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2016: The Year The Alt-Right Collapsed

I wrote a piece some twelve months back that claimed 2015 was The Year of the Alt-Right. What was a trivial fringe group of folks posting on a few select websites in 2014 had now become an expanding group of activists making serious inroads into mainstream politics. Many of their memes started to make their way into the larger culture and a growing awareness of the group was beginning to trickle into the conventional press.

Then came Trump. While many of us saw him as a narcissistic media personality running solely to increase his name recognition and stroke his own ego, the alt-right viewed him differently. Many prominent figures in the movement were early backers of his campaign and championed him on 4Chan, Reddit and Twitter. Trump may not have shared all of the alt-right’s views, but his tone and approach to politics seized the community’s style and capitalized on it.

I will be honest: I expected to write a piece celebrating in the crocodile tears of the alt-right when Trump was roundly defeated at the ballot box. I was going to make the argument that the racial and authoritarian politics made real in Trump could not win in a nation like the US. The alt-right would need to be banished back to the fringes of the Internet and never again be allowed a seat at the table in a major political party. We might debate some of their ideas and concepts in respectable halls of discourse like this, but their vision for the nation would never win the ear of a major political leader.

Sadly, it would be the alt-right’s troll army rejoicing in my tears on Election Day.

This group of dissidents had every reason to revel. They backed the candidate that few assumed would amount to much and helped propel him to victory over a league of capable mainstream Republicans. Even as every reckless comment Trump uttered through the years was brought to light, it failed to slow his advance. His complete impotence during the debates against Clinton failed to deter his voters from going out and selecting him to led the American people for the next four years.

Liberals, conservatives, and socialists had lost the fight. We were unable to stop a ridiculously appalling candidate, one that caressed the worst intuitions of our people, from taking the presidency. We need to undertake some soul-searching to better grasp what we stand for and why our compatriots should embrace our visions (and we stands for anyone not on the oligarch bandwagon).

While other political ideologies were left in despair, the alt-right believed it was within inches of real political power. Steve Bannon, who ran the alt-lite Breitbart website prior to advising Trump, was given a prominent role within the new administration. Folks like Mike Cernovich, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannapoulos found their brands rising as the media crowned them the voices of the new right in America.

With those notable successes under its belt, it may seem odd to pronounce 2016 the year the alt-right collapsed. Nevertheless, recent events have demonstrated the unlikelihood of this political association making any deeper inroads into American political life. It didn’t take long for the alt-right, a movement that embraced crass trolling and a rejection of decency as its core guiding principles, to let its intellectual façade down long enough to expose its ominous core.

In the now widely reported “coming out” event for the alt-right, Richard Spencer was videotaped giving a speech riddled with anti-Semitic and fascist themes; he was greeted with applause and roman salutes by many men in attendance, unironically sporting Hitler Youth haircuts.

The condemnations were swift and not just from polite society. Many prominent members of the alt-right came out against Spencer and his conference. Jared Taylor, Taki Magazine, RamZPaul and even his old mentor Paul Gottfried criticized Spencer and hoped to distance themselves from his group.

The alt-right continues to fracture. At what was to be the must-see event of the year, a whose-who of the movement were booked to attend the “Deploraball” in DC on Trump’s inauguration day. Instead, infighting and bickering has resulted in a much-publicized fight between factions of the Internet troll brigades.

The so-called alt-right movement descended into civil war on Monday after one of its largest figures was booted from an upcoming inauguration event following a series of tweets he wrote about the media being “run in majority by Jewish people.”

Tim Treadstone, an unabashedly alt-right social media personality better known as “Baked Alaska,” was disinvited from the “Deploraball” after publishing the tweets about Jewish people.

After being cut from the event, which initially featured him as a top guest, he lashed out on Twitter at fellow alt-right leaders, a sign of divide in the white nationalist, neo-Nazi, populist movement that backed President-elect Donald Trump.

Gideon Resnick at The Daily Beast adds:

These kinds of squabbles are typical of squishy revolutionaries, said [Richard] Spencer, who has earned global condemnation for his hardline racist views.

“The ‘Alt-Light’ faces a major problem,” Spencer wrote in an email to The Daily Beast. “People like Mike Cernovich and Milo don’t have an ideology; they don’t even really have policies that you can point to. They are Trump fans, who are vaguely conservative and a bit neocon-ish. They don’t like feminists and SJWs (social justice warriors); in other words, they pick the low-hanging fruit.

There you have it: embrace fascism and white nationalism or be a “cuck” like Milo and Cernovich, two of the most recognizable figures of the aforementioned movement. Within a few months, the alt-right went from attacking neoconservatives and the conservative establishment to attacking each other publicly.

This is the reality of any fringe political movement; having spent my youth in far-left political groups, I can tell you with authority that these personality and ideological conflicts take up significant time and energy for those involved. But it is dazzling how quickly the alt-right went from an unknown entity to national prominence, to near universal condemnation. You couldn’t have asked for a better coming out event for a movement whose claim to fame are racist and anti-Semitic smear campaigns on Twitter.

Right wing populism is here to stay; arguably it never went away. The ease in which Trump dismantled and then reoriented the Republican Party to fit his brand of thuggish politics is terrifying. Right wing parties are surging around the globe and winning converts and elections in places once deemed implausible. That worries me.

Yet, it is clear that the alt-right and its major proponents are not going to be the future of the right. Whether they are little more than personified Internet trolls or nicely dressed neo-Nazis, the aversion they have produced even within their own ranks is telling. When Donald Trump makes an effort to distance himself from you and your movement, you know you have crossed the Rubicon.

I did not get to savor the alt-right’s tears with a Trump loss, but I am appreciating them devouring each other in a fit of self-righteous dander and ineptitude. It’s good to know that even in Trump’s America, not everything goes.


Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father just north of San Francisco who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular contributor at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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43 thoughts on “2016: The Year The Alt-Right Collapsed

  1. Can we please have it settled that Trump only won because of the electoral method set up by the Constitution? In terms of Trump’s actual message, most Americans damned him to hell. He won because 70,000 to 80,000 votes in three states in a nation of 50 states and 320 million citizens because of the electoral college. Most Americans rejected the Alt-Right’s message. Trump is the American equivalent of Steven Harper, only in charge because of a technicality.

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    • Forget the Presidency. The R’s have a 6 seat majority in the Senate, and a 47 seat majority in the House. The Dems will be fighting a rearguard action for the next 2 years, at least.

      I’m no fan of the Republican Party, but you have to hand it to them. They’ve done the groundwork necessary to be where they are today.

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        • This is precisely the mindset that will keep the Dems on the outside looking in. Of course they’re doing it for their benefit, and to their way of thinking, it’s also for the benefit of their constituencies (at least one would hope so). Because you and I disagree with the policies they propose and enact is entirely beside the point. If the Democratic Party wants to be able to make policy and pass legislation it has to win the elections that will make that possible, something at which it has not been very good at lately.

          I imagine this is much how the Republicans felt in the ’30s.

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      • I don’t dispute this, but I think the number of Trump votes who were “flippable” would have been vanishingly small, making the likelihood that they were flippable within those strategic state of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan even more unlikely. Seems more likely to me that had these Trump voters been dissuaded from voting for Trump, most would have not voted at all, and a minority of the would have voted for a third party candidate (Johnson in all likelihood if Evan McMullin had not been on their ballots).

        It’s difficult for me to imagine a Trump voter saying, “No, you know what? Clinton’s my gal after all.” Just like it’s difficult for me to imagine a Clinton voter saying, “Yeah, Trump probably is a better choice,” and flipping in that direction.

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        • I would not expect any issue to alter solid Trump supporters. Could there have been fence-sitters up until election day in say Pennsylvania? Sure, and it would not have taken many vote “switches” there to change the outcome. About 1 in 300 voters.

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  2. Lee’s right. Trump won because of the faults of the electoral college. He is still the only U.S. President coming into the office without a honeymoon period. Now HRC’s campaign tactics might have caused some of the flukes but Trump in no way received the mandate from heaven. 2.84 million more Americans voted for HRC than Trump and we count as Americans even though we live in California, New York, Washington, etc.

    A lot of us also knew what the alt-right were from day one. We knew they were nothing more than spiffed up fascists and white supremacists because we are Jewish, Black, Asian, Latino, Women, LBGT, etc. I think you were a bit too enamoured with the idea of “people on the Right criticizing the Republicans” to see this at times in your old posts.

    I always saw the Vox Day’s and Richard Spencer’s of the world for what they were. So did many people. Yet “suave evil” has such a bind on many otherwise decent people.

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    • Come on Saul. If HRC had won, she wouldn’t have had a mandate either. 55% of eligible voters vote in presidential elections, ie, around a quarter to a third vote for the “winner” in the election. Hardly a “mandate”

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    • Trump won because of the electoral college.

      There, fixed it for ya. Calling it a fault is simply your point of view, and basically the point of view of most sore losers (not calling you one, per se).

      What did it do? It gave political power to a part of the country which *has not* benefited from the status quo, a part of the country which is very much not part of the political and cultural elite (NYC, Hollywood, and the Ivy Leagues).

      A political union requires that there not be too many imbalances. Else you get things like Spain, and Greece, and other peripheral EU nations. I believe the Electoral College is part of our success on that front.

      I support the

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        • For Pete’s sake, Trump nearly won the labor vote.

          We need to define “labor” and “working class” better

          Did Trump [almost] really win the vote of all the non-managerial workers? Short line cooks? Burger flippers? Trash collectors? assisting living workers? Waitresses? Fruit pickets? Call center employees? Shop assistants? Cab drivers? Flying attendants? Airport baggage handlers? Starbucks baristas? School and city bus drivers? USPS workers? Secretaries and receptionists?

          Or did he [almost] win the vote of industrial/mining union members (and, I’ll throw in for you, truck drivers), which are but a mere fraction of labor or the working class?

          Why wouldn’t all the other non managerial workers count as labor, then?

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  3. “I did not get to savor the alt-right’s tears with a Trump loss, but I am appreciating them devouring each other in a fit of self-righteous dander and ineptitude.”

    Indeed. And those of us on the more right of center/off that axis are enjoying the left’s hysterics and the “tyranny of the deplorables” as they bitch and moan about how the EC screwed them over and pull out knives looking for someone to pay for their loss. If HRC had gotten the votes of the people like Obama did, she’d be pres elect. The repubs threw up a narcissistic tool and it was her election to loose, and she did. I am looking forward to 4 years of the left and right stabbing their own in the back, trench warfare in congress, and the MSM campaigns to hound anything Trump does. It’s going to a rollercoaster of fun!

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  4. Is there any evidence that the alt-right is anything more than a faction of 100 people or less that the left has put in front of a wide screen projector?

    I don’t see it wise that grouping the millions that voted for Trump were under that banner, no matter how many times it appears to be repeated. Maybe clever strategically to frame it that way, but still not wise.

    There is no real mystery why the right voted high authoritarian after the left had done so for 8 years. All the leftist authoritarian posturing and economic stagnation foretold what was to come next. What is really comical is that Trump didn’t get much of the radical right vote, this was the mainstream red suburbia.

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  5. It didn’t take long for the alt-right, a movement that embraced crass trolling and a rejection of decency as its core guiding principles, to let its intellectual façade down long enough to expose its ominous core.

    I have no idea what this is trying to convey.

    The alt-right was never, at any point in time, close to being a serious political movement.

    , above, is wrong in suggesting that there’s only 100 of them, but he’s not *very* wrong…there are probably less than 100,000 of people who had any intersection with the alt-right at all, and 95% of that is people who, after looking around to make sure no one they know is watching, followed some people on Twitter, or at least followed some people who *retweeted* other people. They would perhaps learn some of the codes, and smile knowingly at the double parens or 88 or whatever other code words that had been invented, but that was it.

    And most of the *rest* of them were already-existing white supremacists who discovered a third, previous unknown option for white supremacists…it used to be either a) hiding that fact, or b) running around in white sheets or with 88 tattooed on their neck. But now they c) can just troll people on the internet.

    The alt-right never had any sort of intellectual facade. Some of the *most prominent people* in it pretended it had one, but it was obvious nonsense. Calling it a ‘facade’ is an insult to someone who spray paints ‘This is a house’ on a square piece of cardboard and leans it against a tree, because that’s a much more plausible facade.

    But Trump is a moron, and morons do not vet where their information was coming from, so he got information and memes and stuff from there. *Everyone* seems to have misinterpreted this. And I mean *everyone*…the left, the right, and the alt-right, all thought he was indicating he liked the alt-right.

    He didn’t.

    The weird thing is, he sorta agrees with some of their premises, but *doesn’t agree with their conclusion*. If he’s a racist, he’s an entirely different sort.

    If you were to somehow see inside his head, you’d see a lot of things that *normal* people think are antisemitic, and a lot of stuff about how people need really good genes. But the thing is, being genetically predisposition to the sort of things that antisemitics think Jews are predisposition towards…is a *good* thing inside his head. They’re clever bastards, like himself.

    Likewise, he probably doesn’t think that highly of the worth of most black people (Because they are poor, and thus obviously are losers), but he doesn’t see a *problem* with them. Same with Hispanic people. Poor people need to exist, who else is going to serve his food. And he might pre-judge people based on skin color, but if you happen to actually *be* a wealthy black person or Hispanic or whatever, he’ll shrug and conclude you’re one of the smart ones, and treat you mostly as a equal.

