Fox News->Breitbart->Stormfront
May 28, 2019 9:35 AM   Subscribe

““According to Nolan, she began with rightwing yet mainstream views such as those presented on Fox News. She then moved on to writing by Ben Shapiro and articles on Breitbart News which bridged the gap to the notorious white supremacist and anti-Semititc propaganda site Stormfront” Shapiro didn’t return requests for comment.” An Indiana Man Who Vandalized A Synagogue With Nazi Symbols Admitted How Far-Right Figures Radicalized Him (CW Nazi imagery, hate speech) More extremists are getting radicalized online. Whose responsibility is that? (Marketplace) “Fun fact about researching Nazis on Facebook? Facebook sorts "like" pages according to when something was liked. So you can literally look and see their progression from liking Fox to liking Breitbart/ @benshapiro to liking pages associated with nazis & the extreme right.” Twitter thread detailing one person’s descent from right-center causes to outright white nationalism and conspiracy theory via Facebook likes (CW: hate speech, antisemitism, etc)
posted by The Whelk (64 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
Imagine if you will, the March of Progress, only its a devolution of morality and the last image is a swastika. Ugh.
posted by Fizz at 9:47 AM on May 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I want to see the Venn of this and GamerGate
posted by fluttering hellfire at 9:55 AM on May 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


I want to see the Venn of this and GamerGate

Here you go.
posted by Fizz at 10:01 AM on May 28, 2019 [57 favorites]


I don't see the Ben Shapiro connection, and I'm struggling with the idea that a very obviously Jewish man could be the "gateway" to Stormfront.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:08 AM on May 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


Fuck the Nazis!
I can't believe that we are back at this shit 70 years later.
posted by growabrain at 10:09 AM on May 28, 2019 [12 favorites]


That's exactly what Ben Shapiro tries to pass off as his plausible deniability.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 10:09 AM on May 28, 2019 [48 favorites]


I don't see the Ben Shapiro connection, and I'm struggling with the idea that a very obviously Jewish man could be the "gateway" to Stormfront.

Well, try reading this but substitute "Ezra Levant" for "Ben Shapiro".

edit: The Beaverton is a satirical website much like The Onion, for all you non-Canadians who might not be aware.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 10:12 AM on May 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


> Fuck the Nazis!
> I can't believe that we are back at this shit 70 years later.

Naw, 70 years ago the government made Don't be a Sucker!. The "algorithms" of social media have taken us a step back.
posted by lkc at 10:15 AM on May 28, 2019 [19 favorites]


Joe In Australia, Ben hiding behind his Orthodox Judaism while promoting pathways to neonazism and slamming other Jews as being fake has been his beat for a long, long time

Like he’s been mentioned, by name! In several mass shooter manifestos as inspiration or what drove them to this conclusion.
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 AM on May 28, 2019 [70 favorites]


I've been looking at the ways social scientists measure both conspiratorial ideation and political extremeness. (Such a kludgey word.) It's interesting to see how social psychologists debate measurement, because we're all going to believe whatever narratives confirm our suspicions, and it's nice to see if we have any decent data on this topic. (IE There are at least 3 competing survey tools comparing conspiratorial ideation/conspiracy mentality and they show middling agreement.)

Unfortunately, FB and other social media companies are notoriously difficult to work with, though FB is opening up a bit more to outside academics.

Anyway, the question I'm struggling with is:
1. Can we treat these ideas as a sort of social contagion? What I mean is, does exposure to certain ideas infect otherwise healthy people and turn them into right wing extremists?
2. OR Do certain people harbour these beliefs and does the internet just allows them to express these beliefs?

Probably the answer is somewhere in the middle. There is such an element of social support in these groups. A lot of social scientists are looking at the structure of cults and comparing them to the radicalization process. It's rarely just about the beliefs, it's about the support network you become embedded into. QAnon is a good example of a fringe belief set that operates like a cult. Obviously the internet makes it extra tricky as we don't have geographical limitations and it's a sort of emergent recruitment pattern.

Can we use the same techniques to counter right wing extremism as we did with Islamic terrorists? See the redirect method. There are some parallels, except we don't really have active recruiters as we do/did with ISIS. Again, it's a much more bottom up/organic process.

