As there was with NRx a while back, there is now some struggle over control of the alt-right label. The fight seems to be going on between the WN’s and everybody else, with the centrepoint on Roosh. The WN’s claim that alt-right is rightfully theirs and non-WN’s are entryists. I don’t particular agree with everybody shooting allies, so I’ll weigh in.
Depending on how you use the term, the alt-right label is somewhat valuable as per Google Trends. ‘Alt right’ dwarfs ‘neoreaction’ (and, to a lesser degree, Moldbug). Although, ‘Alt-right’ is itself dwarfed by ‘neoreaction’ (and ‘Moldbug’), while ‘altright’ is similar to neoreaction. ‘Alternative right’ springs up even before ‘alt right’ and is even bigger than alt-right.
The lefties at RationalWiki (one of the top hits for alt-right) think the alt-right is part neoreaction, but, as with almost everything, they are wrong. Alternative right started getting searches in 2005, a couple years before Moldbug started writing and well before the NRx boom.
The WN’s do have a decent claim to the name. Richard Spencer, WN and creator of Alternative Right has a claim at owning the label as he created was created in 2010 and his the first hit for the label and is one of the earliest uses I can find, but according to Google Trends, ‘alt right’ sprung into existence in 2007, while ‘alternative right’ came a couple years before that. So Spencer was using a label already in existence.
The alt-right has been hitting mainstream presses in the last few months, which makes searching for it’s origins difficult as their flooding the results. The mainstream articles seem to use neoreactionary, alt-right, and white supremacy interchangeably. So, in practice, to the greater world, we’re all the same, probably to the chagrin of everybody on each side. Although, this Quora post is the second-highest ranked on Google for the term and notices the distinction, so its not completely overlooked.
Despite the search troubles, I found some early stuff. The earliest use of alternative right’ I found was in the name of an address by paleoconservative Paul Gottfried to the HL Mencken Club in 2008. He doesn’t use the term in the speech, but the speech is named “The Decline and Rise of the Alternative Right”. In the speech he uses it describe post-paleo conservatives who are opposed to/outside of neoconservatism, libertarianism, and movement conservatism. The post-paleos he describes go beyond a single organization or ideology and he specifically includes vDare and Taki’s. He also used it again in 2009, where he uses it to refer to non-authorized dissident rightests. The second use I found was from Taki’s in 2009, in an article by Kevin DeAnna (founder of Youth for Western Civilization) which uses the term as a right-wing movement concerned with identity, virtue, and culture as opposed to the economic movement of mainstream conservatism. He also links it to the Ron Paul movement. DeAnna himself spoke at the HL Mencken Club (as has Spencer).
So, near as I can tell, ‘alternative right’ and therefore ‘alt-right’ most rightly belong to the group creating the HL Mencken Club. Their list of presenters is all over the non-mainstream right, including Buchanan, Derbyshire, and Sailer. The Mencken Club began in 2008, so there’s about a a bit of time prior to the Club that it was in use, but I can not find any earlier usages. I’m not sure what caused the one-off spike in 2005, or the surge in 2006.
By the best evidence I can find, ‘alt-right’ originally referred to rightests who grew out of the paleoconservative tradition and are dissidents against the neoconservative mainstream. The alt-right is inherently a catch-all term for those on the right who are outside mainstream conservatism and are attacking it from the right.
So, while the WN’s are part of the alt-right, do not own the alt-right and being alt-right does not mean being a WN. As well, both the DE and neoreaction are part of the alt-right, but the alt-right is neither.