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The Rise of the Alt-Right and the Politics of Polarization in America

Alt-Right logo

The logo of the Alt-Right, as seen on a sign stand next to American white supremacist Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute (a white nationalist think tank based in Arlington, Virginia), who spoke at the alt-right press conference in Washington, D.C. last September.

Until recently, the alt-right was relegated to the cultural and political fringe consisting primarily of an obscure, largely on-line subculture. But after Donald Trump’s stunning electoral victory, its detractors feared that it could soon become a player at the very center of American politics. After all, alt-right activists were among Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, and in return, some believed that they deserved a seat at the table. Back in August of 2016, the alt-right was catapulted into national limelight when Hillary Clinton excoriated the movement, seeking to link it to her challenger in a much-heralded speech delivered in Reno, Nevada.1 That same month, Breitbart.com executive Steve Bannon had declared the website “the platform for the alt-right.”2 In the wake of Trump’s victory, Bannon joined Trump in the White House as a senior advisor. How did the movement gain traction in recent years? And now that Trump is president, could the alt-right change the American political landscape?

The Roots of the Alternative Right

To its critics, the alt-right is just a code term for white nationalism, a much-maligned movement associated with neo-Nazis and Klansmen.3 The movement, however, is more nuanced, as it encompasses a much broader spectrum of rightist activists and intellectuals besides white nationalists including those who believe in libertarianism, men’s rights, cultural conservatism, isolationism, and populism. Nonetheless, its origins can be traced to various American white nationalist movements that have endured for decades.

More than any other figure, the late Willis Carto was responsible for creating the semblance of a movement that came to be known as the far right in post-World War II America. Through the myriad of organizations he founded—Liberty Lobby, the Institute for Historical Review, and the Populist Party among others—he reached out to a wide array of rightists including white nationalists, Holocaust revisionists, conspiracy buffs, anti-globalists, and survivalists. But his big tent approach had only limited success and by the late 1990s was foundering. Furthermore, he was forced into bankruptcy in 2000, after losing a civil suit to a former subsidiary. A newspaper he launched—American Free Press—is still published, but its readership is limited. Carto passed away in 2015 at the age of 89.4 Although the various organs he established reached many rightists, some in the movement found his approach woefully unfit to gain credibility as a respected mass movement insofar as it seemed to be resigned to remain as an oppositional subculture. A number of well-educated rightist intellectuals sought to establish a new ideology capable of resonating with conservatives, especially young people.

Addressing the H.L. Mencken Club in 2008, Paul Gottfried described the “alternative right” as a dissident far right ideology that rejected mainstream conservatism. Gottfried—a conservative Jewish academic—previously coined the term “paleoconservative” in a rhetorical effort to distance himself and like-minded intellectuals from neo-conservatives who were becoming the dominant force in the Republican Party and broader conservative movement.5 The late Sam Francis, a former columnist for the Washington Times who was fired for his open advocacy of white nationalism, was regarded as the intellectual godfather of the paleoconservative movement. For years, he sharply criticized the Republican Party for its timidity, strategic myopia, and ideological bareness. Only a radical reorientation—a “middle American revolution”—could save the conservative movement and insure the European character of the nation.6 But the lackluster results of his friend Pat Buchannan in the 2000 presidential election, demonstrated the weakness of this approach at that time.

To be sure, some of the most radical elements of the far right have long advocated a revolutionary program. Groups such as the Aryan Nations, White Aryan Resistance, the National Alliance, and the World Church of the Creator have preached RAHOWA (racial holy war) against ZOG, or the “Zionist Occupation Government.” Many were inspired by the late William L. Pierce’s Turner Diaries, a novel about a race war that consumes America that was one of the inspirations for Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

But these exhortations to revolution did not resonate with most people. What is more, after 9/11, many of the revolutionary right’s leading representatives were prosecuted under new anti-terrorism statutes and sent to prison. By the mid-2000s, the far right appeared to have reached its nadir.

Richard Spencer and the National Policy Institute

Into this void stepped Richard Spencer and a new group of far right intellectuals. In 2005, William Regnery II—a wealthy and reclusive publisher—founded the National Policy Institute as a white nationalist think tank. A young and rising star of the far right, Spencer assumed leadership in 2011. A year earlier he launched the Alternative Right website and became recognized as one of the most important expressive leaders of the movement.

Around this same time, Spencer popularized the term “cuckservative” which has gained currency in the vernacular in recent years. In essence, a cuckservative is a conservative sellout who is first and foremost concerned about abstract principles such as the U.S. Constitution, free market economics, and individual liberty. Instead, the alt-right is more concerned about concepts such as nation, race, culture, and civilization. Working hard to rebrand white nationalism as a legitimate political movement, Spencer explicitly rejected the notion of racial supremacy and instead called for the creation of separate, racially-exclusive homelands for white people.7

Jared Taylor and American Renaissance

While Spencer became the youthful face of the movement, Jared Taylor was recognized as its elder statesman. An urbane, articulate Yale graduate, he founded American Renaissance in 1990 as a vehicle to defend the “group interests” of whites. Characterizing himself as “race realist,” Taylor has appeared in many media outlets warning that European-Americans were committing “unilateral disarmament” if they failed to recognize their interests when other racial and ethnic groups asserted their own. Stylistically, what sets Taylor apart from many others in the far right is that he does not impute sinister conspiracies as the motive force behind what he sees as the growing political, social, and cultural disempowerment of whites.8

The Perils of Immigration

The primary issue for white nationalists is immigration. They claim that high fertility rates for third world immigrants and low fertility rates for native women—if left unchecked—threaten the very existence of whites as a distinct race.9 But even on the issue of demographic displacement, there is disagreement in the white nationalist movement on how this predicament came about. The more genteel representatives of the alt-right, such as Jared Taylor, argue that these trends developed over time because whites have lost the temerity necessary to defend their racial group interests. By contrast, the more conspiratorial segment of the movement implicates a deliberate Jewish-led plot to reduce whites to minority status.10 By doing so, Jews would render their historically most formidable “enemy” weak and miniscule—just another minority among many.

Emblematic of the latter view is Kevin MacDonald, a former professor of psychology at the California State University at Long Beach. In a trilogy of books released in the mid-to-late 1990s, he advanced an evolutionary theory to explain both Jewish and anti-Semitic collective behavior. According to MacDonald, anti-Semitism emerged not so much out of perceived fantasies of Jewish malfeasance, but because of genuine conflicts of interests between Jews and their Gentile hosts. Inasmuch as anti-Semitic movements have often been collectivistic in orientation, MacDonald argued that Jewish intellectuals, activists, and leaders have sought to fragment Gentile societies along the lines of race, ethnicity, and gender. Over the past decade and a half, his research has been circulated and celebrated in white nationalist online forums.11

Conspiracism

Although conspiracy theories can be found across the political spectrum, they feature most prominently in the far right. Based in Austin, Texas, Alex Jones has emerged as the most noted proponent of contemporary right-wing Conspiracism. His popular platform—Infowars—has enabled him to reach a broad audience whom he regales with exposés implicating the U.S. government, secret societies, and globalists in sinister plots to undermine the fabric of nations.12 It is worth mentioning that Jones is not without his critics on the far right. For example, some white nationalists deride Jones as a charlatan because he implicates phantom actors—including the Illuminati13—in a nebulous conspiracy to subvert America. They accuse him of leading people down a blind alley—“chasing demons”—instead of identifying what they see as the “real enemy,” that is a Jewish-led conspiracy to destroy the white race.14

The Internet facilitated the spread of conspiracy theories that before had limited currency. Although critics—including U.S. News & World Report, Los Angeles Times, and Mother Jones—have characterized Infowars as a “fake news” website, the mainstream media in America have lost much credibility over the past several years.15 The failure of the mainstream press to report accurately on the depth of support for candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election will only compound this problem. Though it is difficult to determine with great specificity how important Jones was in persuading voters to support Trump, he steadfastly supported the GOP renegade in his primary and general election campaigns.

