An undercover antifascist descends through all nine circles of the alt-right inferno.
During my three months inside New York’s alt-right, The Daily Stormer Book Club never got around to reading any books. Instead, they plotted their move off the internet and onto the streets, drank beer, and shot the shit. Through the Book Club I entered a network of far-right activists integrating the old guard of white nationalism with millennial internet trolls while drawing new recruits from the websites and podcasts of online youth culture. Much of their shadowy organizing happens openly in New York City bars, sometimes within earshot of the normies.
This was early 2017. Trump’s victory gave white nationalists a boom akin to what Occupy did for the left. In the year and a half since, the alt-right has been beaten back by the combined pressure of antifascist streetfighters, PR-conscious tech companies, embarrassing internal scandals, the disaster in Charlottesville, and most importantly, a critical mass of ordinary white people rejecting openly-espoused white chauvinism—for now. But if the alt-right has demonstrated one thing, it’s that ideological white supremacism, ingrained as it is within American society, can be remarkably versatile. When pushed back to the shadows, it won’t stay there forever.
I didn’t infiltrate the alt-right as a writing project. I wanted to do whatever I could to inhibit its transition from the internet to the streets, and decided I could help best by gathering information on the ground level. Looking back on this bizarre experience, I hope to provide a sketch of the people I met and the social world they inhabit. For brevity’s sake, I’ve condensed ten meetups stretching over forty hours into a basic narrative that omits dozens of minor characters, focusing instead on the guys I got to know best. While it’s impossible to abstain entirely from debate surrounding the origins of, and remedy for, the resurgent far-right, my intent is rather to present this outré world to the reader faithfully.
“I didn’t infiltrate the alt-right as a writing project. I wanted to do whatever I could to inhibit its transition from the internet to the streets, and decided I could help best by gathering information on the ground level.”
I first became aware of the alt-right after the 2015 massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter, Dylann Roof, frequented an online hub for neo-Nazi news and social networking called The Daily Stormer. What surprised me most about the Stormer was its novelty. Irony-soaked meme culture flowed neatly into serious fascist treatise by an angry everyman named Andrew Anglin. Just below the surface of Anglin’s humor lurked a ghastly bitterness and visceral disgust at politicians, celebrities, commercialism, and every imaginable sacred cow of liberal society. The Stormer offered a nihilistic rejection of daily life, to which Nazi politics almost seemed an afterthought. And in a way, it makes sense. As Sid Vicious demonstrated by donning a swastika, once you’ve become the sworn enemy of all that is holy, what’s left to do but declare yourself a Nazi?
The Stormer led me to The Right Stuff (TRS) network of podcasts. Its expansive roster covers a variety of niche topics – The Fatherland for fathers, The War Room for veterans, Fash the Nation for policy wonks, The Convict Report for Australians, and so forth. TRS is a subcultural hothouse for memes and loyalty-cultivating in-jokes, such as the practice of placing three parentheses around a Jewish name, which extend far beyond the network’s more than 100,000 listeners. Steeped in bittersweet nostalgia, TRS flagship The Daily Shoah harks back to ’90s shock jocks like Opie and Anthony and pranksters like the Jerky Boys. The Shoah‘s juvenile humor, with polished song parodies like “Summer of ’88” (the code numbers for “Heil Hitler”) set to the tune of the Bryan Adam’s hit “Summer of ’69,” provides a cloak of irony for politics that have become sharper and more activist-oriented in the four years since it debuted.
I had encountered neo-Nazis before. They lurk on the fringes of every punk scene, kept at bay only by violence. But the alt-right movement, though no less contemptible, was different from the old guard of self-serious skinheads and Nazi costume players. Their podcasts sounded like my dorky high school lunch table, with many of the same jokes repeated verbatim. These were not historical reenactors. They were the kind of ordinary guys I grew up with in a downwardly mobile, opioid-soaked, white-flight wasteland. I could picture my old friends, numbing themselves to the banal brutality of the world with liquor and gallows humor, enraged at having been fucked out of a quality of life their parents had known, which itself wasn’t that great to start. Now they are getting mad as hell, and who is helping them give their problems a name?
