The Alt-Right

Donald Trump’s recent rise to power has put a spotlight on what has come to be known as the “alt-right.”  Yet the alt-right proceeded the Trump campaign and has, perhaps, contributed to Trump’s victory and also benefited from its close ties with the White House.  This dialogue invites social scientists to comment on its causes, consequences, and its likely trajectory.  What can social movement scholars learn from this movement?  What has contributed to its successes?  What limitations to future growth does it face (if any)?  What type of people are most likely to be attracted to the alt-right, and why?  How can this movement be resisted?  How severe is the threat posed by the movement?  How should progressives respond to the way in which the alt-right prompts debate and contention over the line between hate speech and free speech?

Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.

Hajar Yazdiha, University of Southern California-Dornsife (essay)
Robert Futrell & Pete Simi, University of Nevada-Las Vegas & Chapman University (essay)
Nella Van Dyke, University of California-Merced (essay)
Ziad Munson, Lehigh University (video)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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What the Alt-Right Tells us about the Strategic Uses of (Racial) Identity

By Hajar Yazdiha

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Just nine months prior to the August 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, a New York Times profile of the alt-right explored the potential force of the movement but tempered the immediacy of the threat, explaining, “…at this point, [they] would have trouble holding a serious street rally, let alone turning into a mass political party.” Many journalists and scholars alike highlighted the “nebulous,” “loosely-assembled” nature of the alt-right, as a disparate collection of largely anonymous online communities – white supremacists, anti-Semites, nativists, neo-fascists, masculinists, conspiracists, nihilists – without any clearly shared goals or motivations. Yet, less than a year later, they marched unified through the grounds of my alma mater, tiki torch-wielding young men clad in polo shirts and khaki pants, angry faces illuminated in collective rage. Horrified publics grappled with the seemingly spontaneous re-emergence of overt, unapologetic white supremacy, the explosive violence in the streets, and the question of how our political polarization reached such depths. Continue reading

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Explaining Contemporary Extreme Right Mobilization in the U.S.

By Nella Van Dyke

On the weekend of August 11, 2017, right-wing extremists, or what many call the Alt-Right, gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the pending removal of a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee from a city park.  Many were shocked to see images of the protest on Friday, with Neo-Nazis and other extreme right supporters carrying torches en masse, in one of the largest extreme right protest events in recent history, and were horrified when participants in the protest on Saturday murdered a counter-demonstrator and injured dozens more.  President Trump suggested that both sides were to blame for the violence, generating an outpouring of dismay and arguments that he was “Giving the right a boost,” and sanctioning the violence.  However, while many may have been surprised by the protest, those of us who study the extreme right were not.  And, while President Trump’s support for the Alt-Right does enable them, their mobilization started long before he became a candidate for President.  I argue here that social movement scholarship on extreme right mobilization predicts this contemporary mobilization.  Particularly relevant are theories regarding the mobilizing effect of economic and political threat, including power devaluation theory, as well as scholarship on political and discursive opportunities. Continue reading

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The “Alt-Right” ideas are nothing new but they are taking advantage of new opportunities

By Robert Futrell & Pete Simi

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. Continue reading

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2 Lessons from the History of the Alt-Right

By Ziad Munson

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Call for Nominations for the McCarthy Award

The Center for the Study of Social Movements at the University of Notre Dame invites nominations for the 2018 John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior. The award honors scholars who have made “outstanding contributions to the scholarly literature concerned with social movements, protest, collective violence, riots, and other kinds of collective behavior over the course of her or his career. The recipient will be a person who has made major contributions not only through her or his own research, but also through teaching and mentoring other, more junior, scholars as they have developed their own research and scholarly identities.”

The award recipient will receive the award in the spring of 2018 in a ceremony held at the University of Notre Dame in conjunction with the Center’s ninth annual Young Scholars in Social Movements Conference. In addition to attending the award ceremony and banquet, the selected recipient will deliver the closing keynote lecture for the conference and have the opportunity to consult with faculty and graduate students about their ongoing research projects.

Previous Winners of the McCarthy Award:

2007 John McCarthy (Inaugural Award)
2008 Verta Taylor
2009 Mayer Zald
2010 Doug McAdam
2011 William Gamson
2012 Pamela Oliver
2013 David Snow
2014 Bert Klandermans
2015 Sidney Tarrow
2016 Kathleen Blee
2017 David S. Meyer

Please send the names of nominees, along with a brief statement supporting the nomination, no later than November 15, 2015 to Rory McVeigh, McCarthy Award Committee Chair, rmcveigh@nd.edu (email nominations strongly preferred)

 

 

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The Press Under Attack

The press in the US is under permanent attack by President Donald Trump. But the press is also under fierce attack by presidents and other elected officials in many deeply polarized countries, including Russia, Hungary, Venezuela, and Mexico. Whether through smear campaigns, strict regulation, or physical attacks, including abduction and murder, journalists who publicly expose illegal actions by government officials in a wide variety of democratic, semi-democratic, and undemocratic countries have become targets of aggression – covert or overt, lethal or non-lethal. This dialogue invites social movement scholars and journalists to consider attacks on the press as a case of state repression. While the nature and mechanics of these attacks might be different across countries and political regimes, this dialogue strives to find similarities among uncommon cases.

Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.

Lance Bennett, University of Washington & Steven Livingston, George Washington University (essay)
Katherine Corcoran, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Jennifer Earl, University of Arizona (essay)
Anita Gohdes, University of Zurich (essay)
Samuel A. Greene, King’s College London (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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