The Alt-Right: The Rise of Internet Demagogues 

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One of the leaders of the New Atheism Movement.

Daniel Dougherty, Maroon-New Staff

Alt-right demagogues and amateur political pundits run recklessly throughout the United States, although their source, the Internet, remains hard to understand for many Americans. From the depths of Reddit and YouTube, the modern right was born. It seems absurd to most adults that message boards and memes are now fundamentally interwoven with the agendas of identitarians and white supremacists, but modern media has enabled these groups to organize and carefully portray their views as digestible to the average consumer. This has allowed white nationalists to slowly seduce centrists into believing that it’s the moral duty of “liberals” to stop “identity politics” and “social justice” dead in their tracks.

The alt-right may seem to be the modern expression of a historically recurring political group, the right radicals. This is an apt description, but the audience of their ideas isn’t just a disenfranchised, religious, socially conservative working classit’s young, atheistic men.

During the Bush Administration, an odd combination of conditions were at play:
1. The formation of YouTube as a platform and development of its distinct web culture.
2. The Boston Globe’s investigation of systemic sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
3. The cultural aftermath of 9/11.

It is these conditions that brought about the “New Atheism Movement” that was spearheaded by the self-proclaimed “Four Horsemen,” Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens. An Internet community of atheists, predominantly white, young and male, fostered a unified rebuttal against religion’s, namely Christianity’s, often unquestioned role in government. Channels like thunderf00t, The Amazing Atheist and JaclynGlenn emerged to combat the Christian right. Their most common form of protest was the response video, a piece which intermittently spliced footage of some politically egregious text (most often segments of FoxNews) with commentary. These responses could be thoughtful and a well-needed injection of secularism, while others fostered a vitriolic hatred of all things religious. The roots of the alt-right can be seen most clearly in the group’s general view on Islam, spouting the same sort of diatribe about Islam while ignoring their marginalized and precarious place in American culture.

Now, the content of the aforementioned channels has little to do with ridiculing creationism and advocating abortion rights. The New Atheism channels now feature anti-feminist, “Social Justice Warrior” response tirades, with Youtubers like the original thunderf00t and new, even more extreme channels like Sargon of Akkad bashing feminism, Black Lives Matter and LG- BTQ+ movements. Sargon of Akkad has, for instance, petitioned for the cancellation of “social justice” courses in public universities, called advocates of social justice members of a “cult” and urged for the election of Donald Trump in the video “Hillary Must Lose.”

This subculture seemed to hit a cumulative point with the popularity of the now shamed Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative commentator and Breitbart celebrity until his break with the publication after jokingly defending the Catholic Church’s sex abuse against teenage boys.

Milo was, beyond of shadow of a doubt, alt-right. But TJ of Amazing Atheist and Jacyln Glenn are not “alt-right.” They are as they’ve always been: centrists. Leftists may balk at this claim, but given the state of the overton window and their rejection of fundamentalist Christian conservatism, as well as the presence of some fiscally liberal members among their ranks (ie. Chris Ray Gun, another Anti Social Justice channel), to make the claim that such channels feature radical right-leaning web pundits would be incorrect. Besides, this oversimplifies the path to fascism for the American youth: young white men come out of the gate with implicit biases, watch centrists and proverbial dark web intellectuals until they’re bated little by little with ideas of “ethnic displacement of white people” and reverse racism.

The purpose of knowing this slice of YouTube’s history is to understand where white nationalists loiter and seduce, where young men start out on a path that begins in trite libertarianism and ends in the belief that migrants are part of a globalist plot to destroy the Aryan race and where dog- whistles like “border security” and “Kekistan” become part of the cultural vernacular.

Contact Daniel Dougherty at [email protected]