Meddling in Germany’s election by alt-right

USA Today reports: Less than a week before Sunday’s vote that is likely to hand German Chancellor Angela Merkel a fourth term, evidence of anticipated Russian meddling has yet to materialize, but U.S. right-wing groups have interfered, according to German researchers.

“So far we have not been able to track down any specific Russian activity,” said Simon Hegelich,” a professor of political science data at the Technical University of Munich who has advised the German government about the threat of hacking and fake news.

Instead, Hegelich and others point to an alliance of mostly anonymous online trolls and extremist agitators who are disseminating right-wing materials through YouTube; messaging board sites like 4chan and reddit; and Gab.ai, a texting service.

“A lot of the stuff we are seeing in Germany can be linked to, or is at least inspired by, the ‘alt-right’ movement in the U.S.,” Hegelich said, referring to a loosely defined group whose far-right ideology includes racism, populism and white nationalism.

He said proving connections among sympathizers is extremely difficult and may never be conclusive. But an analysis of 300 million tweets over the past six months by Hegelich and researchers at the Technical University of Munich shows Germany is a hotspot for posts that use the hashtag “#AltRight.” [Continue reading…]

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Undercover with the alt-right

The New York Times reports: Last September, Patrik Hermansson, a 25-year-old graduate student from Sweden, went undercover in the world of the extreme right. Posing as a student writing a thesis about the suppression of right-wing speech, he traveled from London to New York to Charlottesville, Va. — and into the heart of a dangerous movement that is experiencing a profound rejuvenation.

Mr. Hermansson, who was sent undercover by the British anti-racist watchdog group Hope Not Hate, spent months insinuating himself into the alt-right, using his Swedish nationality (many neo-Nazis are obsessed with Sweden because of its “Nordic” heritage) as a way in. It wasn’t always easy. “You want to punch them in the face,” he told me of the people he met undercover. “You want to scream and do whatever — leave. But you can’t do any of those things. You have to sit and smile.”

What he learned while undercover is one part of a shocking, comprehensive new report from Hope Not Hate that sheds light on the strange landscape of the alt-right, the much discussed, little understood and largely anonymous far-right movement that exists mostly online and that has come to national attention in part because of its support for Donald Trump.

As a result of the growing influence of the far-right social-media ecosystem, once-moribund hate groups in both the United States and Europe — groups that mostly existed long before “alt-right” entered the vernacular — are enjoying a striking uptick in recruitment. [Continue reading…]

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Steve Bannon has a Nazi problem

Vanity Fair reports: Hunkered down for his first television interview since he left the White House, an unkempt Steve Bannon succinctly outlined the populist-nationalist mission of Breitbart News. “Our purpose is to support Donald Trump [and] to make sure his enemies know that there’s no free shot on goal,” he told 60 Minutes host Charlie Rose last week. Those enemies include a familiar list of Breitbart targets: establishment lawmakers like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the G.O.P. swamp; undocumented immigrants protected under DACA; the liberal media; White House “globalists” such as Gary Cohn, and so forth.

But the biggest danger to the president and to Breitbart may be their fellow travelers on what Bannon once called “the alt-right,” as became especially clear after Charlottesville. And Bannon was itching to distance himself from the white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis that have rallied under Trump and supported his agenda. “They’re getting off a free ride off Donald Trump. They’re getting a free ride,” he exploded, his eyes red, calling them a “small,” “vicious group” that “add[s] no value.” As he condemned them, though, he took a characteristic swipe at the media for continuing to blur the lines between racial extremists and his movement. “I don’t need to be—I don’t need to be lectured—by a bunch of—by a bunch of limousine liberals, O.K., from the Upper East Side of New York and from the Hamptons, O.K., about any of this.”

Prior to Trump’s surprising election, Bannon’s Breitbart pursued, essentially, a no-enemies-on-the-right policy, with a disparate group of believers in its big tent. For years, as Breitbart cultivated a scurrilous following of anti-Islamists, anti-immigrants, and Internet trolls with questionable Photoshop skills and even more questionable taste, Bannon defended his collection of deplorables as people who were simply united by their hatred of the establishment, whatever it was at any given moment. In August 2016, Bannon called Breitbart “the platform of the alt-right,” yoking his site to an ugly strain of American politics at the expense of his own allies. “I’ve talked to people who work with him, and they said, ‘They don’t know why he said that,’” said Morton Klein, echoing several other Bannon associates I’ve spoken to over the past several months. He rolled with it, however, and tended to dismiss complaints about some of the constituencies as political correctness. [Continue reading…]

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Steve Bannon says he talks to Donald Trump every two to three days

The Wall Street Journal reports: Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon speaks with President Donald Trump every two to three days, he told a private lunchtime gathering Tuesday in Hong Kong, some three weeks after the adviser left his administration job.

Mr. Bannon said he most recently spoke with Mr. Trump the previous night for an hour, according to two people who attended the closed-door meeting with the former presidential adviser. The gathering, at a Grand Hyatt hotel restaurant, included a group of about 20 money managers.

Mr. Bannon wasn’t immediately reachable for comment.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday she was aware of two conversations between Mr. Bannon and the president. Of the former chief strategist’s comment that the two speak every two to three days she said, “Certainly not that frequently.” [Continue reading…]

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Why white nationalists love Bashar al-Assad

Mariam Elba writes: It shouldn’t be surprising that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has become an idol among white nationalists in the United States.

During the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally several weeks ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, Baked Alaska, an infamous far-right YouTuber, livestreamed an encounter with a demonstrator wearing a T-shirt that read “Bashar’s Barrel Delivery Co.” The shirt alluded to the Assad regime’s frequent, horrific use of barrel bombs — weapons employed to indiscriminately target rebel-held areas of Syria.

That rally-goer shouted, “Support the Syrian Arab Army!” and “Assad did nothing wrong!” They gloated over how Assad can “solve this whole ISIS problem” with just two chemical bombs. James Fields, the 20-year-old white supremacist who allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer, posted a portrait of Assad, in military regalia and aviator sunglasses to Facebook. A superimposed caption read: “UNDEFEATED.”

There’s a simple explanation for how the American far-right became curiously infatuated with the Arab totalitarian leader: Their hearts were won over by the Assad family’s years-old propaganda campaign at home in Syria. Assad’s authoritarianism uses the same buzzwords as the far-right to describe the society he’s trying to build in his own country — a pure, monolithic society of devotees to his own power. American neo-Nazis see Assad as a hero.

As the chaos of Charlottesville and its aftermath was unfolding, Assad addressed a group of diplomats in Damascus about the ongoing war in Syria. “We lost many of our youth and infrastructure,” he said, “but we gained a healthier and more homogenous society.”

Whereas white nationalists aim to create a healthy and homogeneous society through racial purity, for Assad it means a society free of any kind of political dissent, excluding any Syrian living outside the territory his regime controls. Anyone who does not fit Assad’s specific definition of what it means to be Syrian is up for execution.

Alexander Reid Ross, a lecturer of geography at Portland State University and author of the new book, “Against the Fascist Creep,” said Assad is a figure that is central to a realization of “Eurasianism.” The notion “holds that Russia will lead the world out of a dark age of materialism and toward an ultranationalist rebirth of homogenous ethno-states federated under a heterogeneous spiritual empire,” Reid Ross said. [Continue reading…]

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The alt-left is real, and it’s helping fascists

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: When Donald Trump used the term “alt-left” to deride the anti-fascists in Charlottesville last week, he was adopting a usage that has gained currency among far right ideologues on Fox News. It was Trump’s attempt to draw moral equivalence between the neo-Nazis and the protestors confronting them.
But the protestors in Charlottesville were traditional anti-fascists with a proud history and defined identity – there is nothing “alt” about them. If the label was being misapplied to them, maybe “alt-left” is nothing more than a right-wing media trope to smear progressive activists.

