Random Ephemera

5 Myths About the Alt-Right

You have to know what you're fighting
You have to know what you're fighting Photo by Bart Everson via Flickr
Donald Trump has been referred to as our first alt-right president thanks in large part of the way people like Steve Bannon factored into his rise to the Oval Office. Yet, the term remains nebulous and poorly-defined. That’s on purpose. A lot of alt-right figures keep themselves just barely acceptable to the general public by wholly or partially denying any membership to the alt-right even when vast swaths of their supports happily identify with the movement.

There are many myths that surround the alt-right. Today, we’re going to look at some of them.

5. The Alt-Right Are Nazis

“Why don’t you just call the alt-right racists or Nazis? That’s what they are! You’re helping them by using their preferred euphemism!”

To paraphrase Ian Danskin’s Alt Right Playbook, they are Nazis, but they aren’t JUST Nazis. The alt-right is a loose collection of many different spheres that overlap but don’t necessarily intersect with one another. Sure, the neo-Nazis at Stormfront are part of it, but so are the Men’s Rights crowd, 4chan trolls, rape apologists, a big chunk of the atheist YouTube community as well as – ironically - a ton of fringe Christian groups, transphobes, gun nuts, conspiracy theorists and more.

That’s not to say that white supremacy isn’t amply-apparent in a lot of these other groups because it is, but it may not always be the driving force. When members of the manosphere want to claim they aren't alt-right, they point to their focus on opposing feminism to distance themselves from the people more interested in a building a white ethnostate or enforcing gender binary absolutism. Each subset uses the other as a shield, and as long as they have literal Nazis on the team they can escape comparison by screeching how they aren't like those Stormfront fellows no matter how much they actually are in practice.

This is why Nazi isn’t a better term than alt-right. They are more than that, and focusing just on the Nazi aspects will allow a lot of other types of awful to slip under the radar.

4. The Alt-Right Cares About Free Speech

Poke any alt-right person long enough and he will eventually defend what he says by calling attention to his right to say it. The more ambitious ones will build whole YouTube empires based on how they merely fighting to prevent the compelled speech of the left as if there’s literally a government anywhere on Earth locking people up for misgendering trans people or forcing television shows to cast more women and minorities.

The truth is, no one in the alt-right cares the slightest about free speech. I mentioned Ian Danskin. Every time he makes a video it gets mass-reported by alt-righters as hate speech and pulled down at least once. Anita Sarkeesian used to get the same treatment. The primary response of the alt-right is to attempt to silence criticism before it can reach an audience.

White supremacist and creator of the term alt-right Richard Spencer – whose face is the internet’s favorite storage space for fists – is quite openly anti-free speech as long as he can be in charge of what can be said. That’s not even counting the harassment campaigns plotted on deep web boards meant to drive progressives and feminists into silence or hiding. The alt-right loves to point to student protests against people like Milo Yiannopoulos as proof the left is pro-censorship, but backed by FOX News the alt-right happily does the same thing.

In every opportunity where the alt-right as a whole could defend the free speech of their detractors they drop the issue immediately. It is and always was a smoke-screen to escape criticism.

3. It’s All Just Trolling

The alt-right killed the concept of trolling resurrected it through perverted science and blood magic and the promptly beat it to death with a shovel for the lulz.

As Maxwell Yezpitelok over at Cracked explains, classical trolling is a lost art form dedicated to harmless annoyance. It was for driving forum mods nuts. It was wacky. It didn’t have an agenda.

That in no way resembles what the alt-right does now from Trump’s Twitter account down to Rando Mansir’s burner profile on Facebook. All of this is part of a loosely-affiliated network designed to oppose progressivism. The Russian operation that targeted the 2016 election? It also hopped into the online war against Star Wars: The Last Jedi that was obsessing the toxic anti-social justice wing of the alt-right. These campaigns are not jokes. They are weaponized mobs meant to quell very specific movements towards acceptance and diversity. Just because someone ends every sentence with LOL does not actually mean he is joking. When your racist memes make their way into the hands of actual police officers, trolling is no longer a viable excuse.

2. They Aren’t Easily Triggered

The alt-right likes to cast their delusion with themselves as the tough, stoic survivors and the left as easily triggered snowflakes who simply can’t handle reality. The true polarity is completely reversed.

We're talking about a segment of the population that lost their minds over a Gillette ad encouraging men to seek masculine expression in less toxic ways. They managed to not only blame the ad on "cucks" and "soy boys" but also, somehow, the Jews. The alt-right are the ones who raised a ruckus about the new Wolfenstein – a game that has literally always been about killing Nazis – having the hero kill Nazis because they felt like it was an attack on themselves. Visit any men’s rights forum and you’ll find dozens of posts by triggered manospheroids about innocuous subjects like women wearing make-up or even how Bird Box is an attack on white men

The fact is, both sides get upset about things that offend them. It’s just that the things that offend the alt-right are ridiculous. If the alt-right were actually able to withstand content they don’t like, then Facebook wouldn’t be up to its neck enforcing bans for people saying “men are trash." Like most bullies, they have a glass jaw. Meanwhile, all their targets have endured lifetimes of actual institutional oppression, and they keep on fighting anyway. The alt-right thinks they know what hard is because someone used the phrase “toxic masculinity” near them once.

1. They Are a Huge Group

It’s easy to think that the 63 million people who voted for Trump reflect a massive movement towards the alt-right. Certainly a ton of alt-right personalities took a victory lap before most of them were cast aside as losers by the event they helped create.

But, the alt-right isn’t big. It’s just loud. The most comprehensive study done on the subject pegs alt-right beliefs to be held by about 11 million Americans, about 3 percent of the population. Even those who hold those beliefs aren’t necessarily active. The second Unite the Right rally only had about two dozen participants. Gab - the “free speech” alternative to Twitter where all the people who get banned from the platform for violating the terms of service go – only has 850,000 users compared to Twitter’s hundreds of millions. Many alt-right celebrities are finding it impossible to build an audience there, mostly because they define themselves by annoying the left rather than creating anything of note.

That’s not to say they are irrelevant. Remember that alt-right spaces like incel forums have helped birth at least two spree shooters and one dude willing to take a gun to investigate the ridiculous Pizzagate conspiracy theory. However, if this loose confederation of deplorables has anything in common it’s that they like to make themselves look more important than they are. Their danger has been how they can use a dedicated few to make horrible things look widely popular.

It’s all a lie, though. ‘Cause the alt-right is usually lying. In that sense, too, Donald Trump is their president.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner