Disunite the Right: The Growing Divides in the Pepe Coalition

White nationalist “Alt Right” demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial on June 25, 2017. Photo: Susan Melkisethian via Flickr.

By the time Richard Spencer, the man responsible for coining and popularizing the term Alt Right, made his way to the front of the crowd on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and took the microphone, anger was already brimming among his supporters. While barely 100 Alt Right acolytes amassed for this June 25 “free speech” rally in Washington, D.C., they represented the hardcore adherents of a movement demanding a White “ethnostate”—a nation for Whites only. Standing in front of banners for White nationalist organizations like Vanguard America, the Traditionalist Workers Party, and Identity Evropa, Spencer issued the sort of romantic call for struggle that had once made him a leader:

We are fundamentally fighting to be part of something that is bigger than ourselves. We are fighting to be part of a family together. We are fighting to be strong again. To be beautiful again. We are fighting to be powerful again in a sea of weakness and hopelessness. That is our battle. Our greatest enemies will tell us that there is nothing to fight for, that it is all over. All you have to do is go to the voting booth or go purchase some cute new product or watch some cute new video. We are going to fight for meaning. We are going to make history all over again.1

Spencer’s passionate appeal came after a falling out with Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer, who had denounced Spencer’s presence at the rally and opted to hold their own competing event across town.2 As Spencer became the focal point of broader divisions, the Far Right was sent into a tailspin, with Spencer leading his explicitly White nationalist faction of the Alt Right against the more moderate “Alt Light.”

“We need to attack the Alt Light in the most ruthless manner possible,” Spencer declared in a rant on the podcast “Alt Right Politics” on the eve of what were now two rallies. “They are objectively the immediate enemy, they must be destroyed.”3

Spencer was declaring war against the Alt Light—a group peripheral to the core Alt Right, which Spencer appeared to see as his access point to mainstream conservatism.

What might have appeared to outsiders as simple subcultural rivalry had more definitive consequences: Spencer was declaring war against the Alt Light—a group peripheral to the core Alt Right, which Spencer appeared to see as his access point to mainstream conservatism. As the man who developed staple Alt Right institutions such as the National Policy Institute, the Radix Journal, and AltRight.com, Spencer has spent approximately the last two years scrambling to capitalize on the increased exposure the Trump campaign brought to his rebranded White nationalist movement. The Alt Light, which served as the next ring around Spencer’s core movement organs, weren’t committed to the harder-edged ideology of the Alt Right, but as a collective of right-wing provocateurs, they had helped popularize Spencer’s talking points.

Now, Spencer’s “Free Speech” rally became purer but far smaller: a parade of White nationalist celebrities, who came at the cost of the rally’s potential to influence more mainstream conservatives.

A Fragile Coalition

Richard Spencer. Photo: v@s/ Wikkimedia commons.

In 2008, the Alternative Right was born, as a concept that triggered a movement, after Richard Spencer’s time working among paleoconservatives led him into the “dissident right”: those who reject liberal values of human equality and multiculturalism. The Alternative Right, and the eponymous web journal Spencer would launch in 2010, brought together a range of Rightists loosely defined by racial identitarianism and their belief in human inequality. While the GOP still rhetorically rejects racism and inequality, the Alternative Right embraced these ideas, redefining fascism for a 21st Century U.S. context. When their nascent movement collided with internet troll culture, their name was shortened to Alt Right and their flag-bearers adopted the racially abusive personality we know today.

The Alt Light came later—an outer layer of supporters mobilized largely around the celebrity of former Breitbart Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos, and also including former Rebel Media star Lauren Southern, online “manosphere” leader Mike Cernovich, and Infowars conspiracy baron Alex Jones. Though their agendas weren’t identical, they served a purpose for the Alt Right. Fascists who have difficulty entering the public stage have always required crossover figures and institutions that can help pave the way for more ideologically pure leaders to come—a “stopover” point on the road to authoritarianism. In earlier generations this included figures like Pat Buchanan and the paleoconservative movement, but as public trust in party politics has waned, that role has fallen to online cultural leaders who sway social networks. In the age of the Alt Right, it was the less radical representatives who loaned the movement broader popular appeal.

To the Alt Right, compromise on core principles threatens the ideological purity they were founded to uphold.

But the relationship between the Alt Right and the Alt Light, as well as “patriot” organizations like the Oath Keepers, has often been more pragmatic than comfortable. And maintaining this coalition has not been easy, requiring compromises on language, targets, and allies. To the Alt Right, compromise on core principles threatens the ideological purity they were founded to uphold.4 The Alt Right already constituted a coalition, linking together the “race realist” pseudoscientists, racial pagans, European New Rightists, male tribalists, classic White nationalists, paleoconservatives, and others who defined themselves by essentialized identity and inequality. This point of agreement was enough to initially bring them together, but disagreements over issues like Ukrainian independence, Brexit, and culture led to splits, which were papered over when Trump ran, demonstrating to them again that they could be stronger if they suppressed their differences and rode the wave.

It was the need to find a more palatable vessel for their politics that led the Alt Right to embrace the Alt Light in the first place, although both camps had different intentions from the start. To Alt Light figures hoping to parlay movement celebrity into lasting careers, the Alt Right’s overt White nationalism threatened to become a toxic association. In both camps, strong personalities combined with murky ideological boundaries became a recipe for explosive fractures, undermining the potential of a unified front. That disintegration provides insights into the organizing process of the Alt Right, and how the Left can challenge their growth before it becomes a populist wave.

Free Speech Light

A 19-year-old student named Colton Merwin began planning the June 25 “free speech” rally in Washington, D.C., weeks in advance. It was the latest in a series of rallies, hosted by Alt Right and Alt Light figures alike, in response to public clashes between the Far Right and anti-racist organizers that had started in December 2016 and escalated in early February 2017, after an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley was canceled amid mass protests. The later cancellation of Ann Coulter at Berkeley prompted Lauren Southern to host the inaugural “free speech” rally in the city of Berkeley in April.5

While Yiannopoulos and Southern were both Alt Lightists, Southern opened her rally to Alt Right speakers as well, inviting Brittany Pettibone, a contributor to websites like AltRight.com and Red Ice Creations. After Southern’s Berkeley event descended into violent attacks on counter-protesters—a media spectacle that played heavily in the news cycle, leading to greatly increased media exposure for both the Alt Light and Alt Right—“free speech” protests spread across the country. The rallies became popular enough that Spencer and the Alt Right had the opportunity to use them as recruitment opportunities.

Spencer and the Alt Right saw the free speech rallies as recruitment opportunities.

Later in the spring, the movement continued to make headlines, as Alt Light leaders Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer gained notoriety for derailing multiple Shakespeare in the Park performances in New York City. Colton Merwin invited both as speakers, alongside Mike Cernovich, author of The MAGA Mindset.

But when Richard Spencer’s name was floated as a fellow speaker, Posobiec and Loomer declared that they wouldn’t share a stage with him, instead announcing a simultaneous rally across town, targeting the “political violence” of the shooting attack on a congressional baseball team that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in critical condition. (This rally focused on blaming the broad Left, suggesting that the shooter’s brief support of Bernie Sanders was evidence that the shooting amounted to political terrorism.6)

After the Alt Light abandoned the Lincoln Memorial rally—splitting the crowd and depriving Spencer of the big platform he sought—Alt Right trolls swarmed, with one prominent commentator, Baked Alaska, harassing Loomer with violent antisemitic images. While Spencer had long sought to present an above-the-fray tone for his new brand of White nationalism, he quickly joined in, tweeting, “The Alt Light is a collection of outright liars (Posobiec and Cerno), perverts (Milo, Wintrich), and Zionist fanatics (Loomer).”7

Tensions had been growing for months. The Alt Right had bristled at Milo Yiannopoulos’ refusal to fully adapt to the Alt Right through his rejection of “identity politics”8; at Trump’s Syrian intervention, which struck the Alt Right as capitulation to GOP “globalism”9; and Spencer’s earlier ostracism from Alt Light events like the Deploraball.10 But after D.C., it appeared that the face of the Alt Right had tired of his moderate counterparts.

Alt Identities

While the break in Washington stemmed from particular complaints—denying the Alt Right a recruitment platform at crossover events—the underlying issues were deeper conflicts over rhetoric and ideology. The Alt Right is an “identitarian” movement that can accurately be described as fascist and White nationalist: they seek to create a “traditionalist” society in the form of a pan-European ethnostate. That is specific and concrete. The Alt Light, on the other hand, seeks to create a bigger tent, including a range of “Independent Trumpists” who generally ally themselves with a looser type of nationalism—“American” or “Civic Nationalism,” which tempers its ideas about race yet still utilizes national chauvinism, protectionism, and isolationism. (To be sure, in effect Civic Nationalism manifests many of the same bigotries as its more explicit counterpart.)

Similar movements outside the U.S., like Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Brexit vote, are in vein with this Civic Nationalism, as is Donald Trump’s brand of populism. Stephen Bannon, the Breitbart alumnus and former Trump’s chief strategist, has defined his role in Trump’s campaign and administration as an expression of Civic Nationalism, viewing Trump’s “us-versus-them” language as a means to overturn establishment politics.11 (Unlike leftist expressions of populism, Civic Nationalism seeks to reestablish a mythic version of a stable and hierarchical America.)

The Alt Right has often identified Trump and the Alt Light, as well as older figures like Pat Buchanan, as Civic Nationalists. As “free speech” events proliferated, and organizations like the Proud Boys—a “Western chauvinist” group associated with the Alt Light—rose to prominence within them, some coalition members broke with the Alt Right in favor of vocal expressions of Civic Nationalism. At a June 4 rally in Portland, Oregon, Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, a movement celebrity allied with the Proud Boys, did just that. Although Chapman had become famous within the Alt Right for attacking anti-racist protesters with a large wooden rod, he distanced himself from the Alt Right’s racial politics, noting his Asian-American girlfriend and biracial child. Speaking to a line of news cameras, he declared himself a patriot, not a racist:

I consider myself an American nationalist… It’s a type of nationalism specifically applied to America, where we come together under Americana, 1776, the embrace of our beautiful country…Western Civilization. Regardless of race, regardless of sexual identity, we all come together to embrace America, American values, and put Americans first in all the dealings of this country.12

Chapman had already been condemned by Nathan Damigo, who recently resigned as head of the White nationalist group Identity Evropa, for his social media posts “denouncing racism” and suggesting that the “founding fathers” had created the U.S. as a country centered on ideals rather than ethnicity.13 But what appeared as Damigo and the Alt Right’s larger complaint was that Chapman had legitimized the accusations of racism in the first place, by calling “for a rejection of white interests”14 and, effectively, denouncing White nationalism. The Alt Light’s separate rally later that month in Washington, D.C., reinforced this rejection: that the Alt Right’s “White identitarianism” was so toxic that they had to hold their own nationalist rally somewhere else.

The Alt Right’s “White identitarianism” was so toxic that the Alt Light had to hold their own nationalist rally somewhere else.

The Alt Light wasn’t motivated by conscience alone; there were financial considerations at stake. Mike Cernovich has made a career on his books and videos, and with the growth of crowdfunding websites and donation appeals, Alt Light organizing against the Left has become a money-making prospect for many movement leaders. Kyle Chapman, for example, has parlayed his “Based Stick Man” persona into a clothing line alluding to the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights, using incendiary language to promote his brand and create a financial base for himself. (Chapman, who has served 10 years in prison for a litany of crimes including grand theft, was able to make a reported $87,000 for his legal defense and $40,000 for a graphic novel that he is pitching at Comic Con through crowd source websites.) Websites like WeSearchr are also cashing in, raising money through crowd-sourcing to deliver “bounties” for different right-wing causes, like paying money to people who successfully doxxed anti-fascists.

But while edgy language and fighting postures have helped bring Alt Light leaders some acclaim, they seem to rightly suspect that open White nationalism is still a bridge too far for anyone seeking to build a lucrative career. Leading Alt Light website The Rebel has raised over a $1 million in its three years, almost entirely in crowd-sourced small donations. And while sites like GoFundMe are often off-limits to the Alt Right, since openly racist appeals violate their Terms of Service, the coded language of the Alt Light—using Civic Nationalist rather than “identitarian” talking points—can and does pass the bar. 15

The Alt Right has also taken hits when it comes to movement branding. In the heyday of the big Alt Right tent in 2015 and 2016, Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich told The New Yorker, the movement name “was adopted by libertarians, anti-globalists, classical conservatives, and pretty much everyone else who was sick of what had become of establishment conservatism.” But after “Richard Spencer came along, throwing up Nazi salutes and claiming that he was the leader of the alt-right,” Wintrich continued, “He effectively made the term toxic…We all abandoned using it in droves.”16 Wintrich’s summary was ahistorical: the broader use of the term Alt Right during the long election season was ideologically inconsistent with how it had been used for years by Spencer and his crew of “identitarians,” and Spencer’s efforts to reclaim the term, as explicitly signifying White nationalism, were really what the Alt Right had always been about. But the larger point remained—the bigger coalition Spencer had sought was falling apart.

There was further splintering within the Alt Light. Lauren Southern released a video message, “The Alt-Lite vs Free Speech,” arguing that blocking Spencer’s participation was capitulation to Leftist suppression of free speech. But despite this show of support for Spencer and the Alt Right, other Alt Right figures criticized her. In a long post at AltRight.com in late June, writer Michael Driscoll took Southern to task for what he saw as her lackluster opposition to immigration, arguing that “Something more is needed. That something is identity.”17

While further alienating their depleting number of allies may be a tactical misstep for the Alt Right, many, like Driscoll, see the popularity of more moderate voices like Southern as an impediment to the Alt Right’s goal of mobilizing anti-immigrant sentiment into support for open White identitarianism. As Driscoll wrote:

Southern is the focal point between the “Alt-Lite” and the Alt-Right and is one of the few new media figures aware that “classical liberalism” is not synonymous with Western Civilization, nor is it sufficient to defend that civilization’s existence. For that reason, where she goes from here is important.18

Taking the Oath

The tensions arose on other fronts as well, sometimes spilling over into violent confrontations between Alt Right White nationalists and Alt Light “Patriot” groups. On June 10, far-right groups including the Oath Keepers, a prominent Patriot movement organization, protested the removal of a Houston statue depicting former Texas President Sam Houston. The Oath Keepers, seeking to disassociate themselves from the White nationalist element of the Alt coalition, openly tried to keep the Alt Right from attending. But they came anyway, including an associate of the neonazi website the Daily Stormer, who arrived bearing a Nordic “Black Sun” flag and shouting antisemitic slogans. After event organizers asked protesters affiliated with the Daily Stormer and Vanguard America to leave, a scuffle broke out. When the man brandishing the flag was confronted, he began to repeat a line that would have seemed nonsensical before 2016—“What about the memes?”—until a rally attendant placed him in a chokehold. It was an absurdist image of a movement disconnected from most people’s political experiences, but within the fractious Alt coalition, it signaled another marked break.

A Patriot movement member stands guard during the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Occupation in Oregon in January. Photo: Shawn Records.

The various Patriot militia organizations, headed primarily by the Oath Keepers and the more decentralized 3%ers, can mobilize a large base for public events like the “free speech” rallies. While much of the Alt Right, and even the Alt Light, have little experience with public protest, the militia movement has frequently relied on displays of community pressure and intimidation. Starting with the first Bundy siege in 2014 and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Southeastern Oregon in January 2016, Patriot groups’ visible presence has led to an increase in membership numbers not seen since their 2008 surge in response to the election of President Obama.19 But while often lumped together with other players on the Far Right, Patriot groups’ stated ideology often excludes open White nationalism. Instead, they could easily be seen as the hard edge of the Republican Party, mixing extreme libertarian economics with anti-federal conspiracy theories, opposition to environmentalism, and a disbelief in the reality of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression.

Due to their experience and numbers, Patriot groups have assumed a deciding role in strategizing some “free speech” events, as at the June 4 rally in Portland, Oregon, where militia organizations planned the entire security and structure of the event, outlining their efforts with local police and the Department of Homeland Security.20 But Patriot groups also represent the most consistent right-wing voice against the ideological platform of the Alt Right. While the Alt Right attempts to destigmatize “White racial consciousness,” the militias hope to avoid accusations of racism entirely. During the Portland rally, Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson appealed to attendees “to make this day positive, with no hate and no violence,”21 and the speaker lineup included a trans woman and a security team member with Pacific Island heritage who performed a traditional “warrior dance.”

These gestures towards diversity may seem surprising. Patriot groups’ rhetoric is well known for racialist dog whistles, decrying everything from communism to “illegals,” but the image the organizers of the Portland rally sought to create was of a united Right unburdened by “identity politics.”

While major racialist groups like Identity Evropa have participated in the “free speech” rallies, there has been increasing pressure for the militia movement to take a stand against their presence. In June, Oath Keepers founder and president, Stewart Rhodes, distanced his organization, saying:

We’re not white nationalists. We’re not racists of any kind. And if they show up [at our rally], I am going to personally, physically remove them. Because they are trying to co-opt what we’re trying to do.22

The subsequent Alt Right backlash to Stewart trended the hashtag #OathCuckers, recalling the popular Alt Right #Cuckservative hashtag used to denigrate Republicans perceived as weak on immigration during the 2016 campaign season. When the Oath Keepers then condemned the Alt Right organizations that came to the Houston rally, seemingly hoping to exploit conservative anger over the destruction of Confederate monuments to drum up recruits, the divide deepened.

AltRight.com immediately ran a story that the Oath Keepers “showed their true colors.” The Daily Stormer published a series of articles denouncing them that focused heavily on the age of their membership and the fact that they allow non-White members, and suggesting that the attack on the flagbearing “Nazi” was an affront to free speech.23 Robert Ray, an Alt Right attendee at the Houston rally who goes by the handle “Azzmador,” scolded the Oath Keepers for their treatment of the flagbearer and their “color blind” politics; he would later appear on the White nationalist podcast The Daily Shoah, using antisemitic slurs as he said, “I had been predicting before we went to this thing that Antifa was not going to be our main problem there, it was going to be these ‘Cucks.’”24

Unite the Right?

In August, some of these divisions appeared to begin healing, as the various factions of the Alt Right coalesced around planning for an August 12 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The rally, “Unite the Right,” sought to bring together all organizations to the right of the Alt Light in protest of the planned removal of Confederate monuments. Organizer Jason Kessler saw the rally as a formal break with movement moderates and an effort to start harvesting the energy of the last two years. Among the invited groups were the National Socialist Movement, the Traditionalist Workers Party and other street-level organizations associated with skinheads or explicit neonazism that Spencer had avoided in the past.25 It was a decisive move for the Alt Right: associating with openly violent Nazi and KKK organizations, but not with those who cite Civic Nationalism and acknowledge the concept of racism. They anticipated high attendance—anywhere from 400 to more than 1,000 protesters—since the annual American Renaissance conference in Tennessee had sold out just two weeks before. And while counter-protests at American Renaissance were larger than in years past, the event went on largely uninterrupted, demonstrating that even at an explicitly White nationalist event the Alt Right could draw a crowd without the aid of the Alt Light or Patriot groups.26

It was a decisive move for the Alt Right: associating with openly violent Nazi and KKK organizations, but not with those who cite Civic Nationalism and acknowledge the concept of racism.

The movement converged on Charlottesville on the evening of August 11. Alt Right protesters, including figures like Christopher Cantwell and Richard Spencer, marched from the University of Virginia to surround a church hosting Union Theological Seminary professor Dr. Cornel West, kicking off a two-day frenzy of violence. When the Alt Right came upon people chanting and holding signs with Black Lives Matter slogans, they started punching the counter-protestors, spraying mace, and hitting them with torches in full view of the press.27 The next day, a Black counter-protester, Deandre Harris, was beaten with metal poles in a parking garage,28 and dozens of others were pepper sprayed or beaten.29 Just after 1:00 pm,30 a man who had been seen protesting alongside Vanguard America, and carrying a shield bearing its logo, drove a Dodge Challenger into the counter-protesters, killing one woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 more.31

Across the political spectrum, the melee was roundly repudiated, along with the movement itself32 (though not by President Trump, who refused for two days to condemn White nationalism by name, and suggested that “many sides” shared blame for the violence33). At a subsequent press conference intended to “disavow” the violence, Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler was chased off by protesters.34 And while The Daily Stormer published a ghoulish celebration of Heather Heyer’s death,35 many other Rightists, such as Alt Light leader Laura Loomer spent the weekend tweeting about the Alt Right’s connection to neonazis.

Aside from constituting a national tragedy, the moment could mark a decisive turn in the Alt Right’s position: granting them credibility with the further reaches of the Nazi Right, but also severing any access they had to the more moderate Trumpian Right, and likely other militia and Alt Light organizations.

What Next?

There have been massive social shifts on the Right following Trump’s election, including a mainstreaming of nativism. And yet, despite this cultural change, the social toxicity of open White supremacy has prevented the Alt Right from finding mainstream support for explicit White nationalism.

To overcome this, the Alt Right would need to find critical wedge issues—problems that appear insurmountable to those feeling them—that provide communities in crises with systemic answers. That has been, until recently, the Alt Right’s remaining avenue for growth: to present themselves as the answer to “problems” like crime, immigration, terrorism, and a range of perceived social ills like political correctness. But to gain access to those crowds they need more accepted factions of the Right to give them access to a stage (that they will use for their own reasons). The Civic Nationalists of the Alt Light seemed to offer this opportunity, but to keep this coalition intact, it has to be a mutually beneficial relationship, offering something that the Alt Light doesn’t already have.

This task is even harder in the wake of Charlottesville. In the days immediately following the Charlottesville riot, a number of Alt Right participants had their identities made public, and were subsequently arrested, fired or denounced by embarrassed family members. The Daily Stormer’s web hosts at GoDaddy cancelled their contract and forced the website offline (although they soon reemerged on a website only available through the Tor web browser).36 They, along with multiple other Alt Right accounts, have been banned on Twitter, and PayPal is cleaning out many profiles used by White nationalist projects, denying AltRight.com a major funding channel.37 Within days of the tragedy in Charlottesville, two of Richard Spencer’s planned events—a “White lives matter” rally at Texas A&M University38 and a speaking engagement at the University of Florida—were unceremoniously canceled.39

AltRight.com has claimed that the showdown in Charlottesville will prove to be the “beginning of the White Civil Rights movement.” But facing nearly universal condemnation by the public, it’s likely that the existing divisions between the Alt Right and the Alt Light will only grow.

While the Trumpist moment was too advantageous for them to ignore, the avenue for growth it offered also exposed a key disconnect between the Alt Right’s ambitions and its reason for being—that is, its radicalism, and its reduction of politics to identity. The rest of conservatism, including Civic Nationalists, argues for ideological principles, semi-universal policy positions that outline a worldview. The Alt Right’s principles, by contrast, all form downstream from identity—a politics that are ordered entirely around their perceived “White interests.” While they’ve battled over tone and optics, the divide between the Alt Right and Alt Light is not just a disagreement about intensity, but about their core understanding of the world. And while they may find these partners useful in attacking the Left or targeting mass immigration, when it comes time for the Alt Right to define its perspective, it must finally alienate its crossover supporters, who simply will not agree on the fundamentals.

While the rest of conservatism argues for semi-universal policy positions that outline a worldview, the Alt Right’s principles all form downstream from White identity.

Trump’s populist banner gave the Alt Right access to the broader culture, but they’ve reached the end of their ability to compromise to grow. The increased violence at events like Unite the Right further widen the divide, as their radicalism is shown to have bloody consequences, and it will force even the revolutionary side of their movement to take sides. In a post-Charlottesville world, they may be too toxic for the Alt Light to touch, making the benefits of their earlier coalition moot.

For anti-racist organizations looking to stem the rise of the Alt Right, these divides offer an opportunity to pressure the crossover organizations, from Rebel Media to the Oath Keepers, to draw a line between themselves and open White nationalists. The Alt Right needs some hold on mainstream cultural institutions if they are ever to see critical mass that can result in effective, self-sustaining organizing. Ensuring further breaks in the coalition they seek can help put a break in their momentum.

Endnotes

 

1 Richard Spencer, “The Alt-Right Triumphant,” AltRight.com, June 30, 2017, https://altright.com/2017/06/30/the-alt-right-triumphant/.

2 Andrew Marantz, “The Alt-Right Branding War Has Torn the Movement in Two,” The New Yorker, July 6, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-alt-right-branding-war-has-torn-the-movement-in-two.

3 Richard Spencer, “Alt-Right Politics – June 24, 2017 – This Means War!,” AltRight.com, June 24, 2017, https://altright.com/2017/06/24/alt-right-politics-june-24-2017-this-means-war/.

4 While the Alt Right is a “big tent” in its own right, the coalition has defined values of inequality and ethnic identity. Richard Spencer, “What is the Alt Right?” NPI/Radix, YouTube, December 17, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBHck8mIylo.

5 Bradford Richardson, “Trump supporters headline free speech rally at University of California, Berkeley,” The Washington Times, April 27, 2017, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/apr/27/gavin-mcinnes-lauren-southern-headline-free-speech/.

6 David Neiwart, “Competing Alt-Right ‘Free-Speech’ Rallies Reveals Infighting Over White Nationalism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 21, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/06/21/competing-alt-right-free-speech-rallies-reveal-infighting-over-white-nationalism.

7 Richard Spencer (RichardBSpencer) “The Alt Light is a collection of outright liars (Posobiec and Cerno), perverts (Milo, Wintrich), and Zionist fanatics (Loomer).” June 16, 2017, 11:11 PM, Tweet.

8 Richard Spencer, “Milo and His Enemies,” AltRight.com, March 2, 2017, https://altright.com/2017/03/02/milo-and-his-enemies/.

9 Shane Burley, “As the alt-right breaks with Trump, so goes its moment in the sun,” Waging Nonviolence, April 17, 2017, https://wagingnonviolence.org/2017/04/alt-right-trump-break/.

10 Brakkton Booker, “Alt-Right Infighting Simmers Around Inaugeral ‘DeploraBall,” NPR, January 1, 2017, http://www.npr.org/2017/01/01/507395282/alt-right-infighting-simmers-around-inaugural-deploraball.

11 Joshua Green, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency (New York: Penguin Press, 2017): 5-6.

12 Kyle Chapman, Interview With Author, June 4, 2017.

13 Nathan Damigo, “Is Based Stick Man Not So Based?” AltRight.com, March 28, 2017, https://altright.com/2017/03/28/is-based-stick-man-not-so-based/.

14 Ibid.

15 Josh Harkinson, “Cashing in on the Rise of the Alt-Right,” Mother Jones, June 16, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/06/kyle-chapman-based-stickman-alt-right/.

16 Lucian Wintrich as quoted by Andrew Maratz, “The Alt-Right Branding War Has Torn the Movement in Two,” The New Yorker, July 6, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-alt-right-branding-war-has-torn-the-movement-in-two.

17 Michael Driscoll, “Lauren Southern, Generation Identity, and the Quest for Meaning,” AltRight.com, June 29, 2017, https://altright.com/2017/06/29/lauren-southern-generation-identity-and-the-quest-for-meaning/.

18 Michael Driscoll, “Lauren Southern, Generation Identity, and the Quest for Meaning,” AltRight.com, June 29, 2017, https://altright.com/2017/06/29/lauren-southern-generation-identity-and-the-quest-for-meaning/.

19 “Antigovernment militia groups grew by more than one-third in last year,” Southern Poverty Law Center, January 4, 2016, https://www.splcenter.org/news/2016/01/04/antigovernment-militia-groups-grew-more-one-third-last-year.

20 Arun Gupta, “Playing Cops: Militia Member Aids Police in Arresting Protester at Portland Alt-Right Rally,” The Intercept, June 8, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/06/08/portland-alt-right-milita-police-dhs-arrest-protester/.

21 Joey Gibson, “Speech at ‘Free Speech’ Rally,” Speech, Patriot Prayer “Free Speech” Rally, Portland, Oregon, June 4, 2017.
22 Steward Rhodes, “Oath Keepers say IDENTITY EVROPA is not Welcome: ‘If they come in today we going to whoop their ass,’” Very Fake News, YouTube, April 29, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14J1dCwXh5w.
23 In mid-August, The Daily Stormer was denied domain registration from Google and GoDaddy and these webpages were no longer live.

24 Azzmador, Mike Enoch, and Seventh Son, “The Daily Shoah 164: Vanned in the UK,” The Right Stuff, June 20, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0lU2WtUKxc.

25 Sarah Viets, “Neo-Nazi Misfits Join Unite the Right,” Southern Poverty Law Center, July 26, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/07/26/neo-nazi-misfits-join-unite-right.