The Book Club
I spent two months on the Stormer message board, first posting a spate of generic comments, and only later inquiring about meetups. I was contacted privately by Tom, a thirty-something weed dealer living with his father on Long Island, who vetted me with basic questions about my background and intentions. Tom shared with me his vision for building a sophisticated neo-Nazi subculture, with study groups, weightlifting, fight training, and “something to do every night of the week.” It would start with the Book Club, to which I was now invited.
In the end Tom didn’t even show up, but the small group cackling at the edge of the bar was easy to spot. The meeting took place in a favorite spot for the Book Club, Williamsburg’s Barcade, a haven for millennial transplants yearning for the return of bygone days. A deindustrial interior of exposed brick, reclaimed wood, and sparse furnishings aestheticizes the urban poverty largely evacuated from the surrounding area along with the working-class Puerto Ricans who once called it home. Archaic arcade games, invoking nostalgia for the days of Reagan, line the walls. Squarely in the center of liberal Williamsburg, Barcade may seem like an unwelcoming location for a neo-Nazi meetup, but Matt Philips expressed to me his confidence that “the white people moving to Brooklyn can be won over.”
“The 1980s was a good time to be a white kid,” he told me, taking the place in. “The pink and blue, the Miami Vice shit. It’s coming back!” It was March 2017, and Matt had cause for optimism.
A goofy stoner in his mid-30s, Matt is a dead ringer for Woody Harrelson. He had recently relocated from Alabama to the spot-gentrification surrounding the Jefferson Street L stop in Bushwick to work as a set designer. Matt showed me photos of trips to the Arizona desert, where his friends looked like the garden variety blend of hipster and hippie one encounters in North Brooklyn. Matt fit right in.
Matt never took much interest in politics before Trump, and his artistic sensibility put him at odds with his conservative father. The Trump movement kindled Matt’s interest in politics, however, and brought him and his dad together. Through right-wing trolling Matt discovered The Daily Stormer and began participating in its forum. Gradually the political stakes of the alt-right got serious. He helped establish the local Daily Stormer Book Club, one of dozens of meetups like it across the country. By the time I met him, he was a man about town in the alt-right social scene.
For almost three decades, Matt’s role model was Pete “Maverick” Mitchell from Top Gun. But that changed with the rise of Donald Trump. Matt loves Trump not because he’s a serious leader, but because he’s ridiculous: the hair, the orange complexion, the outrageous statements. Matt reposts the memes his liberal friends share ridiculing Trump. Chuckling, he showed me one of Trump in a child’s car, honking the horn. But Trump isn’t a joke to Matt. A president comes and goes every four to eight years, he told me, but a real hero is for life.
“That’s what people want. It’s why they love pro-wrestling, and it’s why they love Trump.”
Eric Rajala, a hulking fast talker in his mid-30s with a close-cropped “fashy” hairdo, and a lifelong wrestling fan, agreed. At eighteen Eric left an affluent New Jersey suburb to attend the University of Michigan, where he enjoyed sexual conquests thanks to “feeding women Long Island iced teas.” After college, he complained, women stopped letting him get them drunk, and even worse, preferred the affections of non-white men. Eric researched new “pick up” tactics, discovering The Chateau Heartiste and My Posting Career. He began blaming his problems on biological differences between men and women, and soon enough, biological differences between races. Eric soon realized he had always been anti-Semitic, but lacked the vocabulary to express it.
“It was like taking a shit,” he told me, “getting it all out.”
Even after becoming a full-blown neo-Nazi, Eric continued to work at a liberal tech office and lives in Greenpoint. Despite his cushy job, fancy haircut, and soft hands, he represents himself as “blue collar.” A sharp facilitator, Eric led our discussions, returning the most obscure tangents back to racial politics.
Paul Schmieder from Middle Village, a bald and stocky Queens native in his early 30s, matched Matt with exotic vacation photos of his own. Paul was an ordinary Fox News conservative until Trump came along and a coworker showed him The Daily Stormer. Paul found shock-driven laughs, and, increasingly, a new vocabulary to express his fears about a world changing all around him. For Christ’s sake, he reported grimly, his neighborhood pizza shop was being replaced with “The Taj Mahal!”
“Squarely in the center of liberal Williamsburg, Barcade may seem like an unwelcoming location for a neo-Nazi meetup, but Matt Philips expressed to me his confidence that ‘the white people moving to Brooklyn can be won over.'”
