It was foul, and I loved it.
May 2, 2019 6:04 AM   Subscribe

Once notorious for her racist and bigoted tweets, Katie McHugh saw the dark insides of the white nationalist movement. A long read from Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed News.

Her story is fascinating, and sometimes frustrating. She wishes she had never said the things she’s said or did the things she’s done, but when I first met her, she still insisted that they were often jokes gone wrong, and that, on some level, she’d said these things because she’d been egged on by others. She seemed unable to face her full complicity in her own behavior. Unlike Derek Black, the son of Stormfront founder Don Black and to date one of the most significant defectors from the white nationalist movement — he’s even the subject of a recent book by the Washington Post’s Eli Saslow — McHugh wasn’t raised in the movement. While Black represented the old guard of white nationalism — his godfather is David Duke — McHugh was a part of the vanguard. Her set took the emerging own-the-libs ethos that animated the online right and combined it with the new iteration of white nationalism, which called itself the alt-right.
posted by soren_lorensen (75 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't understand how any of these people get to take a stab at image rehab, especially just months or a year or two after the fact? They habitually lie, misrepresent to the public re:their actual views, change on a dime. And now that she's seen a few hard months she's totally reformed and sees the errors of her ways? Sorry, not buying what she's selling at all. It's manipulation all the way down.
posted by nevercalm at 6:13 AM on May 2, 2019 [100 favorites]


I read this last night. I don't have a ton of sympathy for this person. For one thing, it's not clear to me whether she really had a change of heart or whether she merely realized that being a Nazi was going to be a career liability and that her best financial move was to have a public change of heart. I do think that she's a walking advertisement for universal healthcare, because even evil people deserve to have their chronic illnesses treated. Too bad she spent her short career arguing against the policies that she needs now.

I was actually a little curious about her background, which didn't seem to be covered in the article at all. The author says that McHugh felt out-of-place at college because she didn't come from money, and she mentions that McHugh grew up "in the sticks." But what were her parents' politics and beliefs about race? What do they think of her now? I wouldn't be surprised if there were some kind of complicated backstory, because I think that most young adults, upon being disgraced and rendered unemployable, would move back in with their parents.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:21 AM on May 2, 2019 [31 favorites]


So being a virulent racist can lead to financial hardship and being ostracized. And the person may end up filled with pain and regret?

GOOD. Then the system isn't totally broken.

Who's next?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:28 AM on May 2, 2019 [99 favorites]


How crypto and gross is her mentor John Elliot though, having nice dinners with David Irving.
posted by fleacircus at 6:29 AM on May 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


Yeah, for someone who claims never to have bought in to antisemitism, she sure did hang out with a lot of Holocaust deniers.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:32 AM on May 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


The most good a person like this has is providing lots and lots of information on former fellow travelers
posted by The Whelk at 6:33 AM on May 2, 2019 [38 favorites]


The most good a person like this has is providing lots and lots of information on former fellow travelers

Or a roadmap for a way out. I'm sure there are white supremacists out there with doubts. seeing people publicly leave the gang is good.
posted by entropone at 6:37 AM on May 2, 2019 [19 favorites]


How crypto and gross is her mentor John Elliot though, having nice dinners with David Irving.

Gotta say, this was a needle-scratch moment in this article. I mean, I am far from a libertarian these days but I grew up in a libertarian household, and I attended an IHS summer seminar for teens in the early 90s back when I was still libertarian-curious. It was pretty bland classical liberal invisible hand economic theory blah blah blah. So, this guy being an IHS program director and also being pals with a giant whackload of holocaust deniers? Oh, but he's not an antisemite, no sir, he just hangs out with antisemites alllll the time and reads their books and knows all about who's who in their world and finds them "interesting"? Mkay.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:44 AM on May 2, 2019 [28 favorites]


We where talking about the libertarian to alt right pipeline years ago and apparently it’s now just something white nationalists say to each other
posted by The Whelk at 6:50 AM on May 2, 2019 [11 favorites]


That article made me angry, more than anything else.

That said, I seem fairly plausible that the editors of the publications she worked for did perhaps egg her on. After all, they get the money from racist readers, with her as a disposable shield whenever there is any blowback. I wouldn't be surprised if five minutes after her firing they simply hired another person whose dogwhistles had not yet dipped in pitch.

Not that that absolves her in any way, of course.
posted by Kikujiro's Summer at 6:55 AM on May 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


As someone who was raised in the Catholic Church and whose parents were very conservative Republicans, I’m really trying to wrap my head around how many there seem to be in the paleoconservative/alt-right/white nationalist communities.

I mean, I can see The misinformed resentment and bad reasoning motivating their actions but they really cross a line that isn’t supported by their declared theology.

