Today in American politics there exists an amorphous coalition of hate which has increasingly adopted the title of the alt-right. Ideologically there is very little that binds them beyond the certainty that they have been wronged, and that the source of the transgression against them is identifiable and expungable. While they often decry identity politics as a leftist invention which was fomented in order to prey upon divisions of race and class, they are themselves among the greatest subscribers to those modes of thought. The identities which they have created for themselves are purely negative constructions. Absent any sense of concrete being they have relied upon a categorization of the world which casts them apart from all those things that they have identified as sources of evil. They are not Muslims, they are not immigrants, they do not benefit from social programs, they are not socially degenerate, and they do not surrender to the attenuation of gender and sexual roles which they see to be purely binary. They are not, according to their conception, leeches upon the American system, but they nonetheless feel themselves to have been betrayed by the same. They hold tribal allegiances wherein the world is defined not by tenets of principle, but by the far less rigorous sense of belonging which accompanies the strict divisions of in-group and out-group.
Most recently all the worst of this movement have attached themselves to Donald Trump. As has been widely reported, the support buoying Donald Trump is disproportionately strong among racists and authoritarians. In a Pew Research Poll from last month a strong majority of American voters reported that they felt that a diverse population made the United States a better place to live. Only 9 percent of respondents felt the contrary. However, among those who support Donald Trump 42 percent were ambivalent to diversity while fully 17 percent felt that it actively hindered the United States. In the previously linked column Dana Milibank presents these numbers and others at length, the culmination of his analysis being the stark conclusion that whether or not Donald Trump is a racist, he is number one with racists.
An explicit illustration of this fact is the example of the Tilly family from North Carolina. They were interviewed by PBS in order to gauge Donald Trump’s support and to put a personal face on it. The patriarch Pete Tilly reported that it was the first time he had ever worked on a political campaign, and for his daughter-in-law Grace it was in fact her first time voting. In order to express their support for Trump they related the tired banalities about his acumen as a businessman, his support for veterans, and the sense that they’ve been left behind in an unfair America. When she introduced the segment the host Judy Woodruff implied that the Tillys would be supporting Donald Trump despite the controversy which surrounded the campaign. However, there’s evidence that the Tillys, like many others, are supporting Donald Trump precisely because of the controversies he’s birthed about race, religion and prejudice. What PBS had neglected to investigate in their initial reporting was the meaning of the tattoos which adorned Grace Tilly’s arms. On her left hand there is a large 88 tattooed in gothic script. It’s a simple code for the eighth letter of the alphabet H repeated twice, and it translates literally as ‘Heil Hitler.’ On her other hand there is the Celtic cross, which is itself a part of the pantheon of neo-nazi symbology. It is particularly notorious as a part of the logo for the avowedly racist and Nazi supporting website Stormfront. When Grace Tilly speaks with disdain about the Black-lives-matter movement her reaction is not a matter of political difference. It is grounded in racial hatred. The controversies which Donald Trump incites are unlikely to deter the Tillys from their support because they support him precisely because of the the way that he nods towards the racists, towards the conspiracists, and towards hate.
Against all of this the Republican Party has embarked upon an epic display of hand-wringing. Ian Tuttle at the National Review has described Donald Trump’s tactics and the tactics of his supporters as mob-like, as a high-tech lynching, and as anti-democratic and dangerous. Jonah Goldberg, writing for the same publication, has described Donald Trump’s front runner status as the end of the line as we know it for the Republican Party. George Will over at the Washington Post has mirrored the sentiment with his prediction that if Donald Trump wins the nomination it will mean the end of the conservative party. Out of these fears the #NeverTrump movement arose with dire warnings about electoral defeats culminating in Democratic control of Congress.
But whatever establishment Republicans might say will have little effect upon the upwelling of support which they now decry. The people like the Tillys who are now supporting Donald Trump are largely unattached to traditional politics. They find their homes in the darker corners of the internet where freewheeling discussion allows them to express their most primal fears and insecurities without fear of consequences. On the whole the places where they congregate are, like Stormfront and the /European subdomain on Reddit, carefully curated experiences. Dissenting opinions which might point out the absurdity of their belief in racial superiority and inferiority are removed and banned so as to not disturb the echo chamber of resentment and hatred. The most recent entrant to this land of online hate is /the_Donald, another subdomain on Reddit which has recently gained the attention of national media.
