Memetic Warfare: The Chaos Magic of the AltRight

Yesterday, ailing US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton raised the profile of the nebulous ‘AltRight’ simply by devoting a speech to it. Obviously unaware that even giving this much oxygen to the fire would greatly amplify it, Hillary decried the “radical fringe” taking over the Republican Party between dismissing the dangers of black urban zones as well as getting a quick jab in at her opponent’s “largely white audiences”. She made reference to Twitter user ‘WhiteGenocide™’ and supposed “anti-semitic death threats” from supporters of Donald Trump. Everything from the National Enquirer to Alex Jones came under some highly scripted scrutiny from Clinton, but the AltRight was singled out as the defining ideological backing of Trump’s campaign.

Allow me to speculate for a moment that Trump himself is not particularly right wing in any sense, not at the level of deeply held conviction. If so, we cannot attribute the success of the AltRight to him, but rather to something intrinsic to its very modus operandi. Trump has been a vehicle for sure; his general unscripted take-no-prisoners attitude has allowed him to parrot some of the AltRight’s talking points without needing to reflect upon whether it was ‘wise’ in hindsight. Trump is an amplifier, he is a multiplier, but I dare say the primary cause of the AltRight’s current prominence is memetic warfare, that is, the use of a new rhetorical method to penetrate the national discourse, a method which relies on three key ingredients, at least in this instance:


1) Offensive humor

2) Applicability to reality
3) Simplicity

As many will know, the AltRight has been using memes to harass and humiliate a whole range of targets, from concern trolling Jewish journalists to neoconservatives. The on-air tantrum of Republican strategist Rick Wilson was emblematic of the fact that the AltRight had in fact managed to score a win against mainstream Conservatism in terms of online discourse. In the buzzing meme-production district of 4chan’s /pol/, there is a memetic dismissal for virtually everything.


Here is an example of a successful meme:


‘We Wuz Kangs’ (an ebonic brutalization of ‘We Were Kings’) makes a mockery of the pseudo-historical study of ‘Afrocentrism’, which is where the achievements of civilizations such as Egypt and Rome are attributed to Sub-Saharan Africans. While this doesn’t have any credibility in most university history courses, it is taught in subjects like ‘black studies’ and other such moneysinks, and is propagated by black media sources. The idea of afrocentrism is of course so ridiculous that it is perfectly ripe material for a meme, and ‘We Wuz Kangs’ acts as an effective dismissal of all afrocentric claims. It does not matter what claim is made, it can be refuted simply by using ‘We Wuz Kangs’. It works because it fulfills the three criteria of a successful meme: It is offensive yet humorous, breaking the taboo of criticizing black people, it is applicable to reality in that afrocentrism is a massive lie, and finally it is simple.

‘Le Happy Merchant’ has been around for a while, but is commonly misunderstood by Liberals as simply an anti-semitic image. On the contrary, it illustrates perfectly why Liberals remain confused about AltRight discourse, unsure often if the person is serious, or trolling for the biggest reaction. The caricature of the Jew in this picture is so ridiculously exaggerated that it blurs the line between satire and hatred, which does seem to encapsulate the most common stance on the Jews found in these spheres. They are a rather self-important nuisance, often up to no good, but really they aren’t something we lose sleep over. The ZOG conspiracy, for the most part, is fictional, and instead you have a high preponderance of Jews doing bad things. Of course, they always place themselves at the center of attention and so it is fun to play on the paranoia of zany organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

You may not like this rhetoric. You may perhaps prefer things like afrocentrism either be ignored entirely, or refuted point by point in some kind of ‘devastating critique’. The sad fact is, there is no time for that in our present culture which is increasingly driven by fast-to-order info, and the left still controls the majority share of information delivery.

Memes are not intended to convince intellectuals of anything, nor are they really a debating tactic per se, but rather they are negation propaganda. They communicate ideas contrary to the prevailing narrative in a memorable way. In some senses, Liberals have been using a similar kind of tool when they shut down the opposition using charges of ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’ etc. but contrary to right wing memes, these appeal less to reality, and more to emotional points of contact or the preset bedrocks of Liberalism itself. Once so-called ‘equality’ has been established as a given, appeals to ‘fairness’, while not developed in any intellectual sense, become effective easy-bake information weapons.

