The alt-right is a movement of people united by the common premise that white people deserve an identity politics of their own, and that Western civilization is inherently tied with white ethnicity. They’re not a major movement; they’re a fringe group. They’re extraordinarily loud on social media; they abuse their enemies, worship their perceived friends, and generate the feeling that they are far more of a powerful force than they actually are.
Over the weekend, they went to Charlottesville for the same reason they’ve gone to cities around the country: to gain attention. More specifically, they had three goals in mind. First, the alt-right wanted to grow its ranks by creating a perception of size and influence far beyond its actual numbers; second, the alt-right wanted to grow its ranks by squaring off against Antifa, far left violent agitators correctly perceived as threats to law and order — and they wanted to fight back victoriously against that group; third, the alt-right wanted to create the public perception that they aren’t just a group of muddle-headed white supremacists, but decent people who care about the future of Western civilization and stand up against criminality. In short, the alt-right sought to craft a perception of size, a perception of strength, and a perception of decency.
Now, the truth is that the alt-right has none of these three. They’re small, they’re not particularly strong, and they’re certainly not decent. But thanks to the media, the Left, and the president, they achieved all three of those goals.