To use the internet in 2017, you need to have some level of familiarity with the tropes and signposts of the type of trolling that comes from the alt-right movement and various flavors. But most normal humans, rightfully, run the fuck away as soon as they see a Pepe. This guide is for you (presumably, a normal human).
Some of these terms are not totally specific to the alt-right, but come from the soupy mix of 4chan, Reddit, men’s rights activists, Gamergaters, pickup artists, and white supremacist and Nazi sites that eventually gave birth to the alt-right. Imagine all these things as different bubbles in a Venn diagram with the alt-right in the middle.
This guide aims to help explain some of those weird images and words you may have seen popping up in comments sections or on social media.
When used around someone's name, a means of indicating that they are Jewish. The "echoes" are a reference to some old gobbledygook about Jews "echoing through history," but the parentheses are a handy tool on Twitter for anti-Semites to signal to one another when someone they dislike is Jewish. Once the tactic was exposed, some Jews and non-Jews started adding them to their own Twitter usernames as a way to subvert the practice and make it less powerful.
Alt-righters who use anime avatars on Twitter and other online spaces. The kinds of people who hang out in spaces like 4chan or 8chan tend to also be big anime fans. Like many of the items on this list, this idea occupies a constantly moving point on the irony spectrum.
The hashtag used by Shia LaBeouf's “He Will Not Divide Us” livestream project, wherein people could go up to a camera outside a museum in Queens and say an anti-Trump message. This quickly became an IRL trolling destination for the alt-right.
A sort of code used among neo-Nazis and white supremacists. “14” stands for the number of words in the white supremacist creed, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” “88” comes from the fact that H is the eighth letter in the alphabet: “HH” means “Heil Hitler.” Seriously, it’s that stupid. You would most often see this used in usernames or handles — something like @examplename88.
Alpha male, beta male, etc.
A ranking system based on perceived masculinity. It originated on bodybuilding forums and pickup artist sites and has been adopted by right-wing trolls. Obviously, the alt-right are alphas, and people who disagree are betas.
A convoluted meme about Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. In the opening scene, Bane is brought onto an airplane by a CIA officer played by the guy who plays Littlefinger in Game of Thrones. While Bane, the anarchy-loving villain, seems like an obvious idol for 4chan, they became weirdly enamored with the CIA agent, partly over an awkwardly homoerotic piece of dialogue (CIA: “You’re a big guy.” Bane: “...for you.”) While Baneposting isn’t explicitly alt-right, it’s bled over. For example, a guy dressed as the CIA agent showed up at the counterprotest of Shia LaBeouf's anti-Trump art project “He Will Not Divide Us.”
Bernard the Polar Bear
A forced meme that a polar bear cartoon purports to be an alt-right symbol. There’s a real cartoon show from South Korea about a polar bear named Bernard, but this isn’t totally related. The meme is basically fake and spread only in hopes that people will fall for it. Thing is, if you force a meme hard enough, sometimes it works. So far, this is still pretty obscure.
"Blown the fuck out" — similar to "owned." To be publicly humiliated, particularly by losing an online argument. Another more obscure version of this is "blacked the fuck out," a reference to Blacked.com, a pornographic website specializing in videos in which white women have sex with black men for the first time.
An ironic conspiracy theory about a pair of French celebrities. Igor Yourievitch Osten-Sacken-Bogdanoff and Grichka Yourievitch Osten-Sacken-Bogdanoff did a popular science TV show in France in the ’90s, and more recently had extensive plastic surgery (think Jocelyn Wildenstein). The meme is that they are secretly the masterminds and leaders of the alt-right (they are not). It’s vaguely like pretending Tara Reid is the puppet master of the government.
To become aware ("pilled," a term derived from "redpilled," described below) of the Bogdanoff brothers. This is extremely jokey and ironic, and involves pretending that Donald Trump alluded to the conspiracy when he said the phrase "bogged down in conflict all over the place" in a speech.
A self-adopted term for some Trump supporters. It’s a reference to a YouTube series called "Can't Stump the Trump" that mashed up footage of President Trump in a Republican debate with audio from a nature documentary about a centipede killing a tarantula.
Short for "cuckold," or a person who watches someone have sex with their significant other. It's the most common insult among the online far-right.
A portmanteau of cuck and conservative, used for old-guard Republicans who aren’t on board with Trump’s agenda. Think John McCain or Mitt Romney.
An anti-democratic philosophy that believes in a return to monarchism, traditional gender roles, rejection of egalitarianism, and a libertarian economic model.
A popular chat application for far-right groups.
A black-and-white cartoon man who is the victim of Pepe the Frog's pranks. Feelsman is a sad loser, a beta to Pepe's alpha. The name "feels guys" comes from the meme's early beginnings when his sad face would mean "know that feel, bro."
The alt-right on Twitter. It’s a reference to Pepe the Frog.
A term for "blocked" or "banned." It's a reference to the gas chambers used to kill millions of Jews during the Holocaust.
A nickname for Donald Trump.
A complimentary term that references how Donald Trump calls losers like Jeb Bush "low energy" and refers to himself as “high energy.”
"Involuntary celibate" and "voluntary celibate." A volcel is someone who is celibate by choice, but an incel is someone who wants to have sex, but can't find anyone to actually do it with. These terms get used a lot in the forums and subreddits to describe pickup artists and men's rights activists, who are known as the "manosphere." Think Elliot Rodger, the gunman who shot and killed people on his college campus and left a manifesto about how he was angry at the women at his school for not dating him.
A replacement for "LOL." If you're an Alliance player in the online multiplayer game World of Warcraft and you type "LOL" to a member of the Horde faction, it'll be read as "kek."
