“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Donald Trump’s new campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, told Mother Jones‘ David Corn (8/22/16)—”we” meaning Breitbart News, the online news outlet that Bannon headed until he was picked to run the turbulent Trump campaign.
And the “alt-right”? Well, Breitbart (3/29/16) tried to explain what that is in a 5,000-word piece last spring, written by Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos—perhaps best-known for being banned from Twitter for harassing actress Leslie Jones—and Allum Bokhari, who describes himself as the “resident kebab at Breitbart Tech” and “Milo’s deputy.”
Not that Bokhari and Yiannopoulos find it easy to explain the “alternative right.” When it comes time to sum it up in a nutshell, this is the best they can offer:
Young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies, they have become public enemy No. 1 to Beltway conservatives…. The alt-right has a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.
They can tell you what it’s not, though—racist! Despite the fact that everyone seems to think it is:
Some — mostly Establishment types — insist it’s little more than a vehicle for the worst dregs of human society: antisemites, white supremacists and other members of the Stormfront set. They’re wrong…. Lefties dismiss it as racist, while the conservative press, always desperate to avoid charges of bigotry from the Left, has thrown these young readers and voters to the wolves as well.
Rather than giving one definition of the alt-right, the Breitbart article chooses to describe it piece by piece. Let’s put the pieces together and see what kind of picture it makes.
“The Intellectuals”: These, according to Breitbart, are what separates the alt-right “above all else” from “from old-school racist skinheads (to whom they are often idiotically compared)”: They “are a much smarter group of people…. They’re dangerously bright.”
First noted among these geniuses is Richard Spencer, whose AlternativeRight.com website is described as hosting “an eclectic mix of renegades who objected to the established political consensus in some form or another.” The hategroup-tracking Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as “one of the country’s most successful young white nationalist leaders,” who’s prone to saying things like, “Our dream is a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.” He rejects the word “racist” because it’s “pejorative,” but “the notion that these people can be equal is not a scientific way of looking at it.”
Other alt-right thought leaders cited by Breitbart include “Steve Sailer’s blog, VDARE and American Renaissance.” “All of these websites have been accused of racism,” the article notes—which makes sense, because they’re all dedicated to promoting the pseudo-science of racial superiority (Extra!, 3–4/05).
Sailer, the piece notes, “helped spark the ‘human biodiversity’ movement, a group of bloggers and researchers who strode eagerly into the minefield of scientific race differences.” An example of this minefield-striding would be Sailer’s assertion that African-Americans “tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.”
The alt-right’s intellectual leaders also include the self-styled “Neoreactionaries,” who come out of a web community called LessWrong that “urged its community members to think like machines rather than humans.” Among the tenets of this subculture are that “egalitarianism flew in the face of every piece of research on hereditary intelligence,” and that “asking people to see each other as human beings rather than members of a demographic in-group…ignored every piece of research on tribal psychology.”
There are a few other currents mentioned—like the “online ‘manosphere,’ the nemeses of left-wing feminism”—but for the most part the influential thinkers of the alt-right movement cited by Breitbart, the self-declared “platform for the alt-right,” are people who would be called “racists” by anyone who wasn’t concerned that that word unfairly stigmatizes those who believe their race is better than others.
“Natural Conservatives”: The next constituency of the alt-right is described as “mostly white, mostly male middle-American radicals, who are unapologetically embracing a new identity politics that prioritizes the interests of their own demographic.” They are said to have “a preference for homogeneity over diversity, for stability over change, and for hierarchy and order over radical egalitarianism,” with their chief concern being “the preservation of their own tribe and its culture.”
In other words—racists? No, insists Breitbart—because they “eschew…bigotry on a personal level.” (Yiannopoulos and Bokhari seem to place a lot of weight on the fact that “Jewish gays and mixed-race Breitbart reporters” like themselves get invited to alt-right dinner parties.) But the “natural conservatives” are “frightened by the prospect of demographic displacement represented by immigration.” And “many of them instinctively feel that once large enough and ethnically distinct enough groups are brought together, they will inevitably come to blows.”
This makes the “natural conservatives” natural allies with the theorists of racist pseudo-science:
The alt-right’s intellectuals would also argue that culture is inseparable from race. The alt-right believe that some degree of separation between peoples is necessary for a culture to be preserved.
In other words, they’re racists.
“The Meme Team”: This is an online subculture, centered on anonymous forums like 4chan, which Breitbart characterizes as “a young, rebellious contingent who feel a mischievous urge to blaspheme, break all the rules and say the unsayable. Why? Because it’s funny!” They are “drawn to the alt-right…because it promises fun, transgression and a challenge to social norms they just don’t understand.”
What sort of “social norms” are we talking about? Well….
Millennials aren’t old enough to remember the Second World War or the horrors of the Holocaust. They are barely old enough to remember Rwanda or 9/11. Racism, for them, is a monster under the bed, a story told by their parents to frighten them into being good little children.
As with Father Christmas, Millennials have trouble believing it’s actually real. They’ve never actually seen it for themselves — and they don’t believe that the memes they post on /pol/ are actually racist.
Bokhari and Yiannopoulos don’t actually show any examples of the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-racist memes seen on 4chan‘s /pol/ forum (for “politically incorrect”)—perhaps because they fear their readers lack the proper ironic sensibility to appreciate art like this:
That was originally posted to /new/, the predecessor to /pol/—but derivatives of the image could be seen on /pol/ this afternoon.
“The ‘1488ers'”: These are what Breitbart considers the “real” racists—as in, “Anything associated as closely with racism and bigotry as the alternative right will inevitably attract real racists and bigots.” To qualify, you have to identify—unironically!—with the shibboleths of the organized racist movements, the “14 words” of a white supremacist oath, and the coded reference to “Heil Hitler” as the repeated 8th letter of the alphabet.
To hear Breitbart tell it, such people are part of the alt-right—”Those looking for Nazis under the bed can rest assured that they do exist”—but “no one really likes them,” mainly because they’re uncool; they are “humorless ideologues who have no lives beyond their political crusade, and live for the destruction of the great.”
So that’s the tour of the alt-right given by Breitbart: Essentially, it’s racist intellectuals, natural racists, people who make racist jokes and Nazis.
They might be seen as beneath contempt, were it not for the fact that one of the two leading campaigns for the presidency is led by someone who bragged of giving this movement a “platform.” And, indeed, in Bokhari and Yiannopoulos’ piece, they draw a close connection between the alt-right and the Trump phenomenon:
Certainly, the rise of Donald Trump, perhaps the first truly cultural candidate for president since Buchanan, suggests grassroots appetite for more robust protection of the Western European and American way of life….
Natural conservatives…have been slowly abandoned by Republicans — and other conservative parties in other countries. Having lost faith in their former representatives, they now turn to new ones — Donald Trump and the alternative right.
So what, according to Breitbart, does the alt-right want? The agenda is frankly segregationist: “They want to build their homogeneous communities,” after “liberals” allow
conservative areas of their countries to reject the status quo on race, immigration and gender…. They want their own communities, populated by their own people and governed by their own values.
And if they don’t get their way? “The risk otherwise is that the 1488ers start persuading people that their solution to natural conservatives’ problems is the only viable one.” The 1488ers—you know, the real racists.