[Discussion] Dealing with Youth Radicalization

Discussion of the right-wing radicalization of youths in the United States, as well as how to begin to address it.

I wasn't quite sure what the best way to post this was, as it's a request for advice. A few weeks ago, my sister came to me and asked for help with her oldest son, Liam. In order to understand the root of the problem, I need to provide a bit of background.

Liam is 16 years old, and a extremely bright and ambitious young man. Years ago, when he was younger, the community banded together to build him a gaming PC when my sister was going through a rough time, and that fostered a love of programming and a dream to work for Valve one day. Unfortunately, my sister and Liam's father Mike have a fairly hostile relationship, leading to multiple court battles. Six months ago, Liam's father, no longer willing to pay child support, officially signed away his parental rights, but maintained contact with Liam. Mike is a alt-right extremist. In the last few years, he's gotten some fairly offensive tattoos, and become more outspoken about his support of Trump, and his hatred of Muslims, Hispanics, and liberals. Unfortunately, Liam has been listening. While a judge instituted a restraining order, banning Mike from any contact with Liam or his brothers, the damage has been done.

Liam lives on the alt-right pages on Reddit and 4Chan, and has become extremely outspoken. Last month, he and three other kids got suspended from school after posting some hateful speech about a Muslim student on Instagram. My sister has tried talking to him about it, but he dismisses her as "brainwashed by the liberal media" and becomes hostile and angry. She's become desperate, and asked me to start spending some time with him in order to try to get him to see how destructive this kind of behavior can be, but I've seen how hard it is to change people's minds. Liam has always looked up to me (we have a lot in common, both gamers, both nerds, etc.), and I want to help him.

I need suggestions and advice on how best to start talking to him about this. I don't want to put him on the defensive so fast that I can't talk to him, but I do need to do something.

I would get him to a therapist ASAP. My internet unscientific opinion feels like there is a ton of rage there with daddy issues from the divorce. The Alt-Right stuff could come from the need to connect with the father.

Good luck with that, hope this helps

I agree. You need someone who can get past *what* he's doing, the content of it, to *why* he's doing it. Someone that does not have the baggage of friends and family.

He is actually seeing a therapist on a weekly basis. It was her idea for my sister to ask me to spend more time with him.

Maybe he can stay with you on a regular basis? Weekends at Uncle Trichy's?

You might be able to find some ways to expose him to different ways of thinking, that way, but that's a deeply personal thing. Not something people who don't know the families and people involved are likely to be able to help with.

Watch "American History X" together? Although maybe that's too on-the-nose...

Trichy, I work with young people in a residential treatment center. I can provide you some specific, albeit informal advice. I have a decent amount of experience working with very diverse populations and have some direct experience with issues similar to this.

Inbox me or I can field questions here.

This is really tough. I've got a close relative who isn't quite that far over, but is in that direction. I personally was on some pretty scary mailing lists in the late '90s, while reading Ayn Rand and loving South Park. For me, it took being supported and given a long enough leash to get myself into a series of very real messes, at which point I slowly started to find enough humility to realize how much I do rely on others, and how unlikely it'd be that I would be the king of Thunderdome if only the law didn't hold me back.

I wish I had something to offer more than my support Trichy but at least know you've got that.

Not a medical boffin but sounds like he needs a father figure. Cool uncle who "gets" an important part of him is a huge inside route to gaining his trust. Don't preach yet or he'll think you're trying to supplant his father. You're not, you just want to be the man who passes no judgment.

Once you have his trust you can influence him by linking him up with other young men who don't have radical aspirations. It won't be a short term undertaking.

A couple ideas though I don't have an easy answer:

1. My cousin was horribly abused by his father but it only made my cousin want to win his approval even more. My uncle was a grade A Eastern European a-hole (not to pick on Eastern Europeans but he regularly called Americans wimps for having laws against domestic violence). My dad became a mentor when my uncle disappeared and he got through to my cousin by asking why he worshipped a man who did everything he could to destroy him.

2. In Seattle there are a few programs held by Islamic leaders where they invite-non Muslims to meet and greats. This has been a positive experience for me and I think it could be helpful for your nephew to realize that most Muslims are not brainwashed extremists.

Reaper81 wrote:

Trichy, I work with young people in a residential treatment center. I can provide you some specific, albeit informal advice. I have a decent amount of experience working with very diverse populations and have some direct experience with issues similar to this.

Inbox me or I can field questions here.

I think it's worth having the discussion openly. Half of this thread is due to my nephew, but the other half was in response to articles like this one, that talk about the active efforts of the alt-right to focus their recruitment efforts on young white men. While I wish it were not the case, I highly doubt that I will be the only person to be faced with this kind of situation.

