Four Years Embedded with the Alt-RightBreaking News
tags: far right, racism, extremism, antisemitism, Alt-Right
Meaningful journalism begins with bearing witness. Over four years, I visited 12 states and five countries, and spent hundreds of hours with conspiracy theorists, far-right influencers, and politicians sympathetic to white nationalism. My goal was to understand the movement’s most prominent extremists—those who already had followings in the millions and were shaping the public conversation.
The result is The Atlantic’s first-ever feature-length documentary, White Noise, which focuses on the lives of three far-right figures: Mike Cernovich, a conspiracy theorist and a sex blogger turned media entrepreneur; Lauren Southern, an anti-feminist, anti-immigration YouTube star; and Richard Spencer, a white-power ideologue.
Progressives like to believe that racism is an opiate of the ignorant. But the alt-right’s leaders are educated and wealthy, groomed at some of America’s most prestigious institutions. The more time I spent documenting the movement, the more ubiquitous I realized it was. I bumped into one subject dancing in Bushwick with his Asian girlfriend, and another walking around DuPont Circle hitting a vape. Their racism is woven into the fabric of New York, Washington, D.C., and Paris, just as much as Birmingham, Alabama, or Little Rock, Arkansas.
During a visit to Richard Spencer’s apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, I began to understand how the alt-right works. Evan McLaren, a lawyer, wrote master plans on a whiteboard. A band of college kids poured whiskey for Spencer, adjusted his gold-framed Napoleon painting, and discussed the coming “Identitarian” revolution. Spencer offered a sense of historical purpose to his bored, middle-class followers. In his telling, they weren’t just “white Americans,” but descendants of the Greeks and Romans. “Myths are more powerful than rationality,” Spencer told me. “We make life worth living.”
White Noise will screen on June 20 through AFI.
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