Ask this lady what she thinks of Pope Francis. That’ll really tell you where she stands today. The conservatives in my family loved, loved, loved Pope Benedict. The enthusiasm for Francis is much more muted.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:56 AM on May 2, 2019 [11 favorites]


In 2011, she applied for an internship with the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), a nonprofit connected to George Mason University that promotes “classical liberalism” and libertarianism on college campuses and grants fellowships to students.

“I reviewed your application,” wrote John Elliott, the program’s director at the time, in an email to her in February of that year. “You are the first applicant to ever list Joe Sobran as an influence. Joe was a friend. He had the same influence on me. I was delighted to find a young journalist who has profited from his work.”

[...]

“I chose Katie to mentor as a libertarian, not as a member of the ‘alt-right,’” Elliott said in an email. “The ‘alt-right’ didn’t exist in 2011, and I’ve had no connection with the ‘alt-right’ since it was invented. I tried to be a mentor and a friend to Katie for a decade, even as she went down some of the dark paths of those fringe groups. But her decision to go down those paths had nothing to do with me. I truly feel bad for her.”


Elliott makes quick work of throwing his young protege under the bus. The article notes that Sobran was also closely associated with Holocaust deniers. Much of George Mason's veer into conservatism has been bankrolled by the Koch brothers. This was a barely-closeted Holocaust denier running a university-associated nonprofit organization and hand-picking his recruits. Don't let terms like think tank or nonprofit fool you into thinking that these organizations are bastions of civility, moderation, or anything approaching reasonable discourse.

Also note that right out of undergrad at a not particularly prestigious college, "the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a college conservative group, gave her a $20,000 fellowship to work at the Daily Caller... the Caller added $10,000." I have to say, as a person only a few years out of college myself, getting a 30k fellowship right out of undergrad *in 2013* is honestly staggering. In my field (physical sciences), graduate fellowships that large require you to be among the very very best. There is a lot of money being directed at these organizations, and the most reactionary voices are the ones that get selected to advance.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 6:59 AM on May 2, 2019 [52 favorites]


As a person of colour it really grates on me how many second chances white people seem to get. Sympathy and consideration that black & brown people never receive.

I truly hope she's changed but I won't hold my breath.
posted by Fizz at 7:05 AM on May 2, 2019 [103 favorites]


“People like me should be given a chance to recognize how bad this is and that the alt-right is not a replacement for any kind of liberal democracy whatsoever, any kind of system, they have no chance, and they’re just harmful,” McHugh said. “There is forgiveness, there is redemption. You have to own up to what you did and then forcefully reject this and explain to people, and tell your story, and say, ‘Get out while you can.’”

And then you hand out bottled water in Flint, and you scrub swastikas off of synagogues, and you escort women in hijab across campus. You want redemption? Fucking earn it.
posted by Nyrha at 7:05 AM on May 2, 2019 [86 favorites]


Or a roadmap for a way out.
I don't think she's offering anyone a roadmap for a way out. She appears to be well and truly screwed, in ways that may literally kill her. She's got no employment prospects and health problems that require constant treatment to keep her alive, which is a scary situation to be in. She may be offering a cautionary tale about the dangers of getting in, but I doubt it's going to get through to the people who need to hear it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:10 AM on May 2, 2019 [12 favorites]


Wolves. Grimnir. "If you want to come to the chateau I'm sure there will be much conviviality."

Jesus, these people want to be Hellfire Club-type aristocrats so bad. Unfortunately, they have good enough health care to avoid their noses falling off from syphilis, which probably cannot even be said of all Americans at this point.

How should white/gentile people (where possible) welcome back and accept the former troglodytes in their lives? Because it is our job; it can't be pushed off as anyone else's. I think that aiding in rehabilitation is a duty for the people who, structurally, have the least to lose from extending care and comfort to those who are unworthy of it. Certainly Jewish people, LGBTQ people, or POC have no duty to piss on a woman like this if she's on fire. But there has to be some kind of visible future for a bigot that surrenders, or else none of them will try.

In this case, it is also helpful, I think, for right-wing women to see what happens to a right-wing woman who has outlived her usefulness to these people: she is thrown aside. It's the pedestal or the street. What such women are attracted to is, in part, the idea of security and the protection of strong men, and they need to understand that right-wing men are weak, selfish, and violent. As for McHugh herself, she could live a life of Christian service, if she chose, by quite literally retiring to a convent -- although at her age she would not retire, of course, but work hard.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:17 AM on May 2, 2019 [27 favorites]


Is she unemployable in the sense of media jobs or like could she not just go out for a regular job at this point?
posted by bleep at 7:31 AM on May 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Is she unemployable in the sense of media jobs or like could she not just go out for a regular job at this point?

