The political and media establishments in the United States have no real concept of just how viscerally angry the citizenry is. Factors such as poverty, unemployment, social unrest, the migrant crisis, a perceived loss of standing in the world, war weariness, a corrupt political class and a disconnected mainstream media are all sources of that anger. The popularity of Donald Trump is linked inexorably to this discontentment. It takes a charismatic figure to tap into widely held sentiment and drive it politically. Trump is doing just that. Historian James Joll, when writing about the so-called unspoken assumptions of the populace prior to the First World War, in his book The Origins of the First World War and in his essay entitled "1914: The Unspoken Assumptions," discussed the difficulty of actually gauging the mood of the individual citizen. Joll challenged historians to examine the power of ideas and the mood of the public prior to the Great War. He analyzed how public opinion and the intellectual climate of the time engendered a willingness to go to war. Through the use of newspapers, contemporary journal articles, and published personal experiences it was possible, Joll argued, to gain some insight into how the average person viewed the world. Today, this is still a difficult task, yet insights can be gained more readily through the use of social media platforms such as Twitter and alternative news media.
On the subject of Donald Trump, the Twitterverse has become a war of memes and tweets with vitriolic salvos being launched by both sides. Accompanying them are tweets from users who glom on to hashtags to push their own unrelated agendas. It’s entertainingly vicious. What is evident, however, is that there is a widespread distrust of the media gatekeepers and the widely held belief that things in America are not as they should be, themes that are consistently touched upon by Trump in his campaign speeches. Counted amongst the vast legions of Trump supporters are a loosely connected group of anonymous Twitter users that see it as their job to challenge the gatekeepers’ narrative. They are the foot soldiers of a loosely organized online metapolitical movement called the Alternative Right or Alt-Right.
Buzzfeed columnist Rosie Gray, in her 27 December 2015 article, characterizes the Alt-Right as a free-wheeling White nationalist movement. Whereas Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a key figure in the Alt-Right movement, describes the Alt-Right as a metapolitcal identitarian movement based on European identity. By looking at the Alt-Right’s websites and anonymous Twitter accounts, it is possible to get a glimpse of some of the ideas influencing popular sentiment, the unspoken assumptions of the Donald Trump phenomenon.
Increasingly, the alternative media is giving voice to the concerns of millions of citizens who have been ignored by the elites. Large alternative news and research websites such as The Rebel, Infowars, Breitbart and the Drudge Report should not be counted amongst the Alt-Right per se, but their size, growth, and popularity speak to the growing influence of alternative news media. Increasingly, citizens across the West are turning to Alt-Right news sources as well. The silence of the mainstream media on important issues has given rise to a new, radical discourse as articulated on Alt-Right websites and message boards. The aforementioned Richard Spencer’s Radix Journal publishes articles, podcasts, and blog posts that address issues such as identity, politics, and race. Another key figure on the Alt-Right is a satirical video blogger named Paul Ramsey, who goes by the name Ramzpaul on YouTube, is a self-described nationalist. Ramsey’s frequent videos touch on current events, culture and politics from an Alt-Right perspective. In a recent Radix journal podcast, entitled “Living in the Current Year,” Ramsey wonders if author and columnist Ann Coulter read Alt-Right articles to which Spencer replied “Oh yeah, I know she does.”
Ann Coulter, who has been an advisor on Trump’s campaign, is best known for her bestselling books including her latest work entitled Adios, America, which anticipates an apocalyptic future for the United States. While Coulter is hesitant to directly identify with the Alt-Right publicly, she routinely retweets Alt-Right Twitter accounts and contributes to VDare, a web publication founded by Peter Brimelow concerned with immigration issues affecting the United States.
Jared Taylor, founder of the American Renaissance race-realist webzine, is one of Peter Brimelow’s colleagues and a personal friend. Taylor is considered by some to be the grandfather of the Alt-Right movement. In a tweet dated 29 December 2015, Taylor states “I think Ann Coulter already has Donald Trump’s ear and is giving good advice. I’d be happy to talk if he called.”
Whatever side you’re on, it’s evident that Trump, despite his celebrity status, is an outsider who is disrupting the Republican Party and mainstream media establishments. Not only has he mobilized the traditional Republican base, he has effectively used radical Alt-Right politics in an indirect and implicit way. Trump has channeled the power of Joll’s unspoken assumptions and given birth to a new right-of-centre political movement, which has widespread demographic appeal.