What is the alt-right? What do they believe, and how did they take center stage in the American social and political consciousness?
Historian Alexandra Minna Stern excavates the alt-right memes that have erupted online and digs to the root of the far right’s motivations: their deep-seated fear of an oncoming “white genocide” that can only be remedied through aggressive action to reclaim white power. The alt-right has expanded significantly throughout America’s cultural, political, and digital landscapes: racist, sexist, and homophobic beliefs that were previously unspeakable have become commonplace, normalized, and accepted—endangering American democracy and society as a whole. When asked to address the Proud Boys and growing far right violence, President Trump directed the group to “stand back and stand by;” and just two weeks before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, a white supremacist mob breached the US Capitol—earning praise from the Proud Boys leader amongst threats of future violence. In order to dismantle the destructive movement that has invaded our public consciousness and threatens American democracy, we must first understand the core beliefs that drive the alt-right.
Through careful analysis, Stern brings awareness to the underlying concepts that guide the alt-right and its overlapping forms of racism, xenophobia, and transphobia. She explains the key ideas of “red-pilling,” strategic trolling, gender essentialism, and the alt-right’s ultimate fantasy: a future where minorities have been “cleansed” from the body politic and a white ethnostate is established in the United States. By unearthing the hidden mechanisms that power white nationalism, Stern reveals just how pervasive the far right truly is.