26 Jason Wilson, “’Young white guys are hopping mad’: confidence grows at far-right gathering,” The Guardian, July 31, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/31/american-renaissance-conference-white-identity.

27 Jason Wilson, “Charlottesville: far-right crowd with torches encircles counter-protester group,” The Guardian, August 12, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/12/charlottesville-far-right-crowd-with-torches-encircles-counter-protest-group.

28 Yesha Callahan, “White Supremacists Beat Black Man With Poles in Charlottesville, Va., Parking Garage, The Root, August 12, 2017, http://www.theroot.com/white-supremacists-beat-black-man-with-poles-in-charlot-1797790092?rev=1502591812341.

29 Brendan King, “Protesters pepper spray, beat each other during Charlottesville rally,” WTVR, August 12, 2017, http://wtvr.com/2017/08/12/protesters-pepper-spray-beat-each-other-during-charlottesville-unit-the-right-rally/.

30 Joe Heim, “Recounting a day of rage, hate, violence and death,” The Washington Post, August 14, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/local/charlottesville-timeline/?utm_term=.1225c1019e5c.

31 “Alleged Charlottesville Driver Who Killed One Rallied With Alt-Right Vanguard America,” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 12, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/08/12/alleged-charlottesville-driver-who-killed-one-rallied-alt-right-vanguard-america-group.

32 Jeniffer Calfas, “Virginia Governor Delivers Defiant Speech Against White Supremacists ‘We Are Stronger Than Them,’” TIME, August 13, 2017, http://time.com/4898560/virginia-governor-terry-mcauliffe-church-speech-transcript/.

33 Glenn Thrush and Rebecca R. Ruiz, “White House Acts to Stem Fallout From Trump’s First Charlottesville Remarks,” The New York Times, August 13, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-protests-white-nationalists-trump.html.

34 “USA: Unite the Right organiser shutdown after blaming Charlottesville chaos on ‘anti-white hate,’” Ruptly TV, Youtube, August 13, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X4qeu5zLVI.

35 “After praising Trump’s statement on Charlottesville, a neo-Nazi website celebrates murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer,” Media Matters for America, August 13, 2017, https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2017/08/13/after-praising-trumps-statement-charlottesville-neo-nazi-website-celebrates-murder-counterprotester/217610.

36 Justin Ling, “Neo-nazi site The Daily Stormer moves to the Darkweb, but promises a comeback,” Vice News, August 15, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/paypal-suspends-dozens-of-racist-groups-sites-altright-com/.

37 Jonathan Berr, “PayPal cuts off payments to right-wing extremists,” CBS News, August 16, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/paypal-suspends-dozens-of-racist-groups-sites-altright-com/.

38 Doug Criss, “Texas A&M cancels white nationalist rally set for 9/11,” CNN, August 15, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/us/texas-white-nationalist-protest-trnd/index.html.

39 Colin Dwyer, “University of Florida Denies Richard Spencer Event, Citing ‘Likelihood of Violence,” NPR, August 16, 2017, http://www.npr.org/2017/08/16/543874400/university-of-florida-denies-richard-spencer-event-citing-likelihood-of-violence.

A Guide to Who’s Coming to the Largest White Nationalist Rally in a Decade

A poster for Unite the Right combines imagery of Confederate flags and monuments, Pepe the Frog, as well as the Roman Eagle–reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

The Unite the Right rally, which will take place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, looks like it will be the largest White Nationalist rally in the United States in more than a decade. Between 500 and 1,000 people are expected to participate, while up to 4,000 counter-protestors may come.

While there have been numerous Far Right rallies since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, this is the first major one that is led by fascists and other White Nationalists, which include Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach, Mike Enoch, and Michael Hill. It is also the third rally to be held in Charlottesville this year; the first one, in May, was marked by a torchlight rally at night, and was followed by a KKK march in July.

I have identified over thirty groups and prominent individuals who will be speaking at or attending the event, or have provided support for or endorsed it. This list includes Alt Right and Alt Lite members, neoconfederates, neonazis, racist pagans, Patriot movement paramilitaries, and even a European neonazi party. What follows is a scorecard of the Far Right groups that have announced they will attend the event, although undoubtedly many more will come.

ORGANIZER

Jason Kessler (Unity and Security for America)

Jason Kessler writes on Twitter, “#UniteTheRight opposes the demonization of white people & their history. We oppose the globalist plan to replace us w/ 3rd world immigration.”

As Unite the Right’s main organizer, Kessler has filed for the rally permits and has held several press conferences. He is the president of the Far Right group Unity and Security for America, and has written for the White nationalist anti-immigration VDARE website. He had written a Daily Caller story praising the May Charlottesville rally. However, after it was revealed that Kessler had also given a speech to the protestors the same day, the website suspended their relationship. Kessler promotes antisemitic and “White genocide” conspiracy theories, and supports calls for a White ethnostate.

On the Political Cesspool radio show, Kessler said about Unite the Right: “the number one thing is I want to destigmatize Pro-White advocacy…. I want a huge, huge crowd, and that’s what we’re going to have, to come out and support, not just the Lee Monument, but also white people in general, because it is our race which is under attack.”1

SPEAKERS

Richard Spencer (AltRight.com, National Policy Institute)
Spencer is the most visible Alt Right figure and is usually credited with coining the term. The leader of the intellectual wing of the movement, he has been pivotal in remaking the image of White nationalism. An advocate of “peaceful ethnic cleansing” and a White ethnostate, Spencer is influenced by European unorthodox fascist trends like the New Right and Identitarian movement. Despite being firmly on the fascist wing of the movement, his untraditional influences show, for example, in his toleration of openly gay and lesbian participants. In 2011 Spencer took over the National Policy Institute (NPI) think tank and has held several conferences in Washington. A supporter of Trump at the time, at the NPI conference before the inauguration Spencer gave a speech that ended with, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” Audience members sieg-heiled in response. In 2017, Spencer founded a new website, AltRight.com, along with others including Jason Jorjani and Swedish fascist Daniel Friberg, both of whom work with Arktos press.

AltRight.com wrote about the rally, saying “People will talk about Charlottesville as a turning point. There will be a before Charlottesville and an after Charlottesville. Will you stand up for your history, your race and your way of life?”2

Matthew Heimbach (Traditionalist Worker Party)


Matthew Heimbach and his Traditionalist Worker Party have been promoting the event; he is depicted here during his time in the White Student Union he founded while attending Towson University. Photo: Flickr via cool revolution.

Heimbach has founded and led several groups in succession: a Youth for Western Civilization chapter and a White Students Union (both at Towson University in Maryland), and then the Traditionalist Youth Network and its outgrowth, the Traditionalist Worker Party. He is one of the three leaders of the racist umbrella group the Nationalist Front, and is a member of the neoconfederate League of the South. Now twenty-six, Heimbach was the bright young thing of the White Nationalist movement before the Alt Right, and despite his orientation towards more traditional neonazi and KKK groups, he portrays himself as a prominent figure in the Alt Right. He is a tireless networker, with links to groups like Greece’s neonazi Golden Dawn party, but is also a controversial figure. He had been feuding with Richard Spencer, but this apparently ended in April 2017 when Heimbach came to Alabama’s Auburn University to help protect a talk Spencer gave. In July 2017 Heimbach plead guilty to disorderly conduct for attacking a black woman at a March 2016 Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky.3

Mike Enoch (The Right Stuff)

Enoch (real name: Mike Peinovich) runs The Right Stuff, a podcast platform which includes the Daily Shoah show. The Right Stuff acts as middle-ground between the intellectual and juvenile trolling wings of the Alt Right. Enoch appeared with Nationalist Front groups at the April 2017 rally in Pikeville, Kentucky, and was at the May rally in Charlottesville. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas. Enoch is credited with popularizing the racist neologism “dindus” as well as the antisemitic “echoes” symbol (where three parentheses are placed around names of people thought to be Jewish). Vehemently antisemitic, when he was doxed in January 2017 it was revealed he lived in New York’s wealthy Upper East Side neighborhood—with his Jewish wife.4

Michael Hill (League of the South)

Hill is the founder and leader of the neoconfederate League of the South. A former professor, he has the led the group from having a base of support from pro-Southern academics into a racist group with paramilitary elements. Hill is also one of the three leaders of the Nationalist Front. He will be the only person speaking at Unite the Right with a PhD.5

Augustus Invictus (Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, American Guard)

Invictus is a Florida lawyer who ran in the 2016 Libertarian Party primary for senate, hoping to take Marco Rubio’s seat. Invictus is a Thelemite (occultists in the tradition of Aleister Crowley), and the press has a had a field day with that fact that he admits to sacrificing a goat and drinking its blood. As a lawyer, Invictus defended Marcus Faella of the American Front, a Third Positionist skinhead group whose Florida chapter was arrested and charged with illegal paramilitary training; American Front members have hosted and attended Invictus’s talks in the Pacific Northwest. He has floated into Alt Right circles and, although he denies being a white supremacist, he is unusually open about his willingness to work with fascists. He is a member of the American Guard, a Midwest-based Alt Right group that accepts open White nationalists while claiming the group itself are “constitutional nationalists.” He also helped Based Stickman form the Fraternal Order of the Alt Knights—a group designed to engage in fights at demonstrations, and who are affiliated with the Proud Boys.6

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska takes to Twitter to promote the rally.

Tim “Treadstone” Gionet, aka “Baked Alaska,” is a former Buzzfeed social media strategist who has moved towards antisemitism, Islamophobia, and White nationalism. He was Milo Yiannopoulos’s tour manager in 2016, but was uninvited to the Alt Lite “Deploraball”—held in Washington, DC the night before Trump’s inauguration—for his antisemitic tweets. Baked Alaska apologized, but has since attacked Alt Lite livestreamer Laura Loomer using blatant antisemitism, and now promotes White supremacist ideas such as “the 14 words” and “White genocide” on Twitter.7

Pax Dickinson

The most commercially successful of the crowd, Dickinson worked at Business Insider until his misogynistic tweets forced his departure. He later worked at Wesearchr, a Far Right funding platform. After a fallout there, he announced that he is starting Counter.Fund, a new Far Right crowdfunding site. However, the revelation that Peter Belau, the site’s “first High Council appointee” is Jewish, has caused neonazi stalwart Billy Roper to denounce the Unite the Right gathering.8

Christopher Cantwell

One of the minor league speakers tapped early on, Cantwell hosts the Radical Agenda podcast. He had worked with the Cop Block project, before he—like an number of Alt Right members—moved from libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism into the Alt Right and sympathy with fascists. In a recent interview, Cantwell said “let’s fucking gas the kikes and have a race war.”9

Johnny Monoxide

The least-known of the speakers, Monoxide (aka Johnny Ramondetta) is a White nationalist livestreamer who has run different podcasts. Living in Berkeley, California, Monoxide has livestreamed Identity Evropa events.10

LEGAL SUPPORT

Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, Inc.

Led by Kyle Bristow, this Michigan-based legal non-profit was formed in 2016. He claims it is “quickly becoming the legal muscle behind the alt-right movement.” In April, Bristow successfully forced Auburn University to host Richard Spencer’s talk. More recently, Bristow has tried to block the Charlottesville city government from moving the location of Unite the Right out of a small park in the downtown area. The group’s board of directors include Alt Right activist Mike Enoch; William Johnson, the chairman of the White nationalist American Freedom Party; and James Edwards, who runs the White nationalist Political Cesspool radio show.11

Memes such as this one have been circulating social media in anticipation for the rally.

ATTENDEES

Daily Stormer

Founded by Andrew Anglin, by July 2016 the site, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “had become the most popular English-language website of the radical right, eclipsing the Stormfront site that had held that position since the early days of the Internet.” Daily Stormer (a pun on the 1930s German Nazi party newspaper Der Stürmer) is the most prominent representative of the openly neonazi wing of the Alt Right. In 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center said they have established thirty-one on-the-ground groups, called “book clubs.” Staffers Lee Rogers, “Azzmador,” “Zeiger,” and Ben Garland announced they are going to Unite the Right. Rogers writes, “Daily Stormer Book Clubs should do everything they can to get their people out to this event. All readers of the Daily Stormer should do the same.”

Another article Daily Stormer says, “this will clearly be an earth-shaking day that will go down in the history books. It can really only be explained as a perfect storm. That everything has been leading up to this. That our time has come. … It will be a monumental turning point in the progression of our movement. Everything will be different afterwards. … Next stop: Charlottesville, VA. Final stop: Auschwitz.”12

Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK)

The “military wing of the Proud Boys,” this group was founded in April 2017 by Based Stickman, with help from Augustus Invictus. (Based Stickman was originally slated as appearing at the rally, but it does not appear that he will make an appearance.) On August 7 the FOAK announced that will be come to Unite the Right.13

Brad Griffin (Occidental Dissent)
Griffin’s Occidental Dissent blog has been heavily promoting Unite the Right. Griffin, who writes as “Hunter Wallace,” is a member of the neoconfederate League of the South. He also has been a board member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the group who was the inspiration to Dylann Roof, the murderer of nine black worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015. Despite his neoconfederate views, Griffin has come around to supporting the Alt Right.

In July, Griffin wrote:I think Charlottesville has the potential to be a breakthrough moment in our activism. There is so much energy which has been bottled up online over the past 15 years that the dam is close to breaking. It is only a matter of time before it finally spills over into the real world and we are getting very close to that point.”14

Identity Dixie

A media outlet with a webpage and podcast called Rebel Yell. It was started by The Right Stuff in order to appeal to neoconfederates, and mixes confederate and Nazi imagery.15

Identity Evropa’s advertisement for the rally.

Identity Evropa

Founded in March 2016, Identity Evropa is one of two fascist Alt Right groups who are oriented toward recruiting men in their teens and early twenties. They copy European Identitarian politics and are known for sporting Richard Spencer-like “fashy” haircuts and recruiting on campuses. They have been present at many of the combative Far Right-organized street demonstrations since the inauguration. Their leader, Nathan Damigo, achieved internet notoriety for punching a counter-protestor at a Berkeley rally in April 2017. Damigo has previously led the Nationalist Youth Front, the youth branch of the White nationalist American Freedom Party. Identity Evropa also participated in the May 2017 Charlottesville rally.

Damigo plans to be at Unite the Right; he says the removal of Confederate monuments is part of a plan “to sever us from our identity so that we will have nothing left to gain strength and inspiration from to resist their mass colonization. Join us, and push back against the cultural Marxists their war on Whites.”16

League of the South

The League is a highly visible neoconfederate organization, and promote an explicitly White nationalist version of the Confederacy’s goal—southern secession. Founded in 1994, they have been able to attract thousands of members over the years, and have created paramilitary elements. Their current popular issue is their support for Confederate memorials and flags. In April 2017 they joined the Nationalist Front, and attended the Pikeville, Kentucky rally alongside the Traditionalist Worker Party, National Socialist Movement, and others.

The League’s founder and leader, Michael Hill, will speak at Unite the Right. The group says, “This is an event which seeks to unify the right-wing against a totalitarian Communist crackdown, to speak out against displacement level immigration policies in the United States and Europe, and to affirm the right of Southerners and White people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do, free of persecution.”17

National Socialist Movement

The NSM is the prominent U.S. neonazi party. After American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell was assassinated in 1967, some of his followers latter founded a group that eventually became the National Socialist Movement. Lead by Jeff Schoep, they came into prominence in 2004 and are known primarily for staging high-profile public rallies. This included a 2005 Toledo, Ohio march that ended in rioting. In April 2016 they helped found the racist umbrella group Aryan Nationalist Alliance (now the Nationalist Front), and Schoep is one the group’s three leaders. Attempting to mainstream itself in the atmosphere created by Trump, in November 2016 the National Socialist Movement removed the swastika from their flag, replacing it with an Odal rune. In April 2017 they attended a large rally in Pikeville, Kentucky, led by Heimbach. In July 2017, they announced they would come to Unite the Right, saying “This is a call to all NSM Members to be in Charlottesville, and show our support for White History and Heritage.” However, as of press time Schoep is not listed as a speaker.18

Nationalist Front
A national umbrella organization of various neonazi, fascist, Klan, and other groups. Founded in April 2016 as the Aryan Nationalist Alliance, soon after it changed its name and now has three leaders: Matthew Heimbach (Traditionalist Worker Party), Jeff Schoep (National Socialist Movement), and Michael Hill (League of the South). Heimbach and Hill are speaking and all three groups will attend the rally, along with Vanguard America, a new member group who are Alt Right neonazis. Especially with the addition of the National Socialist Movement, Unite the Right has gained the aura of being a Nationalist Front event.19

Stephen McNallen (Wotan Network)

McNallen is the founder of the Asatru Folk Assembly, a White nationalist Heathen group. (Heathens are pagans who worship the traditional Norse and Germanic gods; this religious tradition is favored by many White nationalists, although many other Heathens are anti-racist.) Recently McNallen has formed the openly White nationalist Wotan Network, which is focused on disseminating White nationalist Heathen memes. He said he wants his appearance at Unite the Right to have a large public impact.20

Patriot Movement and the Militias

The role of the Patriot movement and its paramilitaries—which have appeared at numerous other Trumpist street rallies—has been a hotly discussed topic on social media. In the end, the optics of the rally have become too neonazi looking for most to attend. However, there are some exceptions.

The American Freedom Keepers are mobilizing people to come. This group seems to be based in Portland, Oregon; its members have participated in different street actions. They are a split from another group, the Warriors for Freedom. At an ultra-nationalist demonstration in June 2017 in Portland Oregon, an American Freedom Keeper made the news after he was photographed assisting law enforcement in arresting a counter-demonstrator. 21 When contacted via their website, the group did not deny it was organizing its members to come.

The leader of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia has also said he will bring his group. He claims that they are “going to try to coordinate with law enforcement.”22

Additionally, the social media posts of various individual Patriot movement members, including III%ers and members of APIII%, have said they will attend.

Proud Boys
An Alt Right group founded by Gavin McInnes, who co-founded Vice media, but left in 2008. McInnes is deeply misogynistic and Islamophobic, and has called transgender people “gender niggers.” McInnes denies being a White supremacist, and the group describes itself as “western chauvinist.” The Proud Boys allow people of color, Jews and gay men in their group.

McInnes has contributed to White nationalist publications like American Renaissance and VDARE, used White nationalist rhetoric like “White genocide,” and has had White nationalist leaders on his show. White supremacists like Mike Enoch brag about how close the Proud Boys are to neonazism, going so far as to say that those who won’t become White Nationalists are “Jewish, they’re half-white, they’re mixed race or they have a non-White girlfriend of [sic] wife.”

The Proud Boys are an international organization that is explicitly violent; part of advancing in rank in their organization requires members to fight with their political opponents. They have been frequently seen at the clashes over the last six months. In April 2017 the formation of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights was announced; it is described as the “military division of the Proud Boys.” Proud Boys in the Canadian armed forces were investigated after they disrupted a First Nations ceremony.

Originally the Proud Boys website ran an article denouncing “Unite the Right,” but it was taken down and replaced with one saying “if a chapter or an individual Proud Boy feels compelled to go, we encourage him to do so.”23

Red Elephants

A new Alt Right media platform known for their livestreaming. They have promoted the violent DIY Division, are alleged to have illegally livestreamed inside of a courtroom, and were part of a July pro-Trump provocation in downtown Berkeley. They have promoted Unite the Right and are fundraising to send members there.24

Traditionalist Worker Party

Led by Matthew Heimbach, the Traditionalist Worker Party is an outgrowth of his Traditionalist Youth Network. The group is both a predecessor to the Alt Right as well as a participant in it, despite Heimbach’s own orientation towards more traditional White Supremacist organizing. The group is a founding member of the Nationalist Front, and technically they are Third Positionist: they seek a separate White ethno-state and portray themselves as anti-capitalist. In April 2017 they organized a large rally in Pikeville, Kentucky, which was attended by the National Socialist Movement, the League of the South, Mike Enoch, and Vanguard America. Traditionalist Worker Party member Matt Parrot (who is Heimbach’s father-in-law), says the Traditionalist Worker Party will be “welcoming and supporting non-identitarian and non-White allies” at Unite the Right. Elsewhere he says:

“There’s this impression that Unite the Right is a White Nationalist event. This is false. Unite the Right is a broad unity event for every single faction of the right with the balls to stand and fight for our heritage against a nightmare swarm of Marxist degenerates. It just happens that only White Nationalists got the balls to hold the line when the media tries to divide and conquer.”

Meanwhile, in a video promoting Unite the Right, Heimbach claims a Jewish conspiracy is behind the removal of the Confederate memorials, because “they want to be able to destroy knowledge of the past so they, the Jewish Power Structure, can try and control the future.”25

Unity and Security for America

Founded by Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler, the goal of this group “is to defend Western Civilization including its history, culture and peoples while utterly dismantling Cultural Marxism.” In addition to limiting immigration (they want to require that “most immigrants come from Western nations”), Unity and Security for America advocate a strongly isolationist foreign policy.26

Vanguard America

An Alt Right neonazi group formed in 2016 and led by Dillon Irizarry, they focus on recruiting men in their teens and early twenties. They have been present at many of the street rallies and clashes this year, and have concentrated on campus-based recruiting. Originally named the American Vanguard, after participating in the April 2017 Pikeville, Kentucky rally, they joined the Nationalist Front.27

“Wife With a Purpose” ministry
Richard Spencer announced that the blogger Ayla Stewart, who runs “Wife With a Purpose” ministry, will be attending the rally. Her brand of openly White nationalist Mormonism has gained her over 30,000 Twitter followers and media notoriety.29

Endorsements


David Duke advertises the Unite the Right rally on his Twitter. The list of featured speakers includes many notable white nationalists and fascists.

American Renaissance

Jared Taylor leads American Renaissance, which is both a White nationalist publication and annual conference with an intellectual approach. Matthew Lyons describes it asone of the movement’s central institutions” which “pioneered a version of White nationalism that avoided antisemitism.” Taylor has been called the “father of the alt right” because of his promotion of the notion of “race realism.”

In June 2017, antiracist activists claimed Taylor attended a meeting with Kessler and others at a Charlottesville restaurant, where Taylor disguised himself in a wig and spoke in a fake French accent. While no Unite the Right speakers were on the official program of the July 2017 American Renaissance conference in Tennessee, shortly thereafter Taylor made a Periscope video promoting the rally. In it, he says the desire to remove Confederate monuments is an “attack an all Americans who think differently than the way we are obliged today” and was an attempt to destroy “White heritage.”30

David Duke

Since so many White nationalists who lead the 1980s and ‘90s movement have died, Duke is moving into a position as the movement’s preeminent elder statesman. Duke was a neonazi in the 1970s and later the founder and leader of the influential Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. Part of the faction that wished to mainstream the Klan, he was elected as a Louisiana State Representative in 1989. Duke is promoting Unite the Right on his radio show and Twitter.31

Matthew Heimbach announced Golden Dawn’s endorsement of the rally on Facebook.

Golden Dawn

Matthew Heimbach announced on Facebook that Golden Dawn sent him a message to read at Unite the Right. This Greek neonazi party holds seventeen seats in the national parliament, and has chapters in the United States and other countries.32

Endnotes

1 A.C. Thompson, “A Few Things Got Left Out of The Daily Caller’s Report on Confederate Monument Rally,” ProPublica, May 31, 2017, https://www.propublica.org/article/things-got-left-out-of-the-daily-callers-report-confederate-monument-rally; Hatewatch Staff, “Dueling Alt-Right Rallies, Separated by Anti-Semitism, Face Off in DC Despite Calls to ‘Unite the Right’,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 26, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/06/26/dueling-alt-right-rallies-separated-anti-semitism-face-dc-despite-calls-unite-right; “Jason Kessler tells white nationalist radio host that he hopes to destigmatize white nationalism with the Unite The Right rally…,” Restoring the Honor, July 31, 2017, http://restoringthehonor.blogspot.com/2017/07/jason-kessler-tells-white-nationalist_31.html.

2 “Richard Bertrand Spencer,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 7, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/richard-bertrand-spencer-0; Daniel Lombroso and Yoni Appelbaum, “‘Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President Elect.” Atlantic, November 21, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/richard-spencer-speech-npi/508379; Vincent Law, “The ‘Unite The Right’ Rally Is Going To Be A Turning Point For White Identity In America,” AltRight.com, August 5, 2017, https://altright.com/2017/08/05/the-unite-the-right-rally-is-going-to-be-a-turning-point-for-white-identity-in-america.
3 “Matthew Heimbach,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 7, 2017,
https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/matthew-heimbach; Lois Beckett, “Neo-Nazi pleads guilty after shoving black protester at Trump rally,” Guardian, July 19, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/19/matthew-heimbach-neo-nazi-trump-rally-guilty-plea; Vegas Tenold, “When the White Nationalists Came to Washington,” New Republic, January 23, 2017, https://newrepublic.com/article/140053/white-nationalists-came-washington; “Auburn, AL: Students Chase off Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach’s Alt-Right Trolls,” It’s Going Down, April 19, 2017, https://itsgoingdown.org/auburn-al-students-chase-off-richard-spencer-matthew-heimbachs-alt-right-trolls.

4 Matthew Sheffield, “The alt-right eats its own: Neo-Nazi podcaster ‘Mike Enoch’ quits after doxxers reveal his wife is Jewish Bad day for the Fourth Reich,” Salon, January 16, 2017, http://www.salon.com/2017/01/16/cat-fight-on-the-alt-right-neo-nazi-podcaster-mike-enoch-quits-after-doxxers-reveal-his-wife-is-jewish; “Michael ‘Enoch’ Peinovich,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 7, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/michael-“enoch”-peinovich.

5 “Michael Hill,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 7, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/michael-hill.

6 Shane Burley, “Imperium and the Sun: The Strange Case of Augustus Sol Invictus and the New Right,” Hampton Institute, January 11, 2016, http://www.hamptoninstitution.org/augustus-sol-invictus.html; Augustus Invictus, “On Left-Wing Terrorism & Right-Wing Counterterrorism,” The Revolutionary Conservative, April 25, 2017, http://therevolutionaryconservative.com/articles/2017-04-25-on-left-wing-terrorism-right-wing-counterterrorism; “Augustus Invictus Meet & Greet Report Back,” Rose City Antifa, March 5, 2016, http://rosecityantifa.org/articles/augustus-invictus-meet-greet-report-back; “The American Guard,” YouTube, posted by The Revolutionary Conservative on May 11, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CM35ZyGWHw.

7 Oliver Darcy, “The untold story of Baked Alaska, a rapper turned BuzzFeed personality turned alt-right troll,” Business Insider, April 30, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/who-is-baked-alaska-milo-mike-cernovich-alt-right-trump-2017-4; Taly Krupkin, “The Jewish Provocateur Caught in the Turf War as the ‘Alt-right’ Battles the ‘Alt-light’,” Haaretz, June 22, 2017, http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.797372; Tim Gionet (@bakedalaska), Twitter post, May 7, 2017, https://twitter.com/bakedalaska/status/861399464271073280; Tim Gionet (@bakedalaska), Twitter post, June 28, 2017, https://twitter.com/bakedalaska/status/880239704758599680.

8 Nitasha Tiku, “Business Insider’s CTO Is Your New Tech Bro Nightmare,” Valleywag, September 9, 2013, http://valleywag.gawker.com/business-insider-ctos-is-your-new-tech-bro-nightmare-1280336916; Pax Dickinson, “A Gentle Introduction to Counter.Fund,” Medium, June 13, 2017, https://medium.com/@paxdickinson/a-gentle-introduction-to-counter-fund-bb0c9d6dd444; Jesse Singal, “The WeSearchr Meltdown Is a Reminder That Some Very Rich People Are Funding the Alt-Right,” New York (Select/All), May 16, 2017, http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/05/chuck-johnsons-wesearchr-is-having-a-bit-of-a-meltdown.html; Billy Roper, “UniteTheRight…with Jews?,” The Roper Report, July 2, 2017, https://theroperreportsite.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/unitetheright-with-jews; Peter B, “Introducing the Counter.Fund High Councilors: Peter Belau,” Medium, June 27, 2017, https://medium.com/@PissAndVinegar/introducing-the-counter-fund-high-councilors-peter-belau-b7ccf37fc060.

9 “Capitalists Against Cops: Cop Block, Christopher Cantwell, and the Libertarian Paradox,” Anti-Fascist News, December 15, 2015, https://antifascistnews.net/2015/12/15/capitalists-against-cops-cop-block-christopher-cantwell-and-the-libertarian-paradox; “Christopher Cantwell Claims He’s ‘Not Even a Hitlerite’ But Wants to ‘Gas’ the Jews,” Angry White Men, June 26, 2017, https://angrywhitemen.org/2017/06/26/christopher-cantwell-claims-hes-not-even-a-hitlerite-but-wants-to-gas-the-jews.

