The Alt-Right Pipeline: Why’s it so Dangerous?
The Alt-Right Pipeline and its Impact on Young Men Online
The Alt-right (also known as the Alternative Right) is a term coined by Richard B. Spencer, used to describe a set of far-right ideals that center on white identity and ‘western supremacy’. For some context, Spencer is the head of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank.
In recent years, the conversation around the alt-right has become more mainstream. And, the significance of it has especially arisen since Donald Trump’s presidency, and events such as the 2016 Charlottesville rally and the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Now that we’ve established what the Alt-Right is, what is the ‘Alt-Right Pipeline’? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s the gateway into the alternative right’s ideology, which in recent years has occurred predominately online. Apps and websites such as YouTube and TikTok have been used as hosts to spread this ideology. What’s worse, it appears to be getting easier and easier for algorithms to suggest dangerous ideologies to users. Especially young boys.
In fact, TikTok user @Jacobious tested the algorithm’s part to play in being exposed to the alt-right. He did this by creating a brand new TikTok account and setting the user’s age to 12 years old. The first video he liked was one about ‘tips for boys’, to ensure the algorithm acknowledged his engagement, he commented on the video too. Only a few scrolls later was an Andrew Tate video. For those unaware, Tate recently got banned across social media platforms after his content was recognised to be inciting violence towards women and encouraging misogynistic thinking. Already we can see how quickly users can go from interacting with rather innocent content to extreme right-wing beliefs.
But the alt-right pipeline isn’t something new that’s grown alongside the rise of TikTok. Those who were active on YouTube in the mid-2010s are probably familiar with SJW cringe compilations. Some of which racked up over a million views per video.
For those unfamiliar with the term SJW, it’s an acronym meaning ‘Social Justice Warrior’. A label that was heavily used in the discussion of identity politics online and referred to someone advocating for socially progressive views. Whilst the term ‘SJW’ isn’t used as much anymore in online spaces as it once was, the term has appeared to have been replaced by the label of ‘wokeness’ – but they both mean the same thing.
So, what part do these ‘anti-SJW’ compilations have in the alt-right pipeline? The mocking of the basic ideals that these people are pushing (feminism, BLM, LGBTQ+ rights, etc.) opens a path to right-wing commentators on YouTube, and the leap is so subtle it’s almost unnoticeable. In fact, it seems like the logical step, hence why the YouTube algorithm suggests such videos.
The subtly of the pipeline is the core of its danger. And it easily preys on young boys and men. These right-wing groups and individuals behind the online presence of the alt-right use SJWs (and in turn everything they stand for) as an explanation for the problems that many young men struggle with, such as mental health.
They tell this impressionable audience that the reason they are depressed is that women now get to go to work too and provide, that they are no longer subservient to their husbands. Anti-semitic and racist propaganda is fed to them until eventually they internalise these messages and start to believe them. This aspect of the alt-right are often referred to as ‘incels’, meaning ‘involuntary celebate’ – a movement actually started by a woman looking for community, but was eventually co-opted by the right. Pervasive misogyny is masked by the illusion of male brotherhood and support, but it ultimately isolates these individuals from the world around them, making them easier to indoctrinate.
To boil it down into one sentence: the alt-right pipeline is a gradual method of radicalisation into right-wing beliefs. Beliefs which have resulted in lives lost, responsible for the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, responsible for the killing of 2 women and 4 men on a college campus as a misogynistic attack because the shooter couldn’t ‘have’ the “girls [he’s] always desired but was never able to have”, and the death of Heather Hayer at the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.
So, how do we combat it?
Like most things, there is no easy fix. But we can start by having conversations about this method of indoctrination and these communities that pray on vulnerable and impressionable people – especially men and boys. We can also have open discussions about why this pattern of thought is harmful, and teach ourselves and others to always question what we are told. As well as educating ourselves on the history and current issues perpetuated by racism, misogyny, homophobia and more. But also to look at how patriarchal society harms men and not feminism like so many of the alt-right like to claim.
It’s also time for social media giants to take more action against those using their platforms to spread hate and incite violence. Yes, freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but it does not mean freedom of speech without consequences. And, yes Instagram can choose who it does and doesn’t have on its platform. Because Instagram isn’t a constitutional right.