Fliers began appearing on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus in late October featuring the school’s mascot, Goldy Gopher, wearing a sweatshirt with an anti-fascist symbol and hoisting a flag with a crossed-out swastika —“Punch a Nazi? Gopher it!” the flyer read, advertising a “Rally against alt-right hate” on Wednesday, October 25.
A couple hundred protesters showed up to the “alt-right hate” event at the university’s West Bank Auditorium. The event being protested was organized by the college’s right wing Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) student group, and featured 22-year-old alt-right YouTube vlogger Lauren Southern. One person was arrested in the protest, and police said they broke up fights using “chemical irritants.”
Southern, the featured attraction for both attendees and protesters, regularly objects to the “Nazi” label the protest organizers’ flyers featured. Her anti-feminist, xenophobic, Islamophobic diatribes tiptoe at the precipice of outright white nationalism, while she coyly smiles at her viewers in a video on her YouTube channel alongside a graphic reading “I AM NOT A NAZI!”
“200 people showed up to protest a 22-year old-Canadian girl that makes memes,” Southern tweeted on the evening of the event. She followed that with, “Swat team called in so I could show pictures of fat feminists.”
Like the Proud Boys, Southern claims to reject racism while embracing the supposedly palatable elements of the so-called “alt-light,” offering observations like “Black people are convinced by the media that they’re living in a system where everything white people do is trying to oppress them,” as she told a Vice reporter early this year.
Southern is a one-time Libertarian candidate for Canadian Parliament and former writer for Canada’s alt-right media hub, The Rebel, and a self-published author, who’s glommed on to the extremist right scene in her home country’s southern neighbor and found internet fame and controversy while becoming the movement’s white, blonde goddess of the moment (since Taylor Swift never returned the neo-Nazis’ affections).
Andrew Anglin, founder and editor of the embattled neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, strenuously objected to the presence of females in the alt-right movement. In his manifesto, published in August of this year, Anglin wrote, “Men are sick of having things explained to them by women. It is a turnoff. And it is absolutely useless. What does a woman have to offer you intellectually? Motivationally? Morally? Absolutely nothing. We need to keep women on the sidelines. Not speaking, not leading, and with no official membership in anything.”
Perhaps this is where Lauren Southern splits with the neo-Nazis — without women like Southern, who will take on the “social justice warrior” feminists? And who will the Proud Boys use as material for their monthly wank? (In Southern’s self-published 82-page book, Barbarians: How the Baby Boomers, Immigration, and Islam Screwed My Generation, she references masturbation five times, including, “ … I don’t masturbate to anime characters. I dress up like them and guys masturbate to me.”)
Before Southern launched her short-lived career as a politician, she first attracted attention with her debut video on The Rebel, entitled “Why I Am Not A Feminist,” in April 2015. “Did you know that every year, more American men are raped than women?” she asks on the video’s page, referring to prison rape. She mentions domestic violence against men, and says 80% of suicides are men, before asking, “If feminism really is a movement dedicated to equality, shouldn’t feminists be speaking out against these and other example [sic] of obvious inequality?”
That sound you didn’t hear was a dog whistle for Anglin and his ilk.
Later, in the summer of 2015, after Southern launched her candidacy for parliament, she appeared at a Vancouver Slut Walk protest (the name inspired by a Toronto policeman who said in 2011 “women should avoid dressing like sluts” to avoid sexual assault) carrying a sign that read, “There is no rape culture in the west.” The Canadian Libertarian Party suspended her candidacy, but she was reinstated after supporters, including Breitbart, objected. Southern received 535 votes in the election, not quite 1% of the vote.
Less than a year later, Southern returned to Vancouver to an event where pro-eugenics anti-Semitic alt-right figure and fellow wannabe politician Augustus Sol Invictus was supposed to speak (Invictus was running for a Florida senate seat, and was prevented from entering Canada at the border, missing his own event). Southern argued with the protesters at the event, and showed up in Canada’s national media once again when one of them dumped a bottle of what appeared to be fox urine on her head.
In December 2016, Southern self-published her polemical book, Barbarians: How the Baby Boomers, Immigration, and Islam Screwed My Generation, with a blurb by Ann Coulter reading “Buy this book before liberals ban it” across the cover. It’s a collection of extreme-right dog whistles, down to the title.
Speaking of the left, but uncannily accurate as regards her own extreme right movement, she writes in the first chapter, “people my age are groping in the dark for meaning, and finding it in increasingly insane, fantastical places.” Her generation, she writes, will “have to accept that diversity is not a strength, it’s a weakness. Its legacy is not peace and love, but division and hate.”
Her second chapter, “How Tenured Hippies Ruined Everything,” is an explicit dog whistle to the extreme right, who detest baby boomers for leading western society to this stage of civilization. “Well, it all starts with the worst generation in history,” she writes. “The baby boomers.”
