Adam T. C. Wallace
The Alternative Right & Imageboards
Defining the Alternative Right
The “Alternative Right” is an umbrella-term used to group-together a mass of Right-wing spheres; “Right-wing” meaning antiliberal, anti-egalitarian, and anti-Whig as an ultimate outlook (though with plenty of room for intercommunity disagreement). These spheres all differ and consist of think-tanks, small communities, blogs, websites, street movements, groups within colleges or universities, et cetera. It is a culmination of intellectual-types emerging from all stripes of life in joined dissatisfaction with contemporary Western civilization. Different spheres within the Alternative Right as well as its influences have existed for varied amounts of time — the Manosphere and MGTOW movements have only existed (in articulated, self-aware form) for a few years, where something like European enthnonationalism has existed for centuries.
The Alternative Right is not a hivemind with one specific goal in mind to accomplish in one specific way. Various once separate entities have now, in this modern era, found themselves a common enemy — modern, progressive, globalist liberalism — though different individuals and communities will have different justifications for their suspicion of this enemy. The Alternative Right is not as unified and monolithic as some would want to believe. There is constant debate, discussion, and disagreement over ideology and method between people in the community.
What is key to this inter-Alternative Right diversity is that the core of it pre-existed the internet and the information age, and is an outgrowth of academic sensibilities at home in journals, universities, and governments. However, the Alternative Right is not a political party. It has no manifesto. Any major sociocultural shift is marked prior by psychological and spiritual undercurrents which later culminate at moments of strategic importance. Europe’s Identitarian movement (à la Generation Identity) is one such undercurrent, the Alternative Right (à la Counter-Currents Publishing) itself is another, as is Neo-Reaction (à la the work of Mencius Moldbug), as are all of the various think-tanks, groups and organisations online and offline which follow a similar trajectory which is (generally) pro-identity, pro-tradition, and thus anti-establishment.
Defining Imageboard Culture
Emerging almost as soon as the internet became a public phenomenon wherein there was a free market for entertainment and instant communication between like-minded but far-apart people, the internet became the site of its own unique culture. People using the internet, on the internet alone, developed a separate grammar, moral code and way of conducting oneself than that which exists in physical face-to-face interaction. Anonymity is a huge part of developing this alternative behavior, which in-turn creates an alternative culture which only subsists on the internet. A culture free from the social restraints of the physical world, where a new social code is developed; the internet provides a clean slate where social norms which exist outside of it are easily disregarded. And that is exactly what has happened, not only within various imageboards, but generally on the web on forums, online videogames and chatrooms. Take the stereotypical example of a hyper-introverted computer geek who spends all of his time on the internet; this is his world, not the world of the ordinary person.
What people refer to as “chan” is in reference to — mostly, but not wholly — the imageboard forum created in 2003 by Christopher “moot” Poole, 4chan. To be specific, the /pol/ board on 4chan, titled “Politically Incorrect” (previously /new/ for “News”), where there exists a style drawing from the old-internet culture of anonymity and the escape of social norms, and the directing of that into the realm of politics. Of course, the most politically incorrect politicking involves sentiments of an antiliberal, antidemocratic, anti-egalitarian, antimasses bent. One does not have to venture far or for long on such a corner of the net before you are bombarded with antisemitism, various -phobias, -isms, and other assorted fun and games. That is not to say a place like 4chan’s /pol/ is utterly contrarian for its own sake, but it is free from the taboos and social expectations which would stifle such opinions and expressions in the physical world, therefore thoughtcrime flourishes as it has no other avenues though which to filter in mainstream society. Again; the internet has its own culture — which may be confusing for those non-tech-savvy weirdos out there — that is distinct from the physical world, and it is certainly manifest in a place like 4chan’s /pol/.
The actual make-up of /pol/, as far as opinions are concerned, is rather synthetic. There is a body of national socialists, a body of fascists, nationalists, traditionalists, libertarians, anarchists, reactionaries, conservatives, etc. There are posters of nearly every stripe — which might confuse those who have not spent a massive amount of time on /pol/ — but the only group which is not present (at least not noticeably) is that of a kindly, liberal, socially progressive persuasion. The overarching culture is a kind of tongue-in-cheek Hitlerism which rants as much as it delicately articulates, and, furthermore, professes unending hatred and malice, and at the same time, a huge capacity for loving concern and a nearly obsessive craving for justice and the righting of wrongs. There is, to such a passionate style, a kind of sensible schizophrenia; massive amounts of energy swirling in every direction, every channel and for every purpose — even if two directions are counter-propositional. You will find threads on /pol/ endorsing the legalization of slavery or prostitution; at the same time you will notice threads calling for others to convert to Christianity; or to get into healthy physical and mental shape; or threads on how to find a good wife, and so on. You can find threads decrying the Holocaust and Nazi terror outright, and simultaneously find threads of a much more tempered nature on the same topic. There are threads claiming that Europe must return to its pagan roots, and at the same time threads claiming the exact opposite; sometimes from a Christian perspective or even a Nietzschean perspective. For a rabble of assumed “bigots,” there is great diversity in this place. “/pol/ is not one person,” as the saying goes in reply to people who assert that those who browse these places are of one type and one type only.
