This presidential election has seen the rise of a new group in American conservatism: the blandly-termed — and fiercely pro-Trump — “alt-right.” The blogs, forums, and Twitter accounts that make up the media landscape of the alt-right actively promote fascism, albeit one updated for the 21st century.
Though the movement ties together white supremacy, neo-Nazism and misogyny, it rarely uses any of these terms. Eugenics has become “human biodiversity”; a white supremacist is now an “identitarian.”
These false terms are misleading, and provide cover for racist, xenophobic subcultures — groups that have never had a better chance to reach a wider audience than with Donald Trump running for president.
It would be one thing if this were a lexicon of the conservative fringe. Instead, the presumptive Republican nominee is retweeting the alt-right’s homegrown imagery.
Ahead of the Republican convention in Ohio, here is a primer on seven things that explain the alt-right.
Read: neo-Nazis. The number is an amalgam of two neo-Nazi calls to action. One is their 14-word credo: “We Must Secure The Existence Of Our People And A Future For White Children.” The second-half, 88, is because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet: 88 → HH → Heil Hitler. Some alt-right bloggers have dismissed 1488ers as pretenders and Internet pranksters, but the 1488ers vehemently disagree.
This term, which became popular in the middle of 2015, describes conservatives who promote policies that are detrimental to the continued prominence of white people. It’s a clear sexual reference: a cuckold is the husband of a woman having an affair. The term implies that establishment conservatives such as Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Karl Rove and Marco Rubio (the “Beltway right” of Washington, D.C.) are letting liberals and non-whites “screw” the white race out of its preeminent position.
Read: white exceptionalism. The alt-right has claimed a kind of kinship with the “radical left” on a few issues, and one of these, absurdly, is cultural appropriation. Much in the same way that “cultural Marxists” want to keep fraternities from donning offensive costumes on Halloween, the alt-right has an interest in re-appropriating all “white” cultural signifiers, such as princesses, superheroes, witches, pirates and Vikings.
Read: yellow badge. This is Nazi branding, updated for the internet age. The “echo” refers to the idea, popular among alt-righties, that “all Jewish surnames echo throughout history,” — that Jewish control of the world is obvious and traceable. The “echo” has its origins in a denialist podcast called The Daily Shoah. It has been used by the alt-right on Twitter to identify and berate Jews, especially those in the media. However, the “echo” was taken up by many Jews on Twitter of their own accord, and has been turned into a symbol of anti-alt-right defiance.
Read: eugenics. “Human biodiversity” is a neutral seeming term that is used by the alt-right to not only justify, but lend “scientific” authority to their racism. The alt-right fixates particularly on IQ tests, claiming that the low scores of black Americans is evidence of a racial disparity in cognitive ability.
Read: white supremacy. Aka: “identity politics.” A movement that began in France the early 2000s, identitarianism has picked up steam in the U.S. in the last couple years. Its institutional center is the National Policy Institute, an ultra-nationalist think tank in Arlington, Virginia, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has expressly condemned for its ties to white supremacist groups.
Pepe the Frog
Originally a harmless Internet cartoon meme used, mostly, to signify chillness, Pepe the Frog (see the above illustration) has been taken up as an avatar by alt-righties and neo-Nazis. The cartoon has also been morphed with Trump, depicting Trump-Pepe on a border wall holding a machine gun, or hammering a nail into Bernie Sanders’ head.