The Alt Right's journey from message-board to mass-media

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Speaking of the alt-right, I got drawn into an argument about how socialism is the reason the Aral Sea is empty.


Who raised these guys? My son could’ve been a prime candidate to become one: He’s ASD, and has adult ADHD and unspecified depression. He was bullied in high school, and doesn’t have any friends IRL. But when I asked him about 4chan (“Do you go there?”), he responded with a resounding “HELL NO!!”

I’ve pretty much raised him on my own. The males who have been in his life were all right-wing for the most part, including his father/my ex-husband. But my influence has obviously been much stronger than that of anyone else. To me, this is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life so far: Nurtured a human being to maturity who is respectful of other human beings.

Of course, I still joke about having the longest post-natal depression on record (he’ll be 29 this October). And he has problems with socialization, which his job may or may not be helping with (he works in the toy department at Wal-Mart). And he probably will never be able to live on his own because he forgets things (the ADHD). But that’s okay. As long as he can make it through life staying respectful of others, the rest can be dealt with.



This article is definitely more useful than Andrew Sullivan’s liberal-blaming BS-fest in the same issue. I started reading that one yesterday and gave up once I saw it was more of Sully’s usual garbage.

What Read describes here reminds me of its direct progenitor, the rise of right-wing talk radio after the Reagan administration’s revocation of the Fairness Doctrine. Free speech is a wonderful thing, but we always have to be aware that there are fascists and authoritarians who’ll be happy to take it away as soon as they’ve exploited it to gain power.

And there are a whole lot of (often self-described and proud) “losers” around the world who are susceptible to the messages of reactionaries: losers in the rigged games of neoliberalism; losers in romantic and sexual environments where women have become empowered to be more selective in their choice of partners; losers who have issues with parental neglect or abuse or who were and are over-coddled; losers who never got over being bullied for being smart or different in high school; devout religious losers who feel alienated in secular societies; and on it goes – all of them seeking power, or a voice, or at least someone who’ll make the lives of those they perceive as “winners” more miserable.

The role of parenting is a key point that deserves more exploration in all the discussions of the rise of the alt-right. I have a friend who, after his ugly divorce, was prime recruitment material for the Red Pill/MRA/PUA misogyny movement. I was genuinely worried he’d fall into that nonsense, but when I carefully and obliquely broached the subject he admitted he’d briefly explored it but quickly found it repulsive because he “wasn’t raised that way.”

To be fair, not every parent is equipped to accomplish what you did with your son and fend off the influence of a right-wing co-parent. But then again not every kid who’s fallen into the world of the alt-right faces the same challenges your son does, so the contribution of parenting styles is worth exploring.


I ask myself that question about some news story almost every day. My parents didn’t raise my brother and me to be like that (I’m a woman, but my parents didn’t know that at the time). And we’re multi-generational Texan. My family is full of rednecks, but none of the boys (I’d say girls, too, but there weren’t any in my generation, other than me, and as I said, no one knew that at the time) were allowed to be disrespectful of anyone, for any reason. There is the full range of ideological beliefs in my family, from far left to conservative Christian, but everyone was taught to respect others, even those you disagree with.


I’ve read it, and this is the first article I have read that (IMO) accurately describes message board culture.


I left the above when my son was eight months old; he chose not to participate as much as I would’ve liked (at the time) in raising our son. And when I moved to Kentucky, I got physical custody without the use of a lawyer, except for proofing the court papers I typed up for myself (I was a legal secretary at the time). That just pissed his dad off, because he hired a lawyer. So there really wasn’t enough influence from his dad to make much of a difference. I worried more about his peers, actually.

I didn’t think I was equipped, alcoholic that I was when I got pregnant with him. And I quit blaming myself for his problems that may’ve been caused by my drinking. And I quit drinking shortly before I left his father. Wow, I just remembered - my anniversary’s coming up - 28 years without swilling down booze like a sailor on leave! (With all due respect to any veterans of the USN that may read this.)

Now I’m wondering - just how did I accomplish this, LOL?!



I know, I kept thinking there was a "right’ key I should press with the “alt” key.


The thing I still find rather puzzling after reading Read’s description(not because of any particular deficiencies in it; my puzzlement is more general) is why the frustrated/angry message board dwellers described would have tacked right rather than left.

Certainly, the ‘establishment republican’ platform has nothing for a member of the underemployed and economically frustrated ‘neckbeard’ stereotype; and is culturally closer to people who follow the high school football to car dealership pipeline. Not that the democratic establishment is a whole lot more attractive; they are more likely to agree that we should feel somewhat bad about the people who get squished by economics; but not much more likely to actually do anything about it.

