How White Nationalism Courts Internet Nerd Culture
Nerd and online communities are a ripe harvesting ground for neo-Nazism. Bigotry festers like a wound and preventing society and subcultures from going gangrene is about knowing the warning signs, identifying it early, and preventing the spread. White supremacist groups have strategies that work on selling people on their beliefs. I’m going to discuss a few here and how these tactics are especially appealing towards internet nerd spaces.
Isolated, lonely, insecure, unfulfilled, bitter young men who feel that society at large has abandoned them and denies them the opportunities they feel entitled to are prime targets. White supremacist recruiters approach these angry young men online and tell them that they are special and have a greater destiny. They are told that every white man carries this legacy mantle of superiority because every white man bears the lineage of advancements and accomplishments of all white men throughout history. That every white man is imbued by his fore fathers with an important destiny to defend the white race. Thus the lonely NEET need not achieve anything himself to still hold this position of power and supremacy, his accomplishments that the recruiter can flatter him for is simply that he was born with white skin. These tactics transform nerdy bullied young men into proud white warriors, making them useful tools for the promotion and growth of the white supremacist ideology and agenda. Neo-Nazi groups know utilizing the insecurity and loneliness in their targets is an effective recruiting and radicalizing tactic especially when tailored to the large audience of socially awkward internet nerds.
Another key strategy in white supremacist recruitment are online communities that warmly welcome in new members. Once lured into such a group the recruit is given a surge of support, validation, and esteem boosting. The new members are told they belong, that they may not fit in real life social cliques but that they fit into this group, and that the other group members care about them. Hours will be invested in grooming the new recruit, befriending and talking with them. Active chats or websites like 4chan and 8chan are appealing to those who are bored and isolated and only want some human contact but have trouble getting it elsewhere due to social awkwardness. The white supremacist group offers a sense of community and belonging and slowly cultivates in the recruit into a sense of loyalty towards the group. For those desperate for friendship or to feel included this is an incredibly potent lure. These groups can have darker tactics as well, with leaders telling their members that they cannot leave or return to people outside of the group. Many reasons are given but most commonly this inability to leave is posed as there being some boogeyman outsider, like “SJWs”, will eventually toss them out, bully them, ostracize them, or attack them. Leaving the group is framed to members as ruining their only chance at fun, true friendship, or inclusion. Members are told they must remain in the group because within the group is the only place it is safe to express themselves freely, that their opinions are too radical to be accepted elsewhere, or that their ‘truth’ will be brutally suppressed by outsiders, and within the group are the only people who will ever accept them. The outside world is cast as some nebulously ominous power that is held back from harming the member only by the protection of the group. All of this forges fear and friendship together into chains that trap people into toxic white supremacist spaces.
White supremacist groups offer simple appealing answers that typically allow the recruit to avoid personal responsibility and instead blame all problems on outside forces. His lack of friendships lies in public schools indoctrinating children with liberal lies, his lack of a romantic partner is the fault of Feminism, his lack of a college degree is due to equal opportunity laws and affirmative action, his lack of employment is the fault of globalist elites, his lack of fulfillment in his life is due to societal anti-whiteness, his unhappiness is the fault of others thrusting ‘white guilt’ upon him. The message towards new recruits will be tailored to exactly what they desire to hear, and what personally affects the recruit most. The pieces of which the neo-Nazi recruiter slowly builds towards tying as the fault of Jews, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ, anti-racists, and other outsiders.
This tactic means dehumanizing ‘enemies’ first so that the recruit does not empathize with the people that the white supremacist group targets. If someone is trying to make you believe that certain groups of people are innately better or worse than others it is important that we recognize it as the red flag it is and catch it early as a dehumanizing tactic. Dehumanizing the designated enemy group is the necessary first part of bigotry. Once the recruit believes that some group of people is somehow lesser or beneath them it becomes easier to rationalize the violent end goal actions against them. Common tactics that white supremacist groups use in convincing others of their truth are cherry picked statistics, debunked pseudo-science, racist memes, jokes, and straight fear mongering lies about certain groups of people.
