How 2015 Fueled the Rise of the Freewheeling, White Nationalist Alt Right Movement

Rosie Gray, BuzzFeed, December 27, 2015

Old-guard racists like David Duke aren’t the only white nationalists to have been encouraged by Donald Trump’s candidacy this year: His bid has also provided a tremendous boost to a newer movement calling itself the “alt right.”

Up until now, the alt right labored mostly in obscurity, its internal fights and debates hidden from anyone who wasn’t directly looking for them. But all that’s starting to change, and it’s only getting stronger.

“This is really a phenomenon that’s been happening over the last year,” said Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute. “2015 has been huge.”

The movement probably doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen before. The alt right is loosely connected, and mostly online. The white nationalists of the alt right share more in common with European far-right movements than American ones. This is a movement that draws upon relatively obscure political theories like neoreaction or the “Dark Enlightenment,” which reject the premises on which modernity is built, like democracy and egalitarianism. But it’s not all so high-minded as that. Take a glance at the #altright hashtag on Twitter or at The Right Stuff, an online hub of the movement, and you’ll find a penchant for aggressive rhetoric and outright racial and anti-Semitic slurs, often delivered in the arch, ironic tones common to modern internet discourse. Trump is a hero on the alt right and the subject of many adoring memes and tweets.

In short, it’s white supremacy perfectly tailored for our times: 4chan-esque racist rhetoric combined with a tinge of Silicon Valley-flavored philosophizing, all riding on the coattails of the Trump boom.


Jared Taylor, the American Renaissance founder who along with Spencer is considered one of the chiefs of the intellectual wing of white nationalism, also acknowledged Trump’s influence, but said, “It doesn’t have to do only with Trump,” citing Black Lives Matter and “the current rowdiness on college campuses” as other inspirations.

“I think it goes by a lot of different names,” Taylor said. “I consider it a dissident right as well.”

Spencer believes the alt right is “deeply connected” with his work. “I would say that what I’m doing is we’re really trying to build a philosophy, an ideology around identity, European identity,” he said, “and I would say that the alt right is a kind of the take-no-prisoners Twitter troopers of that.”


The alt right’s real objective, if one can be identified, is to challenge and dismantle mainstream conservatism.

It’s in part responsible for the spread of the “cuckservative” slur that gained currency over the summer and likely originated in forums on sites like My Posting Career and The Right Stuff, and has come to define a far-right contempt for conservatives they view as weak or sellouts–often those who oppose Trump.


Rush Limbaugh praised the alt right on his show earlier this month, though he didn’t appear to know what it was; a caller called in and described a vague version of it, saying “there’s a group of younger people called ‘the alt right.’ And it started in the last few years in Europe because of the Muslim invasion.” Still, it put the term on the air for Limbaugh’s millions of listeners to hear.

Despite these glimmers of something approaching recognition, the alt right remains proudly outside of the mainstream. For Richard Spencer, the alt right is a rejection of the intellectual conservatism of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

“We don’t have a starting point with William F. Buckley, we don’t have the same starting point as Richard Lowry and Jonah Goldberg and National Review,” Spencer said. The alt right is “radically different from George W. Bush, the conservative movement, etc. It really was a notion of an alternative.”


The alt right’s genius is in dispensing with the self-marginalizing pseudo-intellectual stuff and getting straight to the point, and not in the creaky hit-you-over-the-head fashion of, say, Stormfront, but the slangy and freewheeling argot of the internet in 2015. The Right Stuff has a page devoted to the lexicon of the alt right, a collection of terms that pop up frequently on Twitter once you know what to look for. “Fash,” for example, for fascist. “Merchant” for Jews. “Dindu nuffins” for “an obviously guilty black man.” {snip}


One of the central figures on the alt right internet is Paul Ramsey, a 52-year-old in Oklahoma who makes YouTube videos as RamzPaul. He agreed to an interview with BuzzFeed News on one condition: that he would record it.


Ramsey characterized the alt right as being neither mainstream conservatism nor neo-Nazism. As an example of the differences between the alt-right and neo-Nazis he stated that the 14/88 crowd (14 for the “14 words” white supremacist slogan and 88 as shorthand for “Heil Hitler”) don’t like Trump because his daughter is Jewish (Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism), whereas the alt right doesn’t care about this and generally support Trump for his policies. Ramsey objects to the word “supremacist,” saying he’s a nationalist and doesn’t hate other people or think he’s better than them. He repeatedly invoked the example of Israel as a template of the kind of nationalism he seeks for the United States. In keeping with the alt right’s affinity for European identity movements, Ramsey often visits Europe and said he has recently been in Romania and Hungary, though he said he isn’t affiliated with any specific groups there.


Nebulous future secession plans aside, the real juice for the alt right is in today’s political moment. Donald Trump has been the Republican front-runner for over five months, and shows few signs of slowing down. For Spencer, this is a vindicating moment.

“He’s bigger than the conservative movement, he’s bigger than the GOP establishment, and he’s proven that you don’t have to play their game,” Spencer said. “And I think that’s inspiring and liberating for a lot of alt righters.”


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