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My Vingren in 'Hacking Hate'
Investigative journalist My Vingren in 'Hacking Hate' at Tribeca Film Festival (courtesy of Tribeca FF)

Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘Hacking Hate’

Hacking Hate

Hacking Hate written and directed by Swedish filmmaker Simon Klose made its world premier in the documentary competition at Tribeca Film Festival. After staff counted the votes, Hacking Hate won the “Best Documentary Feature” award and received one additional screening day at Tribeca.

The audience believed the subject matter as a moral imperative. Today, the blessing of social media has turned into a curse. It depends upon who uses the platforms for what purpose. Donald Trump legitimized the hatred of right-wing groups online, after the march of white supremacists at Charlottesville, Virginia. Violent comments online turned viral. Klose and his subject, My Vingren, an award-winning Swedish journalist, examine how hate grows via social media in this salient, current film.

Swedish director Simon Klose during a Q and A, after the screening of 'Hacking Hate' (Carole Di Tosti)
Swedish director Simon Klose during a Q and A, after the screening of Hacking Hate (Carole Di Tosti)

“The Real-life ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'”

Given the handle the “real-life ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'” by media outlets, My Vingren’s in depth-investigative journalism received awards. Intending to explore hate groups for his film, Klose discovered Vingren’s clever approach toward infiltrating white supremacist groups. Vingren created complicated fake identities, taking selfies heavily edited with apps. With these she created social media accounts. She added a network of family and backstories,and she designed them to dupe nascent and maturing white supremacists, employing far right, subversive hashtags. Using her profile, she monitored their posts and interactions on Twitter (now X), and other sites over a period of years.

With precision and a cinema verite style, Klose shadows how Vingren connects with various white supremacists. With saavy editing, Klose includes these individuals in his film. For example, in one striking video we watch a blonde, blue eyed, well-built white supremacist emphasize body building and weight-lifting. To him, image, looking huge and powerful, a Master Race icon, counts. Not only does he promote himself and his image, he ties in the philosophy of strength as an influencer. Such branding, picked up by the far-right groups which support violence and power speaks for itself.

In another deep cover expose, Vingren monitors “Vincent,” an apparent “influencer” behind the “Nordic Federation.” In her pursuit of Vincent’s true identity, she meets his neighbor who relates his experience with the man. Vincent, miserable with self-loathing, moved out and left the apartment stinking with raw meat placed in mattresses and elsewhere. Writing an article about this individual, My Vingren asks questions about his bosses after delving into his background and psychology. And she suggests he could be wittingly or unwittingly working for Russia as a troll who provokes online hate globally.

Social Media Platforms Look to Make Money Regardless of Political Extremism

The director highlights the trends of social media platforms to make money, helping both “left” and right.” As confirmed by many, platforms seek engagement and emotion. The more hyper, the better. They run their Ads from Niki to local food purveyors to the RNC.

Switching back and forth from subject threads to elucidate parallel stories, Klose focuses on Twitter whistleblower Anika Collier Navaroli. After Jan. 6, 2021, Navaroli successfully stirred Twitter to ban former President Donald Trump in the aftermath of the insurrection. Twitter stopped Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric designed to stoke is violent supporters. When Navaroli meets Vingren, they bond over shared interests and attitudes about curtailing hate speech and violence. online.

Twitter whistleblower Anika Collier Navaroli in 'Hacking Hate' (courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)
Twitter whistleblower Anika Collier Navaroli in Hacking Hate (courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)

Imran Ahmed’s Center for Countering Digital Hate

Director Klose films an interview with Imran Ahmed. The founder and CEO of Center for Countering Digital Hate, Imran Ahmed infuriated Elon Musk. After Musk bought Twitter, now X, he sued Ahmed for identifying that Musk encouraged the increasing hate speech, once banned. In the interviews with Imran, the founder/CEO discusses the importance of curtailing hate speech.

Ahmed’s organization links hate speech and groups with corporate profits. For example, his organization might go to a successful corporate brand like McDonald’s. They identify that next to their Ronald McDonald ads Neo-Nazis perform a Hitler salute. After showing the ads and the pictures, they ask, “How do you feel about your ad next to Neo-Nazi posts and pictures?” In horror McDonald’s takes their advertising money off the table.

Corporate Brands Aware of Ad placements on Hate Group Posts Change Behaviors

Ahmed’s organization and other such groups draw attention to online corporate Ad placement on social media sites. The companies just throw money at platforms and don’t monitor their Ad placements. But with their awareness, they recognize paying for advertisements on irresponsible, unmonitored media platforms based on engagement algorithms comes with a huge price. Those who oppose Neo-Nazi hate groups don’t approve. Consequently, they boycott McDonald’s.

To conclude the section, Klose affirms that Musk lost his lawsuit against Ahmed. The win creates hope that social media platforms respond to prods about how their algorithms actually create a negative impact. Indeed, they dampen profits, not increase them. This is especially so for Ads on sites dealing with hate groups, hate speech or extremist political content. Monitoring makes safer sites and profitability for corporations in the long run. After all, the vast majority of the US and global public disapprove of hate groups, hate speech, violence, indecency, unkindness, etc.

An Inspiration Hacking Hate Leaves us With

One of the inspirations of Hacking Hate comes with learning how the hate group process operates online. By looking at the faces behind the “cool,” triggering avatars, we see tenuous, broken, “uncool” people with problems. My Vingren and Simon Klose demystify “Vincent” and the Master Race blond. Awareness of how algorithms pegged to engagement emotions work on social platforms, encourages those who post to disengage. This is especially so if the public feels the social media site ignores their moral and ethical imperatives. When Elon Musk allowed hate speech to increase on X (researchers found this) and users discovered Musk allowed hate groups back on X, many other users boycotted the programs and closed their accounts.

In Hacking Hate Klose and his subjects indicate that public awareness makes a big difference. Perhaps the result of its winning a “Best Documentary Feature” award indicates the public craves awareness of such processes and reacts accordingly; however, AI insures difficulty differentiating between truth and deep fakes. As hate groups use AI, the public must learn to be more vigilant than ever and not take what they see and read for granted. If they can’t distinguish, then they should be responsible users of social media platforms. They should research sites and profiles. When in doubt eliminate and/or boycott.

Look for Hacking Hate on streaming platforms in the future. Tribeca Film Festival ended on June 16. Hacking Hate still appears in its Tribeca Film Festival online guide.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' ( 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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