The pro-Putin American alt-right is experiencing a major shift with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. More and more members of this online community are turning against Putin’s regime and supporting Ukraine and its president, Volodymir Zelenskyy. See here how and why this is happening…
The alt-right, the radical right-wing political movement that opposes “mainstream ideology”, can be seen in almost any online community. However, the community that is almost dominated by this ideological movement is the History community. There are hundreds of forums, sites and blogs where the alt-right is predominant and so dominates the conversation.
The forum studied is the site of a popular history channel youtuber, uninvolved politically at first sight, is an example of how the alt-right switched from staunchly pro-Putin to anti-Russia and pro-Ukraine.
Before the invasion, the posts were minorly about history and more about politics/geo-politics. Many users discredited President Biden’s and other European leaders’ claims of the possibility of a Russian invasion, that this crisis was just an excuse for “natotards” and “neo-cons” to go to war. The sentiment about a possible, or imminent, invasion was mostly neutral, there weren’t many posts asking for an invasion…
Before the crisis even began, however, the site’s community constantly praised Putin’s “handling” of the LGBT community and his “anti-feminist” policies. And if the chat wasn’t praising Putin, it was praising politicians and governments associated with him. Politicians like Marie Le Pen, Eric Zemmour and Matteo Salvini were highly esteemed on the site, and the Polish and Orbán’s governments were acclaimed repeatedly for many of their policies against the EU. Still, one of the most debated policies on the site was the “gay-free zones” in Poland. This user reacted:
“Based Poland, (…) they have gay-free zones.”
However, this pro-Putin sentiment quickly waned down as soon as the invasion started. In the chat you see users saying things like:
“I was supportive until they targeted civilians and hospitals”
(Responding to the question “Do you agree with the (…) invasion?”) – “No, at least not anymore”
“Literally the entire site went from pro-Russia to pro-Ukraine in 5 seconds”
“Find it funny how the site’s gone from being overwhelmingly pro-Russia to being overwhelmingly pro-Ukraine”
A poll conducted by a user of the site (polls are a popular feature on the site) asked “Do you support the Russian invasion of Ukraine?”, 32 users answered and the results are the following:
See results – 15%
As seen in the poll, there were still some users that supported the invasion, it was even shared a Russian war song in the site’s chat (“March of the Siberian Riflemen”), one user says:
“I support it. With one more defensible border Russia should calm down. But with the way the west is reacting they may not get a chance to.”
“Ukraine is a US vassal state. Russia is doing it to try and prevent western expansion.”
At one point, a user asked the community to “please stop posting about the war in Ukraine (…) the neocons at my school won’t shut up about it”, clearly uncomfortable with the opinion of the majority about the Russian act of aggression against Ukraine.
It was already predictable that this community would applaud the “nationalist militias”, who are considered to be “the only good guys in this fight”. Some users even said that they “are willing to enlist in a war with Russia”. One user goes further and says:
“Hot take but I would like to get militarily involved in Russia. I want to see Moscow in flames and Putin’s head on a spike”.
In the end, though the sentiment on the site is still ambiguous, for example, the fixation with “strong men/leaders” continues, but now reflects on Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy.
“Ukraine, Poland and Hungary (…) are led by strong men who are working to create what they believe to be good times.”
And many criticize the sudden praise that Ukraine and its President are getting on social media. As well as the western community’s response to the conflict.
“The Ukraine flag has become the new Pride/BLM flag for this season”
“The West has no stomach for war and is led by weak men.”
Still, the most bizarre comment was about the wave of refugees, particularly women. A user, reacting to a news story about this event wrote in the chat:
“I’ll not take Ukrainian girls, I rather like having money.”
This misoginous and xenophobic discourse is common practice on the site, a poll conducted before the war asked the site’s community if there were any races that they would never date, one user even wrote in the chat that: “asians and blacks would be unaceptable to me”.