Spend time with him. Show him you care about him and continue to build your relationship. Don't push the subject, but look for windows of opportunity in conversation, not to preach but to listen. Ask good questions that show your interest. Be patient. Most of all, don't make him feel like he is your reform project. Years of anger have led him the the place he is, so it might be unwise to expect change to come very quickly.

Exposure therapy to the things he hates. Road trip across all the major civil rights stops and the Holocaust museum. Humanize the targets of the white supremacy and shatter their illusion.

If Liam's already been suspended from school for posting hate speech about a Muslim student then I'd say that the time for gentle nudgings and hoping that maybe, eventually he'll come around is over.

If his mother hasn't already done it then the kid needs to lose all access to the social media and the internet. He's already shown that he'll use social media to harass others and being on 4chan and alt-right subreddits is only helping to further radicalize him.

As jdzappa and Edwin have said Liam needs to personally see that Muslims, Hispanics, etc. are actual people and not the sources of his problems/targets for his hate.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, while being more of a national group, does have local chapters and one might be able to point you in the right direction of a nearby mosque that might be willing to help.

That and you might want to do a little research into anti-racist groups. If you're lucky there might be one near you that has a program or something and, if not, they might at least have some insight/educational materials about how deal with people who are being indoctrinated.

Yeesh that is super rough. I've heard my younger brother say some stuff I ain't exactly fond of but I've been luck in that he's never gone down that rabbit hole.

I hope you can pull him out before it's too late.

Lot of it is about influence and controlling what he's exposed to. Personally i did a 360 starting out being taught we're all the same to being hate filled teenager to coming back around.

Some was due personal tragedy but i was also taught about my ancestors who were also part Indian. Between that and being taken away from the hateful influence i came around.

Possible to get him a 23 and me test done? Then he'd see what a mix of heritage he has, which could provide a good entry point to a conversation about the importance of diversity.

That's a very good suggestion, Chairman, I'd not have thought to go there. What a great discussion that would be!

Chairman_Mao wrote:

Possible to get him a 23 and me test done? Then he'd see what a mix of heritage he has, which could provide a good entry point to a conversation about the importance of diversity.

That's really, really cool. I definitely need to do that.

We're getting it for my mom for her birthday. Not because she's racist but she's just always been interested in genealogy. I could see the results kicking off a cool family tree project. Good luck!

I've done it, and it kicked off some cool family tree projects for me

Just as long as it doesn't backfire. "You are 95% German with 5% British, also known as the colonialism cocktail."

My interest perked at the 23 and Me idea but then I read this article which basically says a lot of the info is only relevant to people of European descent and could trigger a voluntary disclosure of my genetic testing to life insurers..

YMMV especially as your current government in the US is looking to reform Healthcare and for others there may be hidden legal risks that you need to get advice from an insurance broker before going ahead with ordering a genetic testing.

After the events of the last weekend, this thread seems all the more important. This twitter thread seemed relevant:


This hits a little close to home.

So we're making a bit of progress with Liam. I think it's helpful that he's no longer in contact with his father, which means that he's not getting a steady stream of that vitriol to reinforce the beliefs. In addition, my sister had to have a firm talk with my parents, who are both conservatives (generally not the extremist types, but they definitely cross lines sometimes). She explained that the "from a different generation" excuse was no longer going to be acceptable for anyone, family or otherwise, and that if they weren't 100% on board the effort to teach Liam the importance of equality and tolerance, that they wouldn't be seeing him any longer. To their credit, they agreed immediately.

It's been a fight. He balls up whenever anyone disagrees with him, and still dismisses a lot of facts as "liberal media" propaganda. But this weekend, his mom made him sit down and watch footage from the riots in Charlottesville. He tried to explain that he doesn't support Nazis, but my sister didn't let him slide, and kept pressing him on what the alt-right was saying about the event. He's been really quiet since then, and he and I spoke Sunday night, where he admitted it made him feel really uncomfortable. It's nowhere near enough, I know that. Uncomfortable is nowhere near the right word. But I don't think this is going to be a quick fix.

By the way, GWJ actually helped as well. A few weeks ago, he was spewing some Ayn Rand bullsh*t about it not being his responsibility to help people who didn't make enough money. I quickly pointed out that the several dozen Goodjers who donated his computer and dozens of games would never have done so had they agreed with him, and that really took the wind out of his sails. He had literally no response.

Have you shown him that 1943 Nazi military video that has been getting passed around (again)? It really shows how today's group is using the same methods to recruit others and how disingenuous the whole thing is.

Don't try to force him to change his opinions. That is the worst thing you can do. Think about his viewpoint and understand what is making him think the way he thinks. Sympathize with him and encourage him to think for himself. Love him. Shut off the news.

Also how old is he? I was an idiot when I was kid.