NOTE: This is a revised article which was originally posted at West Coast Reactionaries on the 29th of August 2015.
There has been a slight misunderstanding among quite a number of individuals. That misunderstanding is not a logical mishap or display of ignorance as such, but often what I observe as exaggeration or a simple lack of perspective. We firstly must achieve an understanding of two things; two distinct entities: the Alternative Right, and the culture of internet imageboards.
To begin with, one needs to understand what the Alternative Right is. It is an umbrella-term, used to group together a mass of “Right-wing” spheres; Right-wing meaning antiliberal; anti-egalitarian and anti-Whig as an ultimate outlook. These spheres all differ greatly and include thinktanks, small communities, interconnected blogs and websites, street movements, groups within colleges or universities, et cetera.
The Alternative Right is a culmination of intellectual-types emerging from all stripes of life in joined dissatisfaction with contemporary Western civilisation. Different spheres and influences within the Alternative Right have existed for varied amounts of time — the Manosphere and M.G.T.O.W. movements have only existed (in articulated, self-aware form) for a few years, where something like straight-out patriotism, or in-group preference, has existed for millennia.
The Alternative Right is not a hivemind with one specific goal in to accomplish in one specific way. Various once-separate entities have now, in this modern era, found themselves a broadly common enemy. This enemy is modern, progressive, globalist liberalism. What is key is that the Alternative Right — or at least parts of it — pre-existed the internet and the information age, and are an outgrowth of largely academic sensibilities at home in journals, universities and governments.
The Alternative Right is not a political party. It has no manifesto. Any major sociocultural shift is marked prior by psychological and spiritual undercurrents which later culminate at moments of strategic importance. Europe’s Identitarian movement is one such undercurrent, the Alternative Right is another, as is Neo-Reaction, as are all of the various thinktanks, groups and organisations online or offline which follow a similar trajectory which is pro-identity, pro-power, and anti-establishment.
As for “imageboard culture”; emerging almost as soon as the internet became a public phenomenon wherein there was a free market for entertainment and instant communication between like-minded but far-apart people, the internet became the site of its own unique culture. People using the internet, on the internet alone, developed a separate grammar, moral code and way of conducting oneself than that which exists in physical face-to-face interaction. Anonymity is a huge part of developing this alternative behaviour, which in-turn creates an alternative culture which only subsists on the internet.
A culture free from the social restraints of the physical world, where a new social code is developed; the internet provides a clean slate where social norms which exist outside of it are easily disregarded. And that is exactly what has happened, not only with various imageboard, but generally on more “internet experienced” sites like Ebaumsworld, Newgrounds, SomethingAwful, and a plethora of forums, online videogames and chatrooms (most of which have drastically abandoned their older selves by now). Take the stereotypical example of a computer geek who spends all of his time on the internet; this is his world, not the world of the ordinary person.
What people refer to as “chan” (shorthand for “channel”) is in reference to — mostly, but not wholly — the imageboard forum created in 2003 by Christopher “moot” Poole, 4chan. To be specific, the /pol/ board on 4chan, titled “Politically Incorrect” (previously /new/ for “News”), where there exists a style drawing from the old-internet culture of anonymity and the escape of social norms, and the directing of that into the realm of politics. Of course, the most politically incorrect politicking involves sentiments of an antiliberal, antidemocratic, anti-egalitarian, antimasses bent. One needs not venture far or for long on such a corner of the net before you are bombarded with neo-Nazism, antisemitism, various -phobias, -isms, and other assorted fun and games.
That is not to say a place like 4chan’s /pol/ is utterly contrarian for its own sake, but it is free from the taboos and social expectations which would stifle such opinions and expressions in the physical world, therefore thoughtcrime flourishes as it has no other avenues though which to filter in mainstream society. Again; the internet has its own culture — which may be confusing for those non-tech-savvy weirdos out there — that is distinct from the physical world.
The actual make-up of /pol/, as far as opinions are concerned, is rather synthetic. There is a body of national socialists, a body of fascists, nationalists, libertarians, communists, anarchists, reactionaries, conservatives, etc.. There are posters of nearly every stripe — which might confuse those who have not spent a massive(ly unhealthy) amount of time on /pol/ — but the only group which is not present (at least not noticeably) is that of a kindly liberal, socially progressive persuasion.
The overarching monoculture is a kind of tongue-in-cheek Hitlarianism which rants as much as it delicately articulates, and, furthermore, professes unending hatred and malice, and at the same time, a huge capacity for loving concern and a nearly obsessive craving for justice and the righting of wrongs.
There is, to such a passionate style, a kind of sensible schizophrenia; massive amounts of energy swirling in every direction, every channel and for every purpose; even if two directions are counter-propositional. You will find threads on /pol/ endorsing the legalisation of prostitution or the lowering of the age of consent; at the same time you will notice threads calling others to convert to religion and to become healthy both physically or mentally; or threads on how to find a good wife, ect.. You can find threads decrying the Holocaust and Nazi terror outright, and simultaneously find threads of a much more tempered nature on the same topic.
