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Based on my assessment of the 'alt-right', their values and beliefs do not differ significantly from that of more classic far-right populism/nationalism. They oppose immigration. They are nationalistic. They are opposed to globalization. Many proponents harbour explicitly anti-Semetic and racist views.

In my view, the term 'alt-right' is almost a euphemism to legitimize an extreme right-wing ideology which only a few years ago would have been entirely outside the bounds of reasonable political discourse.

Is there any difference between the far-right and the 'alt-right'? Are these two terms essentially synonymous?

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Is there any difference between the far-right and the 'alt-right'? Are these two terms essentially synonymous?

To answer your question succinctly, the so-called "alt-right" is "far-right", but a sort-of alternative far-right as an alternative to so-called "mainstream far-right". Far-right is essentially a superset which includes alt-right, so the alt-right are far-right, but the far-right are not all alt-right.

So no, they are not synonyms.

Defining exactly what the "alt-right" is beyond that however is a bit more complicated, as it is not a well-defined ideology, and those who identify as "alt-right" often make conflicting claims as to what it stands for. I expect the general consensus on what it is will evolve and perhaps solidify over the next few years, but for now there is some indication towards what it stands for.

Wikipedia offers a general overview which fortunately is heavy on citations, and appears to be the subject of considerable care on their part.

Alt-right

The alt-right (short for "alternative right") is a loose group of people with far-right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in the United States.[1][2] The alt-right has no formal ideology, although various sources have stated that white nationalism is fundamental.[1][2][3] It has also been associated with white supremacism,[4][5][6] Islamophobia,[7][8][9][10] antifeminism,[1][11] homophobia,[12][13][14] antisemitism,[1][2][15] ethno-nationalism,[16] right-wing populism,[3] nativism,[17] traditionalism, and the neoreactionary movement.[4][18] The concept lacks a consensus ideology, and has further been associated with multiple groups from American nationalists, neo-monarchists, far-right leaning men's rights advocates, and people who oppose mainstream conservatism.[19][20][21]

The generic writings are largely Internet-based and are found on websites such as 4chan and 8chan, where anonymous members create and use Internet memes to express themselves.[4][15][22] It is difficult to tell how much of what people write in these venues is serious, and how much is intended to provoke outrage.[3][23] Members of the alt-right use websites like Twitter and Breitbart News to convey their message.[24][25] Alt-right postings generally support Republican President-elect Donald Trump,[26][27][28] and oppose immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness.[2][11][29]

To avoid introducing bias to this answer, this answer will not add further opinions or commentary towards what alt-right ideology may be.

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    @user4012 You misunderstand. Certainly, simply quoting Wikipedia itself will not completely avoid bias. But in this case, Wikipedia is holding this article to much higher standards than "the last person to edit it". It is the collective work of many edits, and unless you find that the edit history shows a sudden and drastic change, it is unfair to say that about this article. I'm unsure what you are trying to say by the later part of your comment, but it sound like a genetic fallacy. – Alexander O'Mara Dec 19 '16 at 2:51
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You say

In my view, the term 'alt-right' is almost a euphemism to legitimize an extreme right-wing ideology which only a few years ago would have been entirely outside the bounds of reasonable political discourse.

The "alt-right" are not further right than the far right. On many subjects, they are further left. For example, Steve Bannon:

“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he told Wolff. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

Note how he rejects conservatism and refers back admirably to the 1930s, a time that defined the Democrats as the big spending party.

You say

They oppose immigration. They are nationalistic. They are opposed to globalization.

Other than the nationalism, these are also characteristics of left-wing populists like Bernie Sanders. The clearest sign of anti-globalization feeling is opposition to trade deals, and Sanders' rhetoric on trade is not that different from Trump's.

Sanders has also expressed skepticism on immigration as suppressing wages. He voted against immigration reform in 2007. This was also true of moderate Democrats like Jon Tester and liberal Democrats like Sherrod Brown. And thirteen Republicans voted for immigration reform in 2007. If all the Democrats had voted for it, it would have passed. At that time, immigration was not a partisan, left/right issue. Both support and opposition were bipartisan (even the independents split, Sanders against and Joe Lieberman for).

