‘White Noise’ Review: Hearing Dog Whistles Loud and Clear

“White Noise,” the first feature documentary from The Atlantic, puts a spotlight on three figures associated with the alt-right. All three are probably grateful for the attention.

The director, Daniel Lombroso, tags along with Richard B. Spencer, the white nationalist who got punched in the head the day of Trump’s inauguration; Lauren Southern, a YouTube video-maker who has peddled the racist idea that nonwhite immigrants displace white populations; and Mike Cernovich, the troll (but “not a pure troll,” he told The New Yorker) perhaps most noted for spreading the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

Viewed one way, giving these subjects a platform is dangerous — or, at best, pointless. They are quite practiced at deflecting engagement or criticism and at pretending their most hateful rhetoric is being misinterpreted. A documentary would have to penetrate a thick shield of denial to reveal much.

While the film doesn’t take a strict fly-on-the-wall approach — Lombroso can occasionally be heard offscreen challenging his subjects — it sticks close enough to inner circles that its message sometimes risks coming across as “extremists are just like us.” Cernovich is shown with his dog, his daughter and his wife, who emphasizes her Iranian heritage.

But close observation can illuminate contradictions, and Lombroso, semi-edifyingly, catches his subjects in moments of opportunism or hypocrisy, even if those aren’t much of a trade for spending 90 minutes in this company. Cernovich, who when not spreading conspiracy theories sells lifestyle supplements, declares of his inventory that “a year from now, I will ideally only be selling facial skin care products.” By all means.

White Noise
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. Rent or buy on iTunes, Google Play and other streaming platforms.

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