A month after white-nationalist protests in Charlottesville turned violent, it seems like the alt-right is on the run and slowly, but surely, being pushed off the internet. Airbnb refused to house and host alt-right protesters. Facebook pulled their events. Other platforms took away their wallets and microphones: Stripe and Paypal stopped payments to various people and websites like alt-right.com and Unity and Security for America; GoDaddy and Google refused domain services for the two most well-known neo-Nazi sites, the Daily Stormer and Stormfront; and Squarespace dropped major alt-right leader Richard Spencer’s website.
But this is a myopic view. Just because left-leaning voters can’t see white supremacists on liberal websites doesn’t mean these communities aren’t alive and well. Instead, they’re regrouping and communicating on new, closed platforms and creating counterculture lifestyles that reinforce their ideologies. And the left is none the wiser.
There’s an alt-right version of almost everything. From magic to memes, slang to music, these alternative mirror cultures may not get shared in your social-media feeds, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Whenever companies respond to hate speech and remove these groups from their websites, fresh digital homes pop up. Like private clubs where they can make their own rules, they allow for the kinds of conversations and politically rallying they want to engage in; the type that violates hate-speech laws and mainstream digital codes of conduct in the liberal world. The people trolling at the fringe of the internet may be getting pushed out of mainstream culture, but they’re creating their own in its place.
Heard of fashwave? Hint: It has nothing to do with fashion. Fascism-wave is a popular form of electronic music within the alt-right. Daily Stormer editor in chief Andrew Anglin has described it as “the music” of the movement. Its mix of synth-heavy tunes and digital effects wouldn’t be out of place in an 1980s horror film, a video game, or even an episode of Stranger Things.
In a lot of respects, fashwave sounds just like regular synthwave. (Richard Spencer has even reportedly said his favorite bands are Depeche Mode and New Order.) There is almost no difference except for the titles of songs and the visuals used in videos, which are usually references to Nazis and Nazi-era Germany. Some of the artwork even looks like throwback tumblr art—except with neo-Nazi insignias. In fact, as Thump points out, if you removed song titles like “Neon (Nazi) Nights,” you’d think it was just like regular synthwave. That’s what makes fashwave so insidious: It’s almost identical to another form of music, which means it’s easier to get unwittingly sucked into its vortex.
Fascists creating their own musical genres isn’t a new phenomenon. The 1970s and 1980s brought about the rise of skinheads inside punk music, and the 1980s correlated white supremacy with black metal. Fashwave itself came into existence around 2015 with an artist called Cybernazi posting tracks onto YouTube. He now has videos with over 100,000 views, and he also has almost 10,000 subscribers. Musicians on streaming platform SoundCloud have also been tagging music as fashwave for some years now.
While there hasn’t been a movie made specifically about the alt-right, many movies are viewed as supporting their ideology, whether the director approves or not. Articles on IMDB and Reddit compile lists of alt-right-ish films: Some of the most common themes from mainstream movies include World War II, outdated machismo, and predominately white, male casts. As one list describes, “Expect lots of war and westerns. And John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.” These films help play into the fantasy the alt-right is building that things were better when white people were prominent and women were supporting characters to be protected.
The jingoistic and xenophobic American Sniper, directed by Trump supporter Clint Eastwood, is a clear winner in this category. Others in the lists make less sense, like Lord of the Rings (this thread makes a case for why LoTR could be considered a pro white-nationalist film, as it’s about the white, European-esque races uniting to fight for peace), as well as Jaws and Deliverance. Why the latter two? Maybe it’s because one of them is about a man ultimately triumphing over nature. Or maybe the alt-right just likes banjos.
Clothing has long been a signifier of subculture and fandoms, and this is especially true with political organizations. In the 1980s, white supremacy had skinhead punks with buzz cuts and black boots. Now they’re represented by a wider diversity of styles, from the “Proud Boy” uniform of tight, black and yellow Fred Perry polos to the “high and tight” haircut favored by the white nationalists in Charlottesville, which the Young Nazis were also known to sport.
Though online forums like Reddit and 4chan house many alt-right-adjacent communities, the official alt-right forum is Voat. If Voat looks eerily similar to Reddit, it’s because it is: It’s a clone designed to mimic Reddit’s look, feel, and functionality. Voat’s “sub voats” and board-based style is similar to these more mainstream sites, but with much looser content and conduct rules.
After seeing Reddit starting to finally crack down on racist and misogynistic subreddit boards like /r/coontown and /r/WatchN******Die, the alt-right’s official subreddit—/r/altright—created a contingency plan to migrate to Voat. Before they were banned on Feb. 1, 2017, its members speculated what to do when they were taken offline, and how to reorganize, regroup, and rebuild their numbers on Voat.
Then there’s Gab.ai, a closed social network that you have to request to join. It feels like a combination of Twitter and Reddit, except it has longer character limits, and, like Voat, less strict rules on speech. As Slate reported, Gab has raised over $1 million in crowdfunding and has around 240,000 “gabbers,” as they call themselves. They were also recently removed from the Google Play store for violating policies on hate speech.
White supremacists’ hate speech often violates terms-of-service agreements on multiple websites and platforms. As this also includes crowding and money-services sites, they’ve had to create their own crowdfunding portals through which to raise money for their programs.
For example, WeSearchR is like if Inforwars built Kickstarter. Its users can crowdfund “bounties” for certain digital acts, such as doxxing activists (by revealing personal information or someone’s identity) to supporting various alt-right-related events and donating to a campaign’s legal defense, just as you would a GoFundMe. Some of the current bounties include doxxing a member of Antifa, funding the Freedom Rally in Berkeley, and funding support for “Google memo” engineer James Damore.
Or what if you’re interested in supporting individuals’ efforts? Patreon is a wonderful website that allows user to regularly support creators, thinkers, and writers on a monthly basis with recurring donations. In its place, the alt-right has created a clone called Hatreon, where Richard Spencer and Weev, a white-supremacist hacker, are soliciting donations to support their videos and talks.
The alt-right is fighting identity politics and demanding the restoration of white culture as the best culture; they believe that political correctness and “equality” is displacing white culture, and that it should be preserved. The rise of alt-right versions of everything therefore comes out of fear: the fear of white cultural dominance being taken away as the rest of culture slowly moves toward equality.
But white culture is still the dominant culture. It has always been the dominant culture, and that’s a form of white supremacy in itself. When it comes to Black Lives Matter, the common counter-cry of “All Lives Matter” is tone deaf when lives of certain races are prized and protected over others. White lives already matter. Protectionism and freedom of speech is a false equivalency when the speech of one diminishes the existence for another.
In the end, the alt-right can try to build its own subculture—but it can’t stop the rest of culture from moving forward.