Although conspiracy theories have long resonated with the far right, the more respectable mainstream conservative movement eschewed this vocation—the Libertarian right, for example, focused instead on small government, individual liberty, and a non-interventionist foreign policy. But after its standard bearer Ron Paul failed to gain traction in his 2012 presidential bid, as did his son Rand Paul when he dropped out of the 2016 race early, the libertarian community became disillusioned. What is more, social and cultural issues became more pronounced in American politics. As a consequence, the libertarian preoccupation with free market economics began to look stale.16 A new form of rightist ideology began to take form. The growing popularity of the new media was instrumental in this development.

A Growing Media and Internet Presence

Cyberspace became one area where white nationalists could exercise some limited influence on the broader culture. The subversive, underground edges of the Internet, including 4chan and 8chan, allowed young white nationalists to share and post comments anonymously. The alt-right has become an integral part of the meme and trolling culture in cyberspace. Through the use of memes, the alt-right has established a notable presence in the virtual world. Appropriating “Pepe the Frog,” the alt-right used humor and invective to reach out to young people who might find the political correctness of the dominant culture stultifying.17 Moreover, the growing number of blogs, wikis, and discussion forums enabled them to participate in the national discourse. Even on mainstream news sites such as USA Today, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, ordinary readers—including white nationalists—could troll the comments sections below articles.18

rendition of Pepe the Frog

Rendition of Pepe the Frog, by 9vj (own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

More important, new media outlets emerged online that began to challenge their mainstream competitors: Drudge Report, Infowars and, most notably, Breitbart News. Founded by Andrew Breitbart in 2007, Breitbart News was intended to serve as a conservative outlet that would seek to influence both politics and culture. For Breitbart, conservatives did not adequately prioritize winning the culture wars—conceding on issues like immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness—which ultimately enabled the political left to dominate the public discourse on these topics. As he noted, “politics really is downstream from culture.”19

Bannon used Breitbart News to attack not only Democrats, but Republicans as well. He skewered mainstream conservatives for their preoccupation with economic issues and small government, while ignoring illegal immigration, global trade deals that hurt American workers, cultural progressives, and Washington cronyism.20 These positions resonated with many white nationalists, some of whom became fellow travelers with Breitbart News. But it would be misleading to characterize Breitbart News as a white nationalist vehicle for no other reason than its largely Jewish roots.

Yes, Breitbart News has become popular with white nationalists. But the site has also unapologetically backed Israel. Since its inception, Jews—including Andrew Breitbart, Larry Solov, Alexander Marlow, Joel Pollak, Ben Shapiro, and Milo Yiannopoulos—have filled leading positions in the organization.21 In fact, in recent months, Yiannopoulos, a self-described “half Jew” and practicing Catholic—who is also a flamboyant homosexual with a penchant for black boyfriends—has emerged as the movement’s leading spokesman on college campuses (though he denies the alt-right characterization).22

Milo Yiannopoulos—The “Dangerous Faggot”

On his self-proclaimed “Dangerous Faggot” tour Yiannopoulos regales packed audiences with his forceful critique of political correctness, Black Lives Matter, feminism, and “social justice warriors,” delivered with verve, biting sarcasm, and panache. When faced with hostile protestors and audience members, he is a master of forensic jiu-jitsu. His lectures mix performance with political commentary. Although Yiannopoulos does not characterize himself as part of the men’s rights movement, he has emerged as the movement’s most noted spokesman. The so-called “Manosphere” is a generic term to characterize a community of men who are disillusioned with modern, or “third wave,” feminism. Yiannopoulos’ track record displays a clear affinity for the movement. Revealing titles in his Breitbart News articles include “Science Proves It: Fat-Shaming Works,” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”23 Back in 2014, he gained notoriety for his role in the “gamergate” controversy when he supported the online harassment campaign against women who decried the violence and misogyny in video games.24 More recently, he generated a free speech controversy in July of 2016, when Twitter permanently revoked his account after he used the platform to disparage what he saw as the radical feminist undertones of the new Ghostbusters film and one of its stars in particular, Leslie Jones, who was subjected to racial harassment from some of his followers. At a campus lecture in the summer of 2016 he declared his birthday “World Patriarchy Day” and opined that if patriarchy does indeed exist, then “thank God it does!” He is fond of citing the feminist scholar Camille Paglia, who once mused that “If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.”25

Yiannopoulos dismisses the racist charges against the alt-right as overwrought and appears to relish the fact that the mainstream media seem determined to crown him the “queen of the movement.”26 But it is undeniable that Yiannopoulos has done much to promote the alt-right and steer new recruits its way.27 According to Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Yiannopoulos is the person “who propelled the alt-right movement into the mainstream.”28 And he used his influence to rally for Trump. Even after the embarrassing “hot mic” episode transpired that Trump had made crude remarks about groping women years earlier, Yiannopoulos never wavered in his support for his favorite candidate, to whom he affectionately refers as “daddy.”

In retrospect, much of the opposition to Yiannopoulos seems to have backfired insofar as it bestowed more notoriety on him, which he craves. In January 2017, a subsidiary of Simon & Shuster gave Yiannopoulos a $250,000 book advance for his memoirs, Dangerous. In retaliation, the Chicago Review of Books announced that it would not review a single Simon & Schuster book in 2017.29

To be expected, some hard core elements of white nationalism have rejected Milo and his message. Writing in the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin called Milo “a subversive and a disease.” He feared that he would hijack the alt-right and destroy it from within by making the movement tolerant of Jews and race-mixing. For these reasons, he called for a “final solution to the Milo problem.”30 Though still marginalized, hard-core white nationalists figure prominently in the alt-right.

White Separatism

Sometimes referred to as the “1488rs,” the revolutionary white nationalists believe that America will eventually collapse under the weight of racial strife.31 Some internal critics in the alt-right characterize them as the equivalent of Black Lives Matter supporters insofar as they both call for the total destruction of the current order and seek to replace it with a revolutionary new order.32

But how should white nationalists achieve their goals in an America that is projected by the U.S. Census Bureau to be majority non-white by the year 2042?33 Some activists insist that only a separatist course will ensure white racial survival. To date, the most formulated strategy has been advanced by Harold Covington, who founded the Northwest Front in the early 2000s as a vehicle for the creation of an all-white homeland in the Pacific Northwest. Given current demographic trends he argues that it is foolish to pursue a strategy that seeks to return America to a white majority population. Instead, by concentrating the assets of the white nationalist movement into a smaller area, Covington reasons that their goals have a greater likelihood of success. Beginning in 2003, he published a series of five novels based on a white separatist insurgency in the Pacific Northwest. Set in the not-too-distant future, the novels extol the exploits of the Northwest Volunteer Army, which mounts a war of attrition that eventually persuades the U.S. government to relinquish limited territory. In 2010, Covington began broadcasting an Internet radio program called Radio Free Northwest in which he exhorts Whites to relocate to the Pacific Northwest to form a community of like-minded activists.34

Often characterized as “the new face of hate,” Mathew Heimbach has emerged as the most articulate voice of White separatism in the United States over the past few years. Although he is only in his mid-twenties, he is an accomplished orator and an indefatigable organizer, frequently giving speeches at rallies and appearing on television news programs. He first gained notoriety in 2012 when he organized a White Student Union at Towson State University in Maryland. Since then, he founded the Traditionalist Youth Network which calls for the division of the United States into separate ethnically and culturally homogeneous autonomous states. Although most of his followers are white nationalists, he has reached out to separatists from other ethnic and racial groups. At the present time, he sees the Appalachian area as the most fertile ground for his white separatist aspirations.35 Seeking to establish ties with like-minded activists overseas, Heimbach identifies himself as the leader the Eurasian movement in the United States. The recognized leader of the Eurasian movement in the world is Alexander Dugin, a political theorist in Russia.

Alexander Dugin and the Fourth Political Theory

Ironically, a Russian named Alexander Dugin has emerged as one of the most important political theoreticians in the alt-right movement.36 In essence, Dugin seeks to forge a broad coalition of dissidents from across the political spectrum, including communists, separatists, and even fascists, to resist American global hegemony. Inasmuch as the U.S. government is viewed by the “identitarian” movement37 as the primary vehicle for an anti-white agenda around the world, it is not surprising that Dugin would find some well-wishers among the alt-right. Much of Dugin’s anti-Americanism stems from his strident critique of liberalism. According to Dugin, the American liberal ideology with its emphasis on individual liberty, when taken to its extreme ultimately abolishes all forms of collective identity and therefore is a destructive force that ruins nations. To be effective against U.S.-led globalism, a movement must be undergirded by a dynamic ideology that he has christened as the “Fourth Political Theory.” As he explains, liberalism, communism, and fascism represented the three main political ideologies of the last century. With the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, fascism was discredited. In that same vein, the collapse of the Soviet Union undercut the credibility of communism. Thus only liberalism remained, as presaged in Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 article, “The End of History?” As Fukuyama explained, more and more governments around the world were converging on a capitalist/democratic model.38

As an alternative, Dugin’s “The Fourth Political Theory” draws upon what he sees as the best elements of each of the aforementioned ideologies. From communism, Dugin accepts much of Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism and the merits of socialism. From fascism, Dugin recognizes the importance of nationalism, or togetherness, but categorically rejects the kind of biological racism that assumes that some peoples are superior to others. From liberalism, Dugin borrows the ideals of justice, equality, and freedom. Although the Fourth Political Theory is ostensibly concerned first and foremost with Russia, Dugin maintains that the ideology is inclusive to people everywhere. For as he explains, in the contemporary world, it is unrealistic for any single nation or sole individual or limited group of people to stand up alone against America. For this reason, the Fourth Political Theory must be a collective effort that marshals a broad-based coalition of disparate political activists to come together to resist the new world order under the aegis of the United States.39 Of course, the dissolution of America could be welcomed by Vladimir Putin and Dugin, for it would eliminate Russia’s most formidable geopolitical rival. But after Trump’s victory, Dugin struck a much more conciliatory tone. He saw it as a watershed event in which the American people had risen up against the globalist tyranny. As a consequence, Dugin proclaimed that anti-Americanism was no longer justified insofar as Americans were now determined to drain their own swamp.40

Donald Trump and Entryism

Although the campaign of Donald Trump mobilized the movement that has come be known as the alt-right, it was not he who created it. After all, the issues that animate the movement—concern over immigration, national economic decline, and political correctness—existed long before Trump announced his candidacy. As Francis Fukuyama opined, the real question is not why populism emerged in 2016, but why it took so long to manifest.41 Not unlike the Brexit referendum over the summer of 2016, Trump’s startling victory confirms that there is a rising tide of nationalism in the West. The increasing popularity of Marine Le Pen could soon lead to a nationalist government in France, which like England, might opt out of the European Union.

Although the white nationalist movement in America has endured for decades, it remained highly marginalized with virtually no influence on the mainstream culture and certainly not over public policy. The candidacy of Donald Trump, however, was the catalyst that enabled a disparate collection of groups, which included white nationalists, to coalesce in what has come to be known as the alt-right. Still, because of the movement’s ideological diversity, it would be a serious mischaracterization to label the alt-right as exclusively white nationalist.

In some quarters in the political left, Trump’s surprising electoral victory was viewed with great disdain, almost as a contemporary version of Kristallnacht, occasioning the most strident condemnation and revulsion in recent memory.42 To some observers, Bannon’s appointment as Trump’s chief strategist confirmed their fears that the far-right fringe has penetrated the White House.43 And some alt-right activists did not disabuse them of their trepidation. At his organization’s conference in Washington, D.C., soon after the election, Richard Spencer raised his glass in a toast and exclaimed to his audience: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail Victory!” At this point, several of the attendees gave a celebratory Roman salute reminiscent of Hitler’s Third Reich.44 What came to be known as “hailgate,” earned him more notoriety and split the alt-right between moderates and hardliners.45

To date, however, Trump has eschewed explicit race-mongering, though he did say some unflattering things about some Mexican immigrants and voiced concern over radical Islam. Instead, Trump has promoted a form of civic nationalism that emphasizes “America first.” Although his rhetoric was often construed as impolitic on the campaign stump, he nevertheless reached out to all Americans irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed. In fact, he was the first major Republican presidential candidate in many years to have actually made a serious effort to attract African-American voters, pointing out that his proposed program of economic revitalization would create millions of new jobs for the chronically unemployed in America’s inner cities. It would be facile to characterize Trump’s victory as a “whitelash against a changing country” as described by CNN’s Van Jones.46 After all, roughly the same proportion of the white vote had gone to Mitt Romney four years earlier.47

Nevertheless, the election was racially-charged mainly in the mainstream media, which portrayed Trump and his supporters as bigoted. Ultimately, such depictions could become self-fulfilling prophecies as the scholar Walter Russell Mead observed:

The growing resistance among white voters to what they call “political correctness” and a growing willingness to articulate their own sense of group identity can sometimes reflect racism, but they need not always do so. People constantly told that they are racist for thinking in positive terms about what they see as their identity, however, may decide that racist is what they are, and that they might as well make the best of it. The rise of the so-called alt-right is at least partly rooted in this dynamic.48

