Some Alt-Right Basics

Via RawStory:  The Alt-Right Dictionary: 7 terms you need to know to understand Trump’s most hateful supporters.

And, straight from two of the self-proclaimed leaders of the movement from back in March at Breitbart:  An Establishment Conservative’s Guide To The Alt-Right.


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. James Joyner says:

    I gotta say, I’d never heard the phrase “alt-Right” until a couple months ago. They strike me as just a renamed version of the fringe right (skinheads, neo-Nazis, etc.) but whose voices are amplified via the Internet.

  2. James Pearce says:

    “The French New Right also serve as a source of inspiration for many leaders of the alt-right.”

    That deserves a very Takeian “Oh my.”

  3. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: There does seem to be a large overlap with the “trolls who spend most of their time in their parents’ basements because they can’t hack reality” population.

    Pretty standard. If you can’t accomplish anything in life, claim it’s everyone else’s fault and that you, because of your race/skin color/sex/whatever absolutely deserve to be on top of the pecking heap and the fact that you aren’t just shows how stupid the rest of the world is.

    Typical projection, combined with self-pity and immaturity.

  4. Loviatar says:

    @James Joyner:

    They strike me as just a renamed version of the fringe right (skinheads, neo-Nazis, etc.) but whose voices are amplified via the Internet.

    So, essentially a substantial portion of the Republican base.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: The post-war 101st Chairborne Brigade. Modestly bright, modestly creative (but like Christian rockers, not enough to make it in a larger pond). But permanently sophomoric. Sort of like Randians. And one of them is now “CEO” of the Republican Presidential campaign. Gawd. I’m one of the X% who think the country’s headed in the wrong direction, in a hand basket.

  6. Loviatar says:


    Modestly bright, modestly creative (but like Christian rockers, not enough to make it in a larger pond). But permanently sophomoric. Sort of like Randians. And one of them is now “CEO” of the Republican Presidential campaign.

    No, you’re giving Trump too much credit. Trump is nothing more than the epitome of White Male Privilege. His place in the world is solely due to accident of birth, someone with his personality traits but without his money, skin color or sex either ends up a serial killer or dead.

    White Male Privilege: An unacknowledged and unearned belief that you have the right to be at the front of every line.

  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    I’m somewhat reminded how in the 2000s, “neoconservative” expanded from a particular set of policies to mean something more like “any Republican who’s foreign policy I disagree with”.

    Now “Alt-Right” seems to be undergoing a similar process of becoming more and more amorphous.

    Eventually the terms end up just becoming a form of well-poisoning: you just call someone alt-right and now you don’t have to actually address any points they make.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Who was unfairly characterized as neoconservative? The term “conservative” itself has become amorphous and essentially useless. This is not because of any unfair application, but because of the wide range of people who declare themselves to be conservative. But if this concerns you, why don’t you define “alt-right” for us? And please identify any points they’ve made that the rest of us should address.

  9. Stormy Dragon says:


    Who was unfairly characterized as neoconservative?

    Well, for example, Brent Sowcroft was being called a neocon on this very blog several months ago.

    And please identify any points they’ve made that the rest of us should address.

    I’m not saying the Alt-right has points. I’m saying that calling people who aren’t alt-right may have points which are ignored by lumping them in with the actual alt-right.

  10. michael reynolds says:


    I’d say that was a definition of racism, not male privilege. White male privilege requires no participation from the beneficiary, it’s something society bestows. I don’t think anything like that, but I do at times get a benefit from being white and male.

    However, neither whiteness nor maleness represent the end of special advantages. IQ, health, attractiveness, tallness and wealth are some others. I freely admit that being white kept me out of prison. I freely admit that I’ve gotten jobs at times in the past because I was a big white dude.

    But if I look down my list of cool things to be, I can tell you as a former poor person who is now comfortable, that nothing beats the privilege of wealth. It changes your whole world view. Suddenly you are no longer carrying a heavy load through life, you’re being lightened by helium balloons. It’s fwcking great.

    If only I were pretty, I could rule the world.

  11. @James Joyner: for some reason, I have been aware of them for a little while now. They are clearly white nationalist who sound a lot like Pat Buchanan but with an extra layer of aggrieved young white male with a huge dollop of internet troll thrown in. Quite frankly the Breitbart essay I linked has neofascist echoes. I started writing about it yesterday but haven’t had time to finish it.

  12. @Stormy Dragon: clearly, any term can be misapplied. And, no doubt, there are people who are misusing this term.

    However, it is also worth noting that a lot of people are not familiar with this term and, therefore, it needs discussion.

