Here is how the desensitization process/slippery slope began. Sudden
shocking jokes in the context of an ongoing relationship.
In the fall of 2016, Samantha's indie-rock-loving boyfriend changed. He started lifting weights and making jokes she didn't understand. When she finally Googled them, she discovered they were based on an elaborate, violent, white supremacist fantasy called the "Day of the Rope," in which people of color, Jews, gays and the "race traitors" who helped them, are murdered.
"I couldn't believe it," Samantha said. "We both knew so many people that fit that description." Her boyfriend reassured her they were just jokes. But then, she says, he looked her in the eye and said that he was a fascist, and that he couldn't be with anyone who wasn't.
She started researching the alt-right -- a movement that shaped old white supremacist ideas into ironic memes that spread online to a very young audience. The grotesque jokes on imageboards such as 4chan and 8chan were not her scene.
But she found something appealing in the white power activists who presented themselves as intellectuals, like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor. Just a few weeks after her first online search, she became a dues-paying member of a white power fraternity called Identity Evropa.
That took her into the organization's chat-rooms on Discord, where some members spread similar messages to the ones that had shocked her not long before.
"Like it starts as a joke where you laugh nervously. Then you kind of stop laughing, 'cause you're used to it," she said.
"And then you start to post it yourself, because you want to be a part of that. And it's this really quick, quick descension into that."
Our glory and our danger as human beings is our capacity to adapt.