The Sneaky, Disturbing World of White-Nationalist Wellness

The Sneaky, Disturbing World of White-Nationalist Wellness 1

On a cursory scan of its website and Instagram page, Mighty White Soap Co might look like an innocuous, cutesy personal care brand, albeit one with an arguably archaic and tone-deaf name. But a closer look turns up some offbeat offerings mixed in among its seasonal designs, colorful swirls, and floral patterns, like a soap embedded with glow-in-the-dark letters that read CIA. And a review of all their product names reveals a disconcerting mélange of unremarkable odor monikers (“Autumn Caress”), strange references to obscure far-right memes (“Clown World”), and an apparent fixation on white consumers (“Morally White,” “Caucasian Abrasion”).

The Mighty White Soap Co website does not have a traditional “About” page, or even a quick list of company values. But a deep dive into their product blurbs and social media posts makes it crystal clear that it is in fact an only moderately veiled white-nationalist beauty brand. The company also winks and nods to a wide array of overarching far-right—and increasingly pandemic- and vaccine-skeptical—conspiracy theories.

In a 2019 Instagram post, to take just one example, it noted that a ring-shaped soap, intended—ostensibly jokingly—for penis cleaning, was “now available in three sizes. Regular, Aryan, and Wew Lad!”

Extremist communities widely recognize and celebrate Mighty White Soap Co’s far-right cred, experts told The Daily Beast. Joanna Mendelson, an Anti-Defamation League extremism researcher, said she’s seen “many white-supremacist channels promoting them” for some time now. In 2019, Mighty White Soap Co went so far as to retweet a “ProWhite Christmas Shopping List” assembled by a self-described “advocate for the global awakening of the Aryan Spirit,” which included them.

Last month, pandemic and vaccine conspiracy groups started to shout them out on platforms like Telegram as well, after the company briefly offered The Jab, a soap bar with a needle shoved into it.

“THE ONLY JAB YOU SHOULD BUY,” one prominent channel crowed.

“Mighty White Soap Company has some really funny soaps… It’s important to support small businesses that aren’t woke,” they added.

The Daily Beast attempted to contact the people behind Mighty White Soap Co for comment via email and social media accounts associated with the brand, as well as email addresses and numbers associated with an individual linked to the company. We did not receive a response. However, after we reached out they did release a new bar of soap, “Journalistic Integrity,” with a particularly long product description criticizing the press.

Perhaps surprisingly, Mighty White Soap Co is not unique. In recent years, several personal care brands with apparent or explicit far-right—and often clearly white nationalist—leanings have cropped up, and then been promoted on so-called “pro-white” business aggregator hubs and in extremist communities online.

Some make even less effort to mask their politics than Mighty White Soap Co.

Dissident Soaps, launched earlier this year, not only sells products named after far-right icons and subtly notes that it “shares your traditional American values,” but its Twitter is also full of what read as paranoid half-jokes about the perceived denigration of white people in modern America. One recent tweet reads: “In the future, horror movies will just be white people getting murdered to roaring applause.”

The brand also scored points with the pandemic conspiracy crowd with the release of Mask Off, a spearmint, grapefruit, and lime-scented body wash “meant to wake you up and make you appreciate smells again, provided you’re not wearing a mask.” (The Daily Beast made similar attempts to reach Dissident Soaps and an individual linked to the company, but could not reach anyone involved with the brand for comment.)

Meanwhile, many other personal care brands with apparent white-nationalist values and connections keep all but the most oblique references to their political leanings off of their main sites and mainstream social media, saving their most noxious views for a few niche, far right-friendly platforms, such as Telegram.

None of these artisanal wellness companies line up with most people’s mental image of the typical far-right, white-nationalist business. And that, extremism researchers told The Daily Beast, is exactly the point. They represent a conscious effort in some circles to refocus and redefine white nationalism in softer terms—with less focus on politics and animus, more on so-called white community building and wellness.

Some hate watchers worry that this shift may succeed in further normalizing hard bigotry, and in both deepening and widening the base of white-nationalist communities across the nation.

“Everyone is focused on the Oath Keepers and what they’ve been doing since January 6th,” Alexandra Stern, a University of Michigan researcher who studies modern white-nationalist groups, told The Daily Beast. “But this undertow is slowly growing in the white-nationalist movement… It’s a matter of concern that merits watching.”

White-nationalist businesses are nothing new. Some have even achieved a disturbing level of success—like Resistance Records, a label launched in 1993 to promote neo-Nazi ideas among young rock listeners. In 2000, The Washington Post called it “the pied piper of racism,” and reported that it claimed to be making upwards of $1 million in annual sales.

Historically, most businesses connected to white nationalist figures or groups have been all about churning out cheap apparel, décor, music, or other media featuring overtly political and bigoted messaging. (Resistance Records worked with bands with names like Angry Aryans, whose top songs included “N—er Loving Whore” and “Race Mixing Is Treason.”)

“The focus on clothing, flags, books, and music has to do with what people can produce and manage from a usually residential address,” said Elizabeth Simons of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

Alex Amend of Moonshot—an organization that attempts to identify and then disrupt harmful messaging, like far-right extremism, across the digital landscape—added that the goal of running a business with a clear white-nationalist ethos is typically “to advance propaganda” rather than to make loads of money. White nationalists have a ton of other strategies for supporting their activities. Selling items they can slap a symbol or slogan onto or fill with blunt messaging to increase their visible reach fits that raison d’être.

But selling explicitly “pro-white” products, or running a business that clearly espouses hate, has gotten a lot harder since 2017, when the Unite the Right rally woke many people up to the rising tide of white nationalism sweeping across the nation. Responding to increasing public scrutiny of their role in facilitating the spread and commercialization of hate and fear, digital marketplaces, payment processors, web-hosting services, and other key tools for running a small business have slowly but surely ramped up efforts to identify, deplatform, and demonetize white nationalists.

Many white nationalists quickly adopted new organizing tactics, which usually advocate group diffusion, reliance on word-of-mouth whenever possible, and the use of extremely coded and oblique language online when talking in public forums, to avoid detection. A recent review of over two-dozen white-nationalist “fashion” brands noted similar tactics amongst these retailers: They still sell overtly racist stuff, but lean heavily on terms and symbols with loaded but plausibly deniable meaning, like the word nationalism, and Old Nordic icons, especially those associated with the Ásatrú faith. They maintain relative silence across the web, drawing traffic mainly through in-group chatter on ostensibly safe platforms. However, even with these measures in place, these brands still frequently attract anti-hate scrutiny and deplatforming.

“One movement decided to veer away from any talk of violence, or demeaning of other groups, to focus on what it calls white wellbeing,” said Stern. “They were like, ‘Well that approach didn’t work out for us. Let’s focus on doing what we know how to do for our own people,’ as they like to put it, ‘and honor our ancestors’” by fostering a unique wellness culture and lifestyle.

They offer the family-oriented version of white nationalism—the white nationalist nextdoor. Which is ultimately just as xenophobic and racist as any white nationalism.

University of Michigan researcher Alexandra Stern

Some of the chief architects of this movement created a magazine that describes itself as a home for “family-friendly and non-political content,” to help white people learn how to live wholesome anti-modern (read: anti-corporate, anti-industrial, and anti-multicultural) lives. A recent edition advertised its contents with the following cooing yet borderline inane word soup: that it contains “a heartwarming eulogy to those who take risks and devote their time and financial resources to help strengthen our people’s collective identity, destigmatize the notion that White people are not allowed to assert their group interests, and build a foundation that will better ensure that our children and those to come are able to lead healthy lives and build immunity to the anti-white narratives currently pervasive in Western society.”

Mighty White Soap Co was one of their first advertisers, and promoted their content often and proudly on Twitter.

This white well-being brand of white nationalism “wants to dissociate itself from the pot-bellied, tattooed neo-Nazis of yesteryear, and present itself as a more normal lifestyle,” Stern explained. “They particularly want to normalize their ideas among young white people likely to get married and have kids,” so they can raise the future of the race within the pervasive aura of a soft-peddled, bigotry-centered community, she added.

“They offer the family-oriented version of white nationalism—the white nationalist next door,” Stern continued. “Which is ultimately just as xenophobic and racist as any white nationalism.”

As Amend noted, “Soap is a little on the nose for a movement obsessed with an ideal of racial purity.”

But personal care products created and sold by white nationalists, and often subtly infused with or directing consumers towards “pro-white” messaging, are a logical step in the creation of a holistic white wellness lifestyle. They help to suffuse daily life with subtle nods to the idea that white people should separate themselves, only patronizing members of their own race, if they want to live a good and wholesome existence. They also offer a space for women to get involved in the traditionally hypermasculine and gender role-obsessed world of white nationalist ventures, Stern noted. And, at a low level (that conveniently avoids notable scrutiny), it’s relatively easy to create and manage meaningful shipments of soaps, candles, and so on out of a home studio.

