How To Radicalize A Normie
October 21, 2019 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Continuing his series on the Alt-Right Playbook (previously, previouslyer), Ian Danskin now focuses on the means by which the alt-right recruits new members, from bringing them into the fold to leading them down into the depths of the movement. (SLYT)
posted by NoxAeternum (8 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Learning how to counteract radicalization and fight off the overwhelming amount of disinformation being used maliciously has to be a critical, top-level priority for all of society. Deplatform, destigmatize mental health problems (depression, anxiety) that put young men at risk of these predators running death cults. And they are death cults, they worship those who have killed others and posted their manifestos and videos.

Going to dig into the videos now, but this is such an important topic. I think we all agree that fascist, nazi, redpill, blackpill, incel ideology has to be rooted out, but we also must have pity for and be ready to show people there is another way. Even if you’ve been indoctrinated and had some horrific beliefs, you can walk away and not be that has to be the message. Similar to the guy Christopher Piccolini (hope I didn’t butcher his name I’m mobile) who deradicalizes white nationalists.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:11 PM on October 21, 2019 [17 favorites]

Watched the Cults episode of Vox's Explained half-hour documentary (link is to full episode on Youtube, though I watched on Netflix.) It made the connection between traditional cults and contemporary online radicalization - that even though people don't meet up face to face these movements can have many things in common with cults, in particular ones that have an outcome in death.
posted by larrybob at 5:35 PM on October 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

Two words we are going to see in the future if the media does its job right: Stochastic Terrorism
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:36 PM on October 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is just...perfect and matches my experiences* down to the last detail, plus a lot of what I see happening to other white dudes. I appreciated the acknowledgement that, yeah, physical abuse and mental illness (in my case a metric fuckton of both) can be major contributory but not decisive factors. They can put hard blocks on your emotional maturation for years or sharply truncate your capacity for empathy, but they virtually never directly cause you to embrace terrible political beliefs, or to continue to say terrible things after the haze of manic psychosis clears. I also appreciated the ending stating in pretty explicit terms that no, leftist spaces are generally not the best place for people starting to break out of the alt-right: both for what they’ll say, and also what others (who are airing 110% legitimate grievances) will say to them.

It would be good to have a real solution to that, even if rehabilitating white men can never be and should never be the highest priority. Because the video is dead-on about the constant, all-pervading fear that you will never find acceptance or community in leftist spaces being a major factor in people remaining with the alt-right even after they’ve acknowledged much of the awfulness in the ideology. Deprogramming is work and requires continuously deciding that you don’t want to be part of the problem. There’s no real reward for that beyond a vague sense of moral absolution, and *anybody* can shatter that feeling in an instant with a single phrase whether by accident or in a moment of (usually justified) anger.

The final bit about hope is dead on: sometimes the best thing you can do - sometimes the only thing - is point them at Iain Banks and let them work it out for themselves. The Culture is both a utopian vision of a radically liberated people AND social justice training wheels for white dudes. In my own case it was a mixture of Banks, finding medication that worked, and a very long, dedicated effort by Jessamyn that I still don’t entirely understand but am grateful for regardless.

*I should be clear here that my personal journey is Evangelical Fundamentalism->the virulently misogynistic parts of both the gaming and broader tech communities->Metafilter and Fully-Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism/intersectional marxism. Overt racism has always been a hard line in the sand for me and that definitely prevented me from ever falling too deeply into the Internet’s asshole.
posted by Ryvar at 8:15 PM on October 21, 2019 [53 favorites]

How to Change a Mind - "Five years after Missy started trying to change Dylan's mind, he was no closer to wanting to leave. In hindsight, it's clear why: Missy was focusing on what Dylan believed, while Dylan was focusing on who. Dylan did not need to lose his faith in what his elders were saying; he needed to lose his faith in them."
It’s perfectly ordinary to believe what people tell us, and it’s perfectly ordinary to do so in part because we trust the people who do the telling. The bare-minimum version of this involves thinking that those people have access to more evidence than we do, like when we trust strangers who tell us where the train stations are in a city we’re exploring.

