Hi Reddit, I’m Oli Dugmore, I’m a journalist based in London, currently working as Head of News and Politics for JOE.co.uk.

We’ve released a documentary about Caolan Robertson, a filmmaker who previously worked with Alex Jones, Tommy Robinson, and a litany of alt-right figures. He says he’s left that behind and now works to counter their disinformation. He also claims that Tommy Robinson only espouses his ideas because it makes a profit. The film looks at how someone can be radicalised so quickly and if there’s any path to forgiveness. Tommy Robinson also swears at me for quite a long time, so that’s definitely worth a watch.

As a journalist I’ve interviewed the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Peter Hitchens, reported on the ground for the US 2020 election, and produced the most-viewed video of the UK’s 2019 election (~60m views).

Ask me anything!

Proof: https://twitter.com/OliDugmore/status/1405202613071667205?s=20

Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYUm-hKcMcI&t=282s

Longread: https://www.joe.co.uk/politics/caolan-robertson-tommy-robinson-edl-byline-tv-266122

EDIT: Thanks for your questions, I enjoyed the discussion, I'm out of here. Message me on Twitter if there's something else you want to ask.

Comments: 654 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

Parziwal262 karma

Where do you draw the line between a conservative and someone who belongs to the alt-right?

theduggfather269 karma

My definitions would be...

Conservative: Someone who believes in the political value of preserving culture, tradition and customs, history, and institutions. That change should be incremental and gradual.

Alt-right: Someone who believes in the ideas of the far-right, like white supremacy, but without adhering to the large monolithic political ideologies connected to it, like Nazism. Rather they are part of a fractured online body, that uses irony and memes to communicate their ideas.

If this is of further interest 'Kill All Normies' by Angela Nagle is a textbook and has been indispensable for me.

politicsandletters97 karma

While it’s an engaging read and provides an interesting primer on the development of one strand of the online extreme right, I would add a couple of caveats to the recommendation of Nagle’s Kill All Normies.

Firstly, whilst it probably describes the trajectories of some members of that group, it kinda suggests that one can draw a straight line between “gamer gate” and the election of Trump. This is a bit simplistic.

Furthermore, it has a lot to say about tiny minority groups on Tumblr, suggesting that the existence of furries and the like there can be blamed for pushing people to the right. Again, might be true for some people but probably overstates the importance of those groups.

Nonetheless, it provides an interesting enough overview of some aspects of online politics in the early 2010s.

theduggfather35 karma

Yeah fair

SamuraiMathBeats22 karma

Would you include ‘conspiracy theories’ like the election was stolen or the Covid vaccine is malicious in some way? I think there are polls showing that over half of Republican voters believe those things, so would you group half the Republican base as alt-right?

theduggfather25 karma

For the film I've spent some time in Tommy's Telegram channel and there's a lot of anti-vaxx stuff.

I guess it depends how you define conspiracy theory, because it could apply to their ideology itself too.

Fuck_Brooke_Shields-14 karma

If this is of further interest 'Kill All Normies' by Angela Nagle is a textbook and has been indispensable for me.

Oh dear.

tricheboars17 karma

Angela Nagle seems like a academic and journalist to me. The title is something but it's a 4chan reference I'd wager.

theduggfather17 karma

It is

mattwinkler00777 karma

What sorts of dialogue appear most effective at beginning de-radicalizing someone you know?

Or in other words, how best to approach discussing these ideas critically, without anyone taking offense and shutting down conversation?

theduggfather155 karma

I haven't ever done this - talked someone out of radicalisation, but I would say empathy.

It's what I use when interviewing people who are verbalising extreme views. Often times you're facing the same question but ending up with a different answer EG Why can't I get a job? Or why can't I attract a romantic partner?

Is that the fault of immigration or something else?

Understanding that these people are just looking for a way to rationalise a world that is cruel, unfair and heartless and arrived at a simple logic.

So I would say be kind. Which is difficult when you're talking about people who adhere to hateful ideas.

akingzzz56 karma

Do you believe Caolan is truly repentant, or opportunistic?

theduggfather99 karma

The latter

Nazeex40 karma

Hi Oli, I'll try to keep it brief:

  1. What do you think of people 'in the alt-right' who are not white?

  2. Where does national pride and patriotism become malevolent? Is it morally wrong to want to preserve current societal culture?

