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What’s the alt-right? A primer

Here's what you need to know about the alt-right movement. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

On Thursday, with an unusual amount of fanfare, Hillary Clinton will give a speech denouncing the "alt-right" and delineating ways in which Donald Trump has inflamed racist sentiment. On the alt-right itself, the speech is being welcomed as a sort of coming-out party; alt-right figures are finding their phones and email boxes glowing with new messages, asking to explain who they are and what they think.

Clinton plans Thursday address in Nevada on Trump and the ‘alt-right’

While reporters like Rosie Gray, Olivia Nuzzi, and Benjy Sarlin have reported on the alt-right's success for a year, and while the Southern Poverty Law Center has closely monitored its success, the movement remains elastically defined, harboring some terms and personalities that remain obscure or impenetrable. This is a guide — which can and will be updated — to the basics.

'The Camp of the Saints'
A 1973 French novel by Jean Raspail, published as "Le Camp des Saints," which envisions an immigrant invasion of France, and which many on the alt-right view as prophetic. In a 2005 essay for the American Conservative, after riots in France, commentator (and future Michelle Bachmann collaborator) Jim Pinkerton cited Raspail's novel at length to ask why Europe had not realized it was committing "national suicide."

As Raspail describes the scene aboard the immigrant convoy, “Everywhere, rivers of sperm. Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers … a welter of dung and debauch.”
But France is persuaded that these people are a “million Christs,” whose arrival will “signal the dawn of a just, new day.” In other words, Raspail writes, what the French are lacking is a proper sense of national-racial consciousness, “the knowledge that one’s own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity’s finest.” Instead, he concludes, after having been beaten down by decades of multicultural propaganda, “the white race” has become “nothing more than a million sheep.”

Raspail's vision has been cited frequently at Breitbart News, especially when a major Western leader criticizes anti-immigrant sentiment. "Now, as in the novel, prominent political officials are urging on ever larger waves," wrote Breitbart's Julia Hahn in 2015. "Secular and religious leaders hold hands to pressure blue collar citizens to drop their resistance; media elites and celebrities zealously cheer the opportunity that the migrants provide to atone for the alleged sins of the West — for the chance to rebalance the wealth and power of the world by allowing poor migrants from failed states to rush in to claim its treasures."

A portmanteau, from "cuckold" and "conservative," used to troll people who call themselves conservative but support immigration reform and multiculturalism. The implication: A white American who allows mass immigration into his country is no different than a man allowing other men to sleep with his wife.

'It's the Current Year!'
A logical fallacy, popularized on 4chan and Reddit, in which an idea can be dismissed because "it's 2016" (i.e., the world and history have moved on, and there is nothing left to discuss). It's frequently identified with HBO's John Oliver, whose commentaries (circulated widely on progressive news sites) often label ideas as ridiculous because, well, it's 2016.

Jared Taylor
The founder of American Renaissance, a magazine, then conference, then website about white identity. Ever game to talk to media — though critical of the term "alt-right" — he's used the publication and conference to encourage white nationalists to expand on their ideas.

Pepe the Frog
A cartoon that originated on MySpace but was adopted by Trump supporters and alt-right trolls, as reporter Olivia Nuzzi explained at length this year.

Peter Brimelow
The founder of VDare, a clearinghouse of news and opinion about immigration, which he founded after his immigration book "Alien Nation" became a taboo bestseller.

'The Political Cesspool'
A white nationalist podcast and radio show that began in 2004 and grew its following during Barack Obama's presidency, and became notorious after Donald Trump Jr. appeared to promote his father's presidential campaign.

The Robert A. Taft Club
A defunct political group co-founded by the future alt-right leaders Richard Spencer and Kevin DeAnna in northern Virginia in 2006. A third co-founder, Marcus Epstein, described its mission in a message inviting students and journalists to one of its first events:

It focuses to foment a lively debate about important issues that divide the Right, but must be addressed such as foreign policy, immigration, and multiculturalism. While not shying away from the tough issues, the Robert Taft Club hopes to deal with these issues without resorting to sectarian squabbling.

