White Supremacist Denounces Beliefs After Taking MDMA

A man reportedly questioned his beliefs after taking the substance as part of a scientific study in 2020.

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A man who held white supremacist beliefs said he wanted to significantly change his worldview after he took MDMA as part of a scientific study.

Per a portion of Rachel Nuwer's book I Feel Love: MDMA and the Quest for Connection in a Fractured World as published by the BBC, a man named Brendan took part in a February 2020 study on whether the drug could increase "the pleasantness of social touch in healthy volunteers." After participating in the study, Brendan wrote a message at the end of the questionnaire that read, "This experience has helped me sort out a debilitating personal issue. Google my name. I now know what I need to do."

Researchers discovered that he was formerly the leader of the US Midwest faction of Identity Evropa, a white nationalist hate group that later rebranded as the American Identity Movement. The message concerned researchers following the revelation. Professor Harriet de Wit, who led the research, asked her research assistant Mike Bremmer to ask the man to elaborate on his statement. "If it's a matter of him picking up an automatic rifle or something, we have to intervene," she told him.

When Bremmer followed up with Brendan, he clarified what he meant. "Love is the most important thing," said Brendan, who had lost his job months before the study after his identity was exposed by Chicago Antifascist Action activists. "Nothing matters without love. This is stuff you can’t really put into words, but it was so profound." When Nuwer spoke with de Wit for her book, she said she still couldn't believe it. "Isn't that amazing?" de Wit said. "It's what everyone says about this damn drug, that it makes people feel love. To think that a drug could change somebody's beliefs and thoughts without any expectations – it's mind-boggling."

Brendan had notably participated in the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in 2017, which culminated in the murder of Heather Heyer when a white supremacist deliberately drove his car into a group of individuals protesting the rally. After taking the pill, Brendan said he immediately questioned his beliefs. "Wait a second – why am I doing this? Why am I thinking this way?" he wondered to himself. "Why did I ever think it was okay to jeopardize relationships with just about everyone in my life?" He also began going to therapy because of the experience, too.

The study determined that MDMA can potentially "influence a person's values and priorities." If extremists' views are the result of fear, anger, and cognitive biases, the authors of a case study argued their beliefs could be treated with drugs. "There are moments when I have racist or antisemitic thoughts, definitely," added Brendan, who said he's working with a diversity and inclusion consultant. "But now I can recognize that those kinds of thought patterns are harming me more than anyone else."

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