July 2024

Black Pill

By Elle Reeve
Review by
Elle Reeve’s powerful Black Pill brings members of the internet's most vicious, infamous hate groups out of the shadows, exposing the roots of extremism.
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The last decade of American political terror isn’t some accidental phenomenon. As award-winning journalist Elle Reeve intimately conveys, the “alt-right” movement is the result of several racist and misogynistic hate groups born in the least moderated parts of the internet, who have aligned with powerful Republicans and whose primary focus is white supremacy. Black Pill: How I Witnessed the Darkest Corners of the Internet Come to Life, Poison Society, and Capture American Politics is Reeve’s investigation into the network and ideologies of the alt-right’s most key players. Some of them have left the extremist organizations that once consumed them; others are still pulling the strings. 

Her profiles of Matt Parrott and Matt Heimbach, the neo-Nazi co-founders of the Traditionalist Worker Party and one of the driving forces behind the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, are among the most illuminating. The men lament their middle-class upbringings, their feelings of alienation, their crumbling personal and professional lives, their hatred of their dads and even their diagnoses of autism. But these qualities, Reeve contends, are not an excuse for facism and hatred. 

Rather, Reeve shows, QAnon followers, Proud Boys and other extremist groups share the opinion that they’re somehow being cheated out of what is “owed” to them—money, women, sex, power, respect—and that failure to obtain their desires is the failure of the nation. It’s not just that they think they’re losing to minorities, women and leftists: They think the soul of the nation is lost, too. This fear is not new, but the digital space has made white supremacist content easier to access, build community around and impact the political landscape in dangerous ways.

Reeve is a phenomenally skilled interviewer, able to motivate her subjects to reveal more than they probably should. She offers what they went online to find in the first place—an open ear to share their unbridled opinions, no matter how bigoted. Some of the people Reeve interviews distance themselves from the hate groups they called home—Parrott, Heimbach and Richard Spencer among them. But Black Pill also makes clear that once you’re in, it’s hard to get out. “The movement,” Reeve writes, “will get you punched, sued, jailed, divorced, bankrupt. But it will never let you go.” 

“You get to a certain point where everything is just like that Springsteen song, ‘Glory Days,’” a rueful Heimbach tells Reeve. “You just sit around like, Man, remember 2015?” Still, Black Pill doesn’t ask for our sympathy—just a willingness to peer into the dark. 

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Black Pill

Black Pill

By Elle Reeve
ISBN 9781982198886

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