The Atlantic’s December 2017 issue is online in full today and on newsstands this week. A selection of pieces from the issue are linked and summarized below.
COVER & FEATURES
The Making of an American Nazi, by Luke O'Brien
Andrew Anglin’s website, The Daily Stormer, has been called the leading hate site on the internet, and Anglin himself is the alt-right’s most effective propagandist and most vicious troll. He “doxes” minorities, women, politicians, members of the LGBTQ community, journalists—publishing their addresses, phone numbers, and emails, and pictures of their spouses and young children—so that the underbelly of the internet can wreak havoc on their lives. And he’s done more than anyone to organize and radicalize a new generation of white supremacists, sometimes with tragic consequences: Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black people in Charleston, South Carolina, was a Daily Stormer reader. Luke O’Brien comes closer than any other journalist in charting Anglin’s bizarre and delusional evolution. Anglin’s story shows that, like many members of the alt-right, he was drawn to white supremacy more for a sense of belonging and status than as a result of any deep ideological conviction. The Atlantic’s cover story is a haunting profile of a violent, deeply disturbed, paradoxical, and at times drug-abusing individual—one who has been emboldened by the election of President Trump. O’Brien writes that during the election, “Suddenly it was okay to talk about banning Muslims or to cast Mexican immigrants as criminals and parasites—which meant Anglin’s even-more-extreme views weren’t as far outside the mainstream as they once had been.” When candidate Trump was asked by CNN about the death threats and harassment leveled by Anglin’s army, Trump’s response was: “I don’t have a message to the fans.”
Brotherhood of Losers, by Angela Nagle
The alt-right has offered angry, unmoored men a sense of belonging. But it wasn’t until the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that it leapt from private forums and online chat rooms into a form that most Americans could finally grasp as a real, and unambiguous, political movement. Charlottesville revealed the new movement’s true ugliness, leaving many of its adherents horrified, and once again adrift. Where did the alt-right come from, and what’s next for its fractious ranks? Angela Nagle, who has been observing the evolution of rightist groups for eight years, details the chilling inner workings of this resurgent facet of society, attributing its antiestablishment, antifeminist appeal to a desire for belonging and even trolling for the fun of it.
What Happens If China Makes First Contact?, by Ross Andersen
As America has turned away from searching for extraterrestrial life, China has built the world’s largest radio dish for precisely that purpose. And so, if another civilization’s faint radio whispers were to come down in the next decade, China may very well be the first to hear them. The Atlantic’s Science, Technology, and Health editor, Ross Andersen, travels to China to see for himself the enormous dish—which is the size of five football fields and large enough to hold two bowls of rice for every human on Earth—and to ask what the consequences would be were a signal from a distant intelligence to reach our planet. Would China go public with the signal? Would the government respond? Or would China withhold the signal’s origin, even keep it a state secret? Andersen also meets with Liu Cixin, China’s foremost science-fiction writer, with whom the Chinese government consulted on the project. He asks Liu to imagine the Chinese Academy of Sciences calling to tell him that it had found a signal. Liu cautioned against sharing with extraterrestrial life a too-detailed account of human history: “It’s very dark. It might make us appear more threatening.” But, writes Andersen, “I reminded Liu that distant civilizations might be able to detect atomic-bomb flashes in the atmospheres of distant planets, provided they engage in long-term monitoring of life-friendly habitats as any advanced civilization surely would. The decision about whether to reveal our history might not be ours to make.”