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presents its first feature documentary

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Inside the Racist Right

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Klaus Vedfelt / Getty / The Atlantic

One week after the 2016 presidential election, white nationalists gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate. “Hail Trump! Hail our people!” the far-right leader Richard Spencer said from the podium to cheers and Nazi salutes. The Atlantic’s cameras captured exclusive footage of this moment, and the clip was shared widely, on news networks and social-media platforms around the world.

That was just the beginning of the story.

White Noise, The Atlantic’s first feature documentary, is the result of a four-year commitment to investigating and exposing the roots of rising white nationalism in the U.S. and abroad. The magazine has covered race in America for the better part of two centuries. White Noise brings The Atlantic’s long tradition of reporting on justice and equality, and the rigor of long-form magazine reporting, to the big screen through immersive, cinematic storytelling.

The result is a deeply reported journey through the underbelly of the alt-right, bringing viewers an unfiltered, clear-eyed look at a powerful extremist movement. The past four years have shown that even as the alt-right fractures and reinvents itself, the ideas it has unleashed have succeeded in infiltrating mainstream political discourse and shaping the direction of America. White Noise is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand this urgent reality.

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The Filmmakers

Director's Statement

In 2016, I captured footage of Donald Trump supporters throwing Nazi salutes in celebration of his presidential victory. Ever since, I have been embedded in the alt-right as a journalist and documentarian. I saw far-right rhetoric surging on college campuses and in mainstream American politics, and white supremacists reaching millions online. What made white-power ideology so intoxicating?

As a Jewish American and the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, this question was deeply personal. Over three years, I traversed 12 states and five countries, and spent hundreds of hours with conspiracy theorists, far-right influencers, and politicians. I hoped that by gaining unprecedented access inside the movement, I could understand why so many in my generation were being radicalized by far-right ideas.

During a visit to Richard Spencer’s apartment in Virginia, it began to click. Evan McLaren, an alt-right lawyer, wrote master plans on a whiteboard. A band of college kids poured whiskey for Spencer, adjusted his gold-rimmed Napoleon painting, and discussed the coming “identitarian” revolution. Spencer offered a sense of historical purpose to his bored, middle-class followers. In his telling, they weren’t just “white Americans” but descendants of the Greeks and Romans. “Myths are more powerful than rationality,” Spencer told me. “We make life worth living.”

White Noise explores the seductive power of extremism. Hatred feels good. But the fix is fleeting. As the film progresses, the subjects reveal the contradictions at the heart of their world. Lauren Southern advocates for traditional gender roles, but resents the misogyny and sexism of her peers. Mike Cernovich warns that “diversity is white genocide,” but has an Iranian wife and biracial kids. Richard Spencer swears he’ll lead the white-nationalist revolution — until it’s more comfortable for him to move home to live with his wealthy mother in Montana.

Storytellers shouldn’t amplify extremist movements. They have a duty to expose uncomfortable truths. The alt-right is an imminent danger to the future of this country. For so many who feel lost or alone, these avatars of hate offer a promise: Follow us, and life will be better. White Noise shows how empty that promise is.

— Daniel Lombroso

White nationalists throw Nazi salutes in celebration of Donald Trump's election. Lauren Southern on a date with her then-boyfriend, George Hutcheson

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