    More importantly, by making Bannon the “Campaign CEO” and the fact that Brietbart is a Trump mouthpiece means that the alt-right has major influence in this campaign and in a major political party and that is extremely significant.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Ayn Rand worshipers who are STILL whining about the fact that no girl will given them a second look.

    Ironically enough, if the “alt-right” ever did find themselves in a position of power, they would collapse within one generation or less. You can’t run a society on incessant whining and selfishness.

  14. @James Joyner:

    but whose voices are amplified via the Internet.

    I would add: and now amplified by direct connection with the nominee of the Republican Party who is helping to mainstream white nationalism in normal politics. The influence of the alt-right at Brietbart was bad enough (given its readership) but the connections to Trump mean we aren’t just dealing with 4chan at this point.

  15. @Stormy Dragon:

    actually address any points they make.

    I will endeavor to do so as time permits.

    Also: are you suggesting that they have some valid points? (I am trying to figure out where you are coming from, as it is unclear).

  16. CSK says:

    Part of the work I do entails keeping track of some fringe movements, so I’ve been aware of the alt-right for a while now, though I can’t give a specific year. Richard Spencer created an “alternative right” website in 2010, so I suppose he could be said to have invented the term. Two things really contributed to its burgeoning: the Internet, which provided a forum for it, and the candidacy of Trump, who provided them with a leader behind whom they could coalesce.

    Something about the alt-right that’s frequently understated, or overlooked, is the virulence of the anti-Semitism. Everything is the fault of the Jews–or, to use the preferred alt-right spelling, the Jooooz. The alt-right hates Mexicans, Muslims, and African Americans, but they blame the Jooooz for the presence of Mexicans, Muslims, and African Americans in American life.

  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    are you suggesting that they have some valid points?

    As I already said:

    I’m not saying the Alt-right has points. I’m saying that calling people who aren’t alt-right may have points which are ignored by lumping them in with the actual alt-right.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am trying to figure out where you are coming from, as it is unclear

    Well, in a few months when the people are calling you and James and Doug alt-right, perhaps it will be clear where I was coming from.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: Don’t forget the misogyny! The alt-right is a big tent of hatred and intolerance.

    The alt-right is a shrill, whiny liberal’s view of Republicans — don’t get me wrong, I would take the shrill, whiny left over the alt-right any day of the week.

    A lot of mainstream Republicans are being surprised by how influential the alt-right has become over what they considered “their” party. I think there’s been a bit of willful ignorance there, or a quiet tut-tutting and a belief that the rise of the Tea Party was just a game, but when the Presidential candidate openly embraces the big tent of hatred and intolerance, it gets impossible to ignore.

    And, some of the shrill, whiny liberals may someday be surprised to discover that most of the Republicans aren’t alt-right. They’ve been voting for the same party, but haven’t been paying attention to the slow change of that party.

  19. James Pearce says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Eventually the terms end up just becoming a form of well-poisoning: you just call someone alt-right and now you don’t have to actually address any points they make.

    Nah, it’s more a case of “your bad reputation proceeds you.” Without that bad reputation, the well would not be getting poisoned.

    @Loviatar: Loviatar’s law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of Loviatar bringing up White Male Privilege approaches 1.

    You’re like the Ancient Aliens people: The same predictable answer shoehorned onto all kinds of different questions.


    Something about the alt-right that’s frequently understated, or overlooked, is the virulence of the anti-Semitism.

    That’s why I blanched at the alt-right’s French connection. “The French New Right” is, at best, psuedo-fascist and, at worst, a throwback to a darker era in which millions of people were killed, some in battle, some in gas ovens.

  20. CSK says:


    The alt-right hates the Republican Party more than they hate the “Democrat” Party.

    @James Pearce:

    Yes, the parallels are quite frightening. Anything that goes wrong–blame the Jews.

  21. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’m not sure Steven Taylor is right, let alone Alt-Right.

    A few people will claim that anyone who votes for any Republican is as bad as the worst Republican, but those accusers are just silly people who should be ignored. No one will seriously believe James Joyner has the racist, misogynistic, anti-Semetic bent of the alt-right.

    As for our Libertarian friends… There is a bit of an overlap between Libertarians and the Alt-Right. Not a huge overlap, but it is there. It’s mostly racists on the alt-right parroting phrases of libertarianism to support their hatred, than actually being libertarians. Having to accommodate black people and Jews in a place of business is an infringement on their rights, etc. Cut government services and let the free market work it out (so we don’t support brown people). There’s a massive difference in intent and motivation, but some overlap on the rhetoric. I have no doubt some people will attempt to lump libertarians as a group in with the alt-right.

