Honors Thesis Spotlight: Fortifying Hate: How Social Media Acts as a Tool for White Supremacist Groups

Alternative right (alt-right) white supremacist groups are increasingly popular and highlighted in the mainstream media, specifically during the 2016 presidential election. Unlike past elections, alt-right groups are able to amass a greater following through resources available on the internet. Social media platforms provide group leaders with  accessible and far-reaching communication channels. YouTube is one of the most successful platforms for disseminating information in an engaging and visually interesting way. For the alt-right, two YouTubers have a significant influence on the platform: Stefan Molyneux and Hunter Avallone. They are both introductory characters to the alt-right world on social media platforms. This study is based on the content that these creators curate for their audience and their impact. Overall, the researcher investigates the topics of alt-right channels, their quantitative metrics, such as views, and the channel’s user engagement.

More specifically, the study is prefaced by three queries including 1) what kinds of topics do alt-right YouTube channels cover in their videos? 2) which categories of videos, either institutional political or social issues, are more watched and liked by viewers?, and 3) Which categories of videos, either institutional political or social issues, receive the most comments from viewers? The videos are categorized by institutional political categories and social issues with various subcategories including “other” to include a video that touches upon two or more subcategories. This step is followed by a series of T-tests used to measure the statistical significance between the interaction with the video (views, likes, and comments) and the category it falls into (institutional or social).

After conducting the T-tests and answering the research questions, it is evident that in 5 out of the 6 T-tests there is no statistical significance between the type of content the YouTubers produced and the interactions with their videos. The content they provide is so diverse that viewers are drawn in from the wide variety of topics they cover. It is also concluded that the language and tone they use in the duration of their videos is the driving force for their interactions. The mocking humor used by the YouTubers tends to target an outgroup, normally “liberals”, which allows viewers to contribute in the comment section or by liking the video. Humor is also popular with younger viewers and allows for easier consumption of these alt-right ideologies within young people and adults.

Ultimately, the author suggests that further research into alt-right groups is necessary. Scholars should continue to address their  rapid rise in mainstream media and the consequence of this impact. The variety of content YouTubers like Stefan Molyneux and Hunter Avallone produce diversifies their audiences and allows for far-right ideologies to spread online. However, the author also points out that it is difficult to restrict speech on platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook without infringing people’s liberties. Despite this, further research should still be done to gain a holistic understanding of the movement’s rising popularity.

Allison Bloomer graduated from the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University. This post is based on Allison’s honors thesis, written by COSSPP blog intern Camila Levy. You can learn more about Allison  here.

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