Men dominate all the rally photos and media coverage. But behind them stand women whose devotion to the cause is just as fierce—and frightening.
The images of the tiki-torch-carrying men who rallied in Charlottesville leave the impression that white supremacy is made up exclusively of angry, young, white men. And, they do predominate in public rallies. But there are women who are also drawn to the allure of white power.
“I hated myself my whole life because I was white, like ever since I was 11 years old, and the guilt just kept piling on,” Emily, told a reporter at a gathering of white nationalists who were celebrating Trump’s election as a victory for their movement.
When asked how she found the alt-right, Emily, 26, recalled with resentment being told that white people were responsible for slavery, and being assigned to read To Kill a Mockingbird when she was younger. She says she found comfort in the ideas of the alt-right, which she encountered through 4chan. “After this movement, I found it—the guilt—I don’t have it anymore,” she said.
While Emily may have been introduced to ideas of white nationalism by hanging out in the Fight Club culture of 4chan, she could just as easily have encountered these ideas through the microcelebrity culture of YouTube.
Lana Lokteff: Aryan Warrior with a YouTube Show
Lana Lokteff believes that feminism, liberalism, and multiculturalism are destroying “white civilization.” A thin, blonde, blue-eyed American-born woman, Lokteff looks like the “Aryan warrior woman,” featured in line drawings from the white-supremacist printed newsletters I explored in my book, White Lies. I looked at hundreds of these pre-internet era propaganda tools, created solely by white men. While I had expected to find a long list of groups they hated, instead, the newsletters were filled with discussions and drawings of what the idealized “white man” and “white woman” were in their imagination. In those publications, there were two kinds of white women depicted: the Aryan warrior woman and the faithful, fecund wife, dutifully reproducing the white race. Lokteff, who is married to Swedish national Henrik Palmgren, suggests elements of both these white-nationalist feminine ideals.
Lokteff and Palmgren are behind Red Ice, a radio-on-the-internet show along the lines of Alex Jones’s Infowars, without the shouty vitamin-hawking. Lokteff curates videos for her white-woman-themed Radio 3Fourteen, a channel within Red Ice, which features titles such as, “Pro White is Pro-Woman. Feminism is Anti-White” and “Women and the Alt-Right: The Awakened White Female.” Their combined audience reaches about 145,000 subscribers.
Of course, there is a long history of talk radio as a vehicle for spreading racist propaganda, stretching back to Father Coughlin’s anti-immigrant screeds in the U.S., and Hitler in Europe. (Lokteff is a fan of Hitler’s; she recently claimed that it was women in Germany who were responsible for putting him in power.) And, there’s precedent for women doing the PR for Klan groups or the Third Reich.
Lokteff, in her remix of these older forms, uses Radio 3Fourteen to amplify the voices of women across national boundaries that share the ideology of white nationalism. Sometimes she does this by interviewing other video bloggers, such as “Swan of Tuonela,” a Finnish nationalist who aligns her cause with that of the U.S.-based alt-right. In another episode, Lokteff talks with Belgian politician Anke Van dermeersch, who is an elected official in the Senate and president of the organization “Women Against Islamization.”
Lokteff’s YouTube channel illustrates what I’ve found in my research about how the rise of the Internet helped fuel the rise of white supremacy. In Cyber Racism, I traced the organizations that had produced the newsletters I’d studied in the pre-Internet era and found that white supremacists were often early adopters of Internet technologies because they saw the potential for spreading their racist propaganda. Part of what the digital era did for white supremacy was make it more readily accessible, globally networked, and easier to participate in. In other words, the web made white supremacy easy to find, and quickly connected people around the globe who shared that interest and opened up the formerly all-male process of formulating white supremacist ideology to white women, just as it’s done for Lana Lokteff.
