Ashley Feinberg has a scary but great piece dissecting the Daily Stormer’s style guide.
It’s more than a style guide for writing internet-friendly neo-Nazi prose; it’s a playbook for the alt-right…. The site’s stylistic decisions, the subjects it covers, the specific racial slurs it employs — all are consciously chosen for the purpose of furthering The Daily Stormer’s ultimate goal, which, according to the style guide itself, is “to spread the message of nationalism and anti-Semitism to the masses.” Everything is deliberate.
The guide is particularly interested in ways to lend the site’s hyperbolic racial invective a facade of credibility and good faith. Or at the very least, in how to confuse its readers to the point where they can’t tell the difference. The Daily Stormer, for instance, uses block quotes for much the same reason Richard Spencer stuffs himself into vests…: it allows writers to borrow some of mainstream media’s air of scrupulousness and good hygiene.
I know that manipulation is nothing new– rhetoric and music were seen by ancient Greek philosophers as tools for manipulating the passions of the unwise– but I think we’re living in a Cambrian explosion for manipulation, thanks to two trends: the weaponization of behavioral economics or persuasive technologies, A/B experiments that aim to fine-tune products to suit our preferences, and technologies technologies that behave like car salesmen– adjusting their sales pitches based on our previous purchases and current behavior; and the growing use of these strategies for ends that are, at best, sketchy. When Facebook encourages you to spend time with friends on Facebook so they can track your social graph and sell it to advertisers; when games are designed to have no clear end-point so you feel like you’re abandoning your friends if you stop playing; when the Daily Stormer uses humor and block quotes in an effort to normalize virulent anti-Semitism; it becomes easy to assume that these kinds of efforts are lurking in the background of every interaction or communication.