How a 13-year-old boy was radicalized by the alt-right, then figured out they were full of it

He thinks people watch the CBC?

That’s news to the CBC.


And I was one of them. In fact I was lonely and outcast and I can still remember my state of mind. I know it’s possible I could have ended up in her position. Does the fact that I didn’t mean I am inherently good, or just lucky that those kinds of people weren’t around to offer me camaraderie? She’s still young, her story isn’t over, we can encourage her to do better, or we can throw hatred at her. I think the former is more productive than the latter; shitting all over her isn’t going to convince her she was wrong if she’s still on the fence.


Natalie Wynn is a treasure.

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But being clear about what she needs to do to get to the right side of the fence is important too.


I’ve allowed for the possibility that she might do better. But if a 13-year-old boy can come to it on his own immediately upon leaving the cult, if a young man whose father was a notorious hatemonger can come to it on his own immediately upon leaving the cult, it’s a mark of character that she still hasn’t gotten there and is still sitting on the fence about bloody white supremacy despite her own age and background.

That’s not throwing hatred at her, that’s acknowledging behaviour in evidence and setting terms for giving her the second chance she’s obviously hungry for.


I’d add teaching them how to think through problems, which is really important to go with the skepticism.
People who are full of doubt but don’t know how to work through the question, or have the confidence to even think that they could think it through themselves get into lots of tough mental spots


Back in my psychology days, one of the lectures at a conference was a long term study of high risk youth in low income neighborhoods. It looked at why some kids from broken homes, surrounded by violence, abuse, crime and so on are able to do well in school, avoid all the possible pitfalls and go on to have successful careers and families while their close friends do not.

ETA: I just recalled the trait the study was focused on. Resilience.

The common factor they found was these kids had at least 1 adult in their lives that told them they mattered, that listened to them, that encouraged them to strive for their dreams and held them accountable.

It sounds like the alt-reich have picked up on this and that it can be used to subvert a kid as well as to uplift.

Fucking fuckers.


The assumption (left out of a tidy terse list of maxims) is that the parent “gets to the child” before it encounters the world at large, in hopes to teach them to consider any significant decision on the basis of thoughtfully accumulated independent evidence. But as you can see that doesn’t ‘list-a-fy’ so well.

By the bye, the biggest push back i’ve ever received on the ‘skeptical’ front was from religious folk. “But but, they need to willingly accept what the [pastor|priest|minister|cleric] teaches them!” To which, i humbly disagree.


They’re basically the predatory child molesters of politics (and in the case of at least one alt-right figure who got caught the regular type of predatory child molester, too – no co-incidence there).

I’ve made a point of doing all those things with the young people in my life. In one case it involved warning a teenager off from a gateway to the alt-right (Jordaddy) by listening to him and taking him seriously before I laid out Peterson’s dodgy M.O. and sketched out the path from that to the manosphere and the alt-right. After that it was his decision, and he made the right one.


With what the school administration did to that kid… yeah, I’d expect a backlash too.


Those 3 things are definitely tough to juggle as a parent, particularly the first 2 with the 3rd. The good news is that you can substitute the 3rd with teaching scientific methodology in decision-making, and get to a similar place while embracing #1 and #2.


That is wonderful. I think many people underestimate the power of listening and sharing mutual respect. I can think back to my childhood and… [rambling exposition about a shitty childhood deleted].

tldr; Small acts of kindness can transform a person’s life in ways you would never imagine. Thank you @gracchus and anyone that takes the time to let a kid know they matter.


That’s a good article at the link.

It shows how the far-right acts just like every other cult- finding vulnerable and miserable people, and telling them that they do matter after all. Then as they’re drawn in, ask for deeper and deeper commitment to the new group/cause/way of life. Then they start cutting off routes of escape.

And if we’re going to fight it, we need to look at disrupting both sides of the recruitment process. We need to disrupt the far right’s ability to target vulnerable, alienated youngsters, but more importantly, we need to stop creating so many vulnerable, alienated, depressed people as targets in the first place.

We really need to look at why current societies are creating so many people who can be targeted by the far-right. We don’t want to give them a target-rich environment to recruit from, and stopping them now is a lot easier than stopping them later. Citations for that last sentence can be found all the way from the Volga to the Atlantic.


I think curiosity is a good mix of skepticism and wonder.


The difficult part is that skepticism itself can become a person’s guiding principle, to the point of deliberately disagreeing with any mainstream belief, or real truth.

Any “truther,” whether 9/11, Flat Earth, QAnon, etc, starts out as a skeptic, someone who believes that we are being bamboozled, that the truth is different from what they want you to believe.

So along with skepticism, you need a strong understand of both science and history – how truth is discovered and tested.


I went through a phase of reading Ayn Rand and stuff at a similar age. After all – not that this was my reasoning at the time – you can’t know what you genuinely disagree with unless you’ve genuinely tried agreeing with it. In fact, it was Robert Anton Wilson that initially put me on to Ayn Rand, and he even explicitly makes that very point about her (in, I think, Schrodinger’s Cat).

A kid being fascinated with some political pose is not the same as a grown-up decision to adopt that pose. Kids are involuntarily open-minded (because their disks are unformatted), in a way that adults can’t be, and rarely even want to. They try stuff on because it interests them, and then they find out whether the interest is positive or negative.

Because this boy’s parents had faith that he hadn’t suddenly been replaced by some right-wing adult stranger, they were able to wait for him to figure out how to explain it. You would hope that is how most parents would approach teenage behavior, although evidence suggests it’s not.


This boy ultimately had the open-mindedness to figure out what so many adults sadly cannot or will not: that merely opposing a wrong, for instance the administrator’s malicious actions, does not automatically make how or why the opposition does it right. Evil often hides behind the pretext of a legitimate concern, such as authoritarianism or poverty or judicial corruption or militarism or technocracy, in order to ensnare and radicalize the relatively vulnerable.


Exactly. The enemy of your enemy isn’t necessarily your friend.


Cults tend to go after people who are stable and well adjusted. The totally malcontent are lousy materials to work with because they are malcontented and often disruptive.

The trick is to ask questions to potential marks that get them to self-identify as unhappy (the psych term is called “positive test seeking”). So if I ask you you if you are unhappy with your life, you will spend more time in your head looking up memories of when you were unhappy than you would actively looking up memories of yourself being happy. Afterwards you try and get them to believe you when you say you have answers to their problems.

That is a starting point for joining cults.

Another reason so many people now are getting more easily targeted by the far right is that

a) It’s much easier to disseminate information (good and bad), and sleazier people are more interested in using sleazier tactics

b) Lots of people are unhappy, and if you can make people believe that a specific nefarious other has usurped their place in the world you make it “us vs them”, and you often do not question people if you view them as “us”…

c) Your Grandpa who fought in or survived WWII is no longer around to BITCH-SLAP you if you mention joining a Nazi-adjacent group at Thanksgiving dinner.


I remember way back in grade six we were having a classroom discussion about racism, and no one could think of any examples of having encountered any such thing. But someone mentioned one of the girls had put a star sticker on her forehead for some reason or another, so we all piled on her, because what else were we supposed to talk about?

As someone else around here once said, it is easier to attack those closest to yourself, so we do.