But Dylan’s belief structure lets us see a version of taking someone’s word for it that goes beyond the bare minimum. In this case, the thought isn’t just someone has more evidence than us, but that their belief-formulation systems are on the whole better than ours, because they have attributes or abilities or ways of reasoning that we don’t.

This way of accepting someone’s word can be strikingly unaffected by the boundaries of credibility. Teachers and university lecturers are familiar with the strange habit students have of coming to them for advice about relationships or career choices or political leanings, as though expertise in one area bleeds across all the others. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When someone shows certain traits in their area of expertise — like attention to detail, or the capacity to weigh different sorts of value, or a detached and clinical gaze — it’s not completely ludicrous to imagine those traits might generalize. Many of us have been shaped and improved by precisely this way of trusting people.

But when you or I trust our “wise” grandparents or teachers because we think they are wiser than us, there is a kind of “training wheels” structure at play: It’s supposed to help us for the time being, stabilizing us and helping us move forward on our own, but we are allowed — encouraged, even — to think that one day we’ll be able to reason without help. If we have chosen the right people to think of as wise, they will be excited to see us develop our own ability to think independently.

In Dylan’s case, though, he was explicitly discouraged from ever taking the training wheels off. He had grown up thinking his elders and scriptural leaders were better, wiser, and more enlightened than he was, not just because they had access to more evidence, but because without them he would never be able to access the truth.

But when Dylan heard Matthew describe Missy as slippery and dangerous, contradicting all Dylan’s firsthand evidence that she was kind and loyal and loving, at last he saw that Matthew could get things wrong and that he, Dylan, could reach conclusions of his own. He had seen Missy raise their children, care for elders’ families, and throw herself into a community with kindness and cookies when they had treated her with increasing suspicion and hostility.

He was simply confident: Missy was a good person, so Matthew must be wrong. And if Matthew could be wrong about Missy, why not about God, or the nature of the universe?
posted by kliuless at 4:56 AM on October 22, 2019 [17 favorites]

all agree that fascist, nazi, redpill, blackpill, incel ideology has to be rooted out

I work hard on this, and I know, like in the election threads, pessimism doesn't help. But if this didn't happen post-WW2, why is it possible, never mind likely that it can happen now? Reactionary patriarchy seems a feature, not a bug.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:28 AM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Reasonably Everything Happens, I'm making my peace with it is an intrinsic part of *most* humans that they must hate something. They must belong to something too. But what if it could be channeled into hating facism, etc.?

Of course, people are bad at modulating then and so we have YA Twitter and endless death spirals on the opposite end.

The solution maybe isn't weak moderation, but a strong, fiery conviction tempered with kindness and empathy. I just don't think most people are interested in that though so yeah.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:18 AM on October 22, 2019

But if this didn't happen post-WW2, why is it possible, never mind likely that it can happen now?

Germany deals with its share of far-right extremists, but in West Germany in particular where the background and causes and repercussions of Nazism were taught it is much less of an issue--at least from my understanding. In the USA we're taught Nazis were bad, the Holocaust happened, the USA rode in and defeated the Nazis. The Civil Rights movement and the history of slavery are long-ago things that involved bad guys who are more dead and were defeated by the good guys. Maybe others were taught differently, but I was certainly never informed abbot the genesis of groupthink and our natural human susceptibility to it. I dunno if they teach this in Germany too, but I was certainly never taught about the existence and persistence of structural inequities and how simply doing nothing is enough to enable them, about the concepts of privilege and intersectionality, about how structural inequities influence our beliefs about the world and ourselves, about the importance of self-awareness and media criticism and questioning just-so stories. I picked up that stuff on my own time. You can't depend on people to go from "Nazis were bad" to being able to appreciate the concept of privilege and how it influences their own lives. You certainly can't depend on teenagers to pick that up, during a time in their lives when they are 100% sure they know exactly what is unfair and what is not. I'm trying to say that I don't think efforts towards deradicalization are hopeless. In fact, I would argue finding the effort and space is more necessary now than ever, because the radicalized and bordering-on-radicalized live among us, are a part of our society, and exist in enough numbers that there isn't another option.
posted by schroedinger at 12:34 PM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

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