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The Alt-Right: How Internet Slang Takes On New Meaning

The internet has created a lot of words we now use in our day-to-day lives. Most are useful or seemingly meaningless, but in recent years alt-right have adopted a lot of them for their own use.

Credit: ABC News/ Youtube

The internet is chock-full of new words and phrases that aren’t familiar to most. A lot of these expressions become pretty popular and end up making their way into everyday speech. Look how engrained terms like “troll”, “lol,” and other terms with roots in internet gaming culture have become in our day-to-day lives. 

While so many of these terms fall into public usage, even those of us who are well acquainted with internet slang can feel out of the loop. It’s not uncommon to find yourself depending on Urban Dictionary at least once every few months to keep on top of the internet’s next favorite obsession. 

However, it isn’t uncommon for words on the internet to take on an entirely different meaning; most of the humor on the internet depends entirely on irony, which can make things very confusing. Phrases and memes can adopt a completely different subtext and carry a wide range of meanings depending on the audience they are made for, and this has allowed certain words and images to be co-opted and hijacked by the alt-right. 

Memes that were once harmless, nonsensical jokes, known as “shitposts,” have become tainted by their close association with the alt-right, memes such as Pepe the frog, which was adopted by the alt-right a number of years ago after a news article branded it a right-wing symbol.

Kyle Rittenhouse has been the subject of recent alt-right memes featuring Pepe the frog

Another piece of internet culture that has recently found favor in alt-right message boards and memes is the term “based,” a harmless expression that is used to show that you agree with something or when you recognize someone for having opinions that you agree with. 

The term itself had its roots in African American slang when it was first coined by rapper Lil B who claimed that “based was a negative term” when he was younger and decided to re-invent the word to mean not ashamed to be who you are. 

The term has always been popular among members of the alt-right, however, and despite the fact “based” has become a common phrase in internet vernacular, it was used to describe conservative author Christina Hoff Summers as “based mom” due to her support of gamers who were labeled as sexist during the era of Gamergate. 

It has also now been used extensively in the discourse surrounding the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, the teenager who shot three people in Wisconsin during the civil unrest resulting from the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by a white police officer. 

The case was followed closely by the right, with Rittenhouse himself being labeled as a “poster boy” for the alt-right. 

In the days following the jury’s verdict to find Rittenhouse innocent, many members of the alt-right took to Twitter and other platforms, describing the presiding judge, Bruce Schroeder, as “based,” with many even describing Rittenhouse himself as “based AF.” 

This has sparked an onslaught of memes both critiquing and showing support for Rittenhouse and Shroeder, but it has left many wondering if “based” as a term has been tainted, once again by its association with alt-right usage. 

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