Not quite. Before the right hijacked it, the “alt-left” label was used mainly by progressives to refer to a strain of leftism that sees liberalism rather than fascism as the main enemy. It is distinguished mainly by a reactionary contrarianism, a seething ressentiment, and a conspiracist worldview.

In its preoccupations it is closer to the right: More alarmed by Hillary Clinton winning the primary than by Donald Trump winning the presidency; more concerned with imagined “deep state” conspiracies than with actual Russian subversion of US democracy; eager to prevent a global war no one is contemplating but supportive of a US alliance with Russia for a new “war on terror”.

Like the right it disdains “globalists”, it sees internationalism as liberal frivolity, and its solidarity is confined to repressive regimes overseas.

Though these tendencies have always been a feature of the far left, they were turned into a powerful obstructive force after the last Democratic primary as the “never Hillary” fringe of Bernie Sanders supporters defected to the Green Party (in its worst incarnation under Jill Stein) or chose to sit out the election. Loath to admit mistake, the enablers of Trump now spend their time minimising what he has unleashed. [Continue reading…]

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Sebastian Gorka is forced out as White House adviser, officials say

The New York Times reports: Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken adviser to President Trump and lightning rod for controversy, has been forced out of his position at the White House, two administration officials said on Friday.

One of the officials said that the president’s chief of staff, John F. Kelly, had telegraphed his lack of interest in keeping Mr. Gorka during internal discussions over the last week.

Mr. Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, had been on vacation for at least the last two weeks, that official said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about personnel issues.

The Federalist, a conservative website, published portions of what it called a resignation letter written by Mr. Gorka. It quoted him as saying that given which “forces” were on the rise in the White House, the best way for him to support the president was from outside it.

The White House, seeking to blunt Mr. Gorka’s claim that he had resigned, put out an unattributed statement saying that he no longer works in the administration, but that he did not resign. [Continue reading…]

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Trump confronts unprecedented public rebuke by Gary Cohn after Charlottesville

The Washington Post reports: An unprecedented rebuke of President Trump by National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn reverberated through Washington on Friday, forcing the White House to respond to harsh, public criticism from one of the president’s top advisers.

Cohn lashed Trump’s comments earlier this month blaming the violence in Charlottesville on “both sides,” saying in an interview with the Financial Times that “citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.” The adviser, who is Jewish and has long given to Jewish causes, said that the administration “must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups.”

The criticism was the first serious public condemnation of Trump’s behavior by a member of his inner circle since the beginning of his presidency and raised the question of how a president who puts a heavy premium on loyalty would react.

Privately, a White House official said, Trump was furious about Cohn’s public airing, though publicly, White House officials, while defending the president’s response to the events in Charlottesville, acknowledged that the White House can always do more. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: In the days after the Charlottesville rally, when Mr. Trump defended white nationalist protesters, Jewish members of the administration were mostly silent. Mr. Cohn is so far one of the few in the administration to publicly condemn the president’s remarks. Military leaders posted messages on social media denouncing neo-Nazis and racism, but did not specifically mention the commander in chief. Public deviation from the president by the military is unusual.

Mr. Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides,” as Mr. Cohn stood nearby in the lobby of Trump Tower where the president made his remarks to reporters. After Mr. Trump left, Mr. Cohn stood uncomfortably fielding questions about the president’s statements, and he repeatedly declined to comment. At the time, people close to Mr. Cohn said he was disgusted and deeply upset by Mr. Trump’s comments. [Continue reading…]

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A black man went undercover online as a white supremacist. This is what he learned

The Washington Post reports: As soon as Theo Wilson started making YouTube videos about culture and race, trolls using racial slurs started flocking to his page.

