Alt-right vs White Supremacist: What is the difference?

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The Independent Online

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency sparked a wave of celebrations among white supremacists throughout the United States – and in vast swaths of online communities of the so-called “alt-right”. 

Support from these groups only solidified when President-elect Trump named Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counsel. Bannon is most notable for his time as executive chairman of Breitbart, a hard-right conservative news site that routinely disparages Muslims, people of colour, women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community

Bannon has referred to the site as a “platform for the alt-right” in an interview with Mother Jones in August. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton targeted the alt-right in a speech that month, accusing Mr Trump of “taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican party”.

Now the “alt-right” has its own representative at the helm of the 45th US presidency. 

So what makes the “alt-right” different from white supremacist groups as we know them?

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The media has generated some criticism for their use of the term "alt-right" in lieu of "white supremacist", as people call for the need to address the rampant issue as hate crimes continue to rise in the wake of Mr Trump's election.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre describes the “alt-right” as such: 

A set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization. 

The organisation adds that the group relies heavily on social media and memes to “embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value”. 

Mobilisation of the “alt-right” led to the inclusion of a once-popular, innocuous meme, Pepe the Frog, in the Anti-Defamation League’s Hate Symbols database.

“In recent years, with the growth of the ‘alt-right’ segment of the white supremacist movement … the number of ‘alt-right’ Pepe memes has grown, a tendency exacerbated by the controversial and contentious 2016 presidential election,” the ADL explained. “Though Pepe memes have many defenders, the use of racist and bigoted versions of Pepe memes seems to be increasing, not decreasing.”

“Alt-right” is a term coined by National Policy Institute president Richard Spencer in 2008. Spencer is an outspoken support for making the US an all white ethno-state. But he hopes to bring white supremacy to mainstream politics – something a Trump win would help achieve. 

“I think if Trump wins we could really legitimately say that he was associated directly with us, with the ‘R’ word [racist], all sorts of things,” he told Mother Jones last month. “People will have to recognise us.”

But the lines between the “alt-right” and "white supremacy" remain blurry at best. Whether it is a Ku Klux Klan rally, or anti-Semitic meme, some alt-right proponents are white supremacists - and it is their voice that has been emboldened by Trump's victory. , it is white nationalism. The makeup is only younger and protected, not under the hood and robe most commonly associated with images of white supremacy in the US, but with the anonymity of the web. 

Except now they have leaders like Spencer who make no secret of their aims for an all-white etho-state; and a leader like Bannon – a man who has boasted of the group’s readership – in the White House.