Main Character of the Week is a weekly column that tells you the most prominent “main character” online (good or bad). It runs on Fridays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.
The internet is a stage, and someone unwillingly stumbles onto it weekly. This makes them the “main character” online. Sometimes their story is heartwarming, like the Pirates Of the Caribbean song that became an anthem for North Sea TikTok; usually it’s a gaffe. In any case, that main character energy flows through the news cycle and turbo-charges debate for several business days.
Here’s the Trending team’s main character of the week.
It’s the Republican party, which returned to the spotlight this week as the Iowa Caucus kicked off campaign season.
This is not a column about politics. This is not a column that aims to impose any political recommendations on your worldview. We trust our readers to make up their own minds.
However, this week we published an investigative series that I had the honor of editing called Naziland. This is rhetorical hyperbole but it is also literal in many instances of the series. There are white nationalists moving to swing states in our country, hoping to change policy at the local level and move that right up to Washington, D.C. They are finding success.
It is true that these Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists are on the right side of the political aisle and caucus with the Republican party. And that should be alarming to all of my Republican friends and relatives.
Think of the Boston Celtics from the 1980s led by the great Larry Bird: It was journalist Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe who famously said the Celtics were not a racist team but it was obvious that racists loved the Boston Celtics. The truth is the Republican party is being seized by far-right extremists who have political agendas that include creating a white ethnostate. Our series—reported last fall by Hi-Res Editor Claire Goforth in Maine, West Virginia, Idaho, and Florida—explores the roots of these movements.
In West Virginia, an anti-immigrant website has set up headquarters in a 140-year-old castle. Its owners have become the talk of the town and cozied up to local officials. In Idaho, one local Republican Party has been seized by YouTube personalities who have bragged about their extremist views; one said that he was part of the “Christian Taliban” and would not stop until The Handmaid‘s Tale became a reality.
In Maine, an infamous neo-Nazi who is an ex-Marine bought 10 acres of land and tried to train his followers in paramilitary combat. He was met with resistance by the small town of Springfield, Maine and his whereabouts are currently unknown.
In Florida, reporter Claire Goforth found a thread between the ugly racist roots of the Deep South and the normalization of everyday hate speech by antisemitic activists who have gone as far as projecting hateful messages during a football game in lasers. The message is clear: The Republican Party is being threatened by racist extremism. This is not an opinion.
It is, however, my opinion that politics should be about how much to spend on bridges, school zones being implemented efficiently, and how high you can build a skyscraper downtown. It should be about serving the public by balancing competing interests to make sure that all citizens can co-exist in peace.
It is also my opinion that party politics have become so divisive that it’s become a sheer, competitive numbers game; and politicians will justify anything to juice the numbers on their side. Up to and including coded white nationalism that they can brush off to their friends in D.C. when they’re at the Old Ebbitt Grill.
Again, the Daily Dot’s Naziland series, written entirely by Claire Goforth, who leads our exceptional Hi-Res investigative reporting division, is not about pointing to the fringes and gawking. It’s about pointing to just how far those fringes have infiltrated mainstream America.
I wanted to get some extra eyeballs on the series and therefore this column was a great opportunity to promote it. I apologize for the somber tone here. I promise that next week things will be much more lighthearted.
Hope you’re staying warm.