Per the article:
Over time, as I finished a book manuscript and began a new job, she has disconnected from her former circle, and has worked a series of service jobs — or not worked at all. She struggles to pay her medical bills and has moved from place to place, concerned about her safety.
posted by zamboni at 7:35 AM on May 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Kee-rist. The list of white supremacist organizations and people that she associated with is a literal who's-who of modern American conservative politics and culture. Amazing the lengths she went to distinguish her particular flavor of white supremacy, as if the distinction that she was white supremacist but not "really" antisemitic is meaningful.

also re: her hair - My guess is alopecia, brought on by stress. She's also wearing a wig.
posted by JohnFromGR at 7:36 AM on May 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


A friend of a friend's Facebook friend (if that makes sense) is an alt-right type who rails against the whole world of what he perceives socialism to be, mocking Democrats and leftists alike, and thinking that universal healthcare is the devil.

He also claims many health issues that need medical attention for him, and as someone who hasn't worked for several years, he just does online fundraiser after fundraiser for himself, his medical expenses and "keeping [him]self alive."

At no point does he see the connection between his political views and how much work he has to do to keep up with medical expenses. Unfortunately for (the world and) him, his views have driven away basically anyone who was initially giving him any money. Also, unfortunately (for the world, mostly), the dribbling down of patrons to pay his prescription costs and rent make him all the more inflamed and his rhetoric has been getting worse and worse, now including lots of glory shots of guns.

Two sides of the same terrible coin, I think.
posted by xingcat at 7:42 AM on May 2, 2019 [11 favorites]


As someone who was raised in the Catholic Church and whose parents were very conservative Republicans, I’m really trying to wrap my head around how many there seem to be in the paleoconservative/alt-right/white nationalist communities.

A lot of these people never got over Vatican II; a lot more are people who joined the Church as adults precisely because they were looking for the white, traditionalist organization of their fantasies. In the southern US, at least, there's a particular kind of educated white guy—and I guess, maybe, woman—often Protestant by birth, for whom this kind of thing is absolute catnip and you can make a list of the boxes they check—Chesterton and Belloc, the monarchist Eliot, the Southern Agrarians, the Catholic Church—and depending on how bold they are about it—confederate "heritage" & the League Of The South. Some of them eventually decide that the Catholics aren't traditionalist enough and move on to Sedevacantism, or Greek or Russian Orthodoxy.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:45 AM on May 2, 2019 [24 favorites]


The narrative here is that she gets why racial/religious hatred is morally wrong, but there’s no indication that she’s actually broken her racist and anti-semitic beliefs or understands equality. She knows it’s a strategically bad idea and even sinful to get involved with the KKK, but does she get that they are also just *factually wrong* about white superiority? She seems to elide this question, which should be central to any rehabilitation.

It’s interesting, but not surprising, that Bannon and the other execs view the more openly bigoted wings of their caucus with disgust or alarm, but see them as useful helpers and refuse to cast them out.

Mostly this piece fills me with disgust and despair, not hope. She’s no Derek Black.
posted by sallybrown at 7:46 AM on May 2, 2019 [21 favorites]


I don’t see how her physical appearance has any bearing on this story. At all.
posted by sallybrown at 7:47 AM on May 2, 2019 [22 favorites]


This isn't a story of white nationalists and antisemites infiltrating DC movement conservatism. It's a story about the white nationalist and antisemitic wing of that movement.

So ....the other takeaway is that the Kochs are funding organizations that inspire domestic terrorist attacks?
posted by The Whelk at 7:51 AM on May 2, 2019 [12 favorites]


So ....the other takeaway is that the Kochs are funding organizations that inspire domestic terrorist attacks?

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have some interesting things in common.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:09 AM on May 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


"She wishes she had never said the things she’s said or did the things she’s done, but when I first met her, she still insisted that they were often jokes gone wrong, and that, on some level, she’d said these things because she’d been egged on by others. She seemed unable to face her full complicity in her own behavior.
Like Speer, in Spandau, insisting to the end of his life that he'd only wanted to build great buildings.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:14 AM on May 2, 2019 [11 favorites]


“And Chuck Johnson? The Holocaust denier who McHugh landed with after getting fired from Breitbart for being too racist? He's still getting meetings with Republican members of congress. This stuff isn't a secret. It's not hidden. I found the Shapiro piece above when I was searching for the source of Milo's "Jews run the media" quote. Ben Shapiro CHOSE to highlight that quote in a column. He picked it to comment on. Favorably!“ @studentactivism
posted by The Whelk at 8:14 AM on May 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


It would be nice if we had a social safety net and decent health care so people didn't have to prove their worth to survive.
posted by turkeybrain at 8:30 AM on May 2, 2019 [12 favorites]