    We sorta forget, thanks to the hate-based racism being so much more obvious, that there’s other sorts. Trump is the other sort, probably. How much so, it’s hard to tell…he’s so *classist* that that fact tends to override everything else.

    But I don’t think Trump has any *antipathy* for different races, and it was sorta weird for everyone to come to that conclusion because he’s an idiot who tweets whatever catches his eye. He’s not part of the alt-right, he’s not even your racist grandfather, he’s your mom passing around fake news.

    And the alt-right managed to convince itself otherwise, and now is tearing itself apart.

    And, you know what? Let’s give credit to Donald Trump for being such a dumbass that he managed to cause a circular firing squad of horrible people.

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    • This is a good insight.

      I’m also suspicious that the alt-right has tapped into the same vein of manic je ne sais quoi that the Yippies seemed to have captured in 1968.

      And then, later, by punk rock in the 1970’s.

      It’s not that what they’re doing is funny.

      It’s that getting the establishment to stand up and say in a firm, clear voice “That’s not funny!” is usually good for a chuckle.

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      • I’m also suspicious that the alt-right has tapped into the same vein of manic je ne sais quoi that the Yippies seemed to have captured in 1968.

        And then, later, by punk rock in the 1970’s.

        Well, yes, except the Yippies managed to complain about *non-idiotic* things, whereas the alt-right is complaining that we don’t talk about how the Jews are running the country or how blacks are dumber than whites.

        And perhaps ‘non-idiotic’ is being seen through partisan eyes, true. But Yippies were just hippies that were expressly political, and at that point in time there was *tons* of popular support for those positions. (And they’re pretty much been justified by history. We’re even finally getting legal pot.)

        And there were plenty of actual victims, people dying in Vietnam, people getting arrested for pot, minorities and women being oppressed still, etc, etc.

        But, anyway, as my follow-up comment said, it’s less what the alt-right is doing, than that they have completely failed to set up any sort of *welcoming* system.

        Yippies could say ‘Join us and stop being victimized’. *As could Trumpism*, even if Trumpism made up facts to make Democrats some of the people doing the victimization.

        The alt-right could not do that, because you were probably a beta cuck that had been emasculated by women or brainwashed by Jews, or whatever the hell nonsense they were talking about.

        When you divide the world into ‘us-vs-them’, and talks about total war vs. them, you really need to make sure that ‘us’ outnumbers, or at least *can* outnumber, ‘them’. And work very hard to make sure it does.

        The alt-right isn’t even *trying* to do that. Everyone who is not currently them is explicitly the enemy. Thus, almost no one is going to be joining them.

        (This is also hurting Trumpism, but Trump is at least *vague* about enemies, and had not personally mocked *majorities* of people.)

        As for punk rockers…they mostly trolled their own fans, but, yes, they did wander around pissing some people off.

        But a music genre can happily exist with only 3% of the population liking it and everyone else hating it. A political movement cannot, or at least won’t get anywhere.

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        • Dude, they nominated a pig.

          As for the alt-right, I guess it depends on whether they actually are imploding or not. If they do implode and go away, to be seen no more (outside of an anonymous twitter account here or there), then they have been vanquished before Trump is even inaugurated.

          Whatever victories or losses we wish to assign to Trump henceforth, they’re alt-right independent.

          If, however (as I suspect), the alt-right has tapped into an anti-establishmentarian energy, then the big problem that the alt-right has is the same problem of the Yippies: they ran with prominent personalities. This, however, is a problem that now has sufficient technology to provide a solution.

          Imagine, if you will, a scenario in which the Yippies had the capacity to be Anonymous.

          The alt-right has this capacity.

          God help us all.

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    • I kinda wandered off into Trump racism and how it doesn’t match the alt-right’s. Getting back to the alt-right itself:

      The alt-right was never going to be a serious political movement, because it, fundamentally, was based on pissing people off.

      Political movements, at least ones in a Democracy, have to engender *sympathy*. People will not join a movement that does not engender their sympathy.

      It’s weird to even have to *explain* that. It’s like explaining that people will not purchase from a store that stabs them several times in the torso when they enter.

      What got people scared, I think, is that a lot of really horrible political movements are based in anger and pissing other people off, like the alt-right…but they did that by being sympathetic to ‘victims’ of the people they were angry with.

      ‘It is horrible that you have been victimized by those people! Join us, and we can destroy their grip on this country!’