For women like Lokteff, the alt-right is a place where white women can embrace both whiteness and a particular version of femininity unchecked by others who might try to challenge either. The women “embody a glaring contradiction,” according to Seyward Darby, who profiled Lokteff for Harper’s magazine. Darby claims that the women she interviewed must perform extraordinary “intellectual contortions” in order to “justify participating in a movement so hostile to their freedom.”
There aren’t any contortions needed, according to my research into white supremacy online.
For Cyber Racism, I spent a lot of time at the now de-platformed Stormfront, which from 1995 through 2017 was the primary global portal for “white pride.” It included a popular “Ladies Only” discussion board. The women there were openly and explicitly dedicated to discussing the cause of white supremacy, while also espousing liberal feminist views. The “ladies” of Stormfront are largely in favor of the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to have an abortion (although they are conflicted about terminating pregnancies that would result in the birth of a white child), and even in favor of gay rights (as long as they’re still white supremacists). The women in the “Ladies Only” discussion saw themselves as both white supremacists and as feminists, no contortions required.
This suggests something troubling about (white) liberal feminism. Without an explicit challenge to racism, this kind of feminism becomes a useful device for furthering white supremacist goals. Just recently, Richard Spencer made this point clear. In an interview with Luke O’Brien, Spencer suggested that white feminism is an ideal shell for conveying the ideas of white nationalism to the “right kind” of women, “the Lean In types, white women with high IQs.”
In May of this year, Red Ice announced it is partnering with Richard Spencer to create AltRight.com, with the immediate goal of creating the consciousness necessary to make a “white ethnostate” possible. The new platform is meant to be “like Breitbart, but further to the right,” according to one source.
Rebekah Mercer: ‘First Lady of the Alt-Right’
The most visible example of the “Lean In-type” of white supremacist woman is Rebekah Mercer, 43, who has an advanced degree from Stanford University and is the middle daughter of hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. She worked as a trader before she had four children, which she reportedly now home schools in her penthouse (she combined six apartments) in Trump Tower. She has become the spokesperson for the Mercer money and political agenda, which is to “save America from becoming like socialist Europe,” as she has put it to several people. She’s trying to disrupt the more traditional conservative movement, and investing in projects like Breitbart News, to which she reportedly donated $10 million. Her family also donated an estimated $25 million to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
With 19.2 million unique visitors in October of 2016, Brietbart’s audience towers over the measly online presence of Red Ice (or, even Stormfront, which peaked at about 325,000 registered users). Stephen Bannon, the driving force behind Breitbart, boasted in August of 2016, that it is the “platform of the alt-right.” It is also the favorite news source of Donald Trump. According to Joshua Green in Devil’s Bargain, Trump read Breitbart articles flagged by Bannon and then printed out on paper (his preferred way to read) and delivered to him in manila folders by his staff. That is, until Bannon was ousted and White House chief of staff John Kelly began to limit the flow of information to Trump’s desk, including keeping him away from Breitbart articles.
In addition to Breitbart, Rebekah Mercer has also funded other Steve-Bannon-led propaganda enterprises. Rebekah Mercer is “chairwoman” on the board of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), founded by Bannon and Peter Schweizer. Reports based on tax records show that the Mercer Family Foundation has invested millions in GAI, which published Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash, a regular source of articles for Breitbart as well as ammo for Trump’s attacks against Hillary Clinton.
It’s her role as the key funder of Breitbart and Bannon’s allied ventures that have earned Rebekah Mercer the moniker, “First Lady of the alt-right,” according to Jane Mayer. It is a richly deserved appellation. As the underwriter of Breitbart, one of the most successful propaganda arms of the alt-right and a deep well of content for Trump’s vitriol, Mercer has effectively used her inherited wealth to mainstream white nationalism.
With her fortune, Rebekah Mercer has done more for the cause of the alt-right than Emily or Lana could ever imagine. The seductive lie that those of us who exist within the boundaries of whiteness are somehow more deserving of citizenship, of society’s resources and, ultimately, of life itself, is every bit as convincing for these women as it is for the men with the tiki-torches.
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