Why I Almost Fell Down the Alt-Right Pipeline
Hint: It wasn’t really about politics.
For years, I thought racism was a product of mere ignorance. I thought that people could just reason their way out of racism and other forms of bigotry. Well, that was the case until I discovered — and ventured into — the alt-right pipeline.
I know this is going to raise some eyebrows. A queer person of color? In the alt-right pipeline? It’s more likely than you think. Gateways to the alt-right pipeline tend to play themselves off as the reasonable alternative to becoming a full-on neo-Nazi or even worse, one of those blue-haired feminists. They’re middle of the ground for people of a variety of backgrounds, a safe space, if you will.
It all started during the 2016 election. Although Clinton seemed promising at first, I changed my opinion when I overheard some classmates talking about pizzagate. I just sort of went along with them and, although I still disliked Trump, I didn’t hate him the way I did before. Surely all the buzz about him was just stuff for journalists to write about when they didn’t have any other material.
As I got more political, I eventually started mimicking more and more of their views. I called myself an anti-SJW and started making fun of people I deemed too sensitive. Through both the real-life and online environments that I had cultivated, I began to see those who espoused progressive politics as unreasonable tyrants. When I saw discussions of representation in fanart, I didn’t see a reasonable discussion about the impact of seeing one’s self in a character across a variety of styles. I just saw the zamii070 incident and thought that toxic, highly divisive approaches were par for the course.
I saw myself the way many alt-lites and self-described centrists and moderates saw themselves: as an oasis of reason in a culture dominated by mob mentality. Then things took a turn. As I saw others with politics similar to mine do the same things we claimed to hate, I shrugged it off. There was no way I could be like them. I was just playing devil’s advocate. I wasn’t on anyone’s side.
It was when I found myself ignorantly rushing to defend someone making blatant White supremacist talking points that I stopped to question why I started believing that I believed. After that, I disavowed the label anti-SJW and began working on correcting the way I thought. I even took a political compass test and found out that I was more liberal than I had originally thought. I also found out that I was bisexual around this time, which I credit with motivating me to unpack more of my biases.
When I first began looking at alt-lite content and falling down the alt-right pipeline, my motivation wasn’t to explicitly form an ideology. It was to (1) make sense of a confusing world and (2) find a support network that wouldn’t kick me out for making one wrong move. Since I struggled with following social norms and fear of rejection all my life, I wanted to have a support network that wouldn’t abandon me at the drop of a hat.
Alt-lite content gave me a promise of that. It sheltered me from something that I feared: the looming threat of being cast out because I don’t say or think the right things. However, as I began to examine what I had initially believed, I found out that I couldn’t have been more wrong. None of those creators actually addressed the problems that I saw in politics. They just exploited my concerns and used them as a conduit to guide me further to the right.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have any accountability in this. I definitely could have listened to those liberals in 2016 and it would have saved me a lot of trouble later on. I could have stuck to my guns and defended Clinton as the better option of the two. Better yet, I could have just eaten alone or joined a different table. However, since I was 16 at the time and had yet to witness the horrors of the Trump presidency firsthand, I didn’t know what I know now. I’m just beginning to make peace with my inability to change the past, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try to change the future by writing this.