Over the last year and a half, self-identified members of the “alt-right” have been among Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders, apologists, and advocates. The group, a coagulation of online communities, now exists — like its “God Emperor,” in a state of transition. What was an uprising has become, well, politics, which means that the alt-right can no longer exist within safe spaces online, or be ignored by the mainstream press. The amalgam of activists and trash talkers who eschew traditional conservatism in favor of an ethno-nationalist ideology, is overdue not only for inspection, but also for a new name. They are, after all, no longer an alternative to the American right. They are an integral part of it.
The alt-right has traditionally been most active on Twitter and in the /pol/ section of 4chan. Its members often employ memes, like Pepe the Frog to advocate for their cause. Right wing mouthpieces like Breitbart publish media in line with the alt-right’s narrative. But as alt-righters have stepped into the real political arena, there is concern that the name they’ve been given makes them sound like an ideological splinter cell, like the Tea Party. They are not that. They are, as it turns out, far more radical than that.
Because use of the term “alt-right” could be normalizing, an effort is underway to rebrand the movement against its well and in the service of accuracy. Here are the names that can be employed until a consensus is reached.
Since we’ve already mentioned the alt-right’s presence on 4chan, this seems like as good a place as any to start. To be more specific, the alt-right occupies the Politically Incorrect, or /pol/, message board on the website. It functions as a meeting place and a means of sharing their latest racist or sexist memes.
That’s Donald Trump Jr.’s Instagram, in case you didn’t notice. Because so much of the alt-right is centralized in /pol/, it stands to reason that many of its members are reluctant to take their “activism” into the real world. 4chan Scum feels more than appropriate for those people.
Another symptom of the alt-right’s propensity to congregate online is the fact that it’s often difficult to determine how much of what they’re posting is meant to be taken seriously. While it’s important to never simply write-off the kinds of rhetoric used by the alt-right, as Twitter itself knows, it’s unclear if some posters aren’t just getting into bed with the alt-right in order to provoke a reaction from others who see their posts. People who engage in that behavior are no more than common trolls, although these trolls are playing with fire in associating with and spreading the messages of the alt-right. And, just because they’re trolls, that doesn’t mean their words can’t do real harm.
Because so much of their rhetoric revolves around preserving white identity in America, the alt-right is practically begging for this label. Current policies on immigration, political correctness, and civil rights threaten the alt-right’s view, to undermine the “white republic” that the United States’ founding fathers initially envisioned. On Twitter, groups of people proudly claim this distinction is growing faster than ISIS.
Let’s be real, this one is the most accurate. It’s also the most evocative. The alt-right narrative is racially/religiously tinged and violent enough to warrant this moniker, even if there are people complaining about a false association.
At some point, it ceases to be a stretch and just becomes similar.
This was a term frequently applied to Donald Trump during the course of his campaign. He earned it with his tendencies to advocate for violence against protesters and reporters at his rallies, and with his insinuation that he might prosecute and imprison his political opponent once the election has ended. If the term is questionably applicable to Trump himself, it is certainly applicable to those in the alt-right who support him. Their own political goals in the realm of attacking the freedom of the press bear one of the historic hallmarks of fascism.
So next time the alt-right comes up in conversation, or a post about them appears on social media, these are the terms to think about, remember, and propagate. The first step towards solving a problem, after all, is identifying it.
Photos via Flickr / outtacontext