Content of the article: "The Brotherhood in Fallout 4 is a brilliant depiction of how someone can descend into fascism"
I was around 15 when I first played FO4. I was a bit of a loner, and very politically ignorant. I was basically the perfect target for fascist indoctrination.
I had played both 3 and New Vegas, so I had experience with the world of Fallout, but playing 4 was a whole nother thing. I was enthralled with the changes to power armor, though like many other people, disappointed at the lack of cities and people to interact with. In game, I felt just as lonely as I did in real life wandering the wastes. The constant search for fusion cores in the early game was also a constant thought on my mind, as I wanted to continue to be the unstoppable tank that power armor allowed me to be. That's where Danse's patrol came in.
I stumbled upon them and was immediately drawn in by Danse's promise of camaraderie within the Brotherhood, as well as his gift of Righteous Authority, which I used throughout pretty much the whole game. Even if Rhys was a bit of a dick, I wanted to prove myself to him so I would be accepted. I did a lot of the quests he and Haylen had for me until I decided to get the main story moving again. Once the Brotherhood showed up, I was in awe at the Prydwen, and immediately went to Danse to try to join.
All of this, the people, the rewards and gifts, the aesthetic, was so enticing that I was overlooking everything that should have been a red flags. The indiscriminate hatred towards ghouls, synths, super mutants, the intense shows of force to the slightest provocation, the almost blind acceptance of anything that came from a superior. I didn't really have much of an opinion on synths, but I knew that not all ghouls were feral and not all super mutants were bad, but I still went along with it, lying to myself that they didn't really mean all of them, just the 'bad' ones. I just wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere, and as embarrassing as it sounds to admit, I didn't have that in my real life.
As time went on, these flags only grew bigger, and more kept popping up, but I was being recognized and welcomed within the Brotherhood, even by Rhys, and was given more quest rewards and gifts of power armor, ammo, fusion cores, and the like. Basically, everything I wanted, I was getting. I neglected basically every other faction's quests in favor of pursuing the Brotherhood's, and was even beginning to be convinced that synths really were just abominations like feral ghouls or super mutants. That is, until I found out that Danse was a synth.
Danse had been my buddy all game, he never left my companion slot. Everywhere I went, he came with. When I found out he wasn't really Danse, I was torn, just as he was. I didn't want to lose him, so maybe not all synths were bad? I convinced him to stay in the Commonwealth, and tried to confront Maxson about it, hoping I could change his mind as well. I didn't want to lose who I saw as the only friends I had in the Commonwealth. I didn't really want to start over as the initiate of any of the other factions, so I hoped I could change his mind. I couldn't, but he did give some leeway to letting Danse stay alive, so long as it wasn't near any Brotherhood. I saw this as maybe the beginning of a change for Maxson and deluded myself into believing that if I gave it some more time, he and the rest of the Brotherhood could eventually see that not all synths were bad, and neither were all ghouls or super mutants. I finished the game out for the Brotherhood, mass killing the Institute in an excessive show of force, only being able to bring Danse along when I knew there wouldn't be anyone else around to see.
After the main story ended, I didn't touch it again for a long time. I felt bad about so many of my choices. I had left Shaun in the Institute because he was a synth and I knew Maxson wouldn't approve, and even though I knew it was just a game, it really affected me. Danse was the only person I would have called a friend, and even though I tried to stand up for him to Maxson, I didn't have what it took to actually make a stand for him and leave the Brotherhood with him. I stayed with the very people who threw him away like trash, taking his role and replacing him.
After many years of thinking about this and getting more real world experience, I've come to realize how scarily close my experience here is to a lot of tactics that fascists and other right wing groups use to bring in new members. Like I said in the beginning, they target loners and offer them friendship and a group of like minded people, and don't often show their full true colors right away, but instead feed it to the target bit by bit so they slowly become indoctrinated to it, repeating it without realizing when they began to believe in it. Even if something happens to make the target realize there is some dissonance going on, such as with Blind Betrayal, the target usually feels like they're in too deep to leave, which is reinforced by other members. They are made to feel as if they are utterly alone in the world without that group. I was so close to being that person. I am so glad that I am not, and looking back on it, I'm very impressed with Bethesda and the work they did to make the Brotherhood feel like a living faction that could be real.
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