The Chan Zeitgeist
The hostile and anti-outsider Zeitgeist chans tend to envelop themselves with is a survival mechanism so that the site maintains a stable foundational identity. Newcomers are discouraged from posting, from using names, or from breaking the specific unwritten rules which preceded their arrival. You submit, and become another nameless ideologue where the only thing which matters is facts, humor and brotherhood-in-anonymity. Occasionally, posters (typically someone answering questions) will use a name and differentiate themselves from the mass. Such a thing is looked down upon when it is abused, however, and used as a tool to attract attention and form an ego. The distaste for “namefagging” as it is called is not that the individual is different, but that the individual is basing their differentiation upon an arbitrary label instead of their mental healthiness. It can be a helpful tool for people who have a presence elsewhere to maintain that presence on an imageboard so they are then recognized, but most of the time, unless the person is already known and liked within the culture, it is strongly abhorred.
Imageboards such as 4chan and 8chan are unique within internet culture due to the popularity of their political spaces. Some other paces on the net where political discussion is an energetic force are Reddit, Tumblr, and YouTube. The former two are liberal in flavor, and due to the ego-centric essences of each site (having “Like” systems, for example) they maintain an acceptable, as far as “real life” standards are concerned, etiquette. They are liberal hubs, and Tumblr itself is notorious for its far-Left mobbiness. YouTube is an interesting beast as though on the surface it might appear “normal” (i.e., liberal), there is actually a noticeable presence of illiberal comments, channels, and personalities. The fact that individuals involved in the Alternative Right can maintain an income off of such a site by making videos says enough about its friendliness to out-of-the-box thinking. But, nevertheless, YouTube will never be totally antinormal in the way in which 8chan is, for instance.
The energy, the swirling vortex of creativity, which exists on 8chan (and other chans) is not capable of being realized anywhere else due to both the make-up of the site in its membership, as well as how the website is organized and constructed. There are, as already mentioned, no “Like” functions; unlike Reddit, posts are by default ordered chronologically instead of by popularity; forming a distinct ego is looked down upon to the point where distinguishing yourself with a name can cause other users to filter your posts so anything sent by your I.P. is not seen; and threads are not normally saved or archived before they are pruned (deleted), which forces users to both repeat and reaffirm themselves as well as — and this is of utmost importance — re-evaluate themselves and their views constantly; daily; hourly; by the minute (hence “/pol/ is always right,” as another saying goes).
As for some of the more famous accretions of this community; memes and trolling, we can offer brief explanations of these phenomena.
A “meme” is defined as “a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.” One type of meme adored by imageboards is the “image macro,” often an expressive picture of a person or animal overlayed with an amusing caption. Such pictures can be found all over the internet nowadays, but it was the imageboard which birthed them proper. Famous examples include the “Doge,” “Pepe,” “Good Guy Greg,” and other variants. Other “picture-memes” include “reaction images” which are often posted on imageboards instead of text to convey a particular emotion in visual, rather than descriptive, format. For every sarcasm, mockery, or sadness-inducing post, there is an appropriate reaction image somewhere (often in the form of anime girls, as noted commentator Rick Wilson famously misunderstood). The reason why images are often used in place of words is simply due to their direct, no-nonsense message. One does not need to provide arguments as to why someone is wrong in debate, an image of a smug-looking cartoon woman signals simply-enough that “You’re wrong, so shut-up and LURK MOAR” (as yet another saying goes).