10 “Identity Evropa: Mapping the Alt-Right Cadre,” Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA), December 9, 2016, https://nocara.blackblogs.org/2016/12/09/identity-evropa-mapping-the-alt-right-cadre.

“John Ramondetta Exposed to Berkeley Community as Neo-Nazi Organizer,” Indybay, June 29, 2017, https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/06/29/18800525.php.

11 “Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, Inc.,” GuideStar, accessed August 8, 2017, https://www.guidestar.org/profile/81-1969574; Chris Suarez, “Unite the Right rally sparks First Amendment questions,” Roanaoke Times, July 29, 2017, http://www.roanoke.com/news/virginia/unite-the-right-rally-sparks-first-amendment-questions/article_595b06b8-6d57-507f-9827-ff3419af8ff6.html; Bill Morlin, “Extremists’ ‘Unite the Right’ Rally: A Possible Historic Alt-Right Showcase?,” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 7, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/08/07/extremists-unite-right-rally-possible-historic-alt-right-showcase.

“Kyle Bristow,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 8, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/kyle-bristow; “FMI’s Board of Directors,” Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, accessed August 7, 2017, http://www.freedomfront.org/board-of-directors; “Kyle Bristow: The Alt-Right Has Its Own Political Party That Will ‘Make America White’ Again,” Angry White Men, September 11, 2016, https://angrywhitemen.org/2016/09/11/kyle-bristow-the-alt-right-has-its-own-political-party-that-will-make-america-white-again; “Leadership,” American Freedom Party, accessed August 8, 2017, http://theamericanfreedomparty.us/leadership.

12 “Andrew Anglin,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 8, 2017,
https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/andrew-anglin; Lee Rogers, “Join Daily Stormer Staff at the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia!,” Daily Stormer, July 30, 2017, https://www.dailystormer.com/join-daily-stormer-staff-at-the-unite-the-right-rally-in-charlottesville-virginia; Keegan Hankes, “Eye of the Stormer,” Southern Poverty Law Center, February 9, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2017/eye-stormer; Benjamin Garland, “Charlottesville 2.0: Be There or Be Square,” Daily Stormer, August 5, 2017, https://www.dailystormer.com/charlottesville-2-0-be-there-or-be-square.

13 Tracie Chiles, Facebook post, August 7, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/events/137857813439031/permalink/163175937573885.

14 “Bradley Dean Griffin,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 8, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/bradley-dean-griffin; Hunter Wallace, “Unite The Right Rally,” Occidental Dissent, July 3, 2017, http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2017/07/03/unite-the-right-rally.

15 Hunter Wallace (@occdissent), Twitter post, July 30, 2017, https://twitter.com/occdissent/status/891727405840203777; Hatewatch Staff, “Neo-Confederates Breaking From The Right Stuff After Doxxing Scandal,” Southern Poverty Law Center, January 26, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/01/26/neo-confederates-breaking-right-stuff-after-doxxing-scandal.

16 Gabriel Joffe, “Identity Evropa and the Fraternity of White Supremacy,” Political Research Associates, June 15, 2017, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/06/15/identity-evropa-and-the-fraternity-of-white-supremacy; “White Nationalists Work to Make Inroads at U.S. Colleges,” Southern Poverty Law Center, February 15, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2017/white-nationalists-work-make-inroads-us-colleges; Vincent Law, “The ‘Unite The Right’ Rally Is Going To Be A Turning Point For White Identity In America,” AltRight.com, August 5, 2017, https://altright.com/2017/08/05/the-unite-the-right-rally-is-going-to-be-a-turning-point-for-white-identity-in-america; Nathan Damigo, Facebook post, July 18, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/nathan.damigo/photos/a.1002986733057881.1073741828.979683198721568/1478779288811954; Jason Kessler, “Richard Spencer Leads White Nationalist Demonstration In Front Of Virginia Robert E. Lee Monument,” Daily Caller, May 14, 2017, http://dailycaller.com/2017/05/14/richard-spencer-leads-pro-white-demonstration-in-front-of-virginia-robert-e-lee-monument.

17 “League of the South,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 8, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/league-south; Michael Hill, “League will be at Unite the Right rally, 12 August, Charlottesville, VA,” June 9, 2017, League of the South, http://leagueofthesouth.com/league-will-be-at-unite-the-right-rally-12-august-charlottesville-va.

18 “National Socialist Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 8, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/national-socialist-movement; Rohan Smith, “America’s white supremacists ban swastika in bold attempt to ‘go mainstream’,” News.com.au, November 16, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/americas-white-supremacists-ban-swastika-in-bold-attempt-to-go-mainstream/news-story/53f68100ba52a1e33b13cf25b794d028; Sarah Viets, “Neo-Nazi Misfits Join Unite the Right,” Southern Poverty Law Center, July 26, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/07/26/neo-nazi-misfits-join-unite-right.

19 James King, “Rival White Supremacist Groups Unite To Fight ‘Race War’,” Vocativ, April 28, 2016, http://www.vocativ.com/313543/rival-white-supremacist-groups-unite-to-fight-race-war; Sarah Viets, “Nationalist Front Chumming up to Klan Members Once Again May 30, 2017,” Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/05/30/nationalist-front-chumming-klan-members-once-again.

20 “Stephen McNallen and Racialist Asatru Part 1: Metagenetics and the South Africa Connection,” Circle Ansuz, August 19, 2013, https://circleansuz.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/stephen-mcnallen-part-one.

21 “Meet Warriors for Freedom: Racist Rage Revival Club,” Rose City Antifa, June 3, 2017, http://rosecityantifa.org/articles/warriors-for-freedom; Jason Wilson, “Member of Portland militia-style group helps police arrest anti-fascist protester,” Guardian, June 8, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/08/portland-alt-right-rally-militia-member-police-arrest.

22 “Exclusive: Commander of the PA Light Foot Militia, Christian Yingling, says they are gearing up to help maintain order with potential police support at Unite The Right rally…,” July 31, 2017 Restoring the Honor, http://restoringthehonor.blogspot.com/2017/07/exclusive-commander-of-pa-light-foot.html.

23 Gavin McInnes (@Gavin­_McInnes), Twitter post, June 26, 2017, https://twitter.com/Gavin_McInnes/status/879318997845626880; Gavin McInnes, “America in 2034,” American Renaissance, June 17, 2014, https://www.amren.com/news/2014/06/america-in-2034-7; “Gavin McInnes,” VDARE, accessed August 8, 2017, http://www.vdare.com/users/gavin-mcinnes; “Gavin McInnes’ ‘Alt-Right’ Fan Club Drifts Towards Neo-Nazi Violence,” May 18, 2017 Idavox, http://idavox.com/index.php/2017/05/18/gavin-mcinnes-alt-right-fan-club-drifts-towards-neo-nazi-violence; Taly Krupkin, “Meet the Proud Boys, the Chauvinists Providing ‘Security’ at a Right-wing Event Near You,” Haaretz, June 19, 2017, http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.796302; Tom Porter, “Canadian Armed Forces Members Face Expulsion Over ‘Alt-Right’ Protest,” Newsweek, July 5, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/canada-armed-forces-first-nations-proud-boys-alt-right-631936.; Based In Colorado, “Proud Boys Official Statement on the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally,” Proud Boy Magazine, June 2017, http://officialproudboys.com/news/gavin-mcinnes-virginia-unite-the-right-rally-disavowed.

24 “DIY Division: The Violent neo-Nazi Group Central to the California Alt-Right and Alt-Light Protest Movements,” Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA), July 6, 2017, https://nocara.blackblogs.org/2017/07/06/diy-division; “Meet the Bay Area’s 4chan Kangaroo Court,” June 5, 2017, Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA), https://nocara.blackblogs.org/2017/06/05/meet-the-bay-areas-4chan-kangaroo-court; Natalie Orenstein, “Trump supporters’ ‘experiment’ meant to provoke Berkeleyans on Saturday,” Berkeleyside, July 10, 2017, http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/07/10/trump-supporters-experiment-meant-provoke-berkeleyans-saturday; Vincent James, “‘Unite The Right’ Rally Set To Take Place Next Month,” The Red Elephants, July 2017, http://theredelephants.com/unite-right-rally-set-take-place-next-month; “Support the Red Elephants,” Back the Right, July 14, 2017, https://www.backtheright.com/campaign/18/support-the-red-elephants

25 Matt Parrott, Facebook, August 1, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/parrott.matt/posts/10154801841131918; Matt Parrott, “Proud Boys Are Cordially Invited to Unite The Right,” TradYouth, June 2017,
http://www.tradyouth.org/2017/06/proudboys-are-cordially-invited-to-unite-the-right; “Unite The Right! August 12 – Charlottesville, VA at Lee Park” (video), YouTube, posted by Traditionalist Worker Party on July 8, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i19GxzCcm4; around 2:50.

26 Unity and Security for America, Facebook post, January 29, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/UniSecAmerica/posts/781161652035898; “We Are Unity and Security for America,” Unity and Security for America, accessed August 8, 2017, http://www.unityandsecurity.org/protect-the-west.html.

27 “White Nationalists Work to Make Inroads at U.S. Colleges,” Southern Poverty Law Center, February 15, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2017/white-nationalists-work-make-inroads-us-colleges; “Vanguard America,” Anti-Defamation League, accessed August 8, 2017, https://www.adl.org/education/resources/backgrounders/vanguard-america; “Unite The Right! August 12 – Charlottesville, VA at Lee Park” (video), YouTube, posted by Traditionalist Worker Party on July 8, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i19GxzCcm4; around 4:28.

29 Richard Spencer (@RichardBSpencer), Twitter post, June 24, 2017, https://twitter.com/RichardBSpencer/status/878713947339321347; Wife With A Purpose (@apurposefulwife), Twitter post, accessed August 8, 2017; Jim Dalrymple II, “Meet The (Alt-Right) Mormons: Inside The Church’s Vocal White Nationalist Wing,” BuzzFeed News, March 27, 2017, https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimdalrympleii/meet-the-alt-right-mormons-inside-the-churchs-vocal-white; Joshua Rhett Miller, “This young mom is the face of Mormonism’s hateful alt-right,” New York Post, March 31, 2017, http://nypost.com/2017/03/31/this-young-mom-is-the-face-of-mormonisms-hateful-alt-right.

30 Matthew N. Lyons, “Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The origins and ideology of the Alternative Right,” Political Research Associates, January 20, 2017, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/01/20/ctrl-alt-delete-report-on-the-alternative-right; “Jared Taylor,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 7, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/jared-taylor; “Ivy-League Racist Jared Taylor Disguised as Frenchman: Clandestinement dans Charlottesville,” It’s Going Down, June 6, 2017, https://itsgoingdown.org/ivy-league-racist-jared-taylor-disguised-as-frenchman-clandestinement-dans-charlottesville; Hatewatch Staff, “Infinite DramaQuest 2.0: American Renaissance Edition,” Southern Poverty Law Center, July 27, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/07/27/infinite-dramaquest-20-american-renaissance-edition; “Defense of Southern heritage is defense of American heritage. #UniteTheRight,” Perioscope, August 4, 2017, https://www.pscp.tv/AmRenaissance/1eaKbmynnYexX; see around 4:00.

31 “David Duke,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed August 8, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/david-duke; “David Duke urges followers to attend rally in Charlottesville,” Daily Progress, July 6, 2017, http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/david-duke-urges-followers-to-attend-rally-in-charlottesville/article_4f25085a-da7f-5449-bf7f-ca091f59a5b3.html;

32 It’s Going Down News (@IGD_News), Twitter post, August 6, 2017, https://twitter.com/IGD_News/status/894284361133989888.

An Alt Right Update

These notes are based on a talk I gave in Seattle on July 22, 2017 and the discussions that followed. Thanks to the organizers of that event, my fellow presenters, and everyone who attended. Special thanks also to the members of Q-Patrol who provided security.

My January report, “Ctrl-Alt-Delete,” was published at the beginning of Donald Trump’s administration. It dealt with the Alt Right’s ideological roots, major players, multiple internal currents, and complex relationships with both conservatives and the Trump campaign.

A lot has happened since then. The terrain on which the Alt Right operates, and the character of the movement itself, have shifted in some important and disturbing ways. The situation is very much in flux, but the half-year mark seems like a good moment for a snapshot of where things stand today. The notes that follow are my attempt to give a brief overview of five major changes related to the Alt Right that have taken place in that time.

Photo: Mark Dixon via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

1. Trump’s election has encouraged supremacist violence by vigilantes and local police.

In the days and weeks immediately after the November elections, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported a sharp increase in “bias-related harassment and intimidation” across the country—threats and attacks against immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, trans people, and other oppressed groups.1 “Many harassers invoked Trump’s name during assaults,” the SPLC noted, and many of those targeted said the incidents were like nothing they had experienced before.2 A logical, horrifying intensification of these attacks took place in May, when a White nationalist in Portland, Oregon, screamed racist and anti-Muslim abuse at two women on a light rail train, then stabbed three passengers who intervened, killing two of them.3

Meanwhile, the first two months of 2017 each saw police officers kill more people than any month in 2016, according to the website KilledByPolice.net.4 While there isn’t yet a breakdown of those specific numbers, among young men overall, Blacks are more than three times more likely than Whites to be killed by cops, according to Washington Post statistics.5

Whether it’s carried out by cops, right-wing activists, or unaffiliated individuals, supremacist violence didn’t start with Trump. It’s been going on for a long time, and it’s deeply rooted in the structure of U.S. society. But the climate has changed. Where President Obama defended Black Lives Matter and sang “Amazing Grace” at a memorial to victims of the Charleston, North Carolina, racist mass shooting,6 we now have a president who calls police “the thin blue line between civilization and chaos,” claims they are subjected to “unfair defamation and vilification,” and urges them to handle suspects more brutally. He’s also a president who, before taking office, encouraged his followers to assault political opponents, called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, and bragged about sexually assaulting women.7 In Jeff Sessions we now have an attorney general who, reversing previous policy, dismisses the idea that police brutality could be systemic and says that it’s bad for “morale” for his department to investigate abuse by local police departments.8 The same day that he appointed Sessions, Trump signed three executive orders intended to give police more authority.9

The Alt Right has contributed to this change in political climate through its supremacist propaganda and its role in helping Trump get elected. (For a full discussion of this, see “Ctrl-Alt-Delete.”) It also benefits from these changes, which serve as a public validation of its message; help grow its pool of potential recruits; and sharpen the atmosphere of tension, fear, and crisis that helps Far Right politics thrive.

2. Despite Trump’s volatility, in policy terms his administration has largely been coopted by conventional conservatism.

As a candidate, Donald Trump didn’t just run against the Republican establishment, but ridiculed and vilified it, in ways that helped endear him to most Alt Rightists. He touted a populist nationalism that defied conservative orthodoxy on multiple fronts, rejecting free trade and repeatedly praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, while pledging to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and rebuild infrastructure on a large scale. His anti-immigrant rhetoric and proposals went much further than most conservative politicians were willing to go.10

But because he lacked an organizational base of his own, Trump was immediately forced to bring other constituencies into his administration. He appointed some nationalists, such as Attorney General Sessions, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, but he also put together a patchwork of establishment politicians, social conservatives, and people recruited from big business or the military. So, from the beginning, Trump’s presidency has rested on an unstable coalition of “America First” nationalists and people more or less aligned with conventional conservatism.11

Initially, the nationalists seemed to be on top, seeing their agenda supported or enacted in Trump’s inaugural speech, the Muslim ban that brought protesters to the airports in January, the withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership, and moves to expand the roundup of undocumented immigrants. But over time the balance shifted largely away from them. Flynn was forced out of his role; Sessions recused himself on the Russia investigation; former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn gained ground on economic policy; and Bannon was kicked off the National Security Council.12

The nationalist faction is still there and still making itself felt, but it’s far from leading a full-scale charge. As president, Trump has abandoned many of the populist-nationalist positions he took as a candidate, such as declaring NATO to be obsolete, advocating an alliance with Russia, denouncing NAFTA and the Export-Import Bank, and his call to make health care accessible to all. Even his policy on undocumented immigrants, writes columnist Doyle McManus, isn’t much harsher than the plan Mitt Romney proposed four years earlier.13 On the other hand, the recent White House-announced proposal to cut legal immigration in half indicates that the America Firsters have gained some ground again.14 This struggle is likely to continue.

Donald Trump is just as belligerent, impulsive, and self-aggrandizing as ever, which tends to put him at odds with conventional politics but also makes it more difficult for him to effect substantive, lasting change. In policy terms, what we’re left with so far is a harsher, more repressive, more chaotic version of neoliberalism with some America First elements. The Trump administration is dismantling environmental regulations and other kinds of business regulation, and (together with Congress) may eventually succeed in repealing Obamacare and cutting business taxes. All of this will further enrich the wealthy at the expense of our wallets, our future, and, in some cases, our lives. The administration will tinker with trade deals, deport Latin Americans and Haitians more indiscriminately than Obama, and make life harder for Middle Easterners and LGBTQ people—particularly trans people. It will probably do its best to speed up the growth of the national security state (which has been expanded by all recent presidents, Republican and Democratic alike). But barring some unforeseen crisis that could shift the balance again, the Trump administration is not going to withdraw from NAFTA, is not going to abandon NATO and align with Russia, and is not going to close the borders. The administration’s proposal to cut legal immigration will shift the terms of debate but is unlikely to pass since most Republican leaders, and probably most capitalists, oppose it. The neoliberal consensus is starting to break down, and will face more challenges in the coming years, but populist right-wing nationalism doesn’t seem strong enough or developed enough to supplant it yet.

3. The Alt Right has largely abandoned its support for Trump.

After the election, Alt Rightists saw themselves as the vanguard of the Trump coalition—the ones who would stake out forward positions and then pull other people along with them part of the way. They were excited about Trump appointing Bannon, Sessions, Flynn, and some others they saw as allies.15

But as the political balance inside the administration shifted, Alt Rightists got frustrated. The key turning point came in early April, when Trump launched a missile strike against Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack. Most Alt Rightists saw this as a shocking capitulation to the neocons and the foreign policy establishment.16 The fact that many conventional politicians and mainstream media organs praised the missile strike underscored Alt Rightists’ sense of betrayal.17 Many in the movement portrayed Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, and other Jews in the administration as evil wire-pullers who had manipulated or blackmailed Trump into changing course.18

Since then, some Alt Rightists have argued their movement should “remain demanding but supportive” of Trump,19 but generally they have become cool or even hostile to the administration in a way that’s markedly different from six months ago. The Alt Right blog Occidental Dissent, which has been particularly outspoken in repudiating Trump, re-emphasized the movement’s revolutionary condemnation of the U.S. political order: “No elected official can salvage this nation. There is no reforming the system—it is beyond repair. We can only rebuild from the ashes.”20 Very recently, some Alt Rightist praised Trump’s moves to reduce legal immigration and attack affirmative action, but Richard Spencer warned that the immigration plan would bring in too many highly skilled non-Europeans and be “devastating” for White middle-class professionals.21

4. Alt Rightists have taken to the streets alongside other right-wing forces.

Even as it’s become alienated from the Trump administration, the Alt Right has been working to strengthen its influence in other ways, and strengthen its grassroots ties with organized Trump supporters. Even six months ago, the Alt Right still existed mostly online, excepting a few small conferences. Since then, some Alt Right groups, such as Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Worker Party, have focused more on building actual organizations and holding public rallies. Many of these rallies have been joint events with other rightists, including Alt Lite groups (who identify with Alt Right ideology to an extent but don’t call for abandoning the U.S. political system) and even Patriot movement groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.22 That’s a big change, because before this spring the Alt Right and Patriot groups didn’t have much visible contact with each other. Now they’re showing up at the same rallies—such as at Berkeley in April or Pikeville, Kentucky, that same month.23 There have been tensions and even some physical altercations between the two camps, because Patriot groups, like Alt Lite activists, generally disavow White nationalism, but the convergence of rightist forces in the streets is definitely an ominous development.24

Some of these joint events have been held under the banner of “free speech,” protecting political space against Antifa activists (militant anti-fascists), who are portrayed as “the real fascists.” Islamophobia has been another major point of unity, as in last month’s national “March Against Sharia,” which brought together Alt Rightists, racist skinhead groups, Patriot groups, right-wing Zionists, and even some LGBTQ activists. As PRA research fellow Spencer Sunshine argues, Islamophobia “is more socially acceptable than anti-Semitism while still demonizing a minority group. Plus, its ostensible emphasis on religion is a way to avoid specifically naming race.”25

5. Alt Rightists and their allies have been turning toward physical violence and creating a street-fighting presence

As part of their new focus on public demonstrations over the past several months, both Alt Right groups such as Nathan Damigo’s Identity Evropa as well as Alt Lite formations including Gavin McInnes’s Proud Boys and Kyle Chapman’s Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights have been organizing and training for combat and taking their skills to the streets. This has developed largely in the context of confrontations with Antifa activists, as in Berkeley, but has much bigger implications in terms of the Right’s ability to target oppressed communities and shape political space.26

To make the situation even more disturbing, neonazi skinheads from groups such as Hammerskin Nation have, at least in California, also been involved in these street clashes. As Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA) reports, the southern California-based DIY Division, also known as the Rise Above Movement, is a violent neonazi group that brings together Alt Right and Alt Lite activists along with Hammerskin members. “DIY Division as a political collective is working hard to bridge the gap between the more internet-based Alt-Right brand of white nationalism which is targeted to appeal to younger, generally more educated and upper-class white men and the more traditional boots on the ground and street violence which has characterized neo-Nazi skinhead politics.” NoCARA also highlights “the close relationships that exist between McInnes’s Proud Boys and…DIY Division…. The Proud Boys need the numbers and the muscle of the neo-Nazis, while the neo-Nazis need the cover of pro-Trump groups.”27

*                      *                      *

These developments are extremely serious. Despite its disenchantment with the Trump administration, the Alt Right appears to be simultaneously building a real capacity for organized physical violence and strengthening its grassroots connections with other rightist currents, including Trump supporters. Their focus on a shared enemy, whether Muslims or the black bloc, is helping to draw different rightist forces closer, and shared street fighting is deepening those ties. This type of activism is a direct physical threat to both oppressed communities and the Left, and can fuel authoritarian and supremacist tendencies within the state at all levels. To assume that breaking with Trump will leave the Alt Right weakened and marginalized would be a dangerous mistake.

At the same time, we shouldn’t exaggerate either the unity or the competence of this new wave of militant right-wing forces. Rightists are just as vulnerable as leftists to infighting, personality conflicts, and sectarian ideological squabbles. As journalist Shane Burley points out, Alt Rightists “are not politically savvy organizers; they are angry white men taking their rage out on everyone they think eroded their meager privilege.”28 So far, thankfully, their movement has failed to produce a skilled, charismatic leader who can unify them and provide strategic direction. (Richard Spencer may look dapper and sound polished in interviews, but he has never inspired devotion from the Alt Right as a movement.) And even a strong leader wouldn’t necessarily overcome the basic political differences separating Alt Rightists from their conservative fellow travelers. In the long run, if the Alt Right wants to coalesce with system-loyal rightists, it either has to win more people to its dream of right-wing revolution, or abandon it.

End notes

1 “Update: 1,094 Bias-Related Incidents in the Month Following the Election,” Hatewatch (Southern Poverty Law Center), 16 December 2016, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/12/16/update-1094-bias-related-incidents-month-following-election

2 “Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election,” Hatewatch (Southern Poverty Law Center), 29 November 2016, https://www.splcenter.org/20161129/ten-days-after-harassment-and-intimidation-aftermath-election

3 Jason Wilson, “Suspect in Portland double murder posted white supremacist material online,” Guardian, 28 May 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/27/portland-double-murder-white-supremacist-muslim-hate-speech

4 Angela Helm, “More Americans Killed by Police in 2017, but Trump Dominates Headlines,” The Root, 4 March 2017, http://www.theroot.com/more-americans-killed-by-police-in-2017-but-trump-domi-1792969338

5 Will Greenberg, “Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America,” Mother Jones, 19 March 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/media/2017/03/police-shootings-black-lives-matter-history-timeline/

6 Dave Boyer, “Obama defends Black Lives Matter protests at police memorial in Dallas,” Washington Times, 12 July 2016, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/12/obama-defends-black-lives-matter-protests-police-m/; “Obama Delivers Eulogy in Charleston” (video), New York Times, 27 June 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000003767801/obama-delivers-eulogy-in-charleston.html?mcubz=2

7 Celia Caracal, “America Is Suffering from a Plague of Deadly, Unaccountable and Racist Police Violence,” AlternNet, 5 July 2017, http://www.alternet.org/human-rights/look-police-violence-one-year-after-philando-castile-and-alton-sterling-were-killed; Mark Chicano, “Donald Trump’s speech was made more disturbing as Suffolk County cops cheered the idea of police brutality,” Newsday, 28 July 2017, http://www.newsday.com/opinion/columnists/mark-chiusano/donald-trump-s-speech-was-made-more-disturbing-as-suffolk-county-cops-cheered-the-idea-of-police-brutality-1.13864824; Michael Finnegan and Noah Bierman, “Trump’s endorsement of violence reaches new level: He may pay legal fees for assault suspect,” Los Angeles Times, 13 March 2016, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-trump-campaign-protests-20160313-story.html; Tal Kopan, “What Donald Trump has said about Mexico and vice versa,” CNN, 31 August 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/31/politics/donald-trump-mexico-statements/index.html; Ben Jacobs, Sabrina Siddiqui, and Scott Bixby, “‘You can do anything’: Trump brags on tape about using fame to get women,” Guardian, 8 October 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/07/donald-trump-leaked-recording-women

8 Adam Serwer, “Jeff Sessions’s Blind Eye,” The Atlantic, 5 April 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/04/jeff-sessions-blind-eye/521946/

9 Rachael Revesz, “Donald Trump signs executive order giving police more powers,” Independent, 9 February 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-sign-executive-order-police-more-authority-murder-shooting-us-president-jeff-sessions-a7572001.html

10 Benjamin Studebaker, “Why Bernie Sanders is More Electable Than People Think,” Huffington Post, 12 February 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/benjamin-studebaker/why-bernie-sanders-is-more-electable_b_9219882.html; “Morbid Symptoms: The Downward Spiral,” Unity and Struggle, 19 December 2016, http://unityandstruggle.org/2016/12/19/morbid-symptoms-the-downward-spiral/

11 Robert Cavooris, “One Step Back, Two Steps Forward: Trump and the Revolutionary Scenario,” Viewpoint Magazine, 21 February 2017, https://www.viewpointmag.com/2017/02/21/one-step-back-two-steps-forward-trump-and-the-revolutionary-scenario/

12 Donald J. Trump, “Transcript of President Trump’s inauguration speech,” USA Today, 20 January 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/01/20/his-own-words-president-trumps-inaugural-address/96836330/; Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, “Trump’s hard-line actions have an intellectual godfather: Jeff Sessions,” Washington Post, 30 January 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-hard-line-actions-have-an-intellectual-godfather-jeff-sessions/2017/01/30/ac393f66-e4d4-11e6-ba11-63c4b4fb5a63_story.html?utm_term=.25b61b5ac6ed; “Wall Street banker Cohn moving Trump toward moderate policies,” Reuters, 17 April 2017, http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/17/wall-street-banker-cohn-moving-trump-toward-moderate-policies.html; Steve Holland and John Walcott, “Trump drops Steve Bannon from National Security Council,” Reuters, 5 April 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-security-idUSKBN17724S

13 Doyle McManus, “Trump’s populist revolution is already over—for now,” Los Angeles Times, 16 April 2017, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-mcmanus-trump-flip-flops-20170416-story.html

14 Peter Baker, “Trump Supports Plan to Cut Legal Immigration by Half,” New York Times, 2 August 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/us/politics/trump-immigration.html

15 Richard B. Spencer, “We the Vanguard Now,” Radix Journal, 9 November 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20170105065744/http://www.radixjournal.com/blog/2016/11/9/we-the-vanguard-now

16 Shane Burley, “As the ‘alt-right’ breaks from Trump, so goes its moment in the sun,” Waging Nonviolence, 17 April 2017, https://wagingnonviolence.org/2017/04/alt-right-trump-break/; Vegas Tenold, “The Alt-Right and Donald Trump Get a Divorce,” New Republic, 26 April 2017, https://newrepublic.com/article/142276/alt-right-donald-trump-get-divorce

17 Hunter Wallace [Brad Griffin], “Donald Trump is Now ‘The Leader of the Free World,’” Occidental Dissent, 8 April 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20170622213726/http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2017/04/08/donald-trump-is-now-the-leader-of-the-free-world/

18 Andrew Anglin, “An Extremely Unfortunate Turn of Events,” Daily Stormer, 7 April 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20170619172920/http://www.dailystormer.com/an-extremely-unfortunate-turn-of-events/

19 Pseudo-Laurentius, “Deploying Tactical Blackpills: The Alt Right Versus Trump,” The Right Stuff, 14 April 2017, https://blog.therightstuff.biz/2017/04/14/deploying-tactical-blackpills-the-alt-right-versus-trump/.

