*** A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW Editor's Choice/Staff Pick *** TIME MAGAZINE, "100 Must-Read Books of 2020" ***
"Lavin is an entertaining Virgil for this neo-Nazi hell...She forges engaging narrative paths through the distant and near history of the alt-right.” --THE NEW YORK TIMES
Talia Lavin is every skinhead's worst nightmare: a loud and unapologetic Jewish woman, acerbic, smart, and profoundly antiracist, with the investigative chops to expose the tactics and ideologies of online hatemongers.
Culture Warlords is the story of how Lavin, a frequent target of extremist trolls (including those at Fox News), dove into a byzantine online culture of hate and learned the intricacies of how white supremacy proliferates online. Within these pages, she reveals the extremists hiding in plain sight online: Incels. White nationalists. White supremacists. National Socialists. Proud Boys. Christian extremists. In order to showcase them in their natural habitat, Talia assumes a range of identities, going undercover as a blonde Nazi babe, a forlorn incel, and a violent Aryan femme fatale. Along the way, she discovers a whites-only dating site geared toward racists looking for love, a disturbing extremist YouTube channel run by a fourteen-year-old girl with over 800,000 followers, the everyday heroes of the antifascist movement, and much more. By combining compelling stories chock-full of catfishing and gate-crashing with her own in-depth, gut-wrenching research, she also turns the lens of anti-Semitism, racism, and white power back on itself in an attempt to dismantle and decimate the online hate movement from within.
Shocking, humorous, and merciless in equal measure, Culture Warlords explores some of the vilest subcultures on the Web-and shows us how we can fight back.
Journalist Lavin debuts with an alarming investigation into online extremism. After publishing a handful of articles on the far right, Lavin became the target of racist and misogynistic trolls who sent sexually explicit messages to her on Twitter and discussed whether she was "too ugly to rape" in a private chat room called the Bunkhouse. Unbeknownst to members of the Bunkhouse and other white nationalist websites and forums, however, Lavin, who describes herself as a "schlubby, bisexual Jew, living in Brooklyn," was adopting fake online personas (for example, a "blonde, gun-toting" Iowan named Ashlynn) to monitor their conversations. The book also documents her infiltrations of a community of far-right "incels," a "Neo-nazi terror propaganda cell," and a white supremacist dating site. Lavin shares plenty of disturbing rhetoric and reveals eye-opening statistics on just how popular some of these communities are, but her analysis of the factors behind their appeal, and what can be done to stop online intolerance, doesn't break much new ground. Still, this is a bracing and wide-ranging look at the internet as a breeding ground for racism and misogyny. Readers with a strong stomach for hateful ideology will find plenty of harrowing takeaways.