One former right-wing firebrand known for her incendiary rhetoric is making a comeback with the intention of introducing nuance to the political dialogue.
Independent author and filmmaker Lauren Southern ended an unexplained year-long hiatus on June 19, releasing an official video on her departure and current plans to fight the culture of “hot-take politics” by returning to long-form documentary production.
In an interview with The Western Journal, Southern assured audiences she has not parted ways with conservatism but is now determined to break from the “tribalistic” and hyperpartisan nature of the modern political climate — an “unhelpful” atmosphere some claim she had a hand in fostering.
“Saying that I want to step away from any sort of groups online wasn’t me saying I disavow everything I’ve done or I’m not a conservative anymore,” Southern said. “It was me saying I don’t want, in any work going forward, to be beholden to coming to a certain conclusion because people have told me that’s the conclusion I have to come to.
“I want to look at things from a nuanced perspective and my views, I didn’t say anything about them having changed in my return video. All I said was I’m open to being wrong. I’m open to listening to other people,” she added.
“This should not be a controversial statement.”
The surprise return sparked no shortage of controversy, prompting negative headlines from across the aisle as well as attacks from former right-wing allies like Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Joseph Watson.
A young, blond Canadian woman with a penchant for blunt words and cutting verbal jabs, Southern first began turning heads within conservative circles in the mid-2010s.
Her public opposition to left-wing positions on sensitive subjects like feminism, modern gender theory, illegal immigration and Islamic culture catapulted the personality into a standard-bearing role on the cultural right.
A series of controversial political stunts, however, landed Southern in more than her fair share of precarious situations with her frequent incendiary sloganeering on-scene at radical-left demonstrations and rallies.
Such displays in turn led hard-line conservatives and left-wing establishment media publications alike to label Southern fringe and “alt-right,” while opposition activists stooped to outright threats and even physical violence against her.
The way of life was unsustainable, Southern told The Western Journal. And the resulting content was anything but unproductive.
“It was just chaotic doing this, going to protests and p—ing people off for a living, quite frankly,” Southern said. “It was fun in the sense that I got to challenge a lot of popular narratives in creative ways, but almost getting arrested every second week isn’t necessarily a sustainable living model.”
“Have you ever had your mind changed by someone on the other side of the political spectrum that you got into an argument with on Twitter that instantly called you a name? … Has that person ever changed your mind? If anything, actually, they probably made you more invigorated to support your cause,” she later added.
“And then I had to sit and think, ‘OK, but am I doing that to other people?’ Am I doing that to people in the center or the left that could be curious to hear my ideas, that could be curious to actually go down this path of thinking and explore a conservative view of the world?”
An uphill climb remains in order for Southern to ditch the polarizing image, however. Her strong reservations regarding mass migration from the undeveloped world to Europe and the Americas have often resulted in left-wing media attacks, with one particular YouTube video on the topic drawing criticism well into 2020, according to The New Zealand Herald.
The 2017 video, which has long since been deleted, saw Southern speaking at length on Western migration data and the “Great Replacement” — a conspiracy theory that suggests the global elite is committing a “genocide by substitution” against white Europeans by supporting mass immigration.
White supremacist terrorists like Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people in a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques last year, have been known for their subscription to the theory.
In a Friday statement to The Western Journal following her interview, Southern stood by previous claims that immigration without cultural assimilation damages the culture but explicitly distanced herself from the base “Great Replacement” theory and any violence committed in its name.
“I have nothing but contempt for the Christchurch shooter and violent extremists of all kinds,” Southern said. “I never had, nor do have any desire to rationalize the actions of such barbaric animals.”
“As for my video, it was the result of a failure of research. I should have done much more research on the origins and nuances of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory before using that term as the title for my video,” Southern continued. “What I did not know, and should have taken the time to learn, is that the originator of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, Renaud Camus, was not simply talking about population statistics, but was going into further theory about responsibilities for the alleged decline in European birth rates and increase in immigrant birth rates. I was not commenting on any such theories, and did not want to be mistaken as doing such.”
“Especially when the Christchurch shooter had used the theory to name his own twisted manifesto, I did not want to be associated with his repugnant madness and so deleted my video,” she added.
Southern’s proposed solution to the often radical and hyperpartisan modern political discourse is not one with which the filmmaker is unfamiliar.
Before her 2019 departure from public life, Southern was heavily involved in two successful long-form documentary projects.
From “Farmlands” in 2018 to “Borderless” in 2019, Southern introduced to the mainstream dialogue a wide variety of expert opinions and firsthand testimonials on the long-running South African farm attacks and the European migrant crisis.
With her newly announced project, “Crossfire,” Southern told The Western Journal she intends to do the same, detailing ongoing civil unrest in the United States as well as presenting the perspectives and policy solutions forwarded by law enforcement, social justice activists and affected community members on the issue of police reform.
CROSSFIRE: Documentary Announcement
— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) August 20, 2020
Southern later detailed the lengths to which her team went on previous projects in order to obtain an honest look at all sides of the topics presented, reporting from a crime-ridden South Africa and facing lengthy imprisonment in North Africa and the Middle East as they braved the dangerous conditions refugee Muslim migrants face on the road to Europe.
The foreign field experiences only seemed to solidify in Southern a belief that avoiding “dicey situations” and unnecessary controversy was the straightest route to a good story.
“When I went to report on South Africa, I probably could have hired 10 guys with guns and huge muscles to come with me,” Southern said. “And that actually would not have been as helpful as just one person who understands South Africa.”
“One thing that I learned very quickly traveling is you need to actually listen to the people who live there and listen to the people who are involved in the situations, first and foremost,” Southern said.
“So going into communities in the states that have been affected, going into policing situations, having someone who understands that environment and someone who lives in that environment rather than just striding in and being like, ‘Hi, I’m a random blond girl. Tell me your stories,’ you have to actually lean on the people who understand the situation better than you.”
She went on to rebuke establishment media figures and political commentators for frequent failure to patiently listen, instead catering to a political landscape that “rewards quick, quick content” and shallow discourse.
“The part that people too often forget as pundits is the listening part for sure — actually listening to what the other person says,” she said.
“You find, if you do — even if you’re in a debate that’s supposed to be heated and incensed and fun — if you listen, not only can you come up with better arguments against them, but if they are right, you can be corrected.”
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