Youth Practitioners Can Counter Fascism: What We Know and What We Need

Miriam R. Arbeit, Sarah L. F. Burnham, Duane de Four, Heather Cronk


Fascist, White nationalist, and misogynist groups are actively recruiting adolescent followers both online and in person. Youth development practitioners can play an important role in mitigating the influence of fascist ideologies on young people’s behavior and reducing the proliferation of youth-perpetrated harassment and violence. In this paper, we present a theoretical integration that draws on empirical research from multiple disciplines and youth development best practices to examine how youth practitioners can counter fascist recruitment of youth. There is much that youth development researchers and practitioners already know and do, or have the capacity to learn and do, that can mitigate the threat of fascist recruitment and deter young people from developmental trajectories leading them towards harmful ideologies and actions. In order to support youth development practitioners in effectively embodying this potential, we detail 3 sets of activities: (a) immunizing youth to reduce susceptibility to fascist recruitment, (b) intervening in fascist recruitment of specific youth, and (c) counter-recruiting youth into community organizing for social justice. For each set of activities, we describe the goals of each component, propose concrete actions it may entail, and highlight existing research and best practices in the field that can be applied to this current challenge. We then propose next steps in research–practice integration to further improve relevant strategies and point to existing resources for supporting youth in resisting fascist recruitment.


youth development; violence prevention; fascism; antifascism; social justice

Full Text:



Adams, M. & Bell, L. A. (Eds., with Goodman, D. J., & Joshi, K. Y.). (2016). Teaching for diversity and social justice. Routledge.

Alexander, M. (2010). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press.

Allen, K. (2014). Addressing the issue: Bullying and LGBTQ youth. Journal of Youth Development, 9(3), 40-46.

Berbrier, M. (2000). The victim ideology of White supremacists and White separatists in the United States. Sociological Focus, 33(2), 175-191.

Bigler, R. S., & Liben, L. S. (2006). A developmental intergroup theory of social stereotypes and prejudice. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 34, 39-89.

Blodgett, B. & Salter, A. (2018). Ghostbusters is for boys: Understanding geek masculinity’s role in the alt-right. Communication Culture & Critique, 11, 133-146.

Bray, M. (2017). Antifa: The anti-fascist handbook. Melville House.

Brewer, M. B. (1999). The psychology of prejudice: Ingroup love and outgroup hate? Journal of Social Issues, 55(3), 429-444.

Burley, S. (2017). Fascism today: What it is and how to end it. AK Press.

Burley, S. (2018a, February 22). Anti-fascist organizing explodes on US college campuses. Waging Nonviolence.

Burley, S. (2018b, November 21). Survivors confront far right’s #HimToo campaign in Portland. Truthout.

Cargile, A. C. (2017). Social dominance orientation: A root of resistance to intercultural dialogue? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 61, 40-53.

Catalano, R. F., Fagan, A. A., Gavin, L. E., Greenberg, M. T., Irwin, C. E., Ross, D. A., & Shek, D. T. (2012). Worldwide application of prevention science in adolescent health. The Lancet, 379(9826), 1653-1664.

Chávez, V., Minkler, M., Wallerstein, N., & Spencer, M. S. (2007). Community organizing for health and social justice. In L. Cohen, S. Chehimi, & V. Chávez (Eds.), Prevention is primary: Strategies for community well-being. Wiley.

Chen, C.-P. (2016). Forming digital self and parasocial relationships on YouTube. Journal of Consumer Culture, 16(1), 232-254.

Cohen, G. L., & Prinstein, M. J. (2006). Peer contagion of aggression and health risk behavior among adolescent males: An experimental investigation of effects on public conduct and private attitudes. Child Development, 77(4), 967-983.

Combahee River Collective. (1977). Combahee River Collective statement: Black feminist organizing in the seventies and eighties. (Freedom Organizing Series). Combahee River Collective.

Cope, J., & Flanagan, R. (2013). Information literacy in the study of American politics: Using new media to teach information literacy in the political science classroom. Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 32(1), 3-23.

Cornelius, T. L., & Resseguie, N. (2007). Primary and secondary prevention programs for dating violence: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 12(3), 364-375.

Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241-1299.

