Do you have white teenage sons? Listen up. White supremacists are recruiting boys online.
They are being bombarded with racist, sexist and homophobic memes packaged as innoxious, “edgy” humor which can indoctrinate children into the world of alt-right extremism and white supremacy.
Over recent years, white-supremacist and alt-right groups have steadily emerged from the shadows — marching with torches through the streets Charlottesville, clashing with counterprotesters in Portland, Ore., papering school campuses with racist fliers. In June, the Anti-Defamation League reported that white-supremacist recruitment efforts on college campuses had increased for the third straight year, with more than 313 cases of white-supremacist propaganda recorded
As extremist groups have grown increasingly visible in the physical world, their influence over malleable young minds in the digital realm has become a particularly urgent concern for parents. A barrage of recent reports has revealed how online platforms popular with kids (YouTube, iFunny, Instagram, Reddit, and multiplayer video games, among others) are used as tools for extremists looking to recruit.
For extremist groups, the goal is hardly a secret; the founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer has openly declared that the site targets children as young as 11.
“This is a specific strategy of white nationalists and alt-right groups,” says Lindsay Schubiner, program director at the Western States Center, a nonprofit focused on social, economic, racial, and environmental justice.
“White-nationalist and alt-right groups use jokes and memes as a way to normalize bigotry while still maintaining plausible deniability,” Schubiner says, “and it works very well as a recruitment strategy for young people.”
Sexist and racist jokes (for instance, a looping video clip of a white boy demonstrating how to “get away with saying the n-word,” or memes referring to teen girls as “thots,” an acronym for “that ho over there”) led to more racist and dehumanizing propaganda, such as infographics falsely asserting that black people are inherently violent.
Many parents are completely oblivious to this recent recruitment phenomenon. They are “bystanders,” people who are scared that someone they know or love is a white supremacist. And most of those bystanders are progressive parents of teens and young adults.
Let’s talk about the Pyramid Of Hate by Anti-Defamation League
The Pyramid of Hate illustrates the prevalence of bias, hate, and oppression in our society. It is organized in escalating levels of attitudes and behavior that grow in complexity from bottom to top. Like a pyramid, the upper levels are supported by the lower levels. Bias at each level negatively impacts individuals, institutions, and society and it becomes increasingly difficult to challenge and dismantle as behaviors escalate.
When bias goes unchecked, it becomes “normalized” and contributes to a pattern of accepting discrimination, hate, and injustice in society. While every biased attitude or act does not lead to genocide, each genocide has been built on the acceptance of attitudes and actions described at the lower levels of the pyramid.
When we challenge those biased attitudes and behaviors in ourselves, others, and institutions, we can interrupt the escalation of bias and make it more difficult for discrimination and hate to flourish.
There are five levels. Starting at the bottom is:
Both conscious and subconscious, Stereotyping, Fear of differences, Justifying biases by seeking out likeminded people, Seeking out information to confirm one’s existing beliefs and/or biases, Lack of self-reflection or awareness of privilege.
Acts of Bias
Non-inclusive language, Insensitive remarks, Microaggressions, Biased and belittling jokes, Cultural appropriation, Social avoidance and/or exclusion, Name-calling, Ridicule, Bullying, Slurs, and epithets, Dehumanization.
Criminal justice disparities, Inequitable school resource distribution, Housing segregation, Inequitable employment opportunities, Wage disparities, Voter restrictions and repression, Unequal media representation.
Cyberbullying, Threats, Desecration, Vandalism, Arson, Assault, Rape, Murder, Terrorism
The act or intent to deliberately and systematically annihilate an entire people.
“One of the things that research has shown is that these kids who get recruited, they describe the need to have an impact,” she. “All kids need positive mentoring, and if we fail on that, then there are people out there who are only too happy to mentor them into violence.”
Talk about 4chan. 4chan is a forum with no names, few rules. and few consequences. It is a recruitment playground for hate groups because they can post time-limited, anonymous memes, links, and messages without accountability. 4chan is the original incubator for a huge number of memes and behaviors and it is responsible for some of the largest hoaxes, cyberbullying incidents, and Internet pranks of the past five years.
So parents and grandparents, sit down with your kids and have a discussion with them about race, hate, and recruitment by hate groups. Go online with them. Go through their twitter, youtube, or Instagram feed with them. Don’t lecture, shame, or threaten. Discuss. Explain the game. Explain how they are being targeted and why. Teach them the pyramid of hate. Love overcomes hate.
Don’t be a bystander. Don’t let alt-right and white supremacists steal your kids’ youth and indoctrinate them into a world of hate, sexism, racism, cyberbullying, discrimination, and possibly violence.