Deradicalisation: Dealing with Nazis when they don't call themselves Nazis
"Nearly half my viewers are women according to analytics. When I do meetups, most of the people who come are LGBT+. But journalists don't cover that part of my audience. No one asks them what they think, no one cares, because every story about me has to actually be about this redemption arc for edgy racists. I'm nothing but a character in that story, like this transgender witch in the woods who sets them back on their hero's journey. "~ Natalie Wynn, Contrapoints
When I first read this, it was on an excellent video by Kat Blaque about the fact that LeftTube is decidedly very white. As a content creator who is both trans and a person of colour, Kat's experiences on the platform often means her voice in discourse, especially about her experience, must be filtered through a lens of whiteness. I'm not going to talk about that here; that's for another day.
But what Natalie's words talk about, and what a friend of mine later made me think about, is the radicalisation of young white men towards the alt-right.
For those lucky few who haven't been aware, the alt-right are an attempt by right wing organisations to rebrand conservatism. Gone are the days of slovenly, swatstika-tattooed white dudes. Instead, the nazis wear polo shirts and chino pants. The idea of the alt-right is that conservatism has to be rebranded because old school conservatism, the one that outright calls for things like imperialism, isn't "cool" to people. So instead, the right wing has evolved, like a bad Pokemon, into a new, more socially presentable form. It's not ethnic cleansing, it's "ethnostate". It's not racism, it's "race realism". The same old garbage but now with a slick haircut and millions of subscribers on Youtube.
One of the biggest ways in which the alt-right has managed to gain purchase in society, is in gaming sphere. Many of the people who alt-right, like Sargon of Akkad or Paul Joseph Watson, talk about games. They talk a lot about games. "Feminists are destroying video games!" they will chant to a crowd of braying, young, white men like the worst kind of Oprah episode.
These young men, who are really too young to have a much more developed worldview or maturity in their views, are the real target of all of this alt-right hot air blowing. These men, are in many ways disenfranchised. The problem is that they get two kinds of messages. The first message is that being (usually) straight and cis white men, these people are the perceived top of the social pyramid. They get this message that they're supposed to be the best. So....why do they live in their parents' basement and make minimum wage at the local Wendy's?
Well, of course, as white guys, they benefit from a large amount of hidden social privileges. They aren't as likely to be killed by the police, face sexual violence and many other ways; if I need to prove that white guys have social privileges I will be here all day.
However, it's important to note that because we live in a hierarchical society, because of capitalism, this means that a lot of the direct material benefits of capitalism do not get spread out evenly. And what this means, is that most people do not get rich just for being white and straight and cis (although believe me it helps). Rather, many of these guys are struggling. What do people do when they're struggling? They look for answers.
And that brings us to the photo. You see, if these guys look for answers on the left, and they're still not very mature, chances are they'll only ever end up angry and frustrated. They will have these preconceived ideas about how the world works (no doubt in part due to a neoliberal mass media) and some leftists will get very angry at them for failing to understand how their question about why women need to be included in video games as not-sex bots is insulting.
So, chances are, they'll get frustrated and hurt, and look for another answer. And there we have people like Sargon of Akkad. They'll talk nicely to these men. They'll say they're special, because they're white or men, and that white men built the civilised world. It's not their fault they're poor. The government giving welfare to brown people, or affirmative action is why they're living in a basement. They're not repulsive to women; feminism has just made all women too stuck up.
Games are especially good for this. These men will probably play a lot of video games (what else are disaffected young men supposed to do really?) So if you talk about how feminists are ruining video games, or how feminists are trying to take away 'their' video games, their ultraviolent manly games, you strike a nerve. Bit by bit, brick by brick, you build them a house of right wing radicalisation and by the time it's finished, they fit snugly inside.
One of Contrapoint's most famous videos is her video about incels. She talks about how easy it is for a man to disenfranchised in the dating landscape, and how, if exposed to the right set of views and spaces, can fall down into an existential pit of despair about their loneliness and lack of dating success. It's incredibly insidious how easy this is to actually happen, especially with the Internet. And in respect to the alt-right, it's even easier to go from watching PewDiePie pay some people to put up an anti-Semetic sign as a "joke" to believing Jews are funding migrants to destroy the 'Western' world.
And yet, upon watching this video, she got a lot of positive feedback from men on the brink of this abyss who were pulled back. And unfortunately, rather than galvanize some greater social awareness about how easy hate spiraling is, it made her famous in the public sphere as someone to turn to to de-radicalise men.
If you're looking for people who commit the most amount of terrorism in the US, it's young white men. Once they're radicalised, they become very dangerous. Even as the Christchurch Shooting demonstrates, white men anywhere can become extremely dangerous if they feel threatened and are radicalised by the Internet.
So the problem is dealing with them. Oftentimes, I myself am guilty of this, it is difficult to put in the time to argue with a proto-nazi. It is difficult to face bigotry in a way that feels productive. If you are a person of colour or LGBT, then you face a double whammy of trying to confront someone who thinks you are subhuman with their bigotry. You face an uphill battle in trying to convince these men that not only are you not the enemy they believe you are, but they're also victims of the system of capitalism that is trying to turn them against you for its defence.
It is real labour to face this bigotry. You need to have mountains of facts, research and strategies and yet, absolutely none of can breakthrough the shell of bigotry that these men have built up. I am not saying it is an impossible task; I speak from my own personal experience that it can be done. But it is labour, hard labour and it becomes even more problematic to have to deal with this as a daily facet of your life. Living in a society that condones this kind of bigotry, means facing it daily. It means more than not, biting down any argument for the sake of mental health, and physical health in some cases.
And this is a downward spiral. You cannot speak out, because to do so would be to face a mountain as a pebble. So the mountain grows and you shrink until eventually something will give and it will drown you. For someone who stands out, for a queer person, a person of colour, you have to live with the fear that if the fascists take charge, you will be sent to a camp, or put to death. You cannot change who you are, and that means your fight is one you can't afford to lose.
So what to do? Well, I don't certainly condone arguing with these people. I do it anyway but it's never a pleasant experience and it always leaves me with a sense of pervasive dread. One solution is of course to support people who confront this as a job. There are plenty of people out there who make it their job to dunk on nazis. And even better people who put on the mask and take up the flag of Antifa to march against nazis when they show up.
But these solutions aren't quite so practical. If we only ever waited for nazis to show up down Main Street in their jorts, then we're missing the chance to reduce so much harm. LeftTube isn't likely to win the culture war on Youtube any time soon either.
So that brings us back to trying to deal with these young white men who aren't alt right yet, but would if given time to radicalise. My sincere advice is to confront them on it as soon as you can. Get support, a group of people and try to reach out to them before they become a lost cause. The truth is that fascism doesn't care about them. Hitler sent out plenty of young German men to die in the mud without a moment's hesitation.
The real fascists don't care about the truth; they'll say literally anything to support their position. But before a white guy turns into a Charlie Kirk, he's just another guy playing video games in a basement. So follow good socialist practice and never do it alone and don't sacrifice your mental health for a nazi. You're never alone; you have comrades everywhere you need us.