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What’s the Better Way to Fight Neo-Nazis: Hugs or Fists? Samantha Bee Explores

Full Frontal is back from its summer hiatus, and Samantha Bee has proposed the absolute worst way to celebrate: hugging Nazis.

Now, stay with me here. I know what you’re thinking. It’s what Bee herself thought and said: “I don’t want to hug neo-Nazis.” Of course you don’t. No one does. But in talking to Christian Piccolini, the co-founder of Life After Hate, a counter-radicalization group, she lays out a pretty strong argument for why punching Nazis might not be the most effective route to undoing white supremacy.

Piccolini is a former white supremacist who founded the group “to help people disengage what [he] built 30 years ago. And he’s fully of the opinion that the best way to fight hate is with love.

“What are the things that appeared in their path that deviated their trajectory? Could be trauma, could be abuse, could be unemployment or lack of education. So we will find people job training or an education or mental health therapy, because when you feel more self-confident, there’s nobody to blame anymore. And now we have a network of over a hundred people we’ve helped disengage.”

This is not a path for everyone, nor is it going to work on every neo-Nazi. Not everyone has the patience for or even a basic interest in making racists feel loved. (Not to mention the privilege of relative safety afforded to white people–especially white Christian men–looking to “hug a Nazi.”) It’s also a tactic that most likely only works because it’s former hate group members doing it. Personally, I do not believe most people would see results by going the hugging route, literally or figuratively. Realistically, they could potentially be putting themselves in danger if they tried to approach a violent bigot with nothing but arms full of compassion.

Because this method isn’t interesting or available to everyone, that’s exactly why we need groups like Life After Hate. As Bee says, it’s “somehow the only government-funded organization focused on white extremism.” Or, at least, it was. Before Obama left office, he awarded the group a $400,000 grant. Earlier this summer, Trump rescinded that money in order to focus 100% of government funding on Muslim communities.

Life After Hate is now crowdfunding to raise the amount they were anticipating receiving from the government before an orange spray-tan xenophobe took office. They’re almost to their goal, but for white people especially who want to offer more than just good intentions, this group is doing incredible work.

From their campaign page:

Life After Hate provides direct service to individuals who want to leave behind their lives of racism and violent extremism. The organization trains and supports former hate group members as mentors and educators who de-radicalize and disengage potential violent extremists. In recent months, the organization has experienced a remarkable increase in phone calls and emails concerning the intensification and spread of hate speech and hate crimes stemming from the alt-right movement in the United States.

I’m most definitely not going to be hugging any Nazis. But I do appreciate those who are.

(image: screengrab)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.

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