13 August 2017

The “alt-right” has died in Charlottesville, as a term

I was never happy with the term “alt-right”. While I would occasionally use it, I always try to explain that the term is meaningless and dangerous, and should better be avoided in the media and academic writing.

The term “alternative right” – and “alt-right” is its shortened version – was coined in 2008 by an American conservative writer Paul Gottfried. In his article “The Decline and Rise of the Alternative Right”, Gottfried wrote about the crisis of paleoconservatism, an ideology that is characterised by its focus on traditional and religious values, limited government and opposition to multiculturalism and immigration.

In Gottfried’s view, paleoconservatism was, in the past, a good antidote to neo-conservatism that Gottfried rejected but that eventually came to dominate the Republican party. This implies that paleoconservatism was, for Gottfried, the Alternative Right, a Rightist alternative to the neo-conservative GOP. However, paleoconservatism withered away – and going back to the title of the article, that was “the decline of the alternative right” – but Gottfried welcomed the developments in the conservative movement outside the Republican party and, especially, young conservative non-Republicans to whom he referred as “post-paleos”. For him, “the rise of the alternative right” was exactly the emergence of “post-paleos” who were aiming at putting together “an independent intellectual Right, one that exists without movement establishment funding”.