BuzzFeed: A Former Alt-Right Member’s Message: Get Out While You Still Can

Rosie Gray writes:

She was saying she wanted to leave it all behind: her years as a far-right media figure and tweeter, and someone who close observers of right-wing media knew was one of Breitbart’s most obvious connections to the white supremacist core of the alt-right. McHugh had dated Kevin DeAnna, the founder of Youth for Western Civilization, a now-defunct right-wing campus youth group that billed itself as promoting “the survival of Western Civilization and pride in Western heritage,” but was entwined with the white nationalist movement; Jared Taylor, the self-described “white advocate” founder of American Renaissance, once fundraised for the group. Her disparaging tweets about people of color and Muslims made her stand out even at Steve Bannon’s Breitbart, which had launched Milo Yiannopoulos’s career, had featured a “black crime” tag for stories, and had been described by Bannon himself as a “platform for the alt-right.”

After McHugh’s public dismissal, she had gone on to briefly contract for infamous troll Charles C. Johnson’s GotNews site. That didn’t work out, either. A difficult relationship had left her isolated, and she was on the outs with her former friends. She was going broke and could barely afford the expenses incurred by her Type 1 diabetes. Her time in Washington had ruined her life, and not in just a bump-in-the-road kind of way. She had been to a place you couldn’t really come back from.

She wasn’t sure about going on the record but later decided to. I met her again in September in a town a few hours outside of Washington where she was staying. As I approached her in a coffee shop on a Monday morning, she looked well enough. Her makeup was neatly applied, her nails were painted, and she was wearing a navy-and-white dress with coordinating white cardigan and loafers. Her skin had previously looked mottled and gray but now shone with a new vitality. She shook my hand with a firm grip and we started talking.

Her story is fascinating, and sometimes frustrating. She wishes she had never said the things she’s said or did the things she’s done, but when I first met her, she still insisted that they were often jokes gone wrong, and that, on some level, she’d said these things because she’d been egged on by others. She seemed unable to face her full complicity in her own behavior. Unlike Derek Black, the son of Stormfront founder Don Black and to date one of the most significant defectors from the white nationalist movement — he’s even the subject of a recent book by the Washington Post’s Eli Saslow — McHugh wasn’t raised in the movement. Although Black represented the old guard of white nationalism — his godfather is David Duke — McHugh was part of the vanguard. Her set took the emerging own-the-libs ethos that animated the online right and combined it with the new iteration of white nationalism, which called itself the alt-right.

Where was McHugh radicalized? Her story is about support systems and pipelines. It’s about how an angry young conservative with reactionary views got herself involved with a small coterie of ideologues in Washington and prepped for a conservative media career in the crucial years before the rise of Donald Trump, as extremism became more popular on the right and as people could optimize themselves for success through attention on social media. It’s about how the organizations she worked for either turned a blind eye to or were genuinely ignorant of the fact that one of their young stars was leading a double life among hardcore racist activists. And it’s about how the cultlike atmosphere of the so-called alt-right helped people make more and more harmful decisions.

Her story is also about something that has ended. The events she described to me took place mostly between 2013 and 2017, a span of time in which the alt-right rose and fell dramatically as it attempted to go mainstream.

A Jewish friend says:

As hard as the Poway story is to unpack, the McHugh article is even more bizarre.

The problem with Poway is that (1) because it is an attack on a synagogue, Jews love it because it shows that we are a persecuted and threatened minority in America, (2) it is not particularly useful for anti gun crowd since the Rabbi asked one congregant to bring a firearm, and it was the use of that firearm that drove him out of the synagogue and to surrender (its possible that the physical threat of being tackled and ultimately overwhelmed by congregants once his weapon jammed was a factor as well) although the argument has been made that if they had been the right kind of gun control the shooter wouldn’t have had a weapon. (3) Since Chabad is really an offshoot of Hasidism and not particularly like other branches of orthodox or even hasidic Judaism (with its emphasis on prosletyzing and flirting with believing Schneerson is the Messiah) this makes it a bit harder for other Jews to relate to it (although we think the shooter had no idea he was going after any particular subset of Jews). (4) Unlike the liberal congregation in Pittsburgh which was honoring HIAS for its work on bringing immigrants into the country, Chabadniks in general are more conservative in general and more like Likudnik supporters of Israel in particular. This makes liberals, and especially liberal Jews uncomfortable.

The impact of the shooting won’t be very great. It is clear there was no widespread conspiracy to commit a mass killing. Only a nineteen year old lone wolf who ascribed many of the problems he saw in America to Jewish influence. Of course this won’t be published, only that he was “disturbed.” At most the congregation will hire a permanent armed guard or local law enforcement will guard it during services or a volunteer guard system will be set up, much like it already is in many places including Los Angeles.

One of the issues that the press always tries to discuss is whether these acts are terrorism and whether that terrorism is effective. It turns out that the occasional act of terror is something we have become inured to. If and when terror attacks become so frequent (such as a weekly attack in a relatively small community such as New Zealand) if that will actually drive Muslims out of the country or just step up draconian s security measures to protect them.

These attacks seem to be based on self radicalization without coordination with others for a larger impact. Others such as the “thwarted” planned attack in L.A. appear to be entrapment of stupid persons who put their beliefs out there on social media where it is monitored by law enforcement agencies who then set up a sting operation.

I for one have no concerns or fears about anti semitic groups expanding their attacks.

I hadn’t realized [at first] that the shooter John T. Earnest, was an intelligent guy. His father is a Physics professor, he was an honors student an athlete and a musician. He was no loner but seemed to be reasonably popular and came from a family with five other siblings. He was also a churchgoer with at least some knowledge of Christian theology. He was a member of a Presbyterian church, which has always been a strongly fundamentalist church until very recently. It was strongest in Scotland, and there are numerous reported instances where persons in boats off shore drowned because although they were spotted, the religious beliefs of the persons on land forbade them from rowing out to rescue them on the Sabbath. Some reports said he had Calvinist beliefs which is not surprising since these form the same underpinnings for the Dutch Reformed Church and for Presbyterianism. Of course no one is willing to take Earnest’s theological views seriously, they have to be portrayed as a betrayal of true Christianity. But his manifesto has been scrubbed so no one can judge for themselves. In many ways he is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare. He grew up in an environment extremely supportive of Jews. I would expect that Earnest in fact had Jewish friends as his schools. He had been propagandized from an early age about the dangers of anti Semitism, and yet he embraced it.

Regarding McHugh, her story is rather sad. Unlike say a person such as you or me or Steve Sailer who have formulated whatever beliefs we have over a long period of time (at least a couple of decades) McHugh eagerly embraced the views of her boyfriend and his circle of friends without critically thinking about them. (Although the post that got her fired from Breitbart is very similar to what led Ann Coulter to be fired by National Review.) The author of the piece is setting this up as a cautionary tale. Without demonstrating that any of her beliefs is factually or scientifically wrong, he assumes the prevailing views and she is definitely guilty of “wrongthink.” Too much of the article leads me to believe that her beliefs were shaped by her desire to work in a certain milieu, not realizing that by doing so she was forever cutting herself off from mainstream journalism. How much would be different had she remained in a relationship with someone who was “alt-right” or kept a paying job with one of their publications is left unsaid. Instead, citing her (and also notably Chuck Ross) it is a cautionary tale designed to frighten persons who might otherwise seek work within alt right circles, but whether this is a principled position or simply an expedient one is hard to know.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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