Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin


CULTURE WARLORD is a really intense and depressing work of journalism in which Talia Lavin, a Jewish reporter, goes undercover in the farthest-right bastions of the internet to interview, write about, and in some cases, catfish, some of the worst of the worst. Each chapter is an essay on various topics, ranging from millennial alt-rightists to "white" dating sites to incel forums to Christian extremists.

Like other people, I was a bit put off by the way this was organized and the way the subject matter was presented. With an author branded as "acerbic" in the book's blurb, I was expecting a more tongue-in-cheek style of writing to balance out all the awful, something in line with CONFEDERATES IN THE ATTIC, only less sympathetic: personal experiences and character portraits that build to the broader topics the author is trying to convey. I can see why she maybe chose not to do this: personal safety, perhaps, and a desire to not inspire more sympathy for these people by portraying them as "real" humans, but at times it made for some seriously dry reading.

I agreed with most of the author's points and I think this is a book that people should read if they want to learn more about some of the terrifying implications the rise of the alt-right means for the people they target. I'm also in awe of this author's bravery. Some of the people she encountered sounded legitimately terrifying; it just goes to show how far people go sometimes in the name of truth. But it's also a downer of a book, perhaps best read in small pieces. I binged it and I probably shouldn't have done that, as I'm seriously feeling the need for something light and happy now.

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars

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