How to Fight the New Right Wing Terrorist Extreme Groups Plaguing Our Communities
If you needed a list of individuals to glorify and break down who is in the Alt-Right and “Alt-Light” this is not the place to be. There are many of those lists being published in media and the there’s only 3 purposes for those lists:
To know who to stay clear of if you are scared
To know who to attack if you like to “bash the fash”
To do further research of your own if you are curious to look them up and understand them
The people in these movements come and go, but to understand the movement itself is to understand the underlying problems that continue white nationalism today. White Nationalism has been around for over a 150 years now, coming out from the underground and attacking in waves over the decades while waiting for the right moment to take over all of society in their proposed fantasy final victory. At the moment, white nationalist leadership know they can not just go out and cause violence. Violence is the best way to attract the wrong kind of attention to any movement, it puts a target on the movement making it easy to destroy. White Nationalists do not have enough power to coup the social structure that they are against. They understand the only way a violent attack can work is if they have enough of a following to make a complete power grab. In other words, they truly want a complete coup of power in government. Not all government, just the government they have not already infiltrated. This means they are not likely to currently have a planned group attack as they know they can be taken out by numbers. Occasionally a lone wolf picks up on their ideology and acts but it’s usually just that. Which still goes to show just how dangerous the spreading of their message can be. But currently this is the time they must use the momentum of division in the country to recruit and build numbers. They are not quiet about their intentions, they are not ashamed. It is almost as if they want us all to know, it makes them prideful when we give them acknowledgement. The momentum is on their side right now so just ignoring them is not going to make them go away either. As a matter of fact, many Trump supporters have been “white pilled” as they say, moving farther and farther to the extreme right spectrum.
We need to understand their ideology, what they believe in and what fuels their actions. If we can understand how to deal with white nationalism at it’s core we can stop their movements from growing. We can stop their political movements from growing. We can change systems that enable white nationalists platforms and the privilege they enjoy while not being targeted by our government because it is not taken seriously enough by the public. Can ISIS openly recruit online? No. Yet not only can white nationalists do that, they can target our youth online. They can harass college campuses while building on their recruitment. They can build media sites and make money to strengthen their purpose (although Youtube, Twitter and Facebook is cracking down on online harassment). They have full ability to use first amendment rights to make as many people as possible uncomfortable in public spaces. If ISIS was homegrown, would we allow them to do the same?=
Maybe we in turn should be making them uncomfortable instead. But the question is how. The first reaction to returning the favor of discomfort is usually shame, then followed by violence and/or imprisonment (more isolation). Many white nationalists are also recruited in prisons, coming out more extreme and ready to be violent than they came in. In a time when activists are trying to change the justice system to transfer into more social and community programs, less jail time, we need to remember that doesn’t just apply to your usual type of criminals.
The keys to understanding these extreme right groups (even when they aren’t white nationalist and claim to not be racist) also works across groups like ISIS and gangs (noting that ISIS is extreme and unchecked in spectrum compared to White Nationalists and gangs but these groups can become that extreme). Rather than just trying to prepare a larger criminal justice system, propose war, or just plain out attacking them in public as soon as you see one, we can potentially outsmart their entire movement without throwing a single punch. I know for some this is not a fun route to take. Some on the left are more interested in riot porn and punching nazi memes. But if we truly want to stop fascism, discrimination, and terrorism and create a more homogeneous society that can peaceful embrace liberty in our differences, we need to dig deep into the underlying problems and pull them out at their roots. We will also need huge public support, which is hard to gain as many people are too afraid to deal with these kind of problems. White Nationalists are like the boogie men under Liberal and Progressives beds. Yes we know the original causes of systematic racism and we can talk about that for years to come, but for right now we also need action. We don’t have years to figure this out. We really need to start seeing those on the fringe of fascism and extreme hate as human beings with human issues and come at them with logic and psychology, not judgement, outcasting and fear.
Great example of movement to support to fight White Nationalism:
Life After Hate: @Lifeafterhate Twitter
Life After Hate: @Lifeafterhate Instagram
Former Neo-Nazi Christian Picciolini has turned his life around and now co-runs an organization called Life After Hate, a group who disengages white nationalists. Life After Hate has a network of around 100 people successfully disengaged from White Nationalism, integrated into mainstream society and spreading training to disengage other White Nationalists. After reading articles and watching videos online about this group it’s clear that these are the people who have a the best answers and approach to dealing with this problem.
Just like being in a gang, Christian Picciolini found it hard to leave the neo-nazi world. It was very dangerous for him to do, but he also had trouble re-integrating into society and getting work with his tattoos. Eventually he became depressed enough to want to commit suicide, until one day a friend told him to apply for a job which lead him back to the high school he once attended, the same school which he became a neo-nazi. When he ran into a black security guard at the school who recognized him, he came up and apologized. After that, the security guard encouraged him to speak out about his change, and that’s what he’s been doing since.
Because Christian was once a neo-nazi/white nationalist himself he understands the usual talking points that white nationalists present. He understands their hate, their reasoning and where they plan on taking their movement. So it makes him capable of reaching people who are usually closed off to the rest of the world and difficult to reach.
After Trump won the presidency, a surge in hate crimes occurred that Christian Picciolini as well as Obama’s administration noticed. Life after Hate applied for a grant under the countering violent extremism program. President Barack Obama approved a $400,000 grant to support this group a week before he left office. One week after President Trump took office the group was notified that they were going to review all the Obama era grants. A few weeks ago they learned their grant was pulled, out of 36 grants under review this was the only grant pulled which is the only program meant to counter the problem of white nationalism.