I think we need to figure this out though. If Nazis are gonna Nazi, then it's debatable how effective controlling speech would be. I see a lot of people on metafilter argue that many people are just Nazis and have some essential Nazism built in to them. If however, exposure to these ideas takes otherwise normal people and radicalizes them, then we need to think about how to control this.

I come at this stuff from more of a conspiracism angle, but the research all sort of overlaps between: radicalism, conspiracism, right wing extremism, domestic terrorism and the spread of rumours. That's one thing that makes this tough, a lot of the interesting research has been done by criminologists, who might be talking with the terrorist studies guys but aren't speaking with the political scientists or social psychologists.
posted by Telf at 10:32 AM on May 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


I don't see the Ben Shapiro connection

Fox > Ben Shapiro > Nazis isn't a particularly convoluted connection to parse.
posted by diogenes at 10:40 AM on May 28, 2019 [18 favorites]


When I was driving through SD, NE, and WY last year, it occurred to me that in rural areas, cell phones may be the only internet access available in places. The most widespread and accessible media seemed to be AM radio. So if you're bathing in Rush Limbaugh offline all day, why wouldn't that be the same content you'd seek out online?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 10:40 AM on May 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


Can we use the same techniques to counter right wing extremism as we did with Islamic terrorists? See the redirect method. There are some parallels, except we don't really have active recruiters as we do/did with ISIS. Again, it's a much more bottom up/organic process.

This is something I've been thinking about for a long time, too. A lot of these people, from what I gather, are lonely and looking for structure and meaning, and these groups step in and say "Hey, here is meaning that you can apply to your life." It's a shame that we don't have a system of (left-leaning) social groups pulling these people in and giving them a bit more structure. I think this would be a tremendous thing if anyone's looking for a progressive project to start.
posted by LSK at 10:47 AM on May 28, 2019 [9 favorites]


I don't see how mere exposure to the ideas can convert anyone who wasn't already fairly Nazi-esque. If you have ever met a non-white person or another white person, you can see on the face of it that white people are not noticeably superior in any way. You have to want to believe that you're special before random strangers telling you you're special sounds like anything but flattery. There's some social/emotional need they have that isn't getting filled and now they have friends who coincidentally have all these simple explanations for complicated problems like 'why does my life suck?'
posted by Scattercat at 10:50 AM on May 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


You're not wrong, but you're just pushing the question back further in time. What made them "fairly Nazi-esque" to begin with if not exposure to the same kinds of ideas and talking points that you'd hear on Fox News?
posted by tobascodagama at 11:05 AM on May 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


1. Can we treat these ideas as a sort of social contagion? What I mean is, does exposure to certain ideas infect otherwise healthy people and turn them into right wing extremists?

Yes. People's behavior is heavily affected by their environment, by their information environment. The researcher Albert Bandura described this with social cognitive theory (aka social learning theory) and greatly influenced psychology, education, public health, and other fields. Might need some updating to incorporate social media and nazis, but it definitely holds and helps explain some of what's going on, especially when you incorporate the echo-chamber effect of social media.
posted by entropone at 11:05 AM on May 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


So quick apology about language. I was being flippant when I used the word Nazi. It's become lazy internet writing when we(I) sometimes don't mean Nazi. One can vote for Trump and not be a Nazi. One can believe in QAnon or Pizzagate etc and not be a Nazi. I realize that this post is explicitly about Nazis, but I could have been more specific in my own comment.

I think a lot of this right wing stuff can get conflated with Nazism, when it's not. Shapiro might be a gateway to right wing beliefs but he's not a Nazi. Though as I'm typing this, it occurs to he is definitely a supremacist of some sort.

I think following comments are still just as valid; I just didn't like the way I used the word Nazi.
posted by Telf at 11:09 AM on May 28, 2019 [2 favorites]






I don't see how mere exposure to the ideas can convert anyone who wasn't already fairly Nazi-esque. If you have ever met a non-white person or another white person, you can see on the face of it that white people are not noticeably superior in any way. You have to want to believe that you're special before random strangers telling you you're special sounds like anything but flattery. There's some social/emotional need they have that isn't getting filled and now they have friends who coincidentally have all these simple explanations for complicated problems like 'why does my life suck?'