  3. Do you believe we should be allowed to criticise elements of other cultures and religions, and where do you think this dialogue can or should take place if so?

theduggfather37 karma

  1. Difficult question because, as I've said in another answer, you can be part of the alt right and not adhere to the ideas of creating a white ethnostate or white racial consciousness. If you do adhere to those ideas and aren't white then there is some... cognitive dissonance going on. If you don't you could just be along for the subversion / trolling or be an edgelord
  2. I don't know where that line is, actually, having thought about it. Because there is clearly a case for a positive national identity and its importance to an individual's sense of self. I think that transition point toward malevolence is hard to define though it obviously exists. I want to do something in the future on this topic. No, it is not morally wrong to want to preserve societal culture but I would query the "current." Culture is liquid, constantly adjusting and shifting according to myriad influences. Why is what's current better than what came before or what will follow?
  3. Yes, no question. Good faith debate, rational discussion are foundational elements of a free society. This dialogue should probably not take place on the internet. Although I guess a dialogue between two people via Zoom or whatever would be okay and technically on the internet. In essays, books, public speaking events, debates, discussion between friends and family. Which I suppose you would loosely term the public intellectual sphere.

Notademocrat1710 karma

Followup to question 1: on your point about many just being edgelords, what percent of people that participate in these circles are actually alt-right? I’d imagine just a handful? I also take some issue with the cognitive dissonance statement, it seems to infer that POC should think a certain way because of their immutable characteristics.

theduggfather30 karma

Yeah I think a significant number are not there to create a white ethnostate and just the memes, being able to say what they like / offend and outrage mainstream progressives.

And I don't think POC should think any certain way. I'm saying I don't think it would be in their interests to turn their home into a white ethnostate.

Joshkapnotts40 karma

Do you think Caolan's actually changed? he seemed quite insincere and he's gone on to make similarly biased videos just for the other side

theduggfather117 karma

I spoke to a world-leading expert in the psychology of extremism, Arie W Kruglanski, as part of the research for the film.

He told me it's actually very common for extremists to change the ideology to which they are an adherent. EG many former Neo Nazis go on to work exposing the far-right because it gives them the same kind of meaning and significance that they were striving for as a part of that movement.

This is a section I quote in the written piece: "You can be radical on the right, you can be radical on the left, you can be radical religiously, in your lifestyle, sport. You can be addicted to love.
"There are many different kinds of extremism that differ in their content, but what extremism usually means is focusing on one thing. Mother Theresa willed one thing, to be a good person, a humanitarian. A person on the far-right is focusing on a far-right narrative that fears the purity of their country is in danger.”
"The question is, what is the motivation here? It is the mother of all motives, the motive that makes the world go round, what I call the quest for significance - the need to be somebody, to have respect, to have dignity.
"This need is a major political force. It underlies the Proud Boys, it underlies Black Lives Matter, it underlies the suffragette movement, the gay movement, it underlies all the major revolutions that transformed world history. It underlies to some extent Brexit.
"It also fuels extremism of the kind you're talking about.

"And if you become disenchanted, if you feel they’ve betrayed you, that you're gay and they're anti-gay, you leave,” Kruglanski continues. “But people who are extreme... will look for some alternative ideology that promises significance and then will gravitate towards it.
"By the way, several of my friends who research the far-right movement are former Neo Nazis, who are now leading the fight to bring people out,” he adds. “They gain tremendous significance from this."

televator1332 karma

Using Mother Theresa as an example of the far left is very troubling

theduggfather62 karma

I don't think Kruglanski was intending to use her as an example of the far left, rather that she was an extremist

stubbledchin6 karma

the motive that makes the world go round, what I call the quest for significance

I guess it is a question of what moral ground someone is willing to cross to acheive that significance that is the problem.

theduggfather15 karma

Yes, and that's what makes an extremist. Someone who is prepared to elevate and pursue that need at the expense of others. IE food, shelter, societal acceptance

ash970038 karma


theduggfather39 karma

Over the years I've spoken to quite a few others who have left but aren't high profile as part of research or for other stories. I was involved in the production of this film about the whistleblower who foiled the plot to kill MP Rosie Cooper: https://www.facebook.com/365076723656400/videos/370296163557696

I agree with you the conflation of terms like far right, alt right, Neo Nazi, and their misuse or excessive use, often serve to undermine the meaning of the terms themselves.

