After a long seven months of dreaming, planning, and making, I’m happy to announce that my project, “Networks of Hate: Visualizing Extremist Celebrity Networks” is now live!
The motivation behind building this website was to visualize the ways in which extremist celebrities are connected in terms of the larger movement that they identify with or have been identified as belonging to. Many have noted how groups like the Manosphere and movements like GamerGate served as gateway ideologies/movements to more extremist groups like those that fall under the Alt Right or Alt Lite label, and the goal of my project was to visualize the networks of celebrities that these ideologies often travel on. To build the visualizations, I used R to make the interactive networks.
The new extremism is notable for their use of digital platforms in community building and mobilization. Because of this, there are a number of “celebrities” in the movements themselves that serve as vehicles of these ideological messages, and visualizing how these celebrities are connected can demonstrate how the beliefs of these groups intersect. Of course, celebrities are individuals, but they speak and represent the groups that they are affiliated with to larger audiences. Extremist celebrities in the 21st century not only forge connections but expose groups to one another like brokers. Using platforms like YouTube, Twitter, reddit, and many others, these extremist celebrities forge connections between groups and seeing their group affiliations may illustrate the movement of these ideologies.
The home page gives a brief overview of the project and provides links to the networks themselves. The site is organized into four main pages and then four subpages under the “GROUPS” main page. The pages are as follows:
- Alt Right
- Alt Lite
As discussed above, “HOME” is the landing page where some cursory information is given about the project itself and the motivation behind it. This is an “at a glance” page and it includes links to the network visualizations on the landing page and an explanation of how to navigate the website.
A more in depth essay on the reasoning and motivation behind the project will be found on this page.
The main “GROUPS” page includes information about all of the groups and reasoning behind why they were included, and is titled “THE NEW EXTREMISM: Who’s Who?” to illuminate the purpose that these visualizations are meant to serve.
The first of the subpages includes a brief essay about the Alt Right, who the main players are, and presents the first visualization which includes all four of the umbrella groups that are included in the networks.
The second of the subpages includes information about the Alt Lite, key players in the movement, and how it was borne out of the Alt Right – particularly after the Charlottesville Rally that resulted in the death of one counter protestor, the Alt Lite aimed to distance itself from overt white supremacy and instead is more focused on a nationalistic, “Western” civilization view. The network visualization on this page shows the connections between the Alt Lite and the Alt Right.
The third subpage is about The Manosphere, which is a web-based loosely connected collection of men’s rights activist websites, Pick Up Artistry spaces, and others. Groups that fall under this umbrella term include Mens Rights activist, r/TheRedPill, MGTOW, A Voice for Men, and others. Whether or not Incels has a place in the Manosphere is contested between the various groups. The Manosphere in particular has been pointed at as a gateway ideology, and this visualization illustrates the connections between the Manosphere and the Alt Lite.
The final subpage is about Gamergate, which was a harassment campaign targeted towards women gamers, game developers, and journalists, and culminated in a number of death and rape threats toward them. The communities where many of these harassment campaigns were enacted are still active and thriving, even if they have slightly receded from the limelight. A notable celebrity of this movement is Milo Yinnaopoulos, who then parlayed this fame in to being connected with the Alt Lite, Breitbart, and the Manosphere. This visualization presents the connections between Gamergate and the Alt Lite.
Just a page with a contact form, and nothing more.
I’m hoping to make more detailed visualizations in the future, like the specific groups that are connected since all of the groups I included in these initial visualizations are the broader umbrella terms. Also, my initial plan to have text pop up as one clicks on each node required a lot more technical knowledge than I could learn in a year, but I feel happy with the end result despite it being slightly different from my initial plan. Despite this, the website is a first glance at seeing how cultural flows and ideology are spread from celebrity to celebrity within these extremist groups, and future work can build off of these initial maps.