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Seyward Darby Delves Into Women's Role In The Far-Right Movement

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

While men appear to make up the majority of the pro-Trump extremists that stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday, women also played a huge role in the event. In fact, a group calling itself Women for America First was one of the main organizers behind the rally, which quickly turned into an insurrection.

Seyward Darby joins us now. She's the author of "Sisters In Hate: American Women On The Front Lines Of White Nationalism" and editor-in-chief of The Atavist Magazine. She joins us now from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

SEYWARD DARBY: Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: I got to tell you I always feel a little funny about asking an expert to talk about people who can speak for themselves. But you say there's a reason we don't see or hear many of the women who have grown so prominent in white nationalist groups.

DARBY: It's true. And I think that there are two reasons for that. Women in this movement oftentimes work behind the scenes. There was a woman in Charlottesville in 2017 who was a key organizer on digital apps, the kind of person who was connecting folks so that they got rides places, making sure that a schedule was in place, things like that, but not the kind of person who was necessarily behind the microphones at a rally. And the other reason for this is just that the movement is not interested in talking. Many, many members of the movement are not interested in talking to the mainstream media.

So I think that just because you don't see women out in force doesn't mean that they're not there and doesn't mean that the work that they're doing for these movements isn't essential. It's, quite frankly, like women's labor in a lot of other, you know, facets of society. It's invisible but essential.

SIMON: What affinity do they see, do they feel for a group like the Proud Boys that - I might put it this way - seems to be so proudly misogynist?

DARBY: They are probably misogynist. I think there's no question about that. And the bottom line is they either do not agree that these men are misogynistic. They see them as the epitome of men, as men should be - men as men, women as women, just very traditional gender roles. But there are people who say it's not misogyny. You think it's misogyny because you don't like it. I see it as chivalry. I see it as protection. There's also, I should say, a third justification that they're making their language sound as misogynistic as possible because they get a laugh out of, you know, quote-unquote, "triggering the libs."

SIMON: One of the people killed in the Capitol this week, one of the rioters, was a woman who, according to reports, was a follower of the QAnon conspiracy theories. How are the people in the alternative-right information, far-right-wing extremist information universe presenting her death?

DARBY: Oh, that's such a good question. And I actually spent some time peeking inside of some different platforms, so certainly, you know, Twitter, Parler and also Stormfront, which is, you know, the oldest white nationalist message board on the Internet. And there are a lot of similarities across those platforms of people saying, you know, she is a patriot. She's a martyr. They've co-opted the language of the Black Lives Matter movement to say, you know, say her name in the way that activists would encourage people to say Breonna Taylor's name after her killing.

SIMON: Her name is actually Babbitt.

DARBY: Yes, yes. And you're starting to see symbolism surrounding Ashli Babbitt's death with regard to, you know, she was a good American woman. She should still be alive to, you know, see the future. She was a soldier and a woman. And I think that those two things, we're going to see them continue to evolve.

SIMON: You warned in a piece you wrote for The New York Times that just because one coup attempt failed, it doesn't mean that the next one will. Sounds like you assume there will be a next one.

DARBY: Oh, goodness. Do I assume there will be a next one? I fear that there will be a next one. I fear that there will be a hastening to get back to, quote, "normal" and not a deep enough look at the networks and ideologies that led us to this moment.

I also think it's really important to note that this is not about Trump. Yes, like, he has become their rallying cry. Yes, he absolutely incited violence on Wednesday. But the ideology behind what's fueling right-wing frustration, anger and terrorism, frankly, goes back much, much farther. This has been, you know, something that we've treated as fringe, as opposed to a real national security threat, for several decades. So we devalue this and underestimate the folks that were behind it and who went into the Capitol at our own peril.

SIMON: Seyward Darby is the author of "Sisters In Hate: American Women On The Front Lines Of White Nationalism." Thank you so much for being with us.

DARBY: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.