Review Horrific 'White Noise' documents expanding Alt-Right movement
Courtesy of The Atlantic
In 2016, following the election of Donald Trump, a video leaked of Richard Spencer, one of the outspoken advocators of the Alt-Right movement, at a conference in Washington D.C. where, after a speech expressing giddy delight about the election results and how that benefits white people, bouts of “Hail Trump” complete with Nazi salutes were seen and heard in the background. People with common sense knew Trump’s racist rhetoric wasn’t good for this country, but few had seen it come to fruition. Then a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville happened and it was the beginning of the end.
Daniel Lombroso’s “White Noise” is a horrific examination of the Alt-Right, a conservative movement which thrives on the rejection of mainstream media and often expresses opposition to racial, religious, or gender equality. In other words, “White Noise” might be the scariest movie you see in 2020. Instead of peeling back the layers of how this movement was founded, the documentary focuses on three of its biggest stars – Spencer, Lauren Southern, and Mike Cernovich, and shows audiences the impact leaders’ words have on impressionable influencers and authors.
It’s an immersive approach and Lombroso, in his debut feature, shows considerable restraint in his presentation. There aren’t talking heads to add commentary or context to the proceedings, just the raw unaltered footage of the figures practicing what they preach, going from one event to the next. It results in some painful, often gruesome intimate moments among the subjects, with Lombroso catching them at the peak of the Alt-Right’s transition from online trolls into national headlines.
Contrary to Spencer’s performative tactics is Mike Cernovich, a social media personality who made a name for himself by being a “men’s right advocate” and outspoken supporter of anti-feminism. Often seen peddling his supplemental products on Alex Jones’s conspiracy riddled “Info Wars,” Cerenovich throughout the doc denounces the Alt-Right, claiming they need to get rid of Nazi’s who are tarnishing the mission and objective of what he calls the “new right.” Though his candor sparks ire among sensible minded individuals (in one scene he’s heckled considerably at a speaking event) it inspires other, radical right leaning wackos to commit heinous acts. But in quieter moments where the camera is just rolling, we learn he’s only in it for the money, understanding that being an asshole is what fuels supporters and encourages them to purchase merchandise.
Finally, there’s Lauren Southern, who has the biggest reach with her immense social media following ranging from Youtube to Instagram, and understands how easily fans can be manipulated, delivering white nationalist jargon in a tidy “Rape culture doesn’t exist” package. Southern proves the more interesting figure of the doc considering she’s a Canadian xenophobe and pegs herself a fearless blonde warrior, pulling crazy stunts for her channels like blocking ships carrying refugees across the Mediterranean Sea or chatting with migrants in Paris. But she expresses doubt about her future with political activism and talks about finding a husband, settling down, and having babies. It’s ironic because she wants to have the best of both worlds: Putting herself out in the world as a strong female role model while pushing for the same agenda that would solidify gender norms and hold back serious career advancements.
None of the movie’s subjects own up to how their actions might have caused the death of anti-Nazi activist Heather Heyer during the “Unite the Right” rally, or those who were murdered in cold blood during church or synagogue services by Alt-Right extremists. Spencer, Southern, and Cernovich play the sympathy card, shrugging off how anyone could interpret their words as a call to incite violence. “They’re disobeying me,” Spencer says to the camera while hiding out at a family home in Montana (where he’s currently residing as he fends off several civil lawsuits).
Though “White Noise” – which was produced by “The Atlantic” – might be accused of giving another platform to this movement of hate, and isn’t the scathing indictment of white supremacy you want it to be (to first understand these people, the filmmakers attempt to humanize them, which didn’t always sit well with me) it still shows how deep racism is embedded into society. Even if these hate spewing politicians get voted out in the forthcoming elections (and lets hope it happens) that doesn’t get rid of the problem. We’ve still got work to do, and the path to healing is only beginning.
WHITE NOISE debuts on digital platforms Wednesday October 21st