Expanding the range of products made by and for white nationalists also serves one of the movement’s core goals, Amend noted: The creation of a parallel society “where everything from goods and services to schools and churches is oriented toward the idea of white supremacy.”

Dissident Soaps’ About Us page seems to indicate clear interest in such a mission, albeit behind the gossamer-thin veil of plausibly deniable far-right buzzwords: “In our increasingly divisive world, it’s important to know who you’re supporting with your consumer dollars… we make soap to give you an alternative to large, multinational corporations that use your consumer dollars to undermine your way of life both politically and culturally… By working together, we can build a parallel economy that insulates us from the pervasive cancel-culture and authoritarian politics of the day.”

Most white nationalists recognize that a fully functional parallel society is a pipe dream, according to Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University researcher who monitors white-supremacist organizations. Since 2017 especially, they’ve seen ambitious projects to create an insulated internet for their ilk fall apart under the weight of practical market considerations—and often crushing incompetence, as well. Even a neo-Nazi coffee company run by an experienced barista, Rising Sun Coffee, that used the tagline “creating a new economy for the future of our people” and claimed to donate 5 percent of its proceeds to white-nationalist causes, reportedly fell apart rapidly in the face of moderate and mundane practical challenges.

But plenty of white nationalists appreciate the aspirational symbolism of “supporting brands that endorse ‘the truth,’ and their broader world view,” Cooter said. (Mighty White Soap Co certainly seemed proud of its own patronage of a small, exclusively pro-white creator community, telling its Twitter followers that its seemingly nondescript logo and truly awful jingle were both made by members of a collective of white-nationalist artists in 2019.) Amend adds that “the movement will grow in confidence if it can establish successful ventures diverse in location and purpose.”

Brands like these will likely never achieve success with a general audience, the ADL’s Mendelson suggested, because their bigotry is still readily apparent in their thinly coded copy and on their social media. But their heavy reliance on meme humor, alongside their focus on wellness over overt political activism, may draw in people who sit on the fence of open white nationalism, slowly guiding them down the rabbit hole into deeper radicalization. And Mendelson noted that there’s still plenty of money to be made in the shockingly large world of white American racists—even if “the culture-building element of such products is supreme.”

“You can try to have it both ways,” Amend acknowledged. “Appeal to those who get the references and perhaps know more about the owners’ politics [to begin with], and to normies who just want their product—a larger number of potential customers.”

Clean & Pure, a soap brand founded earlier this year by Claire Ellis and Jody Kay of Patriotic Alternative, a British nativist group, doesn’t include any overt white nationalist messaging on its site. (It should not be confused with other, similarly-named brands.) However, it occasionally shares Patriotic Alternative materials on its Telegram channel, like a pinup-style image of a white woman, nude save for a White Lives Matter sash. And when asked directly about their company’s values, Ellis and Kay openly acknowledged that as a company they “support Pro-White peaceful movements across the world.” They put their products at the center of their company, but ultimately consider their white-nationalist values Clean & Pure’s “structure and foundation.”

“We wanted to form a company that would give us the freedom to share our views openly, without fear of losing our jobs,” they wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast. “It’s also important that our customers know that … their money is not going to a ‘woke,’ anti-White multinational company that seeks to subvert them and ultimately replace them,” they added in an apparent reference to the paranoid, far-right great replacement conspiracy theory.

The duo added that not all of their customers are aware of, or share, their values. Some just appreciate their “high-end, natural, handmade products,” they claimed.

Extremism watchers worry that such companies, with more heavily obscured but still vaguely evident white-nationalist alignments, will be able to draw in notable sums that ultimately support the creation of hateful enclaves. (Ellis and Kay did not respond to a question about their sales and profits, but noted that they were inspired to launch their company in part by the clear success of an unabashedly white-nationalist tea company, founded in 2020 by another Patriotic Alternative member.) And that they may lure some unsuspecting customers slowly and subtly down a rabbit hole, through repeated engagement, into the wider white-nationalist world.

None of the experts interviewed for this story know how large the ecosystem of white-nationalist personal care brands—or the wider white well-being movement they exist within—is at the moment. Stern noted that numbers are notoriously hard to come by when digging into this fairly secretive world.

“But this is an aspect of white nationalism that has seen moderate growth, especially post-Charlottesville,” she said. “And that’s part of the strategy. They want slow, steady growth.”

It’s an insidious creep of bile, gussied up in wellness mantras and floral scents, seeping into showers across the nation.