UPDATE: I’m signing off now – a big thank you to everyone who joined in on the discussion and asked really insightful questions! It’s been a whirlwind few weeks since coming out from undercover and it’s been great to see people engage in the work we’re doing at HOPE not hate to combat the alt-right.

If you want to read more about my year inside the alt-right you can read my story (and download our entire report) here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com

You can also find out more and support HOPE not hate’s work on challenging fascism and hate groups here: UK: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk USA: https://hopenothate.com

Thanks!!!


Hi. My name is Patrik Hermansson.

For the last year, I was sent undercover inside the alt-right by HOPE not hate, the anti-fascist research and campaigning organization.

I ate and drank with them. I was in Charlottesville with them. They boasted about ties to the White House in front of me. They thought I was one of them. I infiltrated their groups in the UK and America - and I caught it all on camera.

What do you want to know about my year with the alt-right? Why did I do it? How close was I to getting caught?

Ask me anything!

Some more information about our work:

My story in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/opinion/alt-right-white-supremacy-undercover.html

Our full report on the alt-right: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/my-year-inside-the-international-alt-right

Proof: https://i.redd.it/cunb2esmszuz.jpg

Comments: 229 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

drunkdumbo43 karma

Were you ever close to "breaking character"?

I'm assuming it's gotta be hard to keep a straight face and pretend to agree with what is being discussed?

Since revealing your story have you received threats from anyone/anywhere in the movements?

Patrik_Hermansson47 karma

There were a few times when I was very angry and what people were saying around me hit me very personally. At those times I was extremely frustrated and wanted to oppose them. At those times, yes it’s difficult.

Yes there has been some threats.

practicaldad33 karma

Patrick, did you find a friendship you weren’t expecting while in this group?

Patrik_Hermansson66 karma

While I ended up spending a lot of time with some of these people, I was always aware that, if I were not white and male, they would not be acting the same way towards me. Ultimately many of them were trying to manipulate me, to radicalise me towards their own warped political ends.

antique_land28 karma

Who is the funniest person you meet while undercover?

Patrik_Hermansson58 karma

There were some pretty colourful characters but perhaps the funniest was Stead Steadman who went everywhere dressed like a member of the Hitler youth in khaki shorts and a khaki shirt. One time I accompanied him to a Nordic ritual in London and he was blowing a horn but couldn’t get it to work so it just let out fart noises. It was very funny.

TuckRaker25 karma

What did you find is driving people towards these beliefs? Were they instilled by family members? Is it simply a victim mentality? What's the driver and why are we seeing what appears to be a rise in these beliefs right now?

Patrik_Hermansson68 karma

This is a really complex question and probably too hard to answer here quickly. The real question is what makes white men, many of whom are middle class and/or relatively well educated, decide that they - not ethnic minorities - are in fact the real victims in society. The whole movement is consumed with a sense of victimhood. They genuinely believe that white men are the most oppressed people in society. Understanding why this is is the key. The answer is very complicated. Often it is about a sense of relative decline. In other words they are not doing as well in life as they expected to. Many are from white middle class families, went and got a degree and yet are now in their mid-twenties but still don’t have a job and live at home. They then resent being told how ‘lucky’ and ‘privileged’ they are. In short, while they are privileged, they don’t feel it and this makes them angry and causes them to search for answers. The alt-right offers easy answers to these very difficult question: “Your life isn’t going as you planned, well here is someone to blame!” Of course, on top of this there is plain old racism, sexism, and hatred.

ln0100001121 karma

Hey Patrik,

Amazing work, it must have been equal parts terrifying and infuriating.

From spending time with the alt-right, what do you think it is that is attracting a younger base to the movement?

Do you think there are things that mainstream political parties could/should be doing to stop them being radicalised?

Thanks!

Patrik_Hermansson26 karma

Thanks very much for your kind words!

On political parties – Yes absolutely. One of the reasons that so many people are looking for alternative movements, both left and right, is that to some extent mainstream parties have continually failed to offer exciting visions for the future that offer solutions to the problems so many people face. Until that happens young people will continue to look for alternatives and unfortunately that means, in some cases, far right alternatives.

Patrik_Hermansson17 karma

On a younger base – Great question! It’s complicated of course and it differs between individuals what it is that attracts them. But generally speaking, the alt-right has managed to position itself as rebellious and a movement against the elites. They are also very good at making use of online forums and social medias where they have given lots of young men a sense of community and a cause to identify with.

atleticonacional20 karma

What was the scariest thing you heard or saw or experienced being undercover with them?

