American fascists explain how 'ironic racism' acted as a gateway to extremist hate
Members of the National Socialist Movement (Neo-Nazis) during a 2010 march to the Phoenix Federal building (John Kittelsrud/Flickr)

Red-pilling, a reference to the 1990s film "The Matrix," has been co-opted by fascist groups to describe the process of "awakening" to white nationalist beliefs.

The blog Bellingcat collected a series of stories from seventy-five people who hold fascist beliefs.

Many chalk up their conversion to fascism to the election of Donald Trump, Bellingcat notes:

Interestingly, the forums are so heavily dominated by men that some users wonder if women can even be "red-pilled."

"The vast majority of fascist activists are male," Bellingcat points out.

"Some of these men even doubt that women can be red-pilled. The few users who identify themselves as female tend to be quite extreme in their beliefs."

Many were converted online.

"Thirty-nine of the 75 fascist activists we studied credit the Internet with their red-pilling," Bellingcat notes.

Many came to embrace fascist beliefs after initially only absorbing "ironic" anti-Semitism, sexism or racism.

Importantly, Bellingcat observes that the process is complex and can't be boiled down to any individual factors.

"Human beings are not simple creatures, and so no person’s journey to such an extremist belief system can be boiled down to just “YouTube did it” or “4chan did it.” Millions of people have been exposed to ironic racism and /pol/ without going on to don a swastika armband," they note.

"Radicalization is a process, and the goal of this study is to reveal several of the factors that can act to prime and nudge a young mind from laughing at Holocaust jokes to truly believing that Hitler did nothing wrong."