> I don’t see how her physical appearance has any bearing on this story. At all

I agree except that I'm interested in the choices that Buzzfeed made for the photos. The closeups showing her eyebrows, that nobody told her to yank her shirt down so it didn't rise up in that odd way. I'm distracted by the photos.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:41 AM on May 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


It shouldn't have a bearing on this story, but to some extent it does, just because image always does. She's physically weakened. Alt-right men will openly tell you that a woman's beauty is part of her worth to a man and that it distinguishes conservative women from those on the left. McHugh's looks have been temporarily or permanently damaged by (in large part) the hard times she has gone through because of being one of these people. The fact that McHugh can no longer maintain her appearance is a part of this narrative.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:53 AM on May 2, 2019 [15 favorites]


She didn't leave the alt-right as much as got kicked out of it. I guess for being too gauche on Twitter? Or because she and her more-connected bf broke up? Or for just generally being a pain to deal with day-to-day? Who knows, but it doesn't seem as though she's changed at all, her views seem completely the same.

If anything, she's apparently nostalgic for her salad days as a "valkyrie" at Brietbart (vomit). The alt-right bigots don't want her anymore, so she's trying to make a buck by shopping herself everywhere else -- but I have no doubt that if the alt-right crew let her in again, she'd be there in a heartbeat.

Honestly, though, she sounds unstable with all the moving around and a million different jobs. Things are only going to go from bad to worse for this woman. I pity her, I guess. But she sounds like an altogether horrible person, very difficult to dredge up any sympathy for. I guess she'd better find religion, like her friends want, because she's exactly the sort of person that people mean when they say, "God love her, because no one else will."

Also, she apparently can get a waitressing job (or has gotten a few, anyway) and is eligible to buy a health plan on an ACA exchange, so I'm not that pressed about her financial prospects as long as she's got the wherewithal to function as an adult in the world (although to be fair, that's a big "if," given how she's described). She doesn't really seem exceptionally hard up, just in a similar situation as any regular person not being propped up by Big Bigot.

The most frustrating thing for me, reading this article, are the descriptions of these bigots swarming all over George Mason. That's my local public university and I wish they would leave it the hell alone. The Koch & et al have been injecting lots of money in, including into the law school. Where is a person supposed to get an education around here if these assholes turn the public universities into their private little hothouses?

Oh, and it was also frustrating to hear Richard Spencer repeatedly evoked as a sort of "voice of reason" to confirm/deny her statements. The man has absolutely no credibility, so what's even the point?
posted by rue72 at 8:54 AM on May 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


I really don't know how to take this story, so I've been holding back on reading it and just seeing how the takes shake out.

I know it's easy to make decisions for other people, but one thing that comes to mind is that she could have become a mole and snitch. Of course, the US is a racist country, so she might have had trouble finding law enforcement sympathetic to the project, but she could've also done a Marjoe and made a book out of all the secrets the WP world uses to survive in a generally hostile society. People always talk about fucking shit up from the inside, but so rarely do we see it in the wild.
posted by rhizome at 8:56 AM on May 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm fascinated with that "dark insides of the white nationalist movement".

Yes boys, it looks totally harmless and seems good fun, but there's some nasty things going on on the inside of this racism.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:56 AM on May 2, 2019 [48 favorites]


It’s infuriating that she keeps reciting "I was responsible," because it’s obvious that she doesn’t believe it. She's just smart enough to know that people want to hear that before she can be rehabilitated. But throughout the interview, she makes it clear that she really blames Breitbart for the destruction of her life because she wishes now that they had reined her in. “This is all their fault because they didn’t stop me from being openly hateful” is a pretty damn weak narrative.
posted by O Sock My Sock at 9:03 AM on May 2, 2019 [25 favorites]


I mean the big news is just that there is no difference between 8chan dark corners of the Internet daily stormer stuff and George Mason University Libertarian/right wing think tanks and magazines and massive billionaire funds.

It’s all part of the same project. You can’t cut off the mold. It’s ALL mold.
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 AM on May 2, 2019 [41 favorites]


I know it's easy to make decisions for other people, but one thing that comes to mind is that she could have become a mole and snitch.

I found this part of the story a little unclear, but I think this is how she and the author got connected—she was giving Buzzfeed information about at least one person in the administration she’d met along her past travels.
posted by sallybrown at 9:11 AM on May 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Here's the stuff about McHugh becoming a source:
She gave me a series of emails that showed that Ian Smith, a Department of Homeland Security official, had associated with members of the white nationalist scene in DC. Using the emails she gave to me, I reported out the story and Smith left DHS. The Washington Post later reported that Smith, who worked on immigration at DHS, attended policy meetings with White House officials as senior as Stephen Miller. At the time, Smith said in a statement, “I no longer work at DHS as of last week and didn’t attend any of the events you’ve mentioned.” Neither he nor DHS disputed that he was on the emails.

