The Alt-Right: What Everyone Needs To Know by George Hawley

The Blurb On The Back:

In recent years, the so-called Alt-Right, a white nationalist movement, has grown at an alarming rate.  Taking advantage of high levels of racial polarization, the Alt-Right seeks to normalize explicit white identity politics.  Growing from a marginalized and disorganized group of Internet trolls and propagandists, the Alt-Right became one of the major news stories of the 2016 presidential election, and exploded into public consciousness after its mark through Charlottesville in summer 2017.  Discussions of the Alt-Right are now a regular part of political discourse in the United States and beyond.  In The Alt-Right: What Everyone Needs To Know, George Hawley, one of the world’s leading experts on the conservative movement and right-wing radicalism, provides a clear explanation of the ideas, tactics, history, and prominent figures of one of the most disturbing movements in America today.  Although it presents itself as a new phenomenon, the Alt-Right is just the latest iteration of a longstanding radical right-wing political tradition.  Throughout, Hawley discusses the other primary ideological influences on the Alt-Right: libertarianism, paleoconservatism, neo-reaction, and the Men’s Rights Movement.  Dispassionate and accessible, this is an essential overview for anyone seeking to understand this disruptive and dangerous political movement. 

You can order The Alt-Right: What Everyone Needs To Know by George Hawley from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

George Hawley is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Alabama and in this concise, comprehensive (for an ever-developing movement) book that’s a must-read for anyone interested in the subject, he sets out what the Alt-Right is, how it’s comprised, how it developed, how it ties in with mainstream conservatism and (in what I found to be the least successful part of the book) how to challenge it.

The book is very easy to follow, with Hawley writing in an accessible, journalistic style that sticks to the facts and provides additional resources for people interested in reading more about specific subjects.  Hawley tracks through the history of the Alt-Right movement, starting with a description of what its main principles are and analysing its ties to white nationalism, anti-semitism, misogyny and generic racism.  One of the strengths of the book is, unfortunately, also a weakness in that Hawley acknowledges how the movement is constantly developing as it fractures and reforms, which means that the Alt-Right has already moved on from the date  when he wrote it (the effect most obvious in the chapter on Trump and his links to the Alt-Right where Trump’s 2019 Tweets seem specifically aimed at engaging those who favour Alt-Right politics and the chants of “send them back” during his July 2019 rallies seem like an obvious sop to a white nationalist base).

Hawley sets out the key players associated with the movement (whose names may be familiar to readers), including Richard Spencer, Steve Bannon, David Duke, Milo Yiannopoulos and Mike Cernovich and also analyses the way the Alt-Right ties in or overlaps with other conservative movements such as paleoconservatism, identitarianism and libertarianism. The explanations for what these movements stand for and how they came about were particularly interesting to me because I have not previously understood the history or how they tie in with mainstream politics and I think that the book serves as a useful primer for those trying to work out what conservatism is in the United States and how it developed. 

Where I did take issue with the book is in the about how to combat the Alt-Right, specifically the sections on no-platforming.  For me, Hawley gave too much attention to free speech arguments and questioned whether sites like Google or Amazon should be the “primary gatekeepers to speech”.  The main problem is that the sections are far too short to discuss the topic (and I would be interested in reading more of Hawley’s views on this) but given how his earlier chapters discuss how Alt-Right personalities were able to weaponise internet attention to gain more publicity for their cause and how one of their main problems has been securing funding.  It therefore seems to me that no-platforming them does actually work in that it makes it harder for them to publicise themselves and earn money and far from being a free speech argument, it comes down to private websites actually enforcing the terms of use they require users to sign up to against hateful speech, trolling etc.

Criticisms aside though, I found this book a genuinely interesting read and I certainly came away feeling I knew more about the topic than when I started.  

THE ALT-RIGHT: WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW was released in the United Kingdom on 28th February 2019.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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