What is the alt-right?

Stephen D’Abreau

Stephen D'Abreau

This presidential election there has been a lot of discussion on the alternative right. While it is both tempting and not wholly unfair to dismiss this element of political spectrum as a type of ethnocentric nationalism, it is more complex and interesting than that.

Firstly, it must be stated that the alt-right is absolutely not a hegemonic or uniform ideology in politics, and even the generalized basics I provide here will vary amongst its members.

What is the alternative, or “alt,” right?

It is essentially a far right political element of society; it is, however, distinctly different than conservatism, both in the eyes of conservatives and the alt-right itself. Conservatism usually prioritizes fiscal responsibility, economic growth, states’ rights, small government and individual liberty (over collectivist pursuits of equality more typical of left wing thought). However, even though the alt-right will often find common cause with conservatism on policy (for example, harsher stances against illegal immigration or more bellicose approaches to the enemies of America like ISIS), they do not derive these policies from the same ideological mindset.

The alt-right ideology is one of primarily nationalism and identity politics, the collectivist approach based on demographics of pursuing fairness and safety. This should be the huge tip-off to a key difference between the conservatives, who are usually unconcerned or even hostile toward the use of identity politics. Even more so, identity politics is usually the preview of left wing philosophy, from Marxist class conflict to intersectional feminism.

However the alt-right approaches identity politics in an unusual way. The oppressed class and demographic, in the view of the alt-right, is the white race and Western society in general. They see the growing power of left wing identity politics as an existential threat to Western values and white people.

To them, and to many left-wing thinkers, race and culture are inseparably tied –culture needing to be celebrated, and threatened culture protected. Whereas the left usually is talking in terms of black or Latino culture, the alt-right believes in the celebration, protection and defense of their idea of white culture and race.

What threatens the white culture in the eyes the alt-right? Multiculturalism, specifically socio-politically enforced multiculturalism.

The celebration and blending of the culture of other peoples has been pushed so hard in society that traditional, Western culture is in danger. They also believe the white race is threatened by the possibility of becoming a minority group by the numbers, given current immigration projections.

Therefore, this brand of nationalism comes in as a sort of “America for the Americans” kind of reaction to the threat, leading to what most label as politically incorrect demonstrations.

What does this all mean? Well, the alt-right is a reactionary movement. The excesses and radical elements of far left-wing thought have bred an equally disturbing far-right counterpart.

As the political landscape continues down a polarizing path, it seems as though, until the excesses of the left are corrected (thus thoroughly delegitimizing the fears of the alt-right), we can expect the alt-right to gain more influence on politics.

Stephen D’Abreau is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].