After engaging in endless sparring matches in the comments section, Wilson began to notice something curious: His trolls seemed to speak a language unto themselves, one replete with the same twisted facts and false history. It was as if they had all passed through some “dimensional doorway,” arriving from an alternative universe where history, politics and commonly accepted facts had been turned inside out.

There was the idea that slavery was a form of charity that benefited enslaved Africans; that freed blacks owned more slaves than whites before the Civil War; that people of color make up the majority of those receiving aid from America’s safety-net programs; and that investor and philanthropist George Soros is funding protest movements like Black Lives Matter.

Curious about where his trolls were getting their revisionist history lessons, Wilson, 36, — an award-winning poet and actor from Denver — decided to go undercover in their world. In 2015, he started by creating a ghost profile named “Lucious25,” a digital white supremacist who appeared to be an indigenous member of the alt-right’s online echo chamber, he said. [Continue reading…]

 

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Trump is fueling a rising terror threat from white supremacists and neo-Nazis

Mother Jones reports: When President Donald Trump remarked that “some very fine people” were among the white supremacists who provoked chaos and violence in Charlottesville the second weekend of August, he set off outrage across the political spectrum. According to multiple law enforcement leaders and security experts I’ve spoken with, Trump’s response to a neo-Nazi’s lethal car attack on a crowd of protesters in the Virginia college town also poured fuel on a long-simmering threat of far-right violence in America.

“He said he loves us all,” Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, wrote after Trump initially blamed “many sides” for the carnage. Anglin specifically hailed Trump for ignoring media questions about his white nationalist supporters: “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

The white supremacist Richard Spencer, who participated in the Charlottesville rally, said he was “really proud” of Trump’s equivocating response. He mocked the president’s more canned condemnation of far-right hate groups the next day as “‘kumbaya’ nonsense,” declaring that “only a dumb person would take those lines seriously.” Within 24 hours, Trump reverted to pointing a finger at the “alt-left.

Then, in an acid campaign-style speech in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Trump launched into a half-hour-long tirade aimed at rewriting the story of how he handled the Charlottesville crisis. In his recounting, he lashed out at the “sick” news media and excised all of his previous remarks blaming the political left. He mocked “anarchists” and “antifa,” and he warned a fervent, predominantly white audience that “they are trying to take away our history and our heritage.”

Trump’s actions have only deepened concerns among US law enforcement and other security leaders I’ve spoken with since the car attack 10 days ago that left one person dead, as many as 30 others injured, and the nation’s politics in fresh turmoil. [Continue reading…]

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Seeds of right-wing terrorism

A new study on the psychological processes common to social conservatism and terrorism, by Lazar Stankov, identifies one trait in particular of rising concern. Tom Jacobs writes: He calls this “grudge,” which he defines as “a generalized belief in a vile world.” One obvious example: Radical Islamists view the world as having been polluted by immorality. “Without grudge,” Stankov writes, “the militant extremist mindset is incomplete.”

Thus it is hugely concerning that there are “suggestions in the political climate” that this mindset may be on the rise in Western nations. Stankov points to “the emergence of Donald Trump in the U.S.” and the success of right-wing populist parties in some European countries, including Hungary.

As the right becomes more radicalized, “Political correctness may be interpreted as the implementation of morally rotten policies in our social lives,” he warns. “As a consequence, social institutions—including universities, which are perceived to promote or tolerate such dissenting views—might become targets of terrorist attacks.”

Nastiness and religiosity are believed to be genetically influenced, and thus difficult to modify. But Stankov argues that the “grudge” mindset can potentially be reduced through “the engagement of media, community groups, and education.” Religious leaders, he writes, need to spend more time “debunking the proposition that the West is evil, and promoting the value of life.” [Continue reading…]

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The insidious libertarian-to-alt-right pipeline

Matt Lewis writes: Libertarianism has an alt-right problem. Many prominent leaders of the alt-right have, at some point, identified as libertarian. I am curious as to… why?

