The Atlantic

Is It Unethical To Pose as an Alt-Righter?

A 25-year-old graduate student went undercover, yielding captivating footage of extremists—and a moral dilemma.
Source: Thomas Peter / Reuters

The hidden-camera videos released this week by Patrik Hermansson show creepy people at their creepiest. White supremacists spoke to Hermansson, a 25-year-old Swede who first approached them a year ago, as if he were one of their own. To them, he presented an irresistible recruitment target: a real Aryan, with impeccable pigmentary credentials, studying white supremacists for a master’s project. The racists lapped up his presence, like alley-cats around a saucer of milk. He found roughly what you’d expect. The racists are racist, “to the point of being genocidal,” Hermansson told me—and they are even more racist when they think they’re among friends.

But the means he used to ingratiate himself to of Jesse Singal in ) “posing as a student writing a thesis about the suppression of right-wing speech.” On Monday, the jihadism scholar Thomas Hegghammer that the project “strikes me as highly unethical. Posing as Ph.D. student [with a] fake project makes other scholars’ fieldwork harder and more dangerous.” Dozens of other experts retweeted his concern.

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