McHugh also tipped me off to former Daily Caller editor Scott Greer’s years of posts for Spencer’s blog Radix Journal, which I wrote about in September 2018.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:15 AM on May 2, 2019


I'm not gonna comment on whether McHugh deserves forgiveness.

I was actually a little curious about her background, which didn't seem to be covered in the article at all.

Agreed. I found myself wishing the article had more to say about why McHugh was drawn to these hateful ideologies. Because, whenever I read about someone like this, the main question on my mind is "what the fuck is wrong with you?".

Perhaps McHugh can't even articulate that herself – it's not always easy to know why we feel and do things. But the question needs to be asked.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:53 AM on May 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


Also...the Skyrim-cosplay wing of the white nationalist movement is so facepalmy.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:58 AM on May 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


As a George Mason alumna ('92), I am appalled at what has become of the school. Those fucking Koch brothers befoul everything they touch.
posted by corvikate at 9:58 AM on May 2, 2019 [6 favorites]



Agreed. I found myself wishing the article had more to say about why McHugh was drawn to these hateful ideologies. Because, whenever I read about someone like this, the main question on my mind is "what the fuck is wrong with you?".

I'm never surprised when people talk about getting into this stuff as teenagers. (Per the article, she started reading Sobran and that shit in high school.) It's a powerless, terrifying, soul-and-ego destroying time, and without guidance it's super easy for a kid to be sucked in by promises of inherent specialness, noble-underdog ideology, something "edgy" that would Shock the Normies.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:14 AM on May 2, 2019 [11 favorites]


I'm never surprised when people talk about getting into this stuff as teenagers.

Indeed, I'm ashamed to say that I too dabbled in Ayn Randian bullshit for a period of my youth, but the thing is, I grew out of it. Sadly, not everyone does and it only further leads them down a rabbit hole of toxicity and hatred.

*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 10:17 AM on May 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


I say this just about every time one of these kinds of threads comes up...

Can we please stop normalizing the term alt-right? Every time someone uses it, that makes it sound like the alt-right is the extremists and somehow different than the regular right. The right is an openly racist branch of American politics. The alt-right isn't alt to anything, they are just one part of the cesspool that is right-wing politics in America (and that has been right-wing politics for at least 50 years - the only difference is that they used to put a better face on it).
posted by kokaku at 10:23 AM on May 2, 2019 [18 favorites]


To be honest, I think the debate over terminology is tired. "The right", "the alt-right", "white nationalists", "white supremacists", "Nazis" – I'm thoroughly opposed to all of 'em, but I don't think that infighting over what to call them is a particularly worthwhile use of our time.

You can argue that all right-wing ideologies are inherently racist/nationalist (and I'm largely sympathetic to that argument). But, even so, the "alt-right" is a distinct branch of American conservatism: intertwined with internet culture; based on particular arguments and ideologies; employing certain tactics; aligned with particular factions; more openly racist and fascist (as you say – they used to put a better face on it); etc.

So, the term "alt-right" is useful when we need to identify the Breitbart/Milo/Spencer wing of American conservatism – as opposed to, say, the Brooks/WSJ wing. One can argue that both factions depend on racist ideologies, or that the WSJ wing is all-but-toothless in 2019 – but it's silly to pretend that there is no meaningful difference between the two. There clearly is.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:47 AM on May 2, 2019 [17 favorites]


McHugh makes claims about changing; what has she done, other than serve as a tipster for a media outlet? What actions has she taken since leaving the hate bubble?
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:03 AM on May 2, 2019


I assume the point that kokaku was making is that "alt-right" redefines the framing along the lines of people are nothing more than Very Online Nazis. I've personally stopped using the term in favor of just "fascists" or "Nazis," because at the end of the day, that's all they are, dapper with dank memes or not.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:07 AM on May 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


"Breitbart offered her a capped reimbursement for health expenses but did not offer her health benefits — particularly after she was diagnosed with diabetes in October 2015."

Of course they didn't. Disease is a personal lifestyle choice.
posted by tommasz at 11:24 AM on May 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Related : Nazi Jovi Val gets egged in union square

He started out “alt Light” and just a proud supporter of our president and then got kicked out of the proud boys and is now just full on swastika flag waving.

There is no difference between these levels, just the overtness.
posted by The Whelk at 11:26 AM on May 2, 2019 [10 favorites]


A lot of these people never got over Vatican II

This is approximately 25% of my extended family. The only really constraining factor on their radicalization is that they're not so good with the modern technology. They're just hateful, hateful people who resent the slightest insinuation that God is more than a bully who hates everyone they do.