Curry-Stevens, A. (2010). Journeying toward humility: Complexities in advancing pedagogy for the privileged. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 16(1), 61-72.

DiBranco, A. (Winter 2017). Mobilizing misogyny. (The Public Eye). Political Research Associates.

Duriez, B., & Soenens, B. (2009). The intergenerational transmission of racism: The role of right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 906-909.

Duriez, B., Soenens, B., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2007). In search of the antecedents of adolescent authoritarianism: The relative contribution of parental goal promotion and parenting style dimensions. European Journal of Personality, 21(4), 507-527.

Durlak, J. A. (2000). Health promotion as a strategy in primary prevention. In D. Cicchetti, J. Rappaport, I. Sandler, & R. P. Weissberg (Eds.), The Promotion of Wellness in Children and Adolescents (pp. 221-241). Child Welfare League of America.

Dvorak, P. (2019, August 15). White supremacists are recruiting white teens online. Parents must stop them. The Washington Post.

Fagan, A. A., & Catalano, R. F. (2012). What works in youth violence prevention: A review of the literature. Research on Social Work Practice, 23(2), 141-156.

Flanagan, C. A. (2013). Teenage citizens: The political theories of the young. Harvard University Press.

Flood, M. (2011). Involving men in efforts to end violence against women. Men and masculinities, 14(3), 358-377.

Follman, M. (2019, June). Armed and misogynist: How toxic masculinity fuels mass shootings. Mother Jones.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum.

Gable, S. L. (2006). Approach and avoidance: Social motives and goals. Journal of Personality, 74(1), 175-222.

Gable, S. L., & Impett, E. A. (2012). Approach and avoidance motives and close relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(1), 95-108.

Gates, H. L. (2019). Stony the Road: Reconstruction, white supremacy, and the rise of Jim Crow. Penguin Books.

Gibson, C. (2019, September 17). ‘Do you have white teenage sons? Listen up.’ How white supremacists are recruiting boys online. The Washington Post.

Ging, D. (2017). Alphas, betas, and incels: Theorizing masculinities of the manosphere. Men and Masculinities, 1-20.

Ginwright, S. (2016). Hope and healing in urban education: How urban activists and teachers are reclaiming matters of the heart. Routledge.

Ginwright, S., & James, T. (2002). From assets to agents of change: Social justice, organizing, and youth development. New Directions for Youth Development, 2002(96), 27-46.

Gleason, T. R., Theran, S. A., & Newberg, E. M. (2017). Parasocial interactions and relationships in early adolescence. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.

Gorcenski, E. (2018, October 28). The pittsburgh shooting proves Trump emboldens racists – & social media empowers them. Refinery29.

Gorcenski, E. (February 28, 2019). The Proud Boys: A Republican party street gang. Political Research Associates.

Graham, R. (2016). Inter-ideological mingling: White extremist ideology entering the mainstream on Twitter. Sociological Spectrum, 36(1), 24-36,

Griffith, A. N. & Larson, R. W. (2016). Why trust matters: How confidence in leaders transforms what adolescents gain from youth programs. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 26(4), 790-804.

Grill, J. H. & Jenkins, R. L. (1992). The Nazis and the American South in the 1930s: A mirror image? The Journal of Southern History, 58(4), 667-694.

Hand, M. (2017, October 27). White supremacists rallying in Tennessee show solidarity with Trump’s immigration policies. ThinkProgress.

Hankes, K., & Amend, A. (2018, February 5). The alt-right is killing people. Southern Poverty Law Center.

Harbin, M. B., Thurber, A. & Brandy, J. (2019). Teaching race, racism, and racial justice: Pedagogical principles and classroom strategies for course instructors. Race and Pedagogy Journal, 4(1), 1-37.

Hatewatch Staff. (2017, October 17). White nationalist flyering on American college campuses. Southern Poverty Law Center.

Helms, J. E. (1995). An update of Helm's White and people of color racial identity models. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of Multicultural Counseling (pp. 181-198). Sage.

Horta Ribeiro, M. H., Ottoni, R., West, R., Almeida, V. A., & Meira, W. (2019). Auditing radicalization pathways on YouTube. arXiv.

