Alt right activists quickly moved to capitalize on the momentum and publicity bestowed by the long presidential campaign season. Richard Spencer launched a new alt right website just days before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017; one of its editors proclaimed that with the inauguration of Trump, “we are going to need to create a bigger platform to advance our agenda in the years ahead.” Spencer and many other alt right advocates also showed up at the inauguration to support Trump (where Spencer himself became the subject of a viral video when he was punched by a protester).
Alt Right Groups and Events
One key aspect of the evolution of the alt right was the creation of real-world groups and organizations. Prior to the election, there were very few alt right groups, as most adherents operated online. Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute was not really an “institute” so much as a vehicle for Spencer’s speaking engagements and conferences.
The first notable real-world alt right group, Identity Evropa, emerged in the months prior to the 2016 presidential election. Originally led by Nathan Damigo (later by Patrick Casey), the alt right group has primarily targeted college campuses, holding events and putting up flyers. After the election, it quickly expanded and became one of the most visible alt right groups in the country. Identity Evropa doesn’t acknowledge that it is a white supremacist group—claiming instead to be patriotic and “identitarian”—but the organization is steeped in white supremacist ideology.
Another prominent alt right group is Patriot Front, based in Texas and led by Thomas Ryan Rosseau. It formed in August 2017 as a breakaway faction of neo-Nazi group Vanguard America but adopted an alt right sensibility. Like Identity Evropa, it attempts to position itself as a “patriotic” American group promoting “American Nationalism;” also like Identity Evropa, its membership is primarily young men.
Other groups followed, many of them regional or local in nature. The Rise Above Movement emerged in California, billing itself as a mixed martial arts club of the alt right. Patriots of Appalachia emerged in West Virginia, Identity Acadia in Louisiana, True Cascadia in Oregon, the Beach Goys in California, and so on. Followers of Andrew Anglin began to form local “Daily Stormer Book Clubs,” some of which started engaging in group activities like flyering. Collectively, these alt right groups gave the movement a real-world presence it had been lacking before the election. It also meant that communities, colleges and neighborhoods across the United States were now encountering alt right activities.
In addition to group formation, the alt right’s expansion into real-world activities following the presidential election included taking part in white supremacist events, such as conferences, rallies, protests, counter-protests and other gatherings. Familiar activities for the rest of the white supremacist movement, these events were new experiences for many newly-minted alt right activists.
From the start of 2017 through the first half of 2018, the Anti-Defamation League identified 120 events, public and private, organized or attended by white supremacists around the country. Alt right activists organized or were among the attendees at slightly over half of these events (64 of 120, although it is likely some of the other events included alt right attendees unidentified by ADL). Of these white supremacist events, alt right activists actually organized or helped organize at least 40 (it is not always possible to identify the organizers of every event). Identity Evropa and Patriot Front, the two most energetic alt right groups generally, were also the most frequent organizers of events, especially in 2018.
Selected Significant Alt Right Events in 2017 And 2018
MAR | 2018
About 50 Identity Evropa members participated in a flash demonstration at Centennial Park.
MAR | 2018
Identity Evropa held its first “national conference.”
MAR | 2018
East Lansing, Michigan
Richard Spencer held a speaking event at Michigan State University, with about 20 attendees. An additional 40-50 were unable to get past antifa counter-protesters.
OCT | 2017
About 40-50 white supremacists, organized by Richard Spencer, The Right Stuff and Identity Evropa, took part in a flash demonstration.
SEP | 2017
Roughly 30 members of Patriot Front, Daily Stormer Book Club and other groups protested an anarchist book fair in Houston.
AUG | 2017
About 500-600 white supremacists, from the alt right and other segments of the white supremacist movement, held a massive two-day event dubbed “Unite the Right.”
MAY | 2017
Alt right activists from Identity Evropa, The Right Stuff, and other groups joined other white supremacists for a flash demonstration in Charlottesville to protest the removal of Confederate monuments.
This is a significant number of alt right events, though it must be noted that many of them were very small, such as a group of around 10 Identity Evropa members gathering at the Mexican Consulate in San Diego in May 2018 to hold a small flash demonstration, or a handful of Patriot Front members holding a demonstration at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., in June.
Most other alt right events from 2017-2018 were smaller, often involving between five and 20 participants. A number of alt right events from the past two years were organized as flash demonstrations. A flash demonstration is a surprise event organized with some degree of secrecy and little or no prior announcement or publicity. Message and chat apps help organizers spread the word without alerting opponents or authorities.
Flash demonstrations have disadvantages for the white supremacists, in that they tend to be smaller—because organizers can’t as easily get the word out to allies and other potential participants as they could if the event were being publicly organized and promoted. They also run the risk of getting less attention if the media does not know about the event beforehand. However, the surprise value, amplified by post-event social media promotion, can sometimes attract useful attention for the white supremacists, as can events where select members of the media are alerted.
One of the main advantages of flash demonstrations is that antifa and other anti-racist activists are much less likely to learn about such an event and show up to protest. For decades, most white supremacist public events have tended to attract massive counter-protests and have been attended by far greater numbers of anti-racist activists than white supremacists. These protesters, some of whom seek to engage in violence against the white supremacists, often have the power to drown out whatever messages or impressions the white supremacists wish to convey, or even to substantially disrupt the event, as was the case with Richard Spencer’s Michigan State University speaking event in May 2018, where most of his supporters were unable even to get to the building where he was speaking in order to hear him. That event, in fact, caused Spencer to cancel his planned college speaking tour while putting the blame on antifa and other counter-protesters.
Indeed, the appeal of flash demonstrations has spread beyond the alt right to other segments of the white supremacist movement. Groups such as the Shield Wall Network, the League of the South, and Keystone State Skinheads/Keystone United also used this tactic in 2018.
Despite the recent growth of the alt right and its willingness to engage in real-world events, many recent white supremacist events have still had no noticeable alt right presence. Some of these were single-group events, where one would not expect such a presence if a non-alt right group had organized it, but there have been other events with multiple white supremacist groups participating—but no alt right adherents. It doesn’t appear that these white supremacists necessarily deliberately excluded alt right groups and activists—but they don’t seem to have reached out to invite them, either.
White supremacist events have occurred all around the country. States with larger populations, such as California and Texas, have hosted a significant number of such events, as have smaller states that are home to active groups, such as Arkansas, where a number of Shield Wall Network and Knights Party events took place. Two states have been particularly unfortunate in the number of white supremacist events held on their soil: Virginia and Tennessee. In Virginia, Charlottesville has been the nexus for events, with white supremacists returning to that city three times after their first event in May 2017.
However, it may be Tennessee which has, for its size, had the most problems with white supremacist events, organized by both alt right and non-alt right activists. From the beginning of 2017 through the first half of 2018, the Volunteer State has weathered no fewer than 14 white supremacist events, from Memphis to Knoxville and many places in-between.
A number of factors combined to make this so, including the fact that it is geographically accessible to the membership bases of several white supremacist groups such as the League of the South and Traditionalist Worker Party; several white supremacist groups have traditionally organized certain events each year in Tennessee. Some cities in the state have had Confederate monuments controversies that white supremacists seek to exploit; white supremacists have found several event locations in that state that they find relatively hassle-free and easy to use; and some white supremacists have speculated that Tennessee’s white population, especially in more rural areas, might be receptive to their messages.
The Alt Right Propaganda War: Podcasts
Despite the alt right’s move into the physical world, the internet remains its main propaganda vehicle. However, alt right internet propaganda involves more than just Twitter and websites. In 2018, podcasting plays a particularly outsized role in spreading alt right messages to the world.
White supremacists have used videos and audio, both in shorter forms as well as in longer “internet radio” shows or podcasts, for as long as those technologies have been available. Stormfront Radio, for example, dates back to the mid-2000s, and David Duke has long produced videos. However, in the past several years, alt right activists have created an entire universe of alt right-related podcasts (as have their alt lite counterparts), so many that, as one admirer accurately observed recently on the DebateAltRight Reddit forum, “There’s really too much for any 1 person to listen to.” Audio and video podcasting offers great advantages to the alt right. Millennial and Generation Z audiences, the prime recruiting pools for much of the alt right, are more likely to engage with these formats than others and more likely to watch or listen to an alt right show than read a long alt right ideological screed. Podcasts allow different alt right activists to reach out to people with a variety of styles and approaches to subject matter, building their own audiences—something that is key to the alt right, which doesn’t form actual groups as often as some other segments of the white supremacist movement. Moreover, audio podcasts allow alt right activists to maintain the anonymity that most of them desire. The length of alt right podcasts, which can range from around 45 minutes up to three hours, also makes it difficult for anti-racist groups and organizations to thoroughly monitor all such content.
Also important is the fact that the de-platforming strategies that have forced prominent white supremacists off many social media, crowdfunding and other platforms have not yet caught up to podcasting, and podcast hosting companies are not necessarily doing their own policing. This means alt right podcasts can be found, sometimes in abundance, on sites such as YouTube, Libsyn, PlayerFM, Spreaker, PodBean, and others. This makes it easier for alt right white supremacists to reach audiences with podcasting than through many other platforms.
Indeed, some white supremacists have even built what could be described as alt right media empires. The largest and most influential of these is the website The Right Stuff, run by Mike Peinovich, who uses the pseudonym “Mike Enoch.” Peinovich is one of the pioneers of the alt right, beginning his activism through blogging (The Right Stuff itself began as a blog).
In 2014, Peinovich began podcasting with what remains one of the longest-running and most popular alt right podcasts, The Daily Shoah (its name is anti-Semitic wordplay derived from the comedy television program The Daily Show and the Hebrew word “shoah,” meaning catastrophe, used as a synonym for the Holocaust). To date, Peinovich has produced more than 300 episodes of The Daily Shoah.
The Right Stuff also hosts many other podcasts. Fash the Nation, hosted by “Jazzhands McFeels” and “Marcus Halberstram,” is among its most popular podcasts, with over 125 episodes to date (“fash” is alt right slang term for “fascist”). “Southern Dingo” hosts the southern-centric The Southern AF podcast, with nearly 50 episodes. Strike and Mike is hosted by Peinovich and “Eric Striker,” the latter a popular alt right podcast figure. The Right Stuff airs KulturKampf, Fatherland, HateHouse, and more.
The content of these podcasts varies, but racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and misogynistic themes dominate. One recent episode of HateHouse, featuring host “Larry Ridgeway” and Robert “Azzmador” Ray, a writer for Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer, was titled “Thank God, they’re n*****s.” One fan of the show described the episode on the social media site Gab as Ridgeway and Ray “embellish[ing] on why they appreciate American n*****s. Lots of laughs in this one!”
The plethora of Right Stuff podcasts even include a number of “specialty” podcasts. One recent example has been CTRL Alt Right, which billed itself as “the #1 gaming podcast on the alt right.” One recent special episode, co-presented by the white supremacist gaming-oriented website Fash Arcade, was titled “Mr. Shoah with Bob & Shekel,” another anti-Semitic wordplay reference. With such specialized podcasts, the alt right can spread their message to specific audiences—in this case, gamers, whom alt right activists view as potential recruits.
Following in the footsteps of The Right Stuff is AltRight.com, the website run by Richard Spencer and Swedish alt right activist and publisher Daniel Friberg. It has attempted to duplicate The Right Stuff’s success by hosting and promoting a variety of podcasts of its own, including Alt Right Politics, Counter-Signal with Richard Spencer, Unconscious Cinema, Euro-Centric with Daniel Friberg, Interregnum, and The Transatlantic Pact.
These constitute just a drop in the disturbingly large bucket of alt right podcasts. Just a few others include shows such as Exodus Americanus, Myth of the Twentieth Century (named after a book written by a prominent Nazi), This Week in White Genocide, Rebel Yell, America First, and Nordic Frontier. Recognizing the popularity of podcasts, some alt right groups have created their own podcasts as well; one recent example is Identity Evropa’s Identitarian Action podcast, hosted by the group’s leader, Patrick Casey, and other group members.
Alt right podcasts are also a prominent way that alt right activists in the United States are able to share ideas with their alt right and identitarian counterparts in other countries. Canada has had several popular alt right podcasts, including The Public Space, hosted by French-Canadian Jean-Francois Gariépy, and This Hour Has 88 Minutes, hosted by Clayton Sandford (under the rubric “Axe in the Deep”) and Thomas White (as “League of the North”) until its recent demise. From Sweden comes Red Ice, with Red Ice TV and its sister show, Radio 3Fourteen (Red Ice also claims a “studio” in “North America”). Other alt right/identitarian English-language podcasts have come from other countries.
Alt right podcasts can’t get the huge audiences of mainstream podcasts, but can attain audiences that are quite large for white supremacists. Red Ice has more than 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, for example. The Public Space has over 40,000 subscribers; Nick Fuentes’ American First podcast has over 15,000 subscribers. On the podcast site Spreaker, Altright.com shows have had over 600,000 plays and nearly 45,000 downloads. One episode of Alt Right Politics alone, “Incels and the Next Sexual Revolution,” got nearly 18,000 plays. Altright.com has nearly 27,000 subscribers on YouTube. These numbers illustrate the extent to which the alt right relies on its podcasts to get its message out and the degree to which podcast- and video-hosting websites are key to the spread of such messages.
The Alt Right Propaganda War:
As the alt right has expanded into real-world activity, more communities have experienced alt right activism and publicity stunts, from flash demonstrations to white supremacist freeway overpass banners.
However, perhaps more than any other locations, college and university campuses have been the front lines for a concerted propaganda battle waged by alt right and allied white supremacist groups. More white supremacist activity has occurred at college campuses from 2016-2018 than at any other time in the history of the modern, post-Civil Rights era white supremacist movement.
At first blush, college campuses might seem a strange place to concentrate white supremacist activity, given the reputation of college campuses as liberal strongholds, and are not hospitable places for white supremacists. Indeed, demonstrations break out on many campuses when conservative writers or pundits are invited to speak, and some of those have become violent.
But white supremacist campus activities are not aimed at the majority of students. Rather, such efforts represent a form of counter-programming aimed at reaching the smaller number of students who disagree with the more liberal majority. Just as television networks do not attempt to compete for viewers with the Super Bowl but rather schedule shows that are more likely to appeal to people who have no interest in that event, white supremacists hope to reach a small and specific audience of conservative, disaffected students. Indeed, the more openly left-leaning a campus might be, the more there might be some conservative students feeling isolated and alienated—and theoretically, at least, possibly receptive to a message directed at them.
Moreover, most adherents of the alt right are young, many of college age. Even when they do not attend the colleges or universities they target—which seems to be the case much of the time, based on instances where perpetrators have been identified—universities are natural targets for them.
However, most of the time white supremacists have a broader goal than merely targeting the local students. Realizing that something like a white supremacist flyer has a high likelihood of stirring controversy on campus, they engage in such activities realizing that the incidents will be spread via traditional and social media to a much larger audience than just the students at that campus.
The most visible campus tactics involve white supremacist speakers invited to speak on campus or renting public meeting space on campus for an event. Because almost every such event will be protested by anti-racist protesters and the possibility of violence is very real, such events require planning by universities and law enforcement and can generate a large amount of publicity. Richard Spencer is the alt right adherent who has invested the most time and energy in this tactic, speaking recently at places such as Michigan State University, the University of Florida, and Auburn. However, other white supremacists, such as Matthew Heimbach and Ken Parker, have also taken advantage of this strategy. White supremacists have also occasionally shown up on college campuses for small flash demonstrations, as Identity Evropa did at Miami-Dade College in 2017.
White supremacist flyering, though, is by far the most common white supremacist campus tactic (the term used here for convenience is flyers, but this also refers to similar placement of handbills, posters, stickers and banners). Alt right adherents began such efforts with the 2016-2017 schoolyear and conducted a second campaign during the 2017-2018 school year.
Since September 2016, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has recorded 478 incidents of white supremacist propaganda on some 287 college and university campuses in almost every single state. The two most active alt right groups, Identity Evropa and Patriot Front, are responsible for the bulk of the incidents. Identity Evropa adherents engaged in 230 such incidents, while members of the Patriot Front contributed another 70. Daily Stormer Book Club associates targeted campuses with 16 flyering incidents. Neo-Nazi groups allied with the alt right such as the Traditionalist Worker Party, Vanguard America and the National Socialist Legion, have also contributed a few.
This propaganda has generally promoted the various groups themselves, certain popular white supremacist websites, and general white supremacist themes. They have also frequently targeted specific minority groups, including Jews, African-Americans, Muslims, immigrants and the LGBTQ community.
These campus-oriented efforts have garnered considerable publicity for groups like Identity Evropa and Patriot Front, which probably has added some people to their ranks, but overall it is hard to measure to what degree these efforts have brought any success to the groups engaging in them.