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Anglin’s editorial approach, which he has explained in various podcasts, borrowed from both Mein Kampf and Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. From Hitler, Anglin learned to dumb down his argument: Good guys versus bad guys. A few themes repeated over and over. From Alinsky, he learned counterculture tactics: Attack people instead of institutions. Isolate targets. Make threats. One Alinsky rule in particular stuck with Anglin: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
Ridicule was hard to counter. So Anglin mocked. He made people laugh. “The whole point is to make something outrageous,” he said on the site. “It’s about creating a giant spectacle, a media spectacle that desensitizes people to these ideas.” He considered jokes about Josef Mengele training dogs to rape Jewish women “comedy gold.”
In 2014, Anglin was living in Europe when he found a partner in Andrew Auernheimer, a.k.a. “weev,” a neo-Nazi hacker and troll. Auernheimer grew up in the Ozarks and went to federal prison in 2013 on identity-theft and hacking charges. After his conviction was vacated on appeal a year later, he moved abroad. He now lives in Transnistria, a small, Russia-backed breakaway region on Moldova’s eastern border.
Auernheimer ran the tech side of The Daily Stormer, and also contributed his considerable gifts for subversion by making printers on U.S. college campuses pump out swastika-bedecked flyers for the site. “I don’t know what I would be doing if it wasn’t for him,” Anglin said in an interview with another white nationalist last year. “He’s the one basically holding the whole thing together.”
Anglin, meanwhile, gained infamy for his troll attacks. In 2015, he tormented the University of Missouri during student protests against racist incidents on campus. He used Twitter hashtags to seed fake news into the conversation, falsely reporting that members of the KKK had arrived to burn crosses on campus and were working with university police. He claimed that Klansmen had gunned down protesters and posted a random photo of a black man in a hospital bed. As his rumors spread, the campus freaked out.
But Anglin wasn’t content to troll alone. He wrote instructions for his followers on how to register anonymous email accounts, set up virtual private networks, mask their IP addresses, and forge Twitter and text-message conversations. He created images and slogans for them to use. Anglin warned his Stormers not to threaten targets with violence, a disclaimer meant to shield him from law enforcement.
Still, Anglin’s mob was a terror. He sicced his trolls on American University’s first black female student-body president. He had them go after Erin Schrode, a Jewish woman running for Congress in California, as well as Jonah Goldberg and David French, writers for National Review. As I reported this story, Anglin sent his trolls after me, too, and my interactions with them confirmed my suspicions that they were, by and large, lost boys who felt rejected by society and, thanks to the internet, could lash out in new and destructive ways. When I tried to draw them out about their lives, some admitted that they struggled with women. One told me that he struggled with his own homosexuality. Most imagined they were rising up against an unchecked political correctness that maligned white males. The more the liberal establishment chose to revile them, the more they embraced their role as villains.
In recent years, psychologists have found a powerful connection between trolling and what’s known as the “dark tetrad” of personality traits: psychopathy, sadism, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. The first two traits are significant predictors of trolling behavior, and all four traits correlate with enjoyment of trolling. Research published in June by Natalie Sest and Evita March, two Australian scholars, shows that trolls tend to be high in cognitive empathy, meaning they can understand emotional suffering in others, but low in affective empathy, meaning they don’t care about the pain they cause. They are, in short, skilled and ruthless manipulators.
In the summer of 2015, another great white savior—himself a troll—appeared to Anglin, this time gliding down a golden escalator in Manhattan in front of a crowd of paid extras. A few days after Donald Trump declared his presidential candidacy—launching into an attack on Mexican “rapists”—Anglin endorsed him as “the one man who actually represents our interests.”
Anglin immediately put all his resources toward willing a Trump presidency into reality. He churned out cheerleader posts and deployed his trolls on behalf of Trump, directing several of his nastiest attacks at Jewish journalists who were critical of the candidate or his associates.
Anglin hadn’t been to the polls in years, but he wasn’t going to miss a chance to vote for Trump. His absentee ballot arrived in Ohio from Krasnodar, a city in southwest Russia near the Black Sea, according to Franklin County records. That the Russian government wouldn’t know about an American inside its borders publishing a major neo-Nazi website seems improbable.
Anglin worshipped Putin, and seemed like exactly the type of online agitator Russia might use to sow chaos during the U.S. election. In March, Auernheimer told Daily Stormer commenters that he was setting up the site’s forum on “a much beefier server in the Russian Federation.” Anglin would later swear on his site—“under penalty of perjury”—that he’d never taken money or direction from the Russian government.