I think you may not have a lot of rural white people in your network. Hi, I was a rural white person until I graduated from high school, and boy howdy am I glad the alt-right wasn't a prominent thing when I was young and impressionable. No one really has politics of their own until their later teenage years--you mostly absorb what your parents say and do, until you're capable of carving out your own way. In my case, arch-conservative parents + a high school that was >99% white + a lack of structure and meaning in life + a whole lot of institutionalized small-town "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" bullshit would have made me wildly susceptible to this kind of thing. (I found Robert Anton Wilson instead; opinions differ on whether that was a net positive)

I'm not saying we have to coddle the feelings of proto-nazis, but ignoring the huge number of very malleable people in the US who have no experience with minority populations outside of what they've heard from their racist-ass parents and racist-ass television, would be doing everyone a disservice.
posted by Mayor West at 11:11 AM on May 28, 2019 [67 favorites]


Fairness Doctrine being repealed in 1987 is what gave birth to the Fox News/ Right wing media teratoma.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 11:12 AM on May 28, 2019 [26 favorites]


I had rural white monoculture upbringing too. Yes to all that.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 11:15 AM on May 28, 2019 [13 favorites]


Fairness Doctrine being repealed in 1987 is what gave birth to the Fox News/ Right wing media teratoma.

Fox News is a cable channel; the Fairness Doctrine never did apply to it.

But the Fairness Doctrine's repeal absolutely did lead to the rise of Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk radio, which doesn't get enough credit for sowing the seeds of deranged ignorance that Fox reaps. And concurrent changes to rules about media consolidation leads to conglomerates like Sinclair Broadcasting, which instructs its news anchors to read right-wing propaganda on the air, safe from rebuttal due to the Fairness Doctrine's repeal.
posted by Gelatin at 11:19 AM on May 28, 2019 [38 favorites]


I usually point to the 96 Telecom Act as the moment it became possible to create these monolithic media monopolies with chokeholds in every market

And Rush was considered just as much of a part of the Republican revolution of the 90s as any politician - Time basically credited him with opening the doors for it.
posted by The Whelk at 11:23 AM on May 28, 2019 [15 favorites]


I don't see the Ben Shapiro connection, and I'm struggling with the idea that a very obviously Jewish man could be the "gateway" to Stormfront.

I mean, right from his Wikipedia page (with sources):
"Shapiro has argued that African-Americans were historically victims of injustice in the United States but that they are not victims of widespread systemic injustice today.[8] Shapiro has dismissed the idea that the United States was founded on slavery and argued that America "was founded in spite of slavery."[84] In 2017, Shapiro argued that "The idea that black people in the United States are disproportionately poor because America is racist; that's just not true."[85]"
It's not much of a jump from that to open white supremacy regardless of whether the guy spouting that is Jewish or not.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:40 AM on May 28, 2019 [31 favorites]


I'm struggling with the idea that a very obviously Jewish man could be the "gateway" to Stormfront

Have you tried perusing his twitter feed?

@benshapiro: Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage. This is not a difficult issue. #settlementsrock
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:48 AM on May 28, 2019 [28 favorites]


I also think of the words of Upton Sinclair. "It is very difficult to get a man to understand something when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it."

Brexit disaster capitalists and Russian front companies are huge profit centers for Facebook and Twitter. Why would they want to turn off those spigots of incoming cash or "engagement" metrics?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:50 AM on May 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


Re Schapiro: It might help to understand that the love affair with Israel and some select Jews on the Right is itself anti-semitic as hell. Right wing evangelicals especially fetishize Orthodox Judaism while simultaneously believing that Jews are going to be cast forever into the pit of Hell any minute now. They support the state of Israel because in someone's fever dream of what the Bible says, in order for Jesus to return (and, just so we're clear, return to judge and condemn all the non-Christians, including every last Jew) Israel has to exist with certain proscribed borders, and Jerusalem has to be its capital (among a bunch of other stuff including the birth of a red heifer without spot or blemish). Basically: "I'm happy for you and I'mma let you finish, but you're all going to Hell."

It makes for some strange, strange bedfellows.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:56 AM on May 28, 2019 [39 favorites]


I found the influencer graph on this article regarding YouTube alternative influencers useful when it comes to connecting the dots on how an ostensibly right-wing Jewish figure as Shapiro purports to be can be a few points away from outright incitement of violence.

