas championed by the Alt-Right are clearly embedded within a few of the subcultures that are highlighted on this website. Notably, White, working-class men comprise a significant portion of both the Alt-Right and subcultures such as skinheads and heavy metal. This shared demographic leads to some demographically-derived values upheld by many members of these scenes. In particular, within the heavy metal subculture, masculinity, blue-collar sentiments, and whiteness are important values to many members (Weinstein 1992). Another subculture that shares significant ties to Alt-Right ideologies are racist skinheads. Much like the most extreme members of the Alt-Right, racist skinheads promote hateful messages about Jews, non-Whites, and the LGBTQ+ community (Racist Skinheads). However, although these subcultures may share a similar baseline demographic with the Alt-Right, it is important to note that right-wing ideologies do not define participation or membership within these subcultures. Of course, in any group or subculture there will be certain members who have more radical ideologies than others. Importantly, just because these groups may have members who are demographically similar to members of the Alt-Right does not mean that these groups inherently promote the values and beliefs espoused by the Alt-Right.

 

Important Scholars

Portrait of George Hawley.

George Hawley: George Hawley is a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston. His topics of interest include the conservative movement in America along with electoral behavior, political parties, and religion. He has numerous books published on specifically on the Alt-Right in addition to America’s white voters and Christian denominations. His most recent book, Making Sense of the Alt-Right, Hawley examines the history and prominent members of the Alt-Right movement, discusses the differences between the Alt-Right and other conservative factions, and describes the Alt-Right’s role in the US 2016 presidential election. (Website)

Photo of Dr. Pete Simi

Peter Simi: Peter Simi is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Chapman University. He has studied extremist groups and violence for over two decades and has spent a substantial amount of time in the field observing and interviewing members of violent gangs and political extremists. He is a member of the National Cortium in Studies of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense. He is well known for his award-winning book, American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate, which he co-wrote with Robert Futrell. (Website)

Significant Scholarship

McCloskey, Herbert and Dennis Chong. 1985. “Similarities and Differences Between Left-Wing willyt7and Right-Wing Radicals.” British Journal of Political Science15(3):329–63.

This article challenges the idea that authoritarianism and radicalism is only characteristic of the right-wing. Instead, it argues that both the left and the right demonstrate many similarities in the way that they spread their agenda and express their political beliefs. These scholars argue that while members of the far-right and the far-left may stand at complete opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to their ideologies and values, they are similar in that both groups are estranged from certain features of American society and they are both highly critical of prominent social institutions. 

Sutton, M. A. (2003). “Between the Refrigerator and the Wildfire”: Aimee Semple McPherson, Pentecostalism, and the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy. Church History, 72(01)

This article by Sutton describes early religious ties that right wing subcultures have; more specifically the divergence of conservative more modernist Christians.

Lyons, Matthew “Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The Origins and Ideology of the Alternative Right | Political Research Associates.” Retrieved November 27, 2018

Lyons book examines the history, beliefs, and behaviors of the Alt Right in the United States along with its relationship to the Trump campaign and administration. He succeeds in describing the nuanced differences between the various factions that hold some tie to the Alt-Right. Furthermore, he examines how the Alt-Right has capitalized on the influence of the internet to spread and communicate their ideals anonymously in a country that is becoming increasingly resistant to their extreme ideologies.

Ronson, John “The Elephant in the Room: A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the “Alt-Right”” Retrieved November 27, 2018

Ronson recalls his experiences following the Trump presidential campaign, even going to the republican national convention. The Trump campaign has been thought to give light and support many right wing subculture, including the Alt Right. This novel explains what occurred during the campaign in terms of people who ran it and what ideals went into the campaign.

Media

Youtube videos:

“What Is the Alt-Right?” The Washington Post. Retrieved November 27, 2018 

Gives brief history of the rise of the Alt-Right and outlines some of the major issues that the Alt-Right focuses their efforts on.

CNN. 2016. “What Is the Alt-Right Movement?” YouTube. Retrieved November 27, 2018

Broadly outlines the Alt-Right movement and tracks its origins to its present-day incarnation.

Vox. 2016. “Neo-Nazis explain why they like Donald Trump” Youtube. Retrieved November 27,  2018

Rebranding White Nationalism: Inside Richard Spencer’s Alt-Right

Documentaries:

Alt-Right: Age of Rage

Trailer:

Trumpland: Kill All Normies 

Trailer:

 

Books

Balmer, Randall.Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” Retrieved November 28, 2018. 

This book dives into the world of conservative Christians in the United States and provides insight into the contemporary evangelical movement.

Diamonds, Sarah.Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States” Retrieved from 28, 2018. 

This book traces the development of right-wing movements in the United States in the years following World War II and the start of the Cold War.

Simi, PeteAmerican Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate (Violence Prevention and Policy) Retrieved November 28, 2018. 

Through the use of interviews, ethnographic case studies, and historical research, this book paints a detailed portrait of White Supremacy movements across the United States.

Articles

Anon. 2012. “Racist Skinheads: Understanding the Threat.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved December 15, 2018.

Ashbee, E. (2000). Politics of Paleoconservatism. Culture & Society, 37(3), 75-84. DOI: 10.1007/BF02686179

Bartlett, Jamie. 2017. “From Hope to Hate: How the Early Internet Fed the Far Right.” The Guardian. Retrieved November 27, 2018. This article details the importance of the internet in the growth of the Alt-Right. More specifically, it explains how the Alt-Right has risen to prominence by using online spaces to spread their messages to a wider audience and further their agenda.

Brint, Steven and Seth Abrutyn. 2010. “Who’s Right About the Right? Comparing Competing Explanations of the Link Between White Evangelicals and Conservative Politics in the United States.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion49(2):328–50.

Brown, T. (2004). Subcultures, Pop Music and Politics: Skinheads and “Nazi Rock” in England and Germany. Journal of Social History, 38(1), 157-178. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790031

Fangen, K. (1998). Right-wing skinheads- Nostaligia and binary oppositions. YOUNG, 6(3), 33-49.

Fiorello, V. (2018). Fired PECO HR Exec Says the Company Discriminates Against White Men. Philadelphia. Retrieved December 7, 2018.

Ford, Matt. 2017. “The ‘Far Right’ in America: A Brief Taxonomy.” The Atlantic. Retrieved November 27, 2018. This article briefly defines and outlines some of the major hate groups that represent the most radical end of the far-right, such as White Nationalists, Nazis and Neo-Nazis, Neo-Confederates, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Alt-Right.

Herrman, John. 2017. “In the Land of Internet Subcultures, Try Not to Look Like a Tourist”. The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2018.

Lozada, Carlos. 2017. “Where the Alt-Right Wants to Take America – with or without Trump.” The Washington Post. Retrieved November 27, 2018. This comprehensive Washington Post article defines the Alt-Right and broadly outlines some of the major values of the Alt-Right.