It’s been a hell of a week.
This week we’re bringing you highlights from our first ever HOPE not hate/Ctrl Alt-Right Delete conference, held in Washington DC on June 28. We’ll also be releasing selected audio and video from the conference via the HOPE not hate podcast. Subscribe here.
Melissa’s Opening Remarks
As prepared for delivery
I want to start by acknowledging that it’s been a week. Every week in the Trump era is exhausting but this one has been especially difficult. It’s gratifying to see so many people in front of me right now, ready to fight another day. Thank you for being here.
I started Ctrl Alt-Right Delete in November in 2016, not long after I’d decided to make it my mission to learn everything I could about this so-called alt-right movement and how they’d weaponized the Internet so successfully against us.
At the time I thought a few of my colleagues in the progressive world would be interested in what I learned but I greatly underestimated the response. The first newsletter went out to 200 people, all of who signed up from a single Facebook post. Today we reach over 14,000 readers every week.
The newsletter’s audience quickly expanded beyond my individual network. In addition to progressive activists and organizers I was surprised at the number of folks in media, tech, and national security circles who subscribed. Even more surprising were how many European readers I picked up, notably the research team from HOPE not hate. Informal conversations about our shared weird hobbies eventually led to this incredible partnership and today’s conference.
HOPE not hate for those of you who are just hearing about them is the UK’s largest anti-racist organisation and premier anti-fascist campaign. It has been instrumental in the political defeat of several far-right political parties over in the UK, in the banning of a dangerous neo-nazi movement by the British government, and recently led the campaign to prevent UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader, Nigel Farage – a close friend of Donald Trump and prominent Fox News contributor – from being elected to the British parliament. More recently, it helped defeat a pan-European attempt by far-right activists to harass humanitarian rescue ships in the Mediterranean.
But HOPE not hate also works at a community level, where it has pioneered techniques to engage divided neighborhoods, developing shared identities and using Socratic questioning and empathetic listening to bridge divides.
This year HOPE not hate has expanded into the US, and I’m proud to partner with them on Ctrl Alt-Right Delete each week. Their research team produces incredible content allowing me to offer my readers an even deeper understanding of the many threats we face. I’ve learned a lot from working with HOPE not hate and I’m passionate about bringing them into the progressive fold here at home.
The threats we face are terrifying both in volume and the consistency at which they come at us. The past year and a half has been relentless. Just when you think you have a handle on how to fight back, another piece of news breaks. I’m overwhelmed. We all are.
I started Ctrl Alt Right Delete because I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. The more we know about what happens in the dark corners of the Internet, the more we understand about how Donald Trump taps into those forces, the better equipped we are to fight back.
I joke about reading 4chan so that you don’t have to but the truth is I think we all need a basic working knowledge of information warfare, how hate groups organize online, and influence operations. We can’t defeat an enemy we don’t understand. Helping others gain that knowledge is my passion, and the best way I know how to fight against Trump and for democracy.
Here’s what you need to know:
This is a global problem. Donald Trump is the American version of a global movement with a clear vision of what they want the world to become. The alt-right coalition is white supremacist movement who want to maintain white supremacy at any cost. They’re willing to destroy democracies around the world if it means keeping people of color and women from accessing more political power. And they work together to accomplish this in a way that left of center movements currently don’t.
They have weaponized the Internet. I’ll get into this more in the first panel but this coalition have weaponized the social networks we use every day against us, pitting us against one another by exploiting our cultural and political weaknesses. They’ve gamed social media to amplify their views, spread disinformation and run targeted harassment campaigns against people of color and women driving them offline and out of the conversation. And for the most part, tech companies have let them.
This isn’t a policy fight. This coalition are largely uninterested in any legislative or policy agenda. Here’s what they love: white nationalism, Any policy that makes life harder for Immigrants, Muslims, people of color of LGBTQ Americans, they’re all for. If you have a right wing uncle or friend you went to highschool with, you’ve probably seen this in action on Facebook. That radicalized language online is getting stronger and more consistent as the alt-right coalition congeals. A University of Amsterdam analysis of 3 billion reddit comments shows that disparate Internet communities are forming a coherent identity around hating liberals, Donald Trump, and racial resentment. It’s growing in volume but also in consistency.