The success of the Trump campaign demonstrated the potential influence of the alt-right in the coming years. At first blush, Trump’s victory in the Electoral College seems substantial, but his margin of victory in several key states was quite small.49 For that reason, support from every quarter he received—including the alt-right—was vitally important. Unlike other segments of the conservative movement, the alt-right never wavered in its support of Trump. And anecdotal evidence suggests that they were among his most avid foot soldiers in getting out the vote in both the primaries and general election.50 Moreover, the Trump campaign provided the opportunity for members of this movement to meet in a real world setting beyond their computer monitors and keyboards. His victory is sure to have instilled a great sense confidence in a movement that for so long has been maligned and marginalized. Shortly after the election Richard Spencer said that Trump’s victory was “the first step, the first stage towards identity politics for white people.”51 But if Trump does not deliver on his most emphatic campaign promises, such as building the wall and deporting undocumented aliens, the alt-right is likely to become disillusioned with him, not unlike some progressives who chastised Barack Obama for continuing to prosecute wars in the Middle East. In fact, before he even entered office, Spencer scaled back his enthusiasm for Trump because he was not focused enough on immigration and several of his appointments had connections to Goldman Sachs.52

Unlike old-school white nationalist movements, the alt-right has endeavored to create a self-sustaining counterculture, which includes a distinct vernacular, memes, symbols and a number of blogs and alternative media outlets. Taking a page from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, young alt-right activists have applied his tactics to conservative causes.53 The events of the year 2016 suggest that the movement has succeeded. Now that the movement has been mobilized and demonstrated its relevance, the alt-right is likely to grow, gaining a firmer foothold in both American politics and culture.

Conclusion: The Politics of Polarization

American political culture has historically been centrist. Consequently, the nativist elements of Trump’s campaign platform are likely to be watered-down if they are ever implemented. At times, President Trump will most surely find himself constrained by Congress, the Supreme Court, and state governments, not to mention the media and a whole host of private interests, such as major corporations whose operations he must encourage to remain in America to further his economic recovery plan.

As president, Trump now has the enormous task of restoring national unity. Soon after the election, numerous protests emerged in cities all across America. On inauguration day, more demonstrations followed mainly in Washington, but also a number of cities both in the United States and overseas under the rubric of the Women’s March.54 This development is unprecedented in American political culture with its longstanding record of the peaceful transition to power from one party to another. An ominous polarization threatens the very fabric of the nation.

Over a decade ago, the noted author Robert Kaplan prognosticated in his influential article, “The Coming Anarchy,” that it was not entirely clear that the United States would be able to survive exactly in its present form in the 21st century. As the quintessential multi-ethnic society, in contemporary America the concept of the nation state is becoming more fragile than it is in homogeneous nations.55 This same theme was taken up in 2004 when the political scientist, Samuel Huntington, released his book, Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity, in which he argued that the rise of multiculturalism and the demise of the assimilationist ethic could diminish the larger American national identity, which he believed was essential for the long-run survival of the country as a unified political entity.56 Whether Trump can live up to the high expectations that many Americans have pinned on him will depend on in large measure if he can forge some semblance of a national consensus.

And herein lies the great paradox of the alt-right. While white nationalists enthusiastically supported Trump—a candidate that repudiated identity politics and sought instead to restore national unity—they ultimately believe that their goals can only be achieved by the dissolution of the United States. Only in a Soviet-style break-up scenario could white nationalists establish the independent mono-racial states that they so desire. For this reason alone, the civic nationalism of Trump is likely to be at loggerheads with the ethno-nationalism of the alt-right at some point in the future. END

About the Author

Dr. George Michael received his Ph.D. from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy. He is an associate professor of criminal justice at Westfield State University in Massachusetts. Previously, he was an associate professor of nuclear counter-proliferation and deterrence theory at the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. He is the author of seven books: Confronting Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism in the USA, The Enemy of my Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right, Willis Carto and the American Far Right, Theology of Hate: A History of the World Church of the Creator, Lone Wolf Terror and the Rise of Leaderless Resistance, Extremism in America (editor), and Preparing for Contact: When Humans and Extraterrestrials Finally Meet. In addition, his articles have been published in numerous academic journals.