It's not just the suggestion algorithm at play, here: many of these people have interacted outside of their online spheres, and while you're unlikely to see an outright anti-semite in the room with Shapiro, there's a guy who has probably been in the room with both.
posted by mikeh at 11:57 AM on May 28, 2019 [16 favorites]


Also right wing figures are being massively underwritten by rich people and foundations, do you think Breitbart has made a single day’s worth of profit? It’s sunk cost for promotion and hyping further and further right wing extremism. Turning Point USA is basically a legal fiction to dump untaxable wealth into. All of this gives them much bigger reach and megaphones then the left ever could. That’s what it’s there for, to provide cover for people to cross the bridge into extremism.

It’s called wignut welfare for a reason.
posted by The Whelk at 12:06 PM on May 28, 2019 [24 favorites]


My Breitbart tech support story from another, unreleated, comment thread because, well, yep. Old people minds get unstable and rabbit holes are a trap, doubly so if they're already leaning that way.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:22 PM on May 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


These right wing conspiratorial beliefs have so much in common with the delusions of paranoid schizophrenia that I think we are making a huge mistake in attributing them to purely psychological causes.

Schizophrenia is looking more and more like an autoimmune problem, and we see autoimmune diseases of many sorts increasing in the US and UK, although I have not seen anything to suggest that the incidence of schizophrenia specifically is going up.
posted by jamjam at 12:45 PM on May 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


jamjam,

A lot of social psychologists have measured schizophrenia/schizotypal scores against other measurements of conspiratorial ideation and there's some correlation but not that strong. Conspiracism is sort of a trap though as it is self reinforcing for a number of reasons. Once you redpill yourself, it's very hard to pull yourself out. Many of researchers talk about how conspiracism is monological (as in no dialogue). Everything gets organized to fit within a non falsifiable conspiracy. Some researchers use the term degenerate research; meaning people start to actively look for sources to confirm their own biases.

I don't personally think it's fair to assume that these people have biological/chemical reasons for what we perceive as a mass hysteria. (Though I've had similar thoughts to yours about autoimmune issues/inflammation etc.) I think it's definitely a structural/systemic combination of complex factors, including the modern internet, social change, technological change and shifting political trends that are making people behave strangely/horribly from our perspective. Keep in mind too that a lot of these beliefs were probably OK back when a lot of these baby boomers were growing up. The rules have changed under their feet and they don't know what to do.

I do feel like too many older people in my life have gone bonkers in the last few years. Statistically, I bet it's more fox news than anything. Hence the point of this FPP I guess.
posted by Telf at 1:26 PM on May 28, 2019 [25 favorites]




Shapiro exists to gloss over the coded anti-Semitic parts of the alt-right. Just like Candace Owens serves to paper over the racism parts. They get a lot of support/reinforcement from their “allies” for providing plausible deniability.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:47 PM on May 28, 2019 [26 favorites]


1. Ben Shapiro loves to talk about how Jews who disagree with him aren't really Jews, which is antisemitic as hell.

2. Ben Shapiro's major disagreement with fascists is that fascists don't agree that Jews count as white.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:01 PM on May 28, 2019 [28 favorites]


Shapiro is a symptom and an example of the overall problem, which is that the sort of people who start at Fox News find it easy to embrace their single-flavor-of-choice extreme-right, which makes it that much easier (and easily traceable) to go to full-on alt-right. Making Shapiro into the worstest-worst to make this point is a bit creepy - putting a Jewish face on the overall problem is an easy trap that I wish we wouldn't fall into so easily.

That being said, a good portion of the Orthodox Jewish world is pretty racist, which isn't helped by the fact that a good portion of the African-American and Muslim population are pretty anti-semitic (creating a noxious circle that just feeds and justifies itself, and the insular nature of tribalism only makes that harder to combat). Shapiro doesn't link to Stormfront. But he amplifies the voices of other people who do, as do a lot of his followers who either don't know he's Jewish or see him as a useful idiot to spread the rest of the message.

People are scared right now - between the economy and global warming and the opioid crisis and the economy and needing to beg strangers for money if you get sick, and the economy and - especially when you watch FOX - the sense that the crime rate is growing and if you're scared, you're one of the smart ones... it helps to have an enemy. To have a place to put the fear and to feel a sense of community who are in it together and fighting. FOX stokes the fear, Limbaugh and his ilk identify the enemies but hide it with a veneer of "humor," and then the chans and QAnon and Stormfront make it explicit.

