As some of you may or may not know, I’ve been doing a little “social experiment” online for the past month. I created a fake facebook profile about a month ago to keep track of a local confederate page that was known for making violent threats to groups I am a part of and support. I created a very simple profile that only included my location of being in Northeast Tennessee, my alma-mater of course being the “school of hard knocks”, a profile picture of a Confederate flag, and a cover picture of truck and a confederate flag. You know, typical generic redneck shit. I added maybe three or four people I knew were members of that closed group in hopes of me getting them to add me to it so I could do what I stated. I made a couple of generic posts that consisted of “fly em’ high” and inquiring if there were any local groups in my area that supported the flag and a place where I could be updated about future white-trash parades. It goes without saying that punctuation was non-existent and grammar was sub-par so I would fit in and not raise any red flags…only the stars and bars, by God. I won’t be sharing the name, profile picture, or any information that I think would lead to someone, somehow stumbling upon this blog and figuring out who I am on there. I did want to share with you as much as I could. You might find it as fascinating, unsurprising, and terrifying as I did at times.
I can say that I am fortunate to not have a newsfeed full of idiotic conservative nonsense. I’ve always deleted those types and the vast majority of my friends are very liberal or at least not a couple of Ashley Madison accounts or a pentecostal pin-up hairdo away from being batshit crazy. Even with that being the case, I do see many of the conservative memes or bogus news articles and am well-aware of their tumultuous relationship with reality. So, I was a little prepared for some people adding from the group and seeing that all over my newsfeed. What I wasn’t prepared for was what I experience on there for the most part. Some of it is not surprising, some of it is, but I wasn’t expecting what came next..
This wasn’t a profile I had planned on checking on more than every week or so, maybe a little more if there was a local rally. That’s why I was surprised that when I checked it two days later, I had well over 100 friend requests from confederate supporters from the local area and across the country. It didn’t make much sense to me with adding only a few people, not posting in any groups, and having virtually nothing on my profile but two confederate flags. I accepted every single one of them and more and more poured in throughout the day. By the next morning I had close to 400 friends and a wall and inbox full of random comments thanking me for my friendship and supporting the flag: the “cause”. There were some that I had more than a few mutual friends with and some only one or two. I send random request all of the time on my own personal profile, sometimes by accident, and my friends list is around 750 friends. I have added maybe ten people on this profile in total with all of the remaining coming from them adding me…. a profile with just a flag, a location, and a made-up name. It’s also not coming from shared posts as my posts on there are so boring and generic that even these boring and generic people don’t feel the need to share them with the world. As I am writing this the friends list keeps growing and growing so instead of having to go back and change the number, I’ll just add the number to the end of the blog when I publish it. I can say that it’s already over 4,000 as of right now. Yes. You read that right. I’ll also add that I have been screening the requests more to weed out spam accounts if notice them. Facebook limits your personal friends list capacity at 5,000, so I wanted to have as many genuine rednecks as possible before I reach the limit allowed.
Why is this? Why has a flag generated so many people wanting to friend me on social media? I’m as puzzled as you but I would wager that it has something to do with the insecurity these people possess. They people who are living in a society that is leaving them in the past as it moves forward and their notions of white supremacy behind in their hands. They probably feel like they must cling to anyone that they think shares their outdated and outrageous views. It’s a virtual example of the feeling of many in white, conservative America who are afraid to death of not controlling every aspect of society under their pale hands. Many, however, are poor whites who have historically blamed their woes and poor fortune on those who aren’t like them. They need a boogeyman. They need an out that doesn’t include admitting that their situation is partly due to influences of entities like corporations they have no influence on or admitting that even with their misfortune, they still hold a higher place in our society than anyone who isn’t white, male, and/or Christian. It’s much easier to let the racist dog-whistling by the Republican Party soothe them than acknowledging any of what’s really going on in this country. So they are charmed, like a snake, by racist leaders who tell them what they want to hear while they pine for that old society they hope that candidate can bring back to some degree.
The next thing that is semi-unsurprising and semi-terrifying is the amount of vile racism I have seen by those who have added me. The ones who go on and on about how they’re not racist and how it’s all about “heritage” is bad enough. We know better and there are too many of these people walking around at the grocery store to be surprised at their ignorance. No. It was the self-identified Klan recruiter that messaged me within 24 hours of my account being created asking me to check out their website and join.
It was also the hundreds of people who have added me with profile pictures of swastika’s, pictures of their children doing Nazi salutes, the violent calls to action, the blatantly racist memes, and just about every other display of vile, virtual hatred you can think of. This was an observation of something I already knew. Racism comes in different forms. We tend to think of racists as the people who wear hoods and sheets when really that’s only a small part of who’s out there. These people are nurses, construction workers, small business owners, etc. The problem isn’t that they simply exist in this online world. It’s that they exist in our society and seep into various parts of it. They’re everywhere. The racism of the past that was so easy to spot didn’t die with the stroke of the pen on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Remember that Dr. King was murdered years after these milestones. Society suppressed it to a degree, but it was never removed from the minds of those who espoused hate. Naturally, they passed it down to their children, and they passed it down as well. Though I have so much hope for my generation, who is the first to widely support equality, hate is still being taught and nothing is going to change that anytime soon. While I don’t see a lot of this on my personal page, I’m sure there are plenty of you reading this that have and do see it everyday.
