I recently realized that there are at least two conservative-ish movements that have emerged from the same Internet communities in the past year or so. One of them has a widely-recognized name (the alt-right) and is talked about frequently. The other one has no widely-recognized name and is often incorrectly lumped in with the alt-right. My purpose here is to understand and explain the two movements.
Much has been said about the alt-right in the months leading up to and following the 2016 election. But how much of it is accurate? What exactly is the alt-right? Are all of the people who the media calls alt-right actually alt-right?
There doesn't seem to be any official definition of alt-right, and the term has been used to describe a pretty wide variety of people. I think the most useful definition is the one put forth by Sargon of Akkad. Go watch that video. I'll wait. Really, go watch it.
OK, fine. I'll give you the Cliff's Notes. According to Sargon, the alt-right is a rather diverse bunch, but they are held together by a few things that they all agree on more or less. Specifically:
- They believe that the white race is under threat. They typically use the term "white genocide" to refer to this.
- They promote the idea of ethnostates, and they are particularly keen on turning the USA and other Western nations into white nations, with very few or no non-white people.
- They think of people in terms of identity groups rather than as individuals.
- They think that race drives culture. In other words, black people and white people have different cultures in the US not as an accident of history, but because they are black and white.
- They cling tightly to tradition and are generally against abandoning traditions.
There are few things that the alt-right is often inaccurately described as:
- White supremecists
- Generally anti-Semitic
While there are Nazis and white supremecists under the alt-right umbrella, they are a minority. Also, the difference between white nationalism and white supremecism is in important one. The white nationalists of the alt-right do not advocate extermination of non-white people (although the Nazis probably do). Rather, they advocate sending non-white people away to non-white nations. Additionally, unlike the white supremecists, they do not believe that white people deserve to rule the world. In fact, many of them believe that east Asians (e.g. Chinese people) are more intelligent than white people (and I will acknowledge that IQ tests support this claim).
The alt-right is also often accused of being anti-Semitic, which is not entirely accurate, but there is a good bit of truth to it. The alt-right is divided on Jews, with some considering them to be white and others considering them to be non-white. Some even consider the Jews to be the enemy. I don't think there's enough agreement on the matter to say much with certainty, though.
In short, the alt-right is authoritarian, collectivist, and identitarian. They are, in many ways, the mirror image of the Social Justice movement. Their ideology has the same shape, just with "white" and "person of color" switched.
Unlike the alt-right, there is no widely-recognized name for this other group. I have chosen to call them Kekistan, since they generally claim Kekistani ethnicity or otherwise affiliate themselves with Kekistan and the Cult of Kek. They tend to have a fairly irreverent nature, not taking anything too seriously, including themselves. They are the people who take delight in pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.
The etymology of Kekistan is quite interesting. KEK is the Korean equivalent of LOL, which migrated to Western Internet culture via Starcraft. (Hence, "zerg rush kekekekekekek" is equivalent to "zerg rush lolololololol".) KEK (often rendered as "Kek" or "kek") came into common usage around the time that Pepe the Frog did (more on him later). At some point, 4chan became aware of the ancient Egyptian god Kek, who happened to have a frog's head. This lead to a satirical Cult of Kek, with Pepe as a major figure.
Meanwhile, the Social Justice movement was on the march. Many people were disturbed by this trend, and they developed a parody ethnicity and nationality to protest it: Kekistan. In short, "Kekistani" is an ethnicity that can be claimed by anyone who hates identity politics and wants to mockingly claim oppression. Oppression by who? The Normies, of course! That is, "normal" people who don't hang out on 4chan or Reddit and take a mainstream position on Social Justice (either supporting it, opposing it while supporting its basic premises, or expressing vague, unprincipled opposition to it). Pepe the Frog is a major symbol of Kekistan, as is the Kekistani flag, which is a parody of the Nazi battle flag, with green instead of red, crossed KEKs instead of the swastika, and a symbol representing 4chan in place of the Iron Cross in the corner.
(Side note: this all makes the chants of "KEK! KEK! KEK!" at 4chan-heavy free speech rallies quite hilarious. They are basically chanting "HA! HA! HA!")
(Side side note: 4chan is a growing political force. May God have mercy on us all.)
So who the hell are these people? Like the alt-right, they are a pretty diverse bunch. Their politics are scattered across the left-right spectrum. What binds them together? Primarily, they are bound by a shared loathing of identity politics and the Social Justice movement. Secondarily, they are bound by shared communities on the Internet, such as 4chan and Reddit. Like the alt-right, the movement seems to be fairly closely affiliated with the /pol/ board on 4chan.
It is their shared affiliation with these Internet communities that have lead to Kekistan getting lumped in with the alt-right. To further confuse matters, their shared birthplace has led to shared terminology and memes. The best examples are Pepe the Frog and the term "cuck".