I am mostly not in touch with my extended family.
posted by praemunire at 11:42 AM on May 2, 2019 [14 favorites]


I found myself wishing the article had more to say about why McHugh was drawn to these hateful ideologies.

That's the 25,000$ ethical question, isn't it? Over and over again these stories demonstrate how easily teen-age alienation is weaponized, but why does the alienated woman become a white supremacist instead of a feminist, or a goth, or a theater nerd? McHugh speaks of her own "vindictiveness and ... capacity for cruelty" and it's hard not to conclude that she gravitated to beliefs and people that gave her the freest rein to indulge those appetites.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:51 AM on May 2, 2019 [15 favorites]


The banality of evil hasn't changed much in the last 60 years. What a stunted woman.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:55 AM on May 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


A lot of these people never got over Vatican II

My husband's family is 90% very lefty Italian-American labor Catholics but his dad has one sister that took a hard swerve into this kind of Latin Mass-loving Vatican-II-hating Republican Trump-voting Catholicism. It baffles all the rest of them. I grew up in Pittsburgh as well and all my experience with Catholicism was this same sort of urban working class pro-union left-leaning (and occasionally blatantly liberation theologist) brand. Then we moved down to rural Southern Maryland, which is also a heavily, heavily Catholic area (it being the first Catholic settlement in the US) and boy howdy that was a whole different kind of Catholicism. And I suspect I'd feel the same about the snooty super wealthy Georgetown variety as well. In conclusion, the Catholic Church is a land of contrasts.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:36 PM on May 2, 2019 [20 favorites]


It’s not just the Catholics, something ....very hinky is going on
posted by The Whelk at 12:44 PM on May 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


An interesting Twitter thread by someone who knew Katie McHugh in college.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:10 PM on May 2, 2019 [25 favorites]


That really is a good thread, and so kind, under the circumstances, that if McHugh is truly repentant, it would be "heaping burning coals atop her head," as they say.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:46 PM on May 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


From that thread: She took her own brokenness and weaponized it against other people. /18
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:48 PM on May 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


Like a lot of other people, I wonder why the author of this article barely attempts to get at what McHugh believes *now*. I mean, it's as if they walk right up to the question and just decide to ignore and/or forget about it. For example, in their most recent meeting at the Waffle House, Gray quotes McHugh as saying:
“I was a racist, certainly,” she said. “And I patted myself on the back, saying, ‘Well, I’m not, you know, some kind of Cro-Magnon racist. I just believe that they’re violent and unruly,’” referring to nonwhite people.
Ok, so she admits that she believed that nonwhites are violent and unruly. But, Gray does not seem to follow up in any way about whether or not she currently believes that nonwhites are violent and unruly. By not asking the question, it feels to me like Gray is implying that of course McHugh doesn't believe that any more ... but I would say that that assumes facts not in evidence. And even if she really did abandon that belief, I would think that the crucial follow-up would be how she changed her mind. Did she get access to some new information or experience? Did the scales fall from eyes all at once when she realized that her "friends" were all shitbags? What was the mechanism for overturning this apparently fundamental belief?

I mean, it's great that she's no longer in a place to directly profit from her racism. But that seems to be mostly a function of falling out with the cliques in conservative media rather than any fundamental change of heart. If she ever regained her standing in those circles, how would we know that she wouldn't just get back on the racist conservative media gravy train?
posted by mhum at 1:51 PM on May 2, 2019 [14 favorites]


Agreed, mhum. It's instructive to read this piece next to Unfollow, a New Yorker profile of Megan Phelps-Roper and her departure from the Westboro Baptist Church group, or the book mentioned in the article, Rising Out of Hatred (Fresh Air, interview with author.). There's a distinct lack of action on McHugh's part, by comparison.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:00 PM on May 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


My monocle is not exactly flying off at the revelation that conservative Christians are bankrolling reactionaries.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 2:02 PM on May 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


I was hoping to see this on the blue. I've been turning it over and over in my head and I just can't get past "ok great, but what are you going to do to help prevent this ideology from spreading even more?" It seems like she wants to garner our sympathy but doesn't actually want to do any work at all towards her redemption. Sorry you got diabetes but you harmed a ton of people and our society, not to mention supporting people who are actively trying to make access to medical care harder. Leopards/faces whatever. *shrug*
posted by Bacon Bit at 2:03 PM on May 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


> Some of them eventually decide that the Catholics aren't traditionalist enough and move on to Sedevacantism, or Greek or Russian Orthodoxy.

Can confirm, grew up Orthodox.

> What a stunted woman.

Yeah.

