The Alt-Right Fight

By: Kira Paley  |  January 2, 2017


College students like to one-up each other. They are constantly trying to outdo one another in the internships they apply for, the courses they take, and the large words and complex terms they throw around. To make themselves seem smarter, they employ the use of sesquipedalian terminology to embellish the less than ordinary points they are trying to get across.

This applies to many areas, but most of all, it applies to politics. With the political climate on campus changing due to the recent election and due to certain campus events, YU students are engaging in political discussion and debate both in person and online.

With tensions rising, people wanting to make their points stronger, or even perhaps simply due to the human tendency to call one another names, tend to put other students, and other people, into groups. On one end, there are the staunch liberals, on the other end, there are the staunch conservatives, and past that, there’s the alt-right.

Of course, this is not to say that YU students are going around calling other students members of the alt-right; as a college student, I am being a quintessence of myself by using extreme rhetoric to make a point. This is simply to say that it is important to know what a group is before you put someone into it.

The alt-right is an abbreviation for “alternative-right,” and loosely describes members to the far right of the political spectrum who reject mainstream American conservative ideology. It is important to note this distinction: if someone considers himself or herself politically conservative, he or she is not a member of the alt-right.

The conservative movement embodies positions like limited government and government economic involvement, the strict reading of the Constitution, and individual responsibility; the alt-right is categorized by these things, but also by white nationalism. Whereas conservatism is defined by its favor of tradition over radical social change, the alt-right’s defining factor is its racism. The alt-right is characterized by its white supremacy and is opposed to increased rights for women, non-whites, Jews, Muslims, gays, and immigrants. It opposes democracy’s idea that all people deserve equal rights. 

Since it is largely an online movement, the alt-right is known for its use of memes. Earlier in 2016, the popular meme Pepe the Frog, a green anthropomorphic drawing of a frog, became associated with the alt-right and was officially declared a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. Members of the alt-right also use triple parentheses online to identify Jewish names; for example, in an alt-right blog, Albert Einstein might be written as (((Albert Einstein))). Known as “echoing,” this practice is used to target Jews for harassment. Countless podcasts and news sites, like The Right Stuff, Red Ice Radio, and Counter Currents, exist as outlets for members of the alt-right to express their views.

The alt-right movement is unique in that though some members definitely believe in the ideologies that it represents, others are part of the movement because they see it as an alternative way to express extreme conservative beliefs. While many people in the alt-right are racists and white supremacists, others, like a number of Trump voters, associate with the movement because of its alternative nature.

Though labeling political groups is common, labeling the alt-right presents a problem: giving white supremacists their own title that is not inherently negative is almost normalizing their offensive ideologies. Alt-right sounds more like a rock band than a political group. By calling them the “alt-right” and not “racist anti-Semitic anti-Muslim extremists,” their staunchly discriminatory beliefs are not made immediately clear. When using the term alt-right, it is important to ensure that readers or listeners know what the term means.