The alt-right movement: everything you need to know
You will be hearing a lot more about this offensive, influential, and reactionary grouping under President Trump
A protest against the appointment of alt-right media mogul Stephen Bannon as Donald Trump’s chief strategist. Photograph: David McNew/AFP/Getty Images
Donald J Trump is president-elect of the United States and the “alternative right” gave him a big assist on his way to the Oval Office. Known as the “alt-right” for short, this young-skewing, smart aleck faction exists far outside the bounds of conventional conservatism.
The alt-right takes its cues from Europe’s rising nationalist, populist parties and “paleoconservatives” such as Pat Buchanan, though not Paul Ryan or even Glenn Beck. They’re confrontational, outrageous and frequently offensive. Outsiders can have a hard time telling sincere beliefs from edgy jokes.
Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” hints at the movement’s appeal to young white Americans. There’s a growing sense that the US’s best days are in the past. Political correctness is now a dominant force in American culture, particularly on college campuses. The alt-right’s brand of envelope-pushing nationalism is thus the perfect stance for a young rebel with a cause.
The election of Trump is a big moment for the alt-right. Hillary Clinton also denounced the movement at a Reno speech in August. Most people watching were confused, doubly so by the Clinton campaign’s exposé on Pepe the Frog, the alt-right’s cartoon mascot. For their part, the alt-right found Clinton’s attention during the height of campaign season hilarious.
The alt-right is one part political movement, two parts subculture. This can make it difficult for outsiders to understand. To assist you in comprehending the chatter on Twitter hashtags such as #AltRight and #Frogtwitter, here’s a simple glossary.
Alt-lite: The more mainstream form of the alternative right, embodied by figures such as Vice founder Gavin McInnes or Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
Alt-right: A young, energetic upstart faction of the Trump coalition heavily active on Twitter and underground forums. Characterised by nationalism, scepticism toward globalism and an irreverent sense of humour.
Blue hair: An aggressive, unpleasant feminist with brightly coloured hair, usually depicted as being overweight.
Cat lady: An older, less aggressive version of a blue hair. Cat ladies prefer MSNBC and Cosmopolitan, whereas a blue hair spends her life on social blogging platform Tumblr.
Cathedral: The ad-hoc post-second World War liberal-socialist alliance dominating western culture. Coined by pseudonymous neoreactionary blogger Mencius Moldbug, this includes everything from academia to media to government.
Cuckservative: A portmanteau of “cuckold” and “conservative”, which was originally meant to imply that mainstream conservatives protected the welfare of foreign groups over Americans. Often shortened to “cuck” to describe any weak or feminine man. Conservative commentators Erick Erickson and Rick Wilson are exemplars.
Current year: A mocking reference to the left’s propensity to cite the current year as an argument. Example: “How can Donald Trump say these things? It’s 2016!”
Dindu or Dindu Nuffin: A black man convicted of a crime, often one lionized by the press or portrayed as innocent. An attempt to approximate the African-American Vernacular English pronunciation of “didn’t do anything” (“dindu nuffin”).
Fashy: Possessing a fascist aesthetic. Often used to describe military-style undercut hairdos such as those sported by Richard Spencer, publisher of Radix and the man who coined the term “alternative right”.
Kek: An Egyptian frog demon. Pepe the Frog is seen as an avatar of Kek. No, really. Also an onomatopoeia for laughter.
Narrative: Media and academia’s version of events. Individual events have a narrative, but so does the entire perspective advanced by mainstream culture.
Neoreactionary: A loose collection of anarcho-capitalists and monarchists centred around the writings of pseudonymous blogger Mencius Moldbug and continental philosopher Nick Land. Most have gone underground, writing for more mainstream publications.
New right: The heterogeneous political parties espousing a stew of nationalism, libertarianism and populism, such as the National Front in France, Ukip in Britain and Alternative for Germany. They are united by an opposition to globalisation and mass immigration. Donald Trump’s faction of the Republican Party is the de facto new right party in the United States. The alt-right and new right overlap but are not coterminous.
Normie: A normal person.
Paleoconservative: “Paleocon” for short. Paleoconservatives were a conservative faction emphasising tradition, family, identity, limited government and the rule of law. Prominent paleocon thinkers include Samuel T Francis, Joseph Sobran and Paul Gottfried, who coined the term “cultural Marxism”. Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign was their apotheosis. The alt-right can, to a certain extent, be understood as an irreverent and youthful rebranding of paleoconservatism.
Signalling: Ideologically conspicuous consumption or performative belief. For example, purchasing a hybrid vehicle to showcase concern for the environment. Can also be the ostentatious expression of politically correct views. Derided by the alt-right as a means to acquire social status with little risk.
SJWs: Social justice warriors. Shrill, unpleasant and vaguely totalitarian leftists into gender, sexual and racial identity politics. See also: blue hair.
Snowflake: A person with an unusual, potentially dubious, gender identity.
Nick Pell is an American writer living in Wicklow