The hostile and anti-outsider zeitgeist chans tend to envelop themselves with is a survival mechanism so that the site maintains a stable foundational identity. Newcomers (called “newfags”) are discouraged from posting, from using names, or from essentially breaking the specific unwritten rules which preceded their arrival. You submit, and become another nameless ideologue where the only thing which matters is facts, humour and brotherhood-in-anonymity. Occasionally, posters (typically someone answering questions) will use a name and differentiate themselves from the mass. Such a thing is looked down upon when it is abused, and used as a tool to attract attention and form an ego. The distaste for “namefagging” as it is called is not that the individual is different, but that the individual is basing their differentiation upon an arbitrary label instead of their mental healthiness. It can be a helpful tool for people who have a presence elsewhere to maintain that presence in another place so they are then recognised, but most of the time, unless the person is already known and liked within the culture, it is strongly frowned-upon.
Imageboards such as 4chan and (the superior) 8chan are unique within internet culture due to the popularity of their political spaces. The only other paces on the net where politics is really an energetic force are Reddit, Tumblr and YouTube. The former two are liberal, and due to the egocentric essences of each site (“Like” systems, for example, which establish a reward system for saying popular things) they maintain an acceptable, as far as “real life” standards are concerned, standard. They are liberal hubs, and Tumblr itself is notorious for its far-Left mobbiness. YouTube is an interesting beast as though on the surface it might appear “normal” (liberal), there is actually a noticeable presence of illiberal comments, channels and personalities. That individuals involved in the Alternative Right can maintain an income off of such a site by making videos says enough about its friendliness to out-of-the-box thinking. But, nevertheless, YouTube will never be totally antinormal the way in which 8chan is, for example. The energy, the swirling vortex of creativity, which exists on 8chan (and other chans) is not capable of being realised anywhere else due to both the make-up of the site in its membership, as well as how the website is organised and constructed.
On imageboards there are, as already mentioned, no “Like” buttons; unlike Reddit, posts are by default ordered chronologically instead of by popularity; forming a distinct ego is looked down upon to the point where distinguishing yourself with a name can cause other users to filter your posts so anything sent by your I.P. is not seen; and threads are not normally saved or archived before they are pruned (deleted), which forces users to both repeat and reaffirm themselves as well as — and this is of utmost importance — re-evaluate themselves and their views constantly; daily; hourly; by the minute (hence “/pol/ is always right,” as the saying goes).
Hopefully I have given those who are not familiar with the culture of imageboards a somewhat good picture of the scenario. The brief analysis above really is not enough, however, and the only way to actually see what I am babbling about is to actually experience it for yourself. Be warned, though; simply because there is a good deal of overlap between /pol/ and the Alternative Right does not guarantee safe-passage between the two for everyone. The Alternative Right is borne of academia, where /pol/ is borne of an entirely fresh slate where intellect is important, but humour and a sense of belonging are more so.
Of course, the overlap between the two areas is rather prominent. The emergence of the blog, The Right Stuff, which was originally formulated on 4chan’s /pol/, has introduced into the blogosphere the humour of imageboards. We owe the circulation of terms such as “dindu,” “LARPing,” “cuckservative,” and many more to this neat little website and its influence. The fact that these two areas have overlapped and merged, to a certain degree, should not be surprising. Where there is academic space, there is room for humour, and where there is humour, there is room for academic sensibility.
The key feature of imageboard culture is energy; raw energy which only needs directing. The intellectual structure of the Alternative Right has provided a directing framework for the more playful energies existent within individuals in the sphere who have not previously been introduced to imageboard culture where the emergence, the rearing of the head, of imageboard culture has ignited the spark. It is a circle.
There are dangers with such a scenario, however. It is fair to point out that much of the energy existing within the /pol/ substratum of imageboard culture exists as a reaction against the insanity of progressive liberalism and the like (and rightly so), where the Alternative Right has its bedrock in various pre-existent ideologies and traditions such as European Traditionalism and Nationalism. Where the Alternative Right would critique liberalism from a fixed reference point, for example, /pol/ simply deconstructs it and declares “It does not work, so let us try something else!” That “something else” could, depending on who you ask on /pol/, be Fascism, National Socialism, libertarianism, etc.. But who do you ask? Everyone is Anonymous, hence there cannot be total overlap between the two; any overlap thus far has existed dialectically, synthetically, a la neoreactionary threads on /pol/ or jokes about “muh six million” in Alternative Right podcasts.
It is erroneous to say that it is a “chan generation” which is involved with the Alternative Right. There are of course those who are involved simultaneously in the two — there is overlap, as already said — but these people are not the bedrock or the defining spirits of either space.
The Alternative Right is a very diverse network, and one of its primary influences and directing forces finds its home on internet imageboards, adorned evenly with dusty tomes and anime girl body pillows.