The offensive meme is the right wing response to this. In seeing the AltRight’s meme culture as something that is caustic to the established ideals, we must be careful not to set up a false conflict between the ‘chaos’ of right wing memes vs. the ‘logos’ of left wing memes. There is nothing particularly logical about contemporary Liberal discourse, it is almost entirely emotive. What we have found however, is that the logos of good argumentation is not a winning tactic against the emotive culture that the left has developed over successive decades if not centuries. The AltRight has, sensibly in my view, adopted a chaotic form of information war that has allowed it to blow apart the rotting edifice of American Conservatism/Constitutionalism, and its momentum has now carried it through to torment the Cathedral’s ‘inner party’.

the Jeb! Bush Guac Bowl meme
helped make the would-be candidate a laughing stock online


The AltRight itself is of course notoriously difficult to define, but the media and Hillary are most assuredly using it in its most nebulous sense, since they include the tame outlet Breitbart News alongside Millennial Woes under its umbrella. I have said that if you wanted to define the AltRight, you might simply want to say, “a loose collection of very pissed-off people”, with the caveat that whatever they find disagreeable or unsatisfying about the Modern World, they have entertained at least some semblance of a right wing solution. Of course, critics are correct when they point to such and such a figure on the AltRight and declare that they are in fact Liberal on a given issue. There can be no argument on this point. The AltRight, not being an organized body, covers a huge range of people who disagree on a great many fundamental things. However, it should also be acknowledged that a significant portion of what is at present being kvetched about in mainstream news, is in fact Reactionary, and the Reactosphere as a subgrouping has reaped net benefit from the success of the AltRight as a whole. Not because of Trump’s potential presidency (which I have given my own reasons for supporting), nor because of some populist desire to convert the masses into firebreathing Reactionaries, but instead to detonate the leftist discourse. In short, the virtue of the nebulous AltRight which when taken as a whole lacks real discernible properties, is its destructive rather than constructive element.

Using memetic warfare, the AltRight is breaking down a dialectic which has been dominant for generations. They are not replacing it with anything workable, after all, man cannot live on memes alone, but this is where we come in. This is what these long tracts of metapolitics and applied theology are for. While some see a conflict between the two: the low culture of 4chan memery, and the high culture of Maistre acolytes, this conflict is a category error. The two are in a form of symbiosis at present. While one destroys, the other builds a parallel replacement fit for those refugees from the void left by what memes help to expose. Whether its ‘CurrentYear™’ dispatching Liberal belief in the end of history, ‘Muhh Feels’ lampooning emotional excuses for policy, ‘*Tips Fedora*’ sending up smug pop atheism, ‘Wojak’ communicating the disillusionment of a generation without purpose, or the omnipresent ‘Pepe the Frog’ who is now an all-purpose vehicle for any message one can imagine, memes are changing popular discourse. Someone in Hillary’s audience even shouted ‘Pepe!’ when she mentioned the AltRight.


Clearly we are in some kind of political renaissance in far right thought, and because of this it is a vast ship which sails on this tumultuous sea. We’re all on it. Of course, it is compartmentalized. There is a first class section where the champagne gets drunk, and the greasy engine room where coarser language is bellowed. There are passengers you might not want to even come within a five cabin radius of, there are some you will be right to make every effort to throw over the side into the freezing water. In such a diffuse ‘movement’, this is pretty much par for the course and people really shouldn’t be getting bent out of shape about it

I don’t meme excessively. that isn’t my job, but to have an outright aversion to the use of memes (especially considering how effective they are) is a disarmament, often (though not always) motivated by some unfortunate sympathy with the enemy, some desire not to be too offensive, not to stamp on the special snowflake too hard. I couldn’t care less about Liberals and their precious feels, that much I hope has been made clear long before now.

Some will use memes, some will not, but memes are a part of the rightist discourse at this point and the hysteria they have generated is evidence of their impact. It is becoming harder and harder, at least on certain mediums like Twitter and image boards, for the Liberal emotive rhetoric to take root in the way it used to because memes are making a mockery of them, triggering their sensibilities, and according to Hillary Clinton, causing parents across the United States to fear that their children might be eaten by racist frogs. 

I’m sure I’ve mentioned on prior occasions one of my favorite Chinese sayings, “may you live in interesting times”, meaning “may chaos and uncertainty come upon you”, which applies well to Liberals. Who wouldn’t want what is driving them up the wall to continue? Meme on you crazy diamonds.


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12 thoughts on “Memetic Warfare: The Chaos Magic of the AltRight

  1. This is pure 1990s Clintonism, just slightly updated to the vast “Alt-Right” conspiracy. The problem is that none of the voters actually care about pepe, or internet trolls, or twitter white genocide. The fact that she gave this big speech is a clear sign that this is going to be her entire campaign. She should have been trying to stop the union Democrats from bolting to Trump for economic reasons, and instead she is lost in her own autistic fantasy about how she is going to save the poor suffering people from the evil Trump.

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  2. It was the current year, and then it happened…the 'Pepe!' heard 'round the world.

    Forgive the greasy engine room humor, great piece and thanks for introducing me to Codreanu.