I never thought I'd have a real-life version of the "Harry Potter sees a crying baby Voldemort under a bench" scene, but that's the only way I can think to describe the experience of reading this article. Not necessarily in specifics, but emotions.
posted by snerson at 2:15 PM on May 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


Where are places like Daily Caller getting money from? Who is their funding source?
posted by gucci mane at 4:14 PM on May 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


As a person of colour it really grates on me how many second chances white people seem to get. Sympathy and consideration that black & brown people never receive.
--Fizz

How should white/gentile people (where possible) welcome back and accept the former troglodytes in their lives? Because it is our job; it can't be pushed off as anyone else's. I think that aiding in rehabilitation is a duty for the people who, structurally, have the least to lose from extending care and comfort to those who are unworthy of it. Certainly Jewish people, LGBTQ people, or POC have no duty to piss on a woman like this if she's on fire. But there has to be some kind of visible future for a bigot that surrenders, or else none of them will try.
-- CountessElena

To my (white American) eye both of these comments seem valid. Certainly an extremist is most likely to be successfully deradicalised by those they see as from their own community. (Relatedly, I think that in these times, basic deradicalisation techniques are going to be one of those everyday skills that we'll all need. I wish there were an "everyday deradicalisation" website.)

As many have said above, there's doubt as to whether McHugh has genuinely changed or is just paying lip service in order to survive. But deradicalisation is not a single decision or mental process; it involves multiple decisions, reactions, realisations; often some relapses. Some deradicalised people will actively work against their former extremist allies, giving information and/or helping to deradicalise others. Some may simply disengage: cease extremist activity and try to live "normal" lives. (On the strength of the article, I'd put McHugh in that second category).

I'm extremely sympathetic to Fizz's point. McHugh's racist hate had a prominent platform and had real effects. She emboldened those who inflicted harassment, injury and death on Jews, POC, Native Americans, LGBT individuals and anyone they perceived as an enemy. Her deeds were real and in an ideal outcome she would fully realise this, undergo a lot of learning and soul-searching and find ways to try and atone for the harm she did.

On the other hand: community rejection is one of the ways deradicalisation can fail. Far-right groups keep wavering members in line by telling them things like "The SJWs all hate you now, you're a marked man, they'll call out their mobs on you if you try to go back." We can *only* undermine this by giving people who've disengaged a chance to truly deradicalise.

So how do we interact with deradicalised people? How do we deal with the very real harm these people have already done, while not driving them back into the arms of the far right? We can learn a lot from those working in other areas of deradicalisation. For example, it's worth having a look at this documentary on Boko Haram, where they interview people working to deradicalise ex-Boko Haram militants. (The deradicalisation section starts around 39.00.)

McHugh's conversion may be genuine, or she may simply have disengaged in order to survive. Certainly I think-- I hope-- she'll never work in media again unless she pulls a Max Boot-style conversion and begins actively, investigatively reporting on her former colleagues and their connections. I think she will not backslide into those circles; the meaningful information she gave for that article, plus the revelation that she served as a source, will mean they'll view her as a "traitor" now-- perhaps enough to endanger her. She may still quietly hold racist views; but a quiet racist is at least preferable to a loud, public one. (A bit like how cowshit is less awful than dogshit, but still.)

Lastly: I'm really impressed with Rosie Gray's reporting in that article. Every assertion backed up with dates, names and sources-- even people's "Wolves" nicknames, which is a nice coup. Connections clearly explained, in a way that someone new to this mess could understand. Thorough and clear. Well done.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:37 PM on May 2, 2019 [10 favorites]


Yeah, it's a great article that puts it head and shoulders above many other articles of its type in that, even if you're not particularly sympathetic to McHugh, it's so exhaustively researched that it condemns dozens of other people by association and shows there's no effective difference between the various flavours of extreme right. The parade of people with obvious white supremacist and anti-Semitic connections high-mindedly condemning McHugh for views they clearly hold is particularly good.

When it comes to McHugh herself, it's easy for me to believe that she's apologetic only because the grift stopped working. I also believe that atonement is underrated - too often in Western society we're encouraged to forgive people who seem very sad that they're feeling consequences, who'll do it again as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Donating to a charity so rarely cuts it, because it's usually a charity of the aggressor's choice. I think it's better to ask the people hurt by someone's actions what the aggressor needs to do to atone, for them to feel like the aggressor has made up for the hurt they've caused.

What I'm saying is that I think McHugh needs a to-do list.
posted by Merus at 5:06 PM on May 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


My comments reposted from elsewhere:

I'm finding this article sort of... incredibly credulous in places, where it just sort of unquestioningly accepts the framing that right-wing "news" websites and white nationalist organizations are two separate things. The stuff about her "double life" working for the Daily Caller and attending Holocaust denier speeches? Double life, really? Like, her known associations with neo-nazis and white nationalists while working at Brietbart resulted in her... getting a promotion! She was not living a fucking double life! She was living it up as an open white supremacist and profiting from it, and Breitbart and Daily Caller were perfectly fine with it, until it became inconvenient.
posted by duffell at 9:29 PM on May 2, 2019 [22 favorites]


I find it very difficult to see any real repentance or change here, more the sort of regret a criminal expresses at being caught when the caper is over. I hope that's the fault of the reporter, but I doubt it.