Huang, G. C., Unger, J. B., Soto, D., Fujimoto, K., Pentz, M. A., Jordan-Marsh, M., & Valente, T. W. (2014). Peer influences: The impact of online and offline friendship networks on adolescent smoking and alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Health, 54(5), 508-514.

Jain, S., Cohen, A. K., Kawashima-Ginsberg, K., Duarte, C. D. P., & Pope, A. (2019). Civic engagement among youth exposed to community violence: Directions for research and practice. Journal of Youth Development, 14(1), 24-47.

Jeong, S. (2018). The Internet of Garbage. The Verge.

Jones, S. (2017, September 7). “Antifa isn’t a hobby or a fad”: A Q&A with Mark Bray. The New Republic.

Juodis, M., Starzomski, A., Porter, S., & Woodworth, M. (2014). A comparison of domestic and non-domestic homicides: Further evidence for distinct dynamics and heterogeneity of domestic homicide perpetrators. Journal of Family Violence, 29, 299-313.

Kahne, J. Middaugh, E. & Allen D. (2015). Youth, new media, and the rise of participatory politics. In D. Allen and J.S. Light (Eds.), From voice to influence: Understanding digital citizenship in a digital age (pp. 35-55). The University of Chicago Press.

Kellner, D., & Share, J. (2007). Critical media literacy, democracy, and the reconstruction of education. In D. Macedo & S.R. Steinberg (Eds.), Media literacy: A reader (pp. 3-23). Peter Lang Publishing.

Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. Bold Type Books.

Koc, M., & Barut, E. (2016). Development and validation of new media literacy scale (NMLS) for university students. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 834-843.

Kruse, S. D. & Rodela, K. C. (2019). When hate comes to campus: Campus readiness for conflict, safety, and student voice. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, 22(3), 85-97.

Kumaran, M., Fogarty, K., Terminello, A. & Fung, W. M. (2014). The 4-H Health Rocks! Program in Florida: Outcomes on youth tobacco, alcohol, and other substance abuse prevention. Journal of Youth Development, 9(2), 65-76.

Lee, J. E., Culpepper, M., & Julien, R. (2013). Working toward peace: A holistic approach to addressing youth violence by Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. Journal of Youth Development, 8(2), 84-95.

Leighninger, M. (2014, 2018 re-release). Infogagement: Citizenship and democracy in the age of connection. infogagement: citizenship and democracy in the age of connection (pp. 1-49). Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE).

Lerner, J. V., Bowers, E. P., Minor, K., Boyd, M. J., Mueller, M. K., Schmid, K. L., Napolitano, C.M, Lewin-Baza, S., Lerner, R. M. (2012). Positive youth development: Processes, philosophies, and programs. In R. M. Lerner, M. A. Easterbrooks, J. Mistry, & I. B. Weiner (Eds.), Handbook of psychology, Vol 6: Developmental psychology (2nd ed., pp. 365-392). John Wiley & Sons.

Lerner, R. M. (2001). Promoting promotion in the development of prevention science, Applied Developmental Science, 5(4), 254-257.

Lewis, R. (2018). Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on Youtube. (pp. 1-61). Data & Society.

Lorber, B. (2019, October 22). Taking aim at multiracial democracy. Political Research Associates.

Lyons, M. (2017). Ctrl-alt-delete: An antifascist report on the alternative right. Political Research Associates.

Lyons, M. N. (2018). Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire. PM Press.

Maza, C. (2017, November 8). What to do when you accidentally book a white-supremacist band. Pacific Standard.

Murphy, P. P. (2019, September 25). MLS just walked back its ban of an anti-Nazi symbol at its soccer matches. CNN.

Messner, M. A. (2016). Forks in the road of men’s gender politics: Men’s rights vs feminist allies. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 5(2), 6-20.

Mihailidis, P., & Thevenin, B. (2013). Media literacy as a core competency for engaged citizenship in participatory democracy. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(11), 1611-1622.

Mihailidis, P., & Viotty, S. (2017). Spreadable spectacle in digital culture: Civic expression, fake news, and the role of media literacies in “post-fact” society. American Behavioral Scientist, 61(4), 441-454.

Nicotera, N., & Bassett, D. M. (2015). Building civic leadership: The journeys of pre-adolescent youth. Journal of Youth Development, 10(1), 19-33.

