OtherI am Humera Khan and I work on countering terrorist narratives. Let's talk about how you can also do it well. AMA
Nov 7th 2017 by khanserai • 18 Questions • 850 Points
UPDATE: I’m signing off now – a big thank you to everyone who joined in on the discussion and asked really insightful questions! It’s been a whirlwind few weeks since coming out from undercover and it’s been great to see people engage in the work we’re doing at HOPE not hate to combat the alt-right.
If you want to read more about my year inside the alt-right you can read my story (and download our entire report) here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com
Hi. My name is Patrik Hermansson.
For the last year, I was sent undercover inside the alt-right by HOPE not hate, the anti-fascist research and campaigning organization.
I ate and drank with them. I was in Charlottesville with them. They boasted about ties to the White House in front of me. They thought I was one of them. I infiltrated their groups in the UK and America - and I caught it all on camera.
What do you want to know about my year with the alt-right? Why did I do it? How close was I to getting caught?Ask me anything!
Some more information about our work:
My story in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/opinion/alt-right-white-supremacy-undercover.html
Our full report on the alt-right: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/my-year-inside-the-international-alt-right
Do you then have any evidence that similar mechanisms are in play for radicalization and gang participation for the young people involved?
Is sexual harassment a widespread problem in our society? Or is it just in a few industries? And what is the largest barriers to these crimes being reported and the perpetrators being prosecuted?
What was the scariest thing you heard or saw or experienced being undercover with them?
The recruitment dynamics of the two are almost parallel at the initial stages. The NIJ is actually funding EXACTLY this research right now.
Hi Patrick, When you were undercover what was the closest you came to being found out? Was there a moment when you thought your life could be in danger?
The speed of the current changes is mind-boggling and from the outside it's unclear where the sentiment of the population lies. If they largely support the changes then potentially the society will be resilient. What we know from the past is that terrorist groups look for opportunities to exploit, and political uncertainty provides those openings. The greater the unrest in the population, the greater the vulnerability. Unless handled very carefully the current situation can create conditions for more terrorist activity. Both Al-Qaeda and ISIS have openly listed KSA as targets in the past.
Why did your group feel the need for you to go undercover?
At least you admit that the issue with your tastebuds ;-)
This is Amanda Farahany. This is why an independent investigation by a neutral third party is so important. There rarely is direct proof of harassment, but a thorough and impartial investigation will uncover what is really going on
This is a really good question. HOPE not hate do undercover research for a number of reasons. Firstly, many far-right groups portray a far more moderate image to the outside world than they do in private. Going undercover allows us to expose the true hateful politics behind the scenes. However, it also gives us an unparalleled understanding of how these far-right movements organise and interact. We also gain information about their plans which gives us time to plan our response. We are always one step ahead!
Do you feel bad about the eventual attack on America by your people, or will you try to apologize and tell us how wonderful your people are?
This question is for Amanda. What has been your most interesting case?
Hi, did you uncover any connections to current or former politicians?
My people don't do that- the US criminal justice system does not allow for throwing anyone off buildings or burning people in cages.
This is Amanda Farahany. Harassment cases are verified in lots of different ways, starting from looking at the history of the harasser to looking at the credibility of the victim. Often times, there are indications that someone is telling the truth, such as the victim telling her friends about what's happening as it was happening.
It depends which side of the movement you are talking about. The more extreme, racially obsessed ‘alt-right’ side of the movement have very few links to mainstream politicians due to their extremeness. However, I did manage to record Jason Jorjani, one of the leading alt-right figures (co-founder of altright.com alongside Richard Spencer), bragging that he had links to the Trump administration. You can read more about that in the essay I've written here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/my-year-inside-the-international-alt-right
However, the more moderate end of the movement (the so-called alt-light) have far more links to the White House and many even get press credentials! It’s terrifying. My colleague at HNH wrote about that here: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/influence-of-the-alternative-right
In your year in the alt-right, what was your scariest experience? Any experiences that nearly made you blow your cover, intentionally or otherwise?
Good question! I mixed up parts of my backstory a few times and once I said the first part of my real name by accident after a long day. It created some confusion but I managed to quickly explain myself. I think in the moment I came up with a story of how I sometimes was using my middle name...!
Charlottesville was obviously frightening, as was my time with the armed neo-Nazis in the Northwest. Some of the early meetings, before I fully gained trust, was of course nerve-racking but I found myself settling into it quicker than I thought I would.