White supremacists often pass off pseudo-science as absolute fact in a gambit for legitimacy in pushing their ideas and agendas. IQ is a pseudo-science that white supremacists have clung to for decades and is re-emerging in commonly shared memes. The IQ pseudo-science “facts” most of those memes and youtube videos cite is from one particular book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray that collected much of the bad bogus science on biological determinism and racist prejudice and compiled it into one text. The Bell Curve at the time of publication was lauded as scientific and unbiased. New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan defended devoting an entire magazine issue to promoting the book saying that, “The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief.”¹ Other critics at the time as well promoted the book as sound science. However, since then the research and data has been debunked. Adolph Reed described The Bell Curve thusly: “What really drives this book, and reflects the diabolism of the Murray/Herrnstein combination, is its claim to demonstrate black intellectual inferiority. They use I.Q. to support a ‘twofer’: opposition to affirmative action, which overplaces incompetent blacks, and the contention that black poverty derives from the existence of an innately inferior black underclass. … The Bell Curve is embedded in the intellectual apparatus of the crypto-fascist right.”²
The claims with in The Bell Curve had already been thoroughly debunked more than a decade prior by Steven Jay Gould’s classic work on the pseudo-science behind eugenics, The Mismeasure of Man. But the 1994 public enthrallment with The Bell Curve and its garbage science remains, especially in white supremacist circles where sections are readily used as fact to persuade others. The research data that Murray and Herrnstein relied on for their central claims about the connection between race and intelligence was funded by the Pioneer Fund, described by the London Sunday Telegraph as a “neo-Nazi organization closely integrated with the far right in American politics.”³ The Pioneer Fund’s mission is to promote eugenics, a philosophy that maintains that genetically unfit individuals or races are a threat to society. The cited research that was used in the book is just as questionable as its funding. Richard Lynn the source of much the books claims on Asian IQs is described by Murray and Herrnstein as “a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences.”⁴ Lynn has stated, “What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of the ‘phasing out’ of such peoples…. Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent. To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.”⁵ Which is a thinly veiled promotion of ethnic cleansing. If there was any doubt, Lynn makes clear which “incompetent cultures” need “phasing out” when he in 1994 clarified in an interview “Who can doubt that the Caucasoids and the Mongoloids are the only two races that have made any significant contributions to civilization?”⁶
Murray and Herrnstein also relied heavily on the research of J. Philippe Rushton, who is once again funded by the same Pioneer Fund. Rushton’s work continued the Victorian pseudo-science of cranial measurement as measure of intelligence, but Rushton’s measurements of intelligence do not stop at measuring skulls branching into the size of breasts, buttocks and genitals as measurements of intelligence. Rushton told Rolling Stone that “It’s a trade-off: More brain or more penis. You can’t have everything.”⁶ Sexual deviancy aside, in an 1986 article Rushton claimed that the Nazi war machine owed its success and strength to racial purity, and stated that shifting demographics were endangering our “Northern European” western civilization. Rushton co-authored another paper that argued that blacks have a genetic propensity to contract AIDS because of their “reproductive strategy” of promiscuous sex, the debunked pseudo-science that different races of humans use r and K selection reproductive strategies.⁷ Rushton was also removed from public spaces like shopping malls on multiple occasions for yelling at people about their penis size and asking to know the distance that they could ejaculate, so much so that his university had to reprimand him for the continued behavior. The point being that the data The Bell Curve and other racial IQ pseudo-science is based on has massive credibility gaps.
Neo-Nazi groups often use statistics in order to pose as a legitimate political stance. These statistics are more often than not complete fabrications. The above image was heavily cited by those on the right, even to the now current POTUS, and it can be traced back the other above tweet posted by an account that’s avatar (the one that looks like a modified swastika) is actually the symbol of the neo-Nazi German Faith Movement.⁷ From the crime statistics that are blatantly false⁸ to the cited source of the “Crime Statistics Bureau” being something that does not even exist⁹, statistics like this are made up and shared online all the time to bolster a false sense of scientific legitimacy to what is only irrational racism. These lies should be seen for what they are and denounced, neo-Nazis pretend that falsified information can lend them scientific authority and legitimacy and it is dangerous because to the uninformed such lies may be taken as fact and open the door for further radicalization by the neo-Nazi recruiter or rhetoric. The people neo-Nazis target long for feeling intelligent, informed, rational, and scientific- and neo-Nazi groups are more than happy to manufacture falsehoods to feed those desires.