Paul once ran a trucking company. But he was too young, he told me, and took risks. With twenty trucks in mortgage, Paul thought the growth would last forever. But in 2008 his mortgages abruptly changed hands, the premiums went through the roof, and he was finished. Paul now lives modestly, managing a concrete company in Brooklyn. He arrives fifteen minutes early, so nobody can give him any shit, and is happy just to smoke cigarettes in his office and take off for the day when his work is done. Paul also enjoys tweeting abuse at left-leaning politicians and media figures using his real name. Growing up in New York, Paul met plenty of Jews, including a childhood friend he still gets along with. “Sure,” he admitted, “they’re not all a part of the Zionist-Occupied Government.” He admires that they take care of each other, and are serious about their customs. But none of this stopped him from getting the vanity license plate GTKRWN: “Gas the kikes, race war now.”
Paul recalled a visit from his nephew, a college undergrad. After righteously lecturing Paul about his racism, the kid boarded the wrong train and wound up at Van Siclen Avenue in East New York. He called Paul scared out of his mind, stammering “you need to pick me up, I don’t feel safe!” Paul replied “Why not? Those are your people!” But Paul was just teasing. Fearing for his nephew, Paul picked him up. He’s a good kid, Paul reiterated, he’s just had his head mixed up by college. Eric recalled his sister, who’s an astrophysicist but “is stupid about a lot of things” because she spends all her time in the classroom with the “exceptions that prove the rule.” How will she be handled if she isn’t won over by arguments? He has clearly given this issue a lot of thought.
Eric then changed the subject to the alt-right’s patron saint, Shia LaBeouf. LaBeouf’s post-election “He Will Not Divide Us” project facilitated a kind of unity LaBeouf never could have imagined. HWNDU was intended to be four years of piously chanting “he will not divide us” on a livestream outside Long Island City’s Museum of the Moving Image. Led by the self-serious LaBeouf, an affluent pretender easily provoked to rage, HWNDU was the perfect target for alt-right trolling, and its livestream became a place of convergence. Many from the notorious 4chan image board made their “IRL trolling” debut at HWNDU, networking with IRL fascists who held court openly at nearby bars. “Alt-lite” groups like the Proud Boys mixed with the likes of Identity Europa. LaBeouf was forced to move the project out of New York, but the trolls followed him, and HWNDU was eventually abandoned. Thanks to HWNDU, Eric told me, “the New York City alt-right is completely cross pollinated at this point.” Eric had even become friendly with a few Proud Boys, “who aren’t as gay as Gavin [McInnes]… but they’re still pretty gay.”
Emboldened by the crew they’d gathered, and lubricated by alcohol, the Book Club began to speak quite freely. It was an uncomfortable scene for me, sitting within earshot of other patrons and the black bouncer. Eric gushed:
“I know this is the same story every guy has, but it’s just so nice to be able to hang out with guys and say stuff like ‘nigger.’ It’s cathartic to just say it: ‘nigger.’”
Whiskey Trader on 55th Street is a cool cave of finished wood and flatscreens indistinguishable from countless overpriced Midtown bars. Perhaps homogeneity appeals to the alt-right groups who prefer these haunts, but in this case it is Whiskey Trader’s proximity to Trump Tower that brought the Proud Boys there for a March 5th “Pro-Trump Bar Crawl.”
The Proud Boys are a “Western chauvinist fraternal organization” comprising followers of Vice Magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes. They crib their worldview from McInnes’s rants and The Death of the West by Pat Buchanan. Though McInnes cites prominent non-white Proud Boys against accusations of racism, Proud Boys spout ultra-nationalist, anti-Muslim, anti-woman, and anti-trans rhetoric, sporting matching Fred Perry polos in the tradition of blue-collar hooligan culture. Long before street fighting erupted in Berkeley and Charlottesville, the Proud Boys embraced violence against leftists as a central tenet of their group.
This time I brought my friend Max from Long Island. Two uniformed cops guarded the door of Whiskey Trader when we arrived. The event’s organizers, Chris Minervini and Sal Cipolla, paced around inside. Chris, in his late-30s, lanky and soft-spoken, works for Goldman Sachs. If he’s been in a fistfight, I doubt he won. Sal is short and obese, always fidgeting, stammering when he talks, and supremely anxious to impress. An unlikely player in white nationalist circles, Sal is not “white,” he’s Latino. Recently fired from his office job after a Proud Boys exposé by antifascists, Sal was living off crowdfunding, hopscotching the country and starting up Proud Boys chapters.
