Facts/Feels: The Knowing Failures of the Alt-Right

Investigator: Dr. Simon Strick

The reactionary political and cultural discourse known as the “Alt-Right” (Alternative Right) and its heterogeneous network of actors (ethnonationalists, ultraconservatives, trolls) relate in multiple ways to the nexus of knowledge and failure. First: this New Right, considering itself ‘failed’ by democracy, assembles in an adversarial stance toward ‘official’ knowledges. Research on climate change, history, or social injustice is discredited as ‘globalist propaganda,’ ‘grievance-driven disinformation,’ or simply ‘failures of logic.’ Against this, the Alt-Right projects a range of ‘alternative facts,’ such as racial science, conspiracy theories, or ‘rational statistics.’ These ‘counterfacts’ are aggregated and connected online, cloaked in affects of defiance or dissidence, and given the veneer of rationality, common sense, or identitarian politics. The project will trace the complex circulations of failure in these ‘knowledge wars’ orchestrated by the Right. It will be shown how its protagonists, for instance, seize scientific rationality in order to discredit ‘science,’ or mobilize affective and situated knowledges to prove the failures of identity politics. An overarching question of the project will be how digital media facilitate such vexed and paradoxical amalgamations of failure and knowledge, and of discourse and anti-discourse.