Talia Lavin, a self-proclaimed bisexual and schlubby Jew living in Brooklyn, was disguised as Ashlynn, a hot Aryan blonde and gun carrier, on a white supremacist chat room when she caught the attention of David, a Nazi Ukrainian who was big on terror against Jews, blacks and Muslims. The duo flirted online for months, until David sent in a photo of his car, his license plate clearly visible, and revealed his real name. Lavin used this information to find David’s home address, then contacted a reporter covering the white supremacist movement and passed the information on to him.
Before the reporter decided to go public with a story about David and a terrorist group he belonged to, Lavin contacted Mr. Nazi to tell him what she had done. “I would talk to him every week or every day for months,” she told the Daily Beast in an interview, “then I found out where he lived and was able to pass it on. And I said to him: “I’m anti-fascist and you’re screwed”. And he said, “I’m scared,” and you know, that feels good. “
Lavin, who has become something of a pet peeve in the online white supremacist world, doesn’t mince his words when it comes to racists and their allies who have been in the headlines too much lately. It is therefore not surprising that his new book Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy is filled with solid reporting, numerous invectives, and numerous intrepid infiltrations exposing how the internet has helped develop a far-right culture of hate and violence.
“There is no economic class, level of education or geographic region that is not part of the organized racist movement,” says Lavin, who wrote on the far right for The Nation, GQ, MediaMatters and other outlets. “These people come from all walks of life. There are many reasons for anger, and the people I have spoken of take natural feelings of loneliness and turn them against vulnerable and marginalized people. And that’s what angers me even more. These are human beings who make human choices to do evil. “
To hunt down these evil guys, Lavin took on more disguises than most characters in the Marvel Universe. She used her character Ashlynn to visit a white dating site; claimed to be an “incel” – an unwitting celibate virgin – to learn more about the toxic world of violent misogyny, where incel mass murderer Elliot Rodger is known as “Saint Elliot”; infiltrated a neo-Nazi terrorist cell; attended a conference for right-wing YouTubers; and went online to find people talking about ways to rape her.
“I’ve logged into a chat room and they are discussing raping me with a gun,” says Lavin, who describes this as his most frightening personal moment while researching the book. “It was a moment where I was like ‘oh boy’ and I realized I was on the radar of really serious people. These are people who want to kill me because of who I am and what I have said in public. I could have turned away and said, ‘I’m not going to write this book,’ but I just doubled down. “
At one point, Lavin joined over 90 far-right newsgroups and discovered that, thanks to The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist site, she is the main Google search for “ fat greasy kike. ” . Not that Lavin can’t give as well as she gets, when it comes to overdone invective. She refers to a racist GOP faction as “fragrant and pustulent,” and calls white nationalist and senior presidential adviser Stephen Miller a “heinous figure of Nosferatu” (come to think of it, that description seems strangely accurate).
Invective aside, Warlords Culture is a sober and downright scary look at how the right-wing media, racist police and especially Silicon Valley have allowed far-right toxicity to expand.
“Silicon Valley has long operated on a libertarian and reckless philosophy of ‘move fast and break things’ that is much more conservative about harnessing hate speech than allowing it to spill over into public consciousness without scrutiny,” writes Lavin in the book.
Taking as an example billionaire and Facebook board member Peter Thiel’s brief flirtation with white supremacist, Lavin says, “I think there is also a section of the Silicon Valley elite that is sympathetic to the cause of white supremacy. I don’t think they take this threat seriously; they rely on journalists to tell them that the militias are organizing on their platforms. It’s ridiculous; they have billions of dollars; they can put their resources into content moderation. “
And then there’s the police and military, some of whom are a bit too tight with far-right groups, as evidenced by recent events in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police thanked members of the armed militias.
“Dozens of soldiers have joined the white supremacist movement, and members of the police force are certainly members of racist groups,” Lavin says. “It is no coincidence that the Proud Boys [the far-right group which President Trump refused to condemn] organized pro-police rallies.
“More than 70% of extremist-related killings in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by far-right extremists. “
Perhaps the most frightening fact from Lavin’s book is an Anti-Defamation League report that more than 70% of extremism-related killings in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by extremists. far right (this number rose to 90% last year). Although Lavin acknowledges that not all white supremacists commit acts of violence, she cites Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, the largest terrorist incident in the United States prior to September 11, as an example of the immense damage that a few individuals can do.
“What we have is a precarious situation where we have this kind of widespread paramilitary acceleration of the movement of people who are ready to commit violence, and they become closer to the government, and there are incidents where the law enforcement agencies saw these groups. as MPs, ”she said. “You may be skeptical of an actual putsch, but more than that, you have the possibility of causing massive casualties.”
So the obvious question here is: “What to do?” Lavin isn’t sure education is the answer, and given the recent poll that found 10% of Americans under 40 have never heard of the Holocaust, his lack of confidence in the education system could be perfect. She does believe, however, that the amorphous group known as the antifa might be a way to fight back and devotes the last two chapters of her book to the movement.
Noting that the right-wing media seems to be obsessed with the antifa (as well as the BLM), even though it is primarily a non-violent movement with no leadership or even specific membership, Lavin says the group’s mission is essentially to doxize far-right activists, to infiltrate their groups and counter-protest their rallies (think Charlottesville). And for her, “what I want people to take away from the book is not just a feeling of fear. I don’t think law enforcement is the answer; I hope more people come out of the book feeling that this is something to fight, and something I can fight. These [white supremacists] are your neighbors, your drinking buddies, and it is your responsibility as an American to discover and publish your findings. We need a lot more anti-fascists there.
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