New documentary on the 'alt-right' sheds light on the movement's alleged roots

PHOTO: Peter Cvjetanovic, right,along with Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists encircle and chant at counter protesters after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. PlaySamuel Corum/Getty Images
WATCH New documentary on the alt-right sheds light on the movement's beginnings

You might think you know the full story of the so-called alt-right, known for their venomous racism and virulent anti-feminism. But a new documentary is shedding light on what it says is one of the most surprising roots of the movement: Sexual frustration.

Author Angela Nagle spent more than a year exploring the online origins of the current "alt-right" movement, which she says included communities of single men looking for advice on “picking up” women. She said many of these so-called pick-up artists argued that feminism was part of what made attracting women so difficult.

Nagle’s report can be found in the new Fusion documentary, “Trumpland: Kill All Normies.”

“It definitely did start out with the picking up women stuff,” Nagle told ABC News’ “Nightline.”

It’s a world that appears riddled with extensive and seemingly innocuous terminology, like “manosphere,” “men’s rights” and “incels.”

“[Incels] are involuntarily celibate men. And so, the incel kind of forum world was very much about expressing your frustration about being celibate. That was really the place where the endless conversations about essentially, ‘Why am I still celibate,’ turned into civilizational and racial and kind of big questions about the idea that essentially the whole sexual liberation project was a mistake,” said Nagle.

PHOTO: A man walks with a bloody lip outside the location where Richard Spencer, an avowed white nationalist and spokesperson for the so-called alt-right movement, is delivering a speech in Gainesville, Fla, Oct. 19, 2017.Shannon Stapleto/Reuters
A man walks with a bloody lip outside the location where Richard Spencer, an avowed white nationalist and spokesperson for the so-called alt-right movement, is delivering a speech in Gainesville, Fla, Oct. 19, 2017.

The documentary traces a community of men who act on their frustrations, which began with their grievances against women but later expanded and found footing on social media.

Twitter, as shown in the documentary, has been particularly useful to help these individuals organize and to speak up when they felt their voice wasn’t being heard.

In the documentary, Nagle explained how the idea of “trolling” on Twitter and other social media channels turned out to be clever on the part of the community. “Internet trolls” are known for their social media posts on divisive issues. Nagle said this tactic may be one of the reasons that people didn’t see the "alt-right" movement forming.

As Nagle says in “Trumpland: Kill All Normies,” “There was for years beforehand this idea of trolling and this idea that it's all irony. It's all playful. That was the most clever thing they did because it allowed them to actually kind of hide their politics.”

This guise of irreverence online towards others who didn’t share their views allowed the burgeoning "alt-right" movement to push back at an increasingly vocal community that seemed to emphasize being politically correct.

“I think what happened ... with millennials essentially, who, you know, came of age online and became political online, [is that] they came into contact with these kind of ultra [politically correct] highly sensitive cultures online, which actually allowed them to be quite funny, you know, and to kind of poke fun at the earnestness of these kind of ultra-sensitive language policing online cultures,” Nagle explained to “Nightline.”

PHOTO: People react as white nationalist Richard Spencer, who popularized the term alt-right speaks at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 19, 2017 in Gainesville, Fla.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
People react as white nationalist Richard Spencer, who popularized the term "alt-right" speaks at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 19, 2017 in Gainesville, Fla.

In a way, the self-described "alt-right" also gained momentum from its enemies on the left, Nagle said.

“You also had a culture that was on the cultural left, which was about gender fluidity and kind of taking the cultural gains of the left to the next stage,” Nagle said in the documentary. “These kind of online environments, you could say, of the left were both kind of ultra-sensitive and incredibly cruel and inclined towards sort of quite mob like behavior [that] people needed [in order] to show that they were virtuous.”

The "alt-right" also appeared to receive an enormous injection of energy after Trump’s election.

“And when Donald Trump is nasty ... [he] is a magnificent internet troll,” Tolito said in the documentary. “He is an expert at trafficking and outrage and committing outrage and being outraged himself.”

And some members of the "alt-right" took their movement from online into real life in at Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, when far-right extremists gathered for a “Unite the Right” event.

“I think Charlottesville you know revealed the really hard right politics behind it that wasn't ironic and that that wasn't a joke,” Nagle said in the documentary.

Nagle said the so-called alt-right is “quite strategically clever” and knows that they can potentially drive a wedge into where there is already tension on the left.

The solution, Nagle said, lies not on the ideological extremes, but instead with the rest of us, the so-called “normies,” and finding a way to co-exist.

“For generations it has been the countercultures of the left that have assumed the posture of anti-establishment rebellion against the hectoring moralism of the conservative right,” Nagle said. “Today those roles have been reversed. It is now the left that is the gatekeeper of conventional morality the alt right the agent of subversion.”

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