Overview (Spoilers Abound):
Culture Warlords caught my attention with its interesting premise of a Jewish woman infiltrating the dark web to expose the hidden workings of white supremacy. In my mind the dark web is a mysterious corner of the internet that I wouldn’t have the first clue how to access. I was surprised to find that many of the websites mentioned in Lavlin’s account, I was already familiar with, especially in light of the Capitol attack, or even one like Discord that I use for the SPFBO contest regularly. I found the lengths that Lavin went intriguing, as she put herself at risk by writing this book and exposing her identity since she was already on the radar of several of these hate groups.
This is obviously not a feel good read. Honestly, it left me pretty disheartened, especially knowing several family and acquaintances who use sites like Parlor or regularly share articles from questionable websites that can easily be discredited with easy online searches. While the aforementioned examples are mild comparisons compared to individuals and groups that Lavin integrated that are obviously at a far extreme. I struggle to comprehend how much hate could be conveyed within those groups. What I find hopeless is how to break this chain of disinformation when the facts are so readily available.
I expected more of Culture Warlords to focus on Lavin’s actual experiences in the quagmire of the dark web, but it mostly provided recent history on terror attacks on religious groups from these white supremacy groups. Lavin went over these same events in various chapters to the point of seeming repetitive. This approach slowed the overall pace of the book, as events were revisited multiple times.
Lavin’s experience and story resulting from her time on the a very specific targeted dating website was both impressive, regarding the effort she put forth to obtain the identity of the individual, and also scary in the rhetoric of the suitor who was pursuing her. It took courage for her to relay this account publicly as it only provided additional fodder for the groups already targeting her.
Overall, Culture Warlords was an interesting and informative read, though I found myself wishing for additional details and stories from Lavin’s extensive time infiltrating these infamous sites.