Milo Yiannopoulos has billed himself (and has been billed by others) as libertarian. About a year ago, he came clean about that. According to Business Insider, the alt-right troll Tim Gionet (aka “Baked Alaska”) formerly “identified as a carefree, easygoing libertarian” who “supported Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s bid for the White House, firmly opposed the war on drugs, and championed the cause of Black Lives Matter…”

Gavin McInnes bills himself as a libertarian, but he founded the Proud Boys―a men’s rights group that is considered part of the alt-right. Augustus Invictus, a Florida attorney who literally drank goat’s blood as part of an animal sacrifice, ran for senate in the 2016 Libertarian Party primary and spoke at Liberty Fest. Recently popular among college libertarians, Stefan Molyneux evolved into a pro-Trump alt-righter. And Richard Spencer was thrown out of the International Students for Liberty conference this year after crashing the event.

It is also true that many of today’s alt-righters are disaffected conservatives. However, there are many more conservatives in this country than there are libertarians, which suggests a disproportionate number of today’s prominent alt-righters began as libertarians. [Continue reading…]

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Nearly 2,600 advertisers have pulled advertising from Breitbart

The Independent reports: More than 2,500 advertisers have reportedly stopped advertising on right-wing news website Breitbart News in recent months, underscoring the swelling power of a grassroots campaign to boycott the platform, especially amid escalating political tensions in the US.

According to a tweet by Sleeping Giants, a campaign group aiming to pressure companies into cutting ties with media they deem to be racist or sexist, the number of advertisers that have ceased advertising is “climbing towards 2,600”. [Continue reading…]

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The war on Jared Kushner is about to go nuclear

Gabriel Sherman writes: On the morning he was being ousted as Donald Trump’s chief strategist last Friday, Steve Bannon had already turned the page. “Why do you sound unfazed?” a friend asked Bannon as news of his demise ricocheted across the web. “Because,” Bannon replied, “we’re going to war.” Hours later, Bannon was calling into the editorial meeting at Breitbart News, rallying his troops to continue the battles he waged inside the White House. “We have a duty to the country to be the vanguard of ‘The Movement,’” he told his staff, according to one person on the call. Bannon’s main targets are the West Wing’s coterie of New York Democrat “globalists”—Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn—as well as the “hawks,” comprised of National Security Adviser H.R McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell. “He wants to beat their ideas into submission,” Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow told me. “Steve has a lot of things up his sleeve.”

The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners. On Sunday, Breitbart took renewed aim at McMaster, with a headline claiming he advocated “Quran Kissing.” But most of all, there’s a deep animosity between Bannon and Kushner, amplified by a lack of respect. Bannon finds Kushner’s political instincts highly questionable. “He said Jared is a dope,” one Bannon ally recalled. The two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost. But Bannon, who was the only West Wing advisor to publicly support the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, is especially galled at being scapegoated as an anti-Semite in its wake. “It’s one of the attacks he takes most personally because it’s not true,” a Breitbart staffer told me. Bannon’s allies lay out a more complicated backstory. Bannon, they say, lobbied Trump aggressively to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but was blocked by Kushner. And, according to three Bannon allies, Bannon pushed a tougher line against the Palestinians than Kushner did. In May, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the White House, Bannon stayed home. “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist,” Bannon texted a friend. [Continue reading…]

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Small wonder: The global fascist love affair with the Assad regime

Alex Rowell writes: When the neo-Nazi who smashed his Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia – killing a woman and injuring many others – was found to have posted a Facebook photo supportive of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, more than a few lay observers were left scratching their heads.

Adding to the confusion were videos from the scene showing fellow white supremacists in Charlottesville voicing sympathies for Assad (‘Assad’s the man, brother! Assad’s the man!’); one even wearing a t-shirt depicting a helicopter next to the words, ‘Bashar’s Barrel Delivery Co.’.