Is the theory that it is just happenstance; with the right’s not-a-neoliberal-technocrat crushing his opponents like insects; while the left’s became popular but didn’t derail a Clinton candidacy? Or do we suspect that ‘the right’(or at least a weird flavor of it that doesn’t actively dislike a bunch of geeks who sure don’t tick many boxes on the ‘Real America’ checklist) is fundamentally better suited to attract them?


They’d probably be proud to be called Nazis.

And it was one of their own who coined the term:


[quote=“Lucy_Gothro, post:4, topic:100334”]
Who raised these guys? My son could’ve been a prime candidate to become one: He’s ASD, and has adult ADHD and unspecified depression. He was bullied in high school, and doesn’t have any friends IRL. But when I asked him about 4chan (“Do you go there?”), he responded with a resounding “HELL NO!!”
[/quote]Most people go to 4chan for porn, piracy, or the mystique. People tend to stay because it’s extremely active and has a lot of useful information for hobbies (especially ones that get you ostracized in the general population). Some people that stay get drawn into the extremely active recruiters for the far right the same way anyone is drawn into a cult-like behavior. Something happens, that person is looking to expand their social network or “political bubble,” an aggressive recruiter lavishes them with what they want and slips them some propaganda, they get introduced to a club and get “red pilled,” then the club teaches them all others are against them. The liberals are against their whiteness, things didn’t used to be this way in the 80s or 90s, the jews made them fat and poor, etc. And they hammer down any nail that raises their hand or fact checks them with declarations that they are the enemy and push memes that are generated in back rooms to promote their cause. They also regularly raid other boards to drive the people who would resist their ideas away from 4chan by bothering them.

It’s not unique to 4chan whatsoever, especially since the rise of Silicon Valley’s approach to free speech and algorithmic moderation. If anything, facebook trying to un-anonymize the internet just revealed that it wasn’t anonymity that promotes this spread of hate group revanchism and Twitter is as bad if not worse than the worst of 4chan. 4chan has quickly become the go to example, but people have become so dramatic about free speech that they freely gave a platform to hatred that actively works to recruit, reprogram, and attack people online. They facilitated GamerGate, and their refusal to go against their ideals let it be completely taken over by the alt-right and used as a massive recruitment tool and fundraiser for them.


Because it never gets old:


The latter. Right-leaning populist movements (social and/or economic) are better at mobilising spite and resentment from those who feel they should be at the top of the heap. Contrast with left-leaning populist movements, which focus more on the resentful who want to level the heap (the outcomes from that can be awful, too, when taken to the extremes that right-wing populism arrives at more quickly).

A lot of it comes down to the ability of the target audience to transcend the zero-sum notion that everything in life must be about winners and losers, an ability that’s probably found lacking in an on-line forum focused on games, porn, a club-like atmosphere, the unfairness of life, and trolling for the lulz.


The article suggests that the demographics of 4chan, Reddit, young white males. Their feelings of disenfranchisement and impotence in the face of socially progressive ideals makes radical right’s anti-equality, white and male supremicist underpinnings appealing.


Roger That!


It is a matter of which is currently less socially acceptable. If you go around saying private property should be abolished, people will roll their eyes but you won’t get the same horrified reaction you would get if say whites are more intelligent than blacks. And a lot of these people are drawn to whatever gives the maximum shock value.
Its like what they say about not rewarding your toddler’s tantrums with attention…

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I had in mind passages like

“There’s people that are, like, behind the counter at a Pizza Hut or whatever, and their intellect and their skills are not being used in the real world in a way that’s appealing to them,” the web-comic artist and longtime 4chan observer Dale Beran tells me. “The only interesting stuff that’s going on is the internet and video games.”

Obviously, that could be blamed on Liberal Feminazi affirmative action; or jew conspiracies, or all kinds of things; but “basically my life is circumscribed by the narrow economic boundaries of my shitty dead-end service job” seems equally amenable to going full Bernie Bro or getting into Black Bloc stuff.

White surpremacy certainly has the advantage in that it promises an immediate payoff; but unless you actually buy the theory that the behavior of real wages since the 70s is somehow caused by the machinations of your racial inferiors, it’s the lousy kind of payoff that still leaves you in a grim, precarious, position with some vague feelings of superiority that won’t pay the bills.

Clearly, given the number of ‘alt-right’ crawling out of these places, it’s a popular choice; but historically angry young men with limited amounts to lose have been drawn to just about anything that promises the excitement of shaking things up, some radical, some reactionary, some just plain weird; so it’s hardly a given that they’d be automatic candidates for alt-right-dom.