It IS good though to see that there is still a steep social price to be paid for being a bad person and I am glad if this story reinforces that message.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:20 AM on May 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's instructive to read this piece next to Unfollow, a New Yorker profile of Megan Phelps-Roper and her departure from the Westboro Baptist Church group, or the book mentioned in the article, Rising Out of Hatred (Fresh Air, interview with author.). There's a distinct lack of action on McHugh's part, by comparison.

Thanks to those who have linked to these; both are really moving and convincing stories of personal repentance and attempts to make amends. I think the article about McHugh is just a different genre of story. It's a detailed and illuminating picture of a (terrible) social and political and economic ecosystem, which has drawn so many people into far-right and racist radicalisation over the last few years. We get that picture on the evidence of a fairly uninspiring person who does have insight into that system and a motive--not a particularly admirable one--to be honest about its workings. I hope, of course, she gets to the point of sincerely abandoning racism as a moral philosophy and finding a better one but the article is not really about that and she doesn't seem to be mature enough yet for that to be her story (gestures towards St Augustine notwithstanding).
posted by Aravis76 at 2:28 AM on May 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


Via William Gibson, here's N.K. Jemisin's Twitter thread on this article, with some very sharp points.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:38 AM on May 3, 2019 [13 favorites]


Yeah, came here to link in Jemisin's very, very astute takeaways.

tl;dr? Fuck this racist trash. This isn't redemption. This isn't even contrition. This is self-interest.
posted by uberchet at 8:12 AM on May 3, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm just watching a Danish TV documentary about a far-right provocateur (I don't know if it can be viewed outside Denmark) and at one point one of his followers quits, saying his friends keep telling him he is wrong, and that the "movement" isn't moving. I feel this says it really helps to keep on confronting these people and to keep on isolating them.
The scary thing about this guy is that children (mostly boys) are fascinated by him. I think because he has an approach to public speech that includes consistently abusing minorities, specifically using anti gay slurs. This is something some 12-18 year old boys find interesting. And some young adult men struggle with leaving. And everyone normal finds disgusting.
posted by mumimor at 9:32 AM on May 3, 2019


So she does concede that she was serving as an intermediary between paleoconservatives and white nationalists... much like the second individual in the aforementioned human centipede?
posted by Selena777 at 12:34 PM on May 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


Here is a really interesting Twitter thread by a college friend/acquaintance of Katie McHugh, which does the impossible job of humanizing & sympathizing with her while making it clear she's even more fucked up than the original article lets on.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:58 PM on May 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


My take from that thread is that McHugh wanted more attention from men than she could get unassisted, being fairly plain and poor. And since the College Republicans attracted almost no women and the most uncool guys, joining with them and playing the "I'm not like Other Girls" game she could get the attention she craved. Unfortunately for her, it also made her extremely disposable, she lacked the charisma or money to be of use in the long run.
posted by tavella at 3:22 PM on May 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


it also made her extremely disposable, she lacked the charisma or money to be of use in the long run

Among the many things right-wing women have yet to understand, the idea that your primary value as a woman is how appealing you are to men is number one with a bullet. You're right that money and connections work. So does being willing to confer social status on a man by being his adoring and attractive helpmeet, which sounds like the role McHugh tried to uphold.

It's always so eye-opening and so unnerving to see the aesthetics of right-wing women, from the Fox News Blonde to the ridiculous "pwn the libs by wearing fur" calendars, because it's such a clear visual representation of how the right wing views women as a whole.

I don't know what the answer is here -- how do you tell young women in any situation where their attractiveness is their primary social currency, "Be aware of the tradeoff you make here?" in a way that can actually get through?
posted by sobell at 8:36 PM on May 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


how do you tell young women in any situation where their attractiveness is their primary social currency, "Be aware of the tradeoff you make here?" in a way that can actually get through?

This is obviously not the only issue at play, what with all the white supremacy, and idk if this is the thread to go into how misogyny can enable terrible shit, but the short answer to this particular question is: you can’t. There is no one conversation you can have, no shibboleth you can utter, that will undo a lifetime of social conditioning at every level, from the most impersonal to, in the cases of many of these women, the most intimate. Some of them were raised like weird human veal. They wouldn’t leave the cage now if you left the door open.

A lifetime of conditioning takes a while to deprogram. And they have to be curious first.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:16 PM on May 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


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