  22. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: the cuckservatives are there to be used, and the alt-right leaders recognize that they need them together a majority.

    It doesn’t mean they hate them any less, it just means that they intend to cuck the cuckservatives themselves, rather than having them cucked by the lame stream media.

  23. CSK says:


    Ah, but they have said–as has Trump himself–that they don’t need conservative votes to win this one. A lot of them state openly that it will be Cheeto in a landslide.

  24. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: I mean this in the best of all possible ways, but you haven’t really noticed the alt-right because you haven’t really been paying attention. For someone who runs a political blog, you don’t seem to pay attention to politics much, outside of a very narrow window of the political spectrum which you assume represents a broad majority.

    I suspect you don’t spend a lot of time with people outside your social class — which is common enough — because you don’t seem to identify with or recognize the anger of people who are trying very hard, doing everything they are told will get them ahead in the world, and are slowly slipping backwards. These are the people who the alt-right speaks to (well, the white ones, anyway)

    Further, the military is a very special bubble.

    Other than the very special bubble of the military, I don’t think this is in any way out of the ordinary. People intellectually acknowledge people outside their experience, but they don’t really know them and understand them. (It’s why people see Black Lives Matter, and think race relations are worse — rather than that we are finally at a spot where we can start dealing with some of the problems that have always been there)

    Yes, your family has had some pretty horrible setbacks, but you’ve always been in just about the best position to deal with those setbacks without being independently wealthy (unless you are independently wealthy).

    What baffles me is that you run this blog. You presumably notice the comment threads. Have you never noticed that there is a segment of the commenters that seems to get their news and information from somewhere very different than you do? Do you ever check to see where this comes from? Do you assume this is some tiny fringe? Do you assume that they are just trolling?

    The worst of the commenters here would be viewed as cuckservatives by the alt-right, but they get their news from some of the same places.

    This country has always had a flirtation with fascism, and our nationalism has never been a multicultural as the country itself. It’s something that bubbles up from the right, and crosses into the mainstream every once in a while.

  25. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: And now that they have the internet, they can find each other.

    It’s amazing the overlap among (whiny white males) (guys bitter they’re not getting any poontang) (losers in general) (internet trolls.)

    If they had any brains or ambition they’d actually go off and do something with their lives. But noooo…it’s so much easier to complain on the internet about How Nobody Respects Me. And then they’re perfect saps for any belief system that says No It’s Not Your Fault and You Really Should Be In Charge.

    Emo-nazis indeed.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, I wonder if the derivation of the term alt – right comes from the old USENET days. They used to be a lot of USENET user groups that were name things like alt.rock, alt.politics, alt.anime and so forth. I think they were using alt to differentiate from any official sites but I’m not sure

  27. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher: In James’ defense, I also had not heard of the term “alt-right” until a few months ago, and I’ve had an interest in the white nationalist movements for years. I read a big, fat book about them some years back, I follow them whenever they enter the news, and I even used to read Stormfront from time to time before I decided I could no longer stomach it.

    While the movement itself is older, the term “alt-right” goes back no more than about six years, and it really wasn’t until about a year ago that the term started to break into the mainstream–and that had a lot to do with the rise of Donald Trump.

    It’s not comparable to a term like “neocon,” which was originally coined by non-neocons and applied to people who, by and large (and notwithstanding the title of one of Irving Kristol’s books), never self-identified by the term. “Alt-right” on the other hand, is basically a conscious and deliberate rebranding of white nationalism in the Internet age. White nationalism has always thrived on euphemisms that make the people and their beliefs sound far more innocuous than they are. Instead of talking about whites, for example, they talk about “European Americans.” Instead of saying they deny the Holocaust, they describe themselves as “revisionists.” (The leading periodical for the dissemination of Holocaust denial is called the “Journal for Historical Review.”) There’s a site called Metapedia, which on a first glance looks like an imitation of Wikipedia, and the first time I came across it the code words were so subtle it took me several minutes before I realized it was a neo-Nazi site. (Note: if you ever see a website describing itself as “pro-European,” there’s a better than even chance it’s white nationalist.)

    Indeed, the phrase “white nationalist” itself was originally a euphemism for what previously were known as white supremacists. But at least it doesn’t fool too many people anymore. “Alt-right,” alas, still does.

  28. @Stormy Dragon:

    Well, in a few months when the people are calling you and James and Doug alt-right, perhaps it will be clear where I was coming from.

    It is true that I would not like such applications of the term, as I would find any number of other mis-applications to us (or to others) to be problematic. Still, that does not really explain your point.

    Again: any term can be misapplied. You are not, however, explaining what “points” from the alt-right that you think need addressing nor are you making clear why you specifically think this term either is currently being abused or is about to be abused.