But whether Anglin knew it or not, his site appears to have gotten a boost from someone in Russia. A collective of data scientists called Susan Bourbaki Anthony conducted an analysis of The Daily Stormer’s reach on Twitter from February 2 to March 2, 2017, and found that Anglin’s content was being spread by a mysterious network of accounts. This network, which is still active, has amplified divisiveness in American political discourse on Twitter since at least early in the year. It includes bots and “sock puppets” (accounts operated by actual people under false identities), and essentially shuts down each night from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on the East Coast—midnight to 6:30 a.m. local time in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The election helped elevate The Daily Stormer from one of several influential white-nationalist sites to a key platform of the alt-right, though the site wasn’t nearly as popular as Anglin wanted people to think. He and Auernheimer often bragged that it got millions of unique visitors a month, but comScore put the site’s monthly visitors closer to 70,000. Still, Anglin knew how to make noise—and by any metric, the post-Trump trend line for his site pointed up.
In May 2016, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had asked then-candidate Trump about the death threats and harassment Anglin’s army had leveled against the journalist Julia Ioffe after she wrote a profile of Melania Trump for GQ magazine. (Ioffe now works at The Atlantic.)
“I don’t have a message to the fans,” Trump said.
The fans. His people. “We interpret that as an endorsement,” Anglin told a reporter when asked about Trump’s refusal to condemn white nationalists.
I went back to Columbus in mid-February. I’d learned that Anglin might be in town for a legal hearing—for some reason, he’d filed a motion to expunge his 2006 misdemeanor drug conviction—and I intended to approach him at the courthouse.
The day I arrived, the city’s weekly paper, Columbus Alive, published a long feature about Anglin. The next evening, Anglin walked into a supermarket where a protester who’d been quoted in the story worked. She later told me that despite the bitter cold, he wore only a white T‑shirt and black track pants. Holding a can of Monster Ultra Blue, an energy drink, he approached her and looked her in the eye. “How’s it going?” he said, before strolling off into the night.
I was staying near the old Exile bar, once the premier leather joint in Columbus and an early moneymaker for the Anglin family. The Exile was one of two gay bars that had been owned by Anglin’s uncle Todd until he died of aids, after which Greg took over. The bars continued to stage foam parties and fetish nights while Greg, according to two sources, performed gay conversion therapy at his counseling practice. Greg had amassed a sizable, if shabby, real-estate portfolio in town, and I visited several of his properties, trying, unsuccessfully, to locate his neo-Nazi son.
I thought Anglin might be crashing with his childhood best friend, West Emerson, whose Facebook page included a “favorite” Hitler quote and alt-right references. Emerson was prone to bragging about his friendship with Anglin. He told more than one of my sources that he and Anglin communicated every day. In messages he sent to one source, he claimed to be talking with Anglin “now as we speak.” But when I reached out to Emerson, he refused to talk with me. (Emerson told The Atlantic that he did not share Anglin’s views, hadn’t seen him in 15 years, and didn’t even know his phone number.)
A week after the Columbus Alive story was published, Anglin doxed the reporters. He published their contact information and put up photos of their homes and cars, their spouses and children, including a six-month-old infant. “Take action,” he told his trolls, who harassed the targets with calls, emails, and offensive mail. The reporters didn’t feel safe in their homes. Police had to increase patrols in their neighborhoods.
One evening, I drove to what I thought might be Anglin’s mother’s house. It was dusk, and the only light on was in the living room. From a distance, I thought I saw a thin woman standing by a window, but by the time I parked my car, the light had gone off. I rang the doorbell, then knocked and waited a few minutes. There was no answer. I quickly scratched out a note—“I need somebody who loves Andy to speak on his behalf”—and stuck it in the door. A few days later, I left Katie a voicemail at work. She never responded.
I’d been at the right house. Anglin later posted a photo of my note and accused me of engaging in a “vicious scorched-earth campaign” to threaten his family and friends. He labeled me a terrorist and said I was trying to silence him. Angry Stormers called and emailed me. One tried to feed me false information about Anglin’s whereabouts. I received half a dozen spoof emails trying to infect my computer with a virus.
But Anglin himself remained elusive. His hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. on a Monday morning. But the night before, a waterline burst and damaged five floors of the courthouse, including the one where his hearing was to take place. All proceedings on those floors were postponed. I went to the courthouse at nine the next morning anyway, hoping that Anglin might still show up. It took me some time to talk my way up to the right floor and find a clerk. She told me that Anglin and his lawyer had come in early and had his record expunged. I had just missed him.
In April, Tanya Gersh and the Southern Poverty Law Center sued Anglin in federal court for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of a Montana anti-intimidation statute. He’d have to answer for what the lawsuit called a “campaign of terror” that had given Gersh panic attacks and landed her in trauma therapy.