I think we got it right here although I'd be interested to hear whether you think it's accurate.

ash970021 karma


theduggfather54 karma

An old mate always used to say to me "You can't eat a flag." Which I think works on two levels.

  1. Nationalism does nothing to address the actual social issues a society faces
  2. Feed them so they don't need to try and eat the flag

There's no doubt the British media's unwillingness to confront certain aspects of grooming gang stories played into the hands of alt right: "The media isn't talking about this, it's a cover up" etc etc

They were reporting it, a lot, but not necessarily in the way certain elements wanted it to be described.

EG the majority of people on the UK sex offenders register are white men (off the top of my head I think it's ~90%). The media also don't go around saying we need to talk about the traditional cultural values of white Britain because it's creating so many rapists and paedophiles.

On forgiveness

I understand the perhaps desire to declare your past publicly but you don't have to. Modern society encourages us to post every aspect of our lives for others to consume, to yearn for the adoration of strangers, when in reality the only thing that really matters is the opinion of those you trust, who have your best interests at heart. You don't need to tell the world if you don't want to.

If you want to message me about this I'm here and I won't judge you. Forgiveness is out there mate, trust me.

ash970020 karma


theduggfather22 karma

I agree with you that policy can prevent radicalisation. That's what I was trying to get at with the flag metaphor, which reading back now may have been a bit confusing

ash9700-6 karma


theduggfather68 karma

So a year or so ago I actually interviewed the woman in that clip, Afua Hirsch, and asked her about it. The point she made was that white people who critique the UK are rarely asked to leave the country, whereas ethnic minority commentators are often told "If you don't like it here go somewhere else" and she, I think rightly, says that comment is racialised, that because of her blackness she is somehow less British or less entitled to live here. So we included it to demonstrate the point that far-right ideas are bleeding over into mainstream culture, not so as to say that Ferrari is far-right because he, clearly, isn't.

KalidusSays22 karma

Massive fan Oli, my question, what person that you've interviewed/met has gone on to let you down/disappointed you the most?

theduggfather61 karma

Corbyn, for having the opportunity to institute radical change in the UK but being too principled to compromise / play the games necessary to win power.

Rory Stewart, for quitting. Don't agree with a lot of his politics but genuinely curious and insightful. We are poorer without him but I suspect he'll come back after the Boris years.

Corka21 karma

What is the nuttiest claim you've heard in your time investigating the alt-right?

theduggfather58 karma

That white people are superior

theduggfather55 karma

I appreciate that's probably not the answer you were looking for, so more earnestly I would say a lot of the false flag claims, there are many. And obviously there's high profile stuff like Pizzagate, which is basically bad fanfic.

flavourofthemoth20 karma

Hi Oli. Why do you think young, disaffected, often white, working-class British men are drawn to the alt-right as opposed to other political group? Is it a somehow natural fit, or is it effective targeted marketing from alt-right groups?

theduggfather43 karma

I think there's a commonality between it and many other forms of extremism - that it provides the kind of significance or respect they desire, and it's quite easily achievable by virtue of them being white. In another answer I quoted a professor (Arie Kruglanski) I interviewed as part of research for the doc, so I won't again here.

I also think the simplicity of their answers (IE racial purity) to complex problems (housing, poverty, climate change) are appealing if you haven't been able to make sense of those problems another way.

CarnivorousCumquat8 karma

Do you think that Laura Keunssberg is objective and independent given her "chummy" relationship with senior Tories?

theduggfather27 karma

I don't know Laura but I think the fact that she is disliked by people of all political tilts shows she is good at her job

henchy917 karma

Did you also laugh at the way Peter Hitchens orders a beer?

theduggfather12 karma

Yes and I loved it

Psychological-Pay1566 karma

How did you get to become a political journalist? Did you go to uni, etc, etc? What’s the story?

theduggfather28 karma

When I was a teenager I went to a careers fair and spoke to a reporter for the local newspaper who gave me one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received.