References
  1. Team Fix, Abby Ohlheiser, and Caitlin Dewey. 2016. “Hillary Clinton’s alt-right speech, annotated.” The Washington Post, August 25, http://wapo.st/2jmHoI8
  2. Posner, Sarah. 2016. “How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists,” Mother Jones, August 22, http://bit.ly/2bH0DK0
  3. O’Brien, Luke. 2016. “My Journey to the Center of the Alt-right,” The Huffington Post, November 3, http://huff.to/2etgf7l
  4. For more on Carto, see: Michael, George. 2008. Willis Carto and the American Far Right. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida.
  5. Siegel, Jacob. 2016. “The Alt-Right’s Jewish Godfather,” Tablet, November 29, http://bit.ly/2gKAxqZ
  6. Francis, Samuel. 1997. Revolution from the Middle. Raleigh, NC: Middle American Press.
  7. Imm, Jeffrey. 2010. “VDARE Friend Richard Spencer Starts New Group ‘Alternative Right’.” March 11, http://bit.ly/2jxEhR7
  8. Not only does Taylor eschews conspiracy theories, in fact, several Jews have spoken at his American Renaissance conferences, including Michael Levin, Robert Weissberg, and Rabbi Mayer Schiller. For reaching out to like-minded Jews, Taylor has gained opprobrium in some quarters of the far right, but to his defenders, he is a soft-core gateway for people who are curious about the white nationalist movement. For more on Taylor see: Zeskind, Leonard. 2009. Blood & Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. New York: Farrar Staus Giroux, 367–380; and: Michael, George. 2003. Confronting Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism in the USA. New York: Routledge, 55–58.
  9. See for example: Slattery, Patrick. 2016. “Whites dying off while Hispanics flood maternity wards— census data.” Davidduke.com June 10, http://bit.ly/2jmISlN
  10. See for example: Longshanks, Sven. 2014. “The Genocidal EU Plot and the Jews Behind It.” The Daily Stormer, April 17, http://bit.ly/2jxwUJg
  11. For a review and synopsis of his research and its influence on the far right, see: Michael, George. 2006. “Professor of Kevin MacDonald’s Critique of Judaism: Legitimate Scholarship or the Intellectualization of Anti-Semitism?” Journal of Church and State, Vol. 48, 779–806.
  12. According to the most recent rankings of eBizMBA (an internet site that ranks the popularity of websites), his Infowars was ranked number seven for the “most popular political websites.” http://bit.ly/2k0GnY4, accessed January 22, 2017. It is worth mentioning that there have been some examples in which people outside of the political right have been attracted to or interacted favorably with Jones. In January of 2016, for example, Louis Farrakhan—the leader of the Nation of Islam—gave a lengthy and very cordial interview to Jones. They two found common ground on a number of issues including their shared opposition to globalism. Jones was highly critical of the presidency of George W. Bush and advanced a number of 9/11 conspiracy theories implicating the CIA which endeared himself with some people on the political left. For example, Jones was a guest on Jesse Ventura’s television show Conspiracy Theory. A former professional wrestler and governor of Minnesota, Ventura has advanced a number of positions and conspiracy theories that are popular among those mainly in the political left.
  13. The Illuminati was founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776. Its worldview was similar to that of Freemasonry. Although Bavarian authorities dissolved the organization in 1785, many conspiracy theorists allege that it still exists, albeit in different guises. See for example: Robertson, Pat. 1991. The New World Order. Dallas, TX: Word Publishing.
  14. See for example: Martinez, Brandon. 2015. “Alex Jones vs. David Duke: Some Thoughts.” Counter-Currents, August 20, http://bit.ly/2jmOmwX
  15. Dicker, Rachel. 2016. “Avoid These Fake News Sites at All Costs,” US News & World Report, November 14, http://bit.ly/2fdOe0y; Roy, Jessica. 2016. “Want to keep fake news out of your newsfeed? College professor creates list of sites to avoid.” Los Angeles Times, November 15, http://lat.ms/2f2QIlH; Mencimer, Stephanie. 2015. “PizzaGate Shooter Read Alex Jones. Here Are Some Other Fans Who Perpetrated Violent Acts.” Mother Jones, December 12, http://bit.ly/2gQJ5xa
  16. Anglin, Andrew. 2016. “A Normie’s Guide to the Alt-right.” The Daily Stormer, August 31, http://bit.ly/2bDa4J2
  17. See: Hess, Amanda. 2016. “For the Alt-Right, the Message Is in the 17 Punctuation,” New York Times, June 10, http://nyti.ms/2jdIafr and: Roy, Jessica. 2016. “How ‘Pepe the Frog’ went from harmless to hate symbol.” Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-pepe-the-frog-hate-symbol-20161011-snap-htmlstory.html
  18. Stein, Joel. 2016. “How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet.” Time, August 18, http://ti.me/2bzZa9y
  19. Meyers, Lawrence. 2011. “Politics Really is Downstream from Culture.” Breitbart, August 22, http://bit.ly/2kanAvI
  20. Altman, Alex. 2016. “How Donald Trump is Bringing the Alt-Right to the White House.” Time, November 14, http://ti.me/2gxGgkF
  21. Solov, Larry. 2015. “Breitbart News Network: Born in the USA, Conceived in Israel.” Breitbart, November 17, http://bit.ly/1NYURm4
  22. Joel Stein, “Milo Yiannopoulos is the Pretty, Monstrous Face of the Alt-Right,” Bloomberg, September 15, 2016, http://bloom.bg/2cXKQLM
  23. Yiannopoulos, Milo. 2016. “Science Proves It: Fat-Shaming Works,” Breitbart, July 5, http://bit.ly/29rzkFa; Yiannopoulos, Milo. 2015. “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” Breitbart, December 8, http://bit.ly/1RV5KXu
  24. Lees, Matt. 2016. “What Gamergate should have taught us about the ‘alt-right’.” The Guardian, December 1, http://bit.ly/2kBCFYa
  25. Paglia, Camille. 1990. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. New York: Vintage Books, 38.
  26. Yiannopoulos argues that many of the younger activists are actually quite tolerant of homosexuality, race-mixing, and diversity. But they obtain gratification by watching the mayhem and outrage that erupts when they violate taboos in contemporary discourse. Bokhari, Allum and Milo Yiannopoulos. 2016. “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” Breitbart, March 29, http://bit.ly/1UDhGjA
  27. O’Brien, Luke. 2016. “My Journey to the Center of the Alt-right.” The Huffington Post, November 3, http://huff.to/2etgf7l
  28. Stein, Joel. 2016. “Milo Yiannopoulos is the Pretty Monstrous Face of the Alt-Right.” Bloomberg Business Week, September 15, http://bloom.bg/2cXKQLM
  29. Morgan, Adam. 2017. “Publishing Milo Yiannopoulos’ book is wrong. My magazine is fighting back.” The Guardian, January 4, http://bit.ly/2iaCVZu
  30. Anglin, Andrew. 2016. “The Final Solution to the Milo Problem.” The Daily Stormer, September 27, http://bit.ly/2jxt5nG
  31. The fourteen words credo advanced by David Lane—“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”—became a call for action for racial activists around the globe. The number ‘88’ stands for the eighth letters of the alphabet—‘HH’—which signifies ‘Heil Hitler.’ For more on David Lane and his revolutionary strategy, see: “David Lane and the Fourteen Words.” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, Vol. 10, No. 1, (2009), 41–59.
  32. Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” Breitbart, March 29, 2016, http://bit.ly/1UDhGjA
  33. United States Census Bureau. 2015. “New Census Bureau Report Analyzes U.S. Population Projections,” March 3, http://bit.ly/1Eekwmx
  34. George Michael, “Fighting for an Aryan Homeland: Harold Covington and the Northwest Front,” The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, Vol. 20, No. 4 (2014), 30–37.
  35. Vegas Tenold, “The Little Führer: A Day in the Life of the Newest Leader of the White Nationalists,” Al Jazeera America, July 26, 2015, http://bit.ly/1MwfFkt
  36. Zubrin, Robert. 2015. “Putin’s Rasputin: Meet Aleksandr Dugin, Mystical High Priest of Russian Fascism.” Skeptic, Vol. 20, No. 2.
  37. The so-called identitarians endeavor to develop a form of white nationalist bereft of notions of supremacy. Furthermore, identitarians tend to be more socially liberal than the forbears.
  38. Fukuyama, Francis. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press.
  39. Dugin, Alexander. 2012. The Fourth Political Theory. London: Arktos.
  40. Ahmari, Sohrab. 2016. “How the Kremlin Sees Trump’s Re-Reset with Moscow,” The Wall Street Journal, November 20, http://on.wsj.com/2g4X7vU
  41. Francis Fukuyama, “US against the world? Trump’s America and the new global order,” Financial Times, November 11, 2016, https://www.ft.com/content/6a43cf54-a75d-11e6-8b69-02899e8bd9d1
  42. Coincidentally, Trump won the election on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. A number of commentators viewed this coincidence with a sense of foreboding. Cristina Silva, “What Is Kristallnacht? Trump Elected President On Nazi Anniversary,” International Business Times, November 9, 2016, http://bit.ly/2kuaVkT
  43. Alex Altman, “How Donald Trump Is Bringing the Alt-Right to the White House,” Time, November 14, 2016, http://ti.me/2gxGgkF
  44. Lombroso, Daniel and Yoni Applebaum. 2016. “‘Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President-Elect.” The Atlantic, November 21, http://theatln.tc/2gajNZY
  45. Gray, Rosie. 2017. “A ‘One-Stop Shop’ for the Alt-Right.” The Atlantic, January 12, http://theatln.tc/2jGkP1U
  46. Ryan, Josiah. 2016. “‘This was a whitelash’: Van Jones’ take on the election results,” CNN, November 9, http://cnn.it/2fGnwA4
  47. In fact, a slightly smaller percentage of whites (58 percent) voted for Trump in 2016 than for Romney (59 percent) in 2012. Trump managed to prevail in the election by garnering slightly higher proportions of black and Latino voters than Romney garnered in 2012. See: Tyson, Alec and Shiva Maniam. 2016. “Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education.” November 9, http://pewrsr.ch/2fyPSvu
  48. Russell Mead, Walter. 2017. “The Jacksonian Revolt.” Foreign Affairs, January 20, http://fam.ag/2jhYnfB
  49. Meko, Tim, Denise Lu, and Lazaro Gamio. 2016. “How Trump won the presidency with razor-thin margins in swing states.” The Washington Post, November 11, http://wapo.st/2fLaxwO
  50. Hananoki, Eric. 2016. “The Complete History Of Donald Trump’s Relationship With The White Nationalist Movement.” Media Matters for America, August 18, http://mm4a.org/2bfcbWJ
  51. Downs, Caleb. 2016. “For white nationalists, Trump win a dream come true, says alt-right leader from Dallas.” Dallas News, November 16, http://bit.ly/2fJ34xE
  52. Gray, Rosie. 2017. “A ‘One-Stop Shop’ for the Alt-Right.” The Atlantic, January 12, http://theatln.tc/2jGkP1U
  53. Alinsky, Saul. 1972. Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. New York: Vintage Books.
  54. Smith-Spark, Laura. 2017. “Protesters rally worldwide in solidarity with Washington march,” CNN, January 21, http://cnn.it/2kcUj4q
  55. Robert, Kaplan. 1994. “The Coming Anarchy.” The Atlantic Monthly, February. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1994/02/the-coming-anarchy/304670/
  56. Huntington, Samuel. 2004. Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.