The Cult of Kek/Kek the religion
A joke based on the fact that there is an ancient Egyptian deity named Kek, who is supposedly a god of chaos and darkness and just so happens to be sometimes depicted as a frog — like Pepe. The joke is that Pepe is a modern incarnation of Kek, and fans of Pepe worship him.
German for "lying press." The term predates the Nazi period, but was used heavily in their propaganda to discredit the media. The word has been revived by the alt-right to describe the mainstream media as purveyors of fake news.
A term for when the influence of internet memes breaks through and causes real life consequences. The day after the 2016 election, 4chan users described getting President Trump elected as an example of "meme magic." Sometimes related to the whole "Kek religion" thing.
A giant moonfaced guy from a 1980s McDonald's ad campaign, now a racist symbol, partly because of the fact that he looks a little bit like he's wearing a KKK hood. For years, it kicked around as a low-level meme where the Moon Man was combined with rap songs, but it gained steam recently by becoming completely racist. The absurdity of an obscure fast-food ad swearing allegiance to the KKK is not lost on the alt-right. The irony is thick here, but so is the actual racism.
An acronym for someone "Not in Education, Employment, or Training." Basically, someone who lives in their mom's basement. It's a self-deprecating joke by people on 4chan and elsewhere that they’re all basement-dwelling NEETs whose mothers cook them chicken tenders for dinner. This isn't specific to the alt-right, but it’s very popular there.
Neoreactionism or NRx
An alt-right ideology variation. As Rosie Gray describes in The Atlantic, "the alt-right can be seen as a political movement; neoreaction, which adherents refer to as NRx, is a philosophy. At the core of that philosophy is a rejection of democracy and an embrace of autocratic rule." A lot of the big proponents of this are popular on Twitter, and some of them are fairly ironic about it.
Comfortable sneakers. During the election, the CEO of New Balance came out with a pro-Trump statement, which made the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer declare them "the official shoe of white people."
Normal people, as opposed to internet trolls.
Pepe the Frog
The meme that launched a thousand Twitter blocks. A cartoon smiling frog created innocuously by comic artist Matt Furie that has, over time, become the official mascot of far-right extremism in the US and parts of Europe.
A reference to Neo choosing to see the truth by taking the "red pill" from Morpheus in The Matrix. Being redpilled means you've become aware of the truth about society (which, according to them, means typically alt-right viewpoints). The term redpilled predates the alt-right, and has been a staple of the soup of men's rights/Gamergate/pickup artist/Reddit/4chan internet for a while.
An angry shrieking sound. Used ironically in the voice of a typical 4chan user. It's part of a larger joke that most people on 4chan are NEETs who live with their parents, play video games all day, eat only chicken nuggets, watch anime, and are on the autism spectrum. Typically, it's used to show anger at "normies" for invading their online spaces. There are memes of Pepe the Frog making that noise when he's angry.
A term for the users of 4chan's /r9k/ messageboard. Extremely withdrawn social outcasts who see themselves as unfeeling robots. Most of the time they just post about how they can't get girlfriends.
A bad Italo-disco song from 1986. Someone in the alt-right discovered an obscure track called "Shadilay" by a band called P.E.P.E. (as in Pepe the Frog, the alt-right cartoon mascot). The song itself has nothing to do with the alt-right except the band name, but in a truly weird twist, the record has a cartoon frog on the vinyl label.
A classic forum term for flooding a thread with worthless or annoying posts, either because you're bad at posting or because you do it on purpose to troll. The alt-right uses shitposting as a derailing tactic, kind of like a digital filibuster. The term is used flexibly to sometimes just describe any kind of online posting: tweets, memes, etc.
An acronym for social justice warrior, a pejorative term for people concerned with feminism, civil rights, and liberal ideology.
Short for "special snowflake," an insult to SJWs. The joke is that that they're fragile and coddled millennials who were raised on participation trophies and being told they were special.
The Overton Window
A general concept to describe the limits ("window") of what the public finds acceptable. Some pundits have suggested that Trump has shifted the scope of this window, and that things like the "grab her by the pussy" comment would have previously been career-ending for a politician. The alt-right believes it's helping shift the Overton window for the public by making the movement's extreme speech normalized, and in its wake has opened up the path for Trump.
A popular Facebook sticker of a purple pigeon (aka Trash Dove). Trolls on 8chan decided to spread a rumor that the pigeon sticker is actually a pro-Nazi symbol. This is a good example of the thorny layers of irony in these memes: Trash Dove was created purely as a joke to trick people (especially the media) into believing this innocuous cartoon was a Nazi symbol, but then… it kind of became true. If enough people believe something is a Nazi symbol, then that's what it is. This is kind of like what happened with Pepe, an image that had no inherent tie to racism or politics until people started using it that way.
A conspiracy theory among white supremacists that immigration, globalism, and abortions rights are part of a larger conspiracy to exterminate white people.
Other perspectives on this story
- 1 Lots of people aren't very happy that they need to know this kind of stuff.
- 2 Some people do think that there's no reason for normal people to be familiar with these memes.
- 3 Some think that the role these subcultures played or claim to have played in the election necessitates taking them seriously.
- 4 Some people objected to giving ownership of certain concepts to the alt-right, including "feels guy."
- 5 Some people argue Discord is primarily used as a communication tool in online gaming, and is not primarily alt-right.
- 6 If you can't believe this is language used in real life by real people, you're not alone.
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Katie Notopoulos is a senior editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Notopoulos writes about tech and internet culture is cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.
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Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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