Christian Picciolini says White Nationalists are very dangerous and should be called terrorists and taken more seriously. Christian even calls white nationalists groups “Vanilla ISIS” comparing them and groups like theirs to ISIS and gangs.
In a recent podcast on IGD, Christian breaks down that like terrorists groups and gangs, there is always a top tier hierarchy of people with money and influence pulling the strings, manipulating those disenfranchised, marginalized, isolated and most vulnerable in public. This is why white nationalist groups, just like gangs and ISIS, use the same recruiting tactics targeting lone wolves online and school age students who may have difficulties fitting into social groups. They target the kinds of kids who have troubles at home, feel there is no future. They use fear, a story line of “these groups are out to attack you” and feelings of despair to make them feel powerless. Then these groups promise the kind of paradise, power and control to young men that becomes hard to resist. Christian explained “At 13 I went from this powerless kid who was picked on to a 14 year old kid with a shaved head and boots and you know, my bullies would cross the street when I would see them and then I recruited them later on, that’s pretty powerful”.
So what Christian breaks down is the psychology behind why young white men join white nationalist groups, and gives the answers of how to possibly reach out to those on the fringe and change their course. Of course speaking to the leaders who are benefitting most from the movement and using psychological tactics to recruit are not likely to change, but the many on the fringe that they intend to recruit or have recruited have a chance.
The important key that Christian says about how these men are recruited it’s not so much the ideology that brings them into the movement as it is 3 key things that all people need. Identity, Community and Purpose. If people have these 3 things in their life they are far less likely to ever join extreme groups. This makes sense as Alt-Right and Pro-White groups are all claiming to be Identitarians. Richard Spencer once explained that they were purposely appropriating from Black Lives Matters movement. He explains that everyone can have an identity to proudly claim except for white men who are constantly shamed in our society. From there he can build on that reasoning, and convince white men who are not accepted that they need this identity, the alt-right community, and with that the community will give you purpose in protecting the identity and culture of white people. One of the most prominent roles of Alt-Right women is to have as many white babies as possible, to support their men and to have proper traditional values. With the Alt-Right, white men can have a promise of one day having the perfect white family that will save the future of white people from disappearing into the mass of diversity that attempts to swallow them.
Some of the Extreme Right is not into Identity Politics at all. These are the hard core Trump supporters, the Libertarians. I will explain the differences in these groups later, since it does not matter when it comes to dealing with the extreme right face to face. The only thing that matters with them is they hate being called racist, or nazi’s while the Alt-Right is proud of their identity, have a large desire to create authoritarian dictatorship rule and are completely unapologetic about it. Either way, calling them racist and nazi’s just rolls off their back. And calling Trump supporters who are not identitarians racist nazi’s only shuts them down from engaging any further.
How to Deal with Extreme Right Groups:
Online, you don’t need to bother. The more you engage them the more attention you are giving them. What I have done which works, is comment on their posts with facts which tends to scare away potential recruits when they see they are almost fell into a dark rabbit hole. You will know you are doing something right when they start to block you.
Public Spaces; schools, Uber/Lyft, restaurants, public transit: I have heard many stories of harassment in public spaces. It is usually non-violent verbal aggressions. Acts of rudeness to push buttons and get a reaction. The best reaction is no reaction. Even giving them a unbothered smile. They are just like schoolyard bullies, do you as an adult really want to be at their level still unable to deal with a bully? I do believe a lot more needs to be done within communities and schools to protect those who are constantly being targeted for harassment. The SPLC recently published a guide on how to handle harrasment on campuses: https://www.splcenter.org/20170810/alt-right-campus-what-students-need-know
They also recently stated in another article how 50% of hate crimes go unreported. In many cases it is because police are too busy and those dealing with harassment either do not trust authority figures or have been dismissed when they do report harassment. Communities should be taking these issues far more seriously if they want to prevent vigilante revenge.
Rallies: Should we go to the far right rallies? Only if you believe they are a threat. In that case only go to defend the community. Christian Picciolini mentioned that by all means every community should be prepared for any kind of attack. These groups include militia and they spend years stockpiling weapons and learning survival techniques as well as fighting. But he says, it should only be for self defense. He says, even the video of Richard Spencer became a meme for white supremacists to recruit, quite successfully at that. They see the “violent left” as something that needs to be handled, something as a threat. Not only that, but they use the rallies as a platform to gain media attention. Media attention will come and showcase them as victims whenever there is violence. This helps them recruit even more. Instead, Christian advised coming not to counter protest or to even engage with them, but to stand in quiet solidarity to defend the community. Let them hold their rally without any action, and they will go home humiliated at the fact they could not prove the “violent left” was out to get them. This actually worked for Berkeley back on April 27, 2017 when Ann Coulter was supposed to speak. They held the rally right next to a high school on a weekday and many of the residents of Berkeley stood across the street and watched them without any acts of violence occurring. The next day all of the hype about how violent Berkeley was was in question and man of their fanfare audience hoping for violence disengaged. Either way, defend, be ready for anything, but do not be the first to hit. Be cautious even when you do have to defend. I had seen the rally goers spray mace and attack people, but the only video footage anyone would see is the rally goes being attacked in retaliation. No one saw that it was the fash that started the attack.
Next week, we will be preparing for rallies coming to San Francisco and Berkeley August 26 & 27. We will provide more details on how to handle these rallies, stay tuned!