Angling in the Atlantic

The Atlantic profiles Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer website:

Anglin, meanwhile, gained infamy for his troll attacks. In 2015, he tormented the University of Missouri during student protests against racist incidents on campus. He used Twitter hashtags to seed fake news into the conversation, falsely reporting that members of the KKK had arrived to burn crosses on campus and were working with university police. He claimed that Klansmen had gunned down protesters and posted a random photo of a black man in a hospital bed. As his rumors spread, the campus freaked out. 

The characterization “student protests against racist incidents on campus” is quite the contextual dodge for describing the shakedown of that school from which it has yet to recover.

Anglin may have been causing the university problems it didn’t want by taking in the dopier student protesters, which is to say all of them, with his KKK hoax for one, but that was only because he did what the school wouldn’t: defend it against patently absurd charges. One could go further and suggest the school has an obligation, as on any institution falsely accused of racism, to defend itself. It owes this to the next school to come under attack. It owes this to a slandered society, to, God forbid, a goodly race of people perpetually slandered by their intellectual and moral inferiors.

If Mizzou wanted nothing to do with Andrew Anglin it should have tried defending itself.

Atlantic author Luke O’Brien is all Narrative discipline. There will be no consideration of the legitimacy of a white working (and middle, for that matter) class complaint as such. But he’s honest and perceptive enough within those respectable limits.

Still, Anglin’s mob was a terror. He sicced his trolls on American University’s first black female student-body president. He had them go after Erin Schrode, a Jewish woman running for Congress in California, as well as Jonah Goldberg and David French, writers for National Review. As I reported this story, Anglin sent his trolls after me, too, and my interactions with them confirmed my suspicions that they were, by and large, lost boys who felt rejected by society and, thanks to the internet, could lash out in new and destructive ways. When I tried to draw them out about their lives, some admitted that they struggled with women. One told me that he struggled with his own homosexuality. Most imagined they were rising up against an unchecked political correctness that maligned white males. The more the liberal establishment chose to revile them, the more they embraced their role as villains.

The villain role precedes the “villainy”; it’s an important point.

In recent years, psychologists have found a powerful connection between trolling and what’s known as the “dark tetrad” of personality traits: psychopathy, sadism, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. The first two traits are significant predictors of trolling behavior, and all four traits correlate with enjoyment of trolling. Research published in June by Natalie Sest and Evita March, two Australian scholars, shows that trolls tend to be high in cognitive empathy, meaning they can understand emotional suffering in others, but low in affective empathy, meaning they don’t care about the pain they cause. They are, in short, skilled and ruthless manipulators.

This is plausible enough but it’s also true the trolls see themselves as at war, and constitute a genuine resistance movement (in contrast to the elites’ astro-turf anti-Trump “Resistance”) already, operating anonymously and hiding from the law. Someone at war or convinced they’re at war suppresses his affective empathy to fight. The real question is the validity of their cause.

Anglin was triumphant—here [Charlottesville] was his vision for the Whitefish march, come to fruition. He’d done as much as anyone to promote the rally, turning his site into a key organizing hub. “The Alt-Right has risen. There is no going back from this,” he wrote. “This was our Beer Hall Putsch.” And when Trump again refused to denounce the white nationalists, Anglin exulted. “No condemnation at all,” he wrote. “Really, really good. God bless him.” …

Was Charlottesville the alt-right’s beer hall putsch or the control-left’s Reichstag fire?

It depends on whether or not the media can keep it framed as a right wing attack on innocents or Anglin can frame it as transcendent trolling.

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