9 things you need to know about the alt-right movement – USA TODAY
Alt-right and white nationalist sympathizers seem to have found a home under Donald Trump.
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The “alt-right” movement has been around for years but has never been more noticed â or criticized â than it is now.
Particularly after last weekend, when Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist within the movement, addressed a conference in Washington, D.C., and video showed some in the crowd raising their hands in Nazi salute after he hailed President-elect Donald Trump.
So what exactly is the alt-right, and what’s it’s relationship to Trump? Here we breakdown all the questions you’ve been dying to ask:
What is the alt-right?
The alt-right â short for âalternative rightâ â is a movement that bucks mainstream conservatism.
It is a loose movement, mostly online, that includesÂ people who are dedicated to “white identity,” but because there is no formal structure, there are a lot of different types of people and ideas within the group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-hate organization, says theÂ groupâs main focus is âwhite identityâ and to preserve âwestern civilization,â but how they go about calling for that is broad.
Who is it made up of?
The alt-right has only a few publicly named and identifiable leaders â SpencerÂ being one of them â but the majority ofÂ supporters are people who act online via social media.
George Hawley, a University of Alabama professor who has studied the movement, told the Washington Post that typicalÂ followers are white millennial men, either in college or with a college degree who are secular, perhaps atheist, and are “not interested in the conservative movement at all.”
Is the alt-right different from white-nationalist movements?
The two groups have similar focuses and goals and white-nationalists can be part of the alt-right movement. But Hawley said the difference isÂ the alt-right movement has no real formal organization and mostly exists online.
âI think part of it is more a difference of style and marketing than a difference in substance,Â though I would note that it seems like most of the leading figures of the alt-right do disavow things like genocide, which some of the more outrageous earlier white nationalists didnât necessarily do,”Â Hawley told the Post.
When did it start?
Spencer came up with the term in 2008, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. A few years later, he co-founded the Alternative Right blog, which bills itself as the founding site of the alt right.
Per the SPLC:
Spencer describes Alt-Right adherents as younger people, often recent college graduates, who recognize the âuselessness of mainstream conservatismâ in what he describes as a âhyper-racializedâ world. So itâs no surprise that the movement in 2015 and 2016 concentrated on opposing immigration and the resettlement of Syrian refugees in America. Although such stances align with older forms of white racism, Spencer insists that the Alt-Right is âa liberation from a left-right dialectic.â
Is the alt-right represented in the White House?
Last week, Trump announced that StephenÂ Bannon would be his chief strategist in the White House. Bannon was previously the head of Breitbart News, which he had dubbedÂ âthe platform for the alt-right.â
Critics immediately railed on Trump’ s choice, accusing Bannon of being complicit in the spread of sexist and racist views on the site.
Members of Trumpâs team said the criticism of Bannon was misguided. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who is Trumpâs new chief of staff, said, “That’s not the Steve Bannon that I know and I’ve spent a lot of time with him.â
Bannon himself, told the Wall Street Journal that he is a nationalist, but not a white nationalist.
“I’m an economic nationalist. I am an America first guy,” Bannon said.”And I have admired nationalist movements throughout the world, have said repeatedly strong nations make great neighbors. I’ve also said repeatedly that the ethno-nationalist movement, prominent in Europe, will change over time. I’ve never been a supporter of ethno-nationalism.”
Did the alt-right come up during the campaign?
Yes, it did. In August Clinton gave a speechÂ in which she triedÂ to tie Trump to the movement and accused him of basing his campaign on racism and paranoia.
âHeâs taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.Â His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous,” Clinton said at the time.
In early September, Clinton told supporters at a fundraiser that “half” of Trump’s supporters were “deplorable.” She walked back the numberÂ but said that she stood by the characterization.
After Clintonâs speech, Trump was asked if he was embracing the alt-right movement in a CNN interview.Â âI don’t even know â nobody even knows what it is. And she didn’t know what it was. This is a term that was just given that â frankly, there’s no alt-right or alt-left. All I’m embracing is common sense,â Trump said.
After Anderson Cooper pointed out that Bannon said Breitbart was the voice for the alt-right, Trump responded:Â âI can only speak for myself.â
What exactly happened at that Washington conference?
The gathering was put on by the National Policy Institute, which Spencer leads.Â The group’s web site says it is an “independentÂ organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”
SpencerÂ said in a speech at the conference,Â “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” and the room broke out in applause.Â Video published by The Atlantic showed some in the audience raisingÂ theirÂ hands in a Nazi salute.
Spencer proffered aÂ philosophy of “conquer or die” among attendees, and saidÂ “to be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer and a conqueror.”Â NeedlessÂ to say, criticism has been widespread and loud.
What does Trump have to say about the conference?
The president-elect condemned the conference on Tuesday during a meeting with The New York Times.
WillÂ Breitbart (and the alt-right) turn on Trump?
On Tuesday, the Breitbart News website â which normally unbashedly praises Trump â had an unusually negative article about Trump: “Broken Promise: Trump âDoesnât Wish to Pursueâ Clinton Email Charges.” The article came after Trump’s adviser and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Trump would not prosecute Clinton over her email server.
Ray Locker contributed.