Is the 60s "counterculture" responsible for a lot todays "alt right?"

A friend of mines grandparent draws this conclusion as he made a comparison that a lot of the things the alt-right follows like anti-vaccinations and a lot q anon types of things started back in the 60s and even if they were well-meaning back in the day as people became older they managed to become conservative but managed to still believe in such things and the message became “corrupted”

does he have a point?

Older people have always skewed conservative. My sense of the alt-right is that it is mostly made up of people who came of age after the 1960s. An 18 year old at the end of that decade is turning 70 this year.

No. He doesn’t even have a blunt stub of a pencil with its lead broken off.

Anti-vaxxers didn’t start in the 60’s; the 60’s counterculture wasn’t about vaccination – I don’t even remember the topic coming up, let alone the current qanon sort of crap; and even if it had been part of the counterculture, that wouldn’t make the counterculture “responsible” for the alt-right.

While there was a fair amount of overlap between “the counterculture” and the “hard left” of the sixties, one was literally culture (what music you listened to, what books you read, etc), while the other was political.

I have said that the “new right” reminds me a lot of the “old left”. But no “responsibility” is implied, no more than Robert Heinlein and/or the Beatles were “responsible” for Charley Manson.

I think you can make the argument that a widespread, deep distrust of institutions started in the 60s. But it isn’t the specifics, it’s the attitude that “they” are probably lying.

In fact, we had actual proof that “they” were lying. It was called Vietnam. Nothing the government said was believable once the bullshit starting swamping the country.

However, a better precursor for today’s world would be the conspiracy theories that became rampant over JFK’s assassination. They lacked any real-world basis, so people could simply put together any set of nonsense and sell it to the public.

Thinking about it, the flying saucer craze also had that attribute and that started in the 1940s.

BYW, most lefties then are now old lefties. People forget that the hippies were hated by half the population, along with their music, their antiwar fervor, and everything about the counterculture. That half the country are now the aged conservatives. They started out that way and continued on that path.

This. I and the gang I hung with during my misspent youth (with tie dyed shirts and love beads and peace necklaces) continue to support pretty liberal causes.

The far right and far left share a distrust of big government and a credulous approach to alternatives to mainstream ideas. But they come to it from different angles.

The hippie anti-vaxxers I knew many years ago didn’t believe in western medicine because they felt it had left the path of true healing through deep awareness of the cosmic body-mind. They had absorbed a wide but shallow variety of all sorts of techniques and theories in opposition to data-driven science, from tai chi to naturopathy. They weren’t so much in opposition to, as they were seeking out a forgotten harmony with nature. Vaccines were an intrusion into the body based on a hopelessly narrow and destructive view of disease.

The far right believes everyone they don’t know is their enemy, and the government is a malevolent force. The world is conspiring against them in the most imaginatively far-fetched ways. The desire to retaliate violently, to punish everyone who isn’t them, is all-pervasive. Government mandates of any kind at all are exactly what they sense is closing in all around them, suffocating them and taking away their freedom to do violence to others with impunity.

So, yeah, don’t seem that related.

The mid-century ancestors of the current right-wing anti-vaxers are the right-wing anti-fluoridation crusaders.

The Purity Of Essence movement.

Does “the party of responsibility” ever take responsibility for its actions, current or past?

Exactly, and as Exapno_Mapcase and others note, 60s counterculture distrust of government was pretty well founded in fact.

The reason that so many conservatives who still regard “hippie” and “leftist” as deadly insults have nonetheless appropriated a lot of the “anti-establishment” mindset of those leftist hippies, and see no contradiction in that, has to do in large part with what Thomas Frank described as the post-60s “commodification of dissent”:

“Free-spirited” “anti-establishment” “maverick” attitudes of course have been a staple of American fantasy self-image since at least the outwardly conformist 50s, with their escapist fascination with the lone cowboy, the secret agent, the rebel without a cause.

But as Frank says, it was the post-60s commercial merchandising of the 60s that really made the lone maverick cowboy spy free spirit fantasy market-friendly. And, consequently, right-wing-friendly on a large scale.

Rebellion and hostility to the establishment has always been “outsider cool”, but now you don’t have to actually be any kind of outsider to live that fantasy. You can just buy the merch.

