There is a fascinating article over on Vice that everyone should read. In The Terrifying Trend of White Men Radicalized Online Becoming IRL Terrorists, David Neiwert looks at how young American white males are being lured into the clutches of extreme right-wing and Nazi organizations. In an almost mirror image of the individuals who become Islamic Jihadists, young American men, feeling themselves isolated, ignored, and humiliated by the larger culture seek out some sense of belonging and self-worth on the Internet. Unfortunately for us, what they often find is Racists and extremists.
And, all too often, that’s followed by violence.
Though Neiwert doesn’t go into this, it is also true that these young men didn’t have to end up on the Right. In fact, I would argue that they should have been recruited into the far more pacific and constructive ranks of the Left. They are, after all, the sort of people we are supposed to be for—the confused, the restless, the poor (and some of them are very poor), the oppressed, the depressed, and the desperate.
But, of course, this is not happening—we are not recruiting such people. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because we assume that white males can not be oppressed, in spite of the evidence of our own eyes. Or, maybe, as such commentators as Thomas Frank in Listen Liberal have suggested, we came to believe our mission was to uplift certain members of the middle classes who happened to be of “traditionally under-represented groups,” but who as individuals had the educations and family connections to be upwardly socially mobile. It was so much easier to empower them than to tackle genuinely hard cases, like the truly poor.
But, whatever the cause, Neiwert is very right to view the trend with genuine terror. It was exactly such young males who marched in Charlottesville, who helped put Trump into office, and who —alas!—enter schools with firearms.
We must reach out to them, or their younger brothers, and soon.
Or we may find out too late that we can never win them back from the powers of darkness.