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The Essence, Absurdity, and Hypocrisy of the Global Alt-Right Movement

The tumultuous 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign may have had more of an effect on the mobilization of the alt-right than you’d expect. Hillary Clinton referring to the Internet-age right-wing movement of Trump supporters as a ‘basket of deplorables’ caused an uproar of memes and mockery online. This, by no means, was the beginning of the movement, but it was certainly a step towards mobilization. With the rise of the Internet came a concomitant rise of the alt-right and various other web-based subcultures, and the success of the Trump campaign was a win for those groups who abhor the establishment. However, the defining characteristic of the alt-right movement of today is its global reach and its presence in a number of countries around the world.

We all know what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this past August; The Unite the Right rally was a hate-filled, alt-right and Neo Nazi protest that left many injured and one dead — Heather Heyer. This tragic event was a newsflash to everyone in America and abroad that the alt-right is not simply an Internet sensation. They mobilized and militarized in a way that was all- too-real for most Americans.

The modern alt-right’s agenda is ultimately concerned with things like combatting Islamification, advocating for an anti-egalitarian society, and creating homogenous white nations, amongst many other conservative objectives. But, the alt-right takes different forms in different countries. Take France for example. The Français version of the American alt-right is called Génération Identitaire, or GI. Members of GI believe that lost French territory must be reclaimed from foreign migrants. The average French identitarian is vehemently against Islamic ideals and stresses the need for France to revert back to it’s Christian ways.  

French identitarians have thrived on the internet over the past ten years. For example, a famous extremist site called Fdesouche gets about 3 million views per month as of February of last year. To give an idea of the massive scale of alt-right website views, the website of Emmanuel Macron, the French president, obtains less than one million views per month. In general, websites denouncing Islam and immigration have seen exponential growth in the last decade, giving the country’s alt-right community a platform to share and express their views.

France also has a Trump-like figure; Marine Le Pen, daughter of a convicted rapist who is known to have repeated anti-Semitic slurs. Though Le Pen has denounced her father’s comments, she maintains and has expanded upon his far-right political ideology, proposing  a series of hardline anti-immigration policies during her campaign in the French elections last year. Her message throughout her campaign of putting “Native French first” echoes the political discourse during the Trump campaign while speaking directly to the identitarian party. Ms. Le Pen ran against Emmanuel Macron, and lost, in France’s last presidential election, but she did win a significant 33.9% of the vote.

Support for Le Pen and her agenda even extended beyond France; U.S. members of the Internet-based community 4chan actually hopped on the Le Pen bandwagon by boosting memes attacking Macron, during the election. 4chan is an online forum used by the alt-right, and was integral to the organization of the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville.

Germany has its own version of France’s GI, called Identitäre Bewegung, or IB. Similar to the French identitarian movement, IB is inspired by Islamic terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis and shares the same political identity as other alt-right groups around the world; anti-migrant, anti-Islam, and anti-mainstream media. This group has even gone so far as to strategically brand itself, pushing its name into the mainstream media –which it supposedly despises — by developing a smart-phone friendly website and selling t-shirts and tote bags aiming to relate to the younger generation. Trying to appeal to young people is a trend in the alt-right subcultures around the world, not just in Germany.

While the use of extreme and disturbing language is almost the norm in American alt-right extremist groups, especially in the online community, the German IB use a clever way of appealing to moderate political groups on Twitter. The hashtag #remigration has been used to “encourage” immigrants of African and Asian descent to return to their home countries. However, the softened language does not conceal the overt racism that operates at the core of IB.

Alt-right identitarianism shows face all across Europe, including Scandinavia, Austria, Italy, and the United Kingdom, which has close ties to Polish and Hungarian Neo-Nazi groups. Each country’s ideals and tactics seem to piggyback off of each other in a slightly paradoxical way. For a group that is so intent on upholding their “native” culture, they surely pick up many of their characteristics from those who are different from them, whether that be from a different religion or across state lines.

Compared to America’s alt-right groups, mostly all of the European groups tend to be less web-based but they all share the alt-right mascot Pepe the Frog and other inside Internet jokes.

There is a back and forth exchanging of ideas across borders and seas constantly, making the alt-right movement a truly global phenomenon.This contemporary breed of alt-right globalism is perhaps one of the most confusing aspects of the alt-right movement, but it offers insight into the hypocrisy inherent in the identitarian frame of mind. How credible are the ideals of a group that promotes both international collaboration and an anti-immigration, anti-Islam and anti-egalitarianism agenda? How does the alt-right movement reconcile the tension between its anti-globalist agenda and its dependence on its global network? This odd relationship between what the alt-right loves and hates makes the movement just that much more bizarre.

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