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Stormfront users' anti-abortion stance reflects viewing pregnancy as a tool for achieving imperialist objectives
“The result is the creation and spread of dangerous racist and misogynistic ideas. These are often born in extremists’ platforms, but have spilled over into mainstream politics and discourse."
Authors of a study published in late June 2022 warn that White Supremacists have “weaponized” issues related to abortion as a means to “normalize extreme, racist ideologies.” The study employed Analysis of Topic Model Networks. This three-step process identifies topics, which are grouped (communities) in conversation, and what topics bridge between the more closely grouped communities.
“The result is the creation and spread of dangerous racist and misogynistic ideas. These are often born in extremists’ platforms, but have spilled over into mainstream politics and discourse.”
Dr. Yotam Ophir, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
The dataset and details
The focus of the study is a combined dataset that contains 9 million English-language messages and replies from Stormfront, a White Supremacist website started in the 1990s by a former Klansman, posted between September 2001 and March 2017.
The first dataset came from the Southern Poverty Law Center but didn't include content from 2011 to 2013. The second dataset, which covered 2011 to 2013, was collected for another study, but the authors made that data available for the June 2022 study. Researchers screened posts for the word "abortion," which narrowed the dataset to 30,725 posts and responses, and then analyzed using the Analysis of Topic Model Networks method.
The three key topics
Stormfront posts containing the word abortion fell into three categories.
The White genocide conspiracy narrative
The first was the White Nationalist view that certain groups are working to “eliminate the white race by reducing white birth rates and racial purity through abortion, homosexuality, and miscegenation.” Abortion was described as an “attack on the family” that served to eliminate White people and disrupt what the extremists saw as White women’s role.
Morality and abortion
This subset discussed the justifications for abortion. When it concerned a White woman, abortion was discussed as overwhelming negative, whereas the topic was much more neutral or positive about other perceived racial groups. Abortion was viewed as a solution to the “Han Chinese breed[ing] the most” and in another case a user argued that “Free abortions and sterilizations should be mandatory for any sub-Saharan Negro.” Their racist views about non-Whites justify the cognitive dissonance expressed by the users.
Abortion in the context of politics
The third theme was politics. According to the users, posts attacked specific pro-access politicians like Obama and Trump, who supported abortion on demand. The second subset within the politics group was the discussion of specific countries and locations, such as Israel and the Middle East, and the UK, mostly the Irish abortion referendum.
What the researchers found
Extremists have fetishized pregnancy as a tool for achieving imperialist and colonial objectives.
White Supremacists consider abortion among White women to be a breach of their 'biological' obligation, though they see it as a positive when non-Whites obtain them. The online abortion debates may help cultivate a social identity that transcends geographic and cultural boundaries.
In response to the unfounded belief that White males were in a state of crisis, online users created the sexist and racist "manosphere” made up of “phenomena as diverse as #gamergate, the alt-right, men’s rights activism, and pickup artist forums.” The Denver shooter from December 2021 was a part of this “manosphere.”
Popular in the “manosphere,” the Great Replacement conspiracy theory has spread to right-wing mainstream media, with Fox News endorsing the theories on popular television programs. The Buffalo shooter from May 2022 apparently adhered to the Great Replacement theory, which led him to shoot multiple people at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
Nationalist revivals and the decline of women’s rights
Anti-immigrant sentiments accompany the belief in the Great Replacement, hence elevating the significance of the anti-abortion element. Extremists hold that maintaining racial purity depends on strict adherence to "traditional," "proper," or "biologically-wired" gender norms. Thus, opposition to feminist and progressive viewpoints for the extremist may be part of a larger effort to restore White male privilege and supremacy. This also raises that nationalist movements often coincide with the loss of women’s rights.
In majority Catholic nations such as Poland, there is a strong and historic link between nationalist revivals and the loss of women’s reproductive rights…Poland’s ban on abortion illuminates the unlikely alliance between Catholicism and white supremacy, and how the issue of abortion has brought these two strange bed fellows together into a single political coalition.
— Sarah McGrath, March 2021
The authors warn that the findings suggest that topics discussed with abortion could help normalize racist ideas, create a stateless united identity, and help introduce extremist ideas into mainstream discourse. Obviously, this also indicates a threat to women because exceptions for the life of the mother have already failed.