We are a visual species, images catch out attention far more than text and simple ideas by image spread far faster and wider than written ideas that take more time to digest and read. Memes are used by white supremacist groups as propaganda materials, created for viral spread and normalizing white nationalism. To many in the white supremacist groups memes are even cited during debate as one would normally cite a peer reviewed research paper. Similar to image macros and memes, youtube videos and channels promoting alternative facts have arisen. These videos, often unsourced or poorly sourced, are pushed as educational. This isn’t a new tactic, it’s similar in how VHS tapes like the 1993 “Waco: The Big Lie” which promoted the conspiracy idea that law enforcement murdered the Branch Davidians and along with Ruby Ridge was proof to the Aryan Nations that the Government was targeting white people. These tapes used to be passed around, spread, and mailed within neo-Nazi communities. Youtube, Reddit, Facebook, Daily Stormer, and Twitter in part are host to a modern resurgence of those neo-Nazi videos and articles. The modern versions are faster and more dangerous than the old mail-order tapes that they replaced due to the accessibility, ease of content creation, and that the target audiences teenage children or deeply isolated and emotionally insecure young men are often the most vulnerable for these manipulation tactics and lies especially when such propaganda videos come packaged with other appealing things like video games and anime. Youtube pundits will entertain and feed their viewers exactly what they want to hear. Especially among young people Youtube is often viewed as a primary news source.¹⁰ The audiences and fans trust and defend their favorite Youtube personalities and the videos made are seen as alternative news sources for current events. Many videos are baited as revealing the truth that has been suppressed only to their intelligent followers, with channels standing as single points of information and misinformation. The videos are quick to watch, easy to share and spread, and require low effort on the part of the person using them as educational material. A three minute Youtube video about Hitler loving animals is far more accessible to young people than accurate historical books that can seem long, boring, and tedious.
In the group that I observed, new members were forced to watch a list of racist and conspiracy laden Youtube videos that more senior white supremacist leaders had picked out for their “red pilling”. For those unfamiliar with the term “red pilling” it is a cult like indoctrination, programming a new member that what the group promotes is the only real enlightened truth and that these truths had been kept hidden from them by evil forces controlling society. The term was made common by the misogynist Reddit group by the same name and the online collection of other interconnected misogynist based groups often referred to as the “manosphere”. The Red Pill claims that men are the only truly oppressed, that all relationships are purely transactional often zero sum games, that women are incapable of love, and that men are superior and must master themselves to then return society to a dominating patriarchal hierarchy where women are second-class citizens owned by their fathers and husbands. The online communities of white supremacists and the communities in the manosphere have long merged and borrowed from each other. Brietbart, now seen as the standard bearer publication for the Alt-Right in it’s early points was heavily written for and by manosphere red pill bloggers. These online hate groups have converged and merged, borrowing from each other and promoting each others propaganda.
Jokes are powerful. People are far more likely to actively participate in communities when group interaction is entertaining and humorous. Neo-Nazi groups will use humor as a coating to spread ideas and sow the seeds of bigotry. They are well aware that their messages will be spread and shared in far larger ranges when packaged appealingly as jokes. They know that jokes will be spread organically through friend groups making the work far easier for a neo-Nazi group to reach the larger audiences. Masking ideology in humor also allows plausible deniability for when the recruiter pushes the target too hard too fast, it is easy to lighten up and back off as “just a joke” and then later once the target’s guard lowers to resume the indoctrination. Humor and entertainment are quietly weaponized in these fashions then to reach larger audiences and to hold on to the attention and energy of current members.
