The media finally became aware of the alt.right thanks to a certain orange presidential candidate this election cycle, but they still struggle to even begin to grasp what this movement means, or where it came from. They often take stabs at it by basically treating it the same as the old Klan or Skinheads, which makes as much sense as treating today’s social-justice warriors the same as ’60s hippies. Or they obsessively latch onto Pepe, thinking there is something more to this character than being a meme that future alt.righters happened to circulate a lot while they were teenagers or young adults in the ’00s. There is nothing specifically racist about Pepe any more than there is with anime — a non-white artform, I remind you — which also remains huge with alt.righters, and for the same reason. If Sonic the Hedgehog for some bizarre reason had been a favored meme in 4chan circa 2006, then Sonic would be an alt.right figurehead today.
Having logged plenty of hours on various forums in the ’00s myself, it was never a real mystery to me where true alt.righters, defined roughly today as internet-focused white supremacists under 30, came from. It was all an evolution, from malicious trolling combined with problems finding girlfriends when younger, evolving into general resentment of the liberal order, or what they call “cultural Marxism,” to eventually settling into more familiar patterns of white supremacy. Yes, they arrived in the same general political place as your average Klansman 30 years ago — but from radically different approaches.
I interacted with these guys all the time. Many were motivated with a seething hatred of women for their inability to get laid — by far, the #1 reason they eventually got mixed up in the alt.right. (Twitter, one of the favored platforms of the alt.right, demonstrates that misogyny far outstrips racism or other forms of abuse.) Some were crazy conspiracy theorists who weren’t really hateful towards women or Jews, at first, but who let their generalized hatred of The Powers That Be lead them in that direction. A few were Europeans (and, rarely, Americans, such as the guy I link to below) who really did start off as rabid anti-Semites, and who therefore had the least distance to travel to land in Trumpville.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. Here is Daily Stormer proprietor, rabid anti-Semite and leading alt.right figure Andrew Anglin: (don’t worry, the link is to the Google cache version, not his actual site)
This banner design is no accident. Anglin knows how to market to his target audience.
“The short story is that… the people that [the term alt.right] is being used to refer to by the media – Trump-supporting White racial advocates who engage in trolling an other activism on the internet – are the core of the movement… The Alt-Right is an online mob of disinfranchised and mostly anonymous, mostly young White men… The mob is the movement.” (italics his)
[update Nov. 2017: Here’s The Atlantic’s dossier on Andrew Anglin to bolster my opinion that the alt.right sprang from ’00s internet forums: Anglin was by then spending a lot of time on 4chan, a website that lets users post images and comments anonymously, and that has drawn droves of socially isolated young people thumbing their noses at political correctness. The channers started memes and organized pranks that would later evolve into troll campaigns such as Gamergate, which targeted women in the gaming community with death threats and other abuse. On one board in particular, users vied to see who could make the most-racist comments, ostensibly as a joke. Over time, the humor receded and the racism stuck. “4chan was more influential on me than anything,” Anglin told me over email last year before he cut off communication.]
Anglin continued: “It was a situation of different online subcultures (some of which were influenced by older offline movements) coming together. These groups collided, based on their having reached common conclusions, and the result is what is now called the Alt-Right.”
He is talking about diffuse movements, all being largely motivated by malice — the trolls of 4chan/8chan/9gag/other forums; the woman-haters of the PUA/MRA/#GamerGate world; the obsessive conspiracy theorists; and, to some extent, the angrier Ron Paul fans — coming together to form a single confederacy of thought. One full of lulz and kekz and memes, to be sure, but which is really not far removed from the old Klan. Even so, one must keep in mind that while they may be allied with old-school Klanners and older pseudo-intellectual racists such as Jared Taylor and John Derbyshire, they are not the same thing as them. It’s a whole new generation.
One thing that never remains wholly explained, however, is this continued obsession with Jews. I can certainly understand their rage at the Establishment, one that is not entirely without foundation. I unfortunately can kind of understand the misogyny — it’s easy to blame women for an inability to get laid as opposed to oneself. I may not have had this exact issue (he humblebragged, stretching leisurely in his chair) but I have been guilty of resenting the opposite gender after a bad breakup, and especially after my four-year abusive relationship. Many straight women, needless to say, can relate.
But where do Jews fit into any of this? At all? I just don’t get it. I mean, for the conspiracy-theorists, there’s some crazy quasi-logic to it — they love searching for a Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory, and the one about the Jewish New World Order is far more ancient and more established than any of the modern fairy tales about the Illuminati or what have you. But what about everyone else? How does trolling for the lulz or raging against women lead you to hating Jews? Especially since Jews on social media are pretty much the opposite of unified, with conservatives such as Ben Shapiro and Jonah Goldberg holding nothing but vitriolic (and quite public) hatred of liberal Jews such as Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias, and vice versa? Seriously, if they’re trying to run a global conspiracy, they are really sucking at their jobs!
So yes, while I have interacted with quite a few future alt.righters on forums in the ’00s, and have read treatises like the one above from Anglin, I still can’t entirely understand the nature of hate. No matter how much I read about these guys, or the Third Reich, or ISIS, I just can’t wrap my mind around it — where the both complete and voluntary surrender to evil comes from. Anglin knows he’s a bad person and has a “necessary evil” mentality about it. PUA alt.righters such as Heartiste know they are evil and brag about it. Milo quite plainly brands himself to anyone who listens as a real-life Joker, doing what he does in what he sees as malicious humor. And, like most movements filled with horrible people, the infighting between each other can boil over. This is perhaps the greatest advantage that civilization has over barbarity — the need for the latter to betray each other, like mobsters snitching to the FBI to settle scores.
A few alt.righters still try to rationalize. Vox Day, while self-styling himself as a “dark lord” and who calls his followers his “vile minions” — no joke — tries to couch his evil in Christian theology.
Still, Vox Day and his ilk are in the minority. Most are evil and they are proud. That’s the part I don’t get, and to be honest, I would be ok if I never get — this true nature of evil.