'Alt-Right' or 'Alt-Lite'? New Guide From ADL Classifies Right-Wing Activists

7-19-17 Richard Spencer
White Nationalist leader Richard Spencer, center, chants back at counter-protesters as self-proclaimed white nationalists and "alt-right" supporters gather for what they called a "freedom of speech" rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on June 25. Spencer is listed as a key "alt-right" figure in a new guide from the Anti-Defamation League. Jim Bourg/Reuters

The so-called alt-right rose to such prominence during the course of the 2016 presidential election, and was being mentioned in the media so frequently, that the Associated Press felt it necessary to issue guidelines on how to use the term. Just a few weeks after Donald Trump—with support from the "alt-right"—beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, the AP said mention of the movement should always be accompanied by a definition, such as "an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism," or "a white nationalist movement."

The movement has remained active and visible in the months since Trump's election and inauguration, but another group of right-wing activists has also emerged onto the scene—the "alt-lite." The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a "who's who" guide to right-wing activists on Tuesday to define and differentiate between the two groups, and to identify several key figures associated with each.

"In the past year, members of the alt right and alt lite have been increasingly at odds with each other, even as they hold public rallies to promote their extreme views," Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL's CEO, said in a statement. "We want people to understand who the key players are and what they truly represent."

The ADL defines the "alt-right" (or "alternative right") as a segment of the white supremacist movement that rejects mainstream conservatism and embraces racist, anti-Semitic and white supremacist ideology. It's a loose network whose members tend to be relatively young and active on the Internet and social media. The "alt-lite," which is sometimes also referred to as the "New Right," refuses to publicly support the white supremacist aspects of its counterpart's beliefs. But members of the "alt-lite" do hate feminists, immigrants, Muslims and anyone on "the left." In other words, the main differentiator between the two groups is the explicit racial component of their nationalism.

"While the alt right has been around for years, the current iteration is still figuring out what it is—and isn't," Oren Segal, director of ADL's Center on Extremism, said in a statement. "This is further complicated by the emergence of the alt lite, which operates in the orbit of the alt right, but has rejected public displays of white supremacy. Both movements' hateful ideologies are still somewhat fluid, as are the lines that separate them."

Nevertheless, the ADL has begun a "who's who" guide to both branches of right-wing activists, featuring 36 key figures to start. Some have been in the spotlight in recent months, while others are less familiar.

The "alt-right" list includes figures such as Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, who was recently sued by a Jewish woman in Whitefish, Montana, accused of orchestrating a "troll storm" of harassment and threats against her and her family. It also features Richard Spencer, the white supremacist who is credited with coining the term "alternative right." Less than two weeks after the election, Spencer gave a speech at a conference of the National Policy Institute, of which he is president, that was met with Nazi salutes.

Milo Yiannopoulos, the well-known provocateur whose book was dropped by Simon & Schuster after a controversy about comments he apparently made about pedophilia, is classified as an "alt-lite" figure here. He's joined by Gavin McInnes, Proud Boys leader and founder of the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights and Vice magazine, which he left in 2008. A video he posted in March titled "10 Things I Hate About Jews" sparked such controversy that he later changed the title to "10 Things I Hate About Israel."

The ADL plans to update the guide as new activists and leaders surface in the fluid landscape of right-wing figures.