journalismism

Let’s stop giving racist online trolls more credit than they deserve

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Neo-nazis really aren’t that clever.

On Wednesday, Politico published a story about various white nationalist and far-right groups and some of their plans for voter suppression. Though it all but entirely dismissed the possibility that they would actually deliver on anything, those same nazis are somehow reading the report as an example of their trickiness.

The piece discussed some likely to occur efforts such as ratfucker-cum-Trump ally Roger Stone’s pseudo-“exit polls” planned for Democratic-leaning cities or the Oath Keepers’ intentions to “patrol” on election day. It also included the perspective of Andrew Anglin, the 32-year-old proprietor of the neo-nazi site The Daily Stormer, whose main distinguishing trait is that among awful racists he tries to be the funny one.

In pursuit of his goal to be America’s Funniest Nazi, Anglin told Politico he was sending “thousands” of poll watchers out on election day. His pal Mike Enoch, who runs another racist site called The Right Stuff, anonymously alluded to a fake plan to distribute weed and booze to black voters. Of course, nobody really believes this, and the piece effectively says as much. For instance, it paraphrases the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok, who admits that it’s “difficult to know at what scale these plans will materialize, because Anglin and his fringe-right ilk are serial exaggerators.” There’s also this excerpt:

Mark Pitcavage, who monitors extremists for the Anti-Defamation League, said Anglin lacks a track record of organizing real-world action and that he was skeptical he could “get even close” to what he was promising.

But on The Daily Stormer’s forums, people are celebrating. One poster started a thread on the article (I can’t in good conscious recommend clicking that link) and wrote “ha ha ha the kikes have lost it. LOL.” Others responded in kind with comments like “lol. like any White who reads this site or TRS would give weed to niggers” and “Oh this is good I wonder how many driberals and googles will fall for this?” (“Googles” refers to an attempt by racists to turn large brand names into racial slurs).

A writer for The Daily Caller basically bought this line and tried to excoriate Politico for printing a “laughably fake story,” getting Enoch on the record at length. Salon joined in too, declaring that Politico had been trolled. But the crux of these pieces is what makes them so boring: they’re attempts to appear more wise and knowing about online racists, ignoring that Anglin or Enouch almost certainly wouldn’t have copped to being full of shit if Politico asked. In their portrayal of the far right as clever trolls, the Caller and Salon probably contribute to the myth the online neo-nazis want constructed more than the original article did.

There’s good reason to be skeptical of anything online racists say. They’re big on lying to the press for kicks and a lot of what they do is shitposting—basically, spreading bad information with bad posts. But the Politico article is fairly skeptical, and ultimately more concerned with groups like the Oath Keepers, who actually have a history of wandering around armed in public.

So why are the neo-nazis excited? They’re not very bright and will take what attention they get.