20 Meinrad Gaertner, “A Reflection and Foreshadowing,” Occidental Dissent, 17 April 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20170428104016/http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2017/04/17/a-reflection-and-foreshadowing/

21 Marcus Cicero, “MAGA: Trump Proposes Bill Vastly Cutting Legal Immigration, Imposition Of YUGE Hurdles For New Arrivals,” Occidental Dissent, 2 August 2017, http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:wvakoofdlr4J:www.occidentaldissent.com/2017/08/02/maga-trump-proposes-bill-vastly-cutting-legal-immigration-imposition-of-yuge-hurdles-for-new-arrivals/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us; Colin Liddell, “Trump Fires First Salvo Against Anti-White ‘Affirmative Action’ Policy,” AltRight.com, 2 August 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20170802132555/https://altright.com/2017/08/02/trump-fires-first-salvo-against-anti-white-affirmative-action-policy/; Richard Spencer, “Why I Oppose the RAISE Act,” AltRight.com, 3 August 2017, https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:58G1fdYUSFYJ:https://altright.com/2017/08/03/why-i-oppose-the-raise-act/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

22 “Based Reserve Army: How the Right is Changing Its Strategy,” It’s Going Down, 25 April 2017, https://itsgoingdown.org/based-reserve-army-how-the-right-changing-strategy/; Spencer Sunshine, “The Growing Alliance Between Neo-Nazis, Right Wing Paramilitaries and Trumpist Republicans,” ColorLines, 9 June 2017, https://www.colorlines.com/articles/growing-alliance-between-neo-nazis-right-wing-paramilitaries-and-trumpist-republicans

23 “Oath Keepers Call to Action: Stand and Defend Free Speech at Berkeley Patriots Rally, April 15, 2017,” Oath Keepers, 1 April 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20170402184553/https://www.oathkeepers.org/oath-keepers-call-action-stand-defend-free-speech-berkeley-patriots-rally-april-15-2017/; Eminence Grise, “Reflections on the Revolution in Berkeley,” The Right Stuff, 16 April 2017, https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:sNKoo5E9CgIJ:https://blog.therightstuff.biz/2017/04/16/reflections-on-the-revolution-in-berkeley/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari; Lois Beckett, “Armed neo-Nazis prepare for potential clash in small Kentucky town,” Guardian, 29 April 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/29/neo-nazi-rally-pikeville-kentucky-anti-fascist

24 “‘Alt-Right’ declares flame war on Oath Keepers,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 15 June 2017. https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/06/15/alt-right-declares-flame-war-oath-keepers; Taly Krupkin, “The Jewish Provocateur Caught in the Turf War as the ‘Alt-right’ Battles the ‘Alt-light,’” Ha’aretz, 22 June 2017, http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.797372

25 Spencer Sunshine, “Islamophobia is the Glue that Unites Diverse Factions of the Far Right,” Truthout, 14 July 2017, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/41265-islamophobia-is-the-glue-that-unites-diverse-factions-of-the-far-right

26 Antifascist Front, “The Alt Right Has Taken the Public Step Towards Violence,” Anti-Fascist News, 28 April 2017, https://antifascistnews.net/2017/04/28/the-alt-right-has-taken-the-public-step-towards-violence/; David Neiwert, “Far Right Descends on Berkeley for ‘Free Speech’ and Planned Violence,” Hatewatch (Southern Poverty Law Center), 17 April 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/04/17/far-right-descends-berkeley-free-speech-and-planned-violence; Emma Grey Ellis, “Don’t Look Now, But Extremists’ Meme Armies are Turning Into Militias,” Wired, 20 April 2017, https://www.wired.com/2017/04/meme-army-now-militia/; “Gavin McInnes’ ‘Alt-Right’ Fan Club Drifts Toward Neo-Nazi Violence,” IdaVox, 18 May 2017, http://idavox.com/index.php/2017/05/18/gavin-mcinnes-alt-right-fan-club-drifts-towards-neo-nazi-violence/

27 Northern California Anti-Racist Action, “How ‘Based Stickman’ & Proud Boys are Working with Neo-Nazis in So-Cal,” It’s Going Down, 8 July 2017, https://itsgoingdown.org/based-stickman-proud-boys-working-neo-nazis-cal/

28 Shane Burley, “Alt-Right 2.0,” Salvage, 6 July 2017. http://salvage.zone/online-exclusive/alt-right-2-0/

Identity Evropa and the Fraternity of White Supremacy

Writing for The Public Eye this spring, author Naomi Braine delves into the history of the 2nd wave Klan:

The Klan of the 1920s was a mainstream, national fraternal organization which openly espoused White supremacy and engaged in racist terrorism but whose primary activities involved a range of community projects of interest to its middle class membership, from social events (e.g. pageants and baseball teams) to support for Prohibition…The KKK functioned in many ways as an ordinary fraternal order, with special social events and women’s and children’s auxiliaries. This effectively normalized the expression of White supremacy combined with conservative moralism as no different than any other social organization.

The origins and progression of the Klan being permitted to function in society as a social club or “ordinary fraternal order” is striking when you see images and messaging coming from the White nationalist groups that have coalesced in recent years.

“Become part of the fraternity”: Screenshot from the Identity Evropa website.

The media often portrays clean-cut individuals such as Alt Right leader Richard Spencer or members of Identity Evropa as proof of a re-branding of White nationalism and indeed, there is a long history of White supremacist groups re-inventing their image to become more mainstream and palatable. Along with the shifting aesthetic, the messaging coming out of the Alt Right movement also is reminiscent of the allure of early Klan in giving young White men identity and purpose.

The initial formation of the KKK in the 19th century has been described as a social club using trolling tactics not unlike the Alt Right. In a review of historian Elaine Frantz Parsons’ book Ku-Klux: The Birth of the Klan During Reconstruction, Malcolm Harris points out that the earliest Klan members were college boys looking for someone to be and something to do while being “forced to confront a rapidly changing social, cultural, and economic environment.”

Founder, Nathan Damigo is pictured on Twitter with the caption, “Get this look!”

Perhaps at similar crossroads is the recent White nationalist formulation called Identity Evropa. As the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported in February, Identity Evropa is among a constellation of White nationalist groups that have popped up in the last couple years and are actively recruiting among young people. SPLC calls the group a “reimagining” of the now defunct National Youth Front, the young adult contingent of the White nationalist American Freedom Party. National Youth Front member, Nathan Damigo (a Cal State Stanislaus student and former Marine corporal), founded Identity Evropa in 2016. The group cloaks their White nationalist message in language of identitarian pride in European heritage and softens it with a polished look.

Identity Evropa intentionally recruits to maintain this particular image. Members are allegedly not allowed to have facial or neck tattoos, piercings, or even be overweight. Their website features a carousel of photos of sharply dressed members with fresh haircuts at events in D.C., New York City, San Francisco, and Charlottesville.

As Damigo described to The Daily Beast, Identity Evropa serves to “attract high-quality individuals from doctors to lawyers to economists to our fraternity” to ultimately “create an alternative social network that will act as a fifth column, over time shifting the edifice of our political establishment to encompass our interests.” He anticipates that the threat of negative repercussions when being “outed” as pro-White will diminish as their network grows. Recruiting efforts have included #ProjectSiege, a national poster campaign across college campuses.

While the tone of Identity Evropa reads social club or fraternity, that is not an indication of innocuousness as history has proved. In May, the group co-sponsored a protest along with an Alt Right coalition against the removal of a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, VA.

Identity Evropa took to Facebook to report back from the protest in Charlottesville, Va.

White nationalist Richard Spencer led the group bearing flaming torches to protest. He defended the May protest by stating that statues like that of Robert E. Lee are “symbols of our European heritage” and “represent gods” and that tearing them down represents a “symbolic genocide of the White race.”

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan have since applied to host a rally near the same statue on July 8. Richard Spencer responded to this news by saying, “KKK is not my scene.” Spencer and Alt Right formations such as Identity Evropa might continue to distance themselves from groups such as the KKK, but the lens of history may reveal more similarity than difference between the two.

Between Trump and Putin: The Right-Wing International, a Crisis of Democracy, and the Future of the European Union

Click here for a PDF version of this article

This article appears in the Spring 2017 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

“So. Washington is ours. Chișinău is ours. Sofia is ours. It remains but to drain the swamp in Russia itself.” Right-wing Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin posted this pronouncement as his Facebook status on November 13, 2016.1 Each of the cities he named is the capital of a country—the U.S., Moldova, and Bulgaria, respectively—that had recently elected a leader espousing at least some views that are favorable to Moscow. And each had elections that took place amid concerns about Russian influence.

Alexander Dugin is a Russian political scientist who might be seen as a Russian counterpart to U.S. Alt Right leader Richard Spencer. (Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0 via Alexander Dugin)

Knowing who Dugin is makes his post-U.S. electoral victory cheer more chilling. Dugin, who might be seen as a Russian counterpart to U.S. Alt Right leader Richard Spencer, made an early endorsement of then-candidate Trump in February, 2016 through Katehon, an illiberal “think tank” headed by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, a man known for conceiving and financing conservative Christian initiatives.2 Dugin is also on the U.S. individual sanctions list for his role in the Ukraine crisis—specifically for his leadership in the Eurasian Youth Union, which, as the Department of the Treasury reported, “actively recruited individuals with military and combat experience to fight on behalf of the self-proclaimed [Donetsk People’s Republic] and has stated that it has a covert presence in Ukraine.”3 Perhaps most notably, Dugin is also a chief proponent of neo-Eurasianism: an ideology encapsulating Russian “traditionalism” (including the rejection of feminism, “globalism,” and LGBTQ rights) and the belief that Russia has a Manifest Destiny of its own—a mystical calling not only to take dominion of Eurasian spaces from the Baltic to the Pacific, but also to revive the West’s Christian roots.

One of the more striking features of the 2016 U.S. election was the convergence of the rhetoric and talking points of President Donald Trump and his supporters with those of the Kremlin. And in the tangled and ongoing investigation of Russian involvement with U.S. and European elections, these ideological connections and motivations have gone far less noticed.

While in Soviet times the Kremlin’s Marxist ideology attracted its share of Western sympathizers, post-Soviet Moscow has, if you will, dialectically emerged at the center of a “traditionalist international” around which many right-wing fellow travelers are rallying. There is an older history of American conservative attraction to Russian Christians and anti-Communists. Paleoconservative leader Pat Buchanan, a contemporary apologist for Russian President Vladimir Putin, noted as much in a post-Crimea paean to Putin, when he wrote that “The ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers who exposed Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy, was, at the time of his death in 1964, writing a book on ‘The Third Rome’”—the conviction that, after the original Roman Empire, and “the Second Rome” of Constantinople, Moscow inherited the mantle of Christian empire.4

This fascination with Russian conservatives and Russia’s conservative potential was also shared by some of the direct ideological ancestors of today’s U.S. White nationalists, such as Francis Parker Yockey, a mid-century U.S. Far Right leader and avowed antisemite, who called for Western-Soviet cooperation in fighting Zionism. Since that time, post-Soviet Russia has become a right-wing state that has cultivated, through the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as right-wing intellectuals like Dugin, a loose right-wing international, as I wrote in The Public Eye in 2016.5

Given this context, it’s unsurprising that the most toxic elements of the U.S. Right are drawn to Putinist Russia. In 2004, for example, White supremacist David Duke declared, “Russia has a greater sense of racial understanding among its population than does any other predominantly White nation.”6 Duke has since cultivated ties with Russia, among other things maintaining an apartment in Moscow that he has sub-leased to fellow White supremacist activist Preston Wiginton .7

Interest in Russia among the global Right has grown steadily in recent years, accelerating since the beginning of Putin’s third term in 2012. Photo: CC BY 4.0 via The Kremlin)

Interest in Russia among the global Right has grown steadily in recent years, accelerating since the beginning of Putin’s third term in 2012. Since then, the Russian state has not only coordinated more closely with the Russian Orthodox Church, but has also come increasingly to portray itself, with a high degree of success, as the global standard bearer for “traditional values” conservatism.8 While Russia cultivates ties to Westerners on both the Far Left and the Far Right, Russia’s leading ideologues and soft power institutions—such as think-tanks, government-backed non-governmental organizations, and university centers—promote right-wing, neo-Eurasianist traditionalism. This ideology rejects modern liberalism as a “rootless,” culture-destroying globalism, and offers in its place a “multipolar” world order with strengthened national sovereignty, weakened supranational institutions (such as the European Union), and a rejection of universal human rights, with women’s rights, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBTQ rights particularly threatened.

Russia’s embrace of this anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-“globalist” “traditionalism” has coincided with a period in which the Russian state, concerned about “color revolutions” and NATO expansion, has increasingly sought to weaken Western institutions. Putin’s agenda in this regard is not only to strengthen Russian power at the expense of the West, but also to undermine belief in the viability of liberal democracy itself. The means by which Russia pursues this agenda include cultivating ties with Western anti-democratic forces, inundating the West with propaganda, and employing other active measures, including hacking, in influence campaigns. What does Russia’s central role in rising global right-wing populism mean for the prospects of the EU, particularly in light of Brexit and Trump’s ascendancy to the U.S. presidency? The stakes are high this year. While the results of the Dutch and French elections have been encouraging for the future of the EU and NATO, an important German election is yet to come, and the threat of disinformation originating in both Russia under Putin and the United States under Trump remains serious.

Evaluating Dugin’s Claim: The International Appeal of Russian Illiberalism

Russian interference and influence in Europe, including the promotion of far-right “traditionalism,” should be of concern to defenders of human rights in light of the West’s current crisis of democracy.9 The future of the EU, after Brexit, is very uncertain. Should the EU be abandoned by another major player, the kind of illiberal, authoritarian, right-wing populism represented by Russia would continue to spread, to the detriment of democracy and human rights.10 That’s already happening in places such as Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, of the right-wing populist Fidesz Party, openly admires Putin and has recently moved to shut down Central European University. Indeed, European elites themselves have begun to express a need to protect their countries and values not only from Russia, but potentially also from the United States, in which a Russian influence campaign helped elect an illiberal president about whom Alexander Dugin and other Russian elites have often been enthusiastic.11 In this regard, it is salient that the U.S. right-wing Breitbart News Network is seeking to expand into European markets, bringing the same narratives of xenophobia and religious traditionalism that helped mobilize Trump’s supporters. While Breitbart has not yet opened new offices in Germany or France, these plans seem not to have been tabled.12

To be sure, the enthusiasm of the Russian political establishment for the Trump administration has faded in recent weeks. In addition to disagreeing with Russia over Syria, the Trump administration has ham-handedly tried to distance itself from Russia after National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign in February for failing to disclose that he discussed a possible lifting of Russian sanctions with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak during the transition period. Russian politicians also became more cautious, even as they and Russian media rallied to the defense of Flynn. (In 2015 Flynn spoke at the 10th anniversary gala of the Russian propaganda network RT in Moscow, where he sat at Putin’s table. At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism on May 8, fired former Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates confirmed that the Department of Justice believed Flynn to be compromised.)

But the shared illiberal agenda of Trump and Putin remains a threat to Europe. This April at a G7 meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—who in 2013 received the Russian Order of Friendship from Putin—unnerved many in Europe when he asked, “Why should U.S. taxpayers care about Ukraine?” Such a statement aids Putin’s goal of undermining democracy, even if Tillerson has also proven willing to give at least lip service to criticizing Russian aggression.13

And even apart from an immediate normalization of U.S.-Russian relations on Russian terms—something it seems the Trump team at least initially desired, and which would be geopolitically destabilizing as it would weaken NATO—the Trump administration is far more amenable to Dugin’s ideological goals than a Clinton administration would have been. With this in mind, Dugin’s declarations—that Washington, Chișinău, and Sofia are Russia’s—seem like more than mere braggadocio, even if they are inflated. Will Dugin be declaring “Berlin is ours” this fall?

Dugin is not a latter-day Rasputin, the peasant healer who was widely believed to hold undue influence over the last Romanov royal family. But, despite some assertions to the contrary from those seeking to downplay Dugin’s significance, he is also far from a fringe figure. Nina Kouprianova—the estranged wife of Alt Right leader Richard Spencer who writes pro-Putin and anti-Ukrainian commentary under the name Nina Byzantina—has translated some of Dugin’s far-right political theory into English, bolstering Dugin’s influence among American White supremacists. While Kouprianova has downplayed the relationship between Dugin and Putin,14 the latter’s foreign policy is clearly informed by Dugin’s worldview in ways that are relevant to Russian influence in European and U.S. politics, as Eurasia expert Casey Michel explains:

If Dugin’s name is at all familiar, it’s likely due to his neo-fascist screeds, posited as geopolitical analysis, that have begun swirling international trends. As Spencer is to the alt-right, so, too, is Dugin to the modern incarnation of “Eurasianism,” a geopolitical theory positing Russia as the inheritor of “Eternal Rome” and one of the primary ideological bulwarks pushing the Kremlin to carve eastern Ukraine into the fanciful entity of “Novorossiya.” While much of Dugin’s influence on the Kremlin has been over-hyped, Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics remains assigned to every member of Russia’s General Staff Academy [the premier Russian institution for continuing training of high-ranking military officers]. And despite Kouprianova’s claims that “there is no evidence of communication between” Dugin and Putin, Charles Clover, in his masterful history of Eurasianism, noted that Putin and Dugin met a few months after the former ascended to the presidency. “Soon,” wrote Clover, “there were sponsors, contacts, and open doors” for Dugin.15

Dugin was also reportedly a part of the entourage that accompanied Putin on his visit to the Orthodox Christian holy site Mt. Athos in Greece in May 2016.16 But however personally close to Putin Dugin may be, what should concern us most here is the spread of a “traditionalist” ideology that, following in the footsteps of early 20th Century fascism, rejects liberal democracy and individual moral autonomy. Contemporary Eurasianism, like interwar Eurasianism and other Russian schools of thought related to the 19th Century ideologies of Slavophilism and Pan-Slavism, posits a special destiny for Russia in uniting the peoples of the large Eurasian landmass that runs roughly from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, in addition to a messianic role in the revival of Western civilization’s Christian roots.17

Click here a printable PDF.

Click here to read Chris Stroop’s 2016 article, “A Right-Wing International?”

In Putin’s third term in particular, Russia has positioned itself at the center of the right-wing international that propounds a “traditionalist” ideological tendency, and Dugin has emerged as one of the broader movement’s leading ideologues. As recent reports from NATO and Political Capital (a Hungarian think tank whose website describes it as “committed to the basic values of parliamentary democracy, human rights and a market economy”) have documented, Eurasianist ideology not only informs Russian foreign policy (such as Russia’s use of hybrid warfare, a military strategy that entails cyber and covert operations, including Russia’s use of troops without insignia in its invasion of Crimea and its officially-denied direct support for and presence in the rebel campaigns against the Ukrainian state), but also holds some attraction for Europeans disillusioned with austerity, immigration, and secularism.18

In light of the above, what are we to make of Dugin’s claim that Russia has won Washington, Chișinău, and Sofia? It is certainly overstated with respect to the latter. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has called for the easing of EU sanctions against Russia, but also recently stated that he supports retaining Bulgaria’s membership in the EU and NATO, both of which Russia seeks to weaken.19 Sabra Ayres, a fellow with the International Women’s Media Foundation who researches Russian soft power tactics in Bulgaria and other parts of Europe, said that her research has not turned up any evidence of a significant Russian effort to see Radev elected.20

Pro-Russian Moldovan President Igor Dodon goes much further than Radev, however. Dodon openly declares that he aspires to be “a dictatorial leader, the same as Putin,” and claims to have received the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia. Dodon achieved a narrow electoral victory (initially contested with claims of voting irregularities) over Western leaning rival Maia Sandu. He’d campaigned on a platform of moving to scrap Moldova’s EU association agreement—over which Moscow actually sanctioned Moldova in July 2014, banning the import of Moldovan wine, fruit, and vegetables—and integrating Moldova into the Moscow-centered Eurasian Economic Union. Dodon’s campaign was rife with anti-immigrant and homophobic rhetoric and marked by widespread disinformation, much like Donald Trump’s.21

With respect to President Trump, the U.S. intelligence community released a report in January expressing high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. election that was intended to undermine U.S. confidence in the democratic process and to damage Hillary Clinton’s prospects. The CIA and FBI also have high confidence that in its effort, which involved hacking both Republican and Democratic targets but releasing damaging information only about Democrats, Russia “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances.” Statements made at recent Senate hearings have confirmed these findings, and on May 8, before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper actually stated that the Russians behind the influence campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. election “must be congratulating themselves for having exceeded their wildest expectations.”22 In addition, the U.S. intelligence community reported in January that the same techniques that were used in this campaign—a blend of “covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls’”—are likely to be applied “to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.”23

In light of what is now known about the Russian role in the U.S. election, it is very plausible that Russia’s influence campaign played a key role in Trump’s Electoral College victory. The same type of Russian campaign appears to have swung Georgia’s 2012 presidential election, and there is no reason the same strategy cannot continue to effectively undermine other countries’ democratic processes unless vigilance is exercised and countermeasures are taken.24

Russian leaders perceive such actions as defensive. They push conspiracy theories about opposition to corruption and undemocratic policies in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia being funded by liberal U.S. philanthropist George Soros, who has of late become a bugbear of Trump supporters and the U.S. Right as well. The Russian regime also rejects homegrown East European and post-Soviet efforts to protect universal human rights and work toward functional democracy as Western imports. While Russia’s reactions to perceived Western aggression have been disproportionate and unjustifiable, the West might have helped to stave off the current state of affairs if its leaders had taken Russia’s concerns about NATO expansion into consideration earlier.

Russian Soft Power and Information Warfare in Western Europe

Hacking is one of the most powerful tactics the Kremlin uses to influence other countries’ electoral processes, as the U.S. has been too slow to recognize. Germany and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been recent targets of Russian hacking according to Germany’s intelligence services, and Germany has likewise expressed concerns about disinformation and possible hacking ahead of its parliamentary election slated for fall 2017.25

Hacking, however, is by no means the only tactic Russia uses to gain influence and sow disinformation in the West. In order to assess the outcomes of recent European elections and the prospects for upcoming European elections, we need to be aware of other methods of influence Russia employs. These include:

  • infiltration by spies;
  • hiring Western PR firms (in the past including Kissinger Associates and Ketchum) to help manipulate Western media and improve the Kremlin’s reputation among Westerners26;
  • supporting Eurasianist and pro-Kremlin think tanks, such as the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin (which is funded through a foundation headed by the Russian oligarchs Natalia Yakunina, the chairperson, and Vladimir Yakunin, the vice-chairman27);
  • establishing cultural centers at universities through the Russkiy Mir foundation, which promotes not only benign cultural exchange but also Eurasianist ideology and the Kremlin line on Ukraine;
  • financing Far Right Western politicians and parties, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France28;
  • promoting social conservatism and pro-Moscow views through representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church; and,
  • taking advantage of the West’s relative openness to flood the media with disinformation through “troll armies” and propaganda outlets such as RT, which had a $380 million budget in 2011.29

Russia has also played a role in facilitating relationships between right-wing European parties, for example with respect to the European Alliance for Freedom, a coalition that seeks to undermine the EU and liberal norms in the European Parliament.30

Through all of these methods, Russia looks to capitalize on pre-existing weaknesses. Russia did not create discontent with the neoliberal European establishment, explains Italian legal expert Pasquale Annicchino, a research fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and senior research associate at the Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies; Euroskepticism is homegrown. One might add that the situation is exacerbated by a refugee crisis due overwhelmingly to failed U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Annichino streses, Russia has proven capable of capitalizing effectively on the rising right-wing populist mood and exercises influence among politically extreme European groups.31

Annicchino has also done some of the most interesting research on how the Russian Orthodox Church has helped promote hardline conservatism in Europe by making common cause with traditionalists of other Christian confessions. Marcel Van Herpen, director of the Cicero Foundation and author of Putin’s Propaganda Machine: Soft Power and Russian Foreign Policy, has shown that the Russian Foreign Ministry and Orthodox Church often coordinate with the goal of promoting a “traditional values” agenda and attacking universal human rights at the UN and in other international settings.32

One case Annicchino has studied, the Lautsi controversy at the European Court of Human Rights, particularly illuminated this dynamic, when in 2011 the supranational court overturned a prior ruling that the compulsory display of crucifixes in Italian schools was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. The legal expertise that secured the 2011 ruling—greeted by conservatives as a triumph over secularism—was largely derived from American evangelicals and delivered through amicus curiae briefs filed by the European Center on Law and Justice—an organization co-founded by U.S. Christian Right advocate Jay Alan Sekulow to serve as a sister organization to his American Center on Law and Justice.33 Meanwhile, Annicchino writes, “the Russian Orthodox Church was at the forefront of the diplomatic battle,” with major representatives, including Patriarch Kirill, writing to the Vatican and to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in support of the original Italian law requiring the display of crucifixes in public schools. In this manner, the Moscow Patriarchate courted favor with conservative European Christians.

To Annicchino, the entire case is emblematic of what is sometimes referred to as the “new ecumenism”: the cooperation of distinct churches in pursuit of common goals.34 Another example may be found in the close ties between the Russian Orthodox Church with traditionalist European Catholics cultivated in particular by the ROC’s Chair of the Department of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), who regularly meets with Catholic cardinals in Europe and has a particularly intimate relationship with the Institute for Ecumenical Studies at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg, where he oversees exchange programs.35

Meanwhile, Italy’s Far Right Northern League has made no secret of looking to Russia not only as an economic partner, but also as a model for “the protection of the family.”36 It has created a cultural exchange program, the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, which receives funding from the Voice of Russia (since 2014 integrated into the publishing empire Sputnik, an increasingly important Russian propaganda outlet). The honorary president of the association is Alexey Komov, a right-wing advocate with substantial ties to both U.S. and Russian conservative coalitions, as the World Congress of Families’ regional representative for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States; the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society’s representative to the United Nations; and a member of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarchal Commission on the Family and the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood.37

The alliance of the Russian Orthodox Church with European and American Christian conservatives is just one example of the means by which Russia cultivates the Western Far Right.

The new ecumenism Annicchino describes also exemplifies what is sometimes called “bad ecumenism”: that is, interfaith activity designed to achieve domination and undermine pluralism rather than promote the common good. Such bad ecumenism has played no small part in ushering in the rise of right-wing fellow travelers around Moscow.38 The alliance of the Russian Orthodox Church with European and American Christian conservatives is just one example of the means by which Russia cultivates the Western Far Right, but it is an important one.39

Russia, Right-Wing Populism, and the European Political Landscape in 2017

In engaging in the kinds of activities described above, the Russian Orthodox Church pursues not only its own ends, but helps to advance Russian influence in the West. With this context in mind, we can step back to consider what Russian influence may mean in the current European political landscape.

During the lead-up to the Dutch election on March 15, the prospects for Geert Wilders’ Far Right Party for Freedom (PVV) concerned many. While Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Center Right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won with 21.3 percent of the vote, the Labor Party (PvdA) suffered considerable losses, and the PVV came in second with 13.1 percent. While the Far Right populist bullet was dodged in the Netherlands, negotiations toward a governing coalition are ongoing, and the surge for Wilders’ PVV is concerning.

But what of a Russian role? According to Van Herpen, with respect to the Dutch general election, there was no real need for Moscow to do more than continue to produce propaganda and disinformation.40 Wilders cannot be openly pro-Russian due to anti-Russian sentiment in the Netherlands related to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by Russia-backed separatists in Donbas using the Russian Buk missile system, and the Kremlin also knows that it must not appear to be too cozy with Wilders if it wants to see his party succeed.41 As a Euroskeptic party, however, PVV’s relative success is a threat to the EU. The Dutch vote against approval of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement in April 2016 is also relevant context.

Meanwhile, the French election represented a high stakes test for the viability of the European Union and the post-war order. When I interviewed Van Herpen in January, the race was expected to come down to a contest between Marine Le Pen and François Fillon of the center-right Republicans. Moscow’s affinity for Le Pen, leader of the far Right National Front, has been evident for some time, but Van Herpen noted that Russia could “wait and see” with respect to the French general election, since both Le Pen and Fillon have pro-Russian views.42

The race between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron represented a high stakes test for the viability of the European Union and the post-war order. (Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0 via Copyleft)

Of course, the contours of the French election changed in ways that confounded early forecasts. While Fillon’s prospects receded, center-right En Marche! party candidate Emmanuel Macron surged in the polls, overcame an initial Russian propaganda campaign, and faced Le Pen in the May 7 runoff, coming away with a resounding victory (just over 66 percent of the vote), although unusually low turnout for France (74 percent) indicated widespread dissatisfaction with both candidates.

