Using ‘lulz’ to recruit white nationalists and neo-Nazis

That we are witnessing a resurgence of white nationalist and neo-Nazi sentiment is indisputable. A noticeable feature is that while in the past members of these groups were distinctive because they were heavily tattooed, skinheads , and wore leather jackets and all the other accoutrements that signified that they were tough and not to be messed with, the current members forego all that and look like regular college students or young executives, as I wrote in my earlier post That nice young neo-Nazi next door. This change has not been achieved by the former group removing their tattoos, growing their hair, and buying a new wardrobe. Instead we are seeing a new kind of member.

It is that the internet, especially social media and gaming sites, that has been instrumental in enabling the recruitment of these new young people into these movements. And in doing so, irony and dark humor has played an important role in making ideas that once were considered so loathsome as to be beyond the pale now seem to be worthy of being considered as just another option in the world of mainstream ideas. Making white supremacism seem like a lark that promises fun has enabled these movements to reach a new and different pool of young people.

Lee Fang and Leighton Akio Woodhouse analyze the use of dark humor in online gaming and so-called ‘men’s rights’ sites.

The dark humor that has flourished in these forums, with their blurred and overlapping lines, sanitizes ideas of a race war and genocide, featuring pitched battles between racial identities. This online cauldron has been an important factor in fueling the growth of the “alt-right” and adjacent white nationalist organizations.

Fields’s Facebook page was reportedly adorned with jokey images about “weaponized autism”; Pepe the Frog, a once kid-friendly meme appropriated by online trolls into a neo-Nazi symbol; and Feels Man, a crudely drawn image originating from the web forum, 4chan, that depicts a sad, bald man as a representation of social isolation and existential dread. .

The influence of the gaming culture is seen by the way these neo-Nazi men appear at their rallies dressed in costumes that make them look like cartoon heroes and sporting absurd macho nicknames online. These groups use online pranks and trolling to make racism and bigotry seem like fun activities, taking advantage of the proclivity of some to find amusement in being offensive.

The exuberant pranks increasingly converged with overt displays of white nationalism. Many arrived at the site to casually post intentionally offensive memes about racial identity. But for some, the jokey memes became a bridge to a formal association with white nationalism. In other words, when users post so many genocide and rape jokes, they become so detached from reality that they become susceptible to the messages of bonafide hate groups, a transformation referred to in forums as “irony poisoning.”

This kind of behavior also provides bigots with a ready-made ‘it’s just a joke’ excuse when called out. Take this example of James Cobo who was fired by his employers after he posted about wanting to run over anti-Trump protestors, less than two weeks after Heather Heyer was run over in Charlottesville. Cobo wrote “You are all pathetic. Cant wait to drive through. 4×4 with push bumper will be sweet in this crowd. I named my lifted truck ‘trumper,’” After he was fired, he said:

“I’m being made into a horrible person over a joke that was just meant to ruffle some feathers,” Cobo said in an interview. “I admit it was a tasteless joke, but keyword here is it was a joke. If anybody was ever going to go and intentionally hurt people, why would they talk about it on social media publicly before doing it?”

Using ‘joke’ as their get out of jail free card enables them to say what they want to say without taking responsibility for it.

Ashley Feinberg has got hold of a 17-page ‘style guide’ for the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer that tells potential contributors how to write for the site. Feinberg describes the site’s main goals which are “to spread the message of nationalism and anti-Semitism to the masses”. The main goal is clear: attack Jews.

Prime Directive; Always Blame the Jews for Everything

As Hitler says, people will become confused and disheartened if they feel there are multiple enemies. As such, all enemies should be combined into one enemy, which is the Jews. This is pretty much objectively true anyway, but we want to leave out any and all nuance.

So no blaming Enlightenment thought, pathological altruism, technology/ urbanization, etc. – just blame Jews for everything.

This basically includes blaming Jews for the behavior of other nonwhites. Of course it should not be that they are innocent, but the message should always be that if we didn’t have the Jews, we could figure out how to deal with nonwhites very easily.

The same deal with women. Women should be attacked, but there should always be mention that if it wasn’t for the Jews, they would be acting normally.

The document strongly encourages contributors to use snarky humor (or, as the kids say these days, ‘lulz’) to appeal to the younger demographic and avoid condemnation. Here are some examples from the document

While racial slurs are allowed/recommended, not every reference to non-white should not be a slur and their use should be based on the tone of the article. Generally, when using racial slurs, it should come across as half-joking – Like a racist joke that everyone laughs at because it’s true. This follows the generally light tone of the site.

It should not come across as genuine raging vitriol. That is a turnoff to the overwhelming majority of people.

The tone of the site should be light.

Most people are not comfortable with material that comes across as vitriolic, raging, nonironic hatred.

The unindoctrinated should not be able to tell if we are joking or not. There should also be a conscious awareness of mocking stereotypes of hateful racists. I usually think of this as self-deprecating humor – I am a racist making fun of stereotype of racists, because I don’t take myself super-seriously.

This is obviously a ploy and I actually do want to gas kikes. But that’s neither here nor there. [My emphasis-MS}

The goal is to continually repeat the same points, over and over and over and over again. The reader is at first drawn in by curiosity or the naughty humor, and is slowly awakened to reality by repeatedly reading the same points. We are able to keep these points fresh by applying them to current events.

I’m extremely careful about never suggesting violence. I go beyond legal requirements in America. However, whenever someone does something violent, it should be made light of, laughed at.

For example, Anders Breivik should be forever referred to as a heroic freedom fighter. This is great because people think you must be joking. But there is a part of their brain that doesn’t think that.

When it comes to more immediate violent trends, I’m slightly more careful. The burnings of migrant centers is one of these things. I’m slightly hesitant to say “patriotic heroes burn another might center,” given that this could be construed as calling for more arson (whereas it can’t be construed that I’m calling for Breivik to kill more brats).

Dylann Roof I have labeled “Dy Ro,” and though I offer explanations for what he did, I never condemn him. I also think it is very funny to say that he was simply defending himself when he was attacked in a church by black mamies trying to steal his iPhone. That sort of silly humor really bites at the Jew “pure evil” narrative.

There should be a conscious agenda to dehumanize the enemy, to the point where people are ready to laugh at their deaths. So it isn’t clear that we are doing this – as that would be a turnoff to most normal people – we rely on lulz.

Again, if the article is entirely serious, it should not contain dehumanizing language.

Dehumanization is extremely important, but it must be done within the confines of lulz.

Weaponizing humor and irony is the new strategy of bigots, racists, and xenophobes. It should be combated by them being called out on it by pointing out that such things are simply not funny and that the sentiments expressed will be taken at face value and the users held to account for them.


  1. mnb0 says

    “the new strategy”
    Unfortunately not. Geert Wilders introduced it in The Netherlands about 15 years ago and perhaps was the first worldwide. A famous example is “kopvoddentaks” which is best translated as “headrag tax” -- except that “kop” is a Dutch derogatory term for head. It’s from 2009; he said it in Dutch parliament. Another example is “CDA betekent Christenen Dienen Allah” -- “Christian Democratic Alliance means Christians Serve Allah”.
    Criticize such remarks and the reaction invariably is “hey, you’ve got no sense of humour!”

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