Max and I introduced ourselves as working-class Trump supporters. After five minutes of macho man talk about fistfights, truck driving, and laying heavy pipes, they were sold. I mentioned my connection to the Book Club, and in order not to disrupt my cover story, identified myself as a neo-Nazi to every Proud Boy I met. That’s fine, they all told me. Gavin has a strict policy: no Nazi imagery or language is allowed in public, and especially when you talk to the press. There’s a pinned message in their private Facebook group stating this policy, they told me. Otherwise, you can believe and say whatever you want among other Proud Boys.
“Matt loves Trump not because he’s a serious leader, but because he’s ridiculous: the hair, the orange complexion, the outrageous statements.”
I mentioned I’m a fan of the Shoah, and Sal excitedly showed me his text messages with its host, TRS founder Mike “Enoch” Peinovich. “Mike and I text all the time” Sal beamed proudly, showing me dozens of messages as evidence. Sal claimed Peinovich and the rest of the TRS “pool party,” their euphemism for meetup groups, were on the way. They never showed.
As the hours wore on, many Boys, and even a few women, marched into Whiskey Trader. They were mostly white-collar shitlords testing the waters of trolling in real life. I met one, among dozens, who worked with his hands. Their pristine “Make America Great Again” hats, displayed boldly in a pack, showed little evidence of prior wear. Matt from the Book Club showed up unexpectedly, and lots of people in attendance knew him. Despite their questionable racial composition, Matt later told me, the Proud Boys are an important bridge between normie conservatives and fascists. Additionally, he added, partying with them is lots of fun.
The bar crawl meandered through Midtown, a sea of red MAGA hats two-dozen strong chanting pro-Trump slogans along the sidewalk. We stopped at Faces and Names on West 54th Street, and then The Irish Pub across the street. There a uniformed cop approached Sal smiling and requested he stop tweeting our location, to avoid trouble from antifascists. Sal obliged. Later, a plainclothes cop approached a heavily intoxicated Sal, flashing his badge, and asked if the Proud Boys were having fun. Sal slurred yes, and the cop replied:
“Let us know if you need anything.”
I shot an inquiring glance at Sal, who explained the police contacted him before the crawl, due to “insane” amounts of threats on his Twitter. When I checked Sal’s Twitter, however, I didn’t see many. A police escort trailed us throughout the night, even as the Proud Boys grew belligerently drunk, chanting “Build the Wall!” on the sidewalk, to thumbs up from tourist families and finance bros. At the Irish Pub, new Proud Boys were initiated by reciting:
“I am a Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world!”
“I mentioned my connection to the Book Club, and in order not to disrupt my cover story, identified myself as a neo-Nazi to every Proud Boy I met. That’s fine, they all told me.”
Cheers resounded from the other patrons. I took the pledge myself, amid applause from all corners of the Irish Pub, formally joining the group. (I suppose now is a good time to tender my resignation.)
The Proud Boys were also joined by young trolls from the “Politically Incorrect” (/pol) forum of 4chan. Their striking non-white composition does not stop them from terrorizing the opponents of fascism and white nationalism and otherwise spewing racist venom. I told a few of the /pol kids I had a bone to pick with them, namely the recent doxing of Mike Enoch. After antifascists revealed he was Manhattan software developer Michael Peinovich, /pol disclosed he was married to a Jewish woman, and the ensuing scandal almost killed TRS. “Mike is a Jew!” Tom had told me in confidence, months later. Mason, a chanlord in his early 20s with shaggy hair and timid eyes, defended the dox, explaining that his own politics are in line with those of Julian Assange: “Mike was living a lie, and he deserved to have it exposed.”
Seeing this exchange, a Proud Boy hastily pulled me aside and cautioned: “Man, don’t fuck with 4chan, they’ll ruin your life!”
The crawl degenerated into a slither and wound up at Trump Tower, where the Boys breezed past Secret Service with a friendly wave. At the Trump Bar I learned the price a man impersonating the champion of the forgotten American charges people impersonating that American for a beer. I was then offered cocaine in the Trump Tower bathroom by one of the Boys. I befriended John, a Bushwick hipster and accountant in his late 20s. John and his girlfriend had been ordinary conservatives until recently. The “Western chauvinism” of the Proud Boys appealed to them, however, and here they were already mixing with open fascists. John’s pristine white MAGA hat was adorned with an enamel pin of Pepe the frog—until Sal walked over, plucked the pin off John’s hat, and put it on his own. Sal then walked away, without a word exchanged.
