If you don’t know already, Millennial Woes is a Scottish alt-right video blogger who has a reasonable following on YouTube.
His videos cover a wide range of topics but he has some pretty hardline and not very nuanced views on push button subjects like race and gender. His views are lent an air of credence by the pseudo intellectual style in which they are delivered.
This week he was doxxed. First the anti-fascist blog, A Thousand Flowers, doorstepped him and then most mainstream media outlets followed suit.
Turns out Millennial Woes is a 34 year old called Colin Robertson who still lives with his dad in suburban Linlithgow. Well, he did stay with his dad before he left the country after his identity was revealed, pictures of his house were published and his neighbours were informed of the evil that was being incubated in their vicinity.
I’m not sure going to the trouble of making him a national hate figure is a great idea.
While it certainly sends out a message to others that you can’t go around posting anonymous and hateful videos on the internet without being outed, on the whole it is counter productive.
It makes sense from the point of view of A Thousand Flowers, who being quite far to the left, are the natural enemy of the far right that Millennial Woes represents.
The mainstream media who later pinched the story just did it for easy clicks. Whatever the reasoning behind his outing, Colin Robertson will now benefit from his public shaming.
Prior to his appearance on the front page of every UK tabloid not too many people were aware of who he was. Now that he has been branded with evil genius status his profile has risen and more and more will check out his dreary monologues. While the majority will revile what they hear, some will relate to his simplistic narrative. So the tabloids have just grown his audience.
The media have also energised his existing followers as well. They have vindicated the false alt-right over generalised view of those who hold liberal values.
They see all liberals as an enemy willing to curb free speech in order to facilitate the death of traditional culture. They think this death is facilitated by safe spaces, trigger warnings, non-platforming and doxxing. Tactics they feel are used to deflect criticism of unhampered immigration, rampant social justice, the perceived Islamification of the West and multiculturalism.
Now, days after Colin was outed, on every dark corner of the internet where the right gather to lament the direction the culture has taken, there are people drumming up support for the various Millennial Woes funding pages. Woes may have been shamed but he can salve his embarrassment with the additional cash rolling in.
Mass public shaming also puts people in danger. On those same alt-right forums users are also currently trying to ruin the lives of anyone involved in the case. So, the personal details of those who broke the story, their addresses, car number plates, phone numbers, place of work are being freely distributed online.
It doesn’t just affect those who were directly involved. The family of Robertson have had photos of their house and street published in the media and the press have spoken to their neighbours. It will cause problems for their reputation and put them at a small risk of vigilante attacks.
More worryingly, the personal details of people who have nothing to do with the situation are also being shared and they are also being harassed. I know someone who has been abused and hounded off social media who had absolutely nothing to do with the doxxing.
The best way to start to deal with people like Millennial Woes, in fact a better way to deal with any opinion you may find distasteful, is to try to understand where the opinion comes from.
We talked the other day about how 2016 was a year that was marked by divisions and that neither side of the divide are making much of an effort to bridge it.
Millennial Woes is a minor evangelist for the extreme end of one side of the divide. He is a left behind white middle class male living in a society that has broken the social contract that once would have guaranteed him a meaningful existence. Colin has bought into the simple but ancient trap of blaming his predicament on those outwith his particular white male traditionalist conservative tribe. In many ways he is similar to the far left tribe who might blame exactly the same problems on unfettered capitalism. The truth is always more complex.
However wrong you think his beliefs are, they would probably not exist if so many were not struggling at the moment.
Authoritarianism, both the Right and Left variety swells in hard times when people feel threatened and vulnerable. Would Millennial Woes exist if the banking crisis hadn’t happened, if there were lots of satisfying reasonably remunerated jobs around, if he had a hope of getting on the housing market?
Maybe, but the vat in which simplistic and tribal views germinate would be a lot smaller if these problems were resolved.
Note that none of the tabloids that outed Robertson argued with what was wrong with his ideas, instead they just presumed people accepted they were wrong. For years they have tried to shame such thoughts out of existence but, look around you, with Trump and Brexit toned down versions of authoritarian right wing ideologies are gaining political traction.
We are not as rational as we like to believe. Our actions are driven by emotions and these base primal emotions to some extent lay dormant in all of us. I have never met a person who has not held at least one ridiculous point of view at some point in their life.
As we have seen from history tribalism bubbles up to the surface at times of great societal stress and often lead to great turmoil. In recent times, as people feel more threatened, as life is getting tougher for many, these primal behaviours are making a comeback. They are on the brink of becoming mainstream.
They need to be tackled but not by taking actions that helps to enforce the worldview of those who hold them. As we have said before, free speech is a cornerstone of any advanced society.
The establishment and our whole political system needs to change radically in order to drain the swamp in which bad ideas grow.
Too many people have been left behind by old outdated ways of doing things and they are open to simplistic explanations as to why their lives are going badly. These structural issues will take time to fix. In the interim period, those who don’t hold the simplistic views of the likes of Millennial Woes, need to open up a dialogue with those who do in order to learn how to calmly and rationally counter bad ideas.