Alt-right white supremacists rally around Confederate statue with tiki torches at UVA

Screengrab via Karla Ann/YouTube

From ‘alt-right’ to white supremacy: A guide to far-right terminology

Here's what exists a little beyond the Republican Party.


David Gilmour


Posted on Nov 28, 2017   Updated on Apr 14, 2020, 1:43 pm CDT

Getting a handle on the political groups that constitute the far-right can be difficult. The far-right movement is not new, but in just two years, catalyzed by the inflammatory rhetoric and populism that characterized the 2016 presidential campaign, it has established a foothold on American politics that has completely shocked centrist conservatives and liberals.

It’s time for the rest of us to understand what these groups believe and where they differ in their influence and ideology.

There’s a whole spectrum of ideological positions on the far side of the normie-right. The Daily Dot has compiled a quick cheat sheet to help, starting at the “alt-right” and working our way outward. 

White supremacy vs alt-right: A guide to far-right terminology


The alternative right, more often known as “alt-right,” was a term coined by white nationalist Richard Spencer as an attempt at rebranding and uniting several traditionally far-right and white nationalist ideological positions. A white identity movement at its core, the alt-right banner broadened its definition to draw in factions from the reactionary and dissident anti-establishment right who were voicing opposition to Islam, progressives, globalism, political correctness, mainstream conservatism, immigration, and feminism.

The movement diversified fast, gaining prominence and momentum during the 2016 election. The broad group found commonality in the anti-establishmentarianism and populism of Republican candidate and eventual president, Donald Trump.

What alt-right was, exactly, became the subject of much conjecture and academic criticism.

alt right definition
Photo via Fibonacci Blue/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY)

The vague term was treated by some as a euphemism for white supremacy while others viewed it as the name for young and edgy internet-era, pro-Trump conservatism. From the beginning, however, the alt-right was a white nationalist construction, and its aim appeared to be to radicalize these fringe subcultures and political groups with far-right and racist ideas.

Instead, as the white nationalists and racists at its core became increasingly influential and expressive, the alt-right began to fracture. Many popular alt-right personalities, such as Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich, made a break with the movement and distanced themselves from the overt anti-Semitism and racism of figures like Spencer—who has been projected to viral fame for crying “Hail Trump!” during a speech to a room of Nazi salute-throwing white supremacists and for being punched on Trump’s Inauguration Day.


Alt-lite or New Right

Nazi salutes and late night tiki-torch marches provoked the alt-right’s splinter factions to redefine themselves under a different brand—the New Right or alt-lite.

Many of the figures on the New Right reject identity politics entirely, and that means white identity politics too. Rejecting both white nationalism and mainstream Republicanism, individuals associated with this movement espouse a civic nationalism or American nationalism. This is the key distinction; rather than talk about race, those on the alt-lite will talk about protecting Western values against left-wing globalism and multiculturalism. The Anti-Defamation League recognized the split as an ideological break but criticized the alt-lite for continuing to embrace “misogyny, anti-Muslim bigotry, and xenophobia.”

Much of what counts as alt-lite draws on internet trolling culture, provocation, and hues of ultra-conservativism. The movement peddles heavily in memes and conspiracy theories, like #PizzaGate, which claimed Democrats were running child sex slave ring from a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.

alt lite : pizzagate conspiracy
Pizzagate is a now-debunked conspiracy theory that linked Comet Ping Pong to a child sex ring. Photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY)

Important figures to the movement include provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart editor infamous for his attacks on the politically correct, blogger and YouTuber Mike Cernovich, as well as, of course, Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones of conspiracy website InfoWars.

One of the most recognized organized groups of the New Right are Gavin McInnes’ Proud Boys. The Vice Media co-founder-turned-right-wing media personality established the group as a “pro-West fraternal organization” for men who “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” Membership rituals for the group include naming breakfast cereals while getting punched, getting a tattoo, and abstaining from masturbation.

White nationalists

White nationalists are opposed to multiculturalism, which they believe to be destroying Western or European culture. They would like to see the establishment of a white ethno-state.

Some, like Spencer, a self-styled “intellectual” white nationalist, have called for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of the United States and the deportation of immigrants. Others, however, believe an ethno-state should be achieved through violence. Spencer runs a white nationalist think tank, the National Policy Institute, which aims to increase the ideology’s exposure and mainstream credibility, an objective he works hard to achieve—even when it gets him punched in the face.

white nationalists : richard spencer
Screengrab via Al Jazeera English/YouTube


White supremacists

Although people generally use the terms white supremacy and white nationalist interchangeably, they do claim to be different. While white nationalists seek the establishment of a white ethno-state, and while any separatist white supremacists will seek the same, white supremacists believe that non-European races are inferior to white people and Europeans biologically and, thus, culturally. Within the United States, there are hundreds of organized groups that ascribe to this ideology.

Historically, white supremacism has fallen to two groups. Neo-nazi groups and gangs, which are into swastikas and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany; and the Ku Klux Klan, the notorious racist fraternity that in its most recent incarnation, under the direction and influence of men like David Duke, emerged as a response to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

alt right : unite the right
Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia Tony Crider/Flickr (CC-BY)

Online, however, white supremacists thought found new figures and forums to spread their ideology. One important place was the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer. Founded by Andrew Anglin, the online publication pushes an explicitly anti-Semitic and white supremacist message through writers like Andrew Auernheimer, also known by his hacker and trolling pseudonym Weev. As exposure of the ideology has increased, various on-the-ground groups have formed offline.

On such group is Identity Evropa, founded in early 2016 by Iraq veteran Nathan Damigo as a white supremacist student group. It works primarily on college campuses to promote white American culture. Another calls itself the Traditionalist Worker Party, a neo-Nazi and white separatist political group.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

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*First Published: Nov 28, 2017, 6:00 am CST