Playwright Tavern is a three-story Irish pub on 49th Street. A visitor ensconced in its polished wood bowels, surrounded by nostalgic New York memorabilia, might be surprised to learn it has only existed since 1995. The bar’s old-time charm is calculated to snare tourists searching for authenticity lost. Its third floor offers a private dining room for functions, and on March 6, 2017, was the setting for the New York Forum.
The Forum is a semi-regular gathering of alt-right organizers and ideologues sponsored by Counter-Currents, a publisher on the movement’s intellectual side. Matt is a friend of its founder Greg Johnson, and got me on the list. The pseudonymous Johnson is an openly gay phenomenology scholar who stomachs the locker room homophobia of the alt-right, and is in turn tolerated, even appearing on Shoah. This time Johnson was on vacation, with the forum left to the care of Margot “Metroland” Sheehan, a 58-year-old Manhattanite writer. Sheehan greeted me at the door, collecting my $40 entry fee. I thanked her for putting the event together.
“Don’t thank me,” she replied, “thank Mike Enoch.”
Seated beside me was Chris, a sexagenarian New York native with a bright-red face and snow white hair. Chris boasts longstanding ties to Jared Taylor and his American Renaissance journal and conference. Across sat Joel Marasco, a charismatic family court attorney from Jersey City in his early 40s, and member of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CoCC). A group dating back to the 1960s, CoCC’s website collecting “black-on-white crime” stories was an essential part of Dylann Roof’s politicization. At the front sat long-standing Stormfront personality Robert “BoyHowdy” DePasquale, a sexagenarian Manhattanite whose decades-long tenure as webmaster and internet troll earned him a profile by the Southern Poverty Law Center. DePasquale squints through tinted glasses entangled in curly salt-and-pepper hair, speaking softly and nasally. He is sure to get the name and contact information of everyone who crosses his path. Joel calls him the godfather of New York City’s white-nationalist circles.
Across the aisle sat Identity Europa’s “Eli Mosley,” real name Elliot Kline, a former Proud Boy until just months prior. Kline bragged to me about his proximity to Richard Spencer, whose sartorial style and iconic hairdo the significantly shorter and wider Kline was striving to imitate. Kline had rapidly risen up the ranks of the alt-right since Trump’s inauguration by hopping from city to city, agitating and organizing at every alt-right demonstration he could get to. Kline built his reputation on his experience in Iraq, passing himself off as an expert on combat tactics. Later it all turned out to be a lie. Kline mixed with the Stuyvesant Goys Club, TRS’s local pool party, composed of young, awkward internet geeks whose slender bodies vanished into oversize dress shirts, giving them the appearance of nebbishy office temps. I could only imagine what lions they are when behind keyboards. The strategic coup of projects like the Forum is forging a link between these two worlds, the self-serious old guard and the irony-saturated shitlords of the new generation.
“A police escort trailed us throughout the night, even as the Proud Boys grew belligerently drunk, chanting ‘Build the Wall!’ on the sidewalk, to thumbs up from tourist families and finance bros.”
At the head table sat Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, a dour hulk in his early 40s. Two months prior, Peinovich received his fifteen minutes of fame as the Upper East Side’s neo-Nazi media kingpin with a Jewish wife. It was, undeniably, quite a story, as he admitted to me. But Peinovich is no novelty act. He and a few internet friends built the TRS podcast network, turning a small circle of libertarian Facebook trolls experimenting with edgy racist humor into an international organizing platform for millennial neo-Nazis. As Trump’s star rose, TRS moved from edgy fun and games to a serious organizing project, and its guests increasingly became street-oriented activists. TRS now exists largely to funnel disaffected young men into local pool parties, where they can plug into overtly fascist organizing projects. TRS organizers, including Peinovich and Kline, played a central role in organizing “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville, for which they are now being sued. For a white person living in America, it takes precious little time to tumble down the slippery slope from edgy racist humor to outright fascism. Just ask Peinovich, who woke up one day to find himself an Upper East Side neo-Nazi with a Jewish wife.
