Twitter Thread Busts a Myth About the Alt-Right

September 23rd 2016

Lucy Tiven

A new report from the Daily Beast has debunked common misconceptions surrounding Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's online supporters, who often appear to be a nebulous online force circulating inflammatory memes tied to the alt-right — a fringe anti-immigration political movement associated with white nationalism and racist hate speech.

According Thursday's Daily Beast report, there's more money and power behind the alt-right's intense online presence than meets the eye.

On Twitter, New Republic editor Jeet Heer commented on the piece and broke down what we get wrong about the alt-right.

Many of the anti-Clinton memes that circulate the internet are the work of a non-profit group helmed by Palmer Luckey, the founder of the virtual reality company Oculus Rift, the Daily Beast reports. According to The Verge, Luckey has dedicated considerable portions of his personal wealth to the group, Nimble America, which describes itself as a "social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit dedicated to shitposting in real life."

The group aims to bring alt-right memes and the ideas they purport outside of the dark channels of the Internet and into the mainstream.

From the Daily Beast:

"Nimble America says it’s dedicated to proving that 'shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real,' according to the company’s introductory statement, and has taken credit for a billboard its founders say was posted outside of Pittsburgh with a cartoonishly large image of Clinton’s face alongside the words 'Too Big to Jail.'

"'We conquered Reddit and drive narrative on social media, conquered the [mainstream media], now it’s time to get our most delicious memes in front of Americans whether they like it or not,' a representative for the group wrote in an introductory post on Reddit."

Luckey has reportedly used the username NimbleRichMan to attempt to raise more funds for the group on the subreddit r/The_Donald (though some redditors have been skeptical of him).

From the Daily Beast:

"'The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals,' NimbleRichMan wrote on Saturday. Luckey confirmed to The Daily Beast he penned the posts under his Reddit pseudonym. 'The same has been true of many movements for freedom in history. You can’t fight the American elite without serious firepower. They will outspend you and destroy you by any and all means.'"

As Heer points out, its easy and dangerous to dismiss this contingent of Donald Trump supporters — however "deplorable" they may appear — as trolls with little influence outside of niche online communities.

Heer also asserts that Breitbart — the self-designated "platform for the alt-right," according to Breitbart boss-turned-Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon — is backed by significant political players: specifically, big time conservative donor and hedge fund co-CEO Robert Mercer.

This isn't the first time Trump's connections to Silicon Valley have surfaced. His most famous tech booster may be billionaire Peter Thiel (who funded a group of lawsuits that led to the shuttering of Gawker Media and were widely interpreted as an attack on the freedom of the press, the New York Times reported).

It's easy to get lost in the weeds of Luckey's bizarre non-profit and its mixed-reception on social media (which you can read more about on the Daily Beast).

But Heer's larger point is that Trump's online "alt-right army" have a good deal of money, power, and influence behind them and are worth taking seriously.

In a follow-up tweet, he also addressed a point from LGBT activist Marc Love, who pointed out that Luckey and Thiel's political spending doesn't necessarily represent the bulk of the technology industry — much of which has donated big bucks to Clinton. Trump also has considerable backing from Wall Street, Love asserted.

You can read the full report on the Daily Beast.