The typical Taft Club forum featured free beer and a debate between mainstream conservative figures and those more associated with nationalism. Over several years, the Club's guests included Jared Taylor, John Derbyshire, leaders of the right-wing Belgian party Vlaams Belang, and then-Texas congressman Ron Paul during his first Republican presidential bid.

Joe Sobran
A columnist purged from National Review in 1993, a decision that that magazine's founder William F. Buckley explained, in a very lengthy essay, as a strike against anti-Semitism. "Individualists have been replaced by apparatchiks," Sobran said bitterly in 2002. "Zionism has infiltrated conservatism in much the same way Communism once infiltrated liberalism. "

Marine Le Pen
The leader of France's National Front, a far-right party long led by her father, but thriving amid the backlash to mass Muslim immigration and the unpopular Socialist government of President François Hollande.

Nigel Farage
The longtime leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), and member of the European Parliament, whose populist campaigning helped produce an upset win for the "Brexit" campaign. Like Le Pen, he's seen as proof that alt-right politics can win, even in a hostile media environment.

Richard Spencer
The president of the Virginia-based National Policy Institute and founder of the defunct website Alternative Right, which was "dedicated to heretical perspectives on society and culture — popular, high, and otherwise — particularly those informed by radical, traditionalist, and nationalist outlooks." One of the most media-savvy thinkers in the movement, Spencer was an early supporter of what Trump's campaign represented; before that, he helped find and promote young alt-right thinkers. In addition to shaping what "alt-right" meant, Spencer coined the term "identitarian" to distinguish white people who wanted to defend their culture but rejected the label of "racism."

Sam Francis
An influential conservative thinker cast out of the movement's mainstream — and fired from his Washington Times column — for speaking at the 1994 American Renaissance conference. Subsequently, he became a sort of martyr for nationalist writers and thinkers. Throughout his career, he argued that cultural liberalism was not as popular or inevitable as its promoters claimed.

"Whites need to form their racial consciousness in conformity not only with what we now know about the scientific reality of race but also with the moral and political traditions of Western Man-White Man," Francis wrote in 2005. "The purpose of white racial consciousness and identity is not simply to serve as a balance against the aggression and domination of other races but also to preserve, protect, and help revitalize the legacy of the civilization that our own ancestors created and handed down to us, for its own sake, because it is ours, and because, by the standard of the values and ideals we as a race and a civilization have articulated, it is better."

Walt Bismarck
A musician and video editor who grew a following (under the sobriquet "Uncuck the Right") with pop song parodies rewritten around alt-right themes. "The alt-right does not comprise obese low church Protestant Baby Boomers with 103 IQs," he explained to Fusion in 2015. "We’re a bunch of eccentric hipsters and neckbeards who understand how the Left works, and how to create legitimately subversive and effective propaganda."

Youth for Western Civilization
A now-defunct alliance of student groups, founded in 2008 by the alt-right activist Kevin DeAnna, with the hopes of capitalizing on young people's support for Ron Paul by creating a revolutionary, anti-state, anti-multicultural movement.

"We are essentially just echoing standard conservative rhetoric on immigration, multiculturalism, and American identity," DeAnna wrote in 2009. "But even this moderate approach is too much for leftists. Calls to completely transform the structure of the American economy meet far less opposition than suggesting the enforcement of existing immigration laws. I submit this tells us what the real forbidden issues are in America today and where the Left really sees the battle lines falling."

In just three years, YWC became a controversial campus force, drawing negative attention from the Southern Poverty Law Center. It petered out as DeAnna ran out of time and interest, but some YWC veterans went on to become alt-right or white nationalist activists, such as Towson University's Matthew Heimbach. When YWC folded, he attempted to form a white student union; four years later, cameras captured him roughly ejecting a Black Lives Matter activist from a Donald Trump rally.