I just don't see how to sway anyone once they're ready to take FOX at face value. It just feels hopeless. I'm in a community that is very deep in the stage two and manage to stay out of stage 3 (as far as I know) literally because all of stage 3 eventually becomes outright anti-semitic. But they have no problem spreading the Shapiros and the anti-AOC memes and even some Pepes. I think it's because they mostly live in cities far away from the sort of white nationalism that can affect them, and think it's just random yahoos who have always lived at the fringes of society... they literally don't seem to see that they are a part of the problem, even as anti-semitic attacks are dramatically rising. But it's powered by the same existential fear. And as soren_lorensen mentioned, Evangelical Christians have no problem stoking that fear if it helps build their weird eschatological fantasy world.
posted by Mchelly at 2:45 PM on May 28, 2019 [15 favorites]


Brexit disaster capitalists and Russian front companies are huge profit centers for Facebook and Twitter. Why would they want to turn off those spigots of incoming cash or "engagement" metrics?

The US Constitution has been gamed to grant corporate entities powers that the founders intended for human beings. In turn, Facebook, Twitter, and FOX News can exist in a regulatory vacuum where being a state actor for a profitable mix of fascistic, neo-Nazi propaganda and domestic, stochastic terrorism is not only allowed, but encouraged.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:30 PM on May 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


Mchelly: Making Shapiro into the worstest-worst to make this point is a bit creepy

But that's just the thing: Ben Shapiro's role is specifically not the "worstest-worst". He is (along with Breitbart, I guess) the bridge between mainstream conservatism (e.g.: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc...) and the truly "worstest-worst" (e.g.: 4/8channers, 3%-ers, Identity Evropa American Identity Movement, etc...) He's conventional enough to be referenced without too much embrassment from the mainstream side but is also extreme enough to funnel his audience into the further depths of white nationalism.
posted by mhum at 4:34 PM on May 28, 2019 [15 favorites]


He’s also, and now he can’t deny this cause it’s part of federal record, a named, stated influence for several people going on to do everything from white nationalist vandalism to mass shootings. Like David Rubin, a white gay cis man, occupies a similar space on YouTube in being a “reasonable” bridge to much more extremist right wing views. “How could his guests be homophobic? He’s gay! He’s just listening to both sides!” And If Rubin was being name checked in manifestos written by violent extremists I’d probably start going after him more for that little cover act.
posted by The Whelk at 4:56 PM on May 28, 2019 [15 favorites]


Rubin repeatedly trying to get Shapiro, et al to agree that it's okay for him to be gay and getting shut down hard every time would be hilarious if the stakes weren't so fucking high.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:04 PM on May 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


See also: Laci Green (for the both sidesy thing)
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:05 PM on May 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


I don't see the Ben Shapiro connection, and I'm struggling with the idea that a very obviously Jewish man could be the "gateway" to Stormfront.

Like he’s been mentioned, by name! In several mass shooter manifestos as inspiration or what drove them to this conclusion.

Basically he's the sort of alt-right adjacent figure who is playing with fire when it comes to right-wing anti-semitism. He absolutely denies association with the alt-right and I don't think the hardcore white nationalist guys have much respect for him either - I'm pretty sure some of the people who namecheck him are trolling a figure they see as too weak or unwelcome due to his Jewishness. At the same time he does quite a bit of work for the alt-right, in spreading Islamophobia, denouncing liberal Jews as disloyal, and introducing YouTube viewers and readers of his site to the basic style and concerns of the online far right.
posted by atoxyl at 5:06 PM on May 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


Shapiro is also hugely, vocally anti-trans.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:08 PM on May 28, 2019 [18 favorites]


Also, I'm not sure why it wasn't mentioned in the Buzzfeed article, but this Indiana case isn't the first time that Ben Shaprio has been linked to real world, right-wing terrorism. The person who shot up a mosque in Quebec City was apparently also an avid reader of Shapiro's Twitter feed.
posted by mhum at 5:08 PM on May 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


Shapiro is connector, linking early red pilling with later, more explicitly activist white nationalism. He washes white supremacy and Christian nationalism (which he frequently uses the language of, despite being Jewish) with a sheen of intellectual rigor and essentially Jew-washes the antisemitism of the far right. Additionally, his Islamophobia and other intolerances have been directly credited as inspiring shootings.
posted by maxsparber at 7:52 PM on May 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


I saw an ex-friend of mine go in about 12 months from non-engaged, non-politically activated, generic Republican to pro-Trump news junkie to Alex Jones to false flag trutherism to the literal Protocols. It was horrifying.

