Donald Trump is a hero to them, called the “God Emperor” by some and “The Nimbleness” by others. And almost all of those known as the Alt Right believe the president-elect is their creation.
That’s short for the Alternative Right, which may simply be taken to stand for conservatives more right than establishment conservatives, but they’ve also been called a group of homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant white nationalists and supremacists in America and Europe.
And Trump’s newly appointed chief strategist Steven Bannon – who has admitted to giving them a platform at Breitbart News, an online news publication he headed before going to work at Trump Tower – is the reason everyone is talking about them.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks discrimination and hate crimes in the US, describes the Alt Right as a “set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization”.
“Characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes, Alt-Righters eschew ‘establishment’ conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value,” the center says.
The term Alternative Right was coined in 2008 by Richard Bertrand Spencer, who heads the white nationalist think tank National Policy Institute. He has called Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights movement leader, a “fraud and degenerate” and described the battle against immigration as “the last stand” for white Americans.
Spencer started the AlternativeRight blog in 2010, in which he fine-tuned the movement’s ideology. This has been defined, in a summary by the SPLC, “as a big-tent ideology that blends the ideas of neo-reactionaries (NRx-ers), who advocate a return to an antiquated, pseudo-libertarian government that supports ‘traditional western civilization’; ‘archeo-futurists,’ those who advocate for a return to ‘traditional values’ without jettisoning the advances of society and technology; human biodiversity adherents (HBDers) and ‘race realists’, people who generally adhere to ‘scientific racism’; and other extreme-right ideologies”.
A sympathetic piece in Breitbart News earlier this year sought to portray a more sanitised version, calling it “a movement born out of the youthful, subversive, underground edges of the internet”. And it attributed the negativity surrounding the movement to its “addiction to provocation”.
It said the movement did not comprise anti-Semites and white supremacists as portrayed by its critics, on both the left and the right. And they are not like “old-school racist skinheads”.
“Skinheads, by and large, are low-information, low-IQ thugs driven by the thrill of violence and tribal hatred,” the article argued. “The alternative right are a much smarter group of people – which perhaps suggests why the Left hates them so much. They’re dangerously bright.”