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A Jewish writer spent over a year undercover on white supremacist message boards. Here's what she found.

Undercover with white supremacists online
Undercover with white supremacists online 23:37

Most people would not know a dating site specifically for white supremacists exists — but writer Talia Lavin is not only familiar with it, she got men on the site to send her love letters to their ideal wife. 

"It's a car crash between Nicholas Sparks and 'Mein Kampf'," Lavin — who spent time undercover on the platform using an alias — said on CBSN Monday.

She published some of these letters in her new book, "Cultural Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy," in which she chronicles her firsthand insights into how adherents of this hateful ideology talk and act amongst each other online. 

Lavin, who is Jewish, left her job at the New Yorker after a viral tweet of hers made her the center of anti-Semitic attacks online. Rather than hide from her aggressors, she infiltrated them, spending a year inside the dark corners of the internet where white supremacists thrive on message boards under the cover of anonymity. 

She described the particular dating site she found as being "explicitly advertised to racists," where men were looking for their "tradwife" — meaning a woman who adheres to traditional gender roles.

"I talked to all kinds of White men looking for… their submissive Aryan woman to continue the White race with them," Lavin said. "Looking for, you know, a chaste, submissive woman to breed the next generation of white supremacists in their womb." 

What initially surprised her, Lavin recalled, was that these white supremacists came from "all walks of life," rather than the stereotypically impoverished, uneducated demographic often thought of as having racist values. On the site she found people from New York, California and in between, as well as "members of the military" and even "an assistant professor from Zurich, Switzerland."

"I really think that that helped me sort of explode the stereotype… that you could only be led to this toxic hatred if you faced a uniquely difficult life," she said. 

The inherent misogyny Lavin found in her interactions on the site offers what she calls an "entry point" for white supremacist beliefs in general. She explains that "propaganda" such as anti-feminist YouTube videos give people inclined to this thinking "an acceptable class of people to hate and harass," which then expands into other forms of discriminatory thinking and behavior.

Another pillar of the hate she encountered online was racism against Black Americans. 

"Anti-Blackness is the lock, stock and barrel of the white power movement in the U.S.," Lavin said. "It's the absolute, sort of background noise."

She described seeing users on racist message boards trading photos of lynchings, and even laughing at them.

"There was a lionization of violence. In fact, there was a consistent referral to people who had committed acts of white supremacist violence — like Dylann Roof, like Anders Breivik, the man who killed 77 people in Norway, the neo-Nazi — as saints," Lavin said.

Despite the toll these "corrosive environments" took on her mental health, Lavin said she would absolutely "do it again."

"I feel that my sense of peace is not worth not educating people about the totality and the urgency of this threat," she said. "If I can warn one person, if I can convert one person toward standing up and fighting the white power movement wherever it rears its ugly head, it was worth it and I would do it again."

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