“The South Will Rise Again, Russia Is Our Friend”: The Russian Propaganda Campaign (2015-2017) and the Alt-Right Movement in the US



DeLany, Margaret E

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This research explored the relationship between Russian propaganda and the alt-right movement in the United States through the lens of identity, factors in identity conflict, and the role of identity in propaganda. By examining five exemplars of alt-right websites and comparing them to the 3507 Facebook advertisements identified as Russian-sponsored propaganda, propagated in the US between 2015 and 2017, this thesis investigated the similarities and differences between the discourse of the two groups of data. An examination of the alt-right revealed they used both racial (white/nonwhite) and ideological (conservative/liberal) markers to identify in- and outgroup members through four main tenets of their collective axiology: pro-white, anti-nonwhite, anti-alternate ideology, and pro-traditional values. Investigating the body of Russian propaganda Facebook ads revealed that 529 ads pushed these same tenets of collective axiology. This research examined the use of stereotypes and favorable comparison to describe social boundaries between racial and ideological groups; the role of moral duality and dehumanization in strengthening those boundaries; and the use of relative deprivation and outgroup threat to amplify the messaging. This comparison demonstrated that Russian propaganda used the same or similar verbiage, stereotypes and moral duality to push analogous pro-white, anti-nonwhite and anti-alternate ideological messaging. Both groups used negative stereotypes and moral duality to show that outgroup members, including nonwhite people and those holding liberal ideology, were not “real” Americans. The major difference between the groups was in the object of their anti-nonwhite sentiment: the alt-right was staunchly anti-Semitic, and the Russian propaganda focused on inciting ire against Muslim and Hispanic immigrants.



Russian propaganda, White supremacy, Alt-right, White nationalism, Identity, Facebook