Alt-right violence isn’t random — it’s part of a strategy to radicalize the “normies” and make fascism great again
Despite being almost religiously devoted to Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, the legions of online racists referred to as the “alt-right” have already decided to move on to their next big project: sparking widespread political conflict that they hope to turn into a nationwide race war.
White nationalists worldwide have fantasized about such conflicts for decades in photocopied manifestos and novels like “The Turner Diaries,” which reportedly inspired Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. Racist killers like Dylann Roof have tried to spark the racial apocalypse through mass murder. This time around, their dreams seem slightly more plausible, thanks to two important tools that didn’t really exist for racists of yore: the democratizing nature of the internet (allowing anyone with enough dedication to grow a following) and a realization among members of today’s far right that they can adopt the tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience — long associated with the activist left — to spread their message of hate.
Before the web, the expense required to engage in mass communications was such that only wealthy individuals and political parties could do it effectively. That changed with the emergence of the internet. Before the web, white nationalists simply could not afford to get out their message effectively to large numbers of people. Now, finding racist materials online is a matter of a simple Google search.
The widespread adoption of the web has also given rise to a new form of culture based on trolling, the practice of posting abusive messages in discussion forums and social networks with the sole intent of provoking others to anger.
At first, trolling was simply an apolitical form of amusement — web posting as performance art. The image board 4chan soon became its mecca.