A series of unfortunate life-choices


I remember Katie McHugh mainly as a flash-in-the-pan obnoxious anti-semitic Islamaphobe — someone who got a job in the racist hothouses of Breitbart and the Daily Caller, made a little noise with some extremely hateful tweets, like a kind of mini-Katie Hopkins, and then got fired as the alt-right strained to appear a little less thuggish (they failed). Now Rosie Gray has a thorough article on her history, and it’s a sad, dismal story all around. McHugh regrets her role in the alt-right, although I’m not entirely convinced that it’s a genuine repentance — it’s more like she regrets how she has fucked up her own life by embracing a series of bad actors.

Her journey to remorseful failure begins in college. She attended a small liberal arts college where she stood out alone as a far-right firebrand, which was sufficient to win the attention of the far-right media. I’ve seen that happen at my university. Yes, you can stand out by acting the colossal regressive on a campus full of progressive, optimistic, intelligent students, but while it may appeal to the ego in the short run, it’s going to lead to catastrophe eventually. We had a student here who made a reputation for himself writing ugly crap for the alternative newspaper (not as ugly as McHugh’s stuff, though), which led to him making connections with James O’Keefe, which led to him getting arrested in a break-in in Louisiana. It’s not a great career trajectory.

McHugh’s story is similar. She leapt from writing for the college newspaper to working with Breitbart, the Daily Caller, the usual upstart conservative rags, and making connections with major racist white nationalist figures. The pipeline from young conservative to Trumpian conservative is apparent in her history, and she also exposes the real nastiness in their beliefs that these organizations try to hide.

The alt-right was at the time all about smoothing over its public image, becoming approachable, more mainstream. “They didn’t have swastikas covering their foreheads,” as McHugh put it. The very term “alt-right” represented this effort to rebrand white nationalism. Everything in public was euphemism. The names of the main organizations were bland: National Policy Institute, American Renaissance. People could blend in, and they did. They were “polished, sophisticated,” she said. “There’s a very high culture aspect to it.” The class markers were important to someone like McHugh, who had come from the sticks. And the emphasis on genetics and IQ was appealing as well. “They see it almost as a moral value,” she said. “They think that people with high IQ confers them with some kind of super-ability and makes them leaders, natural leaders.”

The emphasis on intelligence confers the whole enterprise with a pseudo-intellectual veneer, and it also provides white supremacists with a way to elide accusations of white supremacy. According to their argument, they can’t be white supremacists because they say that Jews and people of East Asian descent have a higher average IQ. This both whitewashes their bigotry and feeds into the alt-right’s victim mentality, especially as it relates to Jews. The work of the anti-Semitic writer Kevin MacDonald is a cornerstone of the alt-right movement. His Culture of Critique series argues that Jews, using their higher intelligence, employed Judaism as a “group evolutionary strategy” to perpetuate themselves and win out over other groups. MacDonald blames Jews for the very existence of anti-Semitism, arguing that anti-Semitism is a justified response to Jews’ plot to run the world.

If they’re so smart, though, how is it that looking at the details of their groups exposes great pulsing veins of absurdity? This is almost funny.

Their differences went deeper — and stranger — than that, and allowed McHugh to see inside a truly bizarre subculture. McHugh was a Catholic, while DeAnna was a member of the Wolves of Vinland, a group based near Lynchburg that was focused around a neopagan theology based on self-improvement and feats of strength, as well as coded white nationalism. The idea was to cast off the bounds of modern Judeo-Christian society and find a way back to pre-Christian northern European culture. McHugh sometimes accompanied DeAnna on weekend trips down to the Wolves’ headquarters for what they called a “moot” — a ceremony in which the assembled Wolves would smear ash on their bodies around a fire and give what McHugh described as “dramatic speeches” about self-sufficiency and relying on the other group members. They would then sit around the fire and drink beers.

One part of McHugh’s disaffection with the movement was over such silliness. She couldn’t accept it, so she reverted to…Catholicism. More absurdity, different flavor.

McHugh recognizes now how hard she screwed herself over. She’s working as a waitress in a small town somewhere unnamed, and struggling to keep up with her medical bills (she’s diabetic). She has regrets and advice, and not much else.

At age 28, she has made herself unemployable in the career field she chose — even on its fringes. She perpetually struggles to support herself financially. It’s easy to see how someone in McHugh’s position might regret the path she took that got her here. Would she regret it if she still had friends, still had a writing job?

McHugh has a message for the people on a similar path, though, one that can be considered regardless of whether you believe she’s actually changed.

“People like me should be given a chance to recognize how bad this is and that the alt-right is not a replacement for any kind of liberal democracy whatsoever, any kind of system, they have no chance, and they’re just harmful,” McHugh said. “There is forgiveness, there is redemption. You have to own up to what you did and then forcefully reject this and explain to people, and tell your story, and say, ‘Get out while you can.’”

Well, we can hope some college students somewhere read about her and recognize that hate is loud and gets you noticed, but it doesn’t make you a better person.

Comments

  1. Saad says

    Yeah, this one is gonna be a womp womp for me.

    a) She’s only saying this because she’s struggling financially because of it. I have no reason to believe her remorse is because she thinks racism is wrong.

    b) There are millions of people struggling while never having been racist hate-mongering assholes who worked for Brietbart.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    People like me should be given a chance to recognize how bad this is …

    Uh, Ms. McHugh, who denied you that chance?

  3. offthewall says

    The photos of her are also disturbing. Are the pasted-on eyebrows and cheap wig an effort at disguise, or do they signal health problems that are hinted at in the article? Or are they meant to show that, in being interviewed, she is trying on yet another false persona? White nationalist to wolf to penitent?

  4. Matt G says

    I also went to a small liberal arts college with a very left-wing reputation. One of my schoolmates was…wait for it…Michelle Malkin!

  5. jacksprocket says

    I was brought up a Catholic. If I ever revert to it, you can shove the FN altar candles up my arse.

  6. Akira MacKenzie says

    I see a lot of myself in McHugh’s story. I too came went to school a right-winger. I got tired up with a conservative student newspaper that published some pretty racist stuff. The only difference is that she stayed with it, moving on to other right-wing news outlets, while I started to question the cultural conservatism I was raised with. (The economic conservatism would come much later.)

    While I understand why some would be skeptical of her conversation, I’m willing to give her a little slack. (Especially since she’s a diabetic.) There, before the grace of internet hate-pages, go I.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    Akira @9:

    While I understand why some would be skeptical of her conversation, I’m willing to give her a little slack.

    Good for you, Akira. Seriously.

  8. raven says

    ….and struggling to keep up with her medical bills (she’s diabetic).

    In a lot of states that would be covered by…Medicaid.
    Including all the states on the west coast.
    Of course, to many this is socialism or commie-ism but the insulin doesn’t care who pays for it.

  9. Jemolk says

    I’m not prepared to embrace her as reformed, but I am generally willing to extend people at least a chance to show they’ve changed. I see no reason to refuse her this courtesy here. If we want people to be willing to change, after all, we need to be willing to accept that they have. And who here doesn’t want crazed bigots to change for the better? So color me cautiously optimistic for the moment, as I am with all these stories.

    Of course, I wouldn’t dream of expecting or demanding the same from anyone she hurt previously, even if she is indeed sincere.

  10. unclefrogy says

    having been raised and educated catholic myself but is now very much a “fallen away catholic” I am having a hard time seeing how waiting tables is not getting a second chance. If she truly is repentant or not just regretful for her choices and wants to have that same level of importance and influence she had when she was embracing hate.
    what does she think makes her so different or more important then anyone else?
    uncle frogy

  11. wzrd1 says

    Wonderful mocking of someone who made a fucked up life choice.
    Anyone else not fuck up in life? Seriously, any contenders? My history is rather open here, who is especially perfect?

    Kid grow by fucking up and we adults support them and guide them away from more fuckupdom.
    Frankly, from what I see here, I see alt-right reflected back perfectly.

    Where you see an opportunity to mock, I see an opportunity to educate.

