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UNLV sociologist says white supremacist social networks should be shut down |

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UNLV sociologist says white supremacist social networks should be shut down

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — UNLV sociologist Simon Gottschalk says social networks that cater to fascism and white supremacy should be shut down until authorities better understand their influence.

A study produced by Gottschalk and a team of UNLV graduate students, analyzed more than 4,400 discussion threads from eight blogs hosted on three prominent white supremacist websites. The study will be published in an upcoming issue of “Deviant Behavior.”

Sociology professor Simon Gottschalk. (Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Creative Services)

Gottschalk’s analysis notes a dangerous path to violence that isn’t unique to white supremacy sites, but seems to thrive in the anonymous, nearly invisible environments of message boards and private internet chats. The study describes “a switch in members’ perceptions whereby they are not only outraged because they believe that an ‘enemy’ discriminates against them, but are now also afraid because they believe that this enemy threatens to physically harm them.”

“When this switch occurs, variants of anger fuse with variants of fear to form an especially explosive compound. Under the ‘right’ conditions, some individuals motivated by those emotions can easily surrender to bloodlust and justify violence as self-defense,” Gottschalk says. 

“One of the key functions of white supremacist networks is to tap into and manipulate those repressed emotions,” Gottschalk said. “They do so by convincing recruits that the social psychological pain they experience at the personal level is actually caused by anti-white discrimination.”

The study observes the frequency of hate messages in all their types. Researchers called it “noteworthy” that there was a “complete absence” of comments seeking to temper calls for violence.

Gottschalk, who has spent a decade studying the social psychological impacts of technology on our lives, believes that until we better understand the influence of these networks, they should be shut down.

“I know this suggestion sounds unrealistic to many, but is it really?” Gottschalk said.

“While it does not guarantee immediate success, it will at least disrupt the dynamics driving the networks of the ‘fascoscphere’ and hopefully contain their effects. At the same time, we should develop additional strategies that address white supremacists’ claims.”