    To me the fact that Trump hired Bannon is enough to create a direct link between the alt-right and the Trump campaign. Breitbart, under Bannon’s leadership has clearly given members of the alt-right (Allum Bokhari & Milo Yiannopoulos specifically) access to a more mainstream audience.

    So, if your contention is that linking the alt-right to the Trump campaign is incorrect, I would state that the above paragraph proves otherwise. This is not some pretzel logic guilt by association situation, this is a direct connection.

  29. @MarkedMan: From the article I linked above (emphasis mine):

    The media empire of the modern-day alternative right coalesced around Richard Spencer during his editorship of Taki’s Magazine. In 2010, Spencer founded, which would become a center of alt-right thought.

    Alongside other nodes like Steve Sailer’s blog, VDARE and American Renaissance, became a gathering point for an eclectic mix of renegades who objected to the established political consensus in some form or another. All of these websites have been accused of racism.

    (It goes on from there).

    It would not surprise me that an homage to old USENET practices is also being played.

  30. bookdragon says:

    @CSK: And there is the bit that completely baffles me as to how Trump could become associated with these nutbags – his favorite daughter converted to Judaism. His grandkids are being raised Jewish.

    Is Trump so utterly clueless that he missed the anti-semitism? Is he so focused on winning that he’ll take help and support from any quarter, even one that would gladly destroy his own daughter’s family? Unless there really is a sick reverse-Oedipus thing wrt to Donald and Ivanka, linking up with virulent anti-semites (and the alt-right most definitely does fit that bill!) simply doesn’t add up. Moreover, how do the alt-right nuts square Ivanka’s conversion with their worship of Trump? (Okay, that one might simply be attributable to idiocy+bat-crap crazy)

  31. Kylopod says:

    @bookdragon: To answer your question in reverse order, most of the alt-right folks don’t mind Ivanka and Jared (or at least they’re willing to tolerate it) because they think Trump is secretly on their side and is simply using his daughter’s and son-in-law’s Judaism as a way of appealing to the Jewish powers-that-be to help him get elected. As HuffPost reports about one neo-Nazi supporter of his:

    Trump, he said, is too savvy to openly announce his views on Jews, and only allowed his daughter to convert to Judaism to trick Jews into supporting him. “He couldn’t simply say it straight,” Anglin wrote. “That just wouldn’t fly in America.”

    As for what Trump himself thinks about Jews–I’m not quite sure. He’s made stereotypical remarks about Jews before (“short guys with yarmulkes”, “I’m a negotiator like you folks,” etc.), although nothing truly offensive like what he’s said about other minorities. My best guess–and this is actually being pretty charitable to him–is that he’s an overall racist who finds a common traveler in groups who happen also to hate Jews, although Jews have never been the focus of his attention.

    As for the Star of David tweet, there are several possible explanations: (1) He was reacting to the “Crooked Hillary” theme on the poster and failed to pick up the anti-Semitic implications before he tweeted it (2) He did pick up the implications, and he’s consciously pandering to these groups.

    Both explanations are plausible given his nature, and in no way contradictory to his having Jewish family members and campaign members.

    I think the main reason so many anti-Semites like him isn’t stuff like that, however, but because of his anti-internationalist, paleocon views–the kind of worldview that tends to be closely aligned with anti-Semitism. Trump’s platform has a lot of similarities to that of Pat Buchanan, who is not incidentally one of the most anti-Semitic mainstream pundits of the past several decades.

  32. Grewgills says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    So all new descriptive terms, even those self applied, should be shunned because they will sometimes be misapplied?

  33. M. Bouffant says:

    @Loviatar: Excellent point, one I’ve made myself.

    Had Trump done to a public school teacher whatever it was he did to his piano teacher that made his parents send him to military school he might have gotten (or been forced into getting) psychological help, or at least learned not to be such a tremendous jerk.

  34. KM says:


    only allowed his daughter to convert to Judaism

    Misogyny, anti-semitism, pater familias and delusions of control all crammed into such a short little waste of air. The essence of the alt-right – no wonder these morons love Trump. All that was missing was this guy insinuating Jared was a beta Ivanka was leading around on behalf of her alpha-daddy to complete the unholy trifecta with MRA lingo.

    You are known by the company you keep…..

  35. Kylopod says:

    @KM: I was thinking the same thing when I first read the article. If the reports from the campaign are accurate, Ivanka is no doormat in front of her dad.

  36. Monala says:

    @Stormy Dragon: OK, then, who exactly is being accused of being part of the alt-right who doesn’t deserve the label?