Another thing I experienced was people adding me to various groups of theirs. Keep in mind that I haven’t spoken with these people at all, nor have they gathered much of anything from my posts which are vague, rare, and not even remotely racist or even supporting the Confederate flag beyond my profile picture. They immediately jumped to conclusions of my feelings towards other races, religions, and political candidates. In total I have been added to 106 groups and counting. While there’s a handful that appear to be harmless, there’s quite a few that aren’t. The majority are Southern/Confederate pride groups, anti-Islam/pro-christian groups, several dedicated to informing me about “black on white crime”, and blatant white supremacist groups. Here’s a few screen-shots of them.
You can gather that from a lot of the names but even in the ones that aren’t so obvious, the content is similar and sometimes just disgustingly horrifying. A perfect example of what I mean by that is this one in particular…
The group titled “Resistance” I was added to turned out to be a secret online group for neo-nazi’s that is made up of mostly European members. Almost every post is in a different language and promotes racism and anti-semitism in various parts of Europe, but primarily in Germany from what I can gather from the regular posters. The most disgusting posts I’ve found are from members who visit Holocaust museums and take pictures of them gloating and posing with Nazi artifacts and displays like the “Arbeit Macht Frei”, “Work Makes You Free”, that was notoriously above the gates of Auschwitz.
While of course I shouldn’t be surprised by these people doing something so vile, I was a bit taken back at this. It was something I had never seen before and it was certainly stomach-churning as I consider myself a student of the Holocaust since my fascination with it from an early age that fueled my fervor to one day join the military to fight the Nazi’s! I felt sick and still do looking at them here.
Another thing you may have noticed on that list of groups are political ones. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to be exact. You may have noticed the countless jokes and memes shared about Trump and his support among proud racists and the “I’m not racist, but…” crowds here in the South, but what I learned is that while it’s a joke that you thought had a ring of truth to it because your racist uncle is a huge Trump fan, it has a lot more validity than even I thought. My newsfeed is flooded with pro-Trump memes and posts. It’s really not a joke at all. It’s a reality, at least in my virtual world that I created. That’s a small sample-size but I would wager that around 75-80% of the political memes shared are in support of Trump. I would say that Ted Cruz does come in second, and the rest is just a mixture of the rest of the republican candidates. These people, it should go without saying, are overwhelmingly conservative and in support of the GOP. The few that dissent never do so because they’re conflicted supporters of gay-marriage and Reaganomics, either. The griping I do see are ones, like the teabaggers, who are mad and frustrated because the candidates aren’t conservative enough. When I say that, I mean they aren’t hard enough on islam, aren’t supportive enough of their confederate causes, or pretty much don’t flat-out call Obama some racial epithet they use to describe him on a daily basis.
While I know that all of these people don’t vote, or are at least the sporadic presidential voters, I do know that there are many that never miss an election. That’s why we get the far-right representatives that we do. The Steve King’s, Michelle Bachmann’s, and Louie Gohmert’s of the world. If you are familiar with those former(Bachmann) and current United States representatives, google them. The conservative base, demographically, vote more consistently than those on the left. That’s also why they have trounced us during the last two mid-term elections and will continue to do so if we don’t get our heads out of our asses. I could go on about the question I, and many of you I’m sure, have asked: Why would these people vote for a candidate that are so obviously against their own best interests? But, that’s a different blog and a question that has a lot of answers that make little sense as well. I just wanted to make mention of the political side of this little world I live in for a short while on most days.
So, there’s my update of what’s being going on in the alternate universe I’ve been checking in and out of for the last six weeks or so. As I am finished with this blog, I will add that the final count as of this morning of facebook freinds is 4,055 out which I added maybe ten in the first few days of creating it. I will be keeping the page up indefinitely. I have been thinking of various ways of using it now that it looks like a validated account with so many friends. One idea I have is creating a google form asking various questions for some confederate survey group just to see the responses. Please feel free to comment or let me know some potential questions that would be good for this!
It’s a virtual reality that I’m sure many of you reading this already know about because friends, family, and maybe those people you knew but really didn’t like in high school live in it as well and constantly share their alternate, yet terrible reality with you. A reality they believe actually exists in their mind as they pine for days past that they want in the future that would almost definitely bring all of the progress this country has made to a grinding halt. It wouldn’t be so bad if these attitudes existed only on Confederate Matt’s newsfeed, but it doesn’t. It hangs on the words they utter to their children. It many times sits on far too many teachers desk. Among other places, we know now since the events in Ferguson, it’s tucked behind the badges of some in law enforcement officers. Embedded down in their hearts as it is in the people I see on the computer screen. It’s everywhere. You don’t need this blog, nor the password to that fake facebook account. You just have to listen or maybe turn on the local news to see it. It’s there, I promise you that.