56 Comments

  1. boydconklin says:

    Oh my, well my definition of alt-right is different than the one the author hangs on it. It has little to do with the Republicans (the right) that have been in the halls of government since Goldwater. To me it is the Tea Party, Ron Paul, and such not the Aryan Nation types as you paint it, but nothing new the powers that be (Republicans, Democrats, media and corporate/government cronyism) have been creating that meme for the last decade. Racist, misogynist, xenophobe, Islamaphobe, climate denier, lgbtqaphobia, lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my! Finally a group of people has come forward and added a bit of humor to the sticks and stones, and come up with a Trump White House, let’s see if we can get a repeat in 2020 and then maybe 2X Bannon. We’ll see how it all plays out although I am glad to finally get a look at a politician that does not appear to me to be self absorbed.

    • Howard says:

      Did you just seriously just say Trump is NOT self-absorbed??!

    • SkeleTony says:

      Seriously kiddo, the ‘racist’ contingent of the ‘Alt-right’ is not a meme created by Progressives. Did you ever even read the shit Steve Bannon posted regularly at the Breitbart site?! Did you not notice that 100% of the people at ‘Stormfront’ were pushing for Trump and calling anyone who did not join them ‘(race)traitors’? Trump STILL has not denounced the racists (and the author of the above article seems very poorly informed about this aspect) of the KKK, Skinheads, White Nationalists who supported him. This is troubling because imagine you are running for office when NAMBLA comes out saying you are the only hope for the pedophile movement. Would you not denounce such people immediately?

      • Kamwick says:

        kamwick

        The author does seem to be going out of his way to be an “objective apologist” for what is actually full blown bigotry reaching its zenith in America.

  2. Jerry Solberg says:

    The democrats. Their connection to the formation of the KKK? Disgusting. Where are their apologies?

    • SkeleTony says:

      The Democratic party back then was the CONSERVATIVE party and the Republicans were the ‘Progressive/Liberal’ party (Lincoln being the most famous representative of this fact). This did not change until the 20th century and was all in all a gradual change. JFK for example was a Conservative Democrat (though FDR was a bit Liberal). It was not until the whole equal rights movement of the 1960s that some Democrats openly feared they had “Lost the south forever” by siding with blacks on the civil rights battlefront.

      So yes, the KKK were Democrats back then and now there is not a Democrat among them anywhere.

      Which is all but meaningless really as the important distinction here is between Conservatives and Liberals, not between Democrats and Republicans as most Democrats are moderate-to-Conservative with a few Liberals here and there while 90% of all Republicans are Conservative (with a very few Liberals) and another 9% are ‘moderate’ (while still Right-leaning).

    • Kamwick says:

      Jerry, dude, you’re half a century too late. And their descendants have become GOP and the new white supremacists. Disingenuous much?

  3. David Penpen says:

    Man is this article a load of BS. I’m done with Skeptic. I should have quit after Shermer went loony and let his gun control agenda out. Looks like Skeptic has been taken over by the far left, just like 90% of other media. So long.

    • Jerry Solberg says:

      That’s a great idea. I’m also out. These clowns just don’t understand. I’ve been so brainwashed by the MSM. Thanks David.

    • Ray Madison says:

      Promise?

    • SkeleTony says:

      Wow. While it is interesting that a rationalist/skeptic like myself read the article and found it to be too apologetic towards the alt-Right absurdists and you somehow saw the exact opposite, the real alarming thing here is that you feel skepticism should no longer involve finding the truth, regardless of where it lies on a political spectrum and instead should just blindly cater to (Alt-Right) Conservatives.

  4. Confused says:

    Did I miss something? When I look around, Jews are actually “white”. The author seems to conflate “white” with Christian…? So what is the movement? Are we talking about race or religion or both here? I am more confused now than before I read the article…

    • amoron says:

      Confused, the only reason it’s “white Christians” is because they socially network. It’s a consequence of a broad swath of society that believes the rest of the country is being mislead by partisan news they confuse with propaganda and actual propaganda. They seem to miss the point that their sources are less interested in truth than partisanship and profit. The same can be said of Skeptic, only Skeptic actually bothers with digging up sources to support its biases.

      A still notable but smaller segment is interested in end times eschatological views and the alt-right media serves the function of echoing their pre-existing beliefs about the violent and immoral ways world in the last days.

      David, welcome back to the real world. Skeptic was always an advocacy group. It went against honest skepticism when Shermer restated the mission of the magazine as being to pander to audience demand for coverage of anti-religion topics and largely trite topics like Cryptozoology. Shermer enriches himself using the non-profit Skeptic to promote his own book sales and blog.

      • SkeleTony says:

        amaron,

        Can you substantiate anything you said about Shermer or are you just another Trump supporter who is mad that the world rightly thinks you an imbecile?

  5. Joseph Ratliff says:

    More varying degrees of blame, using talking points, instead of any real answer to “why” the Alt-Right is gaining notoriety (which creates the “polarization” aimed for in the title).

    Things like the “alt-right” don’t get this far unless the atmosphere is conducive to it. That’s what the American public needs to explore.

    There are reasons the alt-right exists, and instead of writing a feature that helps the U.S. “look in the mirror” … this article covers talking points that have already been beaten to death.

    This is a better explication of the alt-right (although sympathetic): http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/03/29/an-establishment-conservatives-guide-to-the-alt-right/

    The Federalist challenges it here: http://thefederalist.com/2016/04/14/you-cant-whitewash-the-alt-rights-bigotry/

    And adds why academia may have helped create it: http://thefederalist.com/2016/12/22/american-academy-helped-create-alt-right/

    I expect skepticism (examining the full spectrum of evidence for and against) and not expression of political affiliation from Skeptic magazine. This article failed to deliver.

    • SkeleTony says:

      Joseph Ratcliff,

      Waitaminute…did you just cite Breitbart as having a “better explanation…” of the alt-right?!

      Isn’t that a bit like citing a Naturopathy web site as having a better explanation of ‘alt-medicine’ than skeptical sites?!

  6. Mals says:

    No mention of gun control. Perhaps attacking the second amendment was not a wise choice for the Democrats.

    • SkeleTony says:

      Seriously kids, I understand you love guns. Probably were raised with guns and taken hunting as children and so forth. I know a LOT of gun owners (legal gun owners) and most of them are rational enough and mature enough to not be a great danger to the rest of us.

      But let’s be honest here. Guns are tools designed and produced for killing and that is all they are for. They are very highly unlikely to be ever used for self defense or protecting anyone and are several times more likely to be used to kill innocent people.

