White nationalists have always been able to find one another in America, but the recent resurgence of the white-nationalist movement—and the extent to which its ideas have seeped into the mainstream alongside Donald Trump’s political ascent—is stunning.
In November 2016, I captured footage of Trump supporters throwing Nazi salutes in celebration of his presidential victory, a moment that became an explosive story in the days that followed, and set the tone for the Trump presidency. In the nearly four years since then, I have focused all of my journalistic energy on the “alt-right,” documenting the figures leading a swelling, and splintering, movement that centers around racism and hate. I saw far-right rhetoric rising on college campuses and in mainstream American politics, and white nationalists reaching millions online. I found my way into the heart of the movement, witnessing violent protests and wild parties, and sitting in the rooms where populist and racist ideologies were refined and weaponized. Through it all, I wanted to understand: What made white-power ideology so intoxicating, especially among my generation?
This question is deeply personal. Both of my grandmothers are Holocaust survivors. My father’s mother, Shulamit Lombroso, fled Nuremberg in 1939 with the Kindertransport, a rescue effort that saved 10,000 German Jews. She left with only one photo album, never to see her parents again. My mother’s mother, Nina Gottlieb, spent World War II hiding in Poland, losing her sister to the war. Six million Jews, two-thirds of Europe’s total, were killed at the hands of Nazism, an ideology consumed by a belief in the supremacy of whiteness. What began with inflamed rhetoric and scapegoating soon turned into industrialized slaughter.
Meaningful journalism begins with bearing witness. Over four years, I visited 12 states and five countries, and spent hundreds of hours with conspiracy theorists, far-right influencers, and politicians sympathetic to white nationalism. My goal was to understand the movement’s most prominent extremists—those who already had followings in the millions and were shaping the public conversation.