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  3. A real meme
    Instructs genes
    Hear “Google”
    Search things
    Hear “tweet”
    Twitter means
    Hear “Facebook”
    Prance and preen
    “Just do it”
    The swooshy swings
    Put it in reverse
    You're “The ultimate driving machine”
    There's a final source though
    With a white Supremacist ring…

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  4. Thanks for that, Mr Citadel. A few thoughts that occurred to me while reading, in no particular order.

    The Alt-Right doesn't have a monopoly on memetic warfare. Right now we have an edge, yes, but the right-thinking people who use the internet are already starting to strike back; see e.g. http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1101860-alt-right

    We need to keep an edge, and that edge probably involves transcending the simple level of memetic warfare into something constructive around which to build an alternative identity and history.

    Also, it's important for those of us who don't indulge in memetic warfare not to scorn it, as you said. It's just as important not to mistake it for something it isn't. It's not an argument, it's a weapon. But the weapon holds no power without a strategy. People see memes, then (setting aside those who stay at the meming level, who are nevertheless useful) they go looking for more. We need to have that more to offer them for the original attack to hold the ground it gains.

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  5. Absolutely, 100%. There is a dynamic interplay here, two systems working in tandem. Obviously I'd class myself within the system of that more constructive vein, providing the alternative, and blocking off the Liberal 'logos escape hatch' by ensuring we have all our bases covered. I've been toying with a comparison to integrated nuclear systems, but the analogy is still formulating in my mind. Stay tuned.

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  6. The passenger ship analogy is very enjoyable. I think currently some of those uncouth enginemen are preparing to toss a few would-be usurper scallywags over the side.

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  7. Very clear and concise analysis of the meme phenomenon.

    I came across the Alt-Right during the summer of 2015 via a random comment in The American Conservative, back when Trump was getting started and I have been more or less following it since then.

    I am Spanish and got interested in American politics a while ago given the vapidity of our own. In a funny and convoluted way, I have been able to relate many aspects of the Spanish political life to it, such as the idea of nationalism, which is ubiquitous in our public debate due to Basque and Catalan separatism.

    I see the Alt-Right as what conservatism could have been without the Buckleyite purges, plus (and this is a very big 'plus') a healthy dose of economic pragmatism and overall emphasis on 'realism'. I see the paleocon element as key; maybe it is due to the fact that Richard Spencer was one of the first figures I got to know. Anyways, something that stuck with me was this opening remark of his in an article about the Trump-McCain ruckus:

    “There’s always been something suspicious . . . something very feminine, as well . . . about conservatives’ gushing worship of the U.S. military and anyone who’s “served.” Should we really be grateful to the U.S. military for anything? Do we really owe our “freedom” to those Americans who murdered countless Vietnamese, Serbians, and Iraqis for justifications that few can now recall?
    About the most positive emotion I can summon for U.S. soldiers is that I feel sorry for them, sorry for the fact that they’ve wasted their lives and that so many remain deluded about the true nature of the American military and the state whose interests it advances.”

    http://www.radixjournal.com/blog/2015/7/20/the-guy-who-got-caught

    How amazing is that coming from a right-wing American? During the Bush era I was often shaking my head at the hypocrisy of mainstream conservatives, and how they could get away with everything regarding their base, waiting in vain for an alternative from the Right.

    So, the meaning of this rant is say that unlike Reaction/Neoreaction, which to me is a purely intellectual, 'ivory tower' movement, the Alt-Right aspires to trascend the realm of ideas. I might be radically wrong in this way, but that is how I understand “metapolitics”. In my view, to look for a purely intellectual definition of the Alt-Right is misguided. The intellectual elements are of course relevant, but the gut-level assumptions, such as the one outlined above, are key. To be Alt-Right is to look at the increasingly hollowness of American rites and myths (the Constitution, the flag, the military…) and call bullshit on them as they really exist, like Gregory Hood does. And that is its true originality, since such cynicism has arosen mainly due to the dysfunction of contemporary America and no previous current got to know it.

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  8. A REAL meme is an instruction relentlessly propagated until it is executed without conscious thought.

    The clearest modern example is “google” which memes “search for information.”

    Yet, instructions have instructors whose intent behind any given instruction is now under memetic consideration.

    So “google” isn't just the instruction to “search for information,” Google INC is now a well-known and highly visible INSTRUCTOR of mass memetic control. Google.com is, in fact, a memetic domain whose sole purpose is to create a vast database of human search analytics for the purpose of mass profiling.

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  9. So in some respect, this memetic warfare turned battle of juxtapositional pictured realities with pithy, sardonic quotes MISSES the entire aim of a meme which is to instruct.

    “Strive towards Supremacy” is a meme that does not stunt one's imaginative vision with a static picture and sassy comment. It is an instruction meant to provoke the instinct.

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