That the fascist mob should be enamoured of President Trump seemed comprehensible enough. But why should they be keen on a non-Aryan, non-Christian – indeed, Arab and Muslim, no less – leader with ties to such notorious Islamist entities as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Republic of Iran?

‘Syria’s Assad has become an unexpected icon of the far right in America’, declared a Washington Post headline, in a nod at the general puzzlement. This was a fine article but an unfortunate title, for it was only ‘unexpected’ for those unaware of Damascus’ open courtship of the global far-right stretching back many years now (the headline was later amended to remove the word ‘unexpected’). [Continue reading…]

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What really motivated the protests in Charlottesville?

 

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Extremism is surging. To beat it, we need young hearts and minds

Scott Atran writes: The last of the shellshocked were being evacuated as I headed back toward Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s famed tourist-filled walkway where another disgruntled “soldier of Islamic State” had ploughed a van into the crowd, killing at least 13 and injuring more than 120 from 34 nations. Minutes before the attack I had dropped my wife’s niece near where the rampage began. It was deja vu and dread again, as with the Paris massacre at the Bataclan theatre in 2015, next door to where my daughter lived.

At a seafront promenade south of Barcelona, a car of five knife-wielding kamikaze mowed down a woman before police killed them all. One teenage attacker had posted on the web two years before that “on my first day as king of the world” he would “kill the unbelievers and leave only Muslims who follow their religion”.

Mariano Rajoy, the president of Spain, declared that “our values and way of life will triumph” – just as Theresa May had proclaimed “our values will prevail” in March when yet another petty criminal “born again” into radical Islam drove his vehicle across Westminster Bridge to kill and wound pedestrians.

In Charlottesville the week before, the white supremacist attacker who killed civil rights activist Heather Heyer mimicked Isis-inspired killings using vehicles. “This was something that was growing in him,” the alleged attacker’s former history teacher told a newspaper. “He had this fascination with nazism [and] white supremacist views … I admit I failed. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”

The values of liberal and open democracy increasingly appear to be losing ground around the world to those of narrow, xenophobic ethno-nationalisms and radical Islam. This is not a “clash of civilisations”, but a collapse of communities, for ethno-nationalist violent extremism and transnational jihadi terrorism represent not the resurgence of traditional cultures, but their unravelling. [Continue reading…]

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The road to hate: For six young men, Charlottesville is only the beginning

The Washington Post reports: For all that he did in Charlottesville, chanting anti-Semitic slogans, carrying a torch through the college town, he wasn’t even aware that the alt-right existed one year ago. It wasn’t until Hillary Clinton condemned the movement in a campaign speech last August that he first learned of it, and from there, the radicalization of William Fears, 29, moved quickly.

He heard that one of its spokesmen, Richard Spencer, who coined the name “alt-right,” was speaking at Texas A&M University in December, so he drove the two hours to hear him speak. There, he met people who looked like him, people he never would have associated with white nationalism — men wearing suits, not swastikas — and it made him want to be a part of something. Then Fears was going to other rallies across Texas, and local websites were calling him one of “Houston’s most outspoken Neo-Nazis,” and he was seeing alt-right memes of Adolf Hitler that at first he thought foolish — “people are going to hate us” — but soon learned to enjoy.

“It’s probably been about a year,” he said, “but my evolution has been faster and faster.”

Last weekend’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which ended with dozens injured, a woman struck dead by a car, a president again engulfed in scandal and another national bout of soul-searching over race in America, was a collection of virtually every kind of white nationalist the country has ever known. There were members of the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and neo-Nazis . But it was this group, the group of William Fears, that was not so familiar.

The torch-lit images of Friday night’s march revealed scores like him: clean-cut, unashamed and young — very young. They almost looked as though they were students of the university they marched through.

Who were they? What in their relatively short lives had so aggrieved them that they felt compelled to drive across the country for a rally? How does this happen? [Continue reading…]

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