Although traditional conservatives have begun to distance themselves from Donald Trump, the digital forces of right-wing trolls – the so called alternative conservatives or "alt-right" – are coalescing around him.

The most recent sign of this alliance was Trump's choice of Breitbart executive Stephen Bannon to be his campaign CEO. Bannon recently boasted that Breitbart had become a platform for the alt-right movement, regarded by many as anti-Semitic, anti-feminist and white nationalist.

Bannon's tech editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, has been blamed for a string of racist and sexist Twitter attacks against black comedienne Leslie Jones of Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live fame. Yiannopoulos refers to Trump as "daddy."

A recent cyberattack on Jones' web site, where nude photos of her were posted is now being investigated by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Now Hillary Clinton has called out Trump and his alt-right army she says hails from the "dark reaches of the Internet."

Clinton lashed Breitbart's embrace of "ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right: racist ideas, race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas – all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the 'alt-right.' That's short for "alternative right'," Clinton said during her campaign speech in Reno, Nevada.

It was the first time a presidential candidate has used the term 'alt-right'.

The "de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a landmark achievement for this group, a fringe element that has effectively taken over the Republican Party. It's like nothing we've heard before from a nominee for president of the United States," she said, tying the movement to "the rising tide of hardline, right-wing nationalism around the world".

It was a prime-time moment for the alt-right, a relatively obscure movement known mostly among avid supporters, almost exclusively online, talking to each other on alt-right blogs and certain Reddit or 4chan forums.

The National Policy Institute's Richard Spencer, one of the early founders of the alt-right cause, has written that the movement is "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States, and around the world".

Farage Trump
Alt-right comes into its own on the campaign trailCarlo Allegri/ Reuters

'Intellectually more bright' than skinheads

Alt-right supporters oppose any level of immigration that would threaten white demographic dominance. They also particularly despise any effort at "political correctness," which they see as weakness.

They particularly hate establishment conservatives, whose moderate right-wing positions are also seen as weak.

Yiannopoulos and writer Allum Bokhari published a manifesto on Breitbart, entitled An Establishment Conservative's Guide to the Alt-Right. They claim the alt-right is "intellectually more vibrant" than skinheads. It is "dangerously bright," they said.

The manifesto differentiates "natural conservatives" from traditional conservatives, who they say worry more about money than culture. Traditional conservatives, for example, welcome the cheap labour that immigrants often provide.

But "natural conservatives have other concerns: chiefly, the preservation of their own tribe and its culture," write Yiannopoulos and Bokhari. "For natural conservatives, culture, not economic efficiency, is the paramount value. More specifically, they value the greatest cultural expressions of their tribe.

"The conservative instinct ... includes a preference for homogeneity over diversity, for stability over change, and for hierarchy and order over radical egalitarianism. Their instinctive wariness of the foreign and the unfamiliar is an instinct that we all share – an evolutionary safeguard against excessive, potentially perilous curiosity – but natural conservatives feel it with more intensity."

Trump is furious about Clinton's speech.

But the twist in the campaign is that Clinton calling out the alt-right has made its disciples happy. They love the attention, and view becoming part of a presidential campaign — even if only to be attacked — a sign that their movement has truly arrived.

As the Daily Beast notes, the alt-righters are "begging Hillary: Beat us some more".

"Well guys. We've made it," wrote Andrew Anglin, the founder of neo-Nazi web site the Daily Stormer. "Hillary Clinton is giving a speech about us today."