November 8, 2017

HNH explains… how the alt-right is funded

By Patrik Hermansson, Researcher

The alt-right is funded by a mixture of rich donors and crowdfunding by activists.

While most Alternative Right activists are not open with their identity and are only active on online forums and social media in their free-time, there are those who have chosen to dedicate themselves fully to their hateful ideas. Somehow, they need to make their livelihood. Moreover, running websites, organising rallies and conferences and paying for legal fees require funding.

Just like many progressive social movements, the Alternative Right regularly asks for funding from its members. A common sight on blogs and YouTube videos are requests for donations. The Alternative Right can, therefore, be said to in part be crowdfunded. Some websites attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each month and a donation from just a fraction of these viewers can add up to considerable amounts.

The online following of the Alternative Right has also proven themselves willing to pay small amounts specifically to activists they admire and campaigns they believe in. There are many cases where travel costs for activists to go to rallies and conferences have been covered by campaigns launched on crowdfunding websites.

However, over the last year many of the mainstream online funding services such as PayPal and others, have started to block accounts that are in violation of their terms of service.

Patreon is one of the platforms that allow users to donate money on a monthly basis to the recipient of their choice. It provided the infrastructure for prominent activists to make a decent income before it was met criticism from Hope Not Hate and others to change its guidelines. Lauren Southern made $3,300 per month from her 417 backers before she was banned in July 2017.

The exclusion of explicitly racist campaigns and organisation from these platforms have forced the most extreme sections of the Alternative Right to find other routes.

One of these routes is Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency has proven valuable because of the lack of regulation and possibility of anonymity. But more importantly, the Alternative Right has set up their own alternatives to crowdfunding websites. For the movement, by the movement.

Hatreon is an alternative to Patreon, just like the original it allows users to donate on a monthly basis to their “creators” of choice. On this site, you find Neo-Nazi Andrew Angelin reportedly receiving $7,900 a month from his 212 patrons, an average of slightly more than $37 per person. Other well-known alt-right profiles such as Richard Spencer, Tara McCarthy and Brittany Pettibone are also on the site.

But the mainstream platforms stand against far-right causes is not complete. YouTuber Millenial Woes is one of those that rely on multiple platforms to makes ends meet, including PayPal, Patreon, Hatreon, as well as Bitcoin. His bitcoin account has awarded him as much as $8,500 and his 62 backers on Hatreon pledges over $800 a month.

Another website in this category is WeSearchr which was used by Defend Europe, a campaign with the goal to hamper the rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean by stopping humanitarian ships. The campaign managed to raise the significant sum of $234,456 in roughly two months in the summer of 2017. Most of the funding of the European project came from the USA, underlining the international aspect of the Alternative Right. The potentially life-threatening campaign was extensively reported on and successfully obstructed by Hope Not Hate.

The far-right has historically also been backed by wealthy individuals and the Alternative Right follows that tradition. One of those is William Regnery who funds the National Policy Institute and many other conferences, book publishers and organisations promoting white nationalism.

Robert Mercer, a successful hedge fund manager is another one. He is a long-term funder of alt-light causes and was until recently a stakeholder in Breitbart and Milo Yiannopoulos’s Milo Inc. Mercer is also one of the owners of controversial political campaign company Cambridge Analytica that was used by both the Trump campaign and Leave.EU.

Some Alternative Right activists are also themselves wealthy and make large funding bids themselves, such as Richard Spencer who, along with his mother and sister, are landlords of 5,200 acres of cotton and cornfield lands in Louisiana.

Lastly, we should not forget the possibility of profit as a motive, itself fuelling activism. Red Ice Radio, a Swedish based, English language online radio and TV-channel started off as a small conspiratorial website but has gradually shifted towards to Alternative Right topics and grown significantly. Unlike most Alternative Right websites, it operates on a subscription basis with exclusive content for paying subscribers.