Well before the first round of the election on April 23, French officials began preparing for a Russian influence blitz on behalf of Le Pen.43  Their foresight proved wise, as France was subjected to a fake news onslaught in which Russian propaganda outlets played a key role. After Macron’s initial surge, Sputnik published a claim that Macron is a closeted gay man with “a very rich gay lobby” behind him, and his campaign has also been targeted by hackers suspected of being part of a Russian influence campaign.44 Yet this failed to keep Macron out of the runoff, and an eleventh-hour assault of leaked documents and disinformation also failed to prevent Macron from winning in a landslide as projected by the polls.

A notable lesson from the election is that France seems comparatively well inoculated against the toxic effects of fake news, both institutionally and culturally. For example, France enforces a blackout on election coverage in the 44-hour period leading up to a presidential election, which in this case limited the impact of the last-minute document dump meant to harm Macron’s candidacy. The French-language edition of Sputnik covered the leaks, but the French public collectively shrugged. Culturally, as Johan Hufnagel, managing editor of the left-wing newspaper Libération, recently stated, “We don’t have a Fox News in France,” adding that French voters “were mentally prepared after Trump and Brexit and the Russians.”45

Of course, Le Pen’s nearly 34 percent of the French vote, an unprecedented result for the National Front, is nothing to sneeze at, and defenders of human rights must take it as a reminder that the forces of nationalism and right-wing populism are still powerful. At the same time, in an attempt to make herself more appealing during the campaign for the runoff, Le Pen announced that she would temporarily step aside as leader of the National Front in order, ostensibly, to bring together the entire French people. She has since announced that she will “recreate her National Front into a broader ‘patriotic’ party that would seek power in parliamentary elections next month.”46 Perhaps this is why, despite Le Pen’s espoused desire to withdraw France from the EU and her post-election claim to represent “patriots” over “globalisation supporters,” U.S. White nationalist Richard Spencer took to Twitter to whine that whatever emerges from the National Front will be most likely “become a cucky, GOP-like party.”47 Spencer also tweeted that “we’ve seen the limits of the typical Euro-Right nationalist parties,” suggesting “a global political party for White people” as one alternative going forward.48

“Because Merkel is the last powerful defender of the EU and of sanctions against Russia, the Kremlin will do its utmost best to remove her by influencing the election process by disinformation and, eventually, hacking.”

As encouraging as the French results are, there is still cause for concern. Just as defenders of Western institutions and norms may learn from what happened in France, so may purveyors of disinformation, including the Russian government. Russia will surely pull out all the stops to influence the German federal election scheduled for September 24, 2017. As Van Herpen argues, “Because Merkel is the last powerful defender of the EU and of sanctions against Russia, the Kremlin will do its utmost best to remove her by influencing the election process by disinformation and, eventually, hacking.” 49 Van Herpen’s book also notes the considerable affinity for Russia across the German political spectrum, including in Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) as well as among right-wing nationalist forces, such as Alternative for Germany (AfD).50 Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has a warm personal relationship with Putin, and Russian soft power has a significant presence in Germany, including through the Kremlin-backed think tank Dialogue of Civilizations in Berlin, one of the founders of which was Russian oligarch Vladimir Yakunin. Should the German political landscape shift enough to remove Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from the next governing coalition, this will likely result in a Germany more willing to support Russian interests at the expense of robust support for democratic norms and supranational institutions. In a very real sense, then, Angela Merkel may be said to be the current leader of the free world—the United States under Trump has certainly abdicated the right to make any such claim for the American president—and Merkel’s removal from office would, at best, lead to increased destabilization and uncertainty for the EU’s future.

The Trump Factor: Why the 2016 U.S. Election Bodes Ill for Europe

Donald Trump speaking to supporters in Phoenix, Arizona, 2016.
(Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr).

At this point we may be disposed to ask the best known of the Russian “accursed questions”: what is to be done?51 Coming on the heels of the UK’s Brexit vote, Trump’s dubious, undemocratic, and quasi-covertly Russia-backed election to the U.S. presidency has certainly changed the picture relative to the European political landscape.52 America’s European allies have reason to be uncertain about the new administration’s willingness to honor Article 5 of NATO’s charter, which provides for collective defense, with an attack against one ally considered an attack against all. In the aftermath of the U.S. election, Britain was reportedly so concerned about the possibility that Moscow holds compromising material on Trump that it “sought reassurance from the CIA that the identity of British agents in Russia will be protected when intelligence is shared.”53 Israel’s intelligence services reportedly expressed similar concerns that information shared with the United States might be passed to Moscow.54 The departure of Flynn from the Trump administration and the open disagreement between the United States and Russia over Syria may have gone some way to assuage these concerns, but it is clear that serious questions remain about Russian influence on Trump himself.

Not too long ago, human rights advocates held out hope that the United States might be able to aid our European allies in pushing back against disinformation and influence campaigns from the Kremlin. On December 23, 2016, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which provided for the creation of a Global Engagement Center “to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.”55 Under Trump, we cannot expect much good to come from any efforts that might begin under the aegis of this Center; even if in light of recent developments Trump has become more cautious about his repeatedly stated goal of improving relations with Russia, he is unlikely to go out of his way to counter Russian propaganda. In addition, on May 9, 2017, Trump sent shockwaves through the U.S. by firing FBI Director James Comey in what appears to be an attempt to shut down the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and possible criminal activities (although the nominal reason provided by the Trump administration has to do with Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email case).

Melissa Hooper, Director of Human Rights and Civil Society at the Washington- and New York-based nonprofit Human Rights First, had been among those hoping for a robust U.S. response to Russian influence after the 2016 election. Hooper previously worked with NGOs through the ABA Rule of Law Initiative as director for Russia and Azerbaijan. While based in Russia, Hooper became increasingly dismayed at the negative impact of the illiberal legislative efforts of Putin’s third term, including the 2012 “foreign agents” law that requires independent groups that engage in any “political activity” to register as “foreign agents” if they receive any funding from sources outside Russia.56 Having noticed Russia’s influence on the spread of illiberalism in Europe—for example, in Hungary under Orbán—Hooper came to Human Right First with concerns about the possibility of counteracting this trend.57

With funding from the Jackson Foundation, she organized a series of informal policy discussions throughout 2016—at Columbia University, Stanford University, and Human Rights First’s Washington, D.C., location—with experts from fields including advocacy, journalism, scholarly research, and technology, to consider approaches to countering Russian disinformation, influence, and support for far-right extremism in Europe. I participated in the last of these discussions, in December 2016, and the mood in the wake of Trump’s dubious win was far from cheery. Although proposed solutions involve both private and public actors and institutions, we participants were all clearly aware that the results of the U.S. election would make the task much more difficult. Nevertheless, there are steps that can be taken. As Hooper later explained to me:

We hope to act as a convener of civil society, so that with a unified voice we can help technology companies identify where they are contributing to threats rather than reducing them—in the areas of disinformation and publication of false stories, personal safety of rights workers, and the proliferation of hate speech targeting minority groups. And we hope we can then partner with companies to make sure their responses and proposed solutions are comprehensive, accessible, and effective.58

For his part, Van Herpen supports debunking Russian disinformation and creating counter-narratives that can prove attractive. He points to the website StopFake.org, which was founded at Kyiv’s Mohyla University and which is devoted to debunking Russian disinformation relative to the hybrid war in Ukraine. Van Herpen also believes that Western governments should impose stricter standards on Russian media produced for Western consumption and that Western states should invest in Russian-language media. With Breitbart planning to expand to Germany and France, Europe may soon be facing an onslaught of disinformation not only from Russia, but also from the United States.59

“Draining the Swamp” of Western Liberalism: A Russian-American Enterprise?

In light of Trump’s election and the potential expansion of Breitbart into European markets, Europe now faces a dual Russian-American onslaught of right-wing populist disinformation and fake news, sure to be backed up in cyberspace by Russian and American trolls and bots. The U.S. election results confirm that the power of media manipulation and post-truth politics to erode liberal democratic norms must not be underestimated. And it is significant that far-right Russian and American ideologues have already been collaborating in media manipulation for some time.

The neo-Eurasianist ideologue quoted at the beginning of this article, Alexander Dugin, has become a beloved comrade of America’s neo-Nazis, White nationalists, and Christian nationalists. Dugin has, for example, given a lecture at Texas A&M University at the invitation of Preston Wiginton (delivered via Skype because sanctions prevented him from traveling to the U.S.).60 Less well known, however, is that as a regular presence on the Russian outlet Tsargrad TV, Dugin has interviewed American conspiracist purveyor of fake news Alex Jones, of Infowars infamy. Tsargrad TV was founded by “God’s oligarch” Konstantin Malofeev, and it employs former FOX News producer Jack Hanick, who, along with his family, recently converted to Russian Orthodoxy.61

In a segment from the program “Our Point of View” (Nasha tochka zreniia) uploaded to YouTube by the official Tsargrad TV account on December 20, 2016, Dugin tells Jones “there is a political elite that is organizing a color revolution against us.” Referring to this elite as “the global dictatorship,” Dugin adds “Clinton, Soros, the Obama Administration—that which is called the Deep State, will also organize a color revolution against Trump, not wanting to recognize the democratic victory of the American people.” He added, “We need to think about how all of us together—Americans, Russians, Europeans—what we can do to oppose this elite.”62 Jones agreed with Dugin’s call to oppose “globalism,” asserting it is a matter of “survival.”63

For Dugin, “draining the swamp” has much more to do with a desire to wage extremist culture wars than it does with rooting out political corruption.

With this context in mind, we can return to Dugin’s words quoted at the beginning of this article: “It remains but to drain the swamp in Russia itself.” There’s no need to guess Dugin’s meaning, since he’s told us himself—and in English, no less—on the site of Katehon, a Eurasianist “think tank” whose supervisory board’s president is none other than Konstantin Malofeev.64 For Dugin, “draining the swamp” has much more to do with a desire to wage extremist culture wars than it does with rooting out political corruption (something that U.S. columnist Amanda Marcotte argues was also the implicit promise to Trump supporters all along).65

On November 14, 2016, Katehon published Dugin’s essay, “Donald Trump: The Swamp and the Fire,” along with an illustration featuring European political leaders, including Angela Merkel and François Hollande, caricatured as swamp creatures. Dugin’s essay opens with this pronouncement:

“The Swamp” is to become the new name for the globalist sect, the open society adepts, LGBT maniacs, Soros’ army, the post-humanists, and so on. Draining the Swamp is not only categorically imperative for America. It is a global challenge for all of us. Today, every people is under the rule of its own Swamp. We, all together, should start the fight against the Russian Swamp, the French Swamp, the German Swamp, and so on. We need to purge our societies of the Swamp’s influence.

Dugin goes on to claim that “anti-Americanism is over” thanks to the election of Trump, and to call for “a Nuremberg trial for liberalism, the last totalitarian political ideology of Modernity.”

Dugin goes on to claim that “anti-Americanism is over” thanks to the election of Trump, and to call for “a Nuremberg trial for liberalism, the last totalitarian political ideology of Modernity.”  Once representing the “apocalyptical monsters” of capitalism and Communism, Russia and America, in Dugin’s view, now represent “two eschatological promises”—that is, in Dugin’s understanding of “traditionalism,” an illiberal Russia and America working to destroy liberalism would bring the world into better alignment with God’s ostensible plans for humanity.66

Like Dugin, Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is given to violent rhetoric. In a 2014 speech he gave via Skype for a conference held at the Vatican, Bannon bizarrely and inaccurately described World War II as a war of “the Judeo-Christian West versus atheists,” which led to the relatively benign Pax Americana. Bannon added that, since the end of the Cold War, both sides face “a crisis both [sic] of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” He predicted that “we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict” in which the “church militant” will have to play a role, lest modern “barbarity” “eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”67

Dugin and Bannon would undoubtedly disagree on certain matters regarding capitalism and Islam. Because Russia is home to large Muslim populations of different ethnic backgrounds, and the Russian state mobilizes Muslim leadership to pursue its traditional values agenda domestically—just as it does leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and other faiths—Russia cannot overtly support wholesale Islamophobia, despite frequent ethnic Russian opposition to the construction of new mosques. Nevertheless, both Dugin and Banon call for a violent international fight against secularism and liberalism. It also is not clear precisely how and in what manner President Trump may change U.S.-Russian relations, as he has received some pushback on his foreign policy agenda, and has upset the Russian political establishment with his actions in Syria. It is clear, however, that many Russian and American conservative leaders and ideologues continue to see potential for Russian-American global collaboration in the right-wing international in pursuit of Far Right ends. Let us hope that European governments and international institutions—and, more broadly, democratic norms and universal human rights—will ultimately prevail against the onslaught.

 

Endnotes

1 Alexander Dugin’s Facebook page, accessed January 17, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/alexandr.dugin/posts/1359831577360212. While Dugin is clearly using the same rhetoric as Donald Trump and his supporters with respect to “drain the swamp” (and numerous other talking points), a more literal translation of the verb he uses, “высушить,” would be “dry out,” which fits better with the other metaphor he frequently invokes in this context, that of fire.

2 Alexander Dugin, “Russian Geopolitician: Trump is Real America,” Katehon, February 2, 2016. http://katehon.com/article/russian-geopolitician-trump-real-america .

3 “Treasury Announces New Designations of Ukrainian Separatists and their Russian Supporters,” US Department of the Treasury, March 11, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl9993.aspx.

4 Patrick Buchanan, “Whose Side is God on Now?” Patrick J. Buchanan – Official Website, April 4, 2014, http://buchanan.org/blog/whose-side-god-now-6337. For more details, see Christopher Stroop, “The Russian Origins of the So-Called Post-Secular Moment: Some Preliminary Observations,” State Religion and Church 1:1 (2014), 59-82, https://www.academia.edu/5949640/The_Russian_Origins_of_the_So-Called_Post-Secular_Moment_Some_Preliminary_Observations .

5 Christopher Stroop, “A Right-Wing International? Russian Social Conservatism, the US-Based World Congress of Families, and the Global Culture Wars in Historical Context,” The Public Eye, winter 2016, 4-10, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/02/16/russian-social-conservatism-the-u-s-based-wcf-the-global-culture-wars-in-historical-context/.

6 David Duke, “Is Russia the Key to White Survival?,” DavidDuke.com, October 23, 2004, http://davidduke.com/is-russia-the-key-to-white-survival/.

7 Casey Michel, “Meet the Moscow Mouthpiece Married to a Racist Alt-Right Boss,” The Daily Beast, December 20, 2016, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/20/meet-the-moscow-mouthpiece-married-to-a-racist-alt-right-boss.html.

8 For a recent summary take, see Casey Michel, “How Russia Became the Leader of the Global Christian Right,” Politico, February 9, 2017, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/how-russia-became-a-leader-of-the-worldwide-christian-right-214755.

9 For a timely consideration of Russian influence and disinformation relative to Europe, and the Soviet historical context, see Marcel H. Van Herpen, Putin’s Propaganda Machine: Soft Power and Russian Foreign Policy (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). On Putinist Russia as an exporter of right-wing ideology, see Stroop, “A Right-Wing International?”

10 On Hungary’s move to close down Central European University, see David Matthews, “Central European University Fights for Survival in Hungary,” The Times Higher Education, March 29, 2017, https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/central-european-university-fights-for-survival-in-hungary.

11 Klaus Brinkbäumer, “Europe Must Defend itself against a Dangerous President,” Der Spiegel, February 5, 2017, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/a-1133177-amp.html.

12 Emily Flitter, “Exclusive: Riding Trump Wave, Breitbart News Plans US, European Expansion,” Reuters, November 9, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-trump-strategy-idUSKBN1342TP.

13 Olivia Beavers, “Tillerson Asks European Diplomats why US Taxpayers Should Care about Ukraine,” The Hill, April 11, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/328385-tillerson-asked-european-diplomats-why-us-taxpayers-should-care-about.

14 For the claim that Dugin does not advise Putin, see Kouprianova’s tweet: https://twitter.com/NinaByzantina/status/808108740645912576, last accessed January 17, 2017.

15 Michel, “Meet the Moscow Mouthpiece.”

16 Simon Shuster, “Exclusive: Putin Aide Vladislav Surkov Defied EU Sanctions to Make Pilgrimage to Greece,” Time, September 2, 2016, http://time.com/4476005/vladislav-surkov-putin-athos-greece-sanctions/.

17 For more details see Stroop, “A Right-Wing International?”

18 Vira Ratsiborynska, “When Hybrid Warfare Supports Ideology: Russia Today,” Research Division – NATO Defense College, Rome. No. 133, November 2016, 5-9, http://www.ndc.nato.int/news/news.php?icode=994. “The Russian Connection. The Spread of Pro-Russian Policies on the European Far Right,” Political Capital Institute, March 14, 2014, 4-6, http://www.riskandforecast.com/useruploads/files/pc_flash_report_russian_connection.pdf. And see Stroop, “A Right-Wing International?” for more on how Russia attracts right-wing fellow travelers from the West.

19Kerin Hope and Henry Foy, “Pro-Russian Presidential Candidates Win in Bulgaria and Moldova,” Financial Times, November 14, 2016, https://www.ft.com/content/3b75e064-aa59-11e6-809d-c9f98a0cf216.

20 Sabra Ayres, email interview with author.

21 Anna Nemtsova, “Igor Dodon is Vladimir Putin’s Moldovan Mini-Me,” The Daily Beast, October 29, 2016, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/29/igor-dodon-is-vladimir-putin-s-moldovan-mini-me.html. It is important to remember that the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria remains occupied by a small contingent of Russian troops and represents one of a number of intractable post-Cold War “frozen conflicts.”

22 Demetri Sevastopulo, “Trump was warned twice on risk of Russia blackmailing Flynn,” Financial Times, May 9, 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/8880e674-3433-11e7-99bd-13beb0903fa3.

23 Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “Intelligence Community Assessment: Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” January 6, 2017, ii-iii, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf.

24 Melik Kaylan, “The Other Time Vladimir Putin Swung an Election,” Politico, Nov 4, 2016, http://www.politico.eu/article/vladimir-putin-replicates-his-georgia-model-in-the-us/.

25 Justin Huggler, “Germany Accuses Russia of Cyber Attack on Ukraine Peace Monitors, as Kremlin Dismisses US Intelligence Claims as a ‘Witch Hunt,’” The Telegraph, January 9, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/09/germany-accuses-russia-cyber-attack-ukraine-peace-monitors-kremlin/. Kate Connolly, “German Spy Chief Says Russian Hackers Could Disrupt Elections,” The Guardian, November 29, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/29/german-spy-chief-russian-hackers-could-disrupt-elections-bruno-kahl-cyber-attacks.

26 See Van Herpen, Putin’s Propaganda Machine, 49-50; Dennis Lynch, “Russia, Ketchum End Controversial Nine-Year Public Relations Partnership,” International Business Times, March 11, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-ketchum-end-controversial-nine-year-public-relations-partnership-1844092.

27 Management, Dialogue Of Civilizations Endowment Fund, 2017, http://dofc-foundation.org/management/. On Russia’s “NGO diplomacy,” see also “The Russian Connection,” 5.

28 “The Russian Connection” (p. 5) argues, however, that in many cases “the gains from the trade-off for Far Right parties are not necessarily financial, as commonly assumed, but more valuable professional, organizational and media assistance, i.e., access to networks and political know-how.”

29 The most comprehensive treatment of all the methods listed in this paragraph is Van Herpen, Putin’s Propaganda Machine. For the RT budget figure, see p. 71.

30 “The Russian Connection,” 6.

31 Pasquale Annicchino, personal interview with author, December 24, 2016. Full disclosure: Annicchino and I are both senior research associates with the Postsecular Conflicts research initiative at the University of Innsbruck.

32 Van Herpen, Putin’s Propaganda Machine, 138-146.

33 The ACLJ has also been involved in efforts to criminalize homosexuality in African countries. See Kapya Kaoma, “Beyond Lively and Warren: U.S. Conservative Legal Groups Changing African Law to Persecute Sexual Minorities and Women,” Political Research Associates, April 22, 2014, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/04/22/beyond-lively-warren-u-s-conservative-legal-groups-changing-african-law-to-persecute-sexual-minorities-women/#sthash.RDyAiJfy.dpbs.

34 Pasquale Annicchino, “Winning the Battle by Losing the War: The Lautsi Case and the Holy Alliance between American Conservative Evangelicals, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican to Reshape European Identity,” Religion and Human Rights 6 (2011), 213-219, esp. 216-218.

35 See reports from the University of Fribourg’s Center for Ecumenical Studies at http://www.unifr.ch/iso/de/memoria/anderson/news_2013 and http://www.unifr.ch/iso/assets/files/Hilarion_50_D.pdf.

36 “The Russian Connection,” 7.

37 Nico Hines and Pierre Vaux, “Why Putin is Meddling in Britain’s Brexit Vote,” The Daily Beast, June 8, 2016, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/08/why-putin-is-meddling-in-britain-s-brexit-vote.html. Komov is currently listed as honorary president on the association’s website: http://www.lombardiarussia.org/index.php/associazione/chi-siamo. For more on the influence of Komov, see Stroop, “A Right-Wing International?” See also Cole Parke, “Natural Deception: Conned by the World Congress of Families,” Political Research Associates, January 21, 2015, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/01/21/natural-deception-conned-by-the-world-congress-of-families/.

38 Christopher Stroop, “Bad Ecumenism: The American Culture Wars and Russia’s Hard Right Turn.” The Wheel 6 (summer 2016), 20-24.

39 While commentators such as Van Herpen present the Russian Orthodox Church—at least in terms of its elite leadership—as essentially a branch of the Russian state, Brandon Gallaher, Lecturer of Systematic and Comparative Theology at University of Exeter and a specialist in Russian Orthodoxy, stressed to me that the church does pursue its own goals but that in its attempt to promote what it sees as Christian values it has allowed itself to become dependent on the Russian state to the point of cooptation. Brandon Gallaher, personal interview with author, January 13, 2017.

40 Marcel van Herpen, email interview with author.

41 Marcel van Herpen, email interview with author..

42 Moscow has cultivated a relationship with Le Pen, whom Putin met at the Kremlin on March 24, for some time, and could only be very pleased by Le Pen’s promise to abandon the EU.

43 Emily Tamkin, “French Intelligence Agency Braces for Russian Bots to Back Le Pen,” Foreign Policy, February 8, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/08/french-intelligence-agency-braces-for-russian-bots-to-back-le-pen/.

44 Andrew Higgins, “It’s France’s Turn to Worry about Election Meddling by Russia,” New York Times, April 17, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/world/europe/french-election-russia.html?_r=0

45 Quoted in Rachel Donadio, “Why the Macron Hacking Attack Landed with a Thud in France,” New York Times, May 8, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/08/world/europe/macron-hacking-attack-france.html.

46 Charles Bremner and Adam Sage, “Landslide Victory for Marcon,” The Times of London, May 8, 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/landslide-for-macron-fns37zvpq.

47 Richard Spencer’s Twitter, May 7, 2017, https://twitter.com/RichardBSpencer/status/861300992419258370.

48 Richard Spencer’s Twitter, May 7, 2017, https://twitter.com/RichardBSpencer/status/861291632817303552; https://twitter.com/RichardBSpencer/status/861293328909967360

49 Marcel van Herpen, email interview with author.

50 Van Herpen, Putin’s Propaganda Machine, esp. chapters 12, 13, and 14.

51 The other two are “Who is to blame?” and “Who beats whom?”

52 With respect to Brexit, while the Kremlin did not overtly back the Vote Leave campaign, it was given preferential treatment in Russian propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik. Hines and Vaux, “Why Putin is Meddling in Britain’s Brexit Vote.”

53 Tim Shipman, et al. “Trump Wants Putin Summit in Reykjavik. Britain Fears Leak of its Secrets to Moscow,” The Times, January 15, 2017, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/trump-wants-putin-summit-in-reykjavik-rc909n9t0.

54 Sheera Frenkel, “Spy Agencies around the World are Digging into Trump’s Moscow Ties,” BuzzFeed, January 13, 2017, https://www.buzzfeed.com/sheerafrenkel/spy-agencies-around-the-world-are-digging-into-trump-moscow?utm_term=.rkgP7xyO9#.fqBQMJo0O.

55 S.2943 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, section 1287, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/2943/text.

56 “Russia Government vs. Rights Groups. The Battle Chronicle,” Human Rights Watch, February 21, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/russia-government-against-rights-groups-battle-chronicle.

57 Melissa Hooper, personal interview with author, December 27, 2016.

58 Melissa Hooper, personal interview with author.

59 Flitter, “Exclusive: Riding Trump Wave.”

60 Michel, “Meet the Moscow Mouthpiece.”

61 Joshua Keating, “God’s Oligarch,” Slate, October 20, 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/10/konstantin_malofeev_one_of_vladimir_putin_s_favorite_businessmen_wants_to.html.

“Jack Hanick and His Family Have been Received into Orthodoxy in Moscow,” Pravoslavie.ru, May 10, 2016, http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/93209.htm.

62 “Александр Дугин: о борьбе с глобализмом [Наша точка зрения],” YouTube video, December 20, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eve4ba78TO8, last accessed January 17, 2017.

63 “Наша точка зрения: Алекс Джонс о борьбе Трампа,” YouTube video, December 20, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iNFjW85P40, last accessed January 17, 2017. Although uploaded separately, one after another on December 20, 2016, it is clear that this clip follows immediately upon the previously cited clip.

64 Per Katehon’s website: http://katehon.com/about-us, last accessed January 19, 2017.

65 Amanda Marcotte, “‘Drain the Swamp’—of all Those P.C. liberals! Turns Out Trumpers Don’t Care about Lobbyists or Plutocrats,” Slate, December 21, 2016, http://www.salon.com/2016/12/21/drain-the-swamp-of-all-those-p-c-liberals-turns-out-trumpers-dont-care-about-lobbyists-or-plutocrats/.

66 Alexander Dugin, “Donald Trump: The Swamp and the Fire,” Katehon, November 14, 2016, http://katehon.com/article/donald-trump-swamp-and-fire.

67 Providing minimal commentary, Feder reprints Bannon’s speech in its entirety: J. Lester Feder, “This is How Steve Bannon Sees the Entire World,” BuzzFeed, November 15, 2016. https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world?utm_term=.jcmbxBX3N#.jk64yNxb2, last accessed January 19, 2017.

 

[Video] Resisting White Supremacy in Kentucky

An online video call discussion on anti-racist resistance with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Political Research Associates, and Rural Organizing Project.

Last week, PRA associate fellow Spencer Sunshine joined a discussion on anti-racist resistance in Kentucky alongside Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) and Rural Organizing Project (ROP). KFTC convened this webinar after learning that White supremacist groups would be traveling to Kentucky in April for a series of events in Prestonsburg and Pikeville.

Runes, such as this one on the National Socialist Movement flag, have been gaining popularity over swastikas among neonazi groups as part of a recent effort to re-brand.

Sunshine kicked off the session identifying the White supremacist groups that are organizing and recruiting and describing what tactics they use. The groups discussed include the Nationalist Front (an umbrella group), Traditionalist Worker Party, National Socialist Movement (the largest neonazi group in the U.S.), League of the South (a neoconfederate group), and American Vanguard (a university-based student group). Sunshine describes how these groups, along with the White nationalist Alt Right, are mainstreaming old ideas through a new aesthetic.

Sunshine pointed out that there has been a huge spike in the number of White supremacist groups in the past year, according to the latest reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“In general this is happening to communities all over. I think with Trump’s campaign White nationalists felt like their politics had finally come out into the mainstream and they could come out of the shadows. And I think that’s true to some extent. That their politics are at least to some parts of society being fairly normalized. Regardless, they are using this climate to engage in much more aggressive recruiting campaigns and have open public events.”

Sunshine was also joined by Jessica Campbell co-director of ROP, a network of over 50 autonomous all-volunteer group throughout rural Oregon who are doing organizing around democracy and human dignity. Campbell pointed out that in Oregon they are not seeing legislators and politicians coming out to rural areas, which makes those communities feel further disenfranchised and “is creating a real opportunity for Far Right organizing to really take advantage of having an uncontested rural base.”

Sunshine and Campbell were lead authors of Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement, a report co-published by PRA and ROP in 2016. PRA has since produced a report and several in depth articles on the White nationalist Alt Right movement as well, available on our Alt Right Portal Page.