John Herrman with the New York Times first reported on the phenomenon in an article titled Donald Trump Finds Support in Reddit’s Unruly Corners. As he represents in his article, the character of the forum is deadly serious. While the postings are nearly always tinged by a sort of faux irony and carefully cultivated plausible deniability, at a certain point irony becomes sincerity. The forum’s members “post material full of slang, insults and inside jokes” and are rambunctiously excited about whatever newest slander can be levied against their idol’s opponents. Their language is memetic, but their message is hardly lighthearted. It is, as John Herrman noted, relentless. Opponents are referred to as “cucks,” which is short for “cuckservative,” as in “cuckold” — now used as a derisive term for liberals and moderate Republicans recently popularized by far-right online commentators and white nationalists… Some members share open antipathy toward Muslims, sling insults with relish and mock anyone who takes umbrage.” In response to the idea that their forum was a hot-bed of racism, one moderator is quoted as saying that all such “white nationalists” had been banned.
That’s simply untrue, and if John Herrman had waited but a couple of days to publish his article he would have had the proof to contest the claim. In a since deleted post one of the same users as was quoted by the New York Times laid out the facts of the new regime in the forum. A creed which decried “the politically correct women’s lobby [which] has demanded that the men import rapists from other parts of the world to satisfy their needs” was added as a moderator’s note, visible to anyone who accessed the page. Users of and visitors to /the_Donald alike were told that “the culture which we created may not always be quite racist enough,” and restrictions against racism and the blanket bans on the white nationalists were consequently removed. The always latent vitriol was now openly invited back into the fold. The moderator’s final anticipatory note reminding people that all variations of nigger would continue to be removed serves only to demonstrate that he knew exactly what sort of audience he is catering to.
The originator of the notice, CisWhiteMaelstrom, who was now welcoming open racism was not only among those who were interviewed by the New York Times, but by MSNBC as well. Although both outlets failed to examine the personality of the subject that they were interviewing, CisWhiteMaelstrom’s online persona is perfectly representative of the small-minded, clannish nature of the alt-right’s ideology. Their world view can be described as nothing less than entitled. Not only do they feel themselves to be owed political, social and economic supremacy, but they also demand the attention and service of women, as per what they see to be the natural hierarchy of humanity. Men above women and the white race above all else.
CisWhiteMaelstrom is himself an admitted rapist, having mused in previous postings that he wouldn’t say that he had “never done anything that’s technically rape.” When questioned about what he meant by that statement, he responded by linking an article detailing the epidemic of sexual abuse that women suffer on college campuses and declaring himself to be “very normal.” In other forums he has related the idea that he “could definitely get away with raping the illegals near me.” And, in defense of a friend who had admitted a rape to him, CisWhiteMaelstrom wrote a short article titled “Real Rapists are probably not low value men” in which he deflected the responsibility of the “brutal” rape unto the steroids his friend was taking, declined to judge the act “since there are two sides to every story,” and dismissed the admitted and acknowledged crime of rape as something that happens when “a cycle [of steroids] gets out of hand and shit happens.”
Such is the character of the premier online representative of Donald Trump, and his is not at all an atypical example. When CisWhiteMaelstrom sought to correct a culture of support for Donald Trump which he had deemed “insufficiently racist,” he explicitly reached out to the users of the /European forum. They are a group exceptionally suited to the task of comingling particularly vicious right-wing vitriol with support for Donald Trump. Just today the following image was linked and captioned as “the proper punishment for non-white rapists.” One of the most popular posts of the month shows a swaggering chimpanzee in a zoo captioned to read “Muslim at the welfare office.” As is quite typical, the top comment made an attempt at humor by suggesting outrage at the implication that “the fine upstanding African American is a Muslim.” On April 20th the members of the forum celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday, and some weeks prior to that they linked to the following cartoon, which depicts a feminine, blonde, Europa kicking out racist caricatures of Jews, Muslims and Africans. The source was The Daily Stormer — a low-effort publication named after Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer, which was itself an official voice of the Nazi Party. Andrew Angling, the founding editor of the The Daily Stormer, once described the publication’s purpose as a “means to propagandize people…to get them to look at the world in a certain way.” And, in a telling example of the overlap between support for Donald Trump and support for the bankrupt ideologies of racism, Nazism and white supremacy, Andrew has been a constant advocate of both. Besides speaking on Trump’s behalf, Andrew has often been pictured wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. When his racist caricatures were linked to Reddit, the top comment was also distinctly Trumpian; reading “GET EM OUT OF HERE! OUT!” as a parody of Trump’s pronouncements when he is confronted by protesters.
