Here’s a story that we think you’ll find interesting, fascinating and extraordinary. It’s about a brother named Theo Wilson who went undercover online as a white supremacist to better understand what motivates them. Needless to say, he learned a lot.
For Wilson, it began when he started getting trolled after he started making and curating YouTube videos about culture and race. It was obvious that the trolls had a problem with what he doing based on the racial slurs they left on the page.
After trying to spar with them on a logical level in the comments section, Wilson began to notice something curious: His trolls seemed to speak a language unto themselves, one that came with the same twisted facts and false history. It was as if they had all passed through some “dimensional doorway,” arriving from an alternative universe where history, politics and commonly accepted facts had been turned inside out.
Wilson learned that as far as his trolls are concerned, slavery was a form of charity that benefited enslaved Africans; that freed blacks owned more slaves than whites before the Civil War; that people of color make up the majority of those receiving aid from America’s safety-net programs; and that investor and philanthropist George Soros is funding protest movements like Black Lives Matter.
The more he encountered these people, the more his curiosity took hold. He wanted to really know where they were getting their revisionist history lessons. At that point, Wilson, an award-winning poet, and actor from Denver, decided it was time to go undercover in their world. In 2015, he started by creating a ghost profile named “Lucious25,” a digital white supremacist who appeared to be an indigenous member of the alt-right’s online echo chamber.
Wilson’s avatar was John Carter, the Confederate hero of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s science fiction series about death-defying adventures on Mars, reports the Washington Post.
Within a few weeks, Wilson’s alternate identity was questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace, railing against Black Lives Matter and bemoaning people he called “race-baiters,” such as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. After several months, he was a disaffected fixture on alt-right websites that draw white supremacists — such as Info Wars and American Renaissance — and in the comments section of racist YouTube videos.
“To be honest, it was kind of exhilarating,” Wilson told an audience during a recent TEDx talk about his experience. “I would literally spend days clicking through my new racist profile, goofing off at work in Aryan land.”
Wilson’s adventure as a racist troll lasted 8 months During that time Wilson never revealed his true identity. Interestingly, when it was all over, Wilson said, he came to appreciate the way in which the far-right media bubble disables its participants — offering an endless stream of scapegoats for their problems but no credible solutions.
WaPo’s Peter Holley spoke with Theo Wilson about his experience, whether white supremacists are redeemable and why he believes liberals should listen to the far-right.
(Photo Credit: YouTube)
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