Patrik_Hermansson27 karma

Charlottesville was obviously frightening, as was my time with the armed neo-Nazis in the Northwest. Some of the early meetings, before I fully gained trust, was of course nerve-racking but I found myself settling into it quicker than I thought I would.

Qu1nlan19 karma

What were you most surprised to find was true about the alt-right? What were you most surprised to find was untrue?

Patrik_Hermansson32 karma

I was surprised about several things! How young people in it are and how international it is. It’s extremely well connected internationally, I talked about Swedish far-right activists in Sweden at barbecues in the US and met people from all over Europe on dinners and events. It’s also very openly racist but I was also taken aback by how much people in the movement glorify violence.

pmb1116 karma

Did you find yourself empathising with them?

Patrik_Hermansson31 karma

At times you empathise with individuals on a human level. I spent a lot of time talking about their issues. But overall I was always aware of their ideas and what they wanted to achieve and that they liked me because of the colour of my skin. So at the end of the day it’s difficult to empathise with them.

jeroboam9016 karma

Hi Patrick, When you were undercover what was the closest you came to being found out? Was there a moment when you thought your life could be in danger?

Patrik_Hermansson26 karma

I mixed up parts of my backstory a few times and once I said the first part of my real name by accident after a long day. It created some confusion but I managed to quickly explain myself. I think in the moment I came up with a story of how I sometimes was using my middle name...!

salhagen14 karma

Hey Patrick,

Really respect your work. Did any alt-righter ever mention (1) the spread of disinformation or (2) the usage of ironic humour, for instance through memes, to propagate their ideology? If so, what did they say about it (e.g. were the vulnerabilities of new media seen as opportunities)?

Thanks!

Patrik_Hermansson17 karma

Thank you! Yes, that irony is a powerful tool to make their ideas more palatable was brought up often. You can read much more about this in the full report which you can download here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com

salhagen10 karma

I'm also researching the far-right on digital platforms at the University of Amsterdam. One question we encountered: what is new about the new right? One 'answer' we came up with is that they now seem to be funny - nazi's usually weren't. The 'new-far-right' has a transgressive, politically-incorrect character on their side, which is often a pool for jokes, whereas leftist thought is often characterised by tolerancy, and pointing to the alt-right's incorrectness often ends up feeding the trolls/them stating you misinterpret them.

How do you think one can best counter their use of transgressive humour? From your experience, were there ever lefist (online) actors that were effectively disturbing the alt-right narrative that subsequently annoyed the alt-righters you met?

Patrik_Hermansson1 karma

Hi there – it would be great to follow up this discussion over email. Could you please drop us a line at [email protected] ? Thanks!

practicaldad14 karma

Hi Patrick,

Why did your group feel the need for you to go undercover?

Patrik_Hermansson41 karma

This is a really good question. HOPE not hate do undercover research for a number of reasons. Firstly, many far-right groups portray a far more moderate image to the outside world than they do in private. Going undercover allows us to expose the true hateful politics behind the scenes. However, it also gives us an unparalleled understanding of how these far-right movements organise and interact. We also gain information about their plans which gives us time to plan our response. We are always one step ahead!

JavierLoustaunau13 karma

I'll ask the least exciting question first... how much overlap do you find between the Alt Right, Trump supporters and Trolls?

I feel like the biggest trolls I knew on social media jumped on the Trump bandwagon, have supported the alt right (under the guise of free speech) and now we know Russia weaponized troll farms.

Patrik_Hermansson14 karma

You do find considerable overlap and the trend you describe is common. That said, there are good reasons to not assume every Trump supporter supports the alt-right, or that every troll supports the alt-right etc. Trump was a phenomenon the alt-right latched onto for their own political gain and many have since disavowed him, for example, for his foreign policy positions. Likewise, trolls can be found on all sides of the political spectrum and none. Furthermore, the alt-right contains activists from a variety of far right movements (see our report’s breakdown of its factions: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/what-is-the-alternative-right ), and so might not have approached their support for Trump on the grounds others did. Similarly, many in the alt-right are not as familiar with internet culture and trolling.

Aston10012 karma

Hi, did you uncover any connections to current or former politicians?

