Yesterday on Twitter, media critic Joanna Schroeder (@iproposethis) posted an eloquent and inspirational thread, examining the radicalization process of white teenage boys, which understandably went viral.
Do you have white teenage sons?
I've been watching my boys' online behavior & noticed that social media and vloggers are actively laying groundwork in white teens to turn them into alt-right/white supremacists.
— joanna schroeder (@iproposethis) August 13, 2019
‘I’ve been watching my boys’ online behavior & noticed that social media and vloggers are actively laying groundwork in white teens to turn them into alt-right/white supremacists,’ wrote Joanna. She then went on at some length to explain how jokes and memes can corrupt teenage boys’ minds. ‘Here’s an early red flag: if your kid says “triggered” as a joke referring to people being sensitive, he’s already being exposed & on his way’ she continued, describing the warning signs to look out for.’
Joanna correctly identifies ‘humor’ as one of the most insidious propaganda tools and instructs parents on the best way to begin to de-radicalize their teenage boy: ‘You can also watch political comedy shows with him, like Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Hasan Minhaj. Talk about what makes their jokes funny – who are the butt of the jokes? Do they “punch up” or down?’ This is tremendously competent advice, as the best way to stop them from enjoying ‘comedy’ is to get them to watch The Daily Show as often as possible.
For the past five years, many mainstream media outlets have been bombarding white teenage boys with articles and TV interviews illustrating to them how toxic they are, how likely they are to rape a woman, how it’s only a matter of time before they shoot up a school. Every day, I would see feminists and feminist allies talking about how white men need to examine their privilege and stay in their lanes. How their opinions are worthless, and they need to ‘STFU’. I thought we were making real progress, but no.
White teenage boys are, for some reason, choosing to ignore this solid advice. Joanna’s thread makes it clear that memes are to blame for young white men’s sense of detachment. Memes are seducing them from a progressive society that only wants to shape them into acceptable adults who understand that problematic thoughts and words are not to be tolerated and will result in immediate ostracization. Pepe the Frog has a lot to answer for.
I toyed with the idea of producing a few counter-memes. Hilarious images with words attached that would be both progressive, educational, and chuckle-inducing without offending marginalized people. Then I remembered that the Left cannot meme and had to abandon this line of thought.
Joanna’s thread has had a profound effect on me. The truthiness of her words are so very depressing. This morning, as I saw a teenage white boy walking down the street, Joanna’s words echoed in my mind and I instantly felt panic at the thought of how easily he could become radicalized by lols on the internet. Without a second thought, I rushed over to him and hugged him. ‘It’s OK,’ I whispered into his ear ‘you can fight this!’ I stood there, holding onto him as tightly as I could. My body was a protective blanket, shielding him from the poisonous influences of 8chan, Gab, Alex Jones and South Park.
He became agitated, ‘Hey what you doin? Get the fuck off me, man.’ I gripped him harder, determined not to abandon him. ‘Hush now,’ I cooed, as he began to struggle, ‘do not allow your mind to be infiltrated by dank memes’. Once again, I increased my hold on him, determined to prevent him from falling into the clutches of the Intellectual Dark Web. ‘Oi you fucking pedophile, I’ll call the police,’ he continued, and as his struggling became more violent I was forced to relinquish my grasp on his fragile, easily corruptible soul. He ran away, shouting ‘fuckin’ hell, get some help dude, you’re insane.’ I felt frustrated. Intensely disappointed that despite my best efforts, I had failed him.
I watched him disappear into the distance, another young white boy, destined to become cannon-fodder for the alt-right in the ongoing meme war.