Social media 'actively laying groundwork' to turn boys into white supremacists - US mum

Supporters of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist political group, give Nazi salutes.
Supporters of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist political group, give Nazi salutes. Photo credit: Reuters

A mother in the United States has attacked social media and video bloggers for "laying the groundwork" to turn white teenagers into white supremacists. 

Joanna Schroeder says after watching her boys' online behaviour she is convinced that online culture plays a large part in fostering extreme views in young white men.

The nature of social media is "created to disillusion white boys away from progressive/liberal perspectives", Schroeder wrote on Twitter.

Boys are "inundated by memes featuring subtly racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic jokes". But because they are children, they don't understand the nuance of the memes and share them regardless of the offensive content. 

When they are "called out" for the jokes or memes they share they then feel shame and embarrassment, Schroeder wrote. 

"Shame is the force that, I believe, leads people to their worst decision."

Going hand-in-hand with these offensive memes are another set of memes that constantly reenforce the idea that "people are too sensitive" and "you can't say anything anymore".

This second type of memes will "ring true" for boys and make them come to believe they are "getting in trouble for 'nothing'".

"This narrative allows boys to shed the shame - replacing it with anger."

The result is that anyone with an opposing view to these offensive memes - "women, feminists, liberals, people of colour, gay folks, etc" - are labelled "snowflakes". 

The anger generated by the boys' feeling of shame is then directed towards the people who hold opposing views, she argues. And because there is no one there to "dismantle the snowflake fallacy", writes Schroeder, the boys are effectively being set up - "they're placed like baseballs on a tee and hit right out of the park".

Schroeder's post, which had recieved more than 76,000 retweets, appeared to hit a nerve as the rise of white supremacist ideas continues to grow in the United States. 

Many attribute the extreme views' rise to comments by US President Donald Trump, with Senator Elizabeth Warren accusing Trump of "cosying up to the white supremacists".

“He has given aid and comfort to white supremacists," Warren said earlier this month.

Although much of the attention is focused on the movement's rise in the United States, experts say it is a global threat. 

This was made violently clear earlier this year in Christchurch, when 51 people at two mosques were killed by a gunman driven by white supremist ideology. 

Demonstrators stand at a protest against President Trump's visit to El Paso.
Demonstrators stand at a protest against President Trump's visit to El Paso. Photo credit: Getty

An attack in El Paso, Texas, on August 4 added to the list of recent hate-driven shootings, with the alleged gunman there making explicit reference to the Christchurch attacks.

"Too many people still think of these attacks as single events, rather than interconnected actions," the historian Kathleen Belew told the Guardian. "We spend too much ink dividing them into anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Muslim or antisemitic attacks. True, they are these things. But they are also connected with one another through a broader white power ideology."

The shootings in Christchurch shocked many not just for their violence, but for the fact that the alleged gunman livestreamed the attacks online. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said websites that shared the video need to take more responsibility, and could no longer be seen as "the postman but not the publisher". 

The internet forum 4chan has also come under fire for its role in spreading white supremacist ideology.

In her Twitter post, Schroeder focused not on the role the internet plays in spreading hateful ideas to those who already share them, but the role it plays in helping young men form those ideas in the first place. 

"Nobody seems to notice this happening - except, it seems, moms of teenage girls who see the bizarre harassment their daughters endure. And, of course, moms like me who stalk our sons' social media."


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