Patrik_Hermansson23 karma

It depends which side of the movement you are talking about. The more extreme, racially obsessed ‘alt-right’ side of the movement have very few links to mainstream politicians due to their extremeness. However, I did manage to record Jason Jorjani, one of the leading alt-right figures (co-founder of altright.com alongside Richard Spencer), bragging that he had links to the Trump administration. You can read more about that in the essay I've written here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/my-year-inside-the-international-alt-right

However, the more moderate end of the movement (the so-called alt-light) have far more links to the White House and many even get press credentials! It’s terrifying. My colleague at HNH wrote about that here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/influence-of-the-alternative-right

Sytev10 karma

How concerned are you about doing this AMA, given the strong support for many alt right groups on this website?

Patrik_Hermansson26 karma

Hi – thanks for your question. No, I’m not worried. Ever since I exposed them I’ve got used to getting trolled by alt-right types.

lurchista9 karma

Hello, I'm a philosophy and social science student at a Mexican university and I'm working on a project about the Alt-Right movement. I wanted to ask 2 questions:

You wrote about sitting on review boards for new members of the Alt Right in London, can you talk about the recruitment and acceptance processes in the US/UK?

Also, can you talk about the internal ethical code that these groups have? You described the internal fights within the movement, and I imagine there's some sort of ethical norm that they have internally to keep the movement from completely destroying itself.

Thank you for your time and your dedication.

Patrik_Hermansson8 karma

Super good questions. Get in touch with us trough our website (hopenothate.com) and have a look at our full report. You can download it here: alternativeright.hopenothate.com

You_Need_Jesus_JD8 karma

I would think that it was not hard to convince them that you were one of their own. I'm also white and male, and I find that most of the conservatives I know just assume that I agree with their insane positions and beliefs. How hard was it to hold back your true feelings and agree with their lunacy when you disagreed strongly with their opinions?

Patrik_Hermansson11 karma

I agree, there is an assumption that white males should "naturally" agree with them. There were times when I was very angry and what people were saying around me hit me very personally. At those times I was extremely frustrated and it was difficult not to react.

Mduyesh8 karma

How much danger were you in during your undercover mission?

Patrik_Hermansson21 karma

HOPE not hate took every precaution to keep me safe but of course there is a level of risk that can’t be avoided. In the USA I spent time with hardcore neo-Nazis who were armed to the teeth. I have no doubt that, had I been uncovered, it would have had grave consequences for my health. I was also in Charlottesville and just feet away from the fatal car crash that tragically killed Heather Heyer.

I wrote about it here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/my-year-inside-the-international-alt-right

Barry_Scotts_Cat7 karma

Whens a full documentory going to come out?

Patrik_Hermansson10 karma

We're really excited about the film but it will be a bit longer unfortunately! To stay up to date follow @hopenothate @hopenothate_usa or sign up here: https://hopenothate.com/videos/

Absobloodylootely7 karma

Hi, based on being so close with these guys, what do you think is the best way to counter them? Facts, feelings, ignore them, mental health?

Patrik_Hermansson22 karma

For those at the core of the movement the possibility of them changing their views is very slim, least of all as a result by presenting them with the (many) facts that debunk them. What will counter the views of those who are still only slightly red-pilled is likely going to be their engagement with counternarratives to what the far right offer them that address the fears and grievances that led them to alternative political voices in the first place. Similarly, their engagement with people from the groups the far right attack will help to humanise them and make them more resistant to divisive narratives.

Facts matter, but (truthful) narratives that positively address the feelings that lead people to far right politics is more effective than just countering with facts.

Graciegail6 karma

Sorry if you've answered this already, but after your time with the alt-right how organised do you feel they are in terms of social disruption and organised acts of violence? It seems that what plagued groups before was that lack of leadership and cohesiveness. Are these gross more savvy?

Thanks, Grace.

Patrik_Hermansson13 karma

The alt-right are constituted by may different groups so it’s not cohesive but individual groups can be and they definitely have the ability for organised violence. But they don’t necessarily need to be organised to cause a lot of damage, to individuals and society at large. The hateful, dehumanising language and social pressure within these groups can make individuals commit violent acts. The Charlottesville attack is one example. In the US, I met with white supremacists group who promise to carry arms and practice for the coming race war. And in Europe there are multiple groups who do combat training for example.

black_flag_4ever5 karma

What do these people actually believe in and is it coherent; and what do you think is the difference between the alt-right and other conservative groups?