    Now, go hit yourself in the head with a dick shaped spaghetti. Let me know when you find one.
    Better yet, grow the fuck up and act like you’ve reached the age of adultery.
    Since far too many respondents are equal to Trump in vitriol, rather than educating the idiot, who is only an idiot via a lack of education.

    Otherwise, the course is clear from here, our operation centers already predicted it, insurrection in massive numbers, there are even plans to intercept militias
    Stop being part of the problem and be a component of a solution!
    Or quit, be totalitarian in your views, meeting Trump once it’s perfected.
    Otherwise, unfuck things by addressing the idiot “savant” that always misses goals, educate, liberate and maybe you’ll find a new friend.
    And I’m infamous for “tough live” and equally infamous for “OK, you fucked up, we’ll work together to get through this goat fuck”.
    Comments here, I see problems perpetuating, zero solutions, zero, well, anything worthwhile, might as well ask Trump what he thought a response was.
    I don’t express myself as well as I’d prefer, but currently, I’ve quite respected and learned from the community here. Tonight, you let me down, bit fucking time.
    I know that you can do better!

    That tirade said, at #14, did that back in the ’70’s. ;)

    Now, back to locating an urgent care center, as I’m out of BP meds and only today, I managed to find a practice that is loathed for not prescribing antibiotics for a viral infection and it just opened to new patients.
    I’ll get to meet doctor in mid-August.
    So, it’s urgent care time to get BP and anti-hyperthyroid meds.
    My fault, spent nearly a year here, got put off by a few practices initially advertising how they don’t prescribe opioids. Drum beat mode, during a telephone call that had dick all to do with opioids.
    So, it took a bit and necessity.
    I exist due to amlodipine, metoprolol and methimazole.
    Doctor learned that I could titrate the dosage of beta blocker and allowed me to move from 350 mg to two doses of 50 mg, bid.
    Thyroid medication, totally not my lane, let endocrinologist handle it.
    Currently 15 mg methimazole, 5 mg at bedtime, per some negotiations, due to effects.

    And yes, I can discuss the pharmacology behind the medications.

  12. Onamission5 says

    @unclefrogy:

    I’m with you on your observations. Settling into relative obscurity and working at a job which countless other people also work is a second chance. She still has the opportunity to influence people in small, meaningful ways every single day. Her main complaint, as far as I can tell, is that leaving the hate-o-sphere to join the masses isn’t profitable, and doesn’t draw the type of attention she once enjoyed; that she can’t influence people from a stage. This article reads like a plea to the left, not to forgive her past harms and let her live her life in peace from this point forward, but to embrace and elevate her, to grant her special status that she may once again feel important and profit off the masses, rather than deal with the reality of being an ordinary working class schlub like the rest of us.

    She could throw her weight behind any number of progressive causes, she could take up worker’s rights or health care, she could quietly join any number of organizations working to combat white supremacy, and she could do those things without automatically being handed a platform and unearned social status from the former targets of her hatred. The quote from one friend about how she’s “never tried a normal life,” from another talking about how she became accustomed to flattery and fawning while working for Breitbart, and her own wistful-seeming admission that no one had taken her picture in a long time, seem to me to speak volumes.

  13. Allison says

    Is Katie McHugh related to a certain Dr. Paul R. McHugh, retired professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins?

    If so, then it all makes sense. Dr. McHugh is notorious for his holy war against the entire LGBT+ spectrum. He’s also an advisor to the American Catholic Bishops group (I don’t remember the exact name.)

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    unclefrogy @13:

    I am having a hard time seeing how waiting tables is not getting a second chance.

    Where do you get the idea she doesn’t think it is a second chance?

    what does she think makes her so different or more important then anyone else?

    Where do you get the idea she thinks she is more important?

    There seems to be some parsing of “People like me should be given a chance to recognize how bad this is…” as though it means she should be given a better job, or some such nonsense. It’s not a prepared legal statement, FFS. It’s spoken words in an interview. And to me it comes across more like “people who were where I was can change; don’t just write them off”.

    Yeah, she might just be ruing her downfall, but that wasn’t my impression from reading the article.

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