The Alt-Right has embraced Donald Trump, and he has embraced them--most directly by hiring as CEO of his campaign Steve Bannon, the Breitbart chairman who boasts of having made that website “the platform for the Alt-Right." But what exactly is the Alt-Right, and how does it relate to conservatism?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Racism is not a fringe element of the Alt-Right; it’s the movement’s central premise. The Alt-Right comprises disparate ideological backgrounds, but at the heart of the movement lies white identity. Richard Spencer, publisher of AlternativeRight.com, describes the Alt-Right as essentially “trying to build a philosophy, an ideology around identity, European identity.” Jared Taylor, the editor of American Renaissance who recently co-hosted an Alt-Right press conference with Spencer and VDARE editor Peter Brimelow to describe the movement, explained, "The alt right accepts that race is a biological fact and that it’s a significant aspect of individual and group identity and that any attempt to create a society in which race can be made not to matter will fail."
On racists in the Alt-Right, the movement’s most prominent mainstream defender, Milo Yiannopoulos, insists, “There’s just not very many of them, no-one really likes them, and they’re unlikely to achieve anything significant in the alt-right.” Yet in that same article, he admits, “The alt-right’s intellectuals would also argue that culture is inseparable from race” and describes Taki’s Magazine, which published the racist screed “The Talk: Nonblack Version” on what white parents need to tell their children about why to avoid black people, as the start of “the media empire of the modern-day alternative right.” Virtually all of the thinkers Yiannopoulos names as leaders of the movement are white nationalists:
- Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute, former editor of Taki’s, and founder of Radix Journal/AlternativeRight.com
- Kevin MacDonald, who as editor of The Occidental Observer promises to “present original content touching on the themes of white identity, white interests, and the culture of the West”
- Sam Francis, the late syndicated columnist who famously called for a “white racial consciousness”
- Theodore Robert Beale, the white nationalist blogger better known by his pen name Vox Day, who counts as a central tenet of the Alt-Right that “we must secure the existence of white people and a future for white children,” which represents one half of the white nationalist, neo-Nazi numerical symbol 1488. (That phrase contains 14 words, while 8 refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, which doubled represents “Heil Hitler.”)
- Paul Ramsey, a white nationalist who produced a video titled “Is it wrong not to feel sad about the Holocaust?” and who seeks to revise historical accounts of the Holocaust, asking, “Do you mean that six million figure? You know that six million figure has been used many times before World War II, did you know that?”
2. It’s also explicitly anti-Semitic. Paul Ramsey may not feel bad about the Holocaust, but some of the Alt-Right’s most prominent podcasts mock it in their very names, Fash The Nation and The Daily Shoah. Alt-Right hub The Right Stuff, which hosts the aforementioned podcasts, created a meme whereby Jews would be identified by placing parentheses around their names, as in (((Albert Einstein))) or (((Dennis Prager))). The Right Stuff explains the origin of the “echo” demarcation as highlighting that “all Jewish surnames echo throughout history. The echoes repeat the sad tale as they communicate the emotional lessons of our great white sins, imploring us to Never Forget the 6 GoRillion [sic].” An anonymous Alt-Right developer even uploaded a Google Chrome extension called “The Coincidence Detector” to automatically insert the parentheses around Jewish-sounding names and thereby highlight the “coincidence” that so many Jews occupy positions among the global elite, which illustrates another aspect of the movement...
3. The Alt-Right is tech savvy, with roots in Silicon Valley. It comes as no surprise that a primarily online movement would comprise tech-savvy supporters active on Twitter, 4chan, Reddit, and through endlessly permuting memes. But the Alt-Right’s techie roots run deeper, as outlined in an anonymous and formidable, albeit left-wing, history of the movement’s connection to Silicon Valley that appeared online in May called “The Silicon Ideology.”
Curtis Yarvin, a computer scientist and entrepreneur whose technology work has been funded by Peter Thiel, is credited as the godfather of the Alt-Right for founding the neo-fascist philosophy that undergirds the movement under the pen name Mencius Moldbug. Before Thiel declared, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” Yarvin’s political philosophy, known as neoreaction or the Dark Enlightenment and outlined on his blog Unqualified Reservations, rejected the Enlightenment, democracy, and egalitarianism, while touting the underappreciated importance of “human biodiversity,” a euphemism for race.
Yarvin’s fellow Silicon Valley neo-reactionaries, most notably the futurist Michael Anissimov, have applied his ideas more technologically, into the realm of transhumanism, the historical origins of which lie in the Nazi conception of ubermesch and eugenics. But the Alt-Right’s connection to neoreaction begins with the incipient theme of Yarvin’s philosophy, an image out of The Matrix: the red pill of reality versus the blue pill of delusion. On that point…
4. The Alt-Right loves The Matrix. Alt-Right thinkers write incessantly about the red pill and the blue pill--and also the black pill. Lots of pills. Red means reality, a rather dark place according to the Alt-Right; blue means delusion; and the black pill means “pure egoism, nihilism, and destruction...that leads to suicide, death, and decontextualized violence,” according to AlternativeRight.com. Such Nietzschean themes pervade Alt-Right writing, and Alternative Right typifies the movement’s thinkers (as well as the Nazis) when it refers to the philosopher as “one of the great visionaries,” which brings us to the movement’s tenuous relationship with Christianity.
5. The Alt-Right loves Christendom but rejects Christianity. The Alt-Right admires Christendom primarily for uniting the continent and forging white European identity. As such it also reveres European paganism, much like the Nazis did, and its synthesis within certain aspects of Christianity. But when it comes to faith, many Alt-Right thinkers describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, and lapsed Christians. AlternativeRight.com published a feature on the movement and paganism in which Alt-Right writer Stephen McNallen explains, “I am a pagan because it is the only way I can be true to who, and what, I am. I am a pagan because the best things in our civilization come from pre-Christian Europe.” He goes on to describe his aversion to Christianity because it “lacks any roots in blood or soil” and consequently can “claim the allegiance of all the human race.”
Dark imagery runs rampant, from Yarvin’s philosophy to Vox Day’s preferred title “supreme dark lord.” All reject Christian egalitarianism and universalism. Ironically one of the few Alt-Right thinkers to proclaim his Christian faith, Vox Day, explicitly rejects spiritual equality among the races as a central tenet of Alt-Right philosophy, explaining, “Human equality does not exist in any observable scientific, legal, material, intellectual, sexual, or spiritual form.” [Italics added] But despite rejecting the substance of Christianity, the movement has spawned its own satirical religion around the meme culture that has come to typify the Alt-Right online.
6. Kek, cucks, and meme-magic. The Church of Kek is a satirical religion that worships the ancient, androgynous Egyptian deity Kek: god of chaos, darkness, and “meme-magic,” which is a “metapolitical prayer and will to power,” according to one Alt-Right blogger, represented by Pepe the Frog, an Internet meme originating in Matt Furie’s web comic Boy’s Club. Confused? It actually makes more sense than you might think. Kek really is an ancient Egyptian deity of darkness represented as a frog-headed man, Alt-Right members are tech-savvy and active primarily on the Internet, and “kek” translates to “lol” in comment boards of the multiplayer videogame World of Warcraft, while Pepe the Frog epitomizes online meme humor.
Even Donald Trump has embraced this meme, retweeting an image of himself as Pepe.
If you’re still confused, you’ve inadvertently arrived at a common Alt-Right boast: the movement’s supporters often describe "playing 4-D chess" while traditional political activists play checkers, and they have a point. Cartoon frog meme gods are undeniably an esoteric way of effecting political change, as The Right Stuff describes in its blog post, “Esoteric Kekism Is A Religion Of Peace.” Even when slandering their political opponents, Alt-Righters don’t play by the rules. They replace traditional allegations of racism, sexist, this-ism, and that-ism by simply calling their opponents “cuckservatives” or “cucks.”
“Cuckold” is an ancient term for the husband of an adulteress, though in more recent times it can refer specifically to a genre of pornography in which typically a white man watches his wife have sex with a black man. There is disagreement among Alt-Right leaders over the racial connotations of “cuckservative.” Richard Spencer defines it in explicitly racist terms as “a white gentile conservative (or libertarian) who thinks he’s promoting his own interests but really isn’t,” whereas Vox Day insists the word has no racial connotation and merely means “coward.” But enough about cucks. Premises, leaders, tactics, and language aside, what is the Alt-Right’s political aim?
7. The Alt-Right wants to burn American politics to the ground. The Alt-Right most immediately opposes conservatism, as Youth for Western Civilization founder Kevin Deanna explained in his Taki’s Magazine and AlternativeRight.com piece titled “The Impossibility of Conservatism.” The Alt-Right contains a who’s-who of right-wing voices that have been “purged” from the conservative movement by William F. Buckley and National Review, like Peter Brimelow and John Derbyshire, and Alt-Right leaders like Vox Day described the movement in an interview as “the heirs to those like the John Birch Society who were read out of the conservative movement.” Steve Bannon, who refashioned the website of conservative icon Andrew Breitbart into “the platform for the Alt-Right,” has encouraged activists to “turn on the hate” and “burn this bitch down.” But while conservatism is its most immediate target, the Alt-Right seeks to destroy a far older, more central American idea referenced frequently by Ronald Reagan and dating back beyond Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy In America to John Winthrop’s “City On A Hill” sermon: America as a proposition nation.
The Alt-Right rejects American exceptionalism--the notion that America’s unique founding on a idea rather than a people gives it a special character and role in the world. In their place, the movement favors a white nationalism that sees America as a blood and soil country like every other nation. Alt-Right outlets including Vox Day (“American is not an idea”), The Right Stuff (“Ideas didn’t build America”), American Renaissance (“An artificial shell…a ‘creedal nation’”), and VDARE (“the ‘proposition nation’ myth”), to name just a few, have written at length against American exceptionalism.
So how is it possible that mainstream political voices are joining the Alt-Right’s ranks? It turns out, they’re not.
8. Even the Alt-Right’s most prominent media cheerleader doesn’t actually count himself a member. Yiannopolous himself offers the ultimate rebuttal of his Alt-Right apologetics by his refusal to identify with the movement, claiming instead in a recent Bloomberg profile that he doesn’t “care about politics” in order to evade the question--a cowardly response from the man most responsible for mainstreaming these previously fringe ideas. But whether Yiannopoulos is a valueless performance artist or playing 4-D chess, Pepe comes at a price, and the cost of the ideas he touts would be the legacy of Reagan, Lincoln, and Jefferson in exchange for the flip-side of the leftist identity politics that conservatives have so long decried.
The Alternative Right asks conservatives to trade God for racial identity, liberty for strongman statism, and the unique American idea that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” for a cartoon Nazi frog.