Although /European represents a separate sub-forum from /the_Donald, there can be no doubt about the significant overlap between the two. Upon hearing that CisWhiteMaelstrom had again made /the_Donald an open forum for /European style vitriol, one user named EMPEROR_TRUMP_2016 applauded the move by saying that “seeing two of my favorite subs come together is great.” Another named DerEwigeWolf88 – a play upon an anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda film Der ewige Jude and the previously discussed numeric code for ‘Heil Hitler’ – declared the move to be “H I G H E N E R G Y.” The top comment of them all came from the user scientistthrowaway23 who identified himself both as a moderator of the /the_Donald forum and a frequent poster to the /European domain. He compared the formal reconciliation between the two to a reunion between himself and his estranged children. And, although acute expressions of reactionary hatred are less common on the /the_Donald forum than /European, there are more than enough to be found. The visual style of the forum alone hints at the fascistic tones which can be found therein. For some time the moderators of /the_Donald had decorated their forum’s interface with a portrait of Donald Trump modified so that his name was repeatedly written across his face. The seemingly innocuous image is actually a direct homage to the façade of Mussolini’s Fascist headquarters which was once decorated in much the same manner.
As for the actual submissions to the forum, they often reveal the extreme sense of alienation and distrust manifested in irrational prejudice which seems endemic among supporters of Donald Trump. One widely popular post is a simple picture of the Italian, German, Dutch and German Defense Ministers with the title “Europe is being destroyed by soft invasion, and these are the Defense Ministers. Europe is a mess!” Not coincidently, the pictured officials are all women, and the top level comments reacting to this fact finely mirror Donald Trump’s casual sexism. One poster ironically thanks feminists for the supposed crises of European identity. Another predicted Europe’s death and entreated them to get used to Islam. A third warned that “this is what happens when women get in charge. Never go fullCUCKED.” The obsession with cuckoldry is actually particularly revelatory because of how it is bound up within the broader idea of impending doom and loss of power or status which so occupies the attention of these disconnected right-wingers.
In terms which evoke the paranoid prophecy of William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries, supporters of Donald Trump turn time and again to the idea of imminent, encompassing and emasculating defeat. Where the previously highlighted post associated Europe’s ills and its certain doom with the weakness of femininity and the degradation of traditional gender roles, others have taken an explicitly racial tone. One extremely popular submission titled “Europe in 10 years” and captioned “deport Islam” by the moderators was nothing more than the comparison of idealized images of white, European beauty with an assortment of images that purported to represent the minority populations of England, Denmark, Germany and Sweden, but were in fact nothing more than pictures of actual terrorists and people with dark skin. The byline presented the choice as existing between “nationalism” and “multiculturalism.” Top comments question whether the “men of Europe [are] dickless?” With or without commentary the message of the image is clear: support for a pluralistic society will lead only to the rape of innocents by degenerate foreigners, and liberal advocates for refugees and multiculturalism are cuckolded fools who are incapable of perceiving the danger.
On the other hand, users of /the_Donald fancy themselves to be ultimately perceptive of and prepared for the coming storm. References to an imminent race war abound, and another extremely popular post links to this video posted by Edward Lawrence, a supporter of PEGIDA. It shows nothing more than apparently Muslim children walking to school in England. Nonetheless, the moderator scientistthrowaway23 re-titles it as a “Video showing the spread of radical Islam through the British school system. EUROPE HAS FALLEN. DEPORT ISLAM.” In the comments users embrace the idea of genocide, quipping that perhaps it’s “time for Fourth Reich?” In the discussion of the cause and outcome of the Second World War which followed, one user is careful to point out that that it was little more than “a reason to create Israel and take large sections of Palestine, also six million weren’t gassed.” Such contributions were felt important enough that the post was ‘stickied,’ the term for a moderator action which pins the submission to the top of the forum for increased visibility.
In many ways online support for Donald Trump is something of a Rorschach test for insecure bigots. His flexible attitude towards policy, or for that matter the truth, has created a political canvas upon which people can project their suspicions about the world. The result has been an enormous up-swelling of political activity that is not so much attached to reality as to an individual’s unrigorous ideas of “what is ‘out there’ beyond one’s own territory.” When Donald Trump talks about his supporters, he’s not talking about his best. He’s not speaking about you. He’s not speaking to you. He’s speaking about people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems into the open. They’re bringing hate. They’re bringing prejudice. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.