Matt arrived at last, flanked by Paul, the two of them laughing about skits by alt-right comedian Sam Hyde they’d listened to on the ride. Matt introduced me to Peinovich, who greeted me graciously, listening intently when I spoke, wisecracking in his unmistakable, husky, soothing radio voice, and often invoking the Shoah’s house response: “oh gawd!” in the caricatured voice of an old New York Jew. As a long time listener, I have to admit, it was a bit of a thrill to meet Mike. Though melancholy and downcast even in moments of enthusiasm, Peinovich speaks with profound self-assurance, peppering his remarks with historical referents, facts, and figures, most of which are just made up out of thin air. I expressed my sympathy for his recent doxing and insisted on buying him a beer as a small token of appreciation for his show “red-pilling” me. He accepted, telling me he loves it when guys tell him that. (I knew that from listening.)
I asked how he’d been doing since getting doxed. He told me he was forced to move after the publication of his address, but was able to stay in the area, and while he was fired, he was able to sue his employer for discrimination and win a small settlement. It wasn’t much, only enough to live off for a few months, but he savors the moral victory. I asked how he found a lawyer, and he confided there’s an alt-right lawyer in NYC who prefers to remain anonymous. Peinovich chuckled, recalling how flummoxed his boss was when a Nazi threatened to sue for discrimination, and the law was on the Nazi’s side! As for his wife, he told me, they were going to split anyway. She saw this coming. When he started the show, neither of them could have guessed he was going to become famous. Who could have? He then excused himself. Against all odds, he was now the master of ceremonies.
Peinovich introduced the first speaker, Counter-Currents author Jef Costello. The mustachioed Costello had barely introduced himself, however, when a young, brown-skinned waiter appeared in the glass door behind him, eliciting a collective gasp. The waiter made it two steps into the room before a surprisingly agile Peinovich sprang to his feet and stopped the man in his tracks, wagging a scolding finger to gales of laughter from around the room.
The waiter stammered, “I just need to—”
“Just come back later!” Peinovich barked. The waiter turned on his heels and vanished, and Peinovich pantomimed locking the door behind him. Laughter intensified.
“I hate niggers!” a TRS pool partier exclaimed, to emphatic cheers.
Costello continued where he left off. His talk compared the alt-right to the League of Shadows from Batman movies. With Trump in power, he claimed, the left’s “resentment, in the Nietzschean sense” is driving it to become more prone to violence. Today’s left is “even worse than Stalin, Lenin, and Mao,” because these leaders had a vivacious will to power and were unashamed of their strength, in contrast to SJWs, who attack because they are weak and resentful. In response, he concluded, the alt-right must be principled, prudent, and always prepare for the battle ahead, like characters from the Batman movies. Costello concluded his remarks by advocating that everyone present spend a bit more time at the gym.
The second speaker was Hunter College adjunct professor Joseph Salemi, one of those “anti-PC professor” types. He carried on for close to 45 minutes along those shopworn lines, blaming some of our society’s most powerless people for his failure to become a successful poetry professor.
The Forum adjourned to another Times Square hellhole I had thought reserved for tourists. I chatted with Stuart Sudekum, a TRS pool partier recently fired from the Bushwick Tarot Society after an exposé by antifascists. “I was fired for trying to bring a little racial consciousness into my classes,” he told me bitterly.
The Hate Hike is a national custom among Stormer and TRS meetup groups looking to get back to nature. I met Paul outside Fortunado Brothers cafe in Williamsburg to catch a ride to Blydenburgh County Park in Hauppauge, New York. I climbed uneasily into his Dodge Ram, noting the vanity plate “GTKRWN.” Paul acted like he’s proud of the plates, but his fiancé told him he’s an idiot for getting them, and he was clearly on the fence. “Nobody knows what it means besides us,” he reasoned. During our two-hour ride to Blydenburgh, the subject of race only came up briefly, when Paul described his neighborhood. Middle Village residents, he told me, are dedicated to keeping the neighborhood “the way it is,” and will shun anyone who rents their property to non-white tenants. An old lady Paul knows, ostracized after violating this covenant, replied that it wasn’t her fault – no white people had applied!