Pepe the Frog
No, he's not a white supremecist meme. Those who claim he is are opening the door for white supremecists to take over anything and everything that the rest of us hold dear. Are you going to claim that Barack Obama is a white supremecist if people start photoshopping him into photos with Hitler? No? Then you can't claim that Pepe is a white supremecist meme. QED
(Side note: Tim Pool claims that 4chan started the "Pepe is a racist meme" meme. Why? Because they were upset that the "normies" were using Pepe memes. If this is true, it's not entirely without precedent: 4chan has previously been involved in bait-and-switch pranks where they started linking an innocuous image on various other sites, knowing that people would hotlink it all over the Internet (e.g. as Myspace backgrounds) and then replaced it with a photo of a lynching with racist text on it. Lulz ensued, although I doubt the people who suddenly had racist Myspace backgrounds were laughing.)
Pepe has been around for a long time. As you may have heard, he originated in a web comic called Boy's Club. I never read it, but I was aware of Pepe's use as a meme around 2009 or so. The first time I can recall seeing a white supremecist version of Pepe was in a news report during the 2016 presidential campaign. Interestingly enough, I soon read that the image in question was not findable anywhere on the Internet (at least by TinEye), meaning that it either originated in some backwater forum that takes steps to prevent search engine bots from crawling it or it was invented by the reporter for that story. In the first case, they are presenting the actions of a small group of unpopular people as being mainstream, and in the second case, they are flat out lying. Either way, it doesn't reflect well on the media company that reported it (CNN, if I recall correctly).
On a personal note, I find the hysteria surronding Pepe to be nothing short of absurd. HipChat responded to the (possibly fabricated) reports by removing its Pepe "feels good, man" and "feels bad, man" emojis. Recently, somebody sent a Pepe image to a random person in an airport (via some Apple local chat program), and she tracked him down and harangued him, all because he sent her an image of a cartoon frog. It's insane.
In any case, Pepe has been strongly associated with 4chan, which is why he ended up in use by both the alt-right and Kekistan, although it's pretty clear that Kekistan has a stronger claim to him than the alt-right.
This term is more strongly associated with the alt-right than with Kekistan, but it's used in both places. It's derived from the term "cuckservative", referring to the mainstream conservatives that they see as not acting out the values they professed when campaigning. The term "cuck" has largely morphed into a general-purpose insult, at least in Kekistan. (See: Carl the Cuck)
Currently, I see two main usages of "cuck". In one usage, it means "wimp", more or less. For example, nations like Canada may be described as "cucked" due to their attitudes on immigration and generally being a doormat for globalists (or at least they are perceived as such). The other usage is a general-purpose insult; replacing it with "poophead" would preserve the meaning of the sentence.
Because it arose on 4chan, it sees use by both the alt-right and Kekistan, so use of the word is not enough to determine if the speaker is alt-right or Kekistani. However, the alt-right seems to use it more frequently than Kekistan, so a person who uses it is more likely than not to be alt-right.
The Trump Connection
The alt-right is obviously strongly associated with Donald Trump. Many have said that the alt-right got him elected. But is that true? What role did Kekistan play? The media have repeatedly shown that they have a hard time telling the two groups apart, so might they have been mistaken?
I suspect that Kekistanis and Kekistan-sympathizers are far more common than they may appear. The media is probably quick to dismiss people who claim a ficticious identity (e.g. Jedi as a religion) as mere pranksters, so they don't present Kekistan as a real political force. In fairness, this is a totally defensible strategy, as people who claim a ficticious identity have historically been either pranksters or seriously disconnected from reality.
The alt-right, on the other hand, claims a real identity (well, to the extent that any racial identity is real). This leads the media to take them more seriously. What's more, proudly proclaiming white identity and calling for that identity to be supported fits (more or less) with an established pattern. This leads the media to think, "Oh, looks like the Klan is on the march again." Even though this is wrong (as I explained earlier), it's not immediately obvious that it's wrong, it's uncomfortably close to being right, and it fits with the leftist media's biases and expectations. Thus, they take the alt-right even more seriously and continue to either ignore Kekistan or lump it in with the alt-right.
Despite their fundamental disagreement over identity politics, support for Trump is widespread in both the alt-right and Kekistan. Why is this? I think the alt-right is less in favor of Trump as it is scared to death of people like Hillary Clinton. After all, if you have a choice between somebody who hates you and everything you stand for and somebody who might not agree with you about ethnostates but at least won't try to crush you, you're going to cheer for the latter, right?
