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A generation ago, Picciolini was recruited into an extremist group in Chicago in a face-to-face meeting in an alley. Today, the same kind of overtures take place in digital alleys, especially in chats connected to video games with multiple players.
“They befriend young players,” passing along anti-Black and antisemitic memes, said Picciolini, who runs the Free Radicals Project, which seeks to de-radicalize extremists. “They do the same thing in depression forums and autism communities online. They find people looking for help and they invite them to chat, send them funny memes. Some kids see those memes and say, ‘Not cool’ and some giggle. Those who giggle get invited to private rooms.”
You have neo-Nazis, eco-fascists, conspiracy theorists, and what unites them is the culture, not the ideology — the videos, movies, posters, memes.
Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group
White supremacists, militias, men’s rights groups, anti-Muslim agitators and other extremist organizers have created a loosely linked network of multimedia offerings, including videos, podcasts, lectures, articles and games such as “Black Lives Splatter,” which challenges players to drive their vehicles into as many Black Lives Matter demonstrators as they can.
“The pandemic has meant people have more time, more attention span,” Futrell said, “and that time is clearly being directed into extremist spaces. The appeal of a video like ‘The Last Battle’ is that it’s all emotion. At first, they’re pro-Trump images, juxtaposed against a Biden dystopia. But by the end of the five minutes, it conveys a sense of White genocide. Arm up and train up and have babies, it says, or the White way of life is gone.”
Neither Futrell nor The Washington Post was able to identify the video’s creator.
Julia Ebner is an Austrian researcher who studied extremist culture by going undercover, joining American and European racist groups. The groups gave her full access to their plans and ideology only after she proved her interest by hanging out with them.
“A lot of them stay in the community for the fun,” she said. “I’d see them over and over saying, ‘I don’t want to do anything else on my weekends anymore.’ ”