Are these positions where if you go far enough right, you get back to the left? Or vice versa? Or are these positions where they are mixing and matching between left and right? Like the way Bannon supports infrastructure spending, a traditionally left position.

While it is convenient to think of politics in terms of left and right, it's not accurate. Politics are often more complicated than that. Someone can be in favor of a strong national defense and same sex marriage. Or low taxes and abortion choice. Note that in the 1970s, Republicans like Arlen Specter were pro-choice while Democrats like Bill Clinton and Al Gore ran on pro-life platforms.

Thinking about everything in terms of left and right can cause confusion. For example, the Democrats in the United States have similar positions (on average) to the Tories in the United Kingdom. Yet the Tories are generally considered a right wing party and the Democrats are considered left wing.

Left and right are not fundamental characteristics of politics. They are based on an observation about seating arrangements in one particular political circumstance. While labels simplify thinking (left good, right bad, or vice versa), they do not ultimately help it. What they do is help demagoguery and increase partisanship.

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    'Are these positions where if you go far enough right, you get back to the left? ' I forgot who, but someone described Political positions as lying on a horseshoe. The far-left is closer to the far-right than the moderate left is close to the moderate right, which in theory are the furthest apart. – SGR Dec 23 '16 at 11:55
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    I feel that this answer misses that the left and right have different reasons for coming to the same conclusion. For example on immigration the right is opposed to it based on notions that immigrants come here to take advantage of us, or are otherwise "bad" (because skittles). Whereas the left is usually opposed to immigration because the migrants exploited as a tool by companies for cheap labour. – user11249 Jun 4 '17 at 20:14
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The question is really impossible to answer, because neither of the terms being asked to compare have definite meanings.


  • "Alt-right" is even worse to investigate, because even people who claim to be alt-right can't agree on what it is.

    The only reasonably universal constant of alt-right is that it opposes both the left, and the "establishment" right wing (which is what "alt" means - alternative).

    • One component of alt-right is the genuine white nationalism movement (Spencer and co). That component realistically seems pretty small (all estimates I saw cap it at a couple of thousand). It's actually more complicated - there's things like "white identity" strains, something called "biodiversity" etc..., but I don't see a major win in analyzing various shades in depth; you can make valid arguments that they all fit similar broad mold. These people mostly hold that Western Civilization (with capital letters) is a white-only thing. Ironically, fully in line with many on the far-left who say the same thing ("dead white males" and all that).

      A very interesting point made in most analysis is that a LOT of that group is not strictly speaking "conservative" at all - they are pro-big government and many are anti-democracy (heck, some of them are monarchists, the original "far right" group).

      Another interesting facet is that some alt-right groups like this actively distance themselves from neonazi types, and calling the latter "not real alt right". They do seem to have genuine ideological differences, so it appears to be more than a Monty-Pythonesqie "People's Front of Judea" situation.

    • Another component is 4chan type trolls. These are basically the same type of people who in 1960s did sex, drugs and rock'n'roll to buck The Man, and in 1990s, created Christian-hate art with feces. In 2010s, they decided to troll the left, because it gets them more lulz (and, arguably, the Left and its political dogma became The Man). Depending on who you ask, they are or are not genuinely racist/antisemitic (one evidence pointed out was that many of them seemed to be from foreign countries that aren't even white majority); although the "content" (using the term loosely, we are talking about image memes here) they produce clearly and pointedly is.

    Put together, these 2 groups seem pretty small - /r/altright was reported to have 5k registered users; and Dan Shapiro's article linked below estimated that nearly 100% of antisemitic tweets came from 1600 distinct twitter accounts.

    This scale makes sense, if you recall that KKK, for all its notoriety, has ~5000 members. There just aren't all that many white supremacists in USA, for a while.

    • Another pretty amorphous group (that may or may not intersect with the first two, especially the second one, and whose size is kind of hard to estimate as they aren't nearly as vocal and open as the first two) are people who simply oppose identity politics in general, and/or the hatred of white males that's endemic on the the far left - and no, Twitter didn't censor anyone posting that tag, to everyone's lack of surprise.

