WHO ARE THE ALT-RIGHT, AND WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE?

The alt-right is a movement that is difficult to distinguish, as the ever-expanding nature of the Internet means that online movements move quickly and without regard for those who try to document them.

What we know is that the phrase "alternative right" was created by white supremacist Richard Spencer in 2010. For Spencer, this was a phrase that summarized an "alternative" approach to politics, in contrast to the Republican's pre-Trump approach of leaving explicit white supremacist ideals off the table. Spencer sought to advocate for the "forgotten" white man, whose primary status in society was seen as being eroded by the gains that equality movements had gotten for women and people of color.

Over the course of the past decade, the alt-right movement has taken a variety of meanings, but its primary focus has always been on enforcing white nationalist beliefs. 

Alt-right is an umbrella term that captures within it a variety of sensibilities, attitudes, and belief systems. As other groups rise up and crop off of the alt-right movement, the identity of the white nationalist movement has become increasingly muddled and incoherent. The Proud Boys, an "ironic" "anti-political correctness" organization started by Gavin McInnes in 2016, claims to have been opposed to the "racist alt-right" since its inception, and yet it shares much of the same values (and some of the same membership). Online conspiracy groups who believe in Q-Anon and other theories also have members who claim to hate the alt-right, and yet their actions are eerily similar to those perpetrated by members of the alt-right.

The basic beliefs that appear to be shared by most members of the alt-right appear to be these, based on analysis of alt-right Twitter sentiment:

  • Opposition to immigration (coupled with opposition to Muslims and Muslim immigrants)

  • Embrace of conspiracy theories

  • Support for Donald Trump

The ideology of the alt-right is varied, but the language they use is often rooted in the white supremacist language from nearly 100 years ago; neo-Nazis and those who have anti-Semitic beliefs make up a sizeable, vocal portion of this group. At Charlottesville, many of those present at the "Tiki Torch Rally" shouted phrases that date back to Hitler's speeches and rallies. Anti-Black sentiment is also quite prevalent, with some members of the alt-right reacting angrily to the Black Lives Matter movement, believing that the movement devalues whiteness and white people. Popular hashtags in alt-right spheres of the internet include #itsokaytobewhite and #whitelivesmatter. The alt-right is a movement that is largely reactionary, acting and speaking out whenever equality movements become large. It is noteable that in Charlottesville, white nationalists were incensed by the city's desire to remove a Confederate monument. To members of the alt-right, this desire to replace monuments which uphold white supremacy is a direct attack.

 
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