Christian Picciolini, a former member of one of the country's oldest and most notorious neo-nazi groups, recently revealed in a Reddit AMA that white supremacists are actively engaged in playing the most popular multiplayer games in the world in order to recruit young people to their ranks.
Of course, if you're looking for endless ranks of potential recruits online, there's no more fertile, no more active community than the Fortnite and Minecraft communities. After some focused questioning, Picciolini revealed that many of these players co-exist with the marginalized populations that the white supremacists tend to target.
"We sought marginalized youth and promised them 'paradise,'" he said. "Today they are using nefarious tactics like going to depression and mental health forums and in multiplayer gaming to recruit those same people." He went on to say that recruiters would subtly drop "benign hints and then ramp up when hooked."
When community members expressed their shock, Picciolini continued, "Fortnite, Minecraft, COD, all of them. Yes, mostly foreign recruiters from Russia and eastern Europe and Poland."
The AMA is absolutely packed with interesting and shocking anecdotes, and serves as a very urgent reminder that actions and speech borne from hatred are more common now than they've ever been. It seems insane to us that any logical person would knowingly engage in such rhetoric and adopt such a destructive lifestyle, but young people are extremely impressionable, and it's when minds are still malleable and growing that they most vulnerable.
If you've ever played Fortnite with voice-chat enabled and a headset on, then you know just how many young people are playing the game. As I write this, I think about my wife's very young cousins who, every single time I see them, are eager to show off the new Fortnite emotes and dance moves that they've been practicing. Kids are playing these games constantly, and they're soaking up literally everything they see and hear like sponges. How terrifying, then, to know that one of their squad mates could be trying to plant seeds of extreme nationalism and hatred in their minds.
It's something that we all need to be aware of, especially those of us who have children of our own who play games online. It goes without saying that, whenever you come across any expression of racism or hatred online, the least you can do is to report it immediately, preferably with visual proof.