Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Linguistic Analysis Of Billions Of Reddit Comments Shows Strength Of ‘Alt-Right’ Trolls

A linguist at the University of Amsterdam is studying the online community of the “alt-right” by trawling through billions of comments on Reddit — and found that the loosely-organized white nationalist movement is growing in strength.

“We’re witnessing the radicalization of young white men,” Tim Squirrell, a researcher at the Alt-Right Open Intelligence Initiative, wrote in a piece on Quartz.

The “alt-right” is far from a monolith and Squirrell has created what he calls a distinct “taxonomy of trolls” based on his work: including “4chan shitposters,” “anti-progressive gamers,” “men’s rights activists,” “anti-globalists” and “white supremacists.”

Explicitely racist language is often banned from Reddit chanels, so “alt-right” groups have come up with their own language, signaling to their beliefs about other groups.

Some of that coded language? “kek,” “Pepe, “deus vult,” “God Emperor Trump” “snowflake,” “cuck,” “Chad,” “alpha,” “beta,” “omega.” When some commenters show explicitly racist or anti-Semitic views, they often back down when confronted , claiming that they are only joking, the research shows.

The “alt-right” has show itself to be difficult to pin down but Squirell believes the group is finding coherence. “The alt-right isn’t yet united, but it soon will be,” he wrote.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @skestenbaum

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.