Additional resources:

Birth of the Alt Right

Click here for a PDF version of this article

This article appears in the Winter 2017 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play…They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.

—Jean-Paul Sartre, “Anti-Semite and Jew,” 19441

Sometime on October 10, 2014, feminist computer-game developer Brianna Wu began receiving a series of tweets on her Twitter account from someone named “DeathToBrianna”:

You just made a shitty game no one liked. That’s it. No one wil lcare when you die. [sic]

I hope you enjoy your last moments alive on this earth. You did nothing worthwhile with your life.

If you have any kids, they’re going to die too. I don’t give a fuck. They’ll grow up to be feminists anyway.

Your mutilated corpse will be on the front page of Jezebel tomorrow and there isn’t jack shit you can do about it.

I’ve got a K-Bar and I’m coming to your house so I can shove it up your ugly feminist cunt.

Guess what bitch? I now know where you live. You and Frank live at [her real address].2

Wu, the development chief at gamemaker Giant Spacekat, and her husband called the police and moved out of their home that evening for several days, eventually hiring a bodyguard. Within days, she was accused by her tormentors of having “manufactured” the threats; they advised their readers in memes to “incite as much butthurt as possible, so don’t engage in civil reasoned debate. Flame anyone who disagrees …” Two years later, she continued to receive threats at such a volume that she hired a staff member to track them all.3

The threats directed at Wu arose from her involvement in the so-called “Gamergate” controversy, a bitter online dispute that revolved around the internal politics of the video-gaming community. On one side were feminists and other liberals who argued for greater inclusion of games appealing to women. On the other side were men who found such talk not merely threatening but a declaration of a “culture war,” wherein “social justice warriors” used the cudgel of political correctness to impose the values of multiculturalism.

The predominantly White men making these arguments, however, were not content merely to debate their positions online. Instead, a whole army of them swung into action on social media and Internet chat rooms, harassing and threatening feminists and liberals like Wu.

One of the feminists’ chief online assailants was Milo Yiannopoulos, a young gay man living in London who wrote a widely read column for Breitbart News. In a September 2014 piece he described the anti-Gamergate faction as “an army of sociopathic feminist programmers and campaigners, abetted by achingly politically correct American tech bloggers, [who] are terrorising the entire community—lying, bullying and manipulating their way around the internet for profit and attention.”4

Yiannopoulos, who would parlay his Gamergate activism into a job as Breitbart’s tech editor and later as a leader of the emerging “Alt Right” phenomenon, responded to the threats against Wu in a typically “not-my-fault-she-deserved-it” tweet: “Whoever sent those tweets deserves to be charged and punished,” he wrote. “It was vile. But I cannot be alone in finding the response distasteful.”

The controversy heralded the rise of the Alt Right: A world dominated by digital trolls, insanely unbridled conspiracism, angry White-male-identity victimization culture, and ultimately, open racism, antisemitism, ethnic hatred, misogyny, and sexual/gender paranoia. A place where human decency and ethics are considered antiquarian jokes, and empathy is only an invitation to assault.

Troll Logic

The most influential aspect of the rise of the Internet in the 1990s was the liberation of information from the constraints of the mainstream media—something expected to further democratize the globalized economy. After all, the more information people had at their fingertips, the thinking went, the more they could be liberated by the truth.

Within a few years, however, it became evident that there was a serious downside to all this liberation: While the constraints on information imposed by a top-down mass media had seemingly been lifted, one of the press’s important by-functions was vanishing as well: namely, the ability to filter out bad information, false or badly distorted “facts,” and outrageous claims designed not just to titillate but to smear whole groups of people and to radicalize an audience against them. The Internet, with its easy anonymity and wanton disregard of the rules of evidence and factuality, by the early 2000s had already become host to a swamp of conspiracy theories, false smears, and wild speculation. As Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons have observed, the 1990s Patriot/militia movement was the first right-wing movement widely organized and promoted online.5

False or badly distorted “facts,” and outrageous claims designed not just to titillate but to smear whole groups of people and to radicalize an audience against them.

And the same “anything goes” ethos applied doubly to people’s behavior online. No entity embodied this anarchical and deliberately destructive sensibility quite like the digital troll: the usually anonymous creatures who lurk under the bridges of our discourse, lobbing insults, nonsequiturs, off-topic remarks, and racial or religious incendiary grenades. Their chief tactic is called “flaming,” in which they mercilessly abuse their target, substituting aggressive abuse for debate.

“Trolling” which takes its name from the fishing technique of dropping a lure on a long line and waiting for fish to take the bait, was initially considered a relatively benign, if juvenile, pastime. There was even a kind of “positive” trolling in which the “troll” used fact-based questions to lead a target to a logical conclusion. However, as “flaming” behaviors matured and spread, the resulting ethos created a “troll” whose deportment came closely to resemble the dreaded creatures who dwelt under bridges and snagged unwary travelers of legend. Trolls are ultimately engendered by a third kind of consequence of the rise of the Internet: Namely, the ability of people in modern society to construct their entire social lives online, with only a nominal interaction with the reality of the physical world. Increasingly, some people’s social lives began increasingly to revolve around chat rooms, email listservs, political and special-interest forums. As social-media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter took off, this phenomenon became not only widespread but profoundly consequential.

False or distorted “facts” create an alternative “reality” for people largely detached from the real world—profoundly toxifying people’s worldviews, their understanding of news and current events, as well as their interactions with others.

As media theorist Judith Donath explained in her groundbreaking 1999 study of trolling behavior: “In the physical world there is an inherent unity to the self, for the body provides a compelling and convenient definition of identity. The norm is: one body, one identity … The virtual world is different. It is composed of information rather than matter.”6

This helps explain why the introduction of bad information—false or distorted “facts” that creates an alternative “reality” for people largely detached from the real world—so profoundly toxifies people’s worldviews, their understanding of news and current events, as well as their interactions with others. The culture of trolling, by its very nature, quickly attracted some of society’s most toxic elements: sociopaths, psychopaths, and sadists. And that, in turn, had a profound political effect.

The Psychology of Trolling

A disturbing study released in 2014 by a team of psychologists led by Erin E. Buckels of the University of Manitoba sketched out a personality profile of trolls, focusing particularly on people attracted to “antisocial” uses of the Web. Buckels’ results found that many trolls share what psychologists call the “Dark Tetrad” of psychological traits: Machiavellianism (willing deception and manipulation), narcissism (self-obsession and egotism), psychopathy (an utter absence of empathy or remorse), and sadism (enjoyment of the suffering of others). The correlation of trolls with the last of these—sadism—was particularly powerful.7

“Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others,” Buckels wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

And the more time a person spends exclusively online (as opposed to in the material world) the stronger the connection becomes, Buckels found.

Buckels’ study also found that even though trolls have an outsized influence on Internet discourse, they comprise only a small percentage of Web users—just 5.6 percent of the survey’s respondents said they enjoyed trolling, while some 41 percent reported they don’t engage with other people online at all. Some trolled merely for fun, while others were driven by personal motivations, including politics.

As it happens, Buckels explained by email, there is, in general, a high correlation of these “Dark Tetrad” traits with another important mass-psychological phenomenon known as “social dominance orientation,” or SDO. It’s based on the recognition that people orient themselves socially based on a kind of fundamental view: Do they believe people are inherently equal, or unequal? Psychologists have tested people accordingly, devising an “SDO scale” that measures a person’s level of preference for hierarchy based on inherent inequalities within any social system, as well as the concurring desire for domination over lower-status groups.

The original 1994 study that designed the SDO scale asked participants whether they favored ideas such as “increased social equality,” “increased economic equality,” or simply “equality” itself. Conversely, subjects were asked whether they agreed that “some people are just more deserving than others” and that “This country would be better off if we cared less about how equal all people were.”8 SDO trolls, by dint of their personalities, were often inclined not only to share but to act out right-wing political views, often of the extremist variety.

“In short,” writes Robert Altemeyer, a psychologist who’s studied authoritarianism, “in social dominators’ way of thinking, equality should not be a central value of our society or a goal toward which we should strive. To high SDOs, ‘equality’ is a sucker-word in which only fools believe.”9

In contrast to the trolls who played the trolling game for its own sake, right-wing political trollers saw their activities as direct reflections of their politics. If trolling was often rude and openly transgressive, so were their politics.

If any movement could be said to describe the manifestation of Social Dominance Orientation in the political realm, it’s White nationalism. A far-right movement that took hold among “academic racists” in the 1990s, who contended that racial genetics imparted inherent characteristics such as intelligence, White nationalists followed these arguments with a call for distinct ethnostates that could enable racial separation. Moreover, the movement’s ideologues claimed, traditional White European culture faced an onslaught from non-White immigration and liberal multiculturalists.10

White nationalism quickly devolved from its original claim—to be simply promoting the interests of ethnic Whites—to, by the late ‘90s, demonizing non-Whites and LGBTQ people, as well as embracing far-right undercurrents of antisemitism and conspiracism. And indeed, many of the movement’s leaders displayed the kind of personality characteristics—lack of empathy, manipulativeness and aggression, and hostility to femininity and equality—associated with people who score highly on the SDO scale.

During the Bush administration years, White nationalists focused less on attacking liberalism than on attacking Republicans who they believed were failing to “stand up for White interests.” The antagonism created a gulf in which the movement, rife with contentious would-be leaders, struggled to reach new followers.

A sign at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. Photo: Mark Dixon via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The White nationalists’ predilection for conspiracism, however, soon brought them the audience they sought. The conspiracy theorists who’d first become mobilized through the 1990s antigovernment Patriot movement found new inspiration in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which they portrayed as an “inside job” perpetrated with assistance from the Bush administration and its “New World Order.” As the decade wore on, the far-right conspiracists fixated on the idea of “political correctness” as a form of what they called “Cultural Marxism.” This idea grew from a fundamentally antisemitic White nationalist theory: that a small group of Jewish philosophers at Columbia University in the 1930s had devised an unorthodox form of Marxism that aimed to destroy American culture by convincing mainstream Americans that White ethnic pride is bad, sexual liberation is good, and traditional American “family values” and Christianity are bigoted and reactionary. (Among the subscribers to this theory, circulating in far-right circles since the ‘90s, was the right-wing Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who in 2011 slaughtered 69 children at a Norway youth camp after detonating a series of bombs in Oslo that killed eight.11)

The audience for conspiracy theories, as Altemeyer observes, is often comprised of right-wing authoritarians: people who are inclined to insist on a world in which strong authorities produce order and peace, often through iron imposition of “law and order.”12 Highly ethnocentric, fearful of a dangerous world, aggressive, dogmatic, and inclined to extreme self-righteousness and poor reasoning, they are, as Altemeyer explains, “very dependent on social reinforcement of their beliefs. They think they are right because almost everyone they know, almost every news broadcast they see, almost every radio commentator they listen to, tells them they are. That is, they screen out the sources that will suggest that they are wrong.”13  

A Lethal Union

To understand the growth of the Alt Right, one must explore the relationship between social dominators and right-wing authoritarian followers. Altemeyer, who conducted groundbreaking work on the psychological makeup of right-wing authoritarian (RWA) personalities, explains that people with high SDO scores—“dominators”— correlate poorly with people who score highly on the RWA scale. The two groups are distinct. Authoritarian followers lack dominators’ lust for power and they are generally much more religious; their hostility is rooted in fear and self-righteousness in the name of authority, while dominators use hostility as a means of intimidation and control.

Though they are dissimilar in many ways, dominators and right-wing authoritarian followers share an overpowering tendency towards prejudice against racial and ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities as well as deeply conservative politics.

Altemeyer’s 2006 book warning about the rise of authoritarianism focused on the special kind of chemistry that happens when right-wing authoritarian followers and social dominators come together. He called it the “lethal union”:

When social dominators are in the driver’s seat, and right-wing authoritarians stand at their beck and call, unethical things appear much more likely to happen. True, sufficiently skilled social dominators served by dedicated followers can make the trains run on time. But you have to worry about what the trains may be hauling when dominators call the shots and high RWAs do the shooting.14

It was during the Obama administration years, following the election of the first Black president, that the gradual coalescence of the alternative-universe worldviews of conspiracists, Patriots, White supremacists, Tea Partiers and nativists occurred. Fueled in no small part by racial animus toward Obama, the Internet and social media became the ground on which this “lethal union” could finally occur, after decades of internecine bickering among and marginalization of far-right factions. Those same chat rooms and Facebook threads where trolls gathered and harassed became the places where far-right social dominators—many of them espousing openly transgressive worldviews such as neonazism and misogyny—could come together with the right-wing authoritarian followers whose ranks grew with every conspiracy-theory convert and wannabe Oath Keeper militiaman.

That “lethal union” ultimately gave birth to a new baby created for the 21st century: the Alt Right.

The Road to Gamergate

It all began with people talking online about Japanese anime—the animated cartoons featuring everything from ultra-cute kittens to horrifying monsters, and everything in between.

The website’s owner, a then-15-year-old New York City student named Christopher Poole, called it 4chan when he launched it out of his bedroom in 2003. His idea was to create an open forum where anyone could post images and chat about anime and associated manga comic-book culture. And it was an immediate success, drawing a million hits in his first six days of operation. Soon it had expanded into a massive operation, one of the Internet’s most influential referral sites.15

Much of its original success was built on memes like “LOLcats,” featuring photos of cats over-scripted with funny phrases (the most famous of which, “I Can Haz Cheezburger,” went on to spawn a million-dollar company hosted at 4chan). 4chan also became known for its trolling, with resident trolls creating, among other things, the long-lived internet prank known as “RickRolling.”

But 4chan was also the ultimate open forum. People could register without entering an email address, so most commenters posted anonymously. 4chan’s boards became host not just to gamers and hobbyists but also neonazis, White supremacists, gay-bashers, and a flood of pornographic material. Trolling—of the nasty kind—soon became not just the ruling ethos but a competition among peers at 4Chan.

The “manosphere,” too, was a major presence at 4chan. An online community comprised of blogs, chat forums, and Reddit sub-communities, the manosphere was generally dedicated to the “men’s rights” movement, ostensibly to defend men against feminism. In reality, the movement had quickly become an open sewer of rampant misogyny and rape culture, particularly at the “Men’s Rights Activists” (or MRA) discussion boards at 4chan. Within this world, MRAs called feminism “a social cancer,” and asserted that, “Feminism is a hate movement designed to disenfranchise and dehumanize men.” They complained that women “cry rape” too easily, and, using Holocaust denialism as a metaphor, claimed that feminists had “created” the concept of patriarchy to justify abortion and “the destruction of men and masculinity.”16

Given the various communities gathering at 4chan, it was unsurprising when, in early 2013, all these forces converged to create the “Gamergate” controversy—an initially online phenomenon that crept over into the real world.

“Gamergate” began when a feminist game designer named Zoe Quinn was lauded for her woman-friendly online game “Depression Quest,” which guided users through the trials and tribulations of a person suffering from clinical depression.17 Quinn’s creation, reviewer Adam Smith wrote at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, transformed computer gaming from a mere exercise in conflict to “‘game’ as communication, comfort and tool of understanding.”18

The positive coverage of Quinn’s creation, however, attracted the ire of anti-feminist gamers, livid at the success of a feminized game that was a stark departure from “male” battle games. She soon found herself inundated with hate mail and threatening social-media messages. Someone mailed a detailed rape threat to her home address. Then, in August 2014, a year after “Depression Quest” was released to the general public, a former boyfriend of Quinn’s published a nasty tell-all post about their relationship, complaining that her new boyfriend was video game journalist Nathan Grayson. At 4chan’s boards, this story quickly took on a life of its own, as Quinn’s critics began claiming that Grayson had written a positive review of “Depression Quest” as a result of their relationship, even though, in reality, no such review existed.19

In a glimpse of trends to come, though, that fact did not matter.  The 4chan trolls were off and running, claiming they had uncovered an ethical scandal within the world of gaming journalism. Grayson’s supposed breach of standards reflected what they claimed was a pro-feminist, pro-liberal, anti-White-male bias growing within the computer-game industry. Soon anyone who questioned their interpretation of events was part of the conspiracy. Actor Adam Baldwin, highly active in right-wing circles, dubbed the controversy “Gamergate” in a Twitter hashtag, and it spread like wildfire.

Quinn’s previous flood of hate mail was dwarfed by the incoming tide of vitriol that now descended upon her. She was “doxxed”—her home address and personal contact information published online—and forced to flee her home.20

Nor did the harassment end with Quinn. Anita Sarkeesian, a well-regarded feminist cultural critic, endured death and rape threats, as well as a phoned-in bomb threat that canceled a speaking appearance, after she became a public critic of the Gamergaters. That was followed shortly by the online threats against Brianna Wu.21

Appalled by the wave of harassment emanating from their boards, the owners of 4chan announced in September 2014 that they would ban any further Gamergate discussions. However, a longtime 4chan user named Fredrick Brennan had, that previous October, already created a similar, competing website called 8chan, because he believed 4Chan had become too censorious.

The Gamergaters at 8chan, on Twitter and Reddit and other forums created a lingo of their own: mainly a range of pernicious rhetorical devices designed to create a buffer between themselves and the threats that were flooding out to women, LGBTQ folk, and people of color in the industry. It was a language of dismissal and belittlement. They called their targets “special snowflakes” and “cry bullies,” derided their websites as “safe spaces” and their hope for civil discourse as “unicorns.” The targets of the abuse, they claimed, were lying or exaggerating; and even when the abuse was factually substantiated, Gamergaters’ usual response was that people on their side were being abused too.22

The Gamergaters shared a predilection for conspiracism as well. Feminists , for example, were portrayed as a subset within the larger “Cultural Marxism” conspiracy to destroy Western civilization. But what was once an idea with limited popular appeal was gaining widespread circulation through popular conspiracists like Alex Jones, creator of the massively popular conspiracy mill InfoWars. At 4chan and 8chan, the threat of “Cultural Marxism” became the focal point of many discussions, first about Gamergate, then, increasingly, politics. A common theme began to emerge: that White men were being systematically oppressed by dangerous left-wing forces, and that mainstream conservatives, through their “weak” response to multiculturalism, had “sold them out.”

Eventually Gamergate passed out of the news cycle, and the controversy subsided, to no one’s real satisfaction. What had transpired in the process, though, was far more important. Aggrieved MRAs from the “manosphere,” White nationalists who shared their virulent hatred of feminists and adoration for “traditional values,” as well as gamers and online trolls, had coalesced as a movement. And they continued on as a community, talking now more about politics and conspiracies than gaming, and how much they hated “sellout” mainstream conservatives. They reserved their most bilious outbursts for liberals, multiculturalism, gays and lesbians, Blacks, Hispanics, and Jews—especially Jews.

Their growing community of likeminded defenders of the White race and “traditional values” had to have a name, and so they gave it one: the “Alt Right.”

The Mob Is the Movement

White nationalist Richard Spencer is credited with coining the term “Alternative Right” in 2009. Photo: V@s via Flickr (CC BY2.0)

In 2009, a young White nationalist named Richard Spencer coined the term “Alternative Right” while writing a headline for the paleoconservative Taki’s Magazine, where he was an editor at the time.23 The headline was for an article by White nationalist Kevin DeAnna, describing the rise of a new kind of conservatism— one hostile to neoconservatism and open to “racialist” politics. Less than a year later, in early 2010, Spencer founded his own webzine and named it The Alternative Right. In short order, the name of the movement it promoted was shortened to “Alt Right,” and it stuck.

The name was developed with public relations well in mind; after all, it permitted White nationalists to soften their image while drawing in recruits from mainstream conservatism. When the movement rose to national prominence in 2016 in conjunction with the Trump campaign, a controversy erupted over whether to use the movement’s preferred name or simply call its members what many took them to be: “neonazis” or “White supremacists.” (This mirrored a similar discussion in the 1990s over whether to call the Patriot movement by its chosen name or other descriptors such as “antigovernment” and “antidemocratic.”)

However, as researcher Matthew Lyons explains, the movement is much more complex than any of those simple terms.24 It incorporates elements not only from White nationalists and supremacists of various stripes, but also misogynist anti-feminists, certain “neoreactionary” activists who regard democratic rule as a threat to civilization, as well as some right-wing anarchist elements. Identifying it as only one of those elements is not only inaccurate, but obscures the Alt Right’s peculiarly culture-savvy orientation and the strength of its appeal.

Take Pepe the Frog, for example. Pepe did not begin life, as it were, as the mascot of the Alt Right. His cartoonist creator, Matt Furie, a liberal Democrat, drew the smiling character in 2005 as part of an absurdist comic book; Pepe’s panel featured the frog peeing with his pants down around his ankles, saying, “Feels good man.”

Pepe the Frog was one of the most popular memes on social media before getting hijacked by the Alt Right. Image via clipartsgram.com.

Pepe’s catchphrase and image—big-eyed, large-lipped, cheerful—proliferated and became a common part of memes. By 2014, he had become one of the most popular memes on social media.

And then he was hijacked by the Alt Right. Already wildly popular among the far-right trolls at 4chan, Pepe’s image came increasingly to be featured in Alt Right memes as the trolls spread to other forums. Andrew Anglin, a former skinhead who was one of the leading trolls at 4chan, featured Pepe’s visage prominently at his neonazi blog The Daily Stormer; other Alt Right activists followed. Soon regular users stopped using Pepe in memes out of fear that they would be presumed to be racist White nationalists.25

It was only a dumb cartoon, but what Pepe really represented to the Alt Right was something much more powerful: irony. Unlike their historical forebears in the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations, the leaders and followers of the Alt Right see themselves as smarter and more sophisticated, their rhetoric of racism, violence, and open eliminationism wrapped in more wit and humor, at least of a sort.

As Anglin explained, “A movement which meets all of the [Southern Poverty Law Center’s] definitions of Neo-Nazi White Supremacism using a cartoon frog to represent itself takes on a subversive power to bypass historical stereotypes of such movements, and thus present the ideas themselves in a fun way without the baggage of Schindler’s List and American History X.”26

Pepe is hardly the only cartoon figure deployed by the Alt Right. The movement’s roots in 4chan are evident in its many anime-fueled memes, most of them showing cute cartoon girls wearing various kinds of Nazi regalia, or sporting openly misogynistic, racist, and antisemitic texts. Comic characters of various kinds are deployed to ironically promote White nationalist ideas.

The Alt Right established itself primarily through its cultural agility—its ability to stay at the forefront of current events, themes, and ideas by adapting them to its own uses and then running wild with them. Spencer explains that these memes have “power” and are “a way of communicating immediately.” The movement takes pride in the inscrutability of its memes and other cultural markers—from the “echo” of placing parenthesis around the names of Jews (a tactic since reclaimed by some Jews), to the use of “Shitlord” as an honorific to describe Alt Right true believers—and revel in using them as a kind of secret handshake. The most pernicious of these is the #WhiteGenocide hashtag that handily reduces the White nationalist “mantra” that “Diversity is a Code Word for White Genocide.”

Many Alt Right memes tap into popular culture: Taylor Swift’s image pops up to promote “Aryan” beauty standards; the new Star Wars films are mocked for including central Black and female characters. Masculinity is a fixation for Alt Rightists, reflected in lingo such as “cuck” or “cuckservative,” which characterize mainstream conservatives as spineless cuckolds. They revel in naked racism for its transgressive value, reflected in their term “dindu nuffin” (caricatured dialect for “I didn’t do nothing,” used to describe African Americans, especially Black Lives Matters protesters). The terms spawned social-media hashtags (#Cuckservative, #Dindu) that spread the ideas behind them to a mostly young and impressionable audience.

Frequently, Alt Right activists describe the conversion to their point of view as getting “red pilled,” after the red pill in the 1999 science-fiction film The Matrix that enables Keanu Reeves to see reality. Alt Righters see it as a metaphor for what they consider to be the revelatory power of their ideology, which cuts through the lies of “social justice warriors,” “Cultural Marxists,” and the mainstream media they insist is actively suppressing their views.

“The Alt-Right is a ‘mass movement’ in the truest possible sense of the term, a type of mass-movement that could only exist on the Internet, where everyone’s voice is as loud as they are able to make it,” explained Anglin. “In the world of the internet, top-down hierarchy can only be based on the value, or perceived value, of someone’s ideas. The Alt-Right is an online mob of disenfranchised and mostly anonymous, mostly young White men. … The mob is the movement.27

And yet, by virtue of its spreading online presence, and the genuinely extremist nature of the ideology it promoted, the Alt Right was much more. It had become a massive mechanism for the online radicalization of mostly young White Americans.

Internet Radicals

In the wake of domestic terrorism attacks in the fall of 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and San Bernardino, California, committed by non-Whites ostensibly motivated by Muslim extremism, various media pundits, experts on terrorism, and government officials began raising concerns about the role of “online radicalization” in fueling such violence. The massacre of 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub in June 2016 by a Muslim man who espoused beliefs from radical Islam, seemingly picked up online, only intensified the conversation.

The massive media attention paid to these incidents, however, underscored how acts of terrorist violence related to the influence of White supremacism or other far-right ideologies rarely received the same treatment.28 When 20-year-old Dylann Roof murdered nine people in a Charleston church in a June 2015, both media accounts and law-enforcement officials were reluctant to identify the act as domestic terrorism, despite the fact that it more than adequately fit the FBI definition of such crimes.29 Similarly, when an anti-abortion extremist shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs in November 2015, killing three people, the crime was again not identified as terrorism.30 And when a (White) militia gang was arrested for plotting to bomb a Kansas Muslim community in October 2016, even though the plotters were ultimately charged with domestic terrorism, there was relatively little media coverage of the case.31

Dylann Roof, for example, spent most of his days reading Alt Right websites. It was clear, but little noted, that the same phenomenon believed to be fueling terrorist acts by Muslim “radicals” was occurring simultaneously in a completely separate dimension of the Internet: among the gathering White male nationalists of the Alt Right.

But all of these incidents had one thing in common: their perpetrators were all motivated in large part by Internet communities. Roof, for example, spent most of his days reading Alt Right websites. It was clear, but little noted, that the same phenomenon believed to be fueling terrorist acts by Muslim “radicals” was occurring simultaneously in a completely separate dimension of the Internet: among the gathering White male nationalists of the Alt Right.

How does online radicalization happen? A number of different models have been developed for understanding the phenomenon. Most of them, unsurprisingly, have been geared toward examining Islamist radicals, but their findings fit remarkably well in explaining how the same process works with White nationalism.

One of these theories is called “identity demarginalization,” articulated by psychologists Katelyn McKenna and John Bargh in a 1998 study. It attempts to explain why some social groups are more drawn to the Internet than others. People with “concealable and culturally devalued identities” were found to be more likely than people with mainstream identities to participate in and value online communities. McKenna’s and Bargh’s study found that people who posted in online forums dedicated to concealable identities, such as being LGBTQ or a neonazi, valued the feedback and opinions of other group members much more strongly than people who belonged to forums focusing on easily perceivable marginalized identities, such as obesity and stuttering.32

“For the first time,” McKenna and Bargh wrote, an individual exploring his or her marginalized identity in an online environment “can reap the benefits of joining a group of similar others: feeling less isolated and different, disclosing a long secret part of oneself, sharing one’s own experiences and learning from those of others, and gaining emotional and motivational support.”

The process of radicalization occurs in steps. Journalist Abi Wilkinson, noting that concern about Islamist radicalization had produced such government efforts to combat the problem as the U.K.’s “Prevent” program, examined the course of various Alt Right adherents as they became increasingly vitriolic and even violent in their views. “Reading through the posting history of individual aliases,” she wrote, “it’s possible to chart their progress from vague dissatisfaction, and desire for social status and sexual success, to full-blown adherence to a cohesive ideology of white supremacy and misogyny. Neofascists treat these websites as recruitment grounds. They find angry, frustrated young men and groom them in their own image. Yet there’s no Prevent equivalent to try to stamp this out.”33

Southern Poverty Law Center analyst Keegan Hankes, who devotes much of his time to monitoring the activities and growth of the Alt Right, explained that the very shape of the movement’s discourse plays an important role in its recruitment: People are first exposed to their ideas by going wildly over the top with jokes that celebrate Nazis or other kinds of ugly behavior designed to attract attention by its craziness.

“You know, people will laugh at these things, just because they’re so transgressive. And who is most susceptible to that? Young minds,” continued Hankes. “The idea is to attract young minds, and of course, they are targeting the people who spend the most time in these environments. This movement is very immersive, and people wind up building their whole lives around it.”

Endnotes

1 Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate, (New York: Schocken Books, 1948), pp. 13-14.

2 Andrew Hart, “Game Developer Brianna Wu Flees Home After Death Threats,” Huffington Post, Oct. 12, 2014; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/11/game-developer-death-threats_n_5970966.html.

