By paying close, critical attention to the alt-right—most important, doing so long enough to see through its fog of lies, misdirection and trolling—he has developed a well-rounded understanding of the movement, and created an important guide to one of the most disturbing political developments of our time ... Although Trump’s victory was a tremendous boost for the alt-right, Wendling argues convincingly that it is already cracking up under the weight of its own contradictions. Winning the presidency sapped much of the strength of a movement that defines itself almost exclusively through what it hates. Wendling shrewdly notes that despite its edgy, countercultural pretensions, the alt-right is almost entirely 'culturally sterile' ... However, Wendling is perhaps a little too sanguine about the alt-right’s future prospects. The fact that a shameless huckster like Donald Trump managed to turn such a disparate movement into a somewhat effective political force does not bode well. The alt-right would be easy pickings for a more competent demagogue.
Seasoned watchers of the 'alt-right' will find much of the story familiar. This is clearly written for the general reader (and Wendling does a decent job of explaining niche internet culture without losing the pace – the bane of all tech writers). That means, however, that Alt-Right sometimes lacks the depth of analysis found in Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies, which is something closer to an ethnography of the group. A slightly labored chapter on language, for example, should have been bundled into an annex by the editor: it’s essentially 30 pages of definitions, which is out of synch with the otherwise upbeat prose. For a book aimed at a wide audience, it oddly avoids some of the broader context of why and how the movement arrived when it did ... These quibbles aside, anyone hoping to get a deeper look at the 'alt-right' will find this accessible, enjoyable and informative.
Wendling writes clearly, bolstering his argument with the words and activities of fringe figures, yet in concluding the alt-right movement has evoked its own obsolescence, he underestimates the violent potential of white supremacy’s mainstreaming. A thoughtful distillation of research that is sadly relevant to our current political moment.