Patrik_Hermansson17 karma

The views prevalent among the broad alt-right are often deeply incoherent, in part because the alt-right is essentially the coalescing of a number of disparate far-right ideologies, many of which clash, into a loose new movement. Also, views commonly held by the alt-right are often just not thought through; for example, how a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” could ever occur, or how a post-industrial economy could cope if all women are forced out of their jobs and back to their homes.

As for differences between the alt-right and other conservative groups, part of what marks it out as new is the sheer extremeness of its positions, which far surpasses typically “conservative” groups, whom the alt-right generally treat with great hostility. The alt-right bucks the right-wing trend of trying to make right wing ideology more palatable by using softer messaging; the alt-right often tries to be as offensive as possible in order to turn off “normies” rather than win them over. Also the centrality of trolling online is a relatively new phenomenon on the right.

Nigel04074 karma

Hi I’m impressed that you took on this challenge and imagine your time under cover will have been stressful, even distressing, at times. I haven’t actually read the article about your experience, due to my health. I would like to know if it’s likely for any of the bigots you met to end up being prosecuted?

Patrik_Hermansson5 karma

Hi and thank you! Probably not, most of what these people do is legal. Some of the violent ones of course should be.

usuallyclassy694 karma

How often did these guys use racial, religious it homophobic slurs?

Patrik_Hermansson11 karma

All the time. To be honest, it was extremely hard to be in the same room as these people at times, having to sit there and stay quiet as they came out with torrents of abuse.

Fake_William_Shatner3 karma

What surprised you most or was most different from your expectations that you had before going under cover?

Patrik_Hermansson10 karma

Thanks for your question. I was surprised at how many young people are in it and and how international it is. It’s extremely well connected internationally. It’s also very openly racist but I was also taken aback by how much people in the movement glorify violence.

Nebbing793 karma

Are they preparing for a race war?

Patrik_Hermansson5 karma

Not all but some absolutely are. It’s extremely scary. Many of the people I met, especially in the North West of America were armed and genuinely seemed ready to use them!

EinsteinBurger3 karma

Will you be going undercover in an alt left group?

Patrik_Hermansson21 karma

Define the alt-left.

HarpyFA2 karma

In your year in the alt-right, what was your scariest experience? Any experiences that nearly made you blow your cover, intentionally or otherwise?

Patrik_Hermansson6 karma

Good question! I mixed up parts of my backstory a few times and once I said the first part of my real name by accident after a long day. It created some confusion but I managed to quickly explain myself. I think in the moment I came up with a story of how I sometimes was using my middle name...!

Charlottesville was obviously frightening, as was my time with the armed neo-Nazis in the Northwest. Some of the early meetings, before I fully gained trust, was of course nerve-racking but I found myself settling into it quicker than I thought I would.

tangerine-dreamer2 karma

Will the full documentary include much detail on the Traditional Britain Group? I'd love to see more of what lies behind their (admittedly rather thin) veneer of "respectability".

Patrik_Hermansson6 karma

HOPE not hate have written lots about the TBG. Check out the profile for Lauder Frost in the full report: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/whos-who We also wrote about meeting they had a few weeks ago: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2017/10/22/waters-sellner-speak-traditional-britain-group-conference/

idontknowduude2 karma

Were you ever forced, or did you witness any violence towards another race?

Patrik_Hermansson8 karma

No, most of the groups I was in was mostly interested in ideology.

BarbLivesMatter2 karma

First off, amazing work. Your patience in your research is very clear to see.

From your time observing the alt-right, do you think that a major cause is the two-party system creating these extremists on both ends? Would you be an advocate for a more parliamentary/multiple party system to avoid this divergent trend between people?

Patrik_Hermansson10 karma

Thanks very much!! I agree that to an extent, one of the reasons that so many people are looking for alternative movements, both left and right, mainstream parties have continually failed to offer exciting visions for the future that offer solutions to the problems so many people face. Until that happens young people will continue to look for alternatives and unfortunately that means, in some cases, far right alternatives.

freshdatboi0 karma

Would you say the alt-right generally smell more like basements or mace?

Patrik_Hermansson12 karma

Mace doesn’t really smell, so I’d have to say basements. Millennial Woes smelt faintly of hay, which was disconcerting while many others smelt of sadness and loneliness.

TheGayslamicQueeran-23 karma

Did you end up getting cucked bigly?

Patrik_Hermansson52 karma

Cucked Bigly is my drag name.