The Daily Stormer — the publication of record for neo-Nazis, white supremacists, neo-Confederates, Ku Klux Klan members, and their ilk — has a style guide.
In college you might have used the Chicago Manual of Style or APA Style or the MLA Handbook when you wrote research papers. If you’ve ever written for a newspaper — and if you want the copy editors to love you — you’ve used the Associated Press Stylebook.
- When your life depends on commas: How the Bill of Rights talks about guns | The Angry Grammarian
- How passive voice makes the Roger Stone indictment sound less damning than Johnny Doc’s | The Angry Grammarian
- ‘They’ as a singular pronoun: Fighting for accuracy in dictionaries and the Supreme Court | The Angry Grammarian
Turns out some people are marshaling the rules of grammar and punctuation while, in the same breath, promoting the decimation of entire populations.
And judging from “The Great Replacement” — the manifesto of last week’s New Zealand mosque terrorist — many of the same literary principles espoused by the Daily Stormer are what the shooter hoped would make his repulsive writings more digestible to an internet audience.
Most major news outlets, to their credit, have neglected to post the shooter’s manifesto. But it’s worth scrutinizing the rules in the Daily Stormer’s stylebook — which was first reported on by the Huffington Post — to guard against their seeming normalcy: whether to capitalize conjunctions and prepositions in headlines; image formatting, cropping, and pixel count; which words to include in a hyperlink.
Because after that, things get creepy.
The language advice makes clear how any writer — the Christchurch shooter himself, or any writer on the Daily Stormer — can use linguistic tricks to manipulate even the savviest readers. The stylebook includes a whole section on which slurs are “allowed and advisable” (that’s most of them) and a few that are deemed a bridge too far (all of them seem to incorporate some kind of scatological reference; the stylebook’s author appears to be hung up on poop).
There’s a section entitled, simply, “Lulz,” which advises writers that “the tone of the site should be light” so that “the unindoctrinated should not be able to tell if we are joking.”
The guide even has an endgame in mind: While abiding the technical legal requirement of not promoting violence on the internet, it says, “it’s totally important to normalize the acceptance of violence as an eventuality/inevitability.”
Throughout his manifesto, the man accused of killing dozens at two mosques in Christchurch — whose name the New Zealand prime minister has opted not to say aloud so as to deprive him the attention — follows these rules. He uses time-honored stylistic tricks to find a wider appeal.
He cracks jokes. He writes in short, quippy paragraphs, structured as an easy-to-read Q&A. He’s sarcastic. He celebrates well-known memes, and even inscribed a few on his weapon before simulcasting his massacre on the web.
All of these tactics are heartily endorsed by the stylebook as the most lighthearted yet effective ways to promulgate hate. The easier it goes down, the more they’ll swallow.
There’s a deep, dark history to the ways that grammar and language have been used to subjugate. Mein Kampf isn’t just about blaming Jews for Germany’s woes; it’s also a handbook for how to convince the masses of a lie just by repeating it often enough and directly enough. In 1492 Antonio de Nebrija wrote Grammar of the Castilian Language, the first book about European grammar rules for a language besides Latin. The author justified its publication to the Castilian queen, saying, “After Your Highness has subjected barbarous peoples and nations of varied tongues, with conquest will come the need for them to accept the laws that the conqueror imposes on the conquered, and among them our language.”
Even if these actual Nazis don’t arrive wielding physical oppression anymore, we need to guard just as carefully against their weaponized words. Though we don’t have to read their words of hate, it’s imperative that we recognize when hate speech tries to hide behind insidiously charming lulz.