The Alt-Right: Why It Won't Take Off In The UK

31/08/2016 16:31 | Updated 31 August 2016

The shifting, ill-defined alt-right has been getting some airtime recently, but still not everyone is sure exactly what it is. Hillary Clinton doesn't like it. Donald Trump does. It's young, male, and spends a lot of time indoors. It was spawned and incubated in the noxious substrata of 4-chan and Reddit, and it tweets frequently. Breitbart is its news wing, and Milo Yiannopoulos might appear to be a leader, but isn't really. The alt-right rails against PC culture, which sounds good, but it does so by actually embodying the aggressions that SJWs get so over-wrought about. The alt-right either is racist and anti-Semitic, or else does a very good impression of being racist and anti-Semitic.

As a political collective it's confused, unstructured and infantile, but has gained attention in the US, and the question being asked now is whether it might make the journey across the Atlantic to set up shop in the UK.

The answer to that must be a resounding no, and here are five reasons why not.

1. Milo

In debates and interviews Milo Yiannopoulos expounds, contradicts and interrupts with eloquence and verve. He is a masterful wind-up merchant. He pierces the righteous snootiness of uptight left wingers with louche insouciance, and by turns charms, infuriates and wittily self-deprecates. And he frequently catches you off-guard, just when you're drifting off, thinking he's lost it and entered the realm of nonsense, suddenly a single line will leap out and grab you--he's right about that part, you'll think, as in among the sophistry and brazen provocations are moments of straight-up, non-PC crystal clarity.

But here's the crucial thing about Milo. When he's at his most serious, speaking at length about something important, a comment or gesture will make him smile for half a second and he'll throw in a joke. That's because he doesn't really believe in a significant amount of what he's saying. Something the British can spot a mile off is a piss-taker. Which is not to say that we don't like such rogues, but it's obvious that Milo is doing this for, well, who knows why? Fame, fortune, and a bit of fun, quite possibly. There's simply no way that anyone in Britain is taking this guy for anything more than a tricky, audacious prankster.

2. The UK Doesn't Do Fascism

The alt-right is nebulous and difficult to define, but a component at the core of its internet based lower levels is the notion of white supremacy. That means a belief not simply that America should cease immigration, but that the United States was founded to be a white nation. There are elements of the alt-right who actually argue that the white race is inherently superior to all others, and who genuinely believe that to be a legitimate political position. To be fair, these idiots are in their teens and are quite possibly shackled and medicated in an underground chamber for their own safety, but nonetheless their views are repugnant.

The US has in its recent history had powerful, active white supremacist organizations, most notably the KKK.

In Britain, however, fascist movements have never gained traction. In the 1930s there was Oswald Moseley's British Union of Fascists, which drew numbers but was ultimately a short lived movement that got kicked off the streets of London, and its like has never been seen since.

The 1970s and 1980s saw activity by the far-right National Front and later there was neo-Nazi group Combat 18, but these were on the fringes and gradually dwindled away. The British National Party did win some council and European seats in their 2008/9 polling surge, but subsequently lost them all and collapsed as a political force. There is currently no fascist organization of any relevance in the UK.

3. Brexit

While the media reporting of Brexit has been overwhelmingly negative, let's not forget that the majority of voters got the result they wanted and are firmly in favour of Brexit. As the mood of trepidation has gradually lifted and life has continued as normal, some Remain backers are coming round to the idea of breaking ties with the EU, and there is a growing desire for Theresa May to get the ball rolling and formally trigger Article 50.

Of course, sizable groups are strongly opposed to that idea, and so a huge amount of debate is being generated. Brexit is the overwhelmingly dominant issue driving British public discourse and it's likely to stay that way for a long time.

Whichever side of the debate you're on, it's undeniable that the referendum result has shaken up the cultural landscape and stimulated people politically and intellectually. Everyone has an opinion on this, and many voters are knowledgeable and engaged to a much greater degree than previously.

There are other political matters which are pulling crowds in too--notably the Labour leadership campaign, in which Jeremy Corbyn's supporters have boosted party membership numbers to a degree unprecedented in modern politics.

When you have an informed, conscientious population that is authentically engaged with exciting, grown-up political issues, then a movement as juvenile, regressive and shamelessly lacking in civility as the alt-right will hold precisely zero appeal.

4. It's Not Cool

Look, I'm just going to say it: British kids are a lot cooler than American kids. This relates back to the first point--everyone in the UK will immediately get what Milo is up to and see him for the faux-agitator that he really is. But the other factor is that when you're a teenager in the UK, you have to work ruthlessly hard to keep up appearances at all times. Tell your mates you read a conspiracy theory on the internet about Jews planning 9/11 and white people being a superior race, and you know what your mates are going to do? They're going to call you a twat. Then they'll stop messaging you. Then everyone else is going to talk behind your back about what an utter twat you are.

It's the UK, you know? We listen to grime, we watch the Premier League, we get mashed on a regular basis and have nice haircuts.

Something really politically extreme like, for example, white supremacist ideologies, isn't seen as a threat, it's seen as painfully cringe-worthy, socially uncomfortable, and just incredibly dickish.

5. Britain Is a Small, Crowded Island

Living on a small island and rubbing shoulders with people of all different backgrounds and ethnicities doesn't make you less tolerant, it has the opposite effect. You just want to get on with your day, as does everyone else, and you don't give a shit where they come from. Nobody has the time or the energy to get dragged into ignorant, fallacious dork traps like the alt-right.

In America, the distances between towns can be vast and different states can be like different countries. There is more racial segregation in the US, less getting along with people who are superficially different, and a greater disposition to lay the blame for your problems at the door of the unknowable other.

But it's difficult to blame the other when the other sits next to you on the bus. It's impossible to think someone is that different when you're on the same team as them at work.

You want to get over your hatred of other people? Then go and live somewhere with lots of other people. Of all the things you might find yourself despising in a city like London, it's unlikely to be your fellow Londoners, because whatever complaints you've got, they've got the same problems too.

Don't say it out loud--you don't want to sound like a safe-space cossetted performing arts student--but there's truth in the notion that we're not all that different from each other, and being forced by geography to live close together reinforces that awareness.

So, Donald Trump, we don't know what you're doing, but it makes for weirdly compelling entertainment. Breitbart News, you provide a counterbalance of sorts to the PC, metro-left media consensus. And Milo, take a bow, you're a rabble rousing, artful dissident in the best British tradition.

But as for the rest of the alt-right? The UK's not having you, so you can wind your neck in and get back in your box. Or your fetid, semen plastered basement. Really, we've dealt with worse, so don't waste your time.