      No one is trying to take your guns away and your paranoia seems a lot like the irrational Black lives Matter position that there are a large number of cops behaving badly/racist (most of the cases they hold up as examples are innocent police officers doing their jobs correctly and having to physically confront a dangerous criminal who happens to be black.). Gun control is simply the acknowledge that it is not a good idea for masses of people (with absolutely NO critical thinking skills) to have assault rifles capable of mowing down dozens of innocent people in mere seconds. We can observe the effects of this lack of control right now where we have seen mass shootings committed almost every week here in the USA.

    • Kamwick says:

      Give evidence that they actually did this. EVIDENCE. Not just the hysterical ramblings of a group that somehow has not had a single precious gun taken away despite eight years of Obama’s “tyranny”. This is a true red herring and doesn’t work with thinking people,

  7. Martin Cohn says:

    Ah another “alt-right” article from the alt-left media. SMDH

  8. Hypatia says:

    As pointed out by some of the previous comments, many people from the alt-right no longer wish for racially separated states. They are looking forward to a permanent dissolution of the American democracy in all states, effected by a Trump government, where trolls and militias rule.
    They will be employed by the unregulated, climate destroying, water polluting, wall and prisons building, and rabidly speculating enterprises, and they will be paid by taxes exacted from the non-wealthy majority of the population with no rights.
    Not much different, when you think of it, from a traditional feudal system.

  9. nonskeptic-society says:

    The only thing this article makes me skeptical of, is the Skeptics Society! What does this article have to do with skepticism? This is not why I joined the Skeptic Society. Stick to debunking things. The Skeptic Society should not be about politics; It should be about objectivity. Articles like this brand the Skeptic Society as just one more outlet with a political agenda. I am not interested. There are better, more objective, places to go for that. The Skeptic Society should stick to its mission and leave politics to the pundits.

  10. JP says:

    Didn’t expect the Skeptic Society to be part of The Megaphone, yet here it is, set to 11…

  11. The Scoundrel says:

    “Only in a Soviet-style break-up scenario could white nationalists establish the independent mono-racial states that they so desire.” PLEASE give white nationalists Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan, Arkansas and Iowa. ;-)

  12. amoron says:

    I think a key point I’ve heard echoed elsewhere is that the issues of abortion, immigration, global warming, welfare programs, and gay marriage have become so polarized or otherwise widely accepted as parts of the American value system that we’ve created a new disenfranchised political class that is neither distinctly democrat nor mainline republican. The disenfranchised are looking for an ALTERNATIVE position that makes no compromises on at least one controversial position of importance to them.

    Another segment is polarized by the very plausible fear of a sudden economic collapse leading into yet more Executive Office excesses including gun control or confiscation and martial law. In my opinion, Obama’s love of the executive order for the promotion of agendas is a direct response to the erosion of Presidential power by Congress. Yet the unconventional means of promoting the progressive position promotes fear among the disenfranchised alt-right group.

    Another major factor is explained by “The Russian Firehose of Falsehood” propaganda model described in the Rand document PE198. RT has a $300 million budget for English language propaganda relying on current principles of social psychology while maintaining zero commitment to consistency and objective reality. PE198 probably explains the origin and spread of the alt-right media better than this article does.

    • Howard says:

      Obama issued fewer executive orders than Clinton, and about the same as Bush 43 (and 1/10 as many as FDR..). Why is this suddenly and issue now?

  13. amoron says:

    Traditional models of propaganda sought factual accuracy to remain believable while the new model used by RT relies on social psychology and repetition minus solid source attribution to proliferate falsehoods. These false hoods are, coincidentally, cheap to proliferate and the most profitable means of promoting online media (i.e. good click bait). Profit motive drives the alt-right news market which mutually reinforces the intentional distortions our outright lies originating with other news outlets like RT. Regardless, none of this would be believable if we were not a deeply cynical nation willing to believe anything but the truth (e.g. our government is always evil and Putin is always good). I used to call cynicism, “realism” but it’s now apparent to me that cynical attitudes distort reality if not carefully structured (e.g. the Stoic philosophy).

  14. Shawn says:

    This is another well researched informative article. Great job. Keep it up😊

  15. David says:

    An excellent, well-referenced article. With all the alt-reporting on the Alt-Right, it is refreshing to have a more sober recitation of this cultural/political phenomena. The comments claiming this article is a leftist critique, betray either their own partisan blinders or lack of reading skills.

  16. T. Foster says:

    Where do you go to get your alt-right membership card? Oh, I see, sharing any general political agendas such as gun ownership, much lower taxes, tight borders, abortion limits and maximum personal freedoms that offend any minority are what qualifies you. Like it or not, you are then, as in this article, grouped with actual Nazis, actual racists, actual violent criminals as your moral equivalents. How convenient for smug dismissal.

    Why wasn’t this piece published in the New Yorker? They specialize in TL-DR pseudo academic rants like this, but without the footnotes.

    In fact, there is no actual alt-right anything. It’s a tar and feather package deal intended to ensnare and debunk political opponents including those presently in the White House.
    The bogus political spectrum model, extending from the angelic left to the satanic “extreme” right is the convenient construct behind it. It’s pitiful that so much of the academic/journalist/intellectual sphere is trapped in this rut. I’ll respect them again when they see through what used to be taught as Informal Fallacies in Logic 101.

  17. charlie says:

    I didn’t spend a lot of time digesting this article, but my impression is ” are you out of your rabbit-assed mind”? This is a truly destructive article, which will further polarize and divide our people. I have always thought that”liberal” was a descriptive word that referred to those who took a broad look at every issue, taking the time to see the merits of each point of view. This approach encourages more central positions, taking the best from everything. We have degenerated to a group of “one-string banjos”, just blindly accepting what our “heroes ” say. No thought just blind ignorance. Shame on you , and on all of us. We are headed for the crapper. This Skeptic site is a worthless piece of s—. I’ve read it for several years, and have been growing weary and angry at the nonsense here.

  18. Bob Pease says:

    how does the latest trend qualify aS “Skeptic” material ????

    Skepticism involves accepting or reserving judgment
    based on the quantity, quality and reliability of evidence.

    Bob Pease is regarded as “Radical Left” but I certainly would like to read articles here which are on
    topic.

    I don’t need or want long political raves and associated hysterical comments.

    Better venues exist for this

    R.J. Pease aka Dr. Sidethink or Pope Bobby II

  19. skeptics vs ostriches says:

    By definition, a skeptic is “someone who habitually doubts beliefs and claims presented as accepted by others, requiring strong evidence before accepting any belief or claim.”

    So how could a true skeptic ignore the Trump agendas, supported by the alt-right,
    of promoting ‘alternate facts’ as opposed to facts based on evidence?
    Of accusing fact-checking journalists of being the ‘worst’ people?
    Of discarding the work of professional intelligence analysts as irrelevant?
    Of muzzling government scientists from publishing their work?
    Of nominating an Education Secretary who has financially shown to prefer religious schools over public schools, and believes in ‘alt-medicine’ treatments?

  20. T. T. Rothach says:

    I agree with many of you that this article is inappropriate. I’ve noticed that more and more of eSkeptic (the issues about Muslims and porn are cringe-worthy) are getting “off topic,” shall we say?

