What Is the “Alt-Right” Movement & How Does It Relate to Extremism?

The term alternative right, or “alt-right” is not a new one, nor is it a new movement, but with the recent election it is a term that has been thrown around often in the media and has many wondering what exactly it is. It’s origins trace back loosely to the George Bush administration in response to Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and exists mostly on Internet forums like reddit, 4chan, and 8chan. The term “alt-right” wasn’t coined until the late 2000’s by Richard Bertrand Spencer, a white nationalist and the chairperson for the alt-right think-tank National Policy Institute.

So what exactly do they believe? The root of the alt-right is white supremacy and they advocate racist and anti-Semitic beliefs. Their main presence is on the Internet, and their emphasis on social media tactics is one of the main reasons they try to recruit young, educated whites. Alt-right members look for people savvy with communications and social media, and try to attract them by promoting the intellectual achievements and superiority of whites.

Via the Internet, members are expressing their white supremacist beliefs through memes, social media posts, blogs, and articles. They believe this to be an act of free speech, and don’t see the things they are saying as racist but rather as an act of freedom. Alt-right supporters attack and troll others online who don’t share their beliefs or don’t fit into their idea of supremacy, and probably the most prominent and publicized online attack of this nature was on Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.

Many people have analyzed this attack, and believe it was done in such strength and numbers because Leslie Jones reflected a threat to white supremacists beliefs. As a proud and confident black woman who was starring in a remake of a movie originally made with white men, she was in direct conflict to everything the alt-right movement supported. They launched vicious attacks on Leslie through many forums and social media and hacked her Twitter page, posting nude photos of her and changing her profile picture to the gorilla Harambe. This was a major news story, but many people were unaware of the connection to the alt-right movement.

Twitter is one of the companies taking a hard stand against hate speech like that involved in the attack on Leslie Jones. Following the incident, Twitter suspended Milo Yiannopoulos’s account, the tech editor at conservative media outlet Breitbart and one of main encouragers of the attack on Leslie. In recent weeks, Twitter has stood by their stance against hate by suspending many high-profile leaders of the alt-right movement and improving reporting and monitoring services.

What is important to realize about the alt-right movement is that it is an extremist movement. When many Americans hear the term extremism, they relate it to issues abroad without realizing that it is just as prevalent in their homeland. Average citizens can help combat this type of hate by staying aware, staying educating, and not being afraid to report and stand up against racist hate speech.

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