As for the well-known art of “trolling,” of irritating and cyber-harrasing people; such nastiness, best exemplified via the case of Jessi Slaughter, stems largely not from the /pol/ subculture, but the /b/ — “Random” — subculture, a realm notorious for all sorts of things, including various “raids” on particular websites and the like, wherein, as is sometimes the case with the avatar-based social media platform Habbo Hotel, imageboard-goers band-together in an effort to disrupt or shock another online community. Humor and ridicule are integral parts of chan culture, and this is the primary basis for trolling people and communities — doing it for “the lulz.”6
Such activities, however, can carry-over onto /pol/ in the form of mockery and ridicule of Jews, nonwhites, feminists, progressives, liberals, Muslims, and various other minority or so-called “oppressed” groups. The one thing /pol/ respects is power, and those without it are fair game for ridicule by virtue of it being not only hilarious, but morally justified in the spitting-upon of one’s enemies. If one has ideological reasons to dislike someone else and to see them as a threat to society, it does help in the justification of their torment. The “Alt-Right Twitter Army,” as it has been called, joyously delights in the humiliation and mockery of apparent liberals and assorted ninnies ripe for the trolling — all in under one hundred and forty characters a piece. And while all this does stem from humor and mockery, it is not always as simple as that.
Humor and comedy is a very powerful tool which can disarm people in debate instantly. Similar to the oft-spewed liberal buzzword “racist” (a word so brazenly overused nowadays that it has lost all meaning in many circles), humor can shut-down a discussion in a moment of cultural microdomination. Call someone a racist, and all is evident: they are amoral, wicked, violent, ignorant and on the wrong side of history. Call someone a “cuck” and all is evident: they are weak, feeble, pathetic, incompetent and will likely die off in the coming racewar. Words amid /pol/-friendly Alt-Righters have immense power, and are deployed like tactical missiles to shame weaklings and those who are facilitating the destruction of Western civilisation and all that is right and proper.
I hope I have given those who are not familiar with the culture of imageboards a somewhat serviceable overview. The brief analysis above really is not enough, and the only way to actually see what I am babbling about is to actually experience it for yourself. Be warned, however, simply because there is a good deal of overlap between /pol/ and the Alternative Right does not guarantee safe-passage between the two for everyone. The Alternative Right is borne of academia, where /pol/ is borne of an entirely fresh slate where intellect is important, but humor and a sense of belonging are more so. Of course, the overlap between the two areas is rather prominent. The emergence of The Right Stuff, a blog which was originally formulated on 4chan’s /pol/, has introduced into the blogosphere the humour of imageboards. We owe the circulation of terms such as “dindu,” “LARPing,” “cuckservative,” and many more to this website and its memetic influence. The fact that these two areas have overlapped and merged to a certain degree should not be surprising. Where there is academic space, there is room for humor, and where there is humor, there is room for academic sensibility. The key feature of imageboard culture is energy; raw energy which only needs directing. The intellectual structure of the Alternative Right has provided a directing framework for the more playful energies existent within individuals in the sphere who have not previously been introduced to imageboard culture where the emergence, the rearing of the head, of imageboard culture has ignited the spark. It is a circle.
There are dangers with such a scenario, however. It is fair to point-out that much of the energy existing within the /pol/ substratum of imageboard culture exists as a reaction against the insanity of progressive liberalism and the like (and rightly so), where the Alternative Right proper has its bedrock in various pre-existent ideologies and traditions such as European conservatism and nationalism; it is part of a larger chain which encompasses the European New Right, the German Conservative Revolution, and so forth, where imageboard culture is essentially “square one” with few proper ties to anything prior to it due to its place on the internet, and it not being in the form of anything more than a strange kind of social club where nothing and everything is discussed. Where the Alternative Right would critique liberalism from a fixed ideological reference point such as ethnonationalism, /pol/ simply deconstructs it and declares “It doesn’t work, so let’s try something else.” That “something else” could, depending on who you ask on /pol/ be a form of fascism, nationalism, libertarianism, etc. — but who do you ask? Everyone is Anonymous! Hence there cannot be total overlap between the two; any overlap thus far has existed dialectically, synthetically, à la threads on /pol/ about Neo-Reactionary philosophy, or jokes about “muh six million” and other memes in Alternative Right podcasts. Thus, it is erroneous to say that this is a “chan generation” which is involved with the Alternative Right, or that the Reactosphere is full of people who visit 4chan or 8chan. There are of course those who are involved simultaneously in the two — there is overlap, as already said — but chan-goers are not the ideological bedrock of the Alternative Right proper; they make-up a large portion of the audience, not the intellectual or creative vanguard.
There are distinctions which must be drawn, and the importance of both spaces must be understood. The Alternative Right is immensely threatening towards its victims, even if the victims are thus far unaware of the threat approaching them, as it presents (or exposes, brings back to us) doctrines which are perfectly opposed logically, spiritually, and emotionally to the present epoch in complete intellectual, academic serenity. The culture of imageboards, “chan culture,” is a massive threat to its potential victims as it is purely anarchistic in a frighteningly antilogical and sadistic way — or at least the potential exists for it to be so.
3. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition