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Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  584 ratings  ·  105 reviews

Talia Lavin is every skinhead’s worst nightmare: a loud and unapologetic Jewish woman, acerbic, smart, and profoundly antiracist, with the investigative chops to expose the tactics and ideologies of online hatemongers. Culture Warlords is the story of how Lavin, a frequent target of extremist trolls (including those at F
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 13th 2020 by Hachette Books
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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C. S.
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's not so much that this is a quick read as that, once begun, I could no more put it down than I could stop playing a horror movie in the middle, just when the looming, overarching sense of dread demands some kind of relief. But this is not a horror movie, this is all too real. This is the world we live in.

Of course, I was expecting that when I went in - not just the horror, the revulsion, the recognition, but also how morbidly fascinating the subject matter is. What I wasn't expecting was gra
Molly Rosen Marriner
This book is...fine? I’m trying to figure out how to review it without disagreeing with the points it makes or its importance. I was all on board with Talia-as-narrator and the importance of a popular, voicey mainstream book about antisemtisim. Ultimately I wasn’t a huge fan of the way the book was organized (each chapter devoted to a “theme” like the internet or violence or religion—all of which kinda blurred together and really ends with a whimper in the last two chapters), and I find much mor ...more
Oct 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
This reads like when a smart and reasonably funny friend, who has spent way too much time on the internet, takes a couple of bong hits, and unloads for a long while about the ugly things they found there--it's all interesting, and at times funny, but presented in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness fashion with random asides, repetitions, and detours that lack signposts, and never quite going into enough depth or detail. This is neither a piece of investigative journalism into a subculture (or ra ...more
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!

This was a book that was terrifying and harrowing, and while I knew a fair amount about white supremacist movements online (as well as misogynistic movements like incels, though the overlap is definitely there), Lavin really peels back the nitty gritty of the awfulness. She has well researched information, as well as primary sources given that she basically went full on undercover to get close to these groups in their online forum
Oct 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
Sufferer of Trump derangement syndrome. Apparently there wasn’t enough information to write a book based solely on white supremacy so she had to expand the net to include four other groups. Blames far-right for hatred and violence while claiming anti fascists are completely innocent and victims (when they loot and burn buildings it is the store owners fault for having the store where they are rioting). The numbers she provides are intentionally exaggerated without explanation to use for fear mon ...more
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Quick, bold and somewhat terrifying! People who are Extremely Online might not be surprised by some of what thy read here (I think Gamergate left mental scars on us all), but Levin stares at the roiling nightmarish underside of the internet of white supremacy and exposes it for the bizarrely stupid and dangerous thing that it is. I laughed at some of these people while reading, but it was with a shiver down my spine -- the people that Levin learns about may be foolish and delusional but they are ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a complex read that often required me to put the book down and reflect on what I had just learned. This is, of course, the highest possible praise I can offer a non-fiction work that takes on the complicated world of organized hate. Even as someone who tries very hard to keep up on all the ways that misogyny, antisemitism, racism and white-supremacy have roots in American culture and politics, this was an eye-opener on many levels.

Levin blends important historical events and trends with
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A VITAL book that everyone must read. Talia Lavin is an absolute superstar - both for her skill as a writer and for her fearlessness in gathering research for this book. I appreciate her skill for breaking difficult concepts down and putting everything neatly in context, starting with an intro to the history of hate and drawing a throughline to the current state of extremism. Racism, antisemitism, and misogyny are presented here as entwined issues that we must overcome together, not singular pro ...more
Ayesha Madan
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
I went into this hoping to understand the white supremacist psyche, the detailed steps to radicalization that the web accelerates, snd the means with which organized hate turns opinion into violence, and finances violent campaigns. Generally a clearer view into the vulnerabilities that underly white supremacists. What I took from Talia’s work was, for lack of a better word, a rant of her experiences when infiltrating white supremacist channels, and surface level observations of their online acti ...more
Rebecca Crunden
Sep 15, 2020 marked it as to-read
Lavin is every skinhead's worst nightmare: a loud and unapologetic Jewish woman, funny, smart, and profoundly anti-racist, with the journalistic chops to expose the tactics and landscape of online hatemongers.

Can't wait for this.
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Lavin’s writing crackles with energy and wit, and I’m very much in her corner politically. But this maddeningly repetitive and bafflingly unstructured book really, really, REALLY needed a good editor.
Nancy Hudson
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-challenge
Talia Lavin is really a hero. Who else wants to enter the underworld of white supremacists and women haters to find out what makes them tick, who they are, where they are and what we can do about them? It isn’t easy and I give her a million kudos for even attempting it. She has brought serious attention on herself and as a Jew and a woman she is placing herself in harm’s way. So Talia be careful!!!! Talia is funny, self-deprecating and totally candid. Her personality shines through the book. Whi ...more
Illuminating, sometimes amusing, and often disturbing – Lavin is a compelling narrator whose personal principles anchor the narrative even as it descends into some very dark places. Each case study of a different dark corner of the internet shines a light on extremism and provides critical context for anyone seeking to understand (and counter) contemporary white supremacist networks.
Rebecca Graham
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
CULTURE WARLORDS: MY JOURNEY INTO THE DARK WEB OF WHITE SUPREMACY by Talia Lavin should win all the relevant awards. as an investigative journalist & writer, the author sacrificed her peace of mind & sense of security to infiltrate the alt-right spaces of the Internet. through her own experiences strengthened w/ additional research, she reveals that the alt-right monsters who plan violence & spew hatred are real people. although we might think that we know this already, we really learn who these ...more
Joe Kessler
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Outspoken Jewish female journalist Talia Lavin has endured widespread attacks from members of the alt-right and related supremacist movements, including rape threats and death threats, both for being who she is and for daring to report on their organizing. In this book, she goes even further, presenting what she has learned by entering their online networks under pseudonym and observing as they talk amongst themselves. To some extent, the result is a wry portrait of the author catfishing people ...more
Karen Adkins
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Talia Lavin is a brave woman. She immerses herself in white supremacist discussion boards and blogs to reveal the white supremacist worldview in its natural habitat. As a leftist journalist who is an outspoken Jewish feminist, she knows going in this will be difficult; she's faced hostility and threats for years based on her reporting. The book is a mixture of historical diving into the mutations of anti-Semitism and white supremacy, and recounting of her experiences passing as a white supremaci ...more
Elena Robidoux
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
There was a certain preparedness I thought I had before being shown the inner workings of these online white supremacist subcultures; that being said, the reveal is never without shock value, like upturning a rock you know will have grubs and centipedes underneath, but being wholly unable to contain a scream. Talia Levin’s infiltration of these taboo, yet disgustingly popular and interconnected spaces, left me wondering two things: how and why did this happen? I think Levin does a great job at o ...more
Will Paulhus
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was the single most difficult book for me to finish this year. The author delves deep into the hate filled online world of white supremacy. She frequently brings up that she is Jewish and how people in these online groups are, directly or indirectly, threatening her, her family, and peoples she cares about. It isn't difficult to see my own family and the people I care about reflected there. I took this book maybe too personally.

The threat of violence from groups like these are very real, an
It's not a book I enjoyed because its not a book to be enjoyed. Reading about neo-Nazis and the KKK and the alt-right is aggravating. Seeing the slurs of every racial and sexual component is unnerving.

Lavin goes into painstaking detail about the ins and outs of some of these messaging boards. Before reading this book i was not aware of her notoriety but her writing, with almost nonchalance, about the rape and death threats she gets is abhorrent.

On a personal note:

Reading this made me realized ho
Kathy Piselli
Nov 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not for the faint of heart, this is the "Black Like Me" of the white supremacist world. Lavin traces the lineage back to Dark Ages European anti-Semitism, the hatred that seems never to die, though its American iteration includes many more groups than Jews. You realize that the topics of invented fears have hardly changed over the centuries, so we who have been waiting and waiting for all the fringe people to get on out of the White House and back under their rocks may be waiting all our lives. ...more
Nathan Reed
Nov 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
With recounts and incidents that are still so fresh on the minds of most Americans this book helps to navigate the behind the scenes look at the Alt-right and Neo-fascist rhetoric that cause so much division on our social and political platforms. This gives context behind the brash behavior of alt-right online trolls and the political pundits on Fox news. From the moment I begin reading this book it was next to impossible to set it down. From first hand accounts to shocking stories of catfishing ...more
Nov 15, 2020 rated it liked it
I have such a deep respect for Lavin and the work she does. I loved whenever she wrote about her activist work. Sadly I didn't think the more general stuff was exceedingly well done (but that might be because I have read too much work about the new or alt-right already).
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This feels like essential reading. What a book!
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I encourage people with any level of ambivalence towards "President" Trump and his ilk to read this and understand the evil they find unobjectionable.
J Earl
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin is a disturbing and eye-opening book that everyone needs to read. I don't care where you are on the political spectrum, you need to know what is bubbling under the surface and then make an informed decision about where you stand.

The majority of the book presents Lavin's research and interactions, undercover, on many of the sites where these people congregate to spew their filth. Early in the book you'll read about h
Oct 31, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is essentially an ethnographic study of racial hate groups—anti-Semites, white supremacists, incels, and other assorted whack jobs. The author, a female Jewish journalist, infiltrates these groups by joining them online, disguising herself as one of them. What she finds is a barrage of hateful invectives, sharing of pictures with violent expressions such as lynchings, declarations of intent to commit violence, and dreams of world domination with the elimination or oppression of non-whi ...more
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Note Yeah Nah Pasaran! #040 w Talia Lavin on Culture Warlords : October 15, 2020

On Yeah Nah, we talk to Talia Lavin [Twitter]: writer, podcaster and author of Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy (Hachette, 2020):

Talia Lavin is every fascist’s worst nightmare: a loud and unapologetic young Jewish woman, with the online investigative know-how to expose the tactics and ideologies of online hatemongers. Outspoken and uncompromising, Lavin’s debut uncovers the hidden cor
April Taylor
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Talia Lavin manages to make some of the most repugnant aspects of society absolutely fascinating to read about in Culture Warlords. This on its own is a major accomplishment, but when you combine it with all the historical and modern information about white supremacists, incels, and fascists, this book becomes a must read for everyone who wants to build a more just and equal world. After all, how can we improve things if we don’t have a good understanding of those who want to see the world burn? ...more
Nov 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Culture Warlords is a highly uncomfortable - but necessary - read. Talia Lavin investigates the deplorable world of white supremacy via forums, chatrooms and dating sites in order to attempt to understand why these people behave they do, with the ultimate aim of exposing them.

As much as I was aware of these groups, I wasn't fully aware of the vulgarity of their beliefs and was appalled at the casual way such hatred and vitriol was discussed. Lavin explains the historical significance of these gr
Dave Schumaker
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Oh, boy. This book gives me some PTSD. As a former community manager in another life, I dealt with some of the elements that Talia mentions in this book on a daily basis.

In Talia's case, I can't imagine what it's like to have so much hate and harm wished upon you and kudos to her for wanting to expose members of these groups where possible. One passage she had at the beginning of the book highlighted why we need to shut down any talk of white supremacy, wherever it happens:

“But the effect of the
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Talia Lavin is a freelance writer who has had bylines in the New Yorker, the New Republic, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Village Voice, and more. Profoundly anti-racist and a nifty digital native, Lavin possess the online skills needed to go behind the scenes of the digital white supremacist movement (even if that does mean becoming the frequent target of extremist troll ...more

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