Thesis Moment: Reading the Alt-Right as an Activist Movement

Research question(s): can we classify the alt-right as an activist movement, and if so how is it an activist movement, and why does this matter?

Thesis: in creating an agenda and seeking to enact change, the alt-right employs rhetoric characteristic of an activist movement. To understand this rhetoric, I will be analyzing a sample size of posts from two major alt-right forums: 4chan’s /pol/ or “politically incorrect” board, and Stormfront, a white nationalist site describing itself as “the voice of the new, embattled white minority.” First, I will discuss my choices in focusing on these groups, and why in particular on online communities. Second, I will analyze key features of forum rhetoric, and how they correspond to prevailing definitions of activism. Third, I will underpin this discussion by comparing these two forums with Reddit’s /r/evolution board, a liberal group devoted to “the free flow of information” as well as democracy. Drawing this parallels will drive home a major point: the left and right are closer, if not in their ideologies, in the structures and processes they use to pursue their agendas and enact change. My evidence consists of forum posts, scholarship done on online community formation, and popular media sources (primarily liberal, to show the need for a better understanding of the alt-right by the mainstream news).

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