Discussions on the term ‘alt-right’ both among the left and in the media have got more sophisticated in the past week. For example here is the Associated Press’s Blog discussing the term: https://blog.ap.org/behind-the-news/writing-about-the-alt-right
“Alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified as in the “self-described” or “so-called alt-right” in stories discussing what the movement says about itself.
Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.
That is a good move but I think it is still lacking. The problem is how to discuss differences without sounding like you are minimising some aspect of neo-Nazis or the alt-right.
Brianna Wu tweeted some criticism of the AP piece that highlighted the glaring omission in the AP’s description:
Nazis were misogynistic and the Alt-right are racist BUT the roles misogyny and racism play in those movements are different. It isn’t that somehow the misogyny of the Nazis was OK or a lesser evil or that the racism of the alt-right is not deeply disturbing – both movements are appalling in either dimension. However, the misogyny of the alt-right is more key to their identity and to their behaviour.
In addition, misogyny has been the gateway for the alt-right to recruit young men into a racist movement. The current alt-right has deep and continuing connections with misogynistic ‘men’s rights’ style movements as well as with the supposed pick-up artist groups and dodgy ‘self-improvement’ and pseudo-psychology. In each case, there is a strong element of the alt-right playing on sexual insecurities of young men.
At the same time, the alt-right have tended to prefer nationalism and racism to self-define their movement. For example, Vox Day’s 16 principles of the alt-right overtly includes a white-supremacist credo as point 14 (the number chosen to highlight the source). Yet women are the most consistent personal targets of Alt-right campaigns. Anti-women viewpoints (including views that promote or legitimise sexual assault) are central to their messaging. Even their anti-immigrant propaganda is centred on sexual fears – often phrased in terms that imply women are territory or property at risk of being stolen or violated that they see as properly belonging to white men.
In short, the alt-right seeks to exploit the sexual insecurities of men to recruit and promote an overtly racist agenda while targeting women and feminism for harassment.