What does the term “alt-right” really mean?
That’s the question I’ve asked in several forums over the last few months, since I started noticing the name “alt-right” popping up in mainstream news articles and social media conversations regularly.
All of a sudden, everybody seems to be using the term. And I say “all of a sudden” because I’ve been following what would probably be considered Alt-Right blogs since long, long before this election season.
Seriously, I was introduced to a right-wing corner of the internet nicknamed “The Manosphere” at least five years ago–which is an eternity in Internet time.
I’ve watched in amusement, as small cultural battles took place in the comment sections of various blogs, between aggressive “misogynists” and whiny “feminazis.” (Depending on whose team you’re on.) So, I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to draw lines between “good guys” and “bad guys” with just a single word.
Cultures are hard to define; particularly online.
And, even after reading hundreds of thousands of words flying between Fourth-Wave Feminists and Reactionary Male Rights Activists, the only thing I can say for sure is: it’s complicated…
So, the first thing I wanted to do when I heard people throwing around the term “alt-right” was to figure out what they mean by that term–and precisely WHO, they believe, fits the bill?
As I expected, I got a lot of conflicting opinions, when people attempted to answer at all.
One woman told me that Steve Bannon invented the term by establishing Breitbart News as “the platform of the alt-right.” (But, though it turns out that Bannon did call his news website the platform of the alt-right, he was NOT the first to coin the word.)
Another friend of mine shared the AP Stylebook’s definition, which says (among other things) “the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience…”
Okay, but what ARE those “actual beliefs?”
Finally, I read a New York Times article today, which I thought was nuanced and fair…
At least, it didn’t say “THE ALT-RIGHT SKINHEADS ARE A BUNCH OF RACIST EXTREMISTS AND ANYONE WHO READS THEIR COMMENTS IS A RACIST, TOO!”
So, that was encouraging.
I highly recommend the read for any other wannabe cultural-analysts.
“The alt-right is not a large movement, but the prominence that it is enjoying in the early days of the Trump era may tell us something about the way the culture is changing… since the election of a black President in 2008, America’s shifting identity…has given rise to many questions about who we are as a nation.
But one kind of answer was off the table: the suggestion that America’s current multiculturalism might, in any way, be a comedown from its past had become taboo.”
Having the freedom to ask question and search for truth, especially when you’re told you can’t….
I have to admit, I can understand that drive!
“The Southern Poverty Law Center’s webpage on [the alt-right] movement traces some of its roots to Libertarian followers of Ron Paul and traditionalist Christians. Neither were in attendance at the National Policy Conference [where men ‘hailed’ Trump].
The alt-right adjective has been attached in the past to those…whose Conservatism is mainstream, even if their tactics are not.”
Once again, I can relate totally with that last description: conservative beliefs, but with unconventional techniques.
“Mr. Tait, who hopes to start an alt-right movement in England, said: ‘What you’re seeing now is young people who…don’t remember what it was like before the war, or in the 1960’s or even in the 1980’s. Their motivation isn’t a sense of “loss.”‘ That is what is ‘alt’ about the alt-right. These people are not nostalgic. They may not even be conservatives. For them, multiculturalism is not an affront to traditional notions of society, as it would have been in the Reagan Era.
[Multiculturalism] is society.”
Hmmm…. Interesting perspective.
Just one more quote:
“In [Carol Swain’s] 2002 book, The New White Nationalism in America, she noted that young people were quick to identify double-standards… “I knew that identity would come next,” she recalled. “It had to come. All [the white kids] had to do was copy what they were hearing. The multiculturalism arguments you hear on every campus–those work for whites, too.”
It totally makes sense to me.
I’m not saying I agree with race/identity-politics.
Actually, let me spell it out: I DISAGREE with categorizing people by color, and pitting them against each other. I’m one of those white, traditional-Conservative women who says stuff like “I’m colorblind” and “we’re all one race.”
But, if you disagree with that–if you believe that Black Nationalism is beautiful and empowering, but White Nationalism is evil at its core–I’d love to hear your reasoning there.
Either the racial identity politics of the alt-right movement are understandable and their questions deserve examination…OR it’s the exact same type of racism being encouraged in black communities by liberals.
Americans of all stripes are beginning to recognize the double-standard which allows racism for THEE, but not for WE.
Eventually, something is going to give!