Discord and White Supremacist Indoctrination

One of my primary areas of research has been the nexus of communication, propaganda, psychology and emerging (digitized) white supremacist groups. “Group” here is kind of a misnomer, because most white supremacist and alt-right “groups” lack any formal structure, and instead exist on an ad hoc basis unified around strategic use of (not really) ironic memes and humor, as well as Identitarian and far-right views.

Anyway, a lot of counter-terror language uses the term “recruiting” for describing entry into radical ideological groups. Problem is, recruiting implies some degree of bureaucracy and training, where what the alt-right really does is “indoctrinates” people. They take some pre-existing predilection for racism, identitarianism or far-right views, exacerbate those views, and create ad hoc competitions to one-up each other in extremeness in order to normalize radical views in the “recruit.”

Discord is a good avenue for this. There has always been an overlap between alt-right and proto-alt-right thought and gaming communities, mostly because gaming communities tend to have a larger proportion of young men lacking community, identity and purpose than other interest groups (I say this as someone who has been gaming online since the early 90s, as a young man). The article I’m sharing goes into a little detail about how this looks, but honestly, it doesn’t dive deeply enough. I’m hoping I can find more stuff on how the alt-right currently uses Discord.

Conservatives Leaving the GOP

An important article by Max Boot, an already fairly moderate conservative, writing about his departure from the Republican party. points out that movement conservativism has engaged in driving to the right and pushing out the moderates. Again, and again. In 1996, Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole described themselves as “liberal” compared to the GOP at that time. Now, former rank-and-file conservatives are leaving the party as it pushes forward into a neo-fascist direction.

I also recommend listening to the August 9, 2018 episode of Stay Tuned (with Preet) where the former SNY-DA talks with GOP Strategist Steve Schmidt. In it, Steve narrates what went wrong with the GOP from Palin to Trump, and how the party has embraced a dark side.

How Fascism Works

Last night I started reading my first book “for pleasure” since writing my master’s thesis on far-right and white supremacist violent extremism. It’s about fascism, because clearly I’m a masochist. This has been a delightful book. Written by a professor of Philosophy at Yale, Jason Stanley, this has to be the most “readable” book by a philosopher I’ve ever consumed. Stanley groked the message that philosophy doesn’t have to be Byzantine to be useful. Each chapter is a twenty-ish page overview of the topic, qua fascism. He doesn’t mince words in those short chapters either. Over the next few days while I burn through these pages, I’ll be posting my top three takeaways for each chapter.

1. The Mythic Past

The first major point is the emphasis fascist ideologies place on patriarchal family structures as a means of enforcing both gendered social structures and the dictator as a paternal figure for the state. This section is no so much concerned with upsetting gender roles as it is with highlighting the fascist’s obsession with them.

The use of the Mythic Past as a means for whitewashing the attrocities of the real past, such as America’s genocide of Native Americans, the Confederate South’s treatment of slaves, or Poland’s disavowal of their involvement in the Nazi holocaust or Turkey’s Armenian genocide denial.

The creation of a Mythical Past also establishes an “us” and “them” historically. Psychological studies show when Americans think of the treatment of Native Americans in terms of atrocities committed by Europeans rather than Americans, they are more likely to assign blame to the Europeans. In-group sentiments can be stoked by the Mythical Past to push away national guilt, and to pave the way for calling another group of citizens “the other” because they were not part of the Mythic Past.

2. Propaganda

Mask problematic goals with virtuous ones. Examples, Nixon’s notes showing he wanted to target black Americans with the “War on Crime,” or “Draining the Swamp” as a stand in for purging the unwanted.

To the fascist, corruption is not about the law, but about “purity.” There is a dovetail here with Moral Foundation Theory, something I’ll be writing more about in the future. The short version is, the fascist doesn’t actually mean corruption of legal processes but their perception of the “natural order of things” in adherence with the Purity Moral Foundation. When a fascist opposes “corruption” what they mean is opposing “people being out of their place.”

The third major point in this section gets to Plato’s Republic 8, which discusses how demagogues use the functions of democracy to undermine it, tying into recent efforts by the alt-right to use claims of “free speech” being stifled to prevent legitimate arguments against their validity as being suppressive rather than oppositional.

3. Anti-Intellectual

4. Unreality

5. Hierarchy

6. Victimhood

7. Law and Order

8. Sexual Anxiety

9. Sodom and Gomorrah

10. Arbeit Macht Frei

Article Series on How Cambridge Analytica Came to Be

The NATO association of Canada published a four-part series of articles briefly explaining how the study of OCEAN lead to a Cambridge researcher empowering Cambridge Analytica to specifically target voters in the Brexit and American 2016 presidential elections. I spent some time in my undergraduate program studying Psychographics, an area of research using OCEAN, a personality assessment tool measuring Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism, and back then the research showed promise. Anyway, these are a short read:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

(Image taken from Article 3)