3 Dean Takahashi, “Brianna Wu Speaks Up About Death Threats and Personal Cost of Opposing #GamerGate,” VentureBeat, Feb. 9, 2015; http://venturebeat.com/2015/02/09/brianna-wu-speaks-up-about-being-labeled-a-social-justice-warrior-and-worse-in-gaming-interview/view-all/.

4 Milo Yiannopoulos, “Feminist Bullies Tearing the Video Game Industry Apart,” Breitbart,  Sept 1, 2014; http://www.breitbart.com/london/2014/09/01/lying-greedy-promiscuous-feminist-bullies-are-tearing-the-video-game-industry-apart/.

5 Chip Berlet, “When Hate Went Online” presented at the Northeast Sociological Association, Spring Conference, Fairfield, CT: Sacred Heart University, April 28, 2001.

6 Judith Donath, “Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community,” MIT Media Lab, Nov. 12, 1996; http://smg.media.mit.edu/people/Judith/Identity/IdentityDeception.html.

7 Erin E. Buckels, Paul D. Trapnell, Delroy L. Paulhus, “Trolls just want to have fun,” Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 67, September 2014, pp. 97–102; http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914000324?np=y.

8 Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto, “Social Dominance Orientation: A Personality Variable Predicting Social and Political Attitudes,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1994, Vol. 67, No. 4, pp. 741-763.

9 Bob Altemeyer, “Highly Dominating, Highly Authoritarian Personalities,” The Journal of Social Psychology, 2004, Vol. 144, No. 4, pp. 425.

10>/sup> Leonard Zeskind, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream (New York: Farar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), pp. 367-379, pp. 393-398. See also “White Nationalists,” Southern Poverty Law Center; https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/white-nationalist.

11 Bill Berkowitz, “Cultural Marxism Catching On,” Intelligence Report (Southern Poverty Law Center), Aug. 15, 2003; https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2003/cultural-marxism-catching.

12 Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians (University of Manitoba, 2006), http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/., pp. 88-90.

13 Bob Altemeyer, “Donald Trump and Authoritarian Followers,” Daily Kos, March 2, 2016; http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/2/1494504/-A-word-from-Dr-Bob-Altemeyer-on-Donald-Trump-and-Authoritarian-Followers.

14 Altemeyer, The Authoritarians, op. cit., p. 176.

15 Aric Suber-Jenkins, “How 4chan, a small anime forum, became Donald Trump’s most rabid fanbase,” Mic.com, Oct. 31, 2016; https://mic.com/articles/157545/how-4chan-a-small-anime-forum-became-donald-trump-s-most-rabid-fanbase#.DJhQDya1C.

16 “Misogyny: The Sites,” Intelligence Report (Southern Poverty Law Center), March 1, 2012; https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2012/misogyny-sites

17 Simon Parkin, “Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest,” The New Yorker, Sept. 9, 2014; http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/zoe-quinns-depression-quest.

18 Adam Smith, “Mostly Indescribable: Depression Quest,” Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Feb. 14, 2013; https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/02/14/mostly-indescribable-depression-quest/.

19 Nick Wingfield, “Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign,” New York Times, Oct. 15, 2014; https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/16/technology/gamergate-women-video-game-threats-anita-sarkeesian.html.

20 Radhika Sanghani, “Misogyny, death threats and a mob of trolls: Inside the dark world of video games with Zoe Quinn – target of #GamerGate,” Daily Telegraph, Sept. 10, 2014; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11082629/Gamergate-Misogyny-death-threats-and-a-mob-of-angry-trolls-Inside-the-dark-world-of-video-games.html

21 Nick Wingfield, ibid.

22 Matt Lees, “What Gamergate should have taught us about the ‘alt-right’,” The Guardian, December 1, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/01/gamergate-alt-right-hate-trump.

23 Kevin DeAnna, “The Alternative Right,” Taki’s Magazine, July 26, 2009; http://takimag.com/article/the_alternative_right#axzz4SffEQl8L.

24 Matthew N. Lyons, “Calling them “alt-right” helps us fight them,” ThreeWayFight, Nov. 22, 2016; http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2016/11/calling-them-alt-right-helps-us-fight.html.

25 Olivia Nuzzi, “How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol,” The Daily Beast, May 25, 2016; http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/26/how-pepe-the-frog-became-a-nazi-trump-supporter-and-alt-right-symbol.html.

26 Andrew Anglin, “A Normie’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” The Daily Stormer, Aug. 31, 2016; http://www.dailystormer.com/a-normies-guide-to-the-alt-right/.

27 Andrew Anglin, ibid.

28 Naomi Braine, “Terror Network or Lone Wolf? Disparate Legal Treatment of Muslims and the Radical Right,” Political Research Associates, June 19, 2015; http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/06/19/terror-network-or-lone-wolf/#sthash.wWvzwYix.6tP8iTuS.dpbs.

29 See Rick Gladstone, “Many Ask, Why Not Call Church Shooting Terrorism?,” New York Times, June 28, 2015; http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/19/us/charleston-shooting-terrorism-or-hate-crime.html. See also Kevin Cirilli, “FBI head won’t call Charleston shooting a terrorist act,” The Hill, June 20, 2015; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/245649-fbi-head-wont-call-charleston-shooting-a-terrorist-act.

30 Eric Tucker and Sadie Gurman, “Why the Planned Parenthood shooting isn’t legally referred to as ‘domestic terrorism’,” Associated Press, Dec. 1, 2015; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/why-the-planned-parenthood-shooting-isnt-legally-referred-to-as-domestic-terrorism/.

31 Bryan Schatz, “Feds Charge Kansas Militia Members With Plotting to Bomb Somali Immigrants,” Mother Jones, Oct. 14, 2016; http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/10/three-militia-members-kansas-somali-muslim-bomb-plot.

32 Katelyn Y.A. McKenna and John A. Bargh, “Coming out in the age of the Internet: Identity “demarginalization” through virtual group participation,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 75, No. 3, September 1998, pp. 681-694.

33 Abi Wilkinson, “We need to talk about the online radicalisation of young, white men,” The Guardian, Nov. 15, 2016; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/15/alt-right-manosphere-mainstream-politics-breitbart.

#First100Days Crash Course: Week 7

Coinciding with Trump’s first 100 days in Office — a period of time historically used as a benchmark to measure the potential of a new president — PRA will share readings, videos, and tools for organizing to inform our collective resistance based on principles for engaging the regime, defending human rights, and preventing authoritarianism. Daily readings will be posted on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and archived HERE.

Week 7: Misogyny

Continue reading “Mobilizing Misogyny” in The Public Eye!

Male supremacism, enshrined in the nation’s founding documents, is as fundamental to U.S. history as White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) nativism. The same patriarchal stance—combining race, religion, and nativism—fuels conservative Christian ideology on appropriate gender roles. (Transgender women and men and genderqueer individuals also violate these designated roles.) Especially in the last 100 years, as some women have succeeded in pushing back against the sexist world they inherited, social and political movements have emerged to defend traditional gender structures.

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Speak Up & Stay Safe(r): A Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online:
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Mobilizing Misogyny

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This article appears in the Winter 2017 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

Unquestionably, President Donald Trump’s demonstrated enthusiasm for catering to the Christian Right on abortion—and obliterating their memory of his pro-choice past—spells trouble for reproductive rights. But that’s not the only threat to women under Trump’s new order. Trump’s campaign distinguished itself from those of other Republican candidates by its attacks on women: regularly insulting women’s appearances or behavior and defending physical and sexual harassment and violence against them. Sometimes, Trump’s threatening and offensive rhetoric directly targeted his Democratic opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first woman major party nominee for president, from calling her a “nasty woman” to suggesting there might be a Second Amendment “remedy” in case of her election.1

This rhetoric energized members of a secular misogynist Right—such as the men’s rights movement and, more recently, the “Alt Right”—that has flourished online since the 1990s. And it found no pushback from a brand of conservative, libertarian “feminism”—another ’90s development—that provides a dangerously legitimizing female face for misogynist ideology centered on overt hostility to women and the promulgation of rape culture.

Effectively fighting mobilizations like those emboldened by Trump’s election requires accurately understanding their composition—one in which misogyny thrives alongside, and intertwined with, racism.

Patriarchal Traditionalism from White Supremacy to the Christian Right

Male supremacism, enshrined in the nation’s founding documents, is as fundamental to U.S. history as White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) nativism.2 The same patriarchal stance—combining race, religion, and nativism—fuels conservative Christian ideology on appropriate gender roles. (Transgender women and men and genderqueer individuals also violate these designated roles.) Especially in the last 100 years, as some women have succeeded in pushing back against the sexist world they inherited, social and political movements have emerged to defend traditional gender structures.

Phyllis Schlafly speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr).

Amid Second Wave feminism, the antifeminists Phyllis Schlafly (a Roman Catholic) and Beverly LaHaye (an evangelical) followed in this tradition when they organized a “pro-family” movement to stop the ratification of the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Though themselves prominent activists, LaHaye and the late Schlafly promoted submission to husbands and attacked women seeking careers.3

Abortion, contraception, and sexuality education all threaten the enforcement of traditional gender roles. After the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973, conservative evangelicals joined with the existing Catholic “prolife” movement in the creation of the Christian Right, and abortion became “a vital component of [the Right’s] fight to protect the bottom line of traditional family values—the dominance of white, male power and control,” as PRA’s Jean Hardisty and Pam Chamberlain observed. The anti-abortion movement drew together members of the Religious Right and White supremacists and neonazis, who contributed to the rising violence against clinic providers in the 1990s perpetrated primarily by White men.4 (The legacy of White supremacy, Hardisty and Chamberlain continue, can be seen in how “the Right applies race and class criteria that distinguish between the rights of white, middle-class women and low-income women of color.” This dynamic led to the 1990s stereotype of the “welfare queen,” and welfare reform under Bill Clinton designed to discourage women of color and immigrant women from having “too many” children.5)

But attacks on women’s reproductive rights have often come wrapped in the guise of chivalry, framed as “moral issues” and “family values” rather than misogyny. To gain wider acceptance, the anti-abortion movement has adopted a framework of “protecting women,” vilifying abortion providers as preying on weak women threatened by the physical and mental health consequences of abortion.6 That effort has made significant legislative progress in recent years, with a slew of state anti-abortion bills in 2011. Despite this official strategy, clinic protesters on the ground expose their misogyny in calling women “murderers” and “whores,” and sometimes resorting to physical intimidation.7

In 2012, contraception came under increased attack as immoral in the debate over healthcare reform. Anti-abortion groups have long denounced the “morning after pill” as an abortifacient, yet had otherwise tended to avoid pushing an unpopular position against contraception, largely considered a settled issue. When law student Sandra Fluke testified in favor of contraceptive coverage, Rush Limbaugh infamously ranted about her being a “slut” and a “prostitute” who should be required to post sex videos online.8

Set on proving that his “pro-choice” days were behind him, during the 2016 campaign Trump denounced Planned Parenthood as an “abortion factory” and selected hardline reproductive and LGBTQ rights opponent Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. In his eagerness, Trump unknowingly violated the Christian Right’s strategic deployment of a “kinder, gentler” image9 when he announced that women who obtained an illegal abortion should face “punishment.” Although Trump backpedaled to mollify anti-abortion groups that claim to protect women, his original statement was characteristic of the anti-woman vitriol of his campaign and may have appealed to the existing hatred demonstrated by clinic protesters.10

The Christian Right’s attack on women isn’t limited to reproductive issues. Schlafly frequently argued that women make false accusations of sexual assault and domestic violence—her grounds for opposing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and suggesting that there exists a “war on men.”11 Concerned Women for America (CWA), a major Christian Right group founded by Beverly LaHaye, claims that the “wage gap” results from women’s own choices and therefore opposes equal pay legislation.12 In such respects, Christian Right ideology aligns with that of equity feminism and men’s rights.

Equity Feminism and Men’s Rights

In 1991, “Women for Judge Thomas” formed to defend conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas against Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations. The following year this group institutionalized itself as the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), under the premise that, as co-founder Anita Blair declared, feminism should have “declared victory and gone home” by 1978.13 The idea that, at least in the U.S., women have achieved equality underlies the secular libertarian philosophy of “equity feminism” (also “individualist feminism”).14 In 2009, IWF’s then-president Michelle Bernard explained, “we have a philosophical belief that women are not victims… we believe that free markets are really the great equalizer, and will allow women to become truly equal with men in areas where we still may be unequal.”15 This ideology diverges from patriarchal traditionalism in applauding successful career women (and holding varied views on abortion), replacing it with a sexism that blames women’s continuing underrepresentation in positions of influence on personal choices and intrinsic differences, and to protect this worldview, frequently dismisses contradictory evidence.16

By offering a provocative dissident women’s voice, presenting “the other side,” equity feminists can forego the grassroots organizing of Schlafly and LaHaye17 while benefiting from extensive media dissemination of its ideas. As former IWF Executive Director Barbara Ledeen put it, “You can’t have white guys saying you don’t need affirmative action.”18

In 1988, Warren Farrell, who had once been involved with feminist organizing of men’s consciousness group, published the book Why Men Are the Way They Are.

Of course, plenty of White guys have spoken out against affirmative action, developing a male victimhood ideology to complement equity feminism’s rejection of female victims. In 1988, Warren Farrell, who had once been involved with feminist organizing of men’s consciousness group, published the book Why Men Are the Way They Are, “depicting a world where women—particularly female executives—wield vast influence. Even those women who are less successful have ‘enormous sexual leverage over men.’”19

When men think about women’s gains, Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett write in The New Soft War on Women: How the Myth of Female Ascendance Is Hurting Women, Men—and Our Economy, “There’s a tendency to circle the wagons, to exaggerate how far women have come and how far men have fallen.”20 Alarm over women’s advancement emerges repeatedly in U.S. history: as Danielle Paquette points out in the Washington Post, 30 years prior to Farrell’s book, Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. worried over the trickle of wives into the 1950s workforce: “Women seem an expanding, aggressive force, seizing new domains like a conquering army, while men, more and more on the defensive, are hardly able to hold their own and gratefully accept assignments from their new rulers.”21

Farrell, dubbed the “father of the men’s rights movement,” followed up in 1993 with The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex, where he suggested that American (White) men were the new “nigger,” threatened by women’s ability to cry sexual harassment and “date rape.” According to sociologist Michael Kimmel, this became the movement’s “bible,” awakening men to their status as victims of women’s ascendancy.22 Like White supremacist movements, men’s rights ideology warns White men that they are losing their place in society. Where equity feminism thrives among elite women with access to major communications platforms, the men’s rights movement is a decentralized “netroots” movement that draws men who feel less privileged, especially those with employment troubles and failures in romantic relationships.

Claiming rampant false accusations of rape and violence is one of the most prevalent men’s rights and equity feminist talking points.23 Who Stole Feminism?, a classic among conservative “feminists” published the following year by Christina Hoff Sommers, similarly argues that “gender” or “radical” feminists lie about rates of rape and domestic violence. Speaking on campus sexual assault in 2014, Sommers, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, repeated the same themes of “false accusations” and “[i]nflated statistics,” declaring, “I believe that the rape culture movement is fueled by exaggerated claims of intimacy and a lot of paranoia about men.”24 A spokesperson for A Voice for Men (AVFM), one of the most prominent men’s rights organizations, rejected rape “hysteria…as a scam” and baselessly claimed that sexual assault affects only about two percent of women—far from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s one-in-five statistic.25

Although equity feminists reject the existence of structural constraints on women, like Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) they suggest that American boys and men suffer at the hands of gender feminists. In 2000, Sommers wrote The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, and a flurry of concern over boys’ educational achievements in 2013 landed her in major outlets including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, and The Atlantic. Psychologist Helen Smith, one of IWF’s “Modern Feminists,” suggested in 2012 that “the deck is so stacked against men that they are ‘going Galt,’” a reference to Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, an MRA favorite.26

Equity feminism’s depiction of women as liars with “victim mentalities” dovetails alarmingly with (and legitimizes) the online manifestation of the men’s rights movement, which uses more virulent and hateful rhetoric to convey the same argument.

Male Supremacist Harassment and Violence

Paul Elam has made attempts at a respectable mainstream image, organizing the movement’s first in-person conference. But he also has a history of advocating violence, writing that women who go clubbing are “begging” to be raped, and that “there are a lot of women who get pummeled and pumped because they are stupid (and often arrogant) enough to walk [through] life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH—PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.”27

Another site Elam launched, Register-her.com, allowed men to post personal information for women they claim made false accusations (or otherwise outraged the movement) in order to target them for harassment. In 2011, feminist writer Jessica Valenti fled her house under a barrage of threats after her information appeared on this site.

Jack Donovan (photo: Zachary O. Ray via Wiki Commons).

Other strains of online male supremacism include pick-up artists (PUAs), who advocate male sexual entitlement and give sexist advice on seducing women; the Red Pill, a community named for a Matrix reference that seeks to awaken men to the “reality” of dominant “feminist culture”;28 Men Going Their Own Way, which advocates cutting ties with women; and Jack Donovan’s “gang masculinity,” which calls on men to form warrior gangs to escape domestication by women.29 Deviating from the online movement’s predominantly secular nature are Christian masculinists, who, as Dianna Anderson writes at Rewire, “have fused manosphere rhetoric with what they see as ‘biblical’ gender roles to envision a hierarchical, patriarchal ideal world.”30 These varied communities share adherents, though there is also conflict among their competing perspectives.

The virulent misogyny promoted by male supremacists, often couched as anti-feminism and accompanied by racism and nativism, has serious repercussions that play out on a global stage. In 1989, Marc Lépine killed 14 women at an engineering school in Montreal under the guise of “fighting feminism.”31 In 2009, George Sodini killed three women and then himself at a fitness class in Pennsylvania, leaving behind a website that complained about being rejected by women (and leading PUAs to coin the term “going Sodini”).32 Anders Breivik murdered 77 adults and children in Norway in 2011, leaving behind a manifesto attacking “the radical feminist agenda,” Islam, political correctness, and “Cultural Marxism” (see David Neiwart’s article in this issue).33 And in May 2014, Elliot Rodger set out to “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut” at the “hottest” sorority at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writing, “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you for it.”34 He ultimately killed six people and himself, though he failed to make it inside the sorority.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report editor-in-chief, Mark Potok, wrote, “Men’s rights activists did not tell Rodger to kill—but in their writings, it seems like many of them wouldn’t mind doing some killing of their own. Rodger said as much in his manifesto, writing that PUAHate ‘confirmed many of the theories I had about how wicked and degenerate women really are’ and showed him ‘how bleak and cruel the world is due to the evilness of women.’”35

Elliot Rodger’s story has parallels with that of White supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof, convicted in 2016 of murdering nine Black congregants at a Charleston church.36 Though the media typically portrays such acts of right-wing violence as perpetrated by mentally disturbed individuals37—so-called “Lone Wolves”—as PRA contributor Naomi Braine writes, “a decision to act alone does not mean acting outside of social movement frameworks, philosophies, and networks.”38 Both young men encountered inaccurate and hateful rhetoric online that inflamed existing dissatisfactions by depicting them as victims.39 Thus, Lone Wolf violence emerges from a right-wing context “systematically erased” by media misrepresentation of these as isolated and irrational actors.

Some members of the male supremacist online movement hailed Rodger as a hero on PUAHate.com messaging boards or Facebook fan pages.40 Others distanced themselves while defending their own misogynist content, much as the Council of Conservative Citizens, the White nationalist group Roof cited in his manifesto, claimed to condemn Roof’s violence while blaming society for ignoring White people’s “legitimate grievances.”41 Daryush Valizadeh (“Roosh V”), a professional PUA and founder of the site Return of Kings, argued, “Until you give men like Rodger a way to have sex, either by encouraging them to learn game, seek out a Thai wife, or engage in legalized prostitution…it’s inevitable for another massacre to occur.”42

Meanwhile, equity feminists stepped up to whitewash a clearly misogynist attack. IWF senior editor Charlotte Hays wrote that calling Rodger’s violence a “product of sexism” was a “bizarre response” by feminists.43

Video Games, Misogyny, and the Alt Right

Video games might not seem like a vital social justice battleground. However, as sociologist and gaming critic Katherine Cross has pointed out, the virulence of online White male reactions to increasing gender and racial diversity in game players and creators, and to critiques of the industry’s sexism, indicates a problem with dismissing this as a trivial issue.44 Only a few months after Rodger’s fatal 2014 attack, an incident dubbed “Gamergate,” ostensibly about gaming industry ethics and media corruption, resulted in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) looking into the barrage of violent rape and death threats against women who criticized video games’ sexist portrayals of women and lack of diversity.45 Anita Sarkeesian, one of the primary targets, canceled a talk at Utah State University after the school received a threat to repeat Marc Lépine’s massacre and demonstrate “what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”46 While circles of progressive female journalists took the movement behind Gamergate seriously, their voices were largely ignored by the mainstream media.47

Milo Yiannopoulos. Photo by Kmeron for LeWeb13 Conference via Flickr.

Through Gamergate, vocal misogynist personalities such as Mike Cernovich, associated with the pick-up artist community, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a Brietbart writer, expanded their online following, to be leveraged in future attacks on feminism and women. Yiannopoulos had over 300,000 Twitter followers at the time the social media platform finally banned him for offensive content in 2016; at the time of this writing he has more than 1.9 million Facebook likes and 568,000 subscribers on YouTube, in addition to his platform at Brietbart, where he has bragged about writing headlines such as “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”48 In “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” Yiannopoulos and co-author Allum Bokhari write, “The so-called online ‘manosphere,’ the nemeses of left-wing feminism, quickly became one of the alt-right’s most distinctive constituencies.”

The New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz writes that Cernovich “developed a theory of white-male identity politics: men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.”49 In 2016, in tweets that received more than 100 million views, Cernovich focused on supporting “unapologetically masculine” Trump and attacking Hillary Clinton with conspiracy theories regarding her failing health and emails.

Following Trump’s election, mainstream and progressive media outlets worried that using the movement’s chosen name, the Alt Right, helped euphemize and normalize old-fashioned bigotry. As Think Progress’ editors wrote, “[Alt Right Leader Richard] Spencer and his ilk are essentially standard-issue white supremacists who discovered a clever way to make themselves appear more innocuous—even a little hip”; their publication, they declared, wouldn’t do “racists’ public relations work for them.”50

But nowhere in this statement from a major progressive news outlet exists a single reference to sexism or misogyny—a glaring omission given its significance to the Alt Right’s mobilization to defeat the first woman to receive a major party nomination for president.51 Some respected outlets and organizations, including the Associated Press and SPLC, described the movement’s misogyny, but their recommended definitions referenced White nationalism, neglecting to acknowledge male supremacy as a core component.52,53 While some Alt Right leaders, such as former Breitbart executive (now Trump administration chief strategist) Stephen Bannon, hail from more racist corners of the umbrella movement, others, like Yiannopoulos and Cernovich, rose to prominence primarily on their misogynist rhetoric.

These omissions aren’t surprising. In a 2008 study, “The Absence of a Gender Justice Framework in Social Justice Organizing,” activist and consultant Linda Burnham wrote, “All too many organizers and activists affirm a commitment to women’s human rights or gender justice while having no clear idea of sexism as a systemic phenomenon with tangled historical, social, economic and cultural roots and multiple manifestations.” In her interviews of activists, Burnham found “the subordination of sexism as a legitimate concern among ‘competing isms’”; antipathy to the feminist movement (which is perceived as White); a feeling that “there’s already a level of equity and there’s no need to struggle over it anymore”; and a lack of tools for structural analysis.54 (Groups with a better intersectional approach, Burnham footnoted, included reproductive justice organizations like SisterSong.55)

Matthew N. Lyons, co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America, further argues that this heightened misogyny distinguishes the Alt Right from other White supremacist and neonazi mobilizations, which have practiced a “quasi-feminism” that viewed women as holding distinct but complementary gender roles important to the movement. Especially since the 1980s, Lyons writes, neonazi groups have increasingly lauded White women as “race warriors.”56

Some early Alt Right writers did encourage their compatriots to do more to attract women and root out sexual harassment.57 Now even that has disappeared. Today the movement is better characterized by dismissive ideology like that of White male supremacist Matt Forney, who asserts in a 2012 “anti-feminist classic” post on Alternative Right that women are “herd creatures” who are “unimportant” to the men who will make history. “Attempting to convince such flighty creatures to join the alt-right with logical arguments is like begging escaped inmates to please pretty please come back to the insane asylum.”58 Forney also argues that, “Every feminist, deep down, wants nothing more than a rapist’s baby in her belly.”59 Lyons writes:

Alt-rightists tell us that it’s natural for men to rule over women and that women want and need this, that “giving women freedom [was] one of mankind’s greatest mistakes,” that women should “never be allowed to make foreign policy [because] their vindictiveness knows no bounds,” that feminism is defined by mental illness and has turned women into “caricatures of irrationality and hysteria.”60

Richard Spencer, the now-infamous White nationalist leader credited with coining the term “Alt Right,” promotes male supremacist rhetoric that includes yet goes beyond traditional arguments for women belonging in the home. Along with his position on women’s “vindictiveness” (quoted by Lyons above), Spencer defended Trump against sexual assault accusations with the argument, “At some part of every woman’s soul, they want to be taken by a strong man.”61

Cas Mudde, a Dutch political scientist who studies right-wing movements, describes the Alt Right’s assertion of women’s inferiority as “a sexist interpretation of xenophobia. It’s the same view they have of immigrants and minorities, that they’re threatening their way of life. A life where men are dominant. A life where they have privilege in virtually every domain.”62

Vox writer Aja Romano argues that misogyny is not only a significant part of the Alt Right, it’s the “gateway drug” for the recruitment of disaffected White men into racist communities.

Vox writer Aja Romano argues that misogyny is not only a significant part of the Alt Right, it’s the “gateway drug” for the recruitment of disaffected White men into racist communities. David Futrelle, a journalist who watches the men’s rights and other online misogynist movements, told Vox that it’s “close to impossible to overstate the role of Gamergate in the process of [alt-right] radicalization. … Gamergate was based on the same sense of aggrieved entitlement that drives the alt-right—and many Trump voters.” Within this narrative, Futrelle said, they saw their harassment of women as defending “an imperiled culture,” moving into other online enclaves populated by neonazis and White supremacists that recruited them for “fighting against ‘white genocide.’”63

2016 Election: Where Has This Misogyny Led Us?

In 2006, IWF Managing Director Carrie L. Lukas wrote, “In the past, victims of rape were made to feel that the crime was their fault. Many women around the world still suffer this bias. Today in the United States, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. A man accused of rape often is convicted in the court of public opinion without evidence.”64 Yet in Trump’s campaign, that was far from the case. Multiple accusations of sexual assault and harassment against the Republican candidate were ignored throughout the campaign; when audio recordings exposing him admitting to sexual assault finally brought widespread attention to his treatment of women, he defended his comments as “locker-room talk.” And those comments did not ultimately cost him the election.