      While some of identity politics opposition comes from genuine racists, most of it comes from people who happened to buy into Martin Luther King's idea about people "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character". And who are tired of being called "racist" just for opposing affirmative action, or, deity forbid, higher taxes, by the left. The genuine racists actually decided to embrace the identity politics and fell into the first cohort.


Decent in-depth reviews of varying biases:

  • I think you are right about that is an amorphous group, because there are also anarcho capitalists moving around in the alt-right. – Edgar Klerks Jul 29 '17 at 19:13
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    @EdgarKlerks - ROFLMAO. That just proves my point that mostly "alt-right" is a way to smear anyone left doesn't like at this point. Being how "alt right" is supposedly authoritarian, which is kind of 100% opposite of anarcho capitalists – user4012 Jul 29 '17 at 19:40
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    @user4012 : "mostly "alt-right" is a way to smear anyone left doesn't like at this point." This seems wrong to me, since lots of people do refer to themselves as "alt-right" (for instance, in your last link). – Evargalo Aug 17 '17 at 13:11
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    @OlivierPucher - that's entirely besides the point. There's far more people that are not genione "alt right" but are called that by leftists, than actual self-identified alt-right people – user4012 Aug 17 '17 at 13:12
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    Really ? Until recently "leftist" would rather call their right-wing opponents "conservatives", "far-right", or in some instance "fascists". The term "alt-right" itself was definetly coined by people trying to define themselves (see Mohammad Sakib Arifin's documented answer), and was is no way pejorative. – Evargalo Aug 17 '17 at 13:17
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Alt-Right is the short form of Alternative Right. The term was first coined by Richard Spencer in 2008. He founded the website, alternativeright.org in mid 2000s. Richard Spencer stated in a speech:

Well. What is the Alt Right? Who are you? Pepe. Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure some of you have first heard about the Alt Right after the “hail heard round the world” that occurred at the NPI conference. That was a lot of fun.

I would say that that moment, which went viral, is an expression of a lot of different things. It is certainly the expression of the desire of a mainstream media to slander and just silence us with one thirty second footage. “Aww, these people are terrible.” But I think it also says something about the life of the Alt Right. We don’t allow other people to tell us what we can joke about. We don’t play by their rules. We have fun, we can be outlandish, and that is never going to stop.

So, the Alt Right can’t be defined by something from the past. We can’t be trapped in the past. But we also need to go forward guilt-free. We need to be high energy, we need to have fun, we need to be a little outlandish, we need to trigger the world. So all I would say is: keep it up. I love you all.

So what is the Alt Right? When I first started using that term, it was about mid-2008, and at that point, I think the Alt Right was fairly, you could say, negative in its meaning. We didn’t quite know exactly what it was. I knew that something was profoundly wrong with mainstream conservatism. That was evident enough with the George W. Bush administration, with the neoconservatives disastrous wars in Iraq and so on, and with the rest of the mainstream Right offering no answers, the religious Right, all that kind of stuff. I knew that we had to have a new starting point. I also knew that we needed to — this wasn’t a matter just of tweaking the Right, as it is — this was really the matter of a new beginning. Of a new starting point for conservatism in America.

You can actually look at the starting point of the conservative movement, and they talk about global capitalism, and free markets, and the Constitution, and vague Christian values of some sort. But they never ask that question of “Who are we?” They never ask that question of identity. They probably assumed it. They probably assumed a white America, a European America, but they never really asked about it and they were never really conscious of it.

And so the conservative movement became, in its way, a mirror reflection, a photographic negative, of the Soviet Union. It became an ideological nation, it became a nation based on abstract values, like “muh freedom,” “muh democracy,” “muh bombin’ muh commies and Muslims.” It was never a place; it was never a people; it was a kind of ideology. That’s what conservatism was. And so I don’t think George W. Bush was some kind of aberration, some kind of wrong turn to the conservative movement; I think sadly he was an expression of that general trajectory. Not towards identity, not towards nationalism, not towards a sense of “us” or who we are, but towards this abstract universalism that ends up in ridiculous two trillion dollar wars in the middle east, that no one understands and no one can even remember what started them.

