What Is the Alt-Right? 3 Things You Should Know

Trump supporter
A Trump supporter (R) yells at a demonstrator (L) after Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump cancelled his rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago March 11, 2016. |

Much has been made in recent days about the appearance of the "alt-right," on the American political landscape with Hillary Clinton tying Donald Trump to the movement in an Aug. 25 Reno, Nevada campaign speech.

"The de facto merger between [news site] Breitbart and the Trump campaign, represents a landmark acheivement for the alt-Right. A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican party," Clinton said, adding that the phenomenon is part of a larger trend of rising hardline, rightwing nationalism happening around the world.

Whether or not Trump actually represents the alt-right is debatable, particularly since he has not embraced the traditional Republican opposition to affirmative action and does not talk about inherent differences in the races, something hard core alt-right devotees do obsessively. But in light of Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric, denouncements of political correctness and professed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, many alt-Righties have indeed enthusiastically latched onto his campaign.

While sharing some policy preferences with political conservatives, the alt-Right's reasons for doing so are vastly different. For the alt-right, support for stricter immigration measures, for example, is not so much about public safety or economics as it is about racial preservation.

But what is the "alt-Right," exactly? Here are 3 things you should know:

1. While claiming to be on the right, the movement aims to distinguish themselves — hence the "alt" qualifier — from mainstream conservatives whom they regard as weak. Actual conservatives, likewise, work to distance themselves from the alt-right.

According to conservative and Bloomberg View columnist Ramesh Ponnuru, the alt-Right "find[s] the mainstream conservative fixations on free markets, limited government, the Constitution and the sanctity of unborn human life beside the point."

Indeed, in a 2010 article from the alt-Right publication Radix Journal outlining why an alternative to the Right is needed, Richard Hoste complained that the modern conservative movement is "intellectually hollow" and argued that conservatives have misplaced emphasis, especially on national security issues and terrorism.

But aside from those disagreements, Hoste opined, "there is the topic of race and, more broadly, IQ and heredity."

"We've known for a while through neuroscience and cross-adoption studies — if common sense wasn't enough — that individuals differ in their inherent capabilities. The races do, too, with whites and Asians on the top and blacks at the bottom," he continued.

Meanwhile, many conservatives, particularly those identifying as #neverTrump like David French, are appalled at such overtly racist sentiment.

Writing at National Review, French, who briefly considered an independent presidential run, expressed his disgust at the alt-Right, many of whom troll on Twitter, and lamented columnist Ann Coulter's pandering to them.

French, who has been called a "cuckservative" — a favorite epithet of the alt-right — for adopting a black child said, "[Alt-Righties] do not reflect conservative ideals, they do not advance conservative ideals, nor will they even advance the civilizational goals [Coulter] seems to care so much about."

2. The alt-Right abhors "political correctness" and is obsessed with racial and tribal nationalist identities.

Although several streams exist within the alt-right and the movement can be difficult to define as a whole, extreme hatred for political correctness unifies them as does a fixation on the superiority of certain races.

They define political correctness, however, very differently from its usual meaning. Instead of just saying unpopular opinions, alt-righties often employ unsavory language and act in gratuitously shocking ways. In other words, being politically incorrect and vulgarity are the same thing.

Such a definition troubles conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro, an orthodox Jew, who noted in an Aug. 24 article in The Daily Wire that some within the alt-right are indeed real anti-Semites, avowed white nationalists and the alt-right take on political correctness gives them cover.

"The conflation between tweeting hook-nosed Jew cartoons at Jews and fighting against the scourge of political correctness, which prevents honest discussions of serious issues, actually damages the cause of political incorrectness," Shapiro said, who has previously noted that white supremacists like David Duke have come after him.

Noting that he is frequently asked to define alt-right, Shapiro offered, "All of these people are united by a tribal view of Western civilization: Western civilization isn't rooted in creed, but in nationalism and European ethnicity."

"To that end, many of them are warm toward powerful centralized government designed to protect the tribe; they admire Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, for example, because he represents a hypermasculine defense of his own tribe," he continued.

3. Some in the alt-Right may oppose abortion but the movement cannot be called pro-life; in fact, some alt-Righties argue against pro-life principles.

In an April 8 essay titled "The Pro-life Temptation," again from Radix Journal, Aylmer Fisher wrote that the pro-lifers justify their cause on principles alt-Righties reject.

"The alt Right is skeptical, to say the least, of concepts like 'equality' and 'human rights,' especially as bases for policy. The unborn fetus has no connection to anyone else in the community," Aylmer said.

The value for life is not rooted in the belief that every human person, born and unborn, is made in the image of God, as Christians often espouse, but in connection with a tribe.

Fisher continued, "we on the alt Right have an appreciation of tribalism and identity. We realize that people are not just autonomous individuals. Life gains its meaning through connections to other members of our families, tribes, and nations. Being pro-life flies in the face both of these principles."

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalter

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