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A Troubling Development on the Horizon

White nationalist podcasts are popping up in the mainstream media more recently. What this might mean.

From The Daily Beast, published last Thursday:

Republican candidates on both coasts have made appearances on white supremacist podcasts in recent weeks.

On Thursday, Russell Walker, the Republican primary winner in a North Carolina state-house race, appeared on the white supremacist Stormfront Action podcast, where he boasted of advising Arthur Jones, a neo-Nazi candidate who won the primary election for a congressional seat in Illinois. In late June, congressional candidate John Fitzgerald appeared on two neo-Nazi podcasts, Media Matters first reported. Fitzgerald, a Holocaust denier running on an anti-Semitic platform, advanced through the Republican primaries in California’s 11th Congressional District, and is on the ballot in the general election.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee said the party condemns all three candidates.

What’s further unsettling is that, well, this isn’t the only white nationalist podcast-related story to hit mainstream news circuits this year.

  • In March, HuffPost reported on a high school teacher in Florida that has been secretly publishing a podcast where she espoused white nationalist views — and purportedly bragged about teaching them in a public school. She has since resigned from the school.
  • Last month, Newsweek ran a story by Michael Edison Hayden that profiled a seemingly thriving white nationalist podcast. The framing through the headline: “White Supremacists have been banished from social media — but they’re thriving on podcasts.”
Consider it the double-edged sword of podcasting’s historically-defining trait as a contemporary torch-bearer for the open internet. Low barriers to entry means anybody can publish, which means that, well, anybody can publish.

It’s haunting to see this development trickle out into the open as we continue to watch the saga of Facebook and misinformation play out. I reckon this is something that Apple Podcasts — and now, Google Podcasts — might end up having to messily grappled with in the not far future. Buckle up for another edge to, and another round of, questions about the governance and policy roles of platforms policing their spaces… and the slippery nature of bad faith actors.