That she had to file a civil suit instead of pressing criminal charges was telling. There was little the authorities could do about the hate speech The Daily Stormer published, which is protected under the First Amendment—and Anglin knew it. He often mentions Brandenburg v. Ohio, a Supreme Court case that addressed a fiery oration by Clarence Brandenburg, a Klansman, in 1964 on a farm outside Cincinnati. Brandenburg preached violently about Jews and blacks and suggested that if the government continued to suppress white people, “revengeance” might be taken. The Court ruled that his ravings were protected because they were too abstract to incite “imminent lawless action” and did not meet the previously established “clear and present danger” standard. This “Brandenburg test” defines how far hatemongers can go, and Anglin has been careful to keep his violent language vague. He is, for example, within his rights to publish that “Moslems should be exterminated.” He is not, however, allowed to threaten a specific Muslim with extermination.
Where he has potentially crossed a legal line is with the trolling he orchestrates. Cyberstalking—defined as using the internet in a way that “causes, attempts to cause, or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to a person”—is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (Many states also criminalize cyberstalking.)
But this activity is difficult to prosecute when trolls know how to conceal their identity. A lone troll might leave his victim only one voicemail telling her to burn in an oven, which would fail to meet the criteria for cyberstalking. When hundreds of trolls do the same, though, the effect can be terrifying. “It’s like a bee swarm,” says Danielle Citron, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Law and a leading expert on cyberharassment. “You have a thousand bee stings. Each sting is painful. But it’s perceived as one awful, throbbing, giant mass.”
Even if Anglin doesn’t participate in the harassment directly, however, he arguably solicits cyberstalking and aids and abets it, according to Citron. These are crimes in their own right—just not ones that law enforcement is prepared to take on. Few local police departments have the means to go after trolls, and Citron says that federal investigators who are swamped with child-pornography, fraud, and terrorism cases tend not to make cyberstalking investigations a priority.
And so Gersh had to go after Anglin in court. A week after she filed her suit, Auernheimer set up a crowdfunding campaign on WeSearchr, a platform run by Chuck Johnson, a far-right troll and propagandist who has claimed that he has ties to the Trump administration. Within a month, Stormers had raised more than $150,000 for Anglin’s legal defense. Anglin then hired Marc Randazza, a First Amendment lawyer who has represented Mike Cernovich, another far-right propagandist.
The lawsuit is scheduled to enter the pretrial stage in December. It marks the first time a notorious internet troll has been sued for instigating a campaign of harassment and intimidation. It could force the courts to decide whether calling for a troll attack—Anglin’s admonition to “hit ’em up”—is protected speech. The risk, however, is that if Anglin prevails in court, sadistic trolls will be free to tear across the internet with even greater abandon.
For his part, Randazza argues that restricting Anglin’s trolling would set a dangerous precedent. Anglin “has every right to ask people to share their views, no matter how abhorrent those views are,” Randazza told me. “This is the shitty price we have to pay for freedom.”
The alt-right leaders came to Charlottesville from far and wide this August for the largest gathering of white nationalists in more than a decade. Richard Spencer, Mike Enoch, Matthew Heimbach, Eli Mosley, even David Duke, the old Klansman who has taken up the new label in an effort to get hip to Millennial racism. All of them except Anglin.
“We are angry,” Anglin had written a few days before the rally. “There is a craving to return to an age of violence. We want a war.” Many of his underlings made the trip. Ready for street combat, some brought homemade shields painted with skulls. But Anglin was never one to put his body on the line.>Fields chanted “White Sharia”—Anglin’s phrase—before he drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville.
By all reports, he had stayed in the U.S. after his court date in Columbus and gone even deeper underground over the spring and summer. The SPLC hired process servers to notify Anglin of the Gersh lawsuit, but they couldn’t find him anywhere—despite repeatedly visiting seven different addresses. At one apartment in Columbus, Anglin’s younger brother, Mitch, opened the door but refused to help, saying he “can’t do that” to his brother. At another address, the process servers got the impression that Anglin had barricaded himself inside.
Randazza mocked the SPLC’s inability to find his client. (Anglin would soon be fending off two more federal lawsuits: one filed by Dean Obeidallah, a Muslim American comedian and radio host who alleged that Anglin had libeled him, and another brought by Charlottesville residents against the alt-right leaders responsible for the deadly rally.) Anglin told CNN that he’d moved to Lagos, Nigeria, and when the network ran his lie the Stormers had a long, hard laugh. One tried to fool me into thinking that Anglin was in the Czech Republic. But I’d gotten a credible tip that he was holed up somewhere in the Midwest.
The Stormers had a private chat server through a company called Discord, and I used an alias to listen in as they talked amongst themselves about genocide, often in graphic terms. “All I want is to see [Jews] screaming in a pit of suffering on the soil of my homeland before I die,” Auernheimer wrote. “I don’t want wealth. I don’t want power. I just want their daughters tortured to death in front of them and to laugh and spit in their faces while they scream.”
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Source : https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/12/the-making-of-an-american-nazi/544119/