So, in a way, George W. Bush was the founder of the Alt Right. He was at least the founder of the term, because I knew that we had to get away from that. We had to get away from him. So I started using the term “Alt Right” in about mid-2008, and at that point, as I said, I don’t think it had an essence quite then. It was just a sense of not-that; let’s get away from W, let’s get away from all that, let’s start anew. From there, the Alt Right evolved, it took on new meanings, and in a way it was outside of my control, absolutely — the Alt Right has never been the Richard Spencer agenda or anything like that — the Alt Right has been organic, that’s why it has succeeded, precisely because other people have picked it up and they have added meanings to it, and so on.

But it kind of evolved with me, in a way. After I dropped out of graduate school, I worked in what you could call the anti-war conservative movement. I wanted to oppose George W. Bush’s agenda but I wanted to do it from a Right-wing perspective. That is, I evolved too. And by around 2010, I would say, I had an idea of where that new starting place was going to be. And that new starting point was going to be identity. And that was going to be the question that we asked first.

When the mainstream right embraced the establishment, Richard founded the alt-right to counter the mainstream right. The mainstream right is less extreme than alt-right. And those who picked up this Ideology are mainly anti-establishment and far-right nationalists.

And there is two groups among them. One of them thinks the jews are the biggest problem of America and they are behind the white genocide and most other problems of America. Read some posts from dailystormer or altright.com to understand their views. The other disagrees and are fiercely anti establishment (Infowars.com is one of their mouthpiece). Both groups are far right and want radical changes in the government (they got what they wanted, Hail Trump!).

But the alt-right excludes an important element of far right which is the religious right. Its members are generally less religious and more nationalistic.

In a sentence, the Alt-Right is the far right without the religious right.

Also, check out the SPLC profile of alt right. Relevant excerpt:

The Alternative Right, commonly known as the Alt-Right, is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes, Alt-Righters eschew “establishment” conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value.

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    Would upvote because you have a good "right from the horse's mouth" source, but i can't due to your analysis at the end where you say the mainstream right was getting "more liberal" by rejecting white nationalism, isolationism and anti-semitism. Mainstream conservatives have always rejected these things. in fact when the liberals finally embraced civil rights in the 1960s they had to move toward mainstream conservatives not away from them. The John Bircher's were rejected by the mainstream conservative movement long before the alt-right came along. – Readin Dec 18 '16 at 8:25
  • @Readin I completely changed the analysis in my new edit. – Sakib Arifin Jul 12 '17 at 22:55
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Is there any difference between the far-right and the 'alt-right'? Are these two terms essentially synonymous?

[Ed. Note, the links in this post go down the rabbit hole of the alt-right in their own terms. They regularly display points of view that most will find objectionable, if not vile and reprehensible.]

The Alt-Right is it's own movement, incredibly small, and while has a creed of sorts based upon internet bloggers finding common cause; it can't be said to have a foundational tradition, or cannon of supportive literature. I can only find superficial ways if at all that its like the far-right, for example the religious right. (Unless you mean the Neo-nazi movement, which is debatable if Nazism is a far-left or far-right phenomena. It does share more characteristics with them.)

The Wiki reference is instructive to some extent. Wiki is correct in that adherents have a deep antipathy to Democrats and to traditional Conservatives, whom they call Cuckservatives (in the Alt-Right's eyes of supporting one's own demise, if not from immediate forces than from cultural ones). But they definitely have their own brand of ideology, contrary to the Wiki reference, and it's summarized in 9 theses. Some of these are not consistent philosophically and at worst are self-contradictory.

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There is a strong undercurrent not necessarily of racial supremacy but one of racial protectionism. Other very strong undercurrents include the Alt-Right being the last stalwart against the decline of Western civilization, eugenics (yes, with all that eugenics implies), and the decline of America can be attributed to reversing the traditional gender roles, identities, and genetic physical attributes of the sexes. The last the alt-righters associate with r-K genetic selection theory r-K genetic selection theory

The alt-Righters often use such scientific research to support their conclusions but it's a haphazard application. For example Chateau Heartiste has a whole scientific reference list on why diversity breaks down communities, which touches on at least 5 of the theses above.

I am fairly confident that the alt-right represents something new that we haven't seen before, something different in kind

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    "why diversity breaks down communities" isn't exactly an alt-right thing. The first time I heard about that research was from center-left Freakonomics podcast. – user4012 Dec 19 '16 at 2:40

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