      Like, indeed, Trumpism. Or like Na- (Wait, is Godwin’s law still in effect? Erm, nevermind.)

      But, despite people confusing Trumpism with alt-right-ism, the alt-right never have sympathy for *anyone*. Never. At all.

      They were a bunch of assholes with meme generators, and the people who lead them were entirely happy with that. They would attack people *who were almost entirely on their side*, because the point wasn’t to accomplish anything, it was to hang out and mock people.

      They were never getting *anywhere*, politically. (1)

      What basically happened, instead, is that some people in the alt-right saw how close Trumpism was to them, saw that Trump *didn’t seem to have a problem with them*, and saw that Trumpism *might have real power*, and tried to halfway jump ship over there, while still claiming that was alt-right.

      Thus building said circular firing squad.

      1) And that was just *one* of the reasons they weren’t getting anywhere. They were a little too much *overtly* Nazi, for another. While I do not know if something *exactly like Nazism* can ever end up in charge of this country, I do know that *something that calls itself that and praises Nazism* cannot, at least not for the next 50 years. The brand is too tainted.

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    • This seems more on the money. It’s never been clear to me that the alt-right exists as a meaningful faction for electoral purposes or that they got beyond some limited aesthetical alignment with the Trump campaign’s own online trolling.

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    • I think you have Trump’s flavor of racial understanding correct. I just read a piece that noted that his golf club in Palm Beach was one of the first, and only, to admit Jews and blacks.

      I think Trump has only two principles. They are “Kiss my ring” and “Give me a taste”.

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  6. LeeEsq:
    Can we please have it settled that Trump only won because of the electoral method set up by the Constitution?

    Trump didn’t win so much as progressivism lost. The democrat party stopped being the party of labor and worker’s rights a long time ago. Instead they became the party of insular urban enclave identity. Fashion, no more no less. Most people don’t live in the NYC bubble. Actually, it’s crystal clear coasters hate the people who grow their food.

    You can only call anyone/everyone you disagree with a racist and E-lynch them in public so many times before people will sour on your methods. The day the left and progressives accept that, is the day they can at least reset and become relevant again.

    Good luck with the global warming agit-prop. I’m sure you’ll do even better next cycle with a focus on that. Toodles!

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    • And here it is.
      No, Trumpists don’t want to actually, y’know, DO anything.
      They just hate coastal libruls.

      So even if they have to cut off their own Medicare, have Blue Cross once again deny them coverage for pre-existing conditions, see their minimum wage job disappear to China, have Social Security handed to Goldman Sachs, by God, it’ll be worth it just to see some coastal elitist’s head explode.

      As one of the coastal elitists, my head will indeed explode as I suffer the sweet tax cut Paul Ryan plans on giving me, which I will use to buy a new Trump branded suit made in China.

      Please, Mr. Heartland Murcan, have mercy on us.

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    • Then again, its usually those right wingers who do things like say, “Liberals aren’t Americans”, “Liberals need to be purged.”, “No one who votes for a Democrat is a patriot.”, and “When the shit hits the fan, thank goodness we’re the ones with the guns.”

      So, yeah, coastals look down their nose at the rural wingers, but the the ruralites are the ones usually calling for genocide.

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  7. Chip Daniels:
    have Social Security handed to Goldman Sachs

    It’s funny you would mention that. Why was Hillary accepting all those pay-for-play speaking gigs at NYC investment banks again?

    It’s always the same projection, again, again, and again. progressives projecting their worst fears onto everyone else. By the way, you guys didn’t campaign on any of those social safety net issues. Trump did. OOOOOh lordy, those rural rubes sure are dumb!

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  8. Saul Degraw:
    Trump won because of the faults of the electoral college.

    Cognitive dissonance. Keep telling yourself that. Your strategy and message were dumb. That’s why you lost. Go watch some more fake news.

    2016… Revenge of the white man.

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  9. While I agree with Joe Sal and DavidTC above that the alt right is probably not as numerous as some believe, they have been given a megaphone with this election. Even with Roland’s and others’ posts and comment threds on the alt right here, I only half paid attention and didn’t really know much about the alt right. Now they’ve been in the news and, if some are to be believed, have voice in the White House in Bannon.

    Not knowing much about the alt right, it probably behooves me to defer to those, like Roland, who have studied them. But I’m less optimistic than he his that the alt right’s apparent success now augurs their demise. My hypothesis is that a milder version of the alt right will gain a certain mainstream….not legitimacy….but a seat at the table. That would be a very bad development.

    I do see Roland’s point, though. And maybe withal he’s right.

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