These groups often have a public face or more appealing selling points that are spoken of publicly which rely heavily on dogwhistles and crytpo-fascist terminology. Neo-Nazi groups in public use coy terms to circumvent the much despised term Nazi. Often they will call themselves other terms, because very few people in the public would willingly join a Nazi group. The group rebrands under a different word while promoting the same neo-Nazi agenda in private. Often the words chosen for the rebrand is meant to invoke things that are appealing to the public, such as science and freedom, but many are just ways of avoiding the Nazi word. Such rebrands are: white nationalist, white supremacist, ethno-statist, race realist, racial science believer, identitarian, racial isolationist, alt-right, whites rights activist, fascist, neofascist, national socialist, segregationist, traditionalist, nationalist, ethno-nationalist, demographic nationalist, human biodiversity advocate, demographic preservationist, western chauvinist, neoreactionary, nativist, isolationist, America first, anti-multicultural, anti-globalist, anti-miscegenation, etc.
Lee Atwater, Campaign Manager for Ronald Reagan once said, “You start out in 1954 by saying nigger nigger nigger. By 1968 you can’t say nigger- that hurts you it backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states rights and all that stuff. And you’re getting so abstract now that you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all of these things you are talking about are totally economic things and the byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it.”¹¹ Crypto-fascism is similar in that it repackages old racist ideology under new more palatable terms in order to persuade and push the general public towards the neo-Nazi’s end goals. Breitbart held an article introducing republicans to the new online more radical Alt-Right. In it were quite a few good examples of crypto-fascism doublespeak. A crypto-fascist will argue these common talking points in badfaith to promote their end ideology, claiming that their group is not racist it just stands for: ¹²
“A preference for homogeneity over diversity, for stability over change, and for hierarchy and order over radical egalitarianism with their chief concern being the preservation of their own tribe and its culture.”
“mostly white, mostly male middle-American radicals, who are unapologetically embracing a new identity politics that prioritizes the interests of their own demographic.”
“frightened by the prospect of demographic displacement represented by immigration.”
“egalitarianism flew in the face of every piece of research on hereditary intelligence … asking people to see each other as human beings rather than members of a demographic in-group ignores every piece of research on tribal psychology.”
“helped spark the ‘human biodiversity’ movement, a group of bloggers who strode eagerly into the minefield of scientific race differences.”
These are common crypto-fascist claims, attempting to normalize and promote racism, segregation, or ethnic cleansing as being natural or scientific and beneficial to society at large.
The neo-Nazi recruiter feeds their recruits this mythos that empowers the recruit as an important noble hero in a valiant struggle for the future of the world. Grandiose language and hyperbole builds the recruit up as important and needed. The supplied narrative is very self centered (almost narcissistic), placing the believer in a central heroic role, the white supremacist group members being the noble few who hold this deep personal revelation of the real hidden truth and are struggling against powerful evil enemies that control society, fighting on behalf of the ignorant masses that must be converted to the righteous cause. It’s like living one’s entire life in a self-insert fanfiction. It fulfills desires in them for importance, for value, for purpose, for being needed and powerful, they can live their lives in a LARP as a protagonist hero in a fantasy epic. The shared narrative of the world being a zero sum game is especially enticing to people used to the black and white moral world of many video games, clear evil enemies on one side with the player on the side of good. Members see themselves as valiant soldiers in an on going war, which many neo-nazis call the RaHoWa which is short for Racial Holy War. This war drives in them a newfound purpose of being part of a struggle greater than themselves. The idea of being white as a virtue to defend is far from new, in 1929 Wilbur Joseph Cash in his article The Mind of the South wrote “[Whites] must protect the right of their sons in the legitimate line, through all generations to come, to be born to the great heritage of the white race.”¹³ For members who were previously isolated, depressed, or felt powerless and unfulfilled this new sense of purpose and conviction is addicting. They feel empowered by righteousness for their actions towards those they feel are enemies of the neo-nazi movement. Members rationalize that those enemies, people the group targets, are deserving of such treatment. Attacks on designated enemies is driven by leaders as extremely necessary, that at this moment in time the fate of society or the future of the white race hinges upon the actions of the white supremacist group. That if the recruit does not join and actively promote the group’s ideas that the entirety of civilization will be doomed. This mythos is critical to the perpetuated idea of “White Genocide”. White genocide is the neo-nazi idea that immigration and intermarriage among races will eventually in the future lead to all children being born mixed race and thus ending the existence of the white race. There is a massive fear surrounding this, as it is seen as the true horror that must be fought. The oath of many neo-nazis is the Fourteen Words, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The idea of white genocide is a massive cornerstone in the rationalization of violence and genocidal eugenics that eliminate other races. Roger Pearson another white nationalist who gets money from The Pioneer Fund said it himself, “If a nation with a more advanced, more specialized or in any way superior set of genes mingles with, instead of exterminating, an inferior tribe, then it commits racial suicide.”¹⁴ The idea of people marrying whomever they want and people being free to mingle between class and race terrifies the white supremacist and out of that fear they feel justified for violence and murder.