Tom was waiting for us in the parking lot, with Eric, Rich, and Nicky. Rich is a twenty-something from Long Island with slicked-back, greying hair and a goofy smile. A fresh recruit to TRS, Rich was only recently allowed to the pool parties after a year of intensive Skype-vetting by their gatekeeper, the pseudonymous D’Marcus Leibowitz. He gave me his Twitter handle, @OrwellHuxley, adding sheepishly, “it’s from before I got red-pilled.” Nicky is a slight, dark-skinned teenager from Brooklyn, who clearly has most of his social interaction online. He used to be in the NYC pool party, but was kicked out for being an “agecuck,” unable to drink at bars, “among other reasons.” Nicky complained that TRS guys are aging yuppie barflies. They don’t do physical training together like they do in Cascadia, a large TRS group in the Pacific Northwest. Nicky assured me that the Stormer group can expect more guys like him, looking for action and not riding bar stools.
“For a white person living in America, it takes precious little time to tumble down the slippery slope from edgy racist humor to outright fascism.”
The Hate Hike meandered through a web of wilderness trails and creaky wooden bridges straddling picturesque swamplands. Tom sucked on his vape pen and waxed nostalgic about a youth spent in these woods. Eric complained about the “autistic nerds” in TRS, who had recently given him a hard time for his lax security measures in bringing new guys around their gatherings. Tom bristled at the mention of TRS. He tried to join, but after his initial audition via Skype, Leibowitz told him he’s too fat. Tom replied, “I’ll kill you if I ever see you in person.” Since then, Tom isn’t welcome at TRS events.
The sun had begun to set when we completed the seven-mile loop around Lake Hauppauge. On the long ride back to Brooklyn, Paul and I discussed the video of Spencer getting punched in the face. Paul admitted it’s pretty funny, not in the least because Spencer’s such an uptight preppy. Paul told me that Spencer had been invited to appear on CNN, which he could barely believe. Sharing his astonishment, I replied that the antifascists may be right—the only way to stop Spencer is to take away his platform. Paul agreed completely:
“They think they’ll give him enough rope to hang himself with, but he won’t.”
Jack Demsey’s is an overpriced Irish pub on 33rd Street like all the rest. After the Forum, Joel invited me to this “little monthly gathering” he hosts there. It was April 10th, Trump had just bombed Syria, and spirits were low in the alt-right. I texted Matt making sure he wasn’t too “black-pilled,” meaning nihilistic about the prospects for the movement.
“I’ve been snorting black pills like a motherfucker,” he replied.
By the time I got there, everyone was seated for dinner. Sixteen men – and zero women – turned and froze like deer in headlights, before Joel popped up and shook my hand, and everyone relaxed.
I asked about Trump bombing Syria. Joel replied: “Listen, Trump is a cuck. His kids married Jews. He went to a Jewish wedding, with a guy with one of those beards there, and was OK with it.” He never harbored illusions about Trump, but Trump was the “least anti-white candidate” and he doesn’t regret voting for him. Joel talked excitedly about his plan for building a white “city-state” and wonders what that would entail. “Maybe a dozen of us running for office?” I remarked that the demographic shift in NYC makes that possible, but Joel was not sure the white people moving to the city are willing to “take their own side,” since they love helping out “NAMs” (non-Asian minorities). White liberals, Joel said, are the most “white supremist” of all, since they think minorities need so much special help to advance. White liberals are the most racially aware people around, he reiterated, “even more than us!”
Across from me sat Phil from Identity Europa, talking incessantly. Phil is short and skinny, balding with cropped blonde hair, resembling Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. He joked that he’s 30 and looks 50, and if he’s really 30, that’s true. As a young man he joined the Navy and was deployed in Iraq, and when he returned he was disenchanted with US interventionism. He began to hang out in anti-war circles, including Iraq Veterans Against the War. But his major issue became corruption of the banks, which naturally led him to thinking about Jews.
As for Trump, Phil was never fooled. “Trump never builds a casino without Chinese investors.” Still, he concluded, “it’s a good moment for us. His movement is not the same as ours, but he helped us.”
