Many mainstream news stories have recently described the Alt-Right as the Hipster Right-Wing or Hipster Nazis. Writers used the word “hipster” because the Alt-Right’s ironic and pop culture-savvy methods and style differs from their usual stereotypes about the Right.
The term is appropriate for another reason. The hipster subculture is widely mocked for its obsession with getting ahead of the latest trends and for its contempt for “selling out.” Hillary Clinton’s denunciation turned the Alt-Right from a relatively obscure internet subculture to the center of national news. And like hipsters upset because their favorite indie folk band signed with a major label, many on the Alt-Right are worried about newbie fans and outsiders cashing in while watering down the message.
Some are unhappy about more moderate figures calling themselves Alt-Right, and are upset with self-proclaimed Alt-Right Jews such as Joshua Seidel, who wrote “I’m a Jew, and I’m a Member of the Alt-Right,” for The Forward. Some are suspicious of him simply because he is Jewish, although he wrote this in his article: “Are Jewish people not overrepresented in this great western push for ‘diversity’? Most Jews would call [Alt-Right Twitter account @Ricky_Vaughn99] anti-Semitic for saying this, while I’d simply call it the truth.”
Critics point to the neoconservative takeover of the conservative movement and say those who welcome the moderate wing and Jews are doomed to go the way of Joe Sobran and Sam Francis: purged from their own movement by interlopers. Yet, to dismantle that analogy, one need only look at the Alt-Right’s own history.
What became the Alt-Right did not emerge as a reaction to neoconservatism or mainstream conservatism. There have been traditionalist, libertarian, and paleoconservative organizations that opposed neo-cons and mainstream conservatism ever since the Reagan administration. Many of these institutions had accepted race realists and identitarians within their ranks, but by the end of the Bush presidency we were not welcome in any of them.
I don’t want to rehash old feuds, but the Alt-Right emerged when these groups opposed to neoconservatism became hostile to race realism and to any discussion of white interests. One academic group purged all of its race-realist members after the late Prof. Philippe Rushton gave a talk on racial differences that scandalized the group’s leaders.
The Alt-Right coalesced around Richard Spencer, Paul Gottfried, Peter Brimelow, Bill Regnery, and Jared Taylor. While existing publications such as American Renaissance and VDARE were amenable to the movement, Taki’s Magagzine, at the time edited by Mr. Spencer, and the H.L. Mencken Club were created in direct response to political correctness in their erstwhile paleoconservative counterparts. At the 2008 Mencken Club, Paul Gottfried called for “an alternative right,” but Mr. Spencer is responsible for adopting the term and popularizing it with his website AlternativeRight.com.
None of these institutions were devoted exclusively to white advocacy or race realism. They covered issues like foreign affairs, monetary policy, feminism, and culture, and welcomed anyone who was comfortable having a frank discussion. However, in practice, simply being open to a discussion about race ended up scaring away the vast majority of Russell Kirk-type traditionalist Catholics and ideological libertarians.
No one involved, including Jews such as Paul Gottfried, was morally outraged by debate about the role of Jewish influence in the West, but it was not a litmus test, and certainly no one thought that Jews should be excluded from the movement.
Since then, the term Alt-Right has taken on a life of its own. Websites such as The Right Stuff, My Posting Career, and the /pol/ subforums at 4chan and 8chan helped take the ideas of men like Mr. Taylor, Mr. Spencer, and others and spread them to millennials, largely by trolling mainstream journalists, often using harsher and more provocative rhetoric and style.
While the original Alternative Right was an intellectual movement with academic conferences and think pieces, today, it is defined as much by tactics as ideology. The more moderate figures–mainstream conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt calls them the “broad alt right”–such as Lauren Southern, Paul Joseph Watson, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Gavin McInnes oppose globalism, mass immigration, feminism, and political correctness with a pop culture flair and a trolling-friendly attitude. While not hostile to human biodiversity and race realism–Mr. McInnes, for example, has hosted Jared Taylor on his program–they do not make it central to their message, and in some cases, sidestep or downplay it.
However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a large chunk of the Alt-Right is more radical–both in style and substance–than VDARE, American Renaissance, or the National Policy Institute, and some in that group contemptuously call the more moderate wing the “Alt-Lite.” The popular podcast, Fash the Nation, titled it’s latest installment “Alt Right v. Alt Lite,” and criticized Messrs. Seidel, Watson, and Yiannopoulos as potentially hijacking the movement.
The term “Alt-Right” has taken on a life of its own beyond the men who founded it, and there will be more internal debates about the movement’s parameters as it grows. Richard Spencer, for example, distinguished the “Alt-Light” from those who had a firm understanding of race, but emphasized that we should welcome anyone who takes our ideas seriously.
I believe the “Alt-Lite” has its place in our movement. Few of us were born Alt-Right. We were first introduced to our ideas through more mainstream opposition to mass immigration, racial double standards, political correctness, and racial preferences. Your average “normie” is more receptive to hearing these messages from Milo Yiannopoulos than from Jared Taylor, much less from @Pepe_Stormtrooper1488. However, he will be more likely to listen to Mr. Taylor if he thinks Mr. Taylor is in the same movement as Mr. Yiannopoulos. In this sense the Alt-Lite serves as an entry point for potential converts, rather than “entryists” trying to co-opt the movement.
Hillary Clinton probably would not have made her speech about the Alt-Right were it not for Mr. Trump hiring former Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon, who had described the site as a “platform for the Alt-Right.” Mr. Yiannopoulos is Breitbart’s major connection to the Alt-Right movement, and so it’s very possible the movement would not have received its latest PR coup but for this connection.
Furthermore, there’s no doubt that the Alt-Right, as originally conceived, would have welcomed the support of these “Alt-Lite” personalities.
I do not say this to dismiss the more radical elements. While some may find their tactics distasteful, we live in uncivilized times and have unchivalrous opponents. The Alt-Right would not have received so much attention were it not for the Channers trolling comment sections and swarming the Twitter accounts of mainstream journalists.
The Alt-Right contains many voices, and its clear racial origins mean our message will not be diluted. The “Alt-Lite” would have been welcome at the movement’s founding and deserves significant credit for its current success. It’s wrong to accuse it of coopting the Alt-Right.