    A pro-science, educational, skeptical organization like the Skeptics Society has no business writing stuff like this, that concluded by giving support to an elected official. The same elected official whose pick for the next director for the E.P.A. has said on more than one occasion that climate change is a hoax-or, when under pressure, that the science “isn’t in.” Let alone the stories I’ve heard about the E.P.A. making copies of everything because they’re afraid Pr. Trump will wipe the hard drives, and the recent news about the E.P.A. being ordered to remove its pages on climate change.

    The Skeptics Society, who have advocated for climate science and the reality of climate change for years, have nothing to say about this? Only, “Pr. Trump is trying to unite the nation”?

    Hm.

    Nowadays, I mostly get the magazine for the Jr. Skeptic articles because they’re actually educational and informative, unlike the rest of the mag, which usually references issues that don’t concern my life.

    I’ll share with you a funny thing that illustrates the problem with the Skeptics Society:

    Last night, I watched an episode of “Last Week Tonight” hosted by John Oliver. It was called “Scientific Studies.” It wasn’t so much a criticism of scientists who cut corners in their research (though there was some of that), but a calling out on the media who misinform the public on what these studies actually say.

    One example he provided was an issue of Time Magazine, who published an article in July 2014 entitled “Smelling Farts Prevents Cancer.”

    That was so outrageous, even for Mr. Oliver, that I had to check it out. And he was telling the truth-that actually happened. During the episode, he got into how to interpret scientific studies, and how to tell the difference between good and sloppy research.

    And that’s just it: this profanity-strewn satirical program adheres more closely to the principles of skepticism than the Skeptics Society does now.

    Your organization’s purpose is to give power to the people so that they know when the media is deliberately cherry-picking facts from scientific studies to make ridiculous headlines in order to boost their ratings because the network is threatening to cancel their show. Or to know when corporations are lying about the side-effects of their products so people won’t die from toxic chemicals or from preventable illnesses because they took honey drops disguised as the latest pneumonia cure- not to tell us to stop buying porn and start spying on our Muslim neighbors, and how you give your full support to this or that elected official.

    Doing so makes me question where the Skeptics Society gets most of its money, and if the Society has begun to pander to anti-scientific and anti-skeptical interests.

    Maybe we should start asking to see Dr. Shermer’s tax returns.

  21. Robert Sheaffer says:

    So, this current “polarization” of our politics is entirely due to right-wing fanatics, and has nothing to do with the intolerance of the left? Might the fact that most of the left is completely intolerant of any disagreement and replies to differences with invectives instead of arguments, be part of the reason?

    It takes two to polarize….

  22. t paine says:

    I just read that so I could find out who goes in the Alt Right box.
    Everybody? Nobody?
    Quoting kooks and “some people say…” authors?

    Somebody ought to start at the beginning and define these boxes we seek to put ourselves and others in. And do a much better job than this author.

    The definitions change over time and may not mean what you think they mean. ie; classic liberal vs modern liberal

  23. Richard Dale says:

    Guilt by association? Trump won because the flaky fringe got behind him? Is it possible the author missed the forest by looking at the wrong trees?

    What about the theory that a whole crowd of middle America just got fed up and “voted the bums out?”

    Whether it is salvation for our country or frying-pan-to-fire remains to be seen.

    (Although at the very least progressive losers are far more entertaining than conservative losers.)

  24. Anthony Hogg says:

    This was an excellent insight into the rise of a highly disturbed and—let’s face it—neo-Nazi movement.

    I see nothing wrong with Skeptic covering political matters, provided they are fair, balanced and objective. This piece was not biased; it only provided historical context for the rise of the alt-right movement.

    If anything, many of the commentators here, whining about “leftism,” reveal how important articles like this are. So, thank you, George.

    • Guerilla surgeon says:

      I’m a little sick of this “alt right” stuff myself. It’s just a made up word that they decided to adopt to avoid being called neo-Nazis. I don’t even give a shit about fine distinctions, to me they’re just all neo-Nazis. Life’s too short to figure out all the minor variations they use to distinguish their little group from everyone else’s.

  25. Dolly says:

    Anthony, Stop smoking pot, its disturbing you. With George’s references being “The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic among others, you can’t claim a non-biased, historical article. What a joke. Its a completely biased opinion, not worthy of anything a group called skeptics should consider. Period.

    • Kamwick says:

      Hey Dolly, please explain and reference which part of those “biased” publications you mentioned are not actually factual. Don’t worry, we won’t hold our breath waiting.

  26. Anthony Hogg says:

    Dolly: “Stop smoking pot.” Case in point. You certainly can claim it’s non-biased. If you’re dismissing those sources, wholesale, without even establishing *why* they’re inaccurate, then *that* is bias.

    As stated, the article was discussing the historic context behind the rise of the alt. right movement. If the best criticism you can provide is that it cites a bunch of articles, or that I’m on a drug simply for pointing out that the article does what it does, then you are living proof why more articles like this are needed.

    Guerilla surgeon, I agree completely—except that the nuance is required to establish facts. George rightly calls it, for instance, a white nationalist movement. But’s one that clearly has a seedy underbelly not to mention overt racist overtones.

  27. Joe Shepherd says:

    Well, first off, this is rather fair and neutral compared to the usual drivel you get from the $PLC or ADL. The main problem is mixing in race realists like Jared Taylor with Jones and Infowars. Keep in mind that the alt-Right wants the same thing that the rest of you wanted when you chose a residence, namely to be with people who share their cultural and religious heritage. If you really want white supremacy then seek out the liberal white Democrats who are into The Sierra Club and watch The Daily Show since they always find the whitest places to live.

    Then there is your use of conspiracy theorist, as if it were a bad thing. It is only a problem for the Randi and Shermer tards who refuse to admit that they can exist. The reality is that they do believe in conspiracies like the Al Qaeda one but they just don’t use the C word.

  28. Simon says:

    To me, using the phrase “a much-maligned movement” smacks of maligned unjustly. White nationalism is rightly maligned because it is utterly malignant.

  29. BG says:

    So Donald Trump is “a candidate that repudiated identity politics and sought instead to restore national unity.” Surely you must be joking, Dr. Michael!

  30. Steve says:

    So really… How about the fact that the Democrats had an incompetent, lackluster candidate with no real vision. That was why many of us couldn’t vote for her. The rise of the alt Right is also mostly a myth. Even Michael Moore has a better handle on why this election turned out like it did. Most people who voted Republican had the feeling that they were being ignored by the elite establishment. We didn’t have any really good choices but one was a master of selling ideas. So some who supported Trump are alt Right…Guilt by association is not evidence of Trump being an alt Right. I see him as an opportunist who saw the political environment and took advantage of it. Face it Obama was weak like Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford rolled into one.
    Yes, I know some of the people Trump has selected like Betsy DeVos are just damn crazy and anti science and that bothers me too.

  31. awc says:

    Quietly into the night we go

  32. Geo says:

    How about some equality here. A better title…The Rise Of The Nut Cases. This whole article reads like a grand conspiracy of only the right. Why not a true story of both the right wing and left wing nut cases. Truly both sides have their share that are gullible of believing crap that is simply not true. Both seem to have no idea on how to employ critical thinking skills to decide what the facts are. The author (GEORGE MICHAEL) sadly doesn’t show the whole picture.

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