Are Facts ‘Lame’? Retheorizing Scientific Dehumanization and its Relationship to Group-Based Hate in Contemporary Extremism


Scholars and laypersons alike often conceptualize science and hate as phenomena that operate in opposite discursive registers: science activates cold, deliberative, or rational conceptual processes and hate activates hot, emotional, or non-rational conceptual processes. This opposition poses a problem for the study of hate groups. If hate is the bond of group identity, then why need scientific reasoning or warrants? Yet, we routinely see hate groups articulate their positions and ideas through appeals to science and rationality. Our project interrogates this opposition. Through online ethnography and qualitative content analysis, we will empirically map the ways science occupies varying positions in a discursive field, which emerges as white nationalists work to articulate the terms of otherization and dehumanization. This work will allow us to craft a theoretical account that captures the multitude of ways individuals use science to make hate resonate – some which may involve fealty to science, as well as others which may involve denunciation, distancing, or ironic appropriation of science. Ultimately, this research will advance the study of group-based hate by clarifying how hate gains authority – not simply from its intellectual rationales or its anti-intellectual appeals, but also from the novelty of synthesizing such seemingly contradictory forces.


Institute for Society and Genetics, Public Policy; field: Sociology


Professor Aaron Panofsky, Kushan Dasgupta