EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally written for submission to a university newspaper.
The Alt Right has gone from being a minor fringe movement to one that has propelled Donald Trump to the presidency in a little more than a year.
But this movement is still relatively unknown.
“I only heard about it on Sam Roberts’ show when he was talking about that speech Hillary made,” said Amanda Knapp, 27, of Chicago, Ill.
Knapp is referring to Hillary Clinton’s speech of August 25 in Reno, Nevada. Google Trends shows that the phrase “Alt Right” hit its height from Aug. 21-27, going from one to 100. It has since gone down to 19.
“From the little bit I know about the Alt Right, it seems extreme, and I don’t generally like extremism,” said Knapp. She said that while racism itself isn’t anything new in America, the anti-Semitism of the Alt Right seems new and disturbing.
“I started noticing a lot more Alt Right stuff when Trump started getting more popular,” said Ryan Basse, 22, an engineering student at The University of Illinois at Chicago.
He said that he has been following the election from the beginning and began noticing more and more Alt Right symbols, such as the green frog Pepe.
Pepe has been adopted as a mascot by the Alt Right and is used by many members on their Twitter and Facebook profiles. Pepe is part of the culture of the Alt Right and is often associated with an ancient Egyptian god, Kek, since Kek is also a frog.
This link comes from internet forums like 4chan where “kek” often replaces “lol.” Since he is often seen in racist or anti-Semitic contexts, such as wearing Nazi uniforms or saying racial slurs, the Anti-Defamation League has considered him a hate symbol.
“When that guy yelled ‘Pepe!’ at Hillary’s speech, I thought that was hilarious,” Basse said.
Basse doesn’t consider himself a member of the Alt Right and said that it doesn’t bother him that the movement supports Donald Trump. “I don’t care. Who cares who supports who?” he said.
“Everybody’s acting like the Alt Right is just kids trying to piss people off by sending them pictures of swastikas or saying the n-word,” said one Chicagoan who uses the pseudonym Henry Wendell.
Wendell said, “I’m tired of that coverage. I’ve never heard anyone saying where we get our ideas from.”
Wendell said he uses a pseudonym because people get in trouble for being in the Alt Right.
He did not want to provide an occupation but said he does have a job.
Wendell said he is currently trying to start an Alt Right meetup group in Chicago in the hopes of growing the movement. “Once people hear our ideas, they usually agree with what we have to say,” he said.
He said he wants to start meeting up with friends and “red-pill them.” “Red-pilling” is what the Alt Right calls the process of learning and agreeing with their ideas – a metaphor taken from the movie The Matrix.
When the main character, Neo, takes the red pill instead of the blue one, he sees the world for what it truly is.
“It’s pretty easy to get people on board with our general theory of race, but the J.Q. (The Jewish Question) is a harder pill to swallow,” Wendell said.
Wendell said he usually refers people to Culture of Critique by Dr. Kevin MacDonald. “That book shows how the Jews were highly represented in Bolshevism, Neo-Conservatism, Feminism and many more things causing us trouble,” he said.
Wendell said that he became aware of the Alt Right because of the 2016 presidential election but said, “The Alt-Right didn’t begin with Trump and it won’t end with him either. It’s all over, it’s around the world.”
Wendell explained that what converted him to the Alt Right was reading literature by members of the European New Right.
He said, “I’ve never heard or read anything mentioning that. They only talk about racist tweets.”
Wendell said that he reached out to Richard Spencer on Twitter to ask where he can read about the European New Right, which he had heard Spencer mention on a podcast. “He said Tomislav Sunic, so I read Against Democracy and Equality.”
Richard Spencer is viewed as one of the main spokesmen of the Alt Right. He is the man who started alternative-right.com and is often credited with coining the term “Alt Right.”
He now runs the National Policy Institute, an Alt Right think tank that holds annual conferences and is associated with the web journal radixjournal.com.
He said through Direct Message on Twitter that “The Alt Right was about a new beginning. It was not just about being ‘more conservative than the conservatives.’ It was about recognizing that the conservatives were wrong from the beginning and starting all over again with a different foundation.”
Wendell agreed with this view and said that he was voting for Trump this election because he wants him to tear the whole system down. “He’s a human Molotov cocktail,” he said.
Spencer also acknowledged the link with the European New Right. “One of those [new beginnings], at least for me, was undoubtedly the European New Right, and Benoist and Faye, in particular. They’ve both spoken at NPI conferences, by the way,” he said.
Alain de Benoist and Guillaume Faye are French intellectuals whose writings contribute to the thought of the European New Right.
Alain de Benoist is a prolific writer who has written books such as Beyond Human Rights and The Problem with Democracy. Guillaume Faye’s books Archeofuturism and Why We Fight are popular with the Alt Right.
Electre, an Alt Right activist, 28, of Paris, France said she was the first person to mention the Alt Right in French media.
She said that the Alt Right is definitely influenced by the European New Right and that she was led to the Alt Right by knowledge, anger and hope.
“Luckily, watching the meteoric and unimaginable rise of the Alt Right gave me the hope for change I had been, hitherto, losing. I’ve been an active part of it ever since these ideas started to go mainstream, out of the 4chan boards they were brooding in,” she said in an email.
“I would say the French ‘nouvelle droite’ [the European New Right] did influence the Alt Right. In addition to sharing common thinkers, such as Oswald Spengler, both convey the notions of race and identity, as well as unity,” she said.
The Decline of the West, a book by the late Oswald Spengler, a 19th century German writer still influences the Alt Right.
She said that there are people in France that “think Alt Right” but don’t “behave Alt Right.” She mentioned a clique she called the “Dieudonné/Soral circle,” which she said is the closest thing to the American Alt Right in that they “are aware and loud about the Jewish Question.”
She said that “while the ‘racist’ label has lost its incapacitating power on a majority of right-wingers, most are still terrified to be labelled ‘anti-Semitic.’”
Electre has a notable internet presence and a Twitter following of more than 12,000. She said she communicates with people from all around the world in America, Germany, Austria, Spain, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Italy and more.
Veronica Bouchard, 19, of Ontario, Canada, is known in Alt Right circles by her internet alias Evalion.
Bouchard is notorious for her YouTube videos such as “How to Identify a Jew” and another showing her sing “Happy Birthday” to a picture of Adolf Hitler hung above cupcakes with swastikas made of frosting.
While Bouchard prefers to think of herself as a National Socialist, she is well-known in the Alt Right and when she was banned from YouTube, many people began reuploading her videos to Alt Right channels.
“Every day, more young people are being attracted to National Socialism and, because of this, the future looks bright,” she said through Direct Message on Twitter.
She said she thinks she was removed from YouTube because people were agreeing with her content.
“I attracted a LOT (sic) of youth to my content and exposed them to National Socialism. I get a bunch of messages from teens thanking me for this. Certainly, this made the powers that be scared. They know that this generation craves something more than the stale political parties we were presented with all of our lives and I guided them to the truth,” she said.
Spencer said that while he dislikes things said about him in the media, he is “definitely of the philosophy of ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity.’ Getting over ignorance of our ideas was the first hurdle.”