Dear Atlantic editors,
I am getting in touch to express my interest in writing a feature story for the Atlantic Monthly. I read the recent piece ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’ and while I did not agree with many of its claims, I was impressed by the amount of research and argument simultaneously allowed, and I would love the opportunity to write my own piece for your publication. I’ve attached the first page of said piece for your convenience.
My piece focuses on the rise of the alt-right movement and its popularity among young, college-educated white men. As a young person who has always spoken against fascism and disguised bigotry, I want to bring to light the insidious ways it invades our society and culture. I’ve compiled a list of several sources ranging from leftist opinion pieces to posts on white nationalist forums that will help me address this problem from all sides by evaluating every source objectively to see what about it might appeal to its target audience. My plan is to open with some simple facts about the spread of fascist values among educated people, then delve further into the issue with some examples, such as the case of Derek Black, and varying opinions and statements from an array of blogs and journals. I am a first-year student at the University of Michigan and being surrounded by young, educated college students has made me even more interested in this problem. I think my perspective would be a valuable one to add to your repertoire of feature writers.
Thank you for your time,
The College-Educated White Man and the Rise of the White Supremacist
Before the 2016 election results, the stereotype of a Trump voter was an uneducated, ignorant, politically backwards rednecks and older white Conservatives. However, recent data—in particular, the outcome of the election itself—proves contrary: A large percentage of Trump voters were in fact young, educated men (even women). Further research into this phenomenon shows a trend of these young men coming from much more Liberal-leaning families, often even having grown up with single mothers teaching feminist values (Wilkinson). It doesn’t seem to make sense that men with very accepting families and strong college educations would so willfully cast off these equality-focused beliefs in favor of the alt-right, but a close look at the advertising for these movements makes it a little more understandable.
Investigation into the sites that draw in these young men to these movements shows that they often open more innocuously, before leading into propaganda for white nationalism and neo-nazi groups with the claim that to be white in today’s society is to be a social beta. For example, many young men find solace for their social awkwardness and lack of skills with women on sites dedicated to “pick-up artistry”: constructing the perfect persona and sales pitch to entice women into sex. While morally questionable at best, these forums are much less overtly misogynist than the movements to which they can act as a gateway. These detailed discussions on seducing women and lack of success with women in general often bring up the topic of race, equating sexual prowess with blackness on grounds of racist stereotypes (Wilkinson) and whiteness with “nerdiness” (Osterweil). These claims, while based on insecurity, use race (with a heavy lean on hatred of women) as a scapegoat effectively enough to draw in many seemingly harmless young men and groom them as white nationalists and neo-nazis who firmly support and believe in the calculated racism of the modern alt-right.
Bursley, Shane, and Alexander Reid Ross. “How the Alt Right Is Trying to Create a ‘safe Space’ for Racism on College Campuses.” Waging Nonviolence. N.p., 6 Oct. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
This article goes in-depth about young people’s (mainly college-age men) efforts to bring “alt-right” fascist views to more popularity on college campuses. This article is a useful source in that it goes into great detail about the history of the more recent fascist movement among young people. These young men are the focus of my research and this article gives me a lot of relevant information for my paper.
Hunter, Jack. “Meet Milo Yiannopoulos, the Appealing Young Face of the Racist Alt-Right.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 5 May 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
This source features popular young conservative icon Milo Yiannopoulos and explains his appeal to the young alt-right. It is useful for my purposes because it gives an insider’s perspective on why the movement can be so appealing to young people. To answer my own questions about why the movement has gained traction among young, educated college students, I need to see things from their perspectives.
Wilkinson, Abi. “We Need to Talk about the Online Radicalisation of Young, White Men.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
This article also goes into detail about the alt-right movement’s growing appeal to young people and discusses the way it is especially seductive to socially inept young men. This is especially important when looking into why the movement is made up of surprisingly educated people, rather than the ignorant masses. My paper largely focuses on this group and this phenomenon in particular, which is something that most people don’t consider since it doesn’t fit with their assumptions of what kind of people voted for Trump.
Saslow, Eli. “The White Flight of Derek Black.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 15 Oct. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
This is a really thorough article on the life of Derek Black, a young man who was raised by and to be a prominent white supremacist leader. He followed his family passionately until moving away to college and experiencing more diversity and making friends who changed his views. While his experience is different from and in some ways even opposite to that of the young men my research is mainly focused on, this will be very useful for analyzing his path away from the conservative white nationalism he grew up entrenched in, and comparing it to the many young men who grow up raised by single mothers and in much more liberal and accepting atmospheres who give in to the pull of white supremacy and misogyny.
Black, Don. “Derek Black Takes the Blue Pill and Renounces White Nationalism.” Stormfront RSS. N.p., 17 July 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
This is the homepage of the white nationalist site Derek Black was part of and his father still runs. The first post at this time is by Black’s father about his son’s detachment from the family’s views. While not an article about this phenomenon, it could be even more useful to see things from these people’s own perspectives and get an idea of what about the white nationalist/alt-right movement is so seductive to educated people (especially men) of all ages. I will definitely find many useful direct quotes on this site for my paper.
Osterweil, Willie. “What Was the Nerd?” The Left Press. N.p., 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
“The myth of the bullied white outcast loner is helping fuel a fascist resurgence,” opens this article. This article is virtually the antithesis of my last source—from an openly leftist website, it unambiguously condemns the racism and sexism of this emerging group. While I aim for a broader vision in my own paper, this is useful to see both why this group is gaining traction as well as the effect it has on its social opponents.