The reason the bridge works so well is underlying shared beliefs of racism and sexism.
The connective tissue between vanilla conservatism and the alt-right is beliefs that black people are unintelligent and criminal, that immigrants are bad, Muslims are coming to get you, etc etc etc. Anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-feminist, anti-socialist.

His conservative family couldn't even notice his falling down the rabbit hole at first because if you're only one to two steps away from the start, there's really no difference in belief yet: that Hillary is corrupt, that the bell curve proves something about black IQ, that trans activists are weird, wage gap isnt real.

I feel like America's herd immunity to anti-semitism is breaking down. Sometimes I think of extremist ideas as a sort of virus that you have to proactively vaccinate against. Like... even if you're vaccinated, you should still avoid direct exposure to avoid infection. My friend, who was vaccinated with years of Jewish history education, basically took a shower in sludge water.
There's the old idea that in a dirty water epidemic, you dont need to beat the disease, you just need to shut off the pump. You cant out-debate propaganda because propaganda doesnt persaude on the level of facts, but you can shut off the pump.

I dont think it's mental illness. There are people who may have shitty beliefs or some untapped authortiarian tendency but if they never see or read the conspiracy theory or the propaganda at all, they wont be radicalized. I dont know?

What if every gatekeeper journalist had blackballed Trump and called him a fascist from day 1, instead of calling him a moderate heterodox liberal Republican?
What would have happened differently if every Gamergater was permabanned from Twitter in 2014, if Alex Jones was banned in 2012 for Sandy Hook trutherism, if Facebook blacklisted Breitbart and Daily Caller for racist extremism, if (stretch goal) the Democrats had gone after Fox News when they had power in 2009? If DHS had brought the hammer down on militia nutjobs in 2009? What if Trump had been excluded from the primary debates in 2012 and 2016 simply on the basis of not being an elected politician?
posted by cricketcello at 8:37 PM on May 28, 2019 [26 favorites]


I think the biggest conservative innovation of the last ten years is being willing to form coalitions based on common hatreds rather than common goals.

Stormfront guys can hang with Ben Shapiro because they both agree that Muslims are the enemy.

This coalition falls apart as soon as anyone expresses a positive political position (i.e., "I am for X" as opposed to "I am against X"). I think this is why everyone involved is so cagey about their actual beliefs.

It's up in the air whether the coalition will eat itself or if the two minutes hate can be sustained long enough to seize enough power.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 9:05 PM on May 28, 2019 [17 favorites]


Pickman's Next Top Model,

It's a point that Scottish Comedian, Daniel Sloss, has made a lot and it is oddly true. He claims that in some ways, the right is more inclusive than the left.

What he means is that two people in a bar can bond over their dislike of idea/group x. "You don't like X? I don't like X!" Then there's a sort of improvisational sorting out period where they feel out the dimensions of their grievances and commiserate. It's sort of how conspiracy theories don't really provide counter narratives as much as they dismiss official narratives. A lot of the far right dances around negative spaces rather than promoting positive solutions. It's like how the republicans essentially strive only to dismantle the government at this point. They don't need policy when they merely exist to knock down all the blocks. It's an inherently asymmetric situation.

Unfortunately since a lot of projects on the left are an attempt to move forward and improve things, there's a lot of procedural tension. We're still sorting this out and the language changes. Progressive LGBTQI language from 10 years ago is partially seen as regressive now. That means that aspects of the left are always squeezing out their older champions. We don't need to revisit cases like Mark Fisher, but a lot of the best and brightest are pushed out. We don't have a left, we have many lefts. There are chronological and geographical thin slices of competing leftist pockets always bickering with each other. Meanwhile, the right always has more room for a little bit more hatred or fear.

