In recent years with growing use of social media and violent rhetoric in gaming, the youth in Appalachia has become more exposed to weaponized misinformation. Through these platforms far right extremists have succeeded in radicalizing a large number of teenagers. An upcoming documentary, “Raised by Wolves” explores this phenomenon.
The documentary reveals the toxic cultural cocktail young boys in Appalachia are immersed in online and unpacks the systems driving hate with analysis from experts in extremism, adolescence, masculinity, mis/disinformation, platform economics, rural issues, and insights from targeted community members, a former extremist in West Virginia who is now working to prevent radicalization of young people, and Appalachian youth themselves.
Members of the community who have been affected by this wave of growing violence tell their personal stories which intersect against the backdrop of an opioid traumatized, post-industrial region. The producers Dr. Joel Beeson and Dana Coester also don’t shy away from digging deeper into their own past, now investigating susceptibility to domestic far-right extremism through the lens of rural shame. As experts unpack the systemic nature of this problem rooted in our times, our tech and our history, this film presents a social issue that is only growing in severity every year.
Based on the clips shared with Team TrollBusters, the film has a dark, brooding tone with the color palate and music revealing the sinister nature of the subject matter. At the centre of this tale are the innocent teenagers who become victims of far right ideologies. The film goes in depth about how everyday internet culture and teen speak are used as tools to expose young people to white supremacist ideologies.
In one chilling scene, a teen shares his experience of being radicalized. His experience started with the sharing of memes. When the interviewer asks the digital identity of the person who tried to recruit him, the teen says that the screen name was ‘Chum.’ “Do you know what “Chum” means?” asks the interviewer. The teen responds, “It’s what you throw out to catch fish.”
Other documentary featured experts and community members include:
- Saba Ashfaq
- Caleb Cain
- Colin Clark
- Heather Chaplin
- Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Founder, TrollBusters. Read more on Dr. Ferrier’s experiences with Gamergate and rural youth.
- Rachel Fetty
- Seth Jones
- Thomas McBee
- Alex Newhouse
- Niobe Way
The documentary also features music by young regional Appalachian musicians, including Geonovah from Big Stone Gap, Virginia; Natural Rat from Morgantown, West Virginia; Soft Pain from Ashland, Kentucky; and Nothing & Everything from Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama.
Ruby Winters is a research associate with TrollBusters. She can be reached at report(at)troll-busters(dot)com.