Writing in the NYT (what a surpise!), Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (ahem) temporarily leaves his urban cocoon (at least via his computer’s keyboard) and delves into the world of Stormfront.org, “America’s most popular online hate site” (“The Data of Hate“). Stephens-Davidowitz has a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, so that means he’s really smart:
The white nationalist posters on Stormfront have issues with many different groups. They often write about crimes committed by African-Americans against whites; they complain about an “invasion” of Mexicans; and they love to mock gays and feminists. But their main problem appears to be with Jewish people, who are often described as super-powerful and clever — the driving force, generally speaking, behind the societal changes they do not like…
Stormfront members tend to be young, at least according to self-reported birth dates. The most common age at which people join the site is 19. And four times more 19-year-olds sign up than 40-year-olds. Internet and social network users lean young, but not nearly that young.
The states with the most members per capita are Montana, Alaska and Idaho. These states tend to be overwhelmingly white.
That the median age of Stormfront members is 19-ish I find interesting: I have noticed that younger generations may be increasingly rebelling against the forced scripture of the Church of Political Correctness and, with no mainstream outlet available to critique the Church (due to the leftist intolerance which the Church dispenses against thought-crimes), are therefore essentially forced to the only outlets available to them.
Stephens-Davidowitz is surprised to learn that the average Stormfront user is not a toothless redneck who never went to college:
The top reported interest of Stormfront members is “reading.” Most notably, Stormfront users are news and political junkies. One interesting data point here is the popularity of The New York Times among Stormfront users. According to the economists Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, when you compare Stormfront users to people who go to the Yahoo News site, it turns out that the Stormfront crowd is twice as likely to visit nytimes.com.
Perhaps it was my own naïveté, but I would have imagined white nationalists’ inhabiting a different universe from that of my friends and me. Instead, they have long threads praising “Breaking Bad” and discussing the comparative merits of online dating sites, like Plenty of Fish and OkCupid…
Some of this research adds to recent literature in the field that is frankly shocking and should change the way we think about hate.
I have noticed that liberals who bother to explore ‘white supremacy’ sites or groups for research purposes are often surprised to discover that the members are A) not ‘white supremacists’, B) have above average intelligence, and C) are courteous people.
Our cultural climate is such that any proactive discussions of white identity (e.g., discussing or promoting the collective interests of whites per the identity politics model; positive identification with one’s ancestry and their cultural achievements; etc.) are forced underground and kept behind closed doors, appearing only along the peripheries of ‘alternative right’ conservatism.
Sure, there are nutjobs amongst the lot. That is what happens when no other outlets of expression (in polite society) are allowed to exist. The venues are limited, so you get all types funneled into the mix.
Upon her study of the ‘white nationalism’ phenomenon’s more radical manifestations, Carol Swain, in her book The New White Nationalism in America: It’s Challenge To Integration (2002), sounds a warning bell to fellow liberals on the matter:
What makes some of the newer organizations and individuals in the white nationalist movement such a threat to racial harmony, I believe, is that they address many pressing issues of race and nationality that are usually ignored in more mainstream discourse. On sensitive issues of race, our public discourse has become so inhibited by norms of political correctness and racial taboos that many Americans – particularly white people – feel reluctant to express many of their deepest convictions and concerns…
The great danger here is that with few legitimate mainstream arenas in which to discuss some of their deepest anxieties and concerns, many people turn to white nationalist and white supremacist groups, whose Internet pages and chatboards may offer the only forum for candid discussions of race. It is only within such forums that many aggrieved whites feel comfortable sharing with one another the basis of their grievances. (Swain, p. 6)
Swain further argues that societal strictures against whites being able to collectively identify as whites be removed, and that the policies and premises of affirmative action be ended, in order to mitigate the unintended consequences of a growing silent resentment among whites.
It is important to again point out that white identity proponents are largely concerned with the collective interest of whites as whites (similar to other ethnic interest groups identifying collectively) and with the preservation of Anglo Saxon culture, and that coalescing around white identity is not equivalent or tantamount to espousing sentiments of racial superiority or supremacism. This is a point highlighted by Swain as well as by Dobratz & Shanks-Meile in their sociological study The White Separatist Movement in the United States: “White Power, White Pride!”(2000). Dobratz & Shanks, who are both Jewish and liberal, make it a point of noting how (suprisingly) intelligent, courteous and civil the ‘white nationalists’ they met were.
The Church of P.C. can bottle up white identity (as a salient feature of self-identity and group-identity) for only so long.
Sooner or later, the pressure builds up and releases.