Kekistan, on the other hand, probably sees Trump as a sort of kindred spirit. He sows chaos every time he opens his mouth, and as denizens of 4chan (or at least people who live within its sphere of influence), Kekistanis embrace that chaos. Why do they embrance chaos? Part of it, I suspect, is that they feel stifled by mainstream American and Western culture. They see it as bloodless and boring. There are a lot of things you can accuse 4chan of lacking, but liveliness isn't one of them. I think there's also a general feeling that the political establishment is failing the West and doesn't represent the people it rules over. Kekistan and the alt-right (rightly or wrongly) both see Trump as upsetting that order, or at least as a middle finger raised in its direction.
If the political establishment is like a stuffy upper-class dinner party, electing Donald Trump is like taking a nervous cat, tying a noisemaker to its tail, and tossing it onto the center of the dining room table. You're not going to build a better world that way, but you can at least stop the partygoers from making things worse, and it sure is entertaining if you got invited to the dinner party, showed up, and then got the door slammed in your face.
In the course of writing this article, I broke one of my own Internet rules and visited 4chan. I'll have you know that I did not descend into the depths of /b/. (I've skirted its periphery in the past, and the experience changed me. I've mostly recovered.) Instead, I lurked on /pol/. It was a fascinating and unsettling experience.
First off, due to the near-total lack of stable identity on 4chan, it's (usually) impossible to tell if any two posts are written by the same person. This makes it very hard to correctly interpret the posts. You might see somebody wistfully post a map where the Nazis rule all of Europe and Russia, but you can't really know if that person actually wishes the world was like that or if they're just trolling.
(I would love to know more about the thinking of the person who made that map, though. It should come as no great surprise that they gave North America to the Confederacy and made Africa a union of white colonies, but they made South America a giant anarcho-capitalist state, made Madagascar the new Israel, expanded China and India a bit, and turned Iran into a restored Persian Empire. Just what motivates that person? Is their thinking completely jumbled and random, or is there some strange principle that they follow?)
Sometimes, the trolls are obvious. One thread asked the question, "What have you done to help the white race lately?" Or something like that. One particularly on-the-nose troll indicated that he was a high-school student and, in a post that seemed carefully calibrated to give the impression of an immature kid who thinks he's edgy, stated that he was "helping the white race" by repeatedly yelling the N-word in class whenever he got the opportunity. Obvious troll is obvious. But how many of the others were also trolling, but being more subtle? I got the "try-hard edgy kid" vibe from a few others, but not all. I'm sure at least some of them were actual white nationalists or supremecists, but again, without being able to correlate a user's posts like you can on sites like Reddit, it's nearly impossible to tell how many there are.
That said, white nationalism and anti-semitism really seem to be strong themes there. Not everyone is a white nationalist/supremecist/whatever; the anarcho-capitalists put in a strong showing (hardly surprising on a web site that's just a hair's breadth away from anarchy itself), and the communists and anarcho-communists also crop up frequently. And then there's this one guy (well, presumably one guy) who posts crazy doomsday prophecies accompanied by images of pyramids. Kekistani images are suprisingly rare, but the flag of Kekistan (when you post, you can choose from an assortment of flags) is somewhat common. Sometimes, you see a thread started by somebody who either is or is pretending to be a normal person basically asking one of these crazy groups to prove that they're not crazy. That said, the white nationalists and flat-out Nazis really seemed (at least to me) to be the most prominent. The media is wrong to paint the whole group as a bunch of racists, but that accusation is not entirely unfounded.
And yet, there are a few things that seemed a bit off: practically everyone puts those silly triple parentheses around the names of Jews. Really, it seems like it's pretty much everyone. Even the anarchocapitalists do it with the names of Jews on the list of people they like. The usual racial slurs are extremely common (I don't recall ever seeing black people referred to with any term that one would use in polite company), but based on their frequency and the context, I'm not sure they're even being used as slurs in many cases. It's like they're just part of the local dialect, which is probably why the white nationalists tend to use slurs I've never even heard before.
Hanging out in such a community is a very, very strange and unsettling experience. The conversation breaks all the rules you are used to. Ideas that most people never consider (some for very good reasons) are openly debated. There are rules that are strange not because they prohibit normal things, but because they prohibit abnormal things, like the question of whether Spaniards are white. (Seriously. The recurring Nazi thread (or something similar) specifically prohibits asking that question. Yes, there is a recurring Nazi thread.)
I'm glad that such a place exists, but I won't be spending much time there, and I can't in good conscience advise my readers to do so. If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
The alt-right and Kekistan are not the cancer that is killing America. Rather, they are the abdominal pains that tell America that maybe it should consider seeing a doctor. Neither one would exist without massive, sustained failure on the part of the political establishment. Well, maybe Kekistan would still exist, but it would be nothing more than a silly joke. America and the West in general have been on a bad path for the past few decades (probably at least 4 in America, since that's about how long wages have been stagnating). It's time to confront the failures of our political elites and fix our governments before something worse happens.