What leads an internet user down a path of radicalization?
A team of journalists from The Correspondent and de Volkstrant investigated and analyzed the data.
How They Did It: Exposing Right-Wing Radicalization on YouTube
We started by investigating the rise of the alt-right on more obscure forums like 4chan and 8chan as well as on the popular chat app Discord. We were soon struck by the many references extremists made to YouTube videos, and decided to explore this platform.
The amount of right-wing extremist content available on YouTube turned out to be overwhelming: There was racism, antisemitism, antifeminism, white nationalism, and conspiracies on “cultural marxism,” “white genocide,” and “the great replacement” (the idea that white people are slowly being replaced by nonwhites through birth rates and immigration).
Around the same time, researchers began to worry that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was exacerbating the spread of extremist content by slowly pulling viewers into a rabbit hole of hate. The recommendations that popped up when users were watching videos would slowly become more extreme: A user could start out with a left-leaning video on racism and slowly but surely end up, through a series of recommendations, watching right-wing extremist content.
In the end, we compiled a list of 1,500 channels, about evenly spread on the left-right spectrum. YouTube has a very liberal API with which you can query the database for a lot of metadata. We wrote extensive software (packaged in a reusable Python library) to examine:
- 600,000 videos
- 450,000 transcripts of those videos (by using YouTube’s automatic closed-captioning service, which is not available for all videos)
- 120 million comments on those videos
- 20 million recommendations automatically generated from viewing those videos
That’s a lot of data — about 100 GB. But what to do with it?
‘The Church came into existence as a community that preserved the dangerous memory of Jesus—totally without reproach but was rather utterly new and beyond anything that could have been previously imagined. This new radical community has held together over two thousand years, as a community based, at bottom, on mutual love and not, as with other human institutions on fear.
The Church’s contemplation of this dangerous memory is what we call ‘theology’, which is actually founded on the marriage of sacred Scripture with philosophy—particularly classical Greek philosophy. This is important. A religion . . . that is without theology quickly becomes fundamentalist as it begins to interpret Scripture in a literal way, full of cultural bias and with little rational underpinning.
Fundamentalism is always culture-bound, whereas, although the story of Jesus is historical, set in a particular time, place and culture, a teaching essentially transcultural.’
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
‘When the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us at give us light—then we find out whether or not we live by faith.’
-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
A Course in Miracles
T-30.VI.1. Anger is never justified. 2 Attack has no foundation. 3 It is here escape from fear begins, and will be made complete. 4 Here is the real world given in exchange for dreams of terror. 5 For it is on this forgiveness rests, and is but natural. 6 You are not asked to offer pardon where attack is due, and would be justified. 7 For that would mean that you forgive a sin by overlooking what is really there. 8 This is not pardon. 9 For it would assume that, by responding in a way which is not justified, your pardon will become the answer to attack that has been made. 10 And thus is pardon inappropriate, by being granted where it is not due.
“Anger continued on past its usefulness becomes unjust, then dangerous… It fuels not positive activism but regression… self-righteousness. Corrosive, it feeds off itself, destroying its host in the process.” -Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin begins with a case study in the cultural history of anger as a tool of social change — epoch-making change she lived through and helped engender:
In the consciousness-raising days of the second wave of feminism, we made a big deal out of anger, the anger of women. We praised it and cultivated it as a virtue. We learned to boast of being angry, to swagger our rage, to play the Fury.
We were right to do so. We were telling women who believed they should patiently endure insults, injuries, and abuse that they had every reason to be angry. We were rousing people to feel and see injustice, the methodical mistreatment to which women were subjected, the almost universal disrespect of the human rights of women, and to resent and refuse it for themselves and for others. Indignation, forcibly expressed, is an appropriate response to injustice. Indignation draws strength from outrage, and outrage draws strength from rage. There is a time for anger, and that was such a time.
Anger is a useful, perhaps indispensable tool in motivating resistance to injustice. But I think it is a weapon — a tool useful only in combat and self-defense.
Le Guin considers how the uses of anger can metastasize into misuses when its aims are left uncalibrated under the ferment of time:
Anger points powerfully to the denial of rights, but the exercise of rights can’t live and thrive on anger. It lives and thrives on the dogged pursuit of justice.
Anger continued on past its usefulness becomes unjust, then dangerous. Nursed for its own sake, valued as an end in itself, it loses its goal. It fuels not positive activism but regression, obsession, vengeance, self-righteousness. Corrosive, it feeds off itself, destroying its host in the process.
A century and a half after Walt Whitman admonished that “America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without,” Le Guin adds:
The racism, misogyny, and counter-rationality of the reactionary right in American politics for the last several years is a frightening exhibition of the destructive force of anger deliberately nourished by hate, encouraged to rule thought, invited to control behavior. I hope our republic survives this orgy of self-indulgent rage.
‘Our security must become a relationship to the whole, omitting nothing.’
“My life is based on pain, passion, and purpose”
“…it is about the soul of our democracy.”
Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper’s son who rose to become the powerful chairman of a House committee, has died at age 68. Cummings was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor.
Elijah Cummings was the heart and soul of our caucus, a dignified leader with a voice that could move mountains. He was our moral and ethical North Star. Now we will be guided by his powerful memory and incomparable legacy. Rest In Peace, my friend. -Rep. Adam Schiff, CA
“Chairman Cummings stood tallest and most resolute when our country needed him the most.” -President Barack Obama
“There was no stronger advocate and no better friend than Elijah Cummings. I am heartbroken for his wonderful family and staff—please pray for them. I will miss him dearly.” Rep. Mark Meadows, NC
Democracy is supposed to be a system of ruling ‘by the people, for the people’, but representative democracy (democracy as it is practised in most of the west) actively and repeatedly keeps ‘the people’ out of the decision-making process.
Journalist Patrick Chalmers, an expert on political structures, looks to Athens – the birthplace of this modern, failing system – to find a better solution in citizens’ assemblies.
An Athenian remedy: the rise, fall and possible rebirth of democracy
Aside from clashes between police and protestors, Athenians that summer held people’s assemblies, mass gatherings of strangers talking together in public spaces. These assemblies were what first brought Sagris to Syntagma Square with her mother Tatiana Skanatovits, an actress and assembly organiser. Daily meetings in front of parliament saw people tell their stories of crisis, debate alternatives, and decide on assembly actions.
The economic crisis triggered a well-documented political crisis, the irony of which is not lost on those from the country that gave the world democracy
“If we are talking about democracy, I believe that right now I’m not living in a democratic regime, so I don’t see why I should participate in a process like this,” he said the day before the ballot. “It hurts me deep in the soul to say that, but after 30 years I will not vote.”
For Aristotle, whether states were oligarchic or democratic was deeply ingrained in their ways of working – the politics of structure itself. He believed that cities that chose their office holders, jurors and judges by lottery were democratic and that those using elections were oligarchic – that’s Greek for government of, by, and for the few.
Citizens’ assemblies are happening everywhere from Australia to Canada, Bolivia to France.
The need to build trust and broad interest are also key. After decades of political apathy and the erosion of trust in elected representatives, citizens need faith in their own capacity to shape policy. And that of their peers. Knowing what examples of self-governance have worked, and how, certainly helps.
by Anne Bokma
The following is an excerpt from ‘My Year of Living Spiritually’ by Anne Bokma, published by Douglas & McIntyre.
The boomer generation is creating a death boom. Five thousand of us die every day in the U.S. In Canada, 235,000 people over age 60 die every year. Most of us want to die at home, in our sleep or surrounded by loved ones, but about 75 percent of us will die in a hospital or long-term care setting, often hooked up to feeding tubes and ventilators, tended to by strangers. We are watching our aging parents die this way, and we don’t like it one bit. Just as our demographic had an outsized influence on the civil and equal rights movements, we’re now at the forefront of a death acceptance movement that’s transforming the topic of dying from taboo to a normal part of life. We’re seeing the rise of death cafes, green cemeteries, home burials and legislation for medically assisted dying. Death is our last great spiritual experience. We want it to be meaningful, and we want as much control over it as possible.
Death Over Dinner is another initiative. Participants are encouraged to gather friends and family to break bread and talk about what constitutes a good death—and a good life. Death Over Dinner was founded five years ago by entrepreneur Michael Hebb, and since then 200,000 dinners have been hosted in 30 countries. “The way we die in Western society is broken,” Hebb said in an interview with the Guardian. “I had a hunch that open conversation about our end-of-life wishes could be the most impactful thing we could do to heal that system and to heal the way we die. We are death-illiterate, and when we don’t discuss death, we are not empowered to make decisions.”
As a death doula, Rochelle Martin teaches people how to become comfortable with death. And as an emergency room nurse, she’s had a lot more experience with death than any of the guests around my dining room table. Our dinner has a Last Supper feel: twelve of us are gathered together and the menu includes fish, loaves of bread and plenty of wine. There’s lots of laughter, despite the seriousness of the topic, and a certain lightheartedness too—I’ve ordered a cake in the shape of a tombstone from a local bakery and placed a plastic skull at each place setting with the guest’s name written in Magic Marker on the forehead. Six tea lights glow in the black candelabra that serves as the centrepiece. In Eucharistic fashion, we eat and we remember. Martin facilitates the discussion, encouraging us to go around the table and share a significant death we’ve experienced.
In a 2017 letter he wrote to the New York Review of Books, Wendell Berry called an article’s characterization of the “southernization” of rural Americans — presumably making them sexist, racist, and increasingly uneducated — as “provincial, uninformed, and irresponsible.” Instead of continuing to ignore their plight, Berry suggests, we ought to acknowledge the plundering of these rural regions by their urban neighbors. “Rural America is a colony,” Berry wrote, “and its economy is a colonial economy.”
The writer and activist Michael Pollan — who was greatly influenced by Berry — suggests that Berry remains a singular sort of truth-teller.
The 85-year-old writer doesn’t own a TV, computer, or cellphone. If you call the landline at his country home in Port Royal, you won’t reach an answering machine. When he reads this profile, it will be because someone else printed it out. And, if his general approach to life is any indication, he will probably take his time.
It’s virtually impossible to imagine life in the modern world without our technological accessories, but Berry has consistently presented this spartan circumstance as a compelling proposition: An unplugged life, rooted in nature, he has argued, is the key to fulfillment.
He has insisted on individual responsibility: Indeed, Berry contends climate change advocates don’t go far enough and that “the origin of climate change is human laziness” — a view now widely adopted by those who would ban straws and limit their air travel.
If you ask the average person in Kentucky what he or she knows about Berry, those who have heard of him will tell you he’s a poet, or novelist, activist, environmentalist, or farmer. The truth is that Berry is a Renaissance man, skilled at all of it.
Bill McKibben’s environmental activism was spurred after his wife gave him a copy of Berry’s 1979 essay collection Home Economics, which offered ideas on how we can live a simple and grounded life at home. “There’s no writer working in the English language I admire as much,” McKibben says.
For the author Barbara Kingsolver, he’s something more: A fellow Kentuckian whose writings she turned to, she wrote in an email, “after I left home and learned with a shock that the outside world looks down on us.
“Decade after decade, I keep running up against the bigotry of American mainstream culture against Appalachians, farmers, and rural life, and I always come back to Wendell for solace,” she wrote. “Quietly and without bitterness he brings me home to myself, reminding me that all the ‘hillbilly elegies’ in the world can’t touch the strength of our souls or the poetry of our language.”
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
As I was ushering Marianne into her car, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a middle-aged white woman, in tears, asking what she could do to help. She wanted me to know that had never been much interested in politics, but that she had voted for Trump for his fresh, bold outlook. Now she was feeling buyers’ remorse—and hopelessness.
That’s why, she said, she had driven an hour from her home in Portland, Maine to hear Marianne speak: She had been drawn to the core message of heart, community, and patriotic bridge-building.
“America at its best,” the woman said, “is both liberal and conservative.”
What a profound observation. In fact, it’s what all Marianne supporters appreciate: a thriving democracy embraces divergent viewpoints.
Encounters like this—along with that framed quote—are what drive me, working on this campaign to continue our effort to co-create our America.
With warm regards—
Hon. Paul Hodes
New Hampshire State Director
Marianne Williamson for President
The Inherent Feminism of Restorative Justice
Unpacking the legal model that puts victims first
By Anna Dorn
Van Wormer explained that restorative justice has a “special relevance to marginalized communities, one of which is women.” Likewise, Walker told me that given pervasive gender bias in our culture, women are at greater risk of being harmed by the adversarial system. Women of color, she explained, are even more vulnerable than white women because the party facing more societal bias is at a greater disadvantage in the adversarial system. “If one party is bigger and stronger than the other, how can a fight between them ever be fair?”
Walker further suggested that restorative justice is inherently feminist. Rather than “paternalistic, autocratic and adversarial,” she wrote, “restorative justice is strength based and respects individuals [including women] as agents of their own lives.” Van Wormer likewise argued that the use of restorative justice is often consistent with feminism, which values empowering women and promoting our voices. Of special relevance to women’s victimization, van Wormer explained, are the following feminist values: reliance on the woman’s personal narrative; acceptance of a holistic, nondichotomized view of reality, including a unification of the personal and political; a focus on choice and options; an understanding of the gendered nature of societal power relations; and an emphasis on personal empowerment and dignity.
Walker further suggested that restorative justice is inherently feminist. Rather than “paternalistic, autocratic and adversarial,” she wrote, “restorative justice is strength based and respects individuals [including women] as agents of their own lives.”
Van Wormer outlined the four restorative justice models most relevant to women: victim-offender conferencing, family group conferencing, healing circles, and community reparations. Victim-offender conferencing brings together parties in which one person has injured another to resolve and, where possible, right the wrong. Unlike mediation, which implies a dispute to be negotiated, restorative conferencing recognizes its participants as victim and offender as opposed to disputants.
“What if the hosts threw their shows over to the beat reporters more often? What if guests who lied weren’t brought on again? What if people who had worked on campaigns couldn’t be brought on to spin the news unmitigated?”
[Jay Rosen is a media critic and journalism professor Studio 20 program at NYU.]
CNN public editor: What actually is CNN?
WHEN I THINK OF CNN—when I watch it, or when I scroll through Twitter, or when I think of what I want to write about it—I think of what Jeff Zucker, CNN president, said in 2017: “The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood it and approached it that way.”
The contrast now is stark. It’s not that the CNN beat reporters are good and hosts are bad—many of the latter are accomplished journalists, too. It’s just that what is mostly reflected on the screen—especially during prime time—seems to be less news reporting, more punditry, more round tables, more horse race politics, more talking heads, more interviews and interviewees yelling at each other, more that makes the news more confusing for the viewer (or at least for this viewer).
I find myself wrestling with this tension when I write these columns. I know I’m not the only one: Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir went on Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources and expressed frustration that the networks were more focused on politics than on policy, and that, on TV news shows, “it tends to be a game”. (Stelter, to his credit, acknowledged that many viewers agree, and that “the shiny object, the sensationalism, it’s a problem.”)
The past is still present: why colonialism deserves better coverage
By Elliot Ross
Countries such as Britain and the USA also retain control over colonial territories. And let’s not forget the settler colonial countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, where the colonisation of indigenous lands has been entrenched and institutionalised in the long-term.
Colonial domination not only shapes our ideas about race, but also strongly influences how people think about class, culture, gender, and sexuality
The roots ofand corrupt government run deep. Purely cultural, explanations not only risk reproducing racist tropes, they mask the role of powerful international corporate interests in sustaining systems of resource extraction, profiteering, exploitation and rent-seeking that sustain the underlying economic transactions that has always made colonialism financially profitable for colonisers.
Everyday Colonialism is also about probing my own status as a beneficiary of these long histories
Modeled after FDR’s historic 1941 speech to Congress, laureates receive honors in the following categories: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and the freedom medal.
“Today’s political moment calls for a regrounding in Rooseveltian values, which each of this year’s laureates embodies. As FDR told our nation almost 80 years ago, we must never give up our fight for democracy.”
Roosevelt Institute Presents 2019 Four Freedoms Awards to Champions of Democracy
Ceremony highlights the importance of democratic values in a challenging political landscape
‘Today, the Roosevelt Institute celebrated the Four Freedoms Awards, honoring Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacies and those who exemplify core freedoms that uphold our democracy. The Four Freedoms Awards are presented in alternating years by the Roosevelt Institute in the US and Roosevelt Stichting in the Netherlands, FDR’s ancestral home. For the first time since 2011, the New York event has returned to Hyde Park and was attended by 265 people, including Han Polman, King’s Commissioner in the Province of Zeeland & Chair of the Roosevelt Foundation and a delegation of over 30 from the Netherlands.
This year’s recipients are:
- Freedom Medal: Lonnie Bunch for his significant contributions to American culture and society as a historian and storyteller. Bunch is the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and is currently secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He is the first African American to hold this position.
- Freedom of Speech and Expression: The Boston Globe for its call to news organizations to publish editorials in support of a free press and their critical role in democracy.
- Freedom of Worship: Krista Tippett for her honest pursuit of ancient and enduring human questions about our spiritual traditions.
- Freedom from Want: Franklin Thomas for dedicating his life to public service, community development, and philanthropy. Thomas was the first African American president of the Ford Foundation, where he focused on issues relating to urban poverty, human rights, and anti-apartheid initiatives.
- Freedom from Fear: Sandy Hook Promise for recognizing the need to build community and engage in powerful advocacy around gun violence following an unthinkable tragedy.
“The Four Freedoms Awards represent a continuing dedication to the values my grandparents, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, so embodied—beliefs around human freedoms and security, shared well-being, and the importance and strength of the democratic process,” said Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Board Chair of the Roosevelt Institute. “I am so pleased that this event has returned home to Hyde Park. It’s not only the birthplace and home of my grandfather, but it’s especially important as the site of his Presidential Library and Museum.”
“The Four Freedoms and those who champion them are more important now than ever,” said Felicia Wong, President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute.“Today’s political moment calls for a regrounding in Rooseveltian values, which each of this year’s laureates embodies. As FDR told our nation almost 80 years ago, we must never give up our fight for democracy.”
Past recipients of the Four Freedoms Awards include Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton; international luminaries, such as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama; and treasured Americans, including Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, journalist Dan Rather, civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson. You can learn more about the Four Freedoms Awards here.
About the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is America’s first presidential library—and the only one used by a sitting president. Conceived and built under President Roosevelt’s direction and opened to the public in 1941, the Library is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Members and donors form a vital base of support for many of the Library’s key initiatives and help keep our doors open to visitors and students from around the world.
About the Roosevelt Institute
Until economic and social rules work for all Americans, they’re not working. Inspired by the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor, the Roosevelt Institute reimagines the rules to create a nation where everyone enjoys a fair share of our collective prosperity. We are a 21st-century think tank, bringing together multiple generations of thinkers and leaders to help drive key economic and social debates and have local and national impact. The Roosevelt Institute is also the nonprofit partner to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.
To keep up to date with the Roosevelt Institute, please visit us on Twitter or follow our work at #RewriteTheRules.
“Truth cannot be given the same level of coverage as falsehood. We shouldn’t make them equivalent. It’s not partisan for the media to be partisan towards the truth.”
-EJ Dionne, American journalist, political commentator, and long-time op-ed columnist for The Washington Post.
A message to the Fourth Estate: Don’t amplify the lies. Report truth.
Ghandi recognized, as no other world leader of our time has done, the necessity to be from from the pressures, the exorbitant and tyrannical demands of a society that is violent because it is essential greedy, lustful, and cruel.
He recognized the impossibility of being a peaceful and nonviolent man, if one submits passively to the insatiable requirements of a society maddened by overstimulation and obsessed with demons of noise, voyeurism, and speed.
Gandhi believed that the central problem of our time was the acceptance or the rejection of a basic law of love and truth which had been made knows to the world in traditional religions.
His whole, his political action, finally even his death, were nothing but a witness to this commitment: “If love is not the law of our being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces.”
-Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction
The most inward and loving of all,
he came forth like a new beginning,
the brown-robed brother [St. Francis] of your nightingales,
with his wonder and good will
and delight in Earth.
Rilke, The Book of Hours III, 33
This is the miracle of love: to discover that all creation is one, flung out into space.
This is the principle of nonviolence, and I want to recommend it to you with all the enthusiasm I can command. . . .
If human beings go to war, it is because they fear someone.
Remove the fear, and you re-establish trust, and will have peace.
Nonviolence means destroying fear.
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
—John Steinbeck, The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957)
Trump’s Defenders Have Adopted a Doctrine of Infallibility
As with so many words and ideas, “cult of personality” in the modern sense probably begins with Karl Marx, who used “personality cult” in a letter to a friend in 1877. Nikita Khrushchev cited that passage (and several later ones by Marx) in his famous 1956 “secret speech,” formally titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences.
‘A cult of personality that replies “Trump’s right” or “his enemies are worse” before the question is even asked is the only place to hide. A doctrine of infallibility is the only defense of this deeply fallible man.’
“If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that 18th-century Constitution should be abandoned to a 20th-century paper shredder!” —Rep. Barbara Jordan, 1974
‘Exactly when we began a style of production and consumption that would eventually ravage planet earth, he decided to love the earth and live simply and barefoot upon it. Francis of Assisi is a Prime Attractor to what we really want, what we definitely need, and who we finally are. And, apparently, he did it all with a “perfect joy” that comes from letting go of the ego!’ -Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
The change in my own inner climate. -Thomas Merton
Will future generations distinguish between those who didn’t believe in the science of global warming and those who said they accepted the science but failed to change their lives in response?
In We Are the Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer explores the central global dilemma of our time in a surprising, deeply personal, and urgent new way. The task of saving the planet will involve a great reckoning with ourselves―with our all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. We have, he reveals, turned our planet into a farm for growing animal products, and the consequences are catastrophic. Only collective action will save our home and way of life.
UK, US and European studies claim our meat consumption should be reduced by 90%, and dairy consumption by 60%. Two meals a day should be vegetarian, and think about a family climate plan. One couple a month out from their wedding day came up with theirs at book signing:
- Vegetarian meals
- Vegan meals 2x per week
- Driving less than 1,000 miles a year
- Only two kids
Jonathan’s response? “Holy crap. I don’t have a plan.”
“An ode to collective action, persuasively asking readers to take a hard look at our own role in the climate crisis and its solutions.” ―Kate Wheeling, The New Republic
Sam Sanders interviewed Jonathan on “It’s Been a Minute”. Follow the link to about 16:00 into the program.
Climate change is about how we treat each other
by Eric Holthaus
’What this moment needs, more than anything, is moral clarity. […] American media was curiously obsessed with President DT’s stubborn insistence that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama.
Seen through the lens of climate inaction, against a backdrop of unfettered economic growth, one can only conclude that climate change is an intentional act, in which the media is complicit.
‘We need to know, viscerally, that we can no longer abandon our neighbours in their time of greatest need. We need to relearn our interdependence. There is the alternative. The way to write this story that doesn’t end in apocalypse.’