Why the ‘alt-right’ is coming out of online chat rooms to support Trump
August 25, 2016 at 6:30 PM EDT
Donald Trump is appealing to voters who reject mainstream conservative ideals. These members of the so-called “alt-right” have typically taken their frustrations to the internet, rather than to the polls.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in this country, both presidential candidates were in full attack mode today. At issue, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s alleged connections to a fringe conservative philosophy.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: That is what I want to make clear today. A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far, dark reaches of the Internet, should never run our government or command our military.
Bannon is on leave from his job as executive chairman of Breitbart News, a Web site Bannon has called a platform for something called the alt- right. It’s a movement that lives largely online, rejects mainstream conservative politics, and is linked to nationalist and white supremacist sentiments.
HILLARY CLINTON: All of this adds up to something we have never seen before. Now, of course, there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of arising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone, until now.
This farmer isn’t some obscurity who is only tangentially tied to a candidate, like, say, Rev. Jeremiah Wright happened to be Obama’s “spiritual adviser” for two decades. Nobody dared run ads in 2008 mentioning that Rev. Wright was the hero of a glowing chapter in Obama’s autobiography because that would have been McCarthyite guilt by association.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument: You’re racist, you’re racist, you’re racist. They keep saying it. You’re racist.
If you want to have strong borders, so that people come into our country, but they come in legally through a legal process, that doesn’t make you a racist. It makes you smart. It makes you an American.
For that, we are joined by Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news Web site, and from Manchester, New Hampshire, David Weigel, who covers national politics for The Washington Post.
And they started to grow in 2007, as the Bush administration was falling to below 30 percent, was seen as discredited, was obviously going to help Democrats win the next election. Ron Paul’s campaign seeded some of this, but it really grew under the presidency of Barack Obama.
And they’re fairly young people. This is, I think, what’s worrying for a lot of progressives and a lot of people on the right, fairly young people, under 25, under 30, who have only known the Republican Party as a disappointment. And they have gravitated to these ideas which are very anti-immigrant, very anti-intervention.
JOHN YANG: And they’re getting a lot of attention, Dave, because of the anti-Semitic and anti-white — or — and white supremacist rhetoric. How central is that to their message and to what they believe in?
Not every alt-right thinker or activist is a white nationalist, by far, but there’s a sense that political correctness is a bigger problem than racism, and that racism is used as a cudgel for silencing what they want to say, what they want to argue about.
That’s, again, an older idea. Before the alt-right, there were paleoconservatives, like Sam Francis, like Pat Buchanan, who argued this and said, look, what the left wants to do to America, how it wants to import lots of immigrants, decrease the number of traditional white Americans, what they want to do is not popular, and they have to kind of Trojan a horse through culturally, and we’re against that.
In contrast, Continetti, like all respectable conservatives, hates the very idea of hierarchies. Look at how Continetti’s father-in-law, William Kristol, came up the hard way from the ground up without a privilege in the world, what with being the son of Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb, getting hired by Dan Quayle, and having Rupert Murdoch give him millions to start a magazine.
The next thing these pathetic freaks will be telling you is that men and women should ease off waging the War of the Genders against each other because they are happier when they are fraternizing with the enemy.
And so you start off from that political conclusion. And very quickly, when you read the rhetoric, it devolves into just outright racism, outright misogyny. So part of it starts with these ideas of Sam Francis, Joe Sobran, Pat Buchanan, that have been around since the end of the Cold War, really.’
There is a big alt-right presence on sites like 4chan and Reddit. And it was good that Matt mentioned the men’s rights movement. You could mention Gamergate. That was kind of a gateway for a lot of activists who consider themselves alt-right.
So, they supported Trump in the first place. The more direction came when Steve Bannon, the CEO of Breitbart, became the CEO of Trump’s campaign. Breitbart, very, I think, in a calculated and then also in a natural way became a forum for alt-right thinking and alt-right coverage, coverage of politics the way that those 4chan and Reddit people wanted it covered.
Anyone who had a bone to pick with the George W. Bush administration, with the Republicans in Congress, with the editors of National Review, of The Weekly Standard now says, Trump is our guy. Trump is going to be the agent of change that legitimates our somewhat fringe, marginal ideas.
The little people in the conservative ranks must drop all this fringe, marginal nonsense about “hierarchies” and go back to obeying their betters, like in the good old days when Bill Buckley and Bill Kristol told them what they could think and who they could read, and they didn’t have the impudence to give the Bills any lip.
Now, is there a large constituency for these ideas? No. I mean, you can find it on the Internet, but the danger for the conservative mainstream is to say, oh, all of a sudden, since it’s on the Internet, maybe we need to incorporate it into our thinking.
Those bastards. Why isn’t there deference anymore toward the legitimate dynasties of Conservatism Inc., the Kristol-Continettis, the Podhoretzes? Why have people stopped reading Commentary? Just because the editor is an ill-tempered idiot shouldn’t stop conservatives from doing their duty and reading his bad magazine. Look, JPod is the editor of Commentary because he’s Norman Podhoretz’s son. Doesn’t that mean anything to you people anymore?
MATTHEW CONTINETTI: I think it’s bottom-up, really. So, I don’t think you had the same gatekeepers that you did in the earlier media age, when there were one or two conservative magazines that published biweekly or monthly.
Now we live in the Internet, and it’s the Wild West. Anyone with an opinion, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, they can express themselves. They can put these opinions into the public sphere. And what we have found, much to the surprise of conservatives like myself, is, there is a large audience for this type of rhetoric, these types of ideas.
This is something that I think is very ugly. And I worry for the future of conservatism, that it may displace the more traditional mainstream conservatism that most Americans think of when they think conservatism for the last 30 years.
Dave, what’s the future of this movement? You say that they feel like this is their moment, with Donald Trump as the nominee. Regardless of what happens to Donald Trump in November, what’s going to happen to this movement?
And there will be an effort — I don’t think a cynical effort, I think in part a sincere effort — to say the reason he lost is because he embraced a lot of radical ideas that can’t win in America anymore, we need to get rid of those elements.
To key off what Matt was saying, it wasn’t like they were part of the conservative conversation, the mainstream conversation anyway. They weren’t writing for National Review. They weren’t writing for The Weekly Standard.