Umberto Eco made a similar point. Love is a horrible organizational force. Hatred and fear of the other is a much more powerful, fungible form of cohesive power. I mean look at the Japanese teaming up with the Germans in WWII or ISIS figures meeting up with white supremacists to talk anti-semitism. These alliances only make sense in the light blaming a common enemy and organizing people around right wing extremism.

Hopefully the disparate forces on the left can create enough gravity to keep pulling society in a better directions even if we can't agree on the granular details. (I understand that sometimes these granular details are a matter of life or death to groups of people. I'm not trying to diminish these differences, only to acknowledge that we will never agree on everything and that leftist movements inherently will pull in different directions depending on the composition of the people who make up a given organization/group.)
posted by Telf at 2:47 AM on May 29, 2019 [13 favorites]


There are people who may have shitty beliefs or some untapped authortiarian tendency but if they never see or read the conspiracy theory or the propaganda at all, they wont be radicalized.

I think there's really something to this idea. My brother-in-law is a toxic rageoholic living on the fringes of society with authoritarian tendencies and fear/rage towards those who are different from him. He is also very impressionable. But what he doesn't have is an internet connection because he can't/won't pay for one. If he did I'm sure he would be an MRA/incel/alt-right shithead. Instead, he's just deeply unpleasant. But I know he would soak up red pill nonsense like a sponge.

Incidentally, I have tried to talk him out of his more outlandish beliefs, but we're not currently speaking because he also decided it was time to start lashing out at queer people and his own family...
posted by zeusianfog at 10:40 AM on May 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


Similarly, my mom has the sort of a baked-in hyperactive disgust reaction that's a high predictor of conservatism. And she is conservative, but she's never tipped over into the more common variants of rightwing shittiness, I think because she lives in a diverse city and my dad (libertarian, the eyeroll is silent) is a wild extrovert who makes friends everywhere he goes, and she doesn't use social media in any form. She's exposed to the antidote daily and while it hasn't made her into the kind of lefty that my in-laws are, it has kept her from going off the right wing deep end that, given other life circumstances, I can see her finding very attractive.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:56 AM on May 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


[One deleted; as usual please let's skip phrasing things as we imagine a racist might phrase them in order to make a point about how wrong that is; it leads to unnecessary confusion.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:08 PM on May 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


Yeah I def have some relatives who would a lot further along with bridge to extremism if they didn't live in a city, take part in their communities, be off social media, have a supportive spouse or like ..me telling them not to believe anything they see online.

Lke I've had to teach some of them how to search right wing watch for people's names, or explain that while you may like Joe Rogan's show occasionally, truck driver uncle, he does have a lot of people on who want to like, murder me. It's not a judgement on you its asking you to be more critical of things you consume.

A friend recently taught her mom, who has grown up in the same semi-rural community her whole life and knows everyone in town and who doesn't watch fox news (or any news), how to use tin-eye to lookup images people on facebook said was an environmental rally mess (really a seahawks game) or an Antifa riot (really a philly football game win) and although her mom is now much more well inform and not just passing along everything she finds, she still can't QUITE grasp why people would do that. She feels hurt that people are lying to her and doesn't understand why would lie and doesn't get how big and anonymous and automated the whole thing is. Cause to her Facebook was just how to send messages to her neighbors and relatives and not like, this global propaganda machine.

media criticism has to be taught.
posted by The Whelk at 12:32 PM on May 29, 2019 [18 favorites]


And I hear from another friend, this time in NYC about groups getting booked as "informational speakers" to well-off senior centers with these bombastic right wing talking points and just terrifying these grandmothers into giving them donations or signing up to their mass mailing list to get them into this grifting and radicalization machine and like at what point does this just become elder abuse?
posted by The Whelk at 12:46 PM on May 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


I don't see how mere exposure to the ideas can convert anyone who wasn't already fairly Nazi-esque. If you have ever met a non-white person or another white person, you can see on the face of it that white people are not noticeably superior in any way.

How many examples do we need of older people who are previously at least centrist and even liberal turning harder and harder to the right due to Fox News?

Personally, my husband's parents turned racist after they moved out of Houston and into rural Texas. They were poor to working class whites, lived in lower-class and therefore pretty diverse neighborhood in the city. Their coworkers were probably mostly POC before. Now, were they a little racist already? Yeah, cause they were boomer-age white folks of limited education.