What are we then to do about this?
Hopefully now you know a bit more about what to look for in how to spot these tactics and a bit about why fascist white supremacy appeals to some people. Hopefully you will not fall for the rhetoric tricks and recruitment traps. In this we must look out for each other. If someone you know begins to espouse this ideology it is important that it is confronted. Ask the person you know why they feel that way, ask them if they feel alone or powerless, ask if they need a friend, discuss why dehumanizing others is wrong, and strive to facilitate empathy. Part of saving our friends and acquaintances who feel isolated or sad or angry from being preyed upon by bigot groups is us being supportive while clearly condemning hateful ideology or beliefs. This of course is not a call to go out and actively befriend deeply fanatical neo-Nazis, those sorts of people require a deeper deprogramming that is not feasible for most people to attempt. What I am talking about is catching conversion early and nipping it in the bud, protecting ourselves and people who are already our friends from these manipulation tactics.
Deo is a union Millwright and a 12 year member of the Furry Fandom who spent 6 months infiltrating multiple Alt-Right and neo-Nazi online groups observing and recording how they recruited, organized, and operated.
Deo can be found on Twitter: @DeoTasDevil
1. Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic’s Editorial Page. The New Republic, October 31, 1994.
2. Adolph Reed Jr., “Review of The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein.” The Nation, November 28, 1994. https://www.thenation.com/article/looking-backward-2/
3. B. MacIntyre, “The New Eugenics”. London Sunday Telegraph, March 12, 1989. Cited in E.M., Kramer, “The emerging monoculture: assimilation and the “model minority”, 2003. City: Praeger. pp. 118, 302. ISBN 0–275–97312–3.
4. “Charles Murray.” Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/charles-murray
5. Richard Lynn, “Review: A New Morality from Science: Beyondism.” by R.B. Cattell. Pergamon Press, New York, 1972. Pages xvii and 482. Irish Journal of Psychology 2 #3 (Winter 1974).
6. Jeffrey Rosen and Charles Lane, “Neo-Nazis!” The New Republic, October 31, 1994.
7. Charles Johnson, “We Found Where Donald Trump’s “Black Crimes” Graphic Came From.” Little Green Footballs, November 22, 2015. http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/45291_We_Found_Where_Donald_Trumps_Black_Crimes_Graphic_Came_From
8. “2014 Crime in the United States Expanded Homicide Data Table 6.” Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2014/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/tables/expanded-homicide-data/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2014.xls
9. Jon Greenberg, “Trump’s Pants on Fire tweet that blacks killed 81% of white homicide victims.” Politifact, November 23rd, 2015 http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/nov/23/donald-trump/trump-tweet-blacks-white-homicide-victims/
10. Jeffery Gottfried and Elisa Shearer, “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016.” Pew Research Center. http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/
11. Rick Perlstein, “Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy.” The Nation, November 13, 2012. https://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/
12. Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide To The Alt-Right.” Breitbart, March 29, 2016. http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/03/29/an-establishment-conservatives-guide-to-the-alt-right/
13. Wilber Joseph Cash, The Mind of the South (New York: Knopf, 1941), 116.
14. Southern Poverty Law Center, “Roger Pearson.” https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/roger-pearson