While IWF and equity feminism, like other libertarian ideologies, tend toward the conservative side of the political spectrum, there is more diversity there than among women in anti-feminist movements and the Christian Right. This allows the ideological tent to include Democrats like Christina Hoff Sommers, independents like former IWF president Michelle Bernard, and Republican women who might criticize aspects of their party’s gender dynamics. After applauding Sarah Palin for breaking free of sexist attempts to control her image as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, in 2009, Bernard spoke of bright prospects ahead for Hillary Clinton: “She is incredibly smart, brilliant, an excellent campaigner, and I think her time will come.”65

However, misogynist and anti-feminist Rightist ideologies have taken a toll beyond leaders’ control. Though during the primaries IWF gave favorable attention to Carly Fiorina, the only female Republican candidate, a poll showed Trump leading the Republican pack among female voters. Historian Catherine Rymph explained that the exodus of feminism and women’s rights advocacy from the GOP means that, among those left, “voters, including women, who don’t like Democratic feminism or so-called ‘political correctness’ in general may very well find refreshing Trump’s delight in using language about women that many find offensive.”66 When then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly criticized Trump’s misogyny while moderating a 2015 primary debate, Trump responded, to audience cheers, that “the big problem this country has is being politically correct”—code for resistance to misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. Trump went on to call Kelly a “bimbo” and imply she was menstruating. After Trump’s continued attacks on Twitter rallied online misogynists to further harassment, Kelly received death threats.67

For some equity feminists, it’s gone too far. IWF senior editor Charlotte Hays argues that Trump’s history of misogynist statements goes beyond “bucking political correctness.” In March 2016, Hays worried, “If Trump is the nominee, the [Leftist claims of a] ‘war on women’ will be back with a vengeance. And this time there will be a degree of fairness in the charge.”68 Sommers referred to Trump as an example of “amoral masculinity” that “preys on women.”69 She joined conservative female media pundits in calling for Trump to fire his original campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, after Brietbart News reporter Michelle Fields charged him with physically assaulting her.70 Trump denied Lewandowski’s culpability, only firing him three months later after apparently unrelated problems.71 And when former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed suit against CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment—which Kelly also reported experiencing—Trump asserted that Carlson’s accusations against his informal advisor were “Totally unfounded.”72

Fields resigned from Brietbart, which former executive and Trump senior strategist Stephen Bannon proudly called “the platform for the alt-right,”73 over the outlet’s inadequate response.74 Commenting on the successive Alt Right online harassment of Fields, Kelly said, “This woman hasn’t done anything wrong, anything, other than find herself on the wrong end of these folks, for whom she used to work.”75

Some equity feminists, like Sommers, may have expected their own elite conservative colleagues to be taken seriously, not realizing that the damage done in disparaging other women would find its way back to them. In response to Sommers’ criticism of Trump, Mike Cernovich disdainfully pointed out that she had previously “mocked women who played the damsel in distress.”76

On the other hand, the appreciation for Hillary Clinton’s political merits seems to have disappeared under IWF’s new leadership, which got on board with Trump after his nomination. Trump hired IWF board member Kellyanne Conway to replace Lewandowski as his new campaign manager, which followed the organization’s efforts to peddle palatable sexism under a female face. IWF’s campaign affiliate, Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), supported Trump’s campaign, with CEO Heather Higgins coming around to offer her full-throated support in the general election.77

The men’s rights movement lacked these internal divisions over Trump’s outright misogyny. Early in the primary season, members of online male supremacist communities touted Trump as an example of an “alpha” male given how “he insults and dominates women, preys on their insecurities and refuses to ever apologize for it.”78 And as though he was directly channeling men’s rights talking points, at a campaign rally in May 2016 Trump declared, “All of the men, we’re petrified to speak to women anymore. …You know what? The women get it better than we do, folks. They get it better than we do. If [Hillary Clinton] didn’t play [the woman] card, she has nothing.”79

While Trump’s rhetoric reflects MRA vitriol, it is the long fight against feminism by groups embraced in the mainstream, like equity feminists and Republican women, that legitimized the candidacy—and election—of an overt misogynist who has bragged about sexual assault.

While Trump’s rhetoric reflects MRA vitriol, it is the long fight against feminism by groups embraced in the mainstream, like equity feminists and Republican women, that legitimized the candidacy—and election—of an overt misogynist who has bragged about sexual assault.

Defending Gender Justice Post-Election

Trump’s rhetoric shares more in common with equity feminist and men’s rights ideologies than with “family values” framing—and with the reality of Christian Right misogyny, such as the vitriol of clinic protestors and the anti-feminism of the late Phyllis Schlafly, a staunch Trump supporter.

It will be important to track the growing connections between these secular and religious movements, bridged by an underlying misogyny, racism, and nativism, especially as individuals aligned with the Alt Right, like Bannon, and equity feminism, like Conway, gain influence. The seeds are already there. The libertarian Koch brothers, infamous major donors to libertarian and conservative causes, fund both IWF and CWA. Alt Right figures like blogger Matt Forney oppose reproductive rights, writing that pro-choice women have “evil” in their souls and that “Girls who kill their own children despise life itself and will do their best to destroy yours.”80 Pick-up artist communities advise members to seek submissive wives who can easily be controlled, and oppose abortion and contraception as a means of weighing them down with children.81 And, extending “father’s rights” arguments within the men’s rights movement, a Missouri lawmaker proposed in 2014 a bill requiring paternal consent to an abortion.82

The influence of ideology on the broader population, outside of active movement participants, bears particular importance with a president who uses his platform to broadcast virulent misogyny, racism, nativism, and Islamophobia.83 In tracking reported bias-related incidents since Election Day, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that perpetrators were most likely to explicitly reference Trump in anti-woman attacks—82 percent of the 45 reported incidents, more than double the next-highest rate.84 In multiple incidents of harassment of women, assailants from middle school boys to groups of adult men parroted Trump’s boast that he can “Grab [women] by the pussy.”85

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) originally claimed it was a “stretch” to “characterize [Trump’s comment] as sexual assault” (later backpedalling under questioning during his confirmation hearing for U.S. attorney general).86 Before Trump was even sworn in as president, his administration’s threat to reproductive rights, protections addressing violence against women and campus rape, and other women’s equality programs had already been made alarmingly clear.87 Under the Trump-Pence administration, threats will come from the Christian Right, conservative secular and libertarian groups, empowered White supremacist figures, and, of course, a President who’s shown his comfort with overt displays of racism, nativism, and misogyny. This disturbing combination may now jeopardize a wider expanse of policies reducing structural oppression that had seemed settled.

But the fact of this combined threat may also bring more dissenters into a more holistic response. Loretta Ross, a longtime reproductive justice and women’s human rights leader, is optimistic about the power vested in intersectional feminist organizing. “Now with the Women’s March on Washington using the ‘Women’s Rights Are Human Rights’ call for mobilizations in 616 simultaneous marches worldwide,” she wrote at Rewire, “I believe feminists in the United States have finally caught up to the rest of the global women’s movement. I feel like celebrating our inevitable progress toward victory for equality, dignity, and justice, despite the reasons we are marching in the first place: to unite to challenge the immoral and probably illegitimate presidency of Donald Trump.”88

Endnotes

1 David S. Cohen, “Trump’s Assassination Dog Whistle Was Even Scarier Than You Think,” Rolling Stone, August 9, 2016, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/trumps-assassination-dog-whistle-was-scarier-than-you-think-w433615

2 Alex DiBranco and Chip Berlet, “The Ideological Roots of the Republican Party and its Shift to the Right in the 2016 Election,” working draft, http://www.progressivemovements.us/now/site-guide/research-resources/#ideological

3 Matthew N.  Lyons, ThreeWayFight, Oct 1, 2005, http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2005/10/notes-on-women-and-right-wing.html

4 Pam Chamberlain and Jean Hardisty,  “Reproducing Patriarchy: Reproductive Rights Under Siege,”  Political Research Associates, April 1, 2000, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2000/04/01/reproductive-patriarchy-reproductive-rights-under-siege/#sthash.qSs0nYEb.m95keEtd.dpbs

5 Political Research Associates, Defending Reproductive Justice: An Activist Resource Kit. (Somerville: Political Research Associates, 2013), http://www.politicalresearch.org/resources/reports/full-reports/defending-reproductive-justice-activist-resource-kit-2/.

6 Political Research Associates, Defending Reproductive Justice: An Activist Resource Kit. (Somerville: Political Research Associates, 2013), http://www.politicalresearch.org/resources/reports/full-reports/defending-reproductive-justice-activist-resource-kit-2/.

7 Liz Welch, “6 Women on Their Terrifying, Infuriating Encounters With Abortion Clinic Protesters,” Feb 21, 2014,
http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a5669/abortion-clinic-protesters/

8Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett, The New Soft War on Women (New York: Tarcher, 2013), 85.

9 Alex DiBranco, “Profiles On The Right: Americans United For Life,” Political Research Associates, April 7, 2014, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/04/07/profiles-on-the-right-americans-united-for-life/#sthash.Zz04Fcm6.epvFr2db.dpbs

10 Kevin Cirilli, “Trump Reverses on Abortion Ban, Saying Doctors, Not Women, Would Be Punished,” Bloomberg Politics, March 30, 2016, http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-03-30/trump-says-abortion-ban-should-carry-punishment-for-women

11 Sarah Havard, “8 worst things Phyllis Schlafly ever said about women’s rights,” Identities.Mic, Sept 6, 2016, https://mic.com/articles/153506/8-worst-things-phyllis-schlafly-ever-said-about-women-s-rights#.4Wxyh3b3x

12 Josh Israel, “Women From Koch-Funded Conservative Groups Lambaste Equal Pay Measure,” Think Progress, April 9, 2014, https://thinkprogress.org/women-from-koch-funded-conservative-groups-lambaste-equal-pay-measure-d8eb0ea3edb7#.lj3d1onh2

13 Lisa Graves, “Confirmation: the Not-So Independent Women’s Forum Was Born in Defense of Clarence Thomas and the Far Right,” Center for Media and Democracy, April 21, 2016, http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/04/13091/confirmation-how-not-so-independent-womens-forum-was-launched-aid-clarence

14 Alex DiBranco, Who Speaks for Conservative Women?,” Poltical Research Associates, June 9, 2015,  http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/06/09/who-speaks-for-conservative-women/

15 Andrew Belonsky, “Michelle Bernard: ‘The Republican Party Needs to Find Its Soul,’” Independent Women’s Forum,  April 9, 2009, http://www.iwf.org/news/2435006/Michelle-Bernard:-‘The-Republican-Party-Needs-to-Find-Its-Soul’

16 As my 2015 article, “Who Speaks for Conservative Women?” explains, neoliberal feminism share significant ideological similarities with equity feminism in denying the impact of structural forces and arguing that women can get ahead through individual actions.

17Joan Walsh, “Meet the ‘Feminists’ Doing the Koch Brothers’ Dirty Work,” The Nation, August 18, 2016,

18 Megan Rosenfeld, “Feminist Fatales,”, The Washington Post, November 30, 1995, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1995/11/30/feminist-fatales/cfd56f87-296b-4580-9d76-fcfba15c6296/?utm_term=.93e2dd0b66d0

19 Mariah Blake, “Mad Men: Inside the Men’s Rights Movement—and the Army of Misogynists and Trolls It Spawned,” Mother Jones, Jan/Feb 2015, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/warren-farrell-mens-rights-movement-feminism-misogyny-trolls

20 Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett, The New Soft War on Women: How the Myth of Female Ascendance Is Hurting Women, Men—and Our Economy, New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2013, p 7.

21 Danielle Paquette, “The alt-right isn’t only about white supremacy. It’s about white male supremacy,” The Washington Post, Nov 25, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/25/the-alt-right-isnt-just-about-white-supremacy-its-about-white-male-supremacy/?utm_term=.25af1245eb6b

22Mariah Blake, ibid.

23 Tom McKay, “College President’s Horrifying Rape Comments Are Basically Conservative Dogma,” The Daily Banter, Nov 12, 2014, http://thedailybanter.com/2014/11/college-presidents-horrible-remarks-campus-rape-basically-conservative-dogma/

24 Taylor Malmsheimer, “Conservatives Are Obsessed With Debunking the 1-in-5 Rape Statistic. They’re Wrong, Too,” New Republic, June 27, 2014, https://newrepublic.com/article/118430/independent-womens-forum-challenges-one-five-statistic

25 Nicole Grether, “Men’s right activist: Feminists have used rape ‘as a scam,’” Aljazeera America, June 6, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/articles/2014/6/6/mena-s-rights-activistfeministshaveusedrapeaasascama.html; Roni Caryn Rabin, “Nearly 1 in 5 Women in U.S. Survey Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted,” December 14, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html?_r=0.

26 Charlotte Hays, “Portrait of a Modern Feminist: Helen Smith,” Independent Women’s Forum, Sept 19, 2012,  http://iwf.org/modern-feminist/2789205/Portrait-of-a-Modern-Feminist:-Helen-Smith

27 Alex DiBranco, “Men’s Rights Conference Host Says Women Who Drink & Dance Are ‘Begging’ for Rape,” July 2, 2014, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/07/02/mens-rights-conference-host-says-women-who-drink-dance-are-begging-for-rape; Adam Serwer and Katie J.M. Baker, “How Men’s Rights Leader Paul Elam Turned Being A Deadbeat Dad Into A Moneymaking Movement,” Buzzfeed News, Feb 6, 2015, https://www.buzzfeed.com/adamserwer/how-mens-rights-leader-paul-elam-turned-being-a-deadbeat-dad?utm_term=.bvY2OY9yl#.ukPZzDNx6

28 Comment on TheRedPill, an “official subreddit of TRP.RED”: https://www.reddit.com/r/TheRedPill/comments/12v1hf/almost_a_hundred_subscribers_welcome_newcomers/

29 Matthew N. Lyons, Jack Donovan on men: a masculine tribalism for the far right,” Three Way Fight, Nov 23, 2015, http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2015/11/jack-donovan-on-men-masculine-tribalism.html

30Dianna Anderson, “ MRAs for Jesus: A Look Inside the Christian ‘Manosphere’,” Rewire, Sept 30, 2014, https://rewire.news/article/2014/09/30/mras-jesus-look-inside-christian-manosphere/

31 Arthur Goldwag, Leader’s Suicide Brings Attention to the Men’s Rights Movement,”, Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, March 1, 2012,   https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2012/leader%E2%80%99s-suicide-brings-attention-men%E2%80%99s-rights-movement

32Nicky Woolf, “’PUAhate’ and ‘ForeverAlone’: inside Elliot Rodger’s online life,” The Guardian, May 20, 2014,  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/30/elliot-rodger-puahate-forever-alone-reddit-forums

33 Mariah Blake, ibid.

34  Mark Potok, “War On Women,” Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, August 20, 2014, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2014/war-women

35 Mark Potok, ibid.

36 Rebecca Hersher, “Jury Finds Dylann Roof Guilty In S.C. Church Shooting,” NPR, December 15, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/15/505723552/jury-finds-dylann-roof-guilty-in-s-c-church-shooting

37 Mark Berman, ibid.

38 http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/06/19/terror-network-or-lone-wolf/

39 Mark Berman, “Prosecutors say Dylann Roof ‘self-radicalized’ online, wrote another manifesto in jail,” The Washington Post, Aug 22, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/08/22/prosecutors-say-accused-charleston-church-gunman-self-radicalized-online/?utm_term=.0afcab8108f7

40Adi Kochavi, “The Sad Heroification of Elliot Rodger,” Vocative, May 25, 2014,  http://www.vocativ.com/underworld/crime/sad-heroification-elliot-rodger/

41 Earl Holt III, “ Media Interviews with the CofCC,” June 21, 2015, https://web.archive.org/web/20150622033926/http://conservative-headlines.com/2015/06/media-interviews-with-the-cofcc/

42 Roosh Valizadeh, “No One Would Have Died If PUAHate Killer Elliot Rodger Learned Game,” Return of Kings, May 25, 2014, http://www.returnofkings.com/36135/no-one-would-have-died-if-pua-hate-killer-elliot-rodger-learned-game

43 Charlotte Hays, “”Toxic Feminism:” Cathy Young Dissects the Bizarre Response to a Mass Murder”, Independent Women’s Forum,  May 30, 2014, http://www.iwf.org/blog/2794091/%22Toxic-Feminism:%22-Cathy-Young-Dissects-the-Bizarre-Response-to-a-Mass-Murder

44 Katherine Cross, “What ‘GamerGate’ Reveals About the Silencing of Women,” Rewire, Sept 9 2014, https://rewire.news/article/2014/09/09/gamergate-reveals-silencing-women/

45Caitlin Dewey, “The only guide to Gamergate you will ever need to read,” The Washington Post, Oct 14, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/10/14/the-only-guide-to-gamergate-you-will-ever-need-to-read/?utm_term=.d3cb125407d0

46Nadine Santoro, “USU Shooting Threat: This Isn’t A Game,” Disrupting Dinner Parties, Nov 10, 2014,  https://disruptingdinnerparties.com/2014/11/10/usu-shooting-threat-this-isnt-a-game/#more-29965

47  Jaclyn Friedman, “A Look Inside the ‘Men’s Rights’ Movement That Helped Fuel California Alleged Killer Elliot Rodger,” The American Prospect,  Oct 24, 2013, http://prospect.org/article/look-inside-mens-rights-movement-helped-fuel-california-alleged-killer-elliot-rodger; Amanda Hess, “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” Pacific Standard magazine,  Jan 6, 2014, https://psmag.com/why-women-aren-t-welcome-on-the-internet-aa21fdbc8d6#.mdzlvrvd4

48 Abby Ohlheiser, “Just how offensive did Milo Yiannopoulos have to be to get banned from Twitter?,” The Washington Post, July 21, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/07/21/what-it-takes-to-get-banned-from-twitter/?utm_term=.69e3e83044cc

49 Andrew Marantz, “Trolls for Trump,” The New Yorker Magazine, Oct 31, 2016, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/31/trolls-for-trump

50 Editorial Staff, “ThinkProgress will no longer describe racists as ‘alt-right’,” Think Progress, Nov 22, 2016, https://thinkprogress.org/thinkprogress-alt-right-policy-b04fd141d8d4#.av5b2ftsm

51 Susan Faludi, “How Hillary Clinton Met Satan,” The New York Times, Oct 29, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/opinion/sunday/how-hillary-clinton-met-satan.html?_r=4

52 John Daniszewski, “Writing about the ‘alt-right’,” Associated Press, Nov 18, 2016, https://blog.ap.org/behind-the-news/writing-about-the-alt-right

53 Josh Harkinson, “We Talked to Experts About What Terms to Use for Which Group of Racists,” Dec 8, 2016,  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/definition-alt-right-white-supremacist-white-nationalist

54 Linda Burnham, “The Absence of a Gender Justice Framework in Social Justice Organizing,” Center for the Education of Women: University of Michigan, July 2008,  http://www.cew.umich.edu/sites/default/files/BurnhamFinalProject.pdf

55 While the women of color-led “reproductive justice” framework advocated by organizations like SisterSong provides an example for incorporating analysis of race, gender, class, and other intersectional issues, it should not be expected to substitute for a gender justice and women’s human rights frame in social justice organizing. Though intended to include economic issues and gender-based rape and violence, which leaders like Loretta Ross had backgrounds working on, the “reproductive” label maintains a particular focus. “Gender justice” (Burnham also uses the term “social justice feminism”) shifts the emphasis to meet the challenges of a broader misogynist movement—with religious and secular expressions—that poses threats in terms of reproductive control, sexual harassment and assault, violence against women, workplace sexism and wage discrimination, and other gender-based oppressions.

56 Matthew N. Lyons, “Alt-right: more misogynistic than many neonazis,” ThreeWayFight, December 3, 2016,  http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2016/12/alt-right-more-misogynistic-than-many.html

57Matthew N. Lyons, “ Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The origins and ideology of the Alternative Right”, Jan 20, 2017, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/01/20/ctrl-alt-delete-report-on-the-alternative-right/

58Matt Forney, “Who Cares What Women Think” Alterative Right, Jan 29, 2015, http://alternative-right.blogspot.com/2015/01/who-cares-what-women-think.html

59 Matt Forney, “Why Feminists Want Men to Rape Them,” Matt Forney.com, Feb 26, 2016, http://mattforney.com/feminists-want-men-rape/

60 Matthew N. Lyons, “Alt-right: more misogynistic than many neonazis,” ThreeWayFight, December 3, 2016,  http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2016/12/alt-right-more-misogynistic-than-many.html

61 Sarah Posner, “ Meet the Alt-Right ‘Spokesman’ Who’s Thrilled With Trump’s Rise,” Rolling Stone Magazine, October 18, 2016, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/meet-the-alt-right-spokesman-thrilled-by-trumps-rise-w443902

62 Danielle Paquette, “The alt-right isn’t only about white supremacy. It’s about white male supremacy,” The Washington Post, Nov 25, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/25/the-alt-right-isnt-just-about-white-supremacy-its-about-white-male-supremacy/?utm_term=.25af1245eb6b

63 Aja Romano, “How the Alt-Right’s Sexism Lures Men into White Supremacy,” Dec 14, 2016, http://www.vox.co m/culture/2016/12/14/13576192/alt-right-sexism-recruitment

64 Carrie L Lucas, “One in Four? Rape myths do injustice, too,” Independent Women’s Forum, April 27, 2006, http://www.iwf.org/news/2432517/One-in-Four-Rape-myths-do-injustice-too#sthash.EOyWF55L.dpuf

65 Andrew Belonsky, “Michelle Bernard: ‘The Republican Party Needs to Find Its Soul,’” Independent Women’s Forum,  April 9, 2009, http://www.iwf.org/news/2435006/Michelle-Bernard:-‘The-Republican-Party-Needs-to-Find-Its-Soul’

66 Nia-Malika Henderson, “ Donald Trump’s nonexistent problem with GOP women,” CNN, Spet 11, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/10/politics/donald-trump-women/

67 Rich Hampson, “Exclusive: Fox anchor Megyn Kelly describes scary, bullying ‘Year of Trump’,” USA Today, Nov 15, 2016,  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/11/15/megyn-kelly-memoir-donald-trump-roger-ailes-president-fox-news/93813154/

68 Charlotte Hays, “Donald Trump Breathes New Life into Left’s War on Women,”, March 18, 2016,  Independent Women’s Forum, http://www.iwf.org/news/2799633/Donald-Trump-Breathes-New-Life-into-Left%E2%80%99s-War-on-Women

69 Christina Hoff Sommers, “‘Amoral masculinity’: a theory for understanding Trump from feminist contrarian Christina Hoff Sommers,” American Enterprise Institute,  Nov 2, 2016 https://www.aei.org/publication/amoral-masculinity-a-theory-for-understanding-trump-from-feminist-contrarian-christina-hoff-sommers/

70 Dylan Byers, “Conservative female pundits want Donald Trump to fire his campaign manager,” CNN Money, March 30, 2016,  http://money.cnn.com/2016/03/30/media/female-conservatives-fire-corey-lewandowski/

71 Maggie Haberman, Alexander Burns, and Ashley Parker, “Donald Trump Fires Corey Lewandowski, His Campaign Manager,” June 20, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/21/us/politics/corey-lewandowski-donald-trump.html

72 Eddie Scarry, “Trump defends Roger Ailes from sexual harassment accusations,” The Washington Examiner, July 14, 2016,  http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/article/2596510

73 Sarah Posner, “How Stephen Bannon Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists,” Mother Jones, Aug 2, 1016, http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/investigations/politicsandgovernment/2265/how_stephen_bannon_created_an_online_haven_for_white_nationalists/

74 Cassandra Vinograd, “Breitbart’s Michelle Fields and Three Others Resign Over Trump Incident”, NBC News,  March 14, 2016,   http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/breitbart-s-michelle-fields-ben-shapiro-resign-over-trump-incident-n537711

75 Brendan Karet, “Right-Wing Civil War: Megyn Kelly Trades Barbs With Breitbart Editor-At-Large Over Dangers Of Empowering “Alt-Right”,” Media Matters for America, Dec 7, 2016, https://mediamatters.org/blog/2016/12/07/right-wing-civil-war-megyn-kelly-trades-barbs-breitbart-editor-chief-over-dangers-empowering-alt/214754

76 Mike Cernovich, “16 Feminists Who Have Taken Over ‘Conservative’ Media,” Danger & Play, March 30, 2016, https://www.dangerandplay.com/2016/03/30/16-feminists-who-have-taken-over-conservative-media/

77 ExposedByCMDEditors, “‘Independent’ Women’s Group Backing Trump Skirts Law to Influence Election,” Center  For Media and Democracy, Nov 1, 2016,  http://www.exposedbycmd.org/2016/10/25/independent-womens-group-backing-trump-skirts-law-influence-elections/

78 Tracy Clark-Flory and Leigh Cuen, “Donald Trump Has The Pickup Artist Vote In The Bag,” Vocative, Aug 24, 2015,  http://www.vocativ.com/224810/donald-trump-anti-feminist-pickup-artists/

79 Tim Hains, “Trump: Men Today ‘Are Petrified To Speak To Women Anymore,’ ‘Women Get It Better Than We Do, Folks’” Real Clear Politics, May 8, 2016, http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/05/08/trump_remember_this_when_you_see_hillarys_phony_paid-for-by-wall_street_ads.html

80 Matt Forney, “Why You Should Shun Girls Who Support Abortion,” Return of Kings, Aug 18, 2016  http://archive.is/zQwx4#selection-769.269-769.363

81 Hesse Kassel, “5 Lines That Potential Wives Cannot Cross,” Return of Kings, Nov 11, 2014,   http://www.returnofkings.com/47540/5-lines-that-potential-wives-cannot-cross

82 Amanda Marcotte, “Missouri lawmaker uses ‘men’s rights’ talking points to justify abortion restriction,” Raw Story, Dec 17, 2014,  http://www.rawstory.com/2014/12/missouri-lawmaker-uses-mens-rights-talking-points-to-justify-abortion-restriction/

83 Melissa Jeltsen, “Trump’s Election Raises Fears Of Increased Violence Against Women,” The Huffington Post, Nov 15, 2016,  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-women-rights-violence-fears_us_582a0f63e4b02d21bbc9f186

84 Hatewatch Staff, “Update: 1,094 Bias-Related Incidents in the Month Following the Election,” Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch, Dec 16, 2016,  https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/12/16/update-1094-bias-related-incidents-month-following-election

85 Cassie Miller and Alexandra Werner-Winslow, “Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Nov 29, 2016,   https://www.splcenter.org/20161129/ten-days-after-harassment-and-intimidation-aftermath-election; Ben Mathis-Lilley, “Trump Was Recorded in 2005 Bragging About Grabbing Women ‘by the Pussy,’” Slate, October 7, 2016, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/10/07/donald_trump_2005_tape_i_grab_women_by_the_pussy.html

86 Ryan J. Reilly, “ Jeff Sessions Now Admits Grabbing A Woman By The Genitals Is Sexual Assault,” The Huffington Post, Jan 10, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-sessions-trump-sexual-assault_us_58753f08e4b043ad97e64369; Scott Glover, “Colleague, transcripts offer closer look at old allegations of racism against Sen. Jeff Sessions” CNN, Jan 10 2017,  http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/18/politics/jeff-sessions-racism-allegations/

87 Alex Brandon, “Trump says his Supreme Court nominees will be ready to take on abortion ruling,” The Columbus Dispatch, Nov 27, 2016, http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/insight/2016/11/27/1-trump-says-his-nominees-will-be-ready-to-take-on-roe-v-wade.html; Katie Van Syckle, “Here’s What a Trump Administration Could Mean for Campus Sexual Assault,” New York Magazine, Jan 18, 2017,  http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/01/what-a-trump-administration-means-for-campus-sexual-assault.html; Mark Landler, “Transition Team’s Request on Gender Equality Rattles State Dept.,” The New York Times, Dec 22, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/us/politics/state-department-gender-equality-trump-transition.html; Spohia Tesfaye, “Donald Trump will adopt Heritage Foundation’s “skinny budget”: Arts, violence against women funding to be cut,” Salon, Jan 19, 2017, http://www.salon.com/2017/01/19/donald-trump-will-adopt-heritage-foundations-skinny-budget-arts-violence-against-women-funding-to-be-cut/

88 Loretta Ross, “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights and the Women’s March on Washington,” Rewire, Jan 19, 2017, https://rewire.news/article/2017/01/19/womens-rights-human-rights-womens-march-washington/

#First100Days Crash Course: Week 1

Coinciding with Trump’s first 100 days in Office — a period of time historically used as a benchmark to measure the potential of a new president — PRA will share readings, videos, and tools for organizing to inform our collective resistance based on principles for engaging the regime, defending human rights, and preventing authoritarianism. Daily readings will be posted on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and archived HERE.

Week 1: The Alt Right

 

Featured excerpt:

Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The origins and ideology of the Alternative Right
Report by Matthew N. Lyons

The Alt Right helped Donald Trump get elected president, and Trump’s campaign put the Alt Right in the news. But the movement was active well before Trump announced his candidacy, and its relationship with Trump has been more complex and more qualified than many critics realize. The Alt Right is just one of multiple dangerous forces associated with Trump, but it’s the one that has attracted the greatest notoriety. However, it’s not accurate to argue, as many critics have, that “Alt Right” is just a deceptive code-phrase meant to hide the movement’s White supremacist or neonazi politics. This is a movement with its own story, and for those concerned about the seemingly sudden resurgence of far-right politics in the United States, it is a story worth exploring.

The Alt Right, short for “alternative right,” is a loosely organized far-right movement that shares a contempt for both liberal multiculturalism and mainstream conservatism; a belief that some people are inherently superior to others; a strong internet presence and embrace of specific elements of online culture; and a self-presentation as being new, hip, and irreverent. Based primarily in the United States, Alt Right ideology combines White nationalism, misogyny, antisemitism, and authoritarianism in various forms and in political styles ranging from intellectual argument to violent invective. White nationalism constitutes the movement’s center of gravity, but some Alt Rightists are more focused on reasserting male dominance or other forms of elitism rather than race. The Alt Right has little in the way of formal organization, but has used internet memes effectively to gain visibility, rally supporters, and target opponents. Most Alt Rightists have rallied behind Trump’s presidential bid, yet as a rule Alt Rightists regard the existing political system as hopeless and call for replacing the United States with one or more racially defined homelands.

Additional readings: