“They’ve unleashed something we can’t put back”

Filmmaker Daniel Lombroso on the lasting impact of the alt-right

For years, Daniel Lombroso trained his camera on the alt-right.

Specifically, the documentary filmmaker spent hundreds of hours from 2017 to 2019 in the presence of Lauren Southern, Richard Spencer, and Mike Cernovich, all celebrities in that sphere. And they granted him unprecedented access, he says, in part because they didn’t quite grasp what he was doing.

“Lauren, Mike, and Richard are very press-savvy — especially the first two — but they don’t understand verité documentary,” he tells host Jesse Brown on today’s episode of CANADALAND.

“I think they never really understood that when you spend this much time with such an important subject, ultimately the evil will shine through in the end.”

The result was White Noise, a feature-length doc from The Atlantic that’s now available to stream on demand. He also produced a feature on Southern, a Canadian and Rebel Media alumna.

Not surprisingly, Lombroso gained quite a few insights about the alt-right from his time studying them.

Here are some of the (slightly edited and condensed) highlights from his interview with CANADALAND:

On being a Jewish journalist spending time with white supremacists: “I’m definitely subhuman to Lauren [Southern] and Richard [Spencer], less to Mike [Cernovich]. But — and this is an important but — all racist movements make exceptions for people they like. And I think these people came to like me, came to look forward to seeing me, and they made an exception for me in the same way Lauren made an exception for her [mixed-race] partner, the way Mike made an exception for his partner [who’s Persian]. Thomas Jefferson had kids with his slave, and many Nazi officials had relationships with Jews, even though they murdered two thirds of the Jews in Europe. So it’s very, very common for racist movements to make exceptions, even for the people that they consider subhuman.”

On the point of the movie: “The goal of the film from the beginning was to gain unprecedented access into the alt-right. And by doing so, to expose two main things: one is the naked racism that still shapes so much of our societies. But also the glaring contradictions that all these individuals exude. It was my goal to really dismantle and demystify their public personas by showing that, in private, they contradict themselves constantly.”

On such people escaping consequences: “There’s never gonna be a reckoning. There’ll never be accountability. You know, Lauren Southern is a product of white privilege. She’s a middle-class girl who can purvey such dangerous ideas, can incite violence, and then ultimately walk away from it. She now lives very comfortably in Australia with her partner and her kid. She has a cushy gig on Sky News, which is like the Fox News equivalent there. And she never had to deal with any of the consequences of the work that she did.”

On social media turning racism into currency: “[These people] really do believe in the preservation of white dominance in the U.S. and Canada, but they’re also equally preoccupied with the likes and the shares and the retweets and the feeling of celebrity.…Towards the end of the film, [Lauren] says you get a ‘little high’ every time you get a like or a share or a retweet. And it was very hard for her to [briefly] step away from that. Racism has always been around.…But what’s different now is that that sort of ideology is a commodity that you can sell on social media. It’s a way to get rich and famous.”

On Canada’s over-performance as a breeding ground for such figures: “My kind of anecdotal feeling is that Canada does such a good job of teaching multiculturalism so much better than the U.S. — there’s a mosaic, that it celebrates people from all backgrounds. In America, we learn about the melting pot, that you have to become an American. And I think Canadians do such a good job teaching the history of Natives — maybe not completely, but certainly better than the education I grew up with — that you inevitably get a backlash. And I think for 70, 80, 90 percent of Canadians, they are open-minded to this stuff, they appreciate multiculturalism. But the 10 or 20 percent feel targeted in a way that they might not with a looser system like you have in the States. And that was kind of Lauren’s origin story to some extent, that she felt targeted as a white woman.”

On the lasting impact of the alt-right: “They’ve unleashed something into our society that we can’t put back. Even though Mike Cernovich is now selling facial skincare products and Lauren Southern is in Australia and Richard Spencer is playing horrible Chopin renditions in his mother’s mansion, the ideas that they’ve unleashed are now in the mainstream of the conservative movement in the United States. They’ve taken over the Republican Party. They’re on Fox News every night.”

On why pay attention to them at all: “When I was walking around the [European Parliament with Lauren], she was treated like a head of state.…She’s on Sky News. These people have followings in the millions. We can choose to ignore them, but it doesn’t matter if CANADALAND or The Atlantic ignores these people, they have their base. And that demographic, even post-Trump, isn’t going anywhere.”

Top image of Lauren Southern in a Paris cab from White Noise.

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