The alt-right emerged in online culture and the primary unifying attribute - inasmuch as a loosely defined phenomenon that the alt-right can have - is white nationalism. Q-anon and anti-vaxxers are just trappings that became attached to it over the last few years; the alt-right goes back to the late 2000’s.

So no, I don’t see any meaningful connection with 1960s counterculture.


The alt-right, an abbreviation of alternative right, is a loosely connected white nationalist, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi movement. A largely online phenomenon, the alt-right originated in the United States during the late 2000s and the early 2010s, before increasing in popularity during the mid 2010s and establishing a presence in other countries, and has declined since 2017. The term is ill-defined, having been used in different ways by alt-right members, media commentators, and academics. A far-right movement, it rejects mainstream political ideologies such as conservatism and liberalism.

In 2010, the American white nationalist Richard B. Spencer launched The Alternative Right webzine. His “alternative right” was influenced by earlier forms of American white nationalism, as well as paleoconservatism, the Dark Enlightenment, and the Nouvelle Droite. His term was shortened to “alt-right”, and popularised by far-right participants of /pol/, the politics board of web forum 4chan. It came to be associated with other white nationalist websites and groups, including Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer, Brad Griffin’s Occidental Dissent, and Matthew Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party. Following the 2014 Gamergate controversy, the alt-right made increasing use of trolling and online harassment to raise its profile. In 2015, it attracted broader attention—particularly through coverage on Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News—due to alt-right support for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Upon being elected, Trump disavowed the movement. Attempting to move from a web-based to a street-based movement, Spencer and other alt-rightists organized the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which led to violent clashes with counter-demonstrators. The fallout from the rally resulted in a decline of the alt-right.

No. This version of the GOP (alt-right is gone, it’s just the GOP now) is a result of a bunch of older and poorly educated people being manipulated and gas-lit by a new technology that they are ill-equipped to adapt to. I think it’s as simple as that. They were raised in a time where what Cronkite & Dan Rather told you on the nightly news was the truth, the same truth that everyone else heard. Then the news started lying, later the internet started telling them that everyone was lying all the time. The only people they choose to believe are the people who tell them the other guy is lying.

This isn’t some perverted philosophy from the past. It’s a new thing that we’ve never seen before.

I’m not so sure it’s a new thing. What is CRE (Critical Race Theory) but the modern version of “commie” from the 1950s? The use of the word does not need to be connected with sense or reality in any way. It can be applied to any person or institution at any time. The accusation conveys an automatic assumption of guilt. The guilty have no rights or recourse. Wait, did I say 1950s? What about the horrors of socialism in the 1930s? What about the Red Scare of 1918-1920, which did exactly the same thing?

We’ve seen this all before, but with conservatives and not 60s radicals. That’s their M.O. (modus operandi) The carnage goes through our society until one day everybody wakes up and wonders what all the fuss was about, the wounded pull the dead off the battlefield, and the right lays low and plots until the next outbreak.

Nor was it ever old people who were creating the lies and riling the masses, not in the olden days and not today.

It doesn’t me; at least, not if you mean by the “old left” the late 60’s - early 70’s version. The “old left” was in favor of everybody sleeping with whomever they damn well pleased.

Yeah. We’re the ones now wearing those tshirts that say ‘I can’t believe I still have to protest this crap!’

And the 60’s/70’s counterculture wasn’t nationalist at all. We were citizens of the universe, after all.

And I don’t remember any overt racism, though I expect there was a fair amount of racial cluelessness. But Pete Seeger was out there singing Rainbow Race and we all sang along.

It was never only old people. But it’s never been only young people, either. And Trump’s an old guy.

Could not have said it as well myself.

To clarify: By the “old left” I meant the stereotypical commies of the fifties/early sixties. Humorless, insistent on unwavering 100% support for the doctrine de jure, etc etc.

That’s definitely not the 60s counterculture, though.

Yes to both parts of that.

I knew an occasional Marxist like that during that time; and yes, totalitarians remind me of other totalitarians. What they want the State (whether or not they call it that) to make everybody do varies quite a bit; but the attitude of ‘there’s only one Right Way To Live and it should be Enforced’ is the same. (I’ve known people of that attitude to switch entirely what they decided was the One Right Way To Live, while retaining the same insistence that Everybody Must Do It.)

But “the 60’s counterculture” was very much not totalitarian; parts of it were pretty close to anarchist, though usually of the non-bomb-throwing variety – pacifism was common.