To win we need to get out of our comfort zones. We’re here because a white supremacist movement controls the White House, Congress, and as they reminded us this week, the Supreme Court. That doesn’t mean that every Republican is a white nationalist but the alt-right movement now dominates the Republican party. This is a nightmare scenario, and if I’m being honest I don’t believe the left in America has yet risen to meet the challenge. There are pockets of resistance that inspire me: the Parkland students, Indivisible, striking teachers, but winning against this movement requires a consistent stream of non-violent direct actions large and small. Robert Mueller isn’t going to save us. Tom Arnold absolutely isn’t. Winning in November won’t be enough. We’re in the fight of our lives and our resistance needs to be bolder, braver, and a lot more creative. We need to work across sectors, and we need to think globally.
How do we beat back this enemy? What strategies are working and what should we stop doing? How can we win again? These are the questions I want to start to answer today. If we’ve done this right, everyone should leave this conference armed with information, tactics, and new strategic ideas.
Milo reminds us all he’s the literal worst
By Kendall Brown
On Thursday, less than 30 miles from the HOPE not hate conference, a gunman in Annapolis opened fire on the Capital Gazette newsroom, killing five.
This happened less than 48 hours after Milo Yiannopoulos said on Instagram that he was looking forward to vigilantes gunning journalists down. As news reports came out about the shooting, Milo began posting photos of himself holding a rifle, also on Instagram, saying he regrets nothing about what he said.
To be clear, we aren’t saying that the Milo should be blamed for the shooting. But the reality is that online threats toward journalists make newsrooms across the nation less safe. They are dangerous, and as long as social media companies continue to provide a platform for them, they are culpable for any violence they inspire.
We refuse to allow people like Milo — people who actively seek to cause pain in others so that they can laugh — turn America into something ugly and mean. Taking away his online platform may only be one step — but it’s a step in the right direction.
Tweets from the conference
Conference attendees were incredibly active on Twitter on Thursday — even getting #HOPEnothate trending in D.C.! You can view all of the tweets from the conference using the #HOPEnothate hashtag. Here are few of our favorites:
No matter what they call themselves, we will never stop fighting to defeat them. Join us—subscribe to Ctrl Alt-Right Delete now: https://t.co/pcidvYuWju #HOPEnothate #CtrlAltRightDelete pic.twitter.com/CP0tSFvkHb
— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate_USA) June 28, 2018
The alt-right embraces free speech rights, as code for hate speech rights, effectively to win the support American youth. And Trump echoed them just yesterday when he hosted a group of youth at the White House, praising free speech, as he attacks the free Press. #HOPEnothate #1A
— (((AlanRosenblatt))) (@DrDigiPol) June 28, 2018
— Matthew McGregor (@mcgregormt) June 28, 2018
This week has been particularly hard, but we cannot—and will not—give up. Defeating the alt right will take all of us—sign up to be a part of the #Resistance now: https://t.co/pcidvYuWju #HOPEnothate pic.twitter.com/DncuoZOmeQ
— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate_USA) June 28, 2018
This week’s ICYMI features writing from our conference speakers.
- We Have a Crisis of Democracy, Not Manners, Michelle Goldberg, New York Times
- Facebook caves in to pressure from conservatives, Angelo Carusone, CNN
- Far-right online message board users celebrate Annapolis newsroom shooting, Cristina López G., Media Matters
- Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online, Becca Lewis, Data & Society
- Charlottesville Will Move On, Michael Signer, New York Times
- Speechroom, birdlore and wordstock: white nationalists push for a new language to drive out the impure old, Ryan Lenz, SPLC
This week’s conference meant a lot to me personally. It was an incredible privilege to help organize with the HOPE not hate team, but I was surprised at how much I needed it as a participant as well. Just being in a room with so many people who both recognize the threat extremism poses and that we need new strategies and tactics was so refreshing. At the end of the day I was exhausted but also more hopeful than I’ve been in months.
I want to thank AFT for donating the space for the conference, especially Michelle Ringuette and Wanda Bailey. Thank you to Media Matters, Precision Strategies and Blue State digital for their staff support. Thank you Simon Clark and Simon Tuttle. Thank you to our keynote speakers and panelists. A special thanks to Kitty Kurth, whose contributions are numerous both in bringing Hope not hate to the US and making this conference a reality.
Finally, this week’s newsletter is dedicated to Jacquelyn Jacobs, a longtime reader who traveled all the way from Washington State to attend the conference and was excited to take what she’d learned back home to her Indivisible group. Hearing her story was the highlight of my day, (a day with multiple highs). Thank you Jacquelyn!