On the Rise of the Alt Right: How Conservatives Took Over the Internet
Most people, even those who still blindly consume the talking points of the mainstream media, have by now heard the term ‘alt right’. In recent months a great deal of analysis has been written over exactly what this movement represents and where it fits into the modern political scene.
Is it the ‘new counter culture’ to the mainstream left? As hippies and feminists were to conservative America in the sixties? Will it be as fleeting as the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street, or will this movement stay around for multiple elections? Did it get Donald Trump elected?
The alt right is many things. The simplest way to think of it is as a long overdue rebellion to the choking political correctness of most mainstream parties in the west today. Over the last twenty years the liberal media establishment have made a concerted effort to shrink the Overton Window (defined as the range of opinions which it is publicly acceptable to debate). With a few exceptions, such as Fox News, conservatives were simply no longer allowed on television – so they took over the internet instead.
The internet has not proved immune to the law of unintended consequences. To liberals, it’s horrifying. The web used to be their ground. Yet in 2016 the number one site by social media engagement (defined as Facebook likes, Twitter shares and so on) was the conservative oriented Breitbart.com. Its Alexa ranking is now within the top 300 sites, making it one of the biggest single news sources in the world – and it was founded in 2007.
For the liberal establishment, it’s an unexpected attack from behind, just when they thought their flanks were rapidly closing in on their opponents. As someone active in the alt right for a number of years, Donald Trump’s election was far from unexpected. I had my money on him (literally – on Sportsbet) from the moment he started leading the polls for the GOP nomination in July 2015. For those who weren’t paying attention however, the shock was comparable to 9/11.
The alt right has many different elements. It’s a place where, unlike the drivel of the mainstream press, big issues can actually be debated freely. It’s a bit like the modern, online incarnation of a Parisian Café in 1900. Its where all the malcontents and the disenfranchised are slowly gathering – and people are plotting radical change. Maybe multiculturalism simply doesn’t work? Maybe white people were actually instrumental in building nearly every aspect of the modern world? Maybe feminists are just bitter old hags and have made up ‘the patriarchy’ on which to blame all their problems?
Everywhere you look, the alt right is expanding rapidly, and this is only more true when attacked. British journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, considered one of the most prominent spokesmen for the movement, has 1.8 million Facebook followers. A few weeks ago it was 1.5 million, before left-wing students rioted when he was due to make a speech at UC Berkeley, making nationwide headlines. Likewise, when footage went viral of a man punching white nationalist Richard Spencer in the face, his Twitter followers jumped from around 35,000 to 50,000 in a matter of days. When pick-up artist Roosh V was banned from visiting Australia last year, his website Return of Kings garnered millions of new views, further spreading his philosophy of neomasculinity and critiques of third wave feminism. The alt right is a bit like the hydra, cut off one head, two more grow.
One of the most striking things about the movement is just how young its adherents are. They represent a new generation of conservative leaders. Yiannopoulous, Spencer and Roosh V are 33, 38 and 37 respectively. Conservative comedian Steven Crowder is just 29 and himself recently passed two million Facebook followers. Other under-35 conservative upstarts include Paul Joseph Watson, Ben Shapiro and Lauren Southern, who each garner between 200,000 and half a million Twitter followers.
Indeed, it is this ability to completely bypass the mainstream press that has made the alt right so dangerous in the eyes of liberals, and now has sparked a flurry of stories panicking about ‘the spread of fake news’. Donald Trump himself got elected using the power of the internet. With more than 20 million followers on both Facebook and Twitter, his tweets made automatic headlines. Like a Wall Street bank, he became ‘too big to fail’ and now it is CNN facing accusations that it is ‘fake news’.
New media inevitably joins hands with new politics. We all know how 2016 brought the Brexit referendum as well as the election of the God Emperor Trump. At the same time, it brought back Pauline Hanson in Australia, along with 3 brand spanking new One Nation senators. It saw the anti-immigrant ‘Alternative for Deutschland’ polling at 16% just three years after its founding, and now with representation in more than half of Germany’s state parliaments.
Speculation is of course rife on what 2017 will bring. The Netherlands has an election in March, with Eurosceptic Geert Wilders’ party polling in first place. He has promised to hold a referendum and follow Britain out of the EU. In April France goes to the polls, Marine Le Pen faces an uphill battle to win the Presidency against multiple opponents, but then so did Donald Trump. Her election would likely lead to the disintegration of the EU. While back here the polls show One Nation doubling its vote to 8%, equal to its 1998 figure.
It’s not hard to see why frustrated citizens have flocked to this new generation of nationalist parties and readily absorbed the media of the alt right. With every fresh Islamic terrorist attack in Europe, the open borders policy of the EU takes another blow. With every news report on the African youth crime spree in Australia, One Nation’s poll numbers jump a few points. With every act of left-wing violence against an alt right figure, a few hundred thousand more people are exposed to our ideas. Today’s youth have grown up in a culture of broken families, social dysfunction and a toxic media determined to pin the blame for everything on straight white males. Is it any wonder they’re finally fighting back?
The liberal media has long accused conservatives of living in their own ‘bubble’. The only problem now is that so many people have become skeptical of the promises of feminism, multiculturalism, environmentalism, globalization, political correctness and social justice culture, that liberals have backed themselves into a corner. The PC police have ostracized so many groups they’ve inadvertently exiled themselves from the corridors of power, whether in America, Europe or Australia.
To those liberals still horrified by the rise of the alt right, the solution is rather simple. Only by toning down the more insane aspects of their ideology and once again engaging with the voters they have lost can they hope to regain power. Otherwise, they will face a well-deserved generation in the political wilderness.