Don’t Share Content From The Alt-Right, Even When You Agree With Them

You can't trust everyone that says they agree with you, no matter how cool their sign is.
You can't trust everyone that says they agree with you, no matter how cool their sign is. Photo by Geoff Livingston via Flickr
Just because a stopped clock is right twice a day is no reason not to fix or replace the clock.

There’s this tendency, particularly on the left side of the American political spectrum, to want to be liked by everyone. The ability to win over “all sides” might be worthwhile in a presidential politician in a country of 300 million people, but for average folks it’s usually just a symptom of wishy-washiness and fence-sitting. Having bigots agree with you, even if its just about the weather, is not a virtue in and of itself. It might just mean it’s raining today.

Or it might be an infiltration tactic. The alt-right and other reactionary conservatives saw exactly how social media operations could propel their chosen candidate into the White House in 2016, and there is no reason they will not try it again. An innocent Facebook share might very well be a part of this plan.

That may sound paranoid, but it’s been standard operating procedure for the alt-right for quite a while. In 2017, Ashley Feinberg at Huffington Post got a hold of the style guide for the Daily Stormer, a famous neo-Nazi website. Included in that document was the following passage:

Cultural references and attachment to entertainment culture to Nazi concepts have the psychological purpose of removing it from the void of weirdness that it would naturally exist in, due to the way it has been dealt with by the culture thus far, and making it a part of the reader’s world. Through this method we are also able to use the existing culture to transmit our own ideas and agendas. 

The alt-right knows that its concepts are unpalatable for the average person, which is exactly why noted white nationalist Richard Spencer coined the term in the first place. To counteract most people’s poor reaction to being aligned with racist groups, the alt-right employs two social media tactics intended to mainstream their reach. I’ve seen both of these happen in my sphere over the last month as tensions rise during the protests against brutal brutality.

The first is simple expansion of existing pages. You might have noticed an uptick in “anti-bullying” videos in your feed lately. Framed in that manner, it’s easy to miss the fact that in a lot of the videos the assailants are black and the victims are white. Even when pages actively put anti-Black Lives Matter messages in their posts, the sharers see only the violence in the video and share their visceral reaction. This is also a favorite tactic of groups like Patriot Prayer, who use contextless videos of violence at their rallies as recruitment tools, and it’s employed by police to condition members of the force to be ready to kill quickly.

The purpose of these videos is not to highlight bullying, but to reframe the current national conversation about violence as either something that happens equally or is actually being perpetuated more by black people and leftists. Just look at the video! People, especially those who are made uncomfortable about Black Lives Matter, end up sharing them based on that without looking to see if the page they are sharing from is dedicated to white supremacy or other alt-right ideals.

If even one person from that share clicks "like" then the page is ahead of the game, all because the sharer wanted to take a stand against bullying. What is often framed as a non-racial, colorless issue is most definitely the subversive work of pages looking for audiences willing to listen to them so long as they frame their rhetoric in a way that on the surface is non-racist. But don’t be fooled: they want you to keep coming back to them and slowly begin acclimating to their ideals based on the goodwill you once artificially shared over their stance on bullying.

The second tactic is infiltration. You see it most often in fandoms, particularly after content creators do something “politically correct” like introduce a black stormtrooper or female Doctor Who. Ian Danskin’s video “How to Radicalize a Normie" goes into greater detail on why this works, but the gist is that the alt-right will take over an online community dedicated to another purpose, begin using bigotry “ironically” while also launching a campaign against social justice warriors and their political agenda, drive out everyone who finds the new paradigm toxic, and collect the remaining members like Pokemon now that they have an echo chamber. This tactic can be brutally effective, and only a few very dedicated and self-aware communities like furries have adequately combated it.

Believe it or not, this tactic even works with overtly leftist political spaces. The nomination of Joe Biden (and before him Hillary Clinton) pissed off a lot of leftists, and they are happy to point as much as their anger about that at the nominee as they can. Well, no one has a longer list of why you should hate the Democratic Party nominee than the alt-right, and that’s why suddenly I saw a lot of leftists groups sharing this Charlie Kirk tweet.

Five minutes on his Twitter profile show that Kirk is an actively harmful media presence when it comes to black civil rights. His tweets since this are full of anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric. Whatever “good point” he made in his tweet is entirely in service to getting people to hate Joe Biden.

There is no reason to ever listen to Charlie Kirk about civil rights unless you’re looking for a bad example. It’s not like you can’t easily find liberal black voices criticizing Biden harshly. Why elevate a man with a long history of anti-leftist propaganda instead of them?

Because white racists are very good at saying what white anti-racists want to hear in order to appeal to their desire for fair play and a sense that the “good” white people are really all in this together deep down. Whether you agree with Kirk’s opinion that Biden is bad for black Americans is up to you, but what is inarguable is the fact that leftists boosting Kirk’s voice undoubtedly makes a very unreasonable man seem reasonable to more people. That’s especially dangerous considering how many progressive spaces are bad at dealing with their own white supremacy. Which is a fine outcome for the alt-right because they would prefer that we didn’t.

All of this is part of the plan to get access to your followers, even if you personally don't come along for the ride. The alt-right is far smaller than it appears, but they are incredible at roping in patsies to do their work for them. Their primary recruitment tool in 2020 is not the Hate Rally, but the decentralized mass of social media. Every time they get someone nodding along with them, it’s a foot in the door. Know who you’re sharing and what they want from your share. Please think responsibly because they are very much counting on anxious white people doing that as little as possible.
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner