The “Alt-Right’s” Ideas Are Nothing New, But They Are Taking Advantage of New Opportunities

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Mobilizing Ideas


Since the 2016 US presidential election, observers have tried to explain the sudden rise of the “new alt-right.” This focus on newness belies the persistent and continuous aspects of US white supremacist activism. In our new research, we explore the ebbs and flows in white supremacy over the last several decades. We identify two phases and describe the longest one as a period of “active abeyance,” in which white supremacists embraced a conscious strategy to withdraw from traditional public activism and recruitment, in favor of more informal, private activism directed at sustaining the movement. Recently, white supremacist leaders and networks have pushed to more openly advocate for white supremacist goals. The “alt-right” is one manifestation of a broader effort to rebrand racial and anti-Semitic extremism and move it from the shadows into mainstream politics, culture, and consciousness.