Struggling to get a word in edgewise were Tim, Deacon Gerard, and a different Joel, all from Vanguard America (VA). Deacon and Joel, both in their early 20s, had recently left the army, where Deacon was part of a popular online comedy troupe called Terminal Boots. After discharge the two relocated to “the Jewish side” of Crown Heights from their native North Carolina. They are thin and handsome, sharply dressed in tight fitting slacks and button-down shirts, sporting Hitler-youth haircuts, impeccably gelled and matching. They assured me of their eagerness to “realize the fourteen words,” a reference to the white nationalist passcode: “we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
“The real threat today is not that small pockets of white supremacist ideologues exist. It’s that their vision of society might become the only one that makes sense to ordinary white people, for whom reality increasingly seems like a battle between racially-defined interest groups for slivers from a shrinking pie.”
Tim is about ten years older and more slovenly. He hails from Central Jersey and clearly spends a lot of time on the internet. He complained VA was losing members to an offshoot of the Iron March Forum who position themselves as hard-core revolutionaries, but only troll other groups for not being militant enough. They talk a big game about being a paramilitary organization, Tim told me. “Call me when you’re robbing banks and blowing shit up” is his attitude.
VA’s main organizing activity is hanging up racist flyers in the dead of night. The three of them had recently flyered Prospect Park, but complained it didn’t get any media attention, which they rely on for recruiting. I asked what they had planned next, and Tim replied sheepishly that they were going to flyer another college.
“I know it’s been done a lot,” he sighed, “but it’s the only thing that works. We tried other places–”
“The museum, the park…” Deacon interjected.
“And nothing!” Tim continued. “The beauty of colleges is there’s always some aspiring journalism student looking for a scandal. It works every time.”
There was another New York Forum on May 20. By this point, I was ready to throw in the towel. Something about the alt-right’s self-mutilating meanness, its defiance of empathy in the face of the horrors of the world, and its embrace of cruelty cloaked in lighthearted humor had been profoundly black-pilling me. I was becoming resentful and mean-spirited, even more pessimistic about the future than usual. I could talk for longer and longer with the Stormer guys without feeling like I was even in character anymore. It was time to get out.
This New York Forum was much of the same as before, with ten or fifteen more guys. Peinovich was the main speaker, and turned his segment into an endless training on how to argue with leftists on the internet. He invited the crowd to offer up “common leftist arguments” for him to refute with his much-vaunted, battle-honed skills. This pettifoggery amounts to refusing to accept the premises of a question, sidestepping the question altogether, and adopting an offensive, rather than the anticipated defensive, posture. I suppose it’s a good skill to have, if you enjoy spending your finite time on Earth engaged in bad faith online arguments with total strangers.
But as a longtime Shoah listener, I had often fantasized about the opportunity to stump Peinovich with the perfect question, one that brings his house of cards tumbling down. I patiently waited for my turn, as he shot down strawman after strawman offered up by his loyal devotees. At last, my time came.
“If you like white culture so much,” I asked, smirking assuredly, “what’s your favorite novel, poem, and symphony?”
“Metallica,” he replied.
Many observers now wish to write off the alt-right as a media bugbear, a “movement where thirty people with cheap tiki torches can seem like an army in the echo chamber of social media,” as a Times journalist recently put it. I am more inclined to the argument Leonard Zeskind offers in his magisterial Blood and Politics. “Convinced by the history of the early civil rights movement that small groups of determined individuals could influence and change the world around them,” he writes, “I believed that racists could turn the wheels of history as well as antiracists could.” This holds true only if the conditions are right for radical change. Which, in the US, they are.
Persistent economic and political crisis in the United States, amid a long downturn for wages, job security, and basic human dignity, promise no happy return to the political center anytime soon. The alt-right did not emerge in response to the stupidity of marginal internet liberalism, as Angela Nagle suggests in Kill All Normies. Rather it is a response to decades of decline in standards of living for working people, amid the proliferation of unemployment and meaningless, dead-end jobs. Moreover, no coherent leftist movement exists through which everyday people can make sense of this world and collaborate across lines of race and gender to build a better one. As a result, many of those who reject the status quo blame their problems on immigrants, feminism, trans rights, and other bogeymen, rather than the capitalist social relations from which the problems facing working people inevitably proceed.
The real threat today is not that small pockets of white-supremacist ideologues exist. It’s that their vision of society might become the only one that makes sense to ordinary white people, for whom reality increasingly seems like a battle between racially-defined interest groups for slivers from a shrinking pie. These same working-class white people face a dilemma as old as our country itself: whether to choose to be human, or choose to be white. One path leads to human liberation, another to planetary ruin. Who is helping them give their problems a name?