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Is a fringe element of Republicanism known as “alt-right” — dismissed by Hillary Clinton in August as a bunch of Donald Trump supporters who are also disenfranchised racists — getting ready for its Hollywood close-up now that Trump has won the presidency?
Could be, judging from projects in the works — movies, online TV networks, radio shows — plus a spike in the popularity of their existing media outlets. Anyway you slice it, alt-right heroes like Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, Michael Cernovich and Michael Savage are enjoying celebrity status as never before, and it’s not likely to change, especially given Tuesday’s election results.
“This is a victory for every American who has been wrongly smeared as racist, sexist or homophobic by the scolds and nannies of the progressive left,” Yiannopoulos told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.
“It is the perfect climax to an unstoppable new populist, nationalist revolution sweeping the west. It is mirable dictu, the moment ‘social justice’ died. I couldn’t be more thrilled,” he said
Trouble is, no one seems to know exactly who is and who is not alt-right. Even Yiannopoulos, the media-proclaimed protagonist of alt-righteousness, isn’t actually a member of the club, he tells THR.
“In dozens of interviews I’ve said the opposite. I’m just the only journalist to give them a fair hearing,” says Yiannopoulos.
“The left is trying to make it a new swear word,” he says. “They’ve seen this lively, powerful, exciting, funny brand of conservatism and their response is to do what they always do — call them names.”
Yiannopoulos is an editor at Breitbart News, which has also been tagged alt-right by the mainstream media. “I hesitate to deny it, but I hesitate to confirm it, also, because there is so much overlap in our audience,” says Breitbart editor in chief Alex Marlow.
Alt-right or not, those merely associated with the movement are riding a lucrative media wave. Breitbart’s website, for example, shattered traffic records last month, with 37 million unique visitors. The company founded by Andrew Breitbart prior to his death in 2012 is opening new worldwide bureaus, has launched a three-hour radio show daily on Sirius XM Radio and will be delving deep into video soon, in part with its newest hire: Curt Schilling, the former pro baseball player who was fired from ESPN in April after insulting the transgender community in a tweet.
“There could be a deal with a streaming video company soon,” says Marlow. “To be honest, I’m having trouble trying to think of an area where we are not expanding.”
As for Yiannopoulos, his star has risen to the point where he’s a sought-after guest on radio and television. Plus, his Dangerous Faggot Tour, where he lectures conservatives on college campuses, is routinely sold out and he’s filming his appearances for a documentary movie.
What’s the alt-right? Well, thousands of words have been written about it in the past few months, usually in the form of lengthy feature articles from left-leaning publications. Rolling Stone magazine says the movement is populated by fans of Trump looking to “reshape American politics by organizing anonymous racists on Twitter,” while Slate calls it “Euro-style white nationalism” whose standard bearer is Trump.
Those definitions work, though only if you speak to the few prominent people who actually acknowledge being on the alt-right, like Richard Spencer, founder of alternative-right.blogspot.com, and Jared Taylor, founder of American Renaissance, a magazine published by New Century Foundation, a self-described “race-realist, white advocacy organization.”
But the vast majority of conservatives who suddenly find themselves labeled “alt-right” don’t fit that mold at all.
James O’Keefe, who runs right-leaning non-profit Project Veritas
Take James O’Keefe, whose undercover videos have wreaked havoc on the likes of Planned Parenthood, NPR and ACORN. He has been praised on Spencer’s website and his detractors have begun to peg him as alt-right, though he considers himself mainstream conservative.
“They call me a liar, they call me alt-right, they call me a criminal, they can call me Captain Kangaroo, but they are determined not to call me a journalist, because that would threaten their power,” says O’Keefe.
O’Keefe is an independent journalist working through his non-profit, Project Veritas, which has exploded lately with four videos that have been viewed 15 million times in the past two weeks, the most popular of which purportedly shows a Democratic activist admitting to inciting violence at Trump rallies. The operative, Robert Creamer, resigned his position at Democracy Partners, a consulting group, after O’Keefe’s video.
Trump vs. Clinton has been very good for O’Keefe: In eight years, he had collected 70,000 Twitter followers, but he added 140,000 more in the past two weeks. Also, his Project Veritas collected 800 percent more in donations this month than it did in the prior month.
O’Keefe has been collecting behind-the-scenes video of his sting operations, which might be turned into a documentary film.
“I was at the third debate when Trump mentioned my video. There were a thousand reporters there, and I heard some of them whisper, ‘Oh, there’s O’Keefe,’ but none of them wanted to talk to me, even though a story I broke was just talked about in the debate. Reporters view me as an existential threat,” he says. “These type of moments will make an interesting movie about what it’s like to be the tip of the spear in a country with a corrupt media.”
Mark Dice in a recent election man-on-the-street interview
Mark Dice is another rising online media star who considers himself mainstream conservative but is being called alt-right by his detractors.
“The rise of the alt-right is a direct consequence of social justice warriors trying to shut down conservatives on social media and ruin their careers by organizing cyber mobs to harass people’s employers,” says Dice, whose latest book, The Illuminati in Hollywood, details how the liberal agenda is allegedly promoted in TV and films.
Dice is best known for his YouTube videos, where he takes a camera to crowded areas (usually a Southern California beach) and asks adults simple questions (why do we celebrate July 4?) or asks them to sign ridiculous petitions (supporting the repeal of the Bill of Rights or endorsing Karl Marx as Clinton’s running mate, for example). His YouTube channel has 630,000 subscribers, and he is adding about 1,500 new ones every day. The channel is viewed 15 million times a month.