But once they moved out to rural areas and his mom started working at the local Wal-mart they started using the n-word regularly in conversation and the topic was always "omg what Those People did." At first we started just leaving anytime that happened and finally my husband decided to cut contact with them. (For both the racism and other more personal reasons. But the racism was a big one.)

My husband was super upset by it, not only because he's a decent person but also because he says that's not how they raised him. They weren't that way when he was growing up. He went to a majority Black high school and his friends reflected that, so it seems like it WOULD have come up.

His father even voted Obama in 2008, which we saw as a minor miracle at the time. (His mother didn't ever vote.) But now they are reportedly huge Trump supporters. (They also moved out of state but to a whiter state and more isolated rural area.)

I feel like none of that had to do with their experience with actual POC or any real problems in their lives. They are fairly comfortably retired/partly employed. They do have a very entitled mindset and readily complain about other people doing them wrong. But mostly I think his mom started working with racist rural whites and starting parroting what they said and how they talked. It was 100% about conforming to their peers. The language that so shocked us was how older rural white people talked to each other over beers while fishing.

The facebook sharing of conspiracy stuff and Fox News talking points came after that, but it DID come. The internet and TV was what, I'm sure, took them from casual racism to political white supremacy and Trumpism.

But my point is that most people ARE very changeable about these things and it has to do with who they are around. My mother, to draw a comparison, was a lifelong Republican voter, mostly because my father was insistent about it. After he died and she moved to a blue state, however, she's a huge Trump-hater and is sometimes more up-to-date on politics than me. She loves Bernie Sanders and named her cat after him. She says my dad would have been all about Trump had he been alive and it probably would have ended their marriage, but I doubt it. I think she just wouldn't have the same opinions she has now if she were in a different environment.
posted by threeturtles at 7:43 PM on May 29, 2019 [7 favorites]


I don't see how mere exposure to the ideas can convert anyone who wasn't already fairly Nazi-esque.

And I wonder why Nazis (yes, even this guy) would be so obsessed with freedom of speech if they didn't think it was an effective means of spreading hate. It's not like they don't know what they're doing. They've had a bit of experience.

I don't wish to impute anything to the quoted user but this is something I see over and over again, particularly among self-identified "Classical Liberals" and free-speech absolutists who insist that speech should be free because words have no power. Obviously, that's the exact opposite of the reason speech should be free (if indeed it should be). I can think of only one possible reason why anyone would propagate such a misconstruction.
posted by klanawa at 9:42 PM on May 29, 2019 [8 favorites]


But my point is that most people ARE very changeable about these things and it has to do with who they are around.

I think a lot of people are more malleable in their beliefs then we like to acknowledge, for good or ill. My biggest takeaway doing canvassing is that people have highly individual politics and they are rarely, if ever, consistent. Bryan off Streetfight Radio talked about his Dad or Grandad whom he got to vote for Obama and into drug legalization and sort of personal freedom quasi anarchism talking points ...until he moved to The Villages for five years, that well off senior enclave sealed off from the outside world - and came back a Fox News repeating MAGA superfan cause that’s all there is there.
posted by The Whelk at 4:05 AM on May 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


Politico did a great piece on The Villages late last year. Worth reading if you've run out of dystopian post apocalyptic fiction. Sort of a cross between Children of Men meets Graybeard, with smatterings of The Handmaid's Tale and a dash of Zone One. Or just imagine that instead of trawling around in the Exxon Valdez, the baddies from Waterworld use customized golf carts to enact the opposite of Logan's Run.
posted by Telf at 5:30 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


METAFILTER: the baddies from Waterworld use customized golf carts to enact the opposite of Logan's Run.




it was always going to come to this eventually
posted by philip-random at 8:29 AM on May 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


A review of the Facebook accounts of thousands of police officers across the US found one in five current officers made public posts or comments that were racist, or endorsed violence against black people, Muslims, women, and criminal defendants.

Among retired officers, the figure was two in five. The database is the largest of its kind.

(Buzzfeed News)
posted by The Whelk at 11:40 AM on June 1, 2019 [8 favorites]


Honestly surprised it's not higher.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:02 PM on June 1, 2019 [3 favorites]




Direct NYT link; thanks, it's a good article.
posted by XMLicious at 10:36 AM on June 8, 2019




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