A Canadian “anti-hate” organisation has informed me that they are writing a piece “critical” of me. In other words, it’s a hit piece.
I want to first say that it is admittedly difficult facing these kinds of attacks. I am an ideal target for politically motivated “counter-extremism” or “anti-hate” groups because I do not have a large profile, I don’t have the support or backing of big outlets or names, and they are unlikely to be negatively impacted by writing false claims about me.
They can smear me as far right all they like – even though it is a patently false claim – and they benefit from clicks, views, ad revenue, whatever it is. But nobody ever calls them out and asks why they focus so heavily on attacking people, rather than engaging with the issue of extremism and those affected by it.
I thought about whether or not it was worth my time to respond, and while I expect that it probably wasn’t worth my time, I did today respond to the individual who contacted me for comment.
This is what I had to say:
You say you’re not trying to defame me, but what you just described to me is a hit piece. I know how this works. You write for a website and you need clicks. I’ve worked in the media before, so I know how this works.
Some of the content you publish appears to be directed at genuinely far-right groups and individuals, but it’s clear to me that your priorities are all wrong.
Complaining about, attacking, and writing vicious “criticism” of those people doesn’t solve anything. Even when you’re focusing on actual Neo Nazis and extremists. Sure, it gets you clicks and views and helps you perpetuate a political narrative, but it doesn’t solve the problem.
I do things differently. I talk to young men (and women) who get tied up in these far right circles, working with them to get them out and to explore more moderate conservative ideas instead.
Oftentimes, far-right activists are natural conservatives who have been misled and radicalized. Similarly, far-left activists are often natural liberals who have been radicalized, or their naivete abused.
It’s quite clear you are passionate about this, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you believe what you are doing is positive. But let me tell you, as someone who came from the far right, you are not helping anyone. In fact, you’re entrenching the views of people within the far right.
Look at the way you’re treating me, and the way others who leave the far right and become normal conservatives are treated (they are often told “they’re not really former extremists! They’re still far right!”). When the only way out of extremism – that doesn’t result in hit pieces like the one you’re writing about me – is joining a left-wing movement, then why would young men leave?
Do you really think that young men in the far right are going to be swayed by radical left talking points and bullying? That they will change their mind all of a sudden and become everything they oppose? Typically, no. It gives people a reason to stay precisely where they are.
People can be conservatives and not extremists. People may believe in populist ideas without being extremists, hating any minority (or majority) group, or supporting violence. I don’t support any of those things, and I have left-wing and right-wing populist leanings.
In fact, you incorrectly claimed that what I say “veers into the far right” or is “outside of mainstream conservatism” (I’m paraphrasing). This is just plain untrue. I call myself a conservative but I am to the left of most conservatives I know, and I know many. I’m not certain you know what a mainstream conservative is.
It seems to me that what you’re trying to do is cause trouble for FCPP, and to hurt me because I am approaching this issue in a more productive way. I talk to people and help them leave extremism and explore more moderate ideas, while your platform – from what I can tell, as I was never familiar with it before – writes a lot about people you don’t like but doesn’t offer any solutions.
Let me tell you something. As somebody with more experience of extremism than I imagine most people in your organisation – the fact that FCPP publishes my content is admirable and positive. I can’t think of any other public policy think tank that explores how far-left extremists (from violent rioters and arsonists to dedicated online trolls) are entrenching the views of young white men who become active within the far right, and how reciprocal extremism occurs when so-called “anti-hate” or “counter-extremism” organisations perpetuate the deep political divides we see today.
You presumably know that we have published research about how both the far right and the far left can utilize the COVID economy, and the dynamics of reciprocal extremism.
Left wing or right wing, political violence, extremism, and hate are things we must work to stamp out. But we can’t stamp it out by bullying those who are swept up in it. Do you want people to leave extremism, or do you want them to just kill themselves?
You noted that in my latest book I say that people label the wrong people far right. Yes. That’s true, and you did it in your email to me.
Let me be very clear with you:
- I do not believe in white supremacy. It is a running joke among my non-white friends that I am the worst white supremacist going. It is a comical idea.
- I believe that the West can be successfully multi-racial if we ditch the racial politics we see today and unite around common values.
- I do not endorse or support political violence and I have helped young people get away from that.
- I’m not anti-Semitic and wasn’t even when I was involved in the far right.
What, exactly, do I say or do that is far right? Oppose Black Lives Matter’s violence and propensity to divide people based on race? Oppose Critical Race Theory, and the teaching of innocent white boys and girls that they are oppressors, or that black people are born victims?
If this is far right, then half of the United States is far right. Not only that, but the term is virtually meaningless given that a Neo Nazi terrorist would be classified the same as a concerned mother at a school board meeting telling teachers she doesn’t want her child to be taught to hate his or herself.
On the topic of “trans” my view is quite simple. I support the right of adults to do whatever they please with their bodies, or to call themselves He or She. I know trans people. More power to them. I do not, however, support putting children on puberty blockers. That’s hardly a controversial opinion.
I can point you to some detransitioners if you would like to learn more about that.
You also asked:
“How can we separate people (of any race) feeling genuinely aggrieved and marginalized from far-right radicalization?”
My first thought it to stop bullying people in the far right. Particularly the people who are clearly being used by their leaders/influencers.
When I joined the BNP, the people at the top positioned themselves as reformed and moderates. They weren’t. They abused my naivete and my concern about the problems in my town and county. And instead of reaching out to me when I was vulnerable, I was bullied by left-wing “anti hate” groups relentlessly.
Imagine what might have happened if people talked to me instead of physically attacked me on my university campus, or bullied me relentlessly?
For some young men I knew, this led them to suicide or further entrenched those views and made them more radical. How is that a positive thing?
I feel truly lucky that I didn’t go down the same path as many young men I knew, and even just the last three years have been transformational for me. It is a long process with twists and turns, but I am finally the person who I always was, free of the influence and the abuse from people with the wrong intentions. And whether you like me or not, I’m going to continue to do the right thing and help young people who are faced with the same life choices I was.
I am proud of what I do and there is nothing you can write that is going to stop me from helping other people.
I feel the same way about Black Lives Matter activists, by the way. I don’t assume that every rioter is a disingenuous ideologue. Many have been misled by their leaders. I have written and spoken about how we must have compassion for BLM activists in precisely the same way we must have compassion for many far-right activists.
Not hit pieces. Not bullying. Not smearing. Compassion.
“Is, in your view, the purpose of conservatism to preserve culture? Is it to preserve the environment?”
I believe in maintaining the political, economic, and social systems that made us who we are. I believe in the Rule of Law, Habeas Corpus, civil rights, and maintaining a High Trust society. I believe in helping the most vulnerable, a fair playing field, and strong communities that aren’t divided by extreme politics – left or right. I also strongly believe in protecting the environment.
I expect that you are going to try and claim that these perfectly moderate opinions are far right, somehow. That’s disappointing.
I do hope that I did not waste my time writing all of this to you, and you really think about the work that you do. Bullying and smearing doesn’t help anyone, but instead makes those in extremist groups more steadfast in their beliefs and their opposition to politically motivated groups who attack them.
Compassion, listening, and a willingness to talk are all key to helping people leave extremism.