O’Connell, M. E., Boat, T., & Warner, K. E. (Eds.). (2009). Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people: Progress and possibilities. National Academies Press.

Picciolini, C. (2017). White American youth: My descent into America’s most violent hate movement –– and how I got out. Hachette Books.

Prinstein, M. J., & Dodge, K. A. (Eds.). (2008). Understanding peer influence in children and adolescents. Guilford Press.

Prochaska, J. O., Redding, C. A., & Evers, K. E. (2015). The transtheoretical model and stages of change. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer, & K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health behavior: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 125-148). Jossey-Bass.

Quinlan, C. (2019, August 31). How ‘straight pride’ parades like the one in Boston mask a far-right agenda. ThinkProgress.

Riestenberg, N. (2008). Applying the framework: Positive youth development and restorative practices. Journal of Youth Development, 3(1), 113-122.

Riley, A. (2019). Social and emotional learning in practice: A resource review. Journal of Youth Development, 14(3), 212-216.

Ryoo, J. J., & Kekelis, L. (2018). Reframing “failure” in making: The value of play, social relationships, and ownership. Journal of Youth Development, 13(4), 49-67.

Saleh, Z., Nakonechny, V., Denis, M. S., & Nichols, D. (2017). BLAST: A promising approach to service, ethics, and leadership development in rural Canada. Journal of Youth Development, 12(3), 50-62.

Schaeffer, C. & Zimmermann, F. (2019, November 8). They are racist; Some of them have guns. Inside the white supremacist group hiding in plain sight. ProPublica.

Schroeder, J. [@iproposethis]. (2019, August 13). Do you have white teenage sons? Listen up. I’ve been watching my boys’ online behavior & noticed that social media and…[Tweet]. Twitter.

Smischney, T. M., Roberts, M. A., Gliske, K., Borden, L. M., & Perkins, D. F. (2018). Developing youth competencies: The impact of program quality. Journal of Youth Development, 13(4), 29-48.

Southern Poverty Law Center. (2015, March 26). Stormfront: A history. Hatewatch.

Southern Poverty Law Center. (2017). White nationalists work to make inroads at U.S. colleges. Intelligence Report, 2017 Spring.

Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Male supremacy.

Stanford History Education Group. (2016). Evaluating information: The cornerstone of civic online reasoning. (pp. 1-29). Stanford History Education Group.

Sunshine, S., Campbell, J., Rural Organizing Project, Political Research Associates, HoSang, D., Besa, S., & Berlet, C. (2016). Up in arms: A guide to Oregon's patriot movement (pp. 1-188). Rural Organizing Project.

Sunshine, S. (2017). Three pillars of the alt right: White nationalism, antisemitism, and misogyny. Political Research Associates.

Sutton, M., & Wright, C. (2009). Finding the far right online: An exploratory study of white supremacist websites. Internet Journal of Criminology, 1-24.

Thompson, A. C., Winston, A., & BondGraham, D. (2017, October 19). Racist, violent, unpunished: A White hate group’s campaign of menace. ProPublica.

Van Valkenburgh, S. P. (2018). Digesting the red pill: Masculinity and neoliberalism in the manosphere. Men and Masculinities,

Watts, R. J., Diemer, M. A., & Voight, A. M. (2011). Critical consciousness: Current status and future directions. In C. A. Flanagan & B. D. Christens (Eds.), Youth civic development: Work at the cutting edge. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 134, 43-57.

Ward, E. K. (2017, Summer). Skin in the game: How antisemitism animates white nationalism. The Public Eye, (91), 9-15. Political Research Associates.

Yang, F., Tan, K.-A., & Cheng, W. J. Y. (2013). The effects of connectedness on health-promoting and health-compromising behaviors in adolescents: Evidence from a statewide survey. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 35(1), 33-46.

Zimmer, T., Flaherty, B., Miranda, J., White, C., Juarez-Scruggs, J., & People's Action. (2018). "No one's ever asked me before": Conversation with North Carolina's rural communities. Down Home North Carolina.


Copyright (c) 2020 Miriam R. Arbeit, Sarah L. F. Burnham, Duane de Four, Heather Cronk

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.