The alt-lite, also known as the alt-light and the new right, is a loosely-defined right-wing political movement whose members regard themselves as separate from both mainstream conservatism and the far-right, white nationalist perspective characteristic of the alt-right. The concept is primarily associated with the United States, where it emerged in 2017.
According to Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League, the alt-lite "operates in the orbit of the alt right", and it sometimes may not be possible to tell the difference between the groupings as there is significant cross-over. Others have described it as an offshoot of the alt-right, in that it claims to reject identity politics—including the white nationalism and racialism of the alt-right—though they share other key features and beliefs.
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The term "alternative right" was coined by Richard B. Spencer in 2008, who sought to use it to promote white nationalist ideas across the political right in the United States. However, there remained differing views on the term; some understood it as an umbrella term for a broad range of rightists outside the neoconservatism then dominant in the U.S. conservative movement, including paleoconservatives, libertarians, localists, and right-wing populists as well as white nationalists. By 2010, many of those rightists who used it but were not white nationalists dropped the term after it became increasingly apparent that Spencer intended the term as a banner of white nationalism. In 2016, as the term became popularised in U.S. public discourse, it again came to be used by many people who were not white nationalists but who saw it as a useful term to refer to rightists outside the mainstream conservative movement.
Some have traced the recognition of the alt-lite—as a distinct entity from the alt-right—to what is seen as the consolidation of the alt-right as a white nationalist movement. In a speech given to a meeting of white nationalists in November 2016, Richard B. Spencer (who is often credited with creating or popularizing the term "alt-right") quoted Nazi propaganda and declared "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!" while members of the audience responded to this by giving Hitler salutes.
Subsequently, various figures who had been linked to the alt-right distanced themselves from Spencer's remarks, and suggested that two factions had emerged from the alt-right. This was the result of a "rift" within the wider alt-right movement, between those on the one hand favoring white nationalism and explicit racism, and more moderate forces on the other. Some members of the latter group at first adopted the term "new right" to describe themselves, with Mike Cernovich saying of the division that "[t]he lines are drawn and the fracture is more or less complete". The term "alt-lite" is thought by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to have been created by members of the alt-right to distinguish themselves from right-wing groups and ideologies who support white supremacy and white nationalism. According to the ADL, there is crossover and line-toeing between the Alt-right and Alt-lite groupings, making it difficult or impossible to tell which side of the theoretical line they belong on.
Etymology of "alt-lite"
The division between alt-right and alt-lite received further media attention in June 2017 when the two factions found themselves divided over the issue of Spencer's attendance at a Free Speech rally in Washington, D.C. Certain individuals protested Spencer's involvement by organizing a competing rally on the same day, with Spencer referring to such individuals as "alt-lite" and saying that "the movement needs a good purge".
The Unite the Right rally in 2017 exacerbated tensions between the white nationalist alt-right and the alt-lite. Breitbart distanced itself from the alt-right and criticized other media outlets that described them in such a manner, as did Milo Yiannopoulos, who insisted he had "nothing in common" with Spencer.
The commentator Angela Nagle described the alt-lite as "the youthful bridge between the alt-right and mainstream Trumpism". She was of the view that it was the alt-lite, and not the alt-right, which had successfully utilised the Nouvelle Droite's ideas about promoting cultural change as a prerequisite for long-term cultural change. Nagle characterized Cernovich as a "major figure in the alt-lite milieu". She also characterized Alex Jones as being part of it.
People associated with the alt-lite have distanced themselves from the ethnic nationalism of the alt-right. As with the alt-right, the alt-lite commonly shows broad support for Donald Trump and non-interventionism, criticism of and/or opposition to political correctness, Islam, feminism, welfare and illegal immigration. The movement is also seen as engaging in conspiracy theories, including the propagation of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, as well as support for the Gamergate movement. It has been described as a "misogynistic" and "xenophobic" movement by the Anti-Defamation League.
The Anti-Defamation League has published a list of people whom it calls alt-lite, consisting of writer and podcast host Brittany Pettibone, Maryland activist Colton Merwin, 2018 Senate Republican candidate from Virginia Corey Stewart, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, English YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson, conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, New Zealand activist Kyle Chapman, Kyle Prescott, conservative White House correspondent Lucian Wintrich, Mike Cernovich, and Milo Yiannopoulos.
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- Hawley 2017, pp. 139–140.
- Hawley 2017, pp. 140–141.
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- Hawley 2017, p. 152; Atkinson 2018, p. 310.
- Wendling 2018, p. 215.
- Wendling 2018, p. 214.
- Nagle 2017, p. 41.
- Nagle 2017, pp. 40–41.
- Nagle 2017, p. 50.
- Nagle 2017, p. 51.
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- Hawley, George (2017). Making Sense of the Alt-Right. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-18512-7.
- Nagle, Angela (2017). Kill All Normies: Online Culture wars from 4chan to Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right. Winchester and Washington: Zero Books. ISBN 978-1-78535-543-1.
- Wendling, Mike (2018). Alt-Right: From 4chan to the White House. London: Pluto Press. ISBN 978-0-7453-3745-6.