How the Alt-Right Is Weaponizing the Classics
The Red Pill community has been using Greek and Roman antiquity to bolster their credibility
At the end of 2016, posters for the white nationalist group Identity Evropa began to appear on college campuses in the United States. The posters featured black-and-white photographs of statues, most of which were either ancient, such as the Apollo Belvedere, or obviously classicizing, such as Nicolas Coustou’s 1696 statue of Julius Caesar. Overlaid on these images were generic, seemingly inoffensive slogans such as “Protect Our Heritage” and “Our Future Belongs to Us.” The posters caused a wave of outrage and were quickly removed, although they remained available for sale on the Identity Evropa website under the heading “Epic Posters” for nearly a year.
This use of classical imagery to promote a white nationalist agenda is far from an isolated occurrence. In fact, the Identity Evropa posters are unusual not for what they depict but, rather, for having an actual physical presence. In the less tangible world of the internet, far-right communities ideologically aligned with Identity Evropa have increasingly been using artifacts, texts, and historic figures evocative of ancient Greece and Rome to lend cultural weight to their reactionary vision of ideal white masculinity.
These online communities go by many names — the Alt-Right, the manosphere, Men Going Their Own Way, pickup artists — and exist under the larger umbrella of what is known as the Red Pill, a group of men connected by common resentments against women, immigrants, people of color, and the liberal elite. The name, adopted from the film The Matrix, encapsulates the idea that society is unfair to men — heterosexual white men in particular — and is designed to favor women. The Red Pill finds its primary online home on the subreddit r/TheRedPill, a forum on the social media platform Reddit dedicated to discussion of Red Pill ideas. Its influence and reach, however, extend far beyond that home: men in Red Pill communities — on Reddit and elsewhere online — share articles, memes, and news stories to incite one another’s anger. That anger then occasionally finds outlets in what are sometimes called troll storms: a hurricane of digital abuse aimed at those with the misfortune to attract…