A small, slick contingent of young Orthodox stars are harnessing social media to spread extreme messages around the globe.
“Democracy is a tool of Satan that has been perfected by Jews and their gentile allies in secret societies to take sly control of nations while allowing citizens to feel that they have a choice in the matter, keeping them compliant and dumb.”
These are the written words of Roosh Valizadeh.
In his rampantly anti-Semitic online writings - which parrot the classic line that Jews run the world – the former pickup and alt-right blogger, turned Orthodox zealot, talks about a once Christian West transformed into a state of “Jewish pornographic sewage”.
Alleged national decline is a prominent theme in the American’s writings, believing untold millions in the Western world have sold their “souls for comfort, money, and sex”.
"America’s “moral sickness” is in its terminal stage,” he wrote in one blog post. “The boomers are busy counting their money, Gen X is trying to keep their 2.1 children from becoming gay, millennials opened Pandora’s box on degeneracy… and the zoomers may not be able to keep their brains intact from being exposed to hardcore pornography at the age of eight.”
‘They’re done with democracy’
Roosh V is just one of a small clique of more radical Orthodox internet celebrities.
Orthodox Christianity in the United States is a very complex religious scene, with each influencer having their own particular brand.
Historically Orthodoxy was the faith of Eastern European immigrants. However, Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, assistant professor of religion and anthropology at Northeastern University, told Euronews the religion is being pulled to the right, "even alt-right", by a rising cohort of home-grown converts.
“They go by labels like traditionalist, America First, patriots or monarchists. They use all sorts of different political descriptors. But one of the things they have in common is that they’re largely far-right. They're kind of done with American democracy,” she said.
Many tap into disaffection within religious communities that mainstream church leaders and right-wing politicians have let society turn its back on religion and morality.
Using meme culture, their own websites and social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, the Orthodox celebs reach tens of thousands of people on a daily basis.
“What’s drawing people specifically to Orthodoxy is they see it as a faith that is unchanged, one that has kept to traditional gender roles, forms of patriarchy and hierarchy,” Riccardi-Swartz explained. “That's really appealing to a community that feels like society and gender roles are shifting rapidly.”
“It's fascinating that they use social media to expand their base and movement, which is a lot about getting back to the land... and going offline,” she added, pointing out how modern technologies were ironically being used to revive deeply traditional societies.
‘Alpha male versions of only fans girls’
Much far-right Orthodox influencer chat focuses on what it means to be a man in modern society, with their listeners mostly young, university-educated white men, hailing from upper-middle-class backgrounds, explained Riccardi-Swartz.
In stripped-down live streams, introduced with ethereal religious hymns overlapped with hip-hop beats, he delivers speeches on the manosphere – an umbrella term for male supremacist ideas and groups – to his nearly 20,000 subscribers.
His Instagram - again followed by tens of thousands - is a mix of esoteric Orthodox musings, gym videos and glitzy churches.
In one illuminating video, he criticises the misogynistic internet star Andrew Tate as an example of morally disreputable men who are “self-absorbed”,” materialistic” and ”hedonistic” – instead arguing for a “true patriarchy” of spiritual principles.
“Men are the castle walls, women and children are the jewels inside… when men don't have values that transcend the physical world… they collapse,” he said in one live stream, published in June.
Contradictions blight some Orthodox influencers' messages, however.
A prevalent theme across some of their online content is a critique of capitalism and how it has helped unleash malevolent forces in society.
However, according to Riccardi-Swartz, “many of them are micro-celebrities. They have created brands, promote their content, have ads, monetise their podcasts and YouTube videos, and often sell things.”
Harry, for example, touts his own branded caps, drawstring bags, premium video sponsorship ($250) and one-on-one education and consulting for up to $380. Other influencers earn income from streaming services, like iTunes and Spotify, and one even hawks CBD gummies.
“It's just all a grift at some level,” Riccardi-Swartz told Euronews. “They're promoting what they perceive as an idyllic utopia of traditionalists. But in reality, they're just recapitulating capitalism, over and over again.”
‘The Orthodox youth can only be entertained by memes for so long’
Though spread over a large diffuse area, the Orthodox church’s far-right micro stars are taking action and trying to bring about change.
Dissident Mama – focused on the alleged cultural genocide of US southerners and “anti whiteness” – writes put-downs of critics, railing against “scardey cat socialists”, “paid propagandists posing as historians” and “progressives Greta Thunberg-ese”.
Darker actions have been taken by some followers of the clique, such as abusing social groups they oppose and doxxing critical Orthodox priests, revealing personal details about their families.
All this radicalism is creating a rift within the church between younger vocal upstarts and the established powers, many of whom are older men who have little understanding of digital technologies, explained Riccardi-Swartz.
“I get emails on the regular from older ethnic Russians and Greeks and Eastern European Orthodox Christians who are very concerned about how their parish demographics are changing. They don't understand why when they go to coffee hour, there's now a young white man telling them that they're gonna go to hell if they don't vote for the Republican Party,” she said.
“Things are shifting. You now have a minority religious faith, which is sort of being colonised by white American men.”
“It's very scary.”
Despite their online hubris, many were still doubtful their movement could take the streets by storm.
“Even if you wanted to assemble a movement to combat the Jewish cultural terrorist, you would not be able to find many men who (1) still possess the cognitive ability to perceive the truth and accept it, (2) have enough physical stamina to endure a fight that requires them to stand for more than two hours a day, and (3) won’t be taken down by the Feds in an unseemly sting operation on trumped-up charged instigated by a loser infiltrator,” wrote Orthodox blogger Roosh V.
“We cannot speak the truth, we cannot organise, we cannot even identify the enemy with our speech, and if we dare do so, we will be utterly destroyed and made to whisper it on the fringes."
"Can you imagine what would happen to you if you went into the bars and slapped every Jew you saw," he added.