He told me not to study journalism but something I cared about and become an expert in that field (still working on that), that the necessary skills like writing, researching and interviewing can generally be learned over time but an in depth understanding of, say, marine biology, cannot.

I studied politics at uni and joined a student paper (The Tab), they gave me a job in London when I graduated. While I was doing that Mon-Fri I picked up shifts at the Sunday Times sports desk digital subbing on a Saturday night, because it's basically impossible to live in London on the starting salary of most media jobs.

Then I went to LBC (a radio station) and while I was there JOE approached me after hearing a political podcast I'd been doing in my spare time and asked if I'd be their political editor. It was a gamble going from legacy media back to a start up but the opportunity was too good to turn down and here I am.

Stranger0172 karma

How would you recommend moving into the field from a later start?

theduggfather4 karma

Start writing, talking, or filming now. You will get better and then you can start pitching work and your ideas.

HopeBagels24955 karma

Have many people misread your name as Oil Dugmore?

theduggfather4 karma

A lot, it's usually auto-correct tho

turddealer5 karma

How would you define alt-right?

I've seen a number of definitions of it, and also notable people included withing the definition who seem completed different in terms of how they express their opinions, whether they're open to civilised debate and whether they're pushing radical dogma.

For example Tommy Robinson and Jordan Peterson being an obvious example.

theduggfather8 karma

I would say someone who believes in the ideas of the far-right, like white supremacy, but without adhering to the large monolithic political ideologies connected to it, like Nazism. Rather they are part of a fractured online body, that uses irony and memes to communicate their ideas. Often Trump fan bois.

Richard Spencer described himself as "alternative right" which was turned into "alt right" on 4chan's /pol/ board. His stated aim was to create an American white racial consciousness.

Also, I think a lot of people drawn to the alt right are not actually arsed about creating white racial consciousness or a white ethnostate. They're just there to subvert society, to be part of a counter culture.
'Kill All Normies' by Angela Nagle is good if you want to learn more about this.

matrixislife4 karma

How have you held the Labour Party responsible for the collapse of the left wing vote over the last few years?

If all voters can see is political in-fighting inside the party it's no surprise that they went stockholm syndrome at the last election, and it's not showing any signs of getting any better.

theduggfather20 karma

Do you mean, how have I personally held the Labour party to account?

thenotlowone4 karma

Is JOE a legitmate outlet? I thought it was like the Lad Bible?

theduggfather3 karma

I'd say so, but then I would

Omaha_Poker4 karma

Where do you sit politically and do you feel that any of your own bias has influenced this study?

theduggfather18 karma

So imo objectivity in journalism is a myth. If a human is involved in the process, there is bias. Even in a series of stated facts there is bias in the order in which they are stated.

I think journalism strives for objectivity with fairness - representing the best version of the opposite side's argument or beliefs in order to achieve balance.

I'm 27, so I'm still making up my mind about a lot of the world and my beliefs change. If i had to I would describe myself as a liberal, a socialist, and occasionally a bit anarcho-libertarian. Maybe libertarian socialist idk

Jayce2K4 karma

Tyson vs Wilder, who would you put money on?

theduggfather18 karma

Tyson all day, the dosser is going down within the 12

Jayce2K4 karma

At last, an AMA that's answered. Fury v Joshua? I'm with Tyson on that one

theduggfather8 karma

Yep Tyson again

mikey08013 karma

Thoughts on GB news?

theduggfather25 karma

Bad quality opening broadcast that will rapidly improve.

Not Fox, Ofcom in the UK prevents that from happening.

It expresses different political perspective from the other broadcasters, this is good. Media plurality is good.

More jobs for journalists is good.

Expect a significant number of presenters/staff will get turned over if they're not producing ratings.

I think there's a genuine gap in the market for it and those who are sneering at it now will regret doing so when they realise it has a significant cultural impact.

Or it folds in six months because people get fed up of watching Nigel Farage out of focus, when they can do so in focus on his YouTube channel. We'll see.

barejokez3 karma

in your view, is caolan anything other than a shapeshifter in search of internet clout?

from my observation, popularity, and specifically growth in popularity can be an addictive substance, and while some carve out a niche and stick with it, others become famous in their circle but move on once the original concept hits a viewership ceiling.

the political far right loves the "tell it like it is" stuff, but i would also say the political left loves the "i was a nazi but i've seen the error of my ways" story just as much. is this a genuine change of heart or the next evolution of an internet celebrity?

theduggfather4 karma

I think that's a good assessment. In the written piece I suggest similar by looking at his history, including a quite telling appearance on a Channel 4 show called 'Shut Your Facebook' where he says "There was this golden community of people on the internet who had fame and I wanted to be a part of it, we'd have arguments and relationship break-ups - just loads and loads of drama - and I was getting loads more fans and followers."

barejokez2 karma

Well quite. Will we see him boxing Floyd Mayweather in a few years?

theduggfather3 karma


nj24063 karma

Hi Oli, why should I care about Caolan now and do you believe he's being honest? Loved the bit where he mentioned going to "some Northern town, up the M4", that M4 from London to the South West...

theduggfather31 karma

I think you should care about Caolan because he's expressing a desire to no longer advocate racism. Providing a path for people to leave the far-right is important, why would anyone try to if they knew they would only ever face condemnation and excommunication?

I believe he's honest about wanting to leave those politics behind. I think his motivations for that are much more self-serving than the sudden and unexpected development of a desire to help others.

And yeah, that's not where the M4 goes, but I won't hold a lack of encyclopaedic knowledge about the UK's motorways against him - I can't drive.

naeleros9 karma


There's now more money to be made espousing the other side. Seems more likely to me. The political/social climate is very different today than it was only a few years ago.

Opportunists will act opportunistically.

theduggfather15 karma

That's what I was getting by saying his motives are self-serving not altruistic

Snoutpile2 karma

What is your secret for a perfect lasagna?

theduggfather16 karma

Cook that ragu for a very long time

theduggfather8 karma

Oh and bay leaves in the bechamel

Ziggy_has_my_ticket3 karma

No, the bay leaves go in the ragu so they can really soak that flavor out.

theduggfather2 karma

Will try that next time

RayFuckinPurchase2 karma

Can you share any of the more unsavoury voice notes Tommy Robinson left you? Don't think we particularly need to be worried about his pride or it threatening your journalistic integrity, as he put it.

He's just a racist arsehole and the more that's exposed for the plain fact that it is the better.

theduggfather18 karma

I can't for legal reasons

cowman18902 karma

Hi Oli, love your work with JOE. Are there any documentaries or topics you want to film next or planning to? Or something really niche that you probably will never be able to do?

theduggfather7 karma

We're having an ideas meeting next week. Current ones I'm thinking about are SSRIs, what Arch-Remainers are doing now, and steroid use by British men. Let me know if you think there's something else worth covering.

musicnjournalism2 karma

What’s your best advice to an aspiring journalist/documentary filmmaker like myself?

theduggfather8 karma

Never settle, know your worth, start now.

MildlyAgreeable2 karma

Christopher Hitchens or Peter Hitchens?

theduggfather2 karma

Christopher, just

GlassiamIsAFag1 karma

Hope I’m not to late Oli, but how does it feel to play second to the guy who ate a deep fried chip roll at Lad Bible?

theduggfather3 karma

Haha, I'm the one who ate the deep fried chip roll, when I was in Hartlepool. Can't tell if you're taking the piss of me or not. If you're talking about Joe Gilmore, he's a good mate of mine. Happy to play second to him.

hswrk1 karma

Do you believe Caolan more, or Tommy?

theduggfather9 karma

At this stage I believe they are both about as credible as each other. That may change depending how long Caolan sticks at his new politics.



theduggfather0 karma

haha piss off

RedditIsAShitehole0 karma

You work for Joe.co.U.K.

Or StalinJoe.co.U.K. as some people call them.

Do you think your employer is left leaning, far-left leaning, or centrist?

theduggfather9 karma

Who else, other than yourself, calls us StalinJoe.co.U.K. ?

rfp1996-5 karma

Do you believe Caolan is truly remorseful for the damage he has done? Or is this another grift?

theduggfather2 karma

Difficult one, that's basically the question we try to provoke with the film, so I'm glad you asked.

I think he's yet to fully reconcile the consequences of his actions but there's time for that