Breitbart, the far-right website that credits itself with being the platform of the so-called 'alt-right', recently announced it will be expanding its operations to Germany and France. The move is not coincidental: both countries face elections in 2017. Breitbart will push for a Marine Le Pen win in France and an AFD victory in Germany.
In order to understand what vision they want to promote in Europe, we must look at their activities in the US. This is all the more relevant given the fact that Breitbart's Chief Executive Steve Bannon was appointed by Trump to be his chief strategist and senior counsellor. While obviously extremely worrying, it should surprise no one.
Trump leveraged social undercurrents of white supremacy, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, while attacking reproductive rights and denying the threat of global warming, to put himself in the White House. It worked.
Now, the Republican Party has turned into the "most dangerous organisation in world history", to quote Noam Chomsky. That Chomsky felt the need to say that should not be taken lightly. He is, after all, old enough to have witnessed the rise of the Third Reich as a young Jewish boy. And he is not alone: American Jewish groups have already sounded the alarm over Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon, have made comparisons between Trump's 'registry' for Muslims and that of the Nazis and have even pledged to register as Muslims should that happen.
But what is Breitbart? To answer that, we can simply look at their own writings. Here are extracts from their de-facto manifesto:
There are many things that separate the alternative right from old-school racist skinheads (to whom they are often idiotically compared), but one thing stands out above all else: intelligence. Skinheads, by and large, are low-information, low-IQ thugs driven by the thrill of violence and tribal hatred. The alternative right are a much smarter group of people — which perhaps suggests why the Left hates them so much. They're dangerously bright.
The origins of the alternative right can be found in thinkers as diverse as Oswald Spengler, H.L Mencken, Julius Evola, Sam Francis, and the paleo-conservative movement that rallied around the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan. The French New Right also serve as a source of inspiration for many leaders of the alt-right.
The so-called online "mano-sphere," the nemeses of left-wing feminism, quickly became one of the alt-right's most distinctive constituencies. Gay masculinist author Jack Donovan, who edited Alternative Right's gender articles, was an early advocate for incorporating masculinist principles in the alt-right. His book, The Way Of Men, contains many a wistful quote about the loss of manliness that accompanies modern, globalized societies.
The conservative instinct, as described by Haidt, 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. They instinctively prefer familiar societies, familiar norms, and familiar institutions.
For natural conservatives, culture, not economic efficiency, is the paramount value. More specifically, they value the greatest cultural expressions of their tribe. Their perfect society does not necessarily produce a soaring GDP, but it does produce symphonies, basilicas and Old Masters. The natural conservative tendency within the alt-right points to these apotheoses of western European culture and declares them valuable and worth preserving and protecting.
Needless to say, natural conservatives' concern with the flourishing of their own culture comes up against an intractable nemesis in the regressive left, which is currently intent on tearing down statues of Cecil Rhodes and Queen Victoria in the UK, and erasing the name of Woodrow Wilson from Princeton in the U.S. These attempts to scrub western history of its great figures are particularly galling to the alt-right, who in addition to the preservation of western culture, care deeply about heroes and heroic virtues.
This follows decades in which left-wingers on campus sought to remove the study of "dead white males" from the focus of western history and literature curricula. An establishment conservative might be mildly irked by such behaviour as they switch between the State of the Union and the business channels, but to a natural conservative, such cultural vandalism may just be their highest priority.
And these are just some of their more 'sophisticated' views. One of its co-authors, Milo Yiannopoulos, was permanently banned from Twitter after encouraging his followers to harass African-American actress Leslie Jones.
A quick look through the sewer that is Breitbart exposes deep-seated fears. The fear of women's self-empowerment, the fear of the decolonisation movement on student campuses and the fear of immigrants (or at least the 'bad kind of immigrants'). Needless to say, hatred of Islam is part and parcel of Breitbart's general worldview. Their world is one in which multiculturalism means 'white genocide' and in which the supremacy of the white 'race' and 'Western civilisation' must be defended at all costs.
Breibart has become a refuge – ironic, given their hatred of refugees – for Neo-Nazis and white nationalists. They found a spokesperson in Donald Trump who had repeatedly retweeted and shared proven lies endorsed by white nationalists. For example, Trump tweeted a fake statistic shared by white nationalists regarding African-American violence, essentially endorsing the view that African-Americans are inherently more violent that white Americans. The 'bureau' he cited does not exist and the numbers he cited were all wrong. Trump also proudly made use of Pepe The Frog, a symbol of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis, during his campaign, painting himself as the Pepe-in-chief:
In an age where social media amplifies the effects of echo chambers, facts simply do not matter in practice. Consequently, reality does not matter and what's left is a world of abstractions and rhetoric. Breitbart's worldview is one built on hatred and it one that will do everything it can to create enough 'facts' on the ground to 'justify' a response. It is a tactic used by autocrats and tyrants everywhere in the world: create enough fear in the population to justify the otherwise unjustifiable.
This is the end goal of self-described and self-obsessed 'contrarians' like Yiannopoulos, who calls Trump 'daddy'. Were it not for the institutionalised fear of Muslims promoted by the 'war on terror' narrative, people like Yiannopoulos would be irrelevant. There is a reason why he believes that the gender gap is a myth, that Black Lives Matter is a threat and that rape culture is a liberal conspiracy. Believing in facts, supporting movements for social justice and deconstructing the normalisation of violence against women requires critical thinking – and critical thinking is the nemesis of the alt-right.
Our job, the job of any well-meaning person, is not to stop Breitbart and the alt-right. They are too allergic to reality to survive the consequences of being in the real world, which is why they prefer online forums where they can be as anonymous as they like. They will, in other words, self-destruct.
Our job is to make sure we prevent them from reaching positions of power and, if they do, make their job as hard as possible so that minorities and vulnerable groups do not suffer the consequences.
Joey Ayoub is the MENA editor at Global Voices as well as a Lebanese researcher from Beirut. He is the founder of Hummus For Thought and mostly writes on Syria, Israel-Palestine and Lebanon.