Abstract fascination with extremists

I go through phases where I watch videos on YouTube from Vice News about far right extremists and American militias and such. For some reason I’m fascinated with it. I find that I have strongly mixed and contradictory feelings about the subject.

On the one side, I dislike a very great deal of what these groups and individuals stand for, and find myself deeply unimpressed with the quality of thinking evinced among representatives of this tradition. That’s why I tend to consume reporting about them rather than anything produced by them.

It makes me sick, and violently repelled, to hear the way these folks justify their actions and projects. In everything I have found so far there is a deeply conspiratorial way of thinking, largely out of touch with reality, divorced from what is known and knowable. There is also frequently a hateful side to it, hatred directed toward the weak and the unfortunate, hatred, that is, which is turned against those least deserving of it.

When I meet the sort of person who believes the sort of things used to justify extremism, my reaction tends to fall somewhere between amusement and annoyance and anger.

But strangely, there’s something about the extremists that I also find compelling and somehow haunting.

I think part of it is the type of purpose and community that they have. I can see why some people are drawn to them. It’s a unique thing that is not widely found in modern, liberal nations. They have torn off the limiting comforts and amusements of our contemporary economy, have broken out of the bland niceties prescribed by today’s social code. They aren’t just passing time and getting by, trying to win a game that doesn’t matter.

There’s more to it. It’s hard to put my finger on. I think if society falls apart (a possibility that doesn’t seem so ridiculous here in the 2020s), the people who did things properly, who got a good job and a nice house and a couple cars and watched tv and went on vacations, will probably not be in a good place. The extremists, because of the activities they participate in and the knowledge they study, might be much better off. What do we do with that fact?

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