Ever since the election of Donald Trump, the ‘Alt-Right’ are talked about everywhere. No one seems able to agree on who exactly they are. Are they teenage trolls spewing bile from their parents’ basement? Are they fascists? Are they the white male working-class, unhappy with their lot? Are they intellectuals, perhaps? Are they just racists?
Some of these definitions may be true, and some are not. The link with Donald Trump is even a tenuous one: the movement expresses positivity towards him, although Trump hasn’t ever acknowledged them specifically. Nonetheless, their jubilation at his victory seems to have drawn attention, and suddenly the group, once relegated to the corners of the internet, is in the media spotlight.
An Alt-Righter Explains (with “Ethnic Separatist”
A View From the Left
Opposition to multiculturalism, an active desire to enforce racial segregation by nation and divide the world into separate ‘ethnostates’ and no particular aversion to Nazism. It’s a potent cocktail, and little wonder that many on the Left do see fit to dismiss the Alt-Right as extremists. However, I think there is a little more to this group. Although they present themselves as white nationalists – and obviously this is a key part of the movement – I think the core of this new, young, online group is social conservatism, presented afresh. This is why it’s vital to engage with them.
Racial equality is very important to most of us on the Left, and to suggest that different races and cultures should be separated sends alarm bells ringing. Nonetheless, there is logic behind the belief in this case, and to engage is far more productive that to outright dismiss.
It is important to note that Ethnic Separatist never once cited POC inferiority as a reason for racial separation. This does not make him right, but it is important to understand, because this movement is not intentionally racist. Calling them racist without solid reasoning will do nothing besides deepen their belief in a stifling Left.
Their mistake, then, lies in their logic.
The Left does not necessarily require a nation to be multicultural. If an area is completely white or black or Asian, for example, the Left would not require people of different ethnicities to come and live with that community. The Alt-Right, however, do ideologically require multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communities to live separately, as they believe diversity causes conflict.
If, arguably, the Alt-Right got their way, millions of people who might quite possibly disagree with the ideology, would be required to move. Communities and friendships would be fractured. People would lose the right to live and work where they pleased, and perhaps worse, to love whomever they want, irregardless of nationality or colour. For all the talk of freedom of speech, people would lose more freedom than they would gain.
This is why the concept of separate ethnostates is harmful. It’s restrictive. If, theoretically, the world decided it wanted to divide itself perfectly into racial groups, fine. But it won’t happen. The idea may not be intentionally racist, but its goals would enshrine racism in global law, because your race would dictate where you could live.
Ethnic Separatist names white nationalism or anti-multiculturalism as the core belief of the movement, but others also well-versed in the intricacies of the Alt-Right disagree. A unifying factor largely dismissed by Ethnic Separatist, but mentioned prominently by news sources both sympathetic and not, seems to be a revolt against a conservative mainstream which has betrayed traditional conservative values. Although Ethnic Separatist claims that social conservatism is a secondary concern, I can’t help but think that his white nationalism is just a solution to the loss of a socially conservative society. He speaks of how the government is ‘importing voters’ – that is, non-whites – to vote against his beliefs and prevent them from ever gaining political traction. From our conversation, those beliefs appear to be fairly socially conservative. Accurate or not, it sounds like he believes that the removal of non-whites from the U.S. would allow for a greater expression of such views in mainstream politics. If we take Ethnic Separatist as representative of the movement, then, are Alt-Righters really just social conservatives who have allowed their ‘solution’ to eclipse their initial goal?
Breitbart, a website seen by many to be at the helm of the movement, bears out this idea in an article examining in detail the members and ideas of the Alt-Right. It sees the ‘natural conservatives’ – those who value social conservatism over economic conservatism and feel most comfortable following tradition and familiarity – as the most numerous members of the Alt-Right. Natural conservatism does lend itself to white nationalism, as it values the flourishing of a person’s own ‘tribe’ above other concerns, and in that sense this aspect is more than just a solution. However, I do wonder if the Alt-Right might be less interested in race if the nation as a whole were more socially conservative in other ways. Non-whites do seem to be being used somewhat as scapegoats to a different perceived problem.
The same article notes that the Alt-Right also centres around provocation and the breaking of taboos, born as it was in online forums such as 4chan. In this sense, it’s about being anti-authority, and is linked closely to a desire for unadulterated free speech. Such ideas are hardly necessarily right-wing, but alongside the ideological tenets discussed above, its a rebranding. Stodgy conservatism for the young and edgy.
Gender Roles & Male Suicide
In supporting traditional gender roles, Ethnic Separatist made no particular claims about the benefits of reclaiming them: he merely states his belief that they are good and natural. Breitbart, on the other hand, seems to claim that teaching society to value men again – particularly masculine men – will curb the high levels of male suicide.
The trouble with this theory, and indeed the trouble with supporting traditional gender roles for all at all, is that scientific studies generally conclude that unrealistic expectations of masculinity are what cause such high levels of suicide in men in the first place. Men feel unable to meet certain standards of masculinity – for example, being employed and providing for a family – and this perceived ‘failure’ then can negatively affect their sense of masculine identity, and increase their risk of suicide.
Ethnic Separatist does state that the Alt-Right wants to reform everything, and this reform, theoretically, might make it easier for a man to fulfil this traditional role as breadwinner. However, as the study states, in the world as it is the workplace is feminising, and manual work is becoming increasingly automated. Even if social reforms are achieved, it seems unlikely that technology will be reversed, or that the movement would wish it to be. This would leave two obvious options: to remove women from the workplace (limiting their freedoms) or accept that this aspect of traditional masculinity has to be altered for the times in which we live.
In championing traditional gender roles, then, the Alt-Right might end up killing men further.
Why Should We Care?
The Alt-Right have the potential to be dangerous, and to undo a lot of positive steps that have been taken towards equality.
Firstly, the movement is essentially social conservatism for a younger audience. Social conservatism is not such a fringe concept, which means that the movement has the potential for wide appeal. For social progressives, this could be bad news, particularly as it is often assumed that young people hold more liberal views – and the Alt-Right could change that.
Secondly, this is a movement that is, ultimately, wanting to enforce global segregation in order that white Americans might be able to vote in the conservative government they supposedly want. This is also movement not unduly offended by Nazism. These people are certainly ambitious, bold thinkers, and in that sense cannot be swept under the carpet with spineless arguments born of a society that they reject.
Finally, this is not a particularly self-critical group. Ethnic Separatist explicitly stated that he would not criticise fellow members. The Alt-Right is not going to collapse from in-fighting. And this lack of self-critique is evident in their white nationalism too: what happens to those who are mixed race? What if a person of colour has assimilated white culture completely, or vice-versa? Would, in theory, white Americans leave the country altogether and return to Europe, leaving the U.S. to Native Americans?
The combination of (comparatively) moderate core values, radical solutions and bullish confidence is a potent, potentially very appealing mix. With the left tainted by mocking titles: the ‘liberal elites’, the ‘social justice warriors’ and accused of creating a ‘PC culture’, this seems like an altogether cooler politics. It can be anarchist and offensive, and it wants to reinstate a more familiar, traditional world. It could be very easy to overlook the bigotry and racism, because this movement seems to be built on discomfort, not hate.
The Alt-Right are out in the open. Ignoring them will no longer do.
Special thanks to Ethnic Separatist