Asked why some are gravitating toward the alt-right, Dice cites anger at political correctness. “If you criticize Obama, they call you a racist. If you criticize Hillary, they call you a sexist. If you think it’s weird that liberals are pushing for Disney characters and Luke Skywalker to come out as gay, they call you homophobic,” he says. “Social justice warriors misuse of these terms has all but wiped away their actual meaning.”
While the mainstream media is fixated on the racial aspect of the alt-right movement, Yiannopoulos estimates only 10 percent of those who consider themselves alt-right even care much about skin color.
“It’s not about white nationalism, it’s about Western ideas being the best, and it’s about political correctness being a cancer. Those ideas motivate millions of voters, so, depending how you define it, all of Trump’s support could be alt-right,” Yiannopoulos says.
“Trump is the product of 30 years of excesses from the left,” he continues. “People who hate the language police are being driven to being even more outrageous, sometimes saying things they don’t even believe just to get a rise out of journalists. The alt-right is a movement that doesn’t care who it offends. It knows ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’ are overused to the point of meaninglessness.”
Recent election-themed street art by conservative L.A. artist Sabo
Case in point, conservative street artist Sabo has been lumped in with alt-right for his sometimes provocative language, including the use of the N-word.
“Growing up in the South, I hated that word, but it is a word,” Sabo says. “And now you have black people punching the shit out of an old white lady and laughing about it on video. I got no problem calling the people who do that ‘n—ers,’ just like Chris Rock used to.”
Sabo is a former tank commander in the U.S. military who remains anonymous and took his pseudonym from the word “sabot,” a certain kind of projectile fired from a tank gun. Trump and the alt-right have boosted his profile. For example, after Clinton called Trump supporters “deplorable,” he created a “Deplorables” poster based on The Expendables movie, then hung several of them around Hollywood in the dead of night. Over the next two days, he sold $20,000 worth of those posters.
“I was alt-right before there was an alt-right,” says Sabo. “We’re just bold and brash and want to address problems the way we see fit. If we have a problem with the gay community or with feminism, it doesn’t mean we’re against gays or women. Enough is enough with that. The alt-right is fed up. They called the Tea Party racist, now they call the alt-right racist.”
Another alleged alt-righter busting into Hollywood is Judd Saul, who recently directed The Enemies Within, a timely documentary outlining Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s alleged connections to supporters of Islamic terror.
“But the main message of the film is that there are 100 congressmen and 20 senators who couldn’t pass an FBI background check to scrub toilets in the Pentagon,” he says. “We’re out promoting the film and the left is labeling us kooks, crazies, modern-day McCarthyists and alt-right, but we have all the proof to back up our claims.
“When the liberal media says ‘Tea Party,’ it means ‘racist,’ and when it says ‘alt-right,’ it means ‘racist.’ It’s just another label the media uses to divide conservatives,” says Saul. “The media is trying to rebrand the right. Soon, anybody who is conservative will be a part of the alt-right.”
Talk-radio alleged alt-righters (according to many in the media, at least) Michael Savage and Alex Jones are also getting a lift from the movement. Savage, now on 400 stations nationwide, sometimes reaches an audience of 20 million a week, and his message for years — the importance of “borders, language and culture” — resonates with the movement, big time.
As for Jones, a passionate Trump supporter, traffic at his Infowars website exceeded 12 million unique visitors in the past 30 days, triple what it was in the same time frame a year ago, according to measurement firm Quantcast. On his show Tuesday, he likened voting for Trump to “vomiting the poison out” and he promoted O’Keefe and his latest videos, which purport to show voter fraud in action.
“We’re the alt-right, they call us that. We’re not — we’re just patriots,” Jones said Tuesday on his show, just before railing about China making large investments in Hollywood film and TV studios. “With the election, we’re way bigger than CNN,” he boasted, “and it’s not going to go away after the election … this is our media, this is our victory.”
And then there’s Mike Cernovich, who eschews mainstream radio and television in favor of social media, where the alt-right thrives. He’s blamed (or credited) with being the first to publicly suggest that Clinton was hiding some sort of neurological sickness. Cernovich, who calls himself an “American nationalist,” wasn’t available for an interview, but after Clinton bashed the alt-right during a speech in August he told the New Yorker he hoped it would elicit “a full-scale media attack on me.”
Recent online videos from Cernovich include “How to fight back against Sick Hillary and the #ClintonNewsNetwork,” a reference to CNN, and he admits to being a “pure troll” on Twitter, picking fights with celebrities like Seth Rogen. “We can control the narrative on Twitter … mainstream media, we’ve lost,” he told the New Yorker.
And of course the biggest indication of the alt-right going Hollywood would be the creation of Trump TV, a rumored enterprise that could be spearheaded by Stephen Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart who is on sabbatical while he is CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign. Bannon, a former investment banker who made a fortune as an early investor in the sitcom Seinfeld, has produced several movies, mostly conservative-leaning documentaries.
Says Yiannopoulos: “Alt-right is a cultural libertarian revolution — young and mischievous pranksters who support Trump. By that definition it represents millions of people who are patriotic nationalists. This is the most explosive movement in America in decades … and it’s a cultural force more than a political one, so it will last longer.”
This story was updated Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 11 a.m. Pacific to reflect the outcome of the election.
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