The lost boys

I return to blog after the flu has knocked our whole family for a loop. It kept me off my feet for over a week. Get your flu shot, everyone.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Angela Nagle’s Atlantic article The Lost Boys, referring to the wave of alt-right (read, fascist) young men who’ve emerged in the last few years. As a man in that age group, who could very well have ended up a part of that, I think it’s important to think about this sort of thing, both in introspection for myself and about how I’m going to raise KRH to not join it himself.

I say that I could have ended up a part of the alt-right for a fairly simple reason; I spent time on 4chan. Both at the time and now, I’d have described the toxic hate that oozes out of the alt-right as gross, but as a man in his early 20s, I can think about how spending time on that site changed me. At the time, the lack of reverence, where everything could be a joke, was something that I found appealing. It seemed like it could do good, which was why I got moderately involved in Project Chanology, attending a protest and doing some advocacy. But many of the techniques that were first pointed at the Church of Scientology, later ended up in the toolbox of Gamergaters and now are used by the alt-right, especially against women and people of colour.

Whew. I ended up drifting away from 4chan on my own. And yet the off-colour humor of the site, that’s often racial or hateful in nature, certainly infused my language, and it took some time for me to realize that was a problem. I did, and eventually I examined a lot of the things I’d picked up there. But it’s easy to see a different path, in which that time on 4chan leads instead to the alt-right, simply because of the attractive nature of the message. It appeals to people who don’t fit in and to those whose lives haven’t turned out great, both messages that have some power.

So how do I make sure that, if KRH ever finds himself tempted with this dark side, that he takes the route that I did? That’s a difficult question, because there’s no way to every make certain of that. KRH will become his own person who’ll make his own decisions. There’s nothing I can do to him that will force him to follow my political beliefs.

But. I was loved, I was surrounded by good and loving people, and I was educated both directly by those people and just by exposure to them. I also had experiences that educated me. And that was just in the 1990s and 2000s. I like to think that, decades later when KRH is going through this same journey, we can educate him in better ways  than I ever was, and that we can give him the experiences and understanding of people who are different than him, and that in the same way those experiences ultimately prevented me from taking a more odious path, they’ll do the same for him. Because ultimately, that’s all I can do.

How do I do these things? Well, I have a few ideas, though I’m sure I’ll need more. I’ll have to pay attention to the media he consumes, and work to discuss it with him. I’ll have to listen to his language and discuss why some things are hateful or hurtful. I’ll need to make sure he’s surrounded by people who are different than himself, in race, gender, sexuality, belief and more. And I’ll have to stay vigilant in the ways that the alt-right (or whatever this sleazy ooze calls itself in 10+ years) recruits people, and make sure it doesn’t happen to KRH. It’s a tall order, but it might be one of the most important things I can do as a parent.

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