The alt-button now stands for a larger movement


There’s a curious co-occurrence of growing groups using the letter combination ALT on the internet. The first one, the band ALT-J is named after the alt-key, because the combo of those buttons results in a Δ, which is the symbol for change in science. They are a pretty cool and innovative band, and I have no doubt they are about to suffer from the popularity of second group.

That group is called Alt-right. The modern name of the US demons, where ‘Alt’ represents the word ‘alternative’. This group mainly consists of internet trolls who spend their days anonymously placing racist or discriminatory comments on websites, vaguely relating to each other in their anger. Recently, an amorphous group of representatives emerged, with an own logo and everything. And their mascot, Pepe the Frog. Which is a little paradoxical because Pepe is a Latino name, but hey.

So what’s the attraction with this word ‘Alt’? Have keyboards been slowly hypnotizing into this word in an ultimate subconscious marketing campaign? If so, could we predict a similar attraction to other 3-letter keyboard combinations ‘esc’, ‘del’ and ‘tab’? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see any popularity for those name combinations, except that the word tab also has a meaning of its own.

I think that power of the letter A adds to the popularity of the combination. First letter in the alphabet. Best mark. Stands like a rock. The letter has something cool to it. Starting your group’s name with an A is first step in the direction of success. Remember the idea of the self-propagating soundbite, carrying entire thought clusters and paradigms along? I think the A is a powerful addition to the alt. But as clear as it may be to me for A, I’m far less certain on the LT. Okay. There’s a square in its look, which compares interestingly with the triangle of the A, but the guttural ‘LT’ sound is arguably silly.

The word alt holds a reference to the digital world. Both alt-groups owe their existence to their dispersal over the world-wide-web. A real and important part of campaigning strategies today. The band partially uses electronic devices for their music, while the far right movement uses the web for its internal communication. Emerges from it. The word alt brings coherence into the group and its projected image. Even if the two are so different, they both benefit from this effect.

But let’s not forget the meaning of the word alternative. A different option. When I was young, there were the ‘Alto’s’, in the Netherlands, the guys with the long hair, and the post-hippy-pre-emo-girls. They demonstrated new possibilities through their style, for as far as that’s possible for school kids. To be alternative was a way to be cool. It’s obvious for ALT-J, but I’m afraid it also makes the Alt-right movement more appealing. Wearing the mask of the new, this group differentiates from the old. Alt-right has the extra incentive to break with the image of Nazi’s and the Ku Klux Klan.

The word ‘alternative’ is not new, neither is the abbreviation. But its increasing presence in our, say, collective minds, through both groups as well as the keyboard is noteworthy. Consciously or subconsciously, we are turning to alternatives for the way things currently are.


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