As for immigration, Southern declares, “In the end the result of mass immigration is the destruction of the economy, of our culture, and of the very moral norms that make those emotional arguments have resonance in the first place.”
Cementing her spot in the rogues’ gallery of the alt-right alongside other self-proclaimed “identitarians” like white nationalist and alt-right leader Richard Spencer, she proclaims, “Individualism and unique identity is the antithesis of global government. It’s the antithesis of the European Union, of the United Nations, of the World Bank. It causes people to rebel in favor of their own interests rather than those of the elites. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are all the proof you need to see this.”
(Southern has defended Spencer in the past, stating, “Richard Spencer is not a white supremacist, he is a white nationalist. He believes in a white ethno-state, he doesn’t believe in whites being superior.”)
As for Islam, here Southern feels in her safe space, attacking the term “Islamophobia” by writing, “Let’s be clear: if the left merely attacked ‘fear of Islam,’ this would still be silly, but at least it would be something we could debate. But to brand such a fear as a ‘phobia’ marks it as an a priori irrational fear: in essence, a form of bigotry.”
Bigotry from an alt-right provocateur? Say it isn’t so, Lauren!
“[A]s the Dutch politician Geert Wilders has repeatedly stressed, while individual Muslims can no doubt be decent and noble people, just as tame wolves do exist, the fact is that Islam the religion is by its nature dangerous to the West,” she continues.
Then she offers a prescription: “Those Muslims we can ‘cure’ of the worst elements of their religion’s doctrine, or who seek to cure themselves and their fellow Muslims, deserve the full co-operation of the West. This does not, and must not, mean that we treat suspicion of that religion as a religion as automatically unreasonable.” [Italics hers.]
Southern goes on to endorse the Crusades, writing, “Like sword-wielding versions of Twisted Sister, Christendom declared ‘We’re not gonna take it anymore,’” and “The Crusaders did absolutely nothing wrong,” before concluding, “I’m going to be hoisting the flag and saying ‘Deus Vult.’” [Again, italics hers.] “Deus Vult,” or “God Wills,” was the battle cry of the First Crusade, declared by Pope Urban II, and another dog whistle for the extremist right, where it’s used as a rallying cry against Islam.
In 2017, Southern began focusing her attention beyond Canada’s borders. She appeared at the violent UC Berkeley racist rally in mid-April wearing an Army surplus helmet with a large “MAGA” sticker plastered across it, protected by a contingent of Proud Boys. She rallied the white nationalist troops, declaring, “If I don’t show up here, I’ll tell antifa right now, another patriot will show up in my place,” and “We will win the war for Berkeley.”
In May, Southern joined a group of European members of Génération Identitaire (Generation Identity), a far-right anti-immigration group, who’d chartered a ship in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy, where she live-streamed their group shooting flares at a search and rescue ship called the Aquarius, operated by SOS Méditerranée with support from Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). SOS Méditerranée is a European charity that rescues people in distress in the Mediterranean, including stranded refugees.
“So guys, if the politicians won’t stop the boats, we’ll stop the boats,” Southern says in her livestream. The Italian Coast Guard detained Southern and her allies for a brief time before releasing them, but Génération Identitaire had the video it needed to start a crowdfunding campaign for its “Defend Europe” initiative.
“We’re able to come out and sit in front of them with our flag, with our flares, with everything,” Southern told BuzzFeed. “We wanted that picture of defiance so that we could fundraise for bigger projects.”
Southern’s stunt in the Mediterranean led to her being banned by the crowdfunding platform Patreon, a common source of income for independent media outlets and journalists.
Still, Southern attempts to hide her bigotry behind the veneer of nationalism, writing in her book, “So get that stupid little mustache out of your head. I’m not the Nazi you’re looking for, and nationalism is more than just not-that-bad. It’s awesome.” (Again, italics hers.)
But if there’s any question remaining as to who Southern’s core audience is, the ones to whom the dog whistles squeal clear as a bell, we need only look to Charlottesville.
Transcripts of private chats among organizers and participants of the “Unite the Right” rally on August 12 in Charlottesville were leaked to the “media collective” site Unicorn Riot shortly after the event. They included this affectionate exchange regarding Southern:
Conway-OK: “@MadDimension any luck on getting Lauren Southern to attend?”
MadDimension: “No, she never responds to anything. Too busy getting hit on by thirsty neets I guess” (“Neet” is an internet-born pejorative and acronym for a young person “Not in Education, Employment, or Training.”)
DavyCrockett: “She’s on a boat in the mediterranian [sic] sinking hadjis with Britt Pettibone and Martin Sellner of Gen ID Austria _ A little indisposed I guess..”
Conway-OK: “There would be so many internal brawls trying to war bride Lauren.”