The Alt-Right | Omid Fouladpouri
The alt-right is still a very active force in society, posing a threat to people’s freedom and safety everywhere. To start off, Cambridge defines alt-right fairly well: “people with extreme conservative views, including extreme views about race, who reject ordinary politics and use the internet to spread their opinions.” Sound familiar? It should, since these politics surround all of us on a daily basis in all facets of our lives and in society.
The modern alt-right movement heavily derives from the growth of far-right politics online in the 2015 era where white supremacist and misogynistic views were heavily mainstream online as they influenced many millions of people, especially men, into their way of thinking. It was left unchecked until people began fighting back against these views and when online platforms such as Youtube did their due diligence to rid the internet of the most mainstream and extreme figures. We can see the peak of the mainstream alt-right in 2017 at the antisemitic and fascist “Unite the Right” rally. As time went on, more people had issues with this present danger to society and reacted. From counter-protesting to posting online, antifascists began to grow in numbers.
Where does the alt-right mindset originate from? Why does it grow? Why can it be so influential? The answers are fairly complex, but to put it simply they derive from fear. Whether it be the fear of women’s equality, the fear of people of color, the fear of differing notions of gender and sexuality that threaten one’s sense of self, or the fear that one isn’t masculine enough, fear is the fundamental characteristic at the basis. One of the biggest reasons as to why anyone follows this ideology is due to its simple and comforting answers it provides to someone who is heavily insecure about themselves and fearful about the rest of society. Many men exist both heavily insecure, especially about their own masculinities, but are also taught from a young age to be bigoted. As a result, they are the perfect target for the alt-right to influence them. A main ideological characteristic of the alt-right is white nationalism, a white supremacist view that emphasizes the need to protect a “white” racial and national “identity”. Many who grow up in less diverse areas such as gentrified suburbs and many rural areas are prone to fear people who aren’t like themselves, whether it be skin color or other characteristics, due to their lack of interpersonal interaction and the beliefs they are taught from a young age. There are also many other characteristics of the alt-right that are similarly developed and expressed, whether it be antisemitism, homophobia, ableism/eugenics, misogyny, or other bigoted or conspiratorial views.
Where do we see the power of the alt-right today? The current culture war against LGBTQ+, and especially trans, existence is certainly one of their biggest focuses. Both because of the influence of alt-right political commentators on their fanbases and the threat that queer people are towards rigid and binary mental maps of reality, the alt-right seeks to make anyone who is in their view “untraditional” discriminated against and not allowed to exist as themselves. Additionally, nativist thoughts on immigration and racist anti-black sentiment, especially expressed in outrage against black lives matter and reactionary slogans such as “white lives matter,” are other contemporary views the alt-right seeks to promote in its attempt to influence society.
Finally, how do we help both ourselves and others to avoid falling into these traps? Always remaining aware and recognizing racist and bigoted thoughts when one hears it is an important strategy in this era of deception politics that seek to hook people into their bases. Keeping up with the news through a variety of outlets and making sure not to only listen to one side is a very important step. Recognizing lies is similarly important, since many alt-right beliefs are based on pure falsehoods. However, one of the biggest ways to avoid falling into these paths is to not let one’s fears and insecurities guide their politics, but serve as reminders to constantly better themselves and to keep an open mind, ridding themselves of their preconceived notions and allowing personal growth for a better society for everyone.