The Southern Poverty Law Center recently counted more than 100 victims injured or killed by members of what is being dubbed the “alt-right.” All of the perpetrators hold some common characteristics: white, male and under 40 years old.
On the surface, the majority of the alt-right’s “members” appear to be politically disillusioned individuals encouraged to believe that their voices have been drowned out by a left-leaning mainstream news apparatus. Many other strong cultural movements have spawned from these same conditions, though.
From the civil rights struggle of the 1960s to the 1980s punk scene and beyond, movements found success through their ability to cater to a specifically disenfranchised group. These movements historically offer a sense of solidarity and organization to individuals who feel they have otherwise been scorned by society.
However, this time seems different, as the violent alt-right is becoming increasingly empowered and dangerous. How will we counteract this threat in the coming years?
The alt-right is, fundamentally, more of a cultural scene than an official organization. Members don’t host meetings, not officially, anyway. Many of them have never met one another, interacting solely through social media and sympathetic websites. Given the anonymity of most internet forums, it’s difficult to find any cohesive message or unifying figures inspiring this group. There is even indication that some the most rabid advocates are posting ironically and have no real aspirations for political change.
Of course, internet forums are only one facet of this sprawling group. Some members meet through old-school white supremacist organizations, gun clubs or political rallies. The march on Charlottesville, Va., widely seen as an alt-right “coming out” event, showcased the buffet of different advocacy groups that fall under the umbrella of the movement. Paramilitary gun advocates marched beside neo-Nazis. KKK members appeared without hoods, and dozens of obscure…