How I infiltrated a group of skinheads for three months and 5 things I learned there.
My life has always been a journey of discovering the truth about what I hear. I like facts and experience besides theory and told-me-so’s.
Having spent more time working than ‘'enjoying life’’, I started years ago adventuring myself into the realms of borderline crazy experiences looking for truth and empirical evidences of my beliefs.
Not long ago I decided to infiltrate a Skin Head group in order to understand clearly why they do what they do, where it originates from and where they intend to go.
Being an open-and-proud gay man and Jewish to the bone, I altered my name and life history - as well as my first name - in order to get by as smoothly as possible. I knew that if they ever discovered the truth, nothing could save me from some serious consequences.
First thing I learned was how easy it was to find them. As an outlier myself, I would have thought them to be more discreet and inaccessible. After some initial email contact I was brought to their group in the outskirts of the city centre of my hometown.
There I was machine-gunned with questions from all sorts - from my grandparents’s birthplaces to WWII’s history. The most interesting thing I did not lie in any question. I of course omitted several factors on my story and manipulated others, but in general everything I said was (even partially) my true story.
After initially accepted I went to six meetings, all of them inside three months time frame. There I had to use all of my instinct, intellect and drive to survive and not give in to my fears. It was one of the scariest, most challenging experiences of my life (sitting in front of billionaires to negotiate was children’s play compared to this).
During this time, I learned 5 huge lessons that I took for my career, life and business:
1) Underestimate no one
Estimation is basically a emotional calculation of risks and advantages. The skinheads underestimated me to the limit. I passed for the whole recruiting and enlisting process just by using my persuasion and intellect, and I could have been a cop, a secret service agent or anything else. Bigotry tends to create blindness and a unrealistic perspective of what is presented to you.
I learned never to underestimate no one - because the more I underestimate shows me the more ignorant I am. Seeing the true person in front of you is not difficult, and this can lead to immense good.
Luckily for me, the Skinhead group was the biggest concentration of bigots I have ever seen and this allowed me to sail through, and months later led to their dismantle through the police.
2) Belonging is stronger than beliefs
Most people tend to attach too much importance into beliefs, values, morals etc. Although these elements of human conscience are extremely important, the sense of belonging is way bigger.
I am the last person on Earth that will ever try to rationalize or reason the horrible things I’ve hear from the people I met there or paint them as victims, but it was clear to me that those were not their true beliefs but were necessary accepted concepts in order to be part of the group and validated in their lives.
Creating an atmosphere of brotherhood and strong tribe-feeling will make people believe in everything you say, from a book club to a multinational brand.
3) Evil is always rooted in ignorance
Even though everything I hear while attending this gatherings as the utmost and despicable evil things, I could not wonder if those words were coming from a place of real thought, real assimilation of life’s realities. From talking to most of these people I was able to gently challenge and contradict some of their thoughts and by the lack of reaction (or very aggressive reactions), I understood that evil is no evil without a huge element of ignorance there. Either ignorance originated from only performing orders (like Ann Rand exemplified on her book) or ignorance originated from brainwashing and search for a purpose in life.
My biggest lesson then and now about this is to always be the person to shine the light of knowledge whenever I see such a situation happening.
4) People are always humans - regardless of what they do
The people I met there - even though committing horrendous acts and perpetuating nauseating words - were not completely bad.
On the contrary - they were quite good to each other and some of them to their families. I’ve witnessed some kinds of gesture and care from them and since have worked on my abilities to see, activate and help expand this part inside people’s minds and hearts.
5) Build trust via triangulation
One strategic lesson learnt was how to build trust in a larger group. When I arrived at the group, there were around 20 people there. I knew that I could not build trust with all of them and if I built only with a few, the others would start suspecting. My stroke of genius (originated from pure fright) was that I immediately identified the alphas from the group and the fractions of the group they had influence on. I went to them immediately, shared secrets and knowledge, proved myself and gained their trust. by having the leaders of different sections liking me I was able to triangulate my influence and pass untouched during three months.