Lauren Southern, a Canadian YouTube personality who rose to fame promoting extreme right-wing causes around the world, including white nationalism, announced her return to social media Friday after a year-long hiatus. She is apparently hoping that political audiences will forgive her years of promoting of racist far-right politics and believe her when she says she wants to be a “nuanced” and “thoughtful” documentary filmmaker.
Southern uploaded an almost 18-minute video Friday—her first in more than a year. In the video, she says that since leaving YouTube she had a child, got married, and revisited the role that faith plays in her personal life. Southern expresses vague remorse for some of her past content and online affiliations but did so in nonspecific terms. Right Wing Watch emailed Southern seeking clarification but did not receive a response.
“The world I was a part of, especially earlier on in my YouTube career, was a very unhealthy one,” Southern said. She clarified that she was not talking about regular conservatives or liberals in her orbit but rather the “people who have lost themselves to a character or an entire personality comprised of partisan talking points, the extremists who can no longer see the humanity in their political opponents, or even just other groups based on race or gender.”
In the video, Southern laments what she says has been the reduction of political debate into soundbites and partisan attacks.
“This whole mess, this whole just disaster that I was a part of, it is something that I began realizing in people around me and that I started to see within myself as well—that I was actively assisting in creating this culture of entertainment and hot take politics,” Southern said. “I am growing as a person. I don’t know everything, and I’m excited to learn more. I want to let my work speak for me going forward. If anything, I’d say I’ve taken the ‘real life’ pill.”
Southern’s career was built on a foundation of extremist politics. Through the years, Southern’s promotion of the “white genocide” white supremacist conspiracy theory would come to define her body of work, in addition to her alliances with extreme-right political speakers and activists.
A former employee of Ezra Levant’s far-right Canadian media outlet Rebel Media, Southern launched her independent YouTube career in 2017. Prior to that, in 2016, Southern wrote and self-published a book called “Barbarians: How Baby Boomers, Immigrants, and Islam Screwed My Generation.” The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the book was a “collection of extreme-right dog whistles, down to the title.” The UK organization Hope Not Hate reported that Southern’s book argued that Muslims were to blame for the Holocaust. From Southern’s book, per Hope Not Hate:
As far as I’m concerned, Hitler was just a SJW [social justice warrior] who happened to get freaky amounts of power and actually implement his #KillAllJews (the predecessor to #KillAllMen) worldview. Basically, if Hitler were writing today, he could’ve avoided all the verbiage in Mein Kampf and just complained about “Jew-splaining” on Tumblr and the message would be the same.
Oh, and another problem I have with Hitler? He fawned over Muslims more sycophantically than Justin Trudeau. Bibi Netanyahu was right to point out that Hitler decided on the Holocaust partly because Middle Eastern Muslims told him they didn’t want Jews expelled into the region.
In 2016, Southern tweeted her explicit support for the white nationalist “alt-right.”
The next year, Southern would complain that the alt-right was attacking her for not having children and thus failing to fulfill white supremacist calls for white women to repopulate the white race. Southern had previously been a proponent of “traditionalist” lifestyles where women marry early and are relegated to housekeeping and child-rearing.
In 2017, Southern published a video titled “The Great Replacement,” which centered on a decades-old white supremacist conspiracy theory alleging that government and society had been designed to purposefully replace white people with migrants and non-white people. She would later delete the video after a white supremacist cited the conspiracy theory as his motivation for murdering 51 Muslim worshipers in New Zealand. ThinkProgress reported there was no indication that Southern’s video played a direct role in radicalizing the killer and that Southern expressed sympathy for the victims after the attack.
Southern joined far-right activists from the European organization Generation Identity that same year in fundraising for a boat rental and supplies to confront groups in the Mediterranean Sea that were rescuing refugees who were traveling on dangerous rafts and ships. During the voyage, participants fired flares at a ship operated by humanitarian groups, hoping to obstruct it from completing its mission. The stunt prompted Southern’s ban from the crowdfunding site Patreon.
As Southern’s profile grew, so did the impact and consequence of her extremist messaging.
In 2018, Southern was denied entry into the United Kingdom after participating in an anti-Muslim stunt during a prior visit in which she distributed flyers that stated “Allah is a gay god.” She was reportedly attempting to enter the U.K. at the time to visit with white nationalist activists Brittany Pettibone and Martin Sellner and English anti-Muslim activist Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, who is better known by the moniker “Tommy Robinson.”
Pettibone and Southern traveled to Russia that year to interview Aleksandr Dugin, a neo-fascist Russian political theorist. Anticipating pushback, Southern sought to justify the interview by framing Dugin’s anti-Democratic philosophy as “new arguments” in the public sphere that were crucial for those who enjoy “thought and debate.” Southern said after the interview that Dugin “open[ed] so many doors” for her.
Southern had another immigration hiccup in Australia, where she was scheduled for a speaking tour with white nationalist sympathizer Stefan Molyneux but was initially denied a visa. After eventually being granted a visa, she was photographed arriving at an Australian airport wearing a shirt displaying the slogan “It’s OK to be white”—a direct reference to a digital campaign coined by white supremacists who sought to counter criticisms of white supremacy by attempting to prove anti-white racism was a real phenomenon.
She eventually abandoned standard YouTube content creation in favor of releasing feature-length documentaries that were viral hits in right-wing online communities.
Her first film, “Farmlands,” published in 2018, promoted white nationalist conspiracy theories about farm murders in South Africa in collaboration with far-right extremist groups in the country. Michael Bueckert reported for Africa Is a Country that Southern told Molyneux in an interview that her film presented a “possible glimpse [into] what happens when whites slide into the minority” in the West. In another interview about her film, Southern praised Orania, a town in South Africa’s Northern Cape, which she described as a “super right-wing” whites-only “ethnostate” and claimed was controversial because it had a low crime rate. Her film was indistinguishable from white nationalist agitprop and echoed nearly verbatim the concerns of neo-Nazis who rallied in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2018 on the same issue.
Southern apparently hopes that her previous online audience will continue to support her with their clicks and dollars as she attempts to reinvent herself, although she has received mixed reception from her right-wing media colleagues. In the meantime, she’s sorry about all of that.