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I went undercover among online fascists and this is what I found

TJI Pick
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Published: 7 July 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

JULIA EBNER identified four clear trends that explain how extremists have spread antisemitism from hidden corners of the web into the mainstream.

“Welcome to the Ministry of Home-schooled Education.” The group I had just joined on Telegram used to be the “National Socialist Book Club” but during the pandemic was given a new purpose: becoming a home-schooling chat for white parents. “This is a Christian Aryan channel to help build and facilitate independent home schooling”. It had created a home-schooling curriculum: Books such as Anti-Semitic Legends and An Aryan Classic Education featured on the reading list.

This was just one in an ocean of antisemitic and racist online communities I encountered during the research for my new book, Going Mainstream: How Extremists are Taking Over.
Over the past eight years, I have been studying extremist movements and radicalisation. Initially, most of the antisemitic conversations were confined to the extreme fringes, the darkest corners on the internet or the most secretive meetings. Today, they seem to have conquered what we used to call the political middle.

Celebrity influencers propagating antisemitic tropes, neo-fascist parties such as Fratelli d’Italia winning elections in Europe and widespread conspiracy myths blaming Jews for today’s polycrisis are just a few examples. The US rapper Kanye West, now called Ye, has spread dangerous antisemitic ideas with his 30 million followers — almost double the size of the global Jewish population.

My undercover investigations brought me to the inside of neo-Nazi groups, QAnon conspiracy theorists, US Capitol rioters, violent misogynists and radical anti-LGBTQ activists.

Many find common ground in overt or covert antisemitism. There is no clear profile for people who spread extremist ideas anymore: anti-minority and anti-democracy movements are recruiting from left, right and centre. What has happened? In brief:

  • Exploitation of grievances and crisis narratives
  • Marriage of old and new conspiracy myths
  • Gamification, rebranding and code words
  • Social media and algorithmic amplification

I went undercover among the fascists and this is what I found (Jewish Chronicle)

Has extremism gone mainstream?  (Substack)

What happened when a Jewish group and the right-wing Moms for Liberty shared a conference hotel (JTA)

What is ‘Moms for Liberty’, the Hitler-quoting parental rights group adored by Republicans? (Haaretz)

Former president Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley were among the GOP presidential nominees speaking at the controversial group’s national summit in Philadelphia last weekend as its influence continues to grow against the backdrop of US culture wars.

Photo: Cover image from Going Mainstream: How extremists are Taking Over by Julia Ebner (Bonnier Books)

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