Secrets of the Sisterhood
In the world of the most violent neo-Nazi skinheads in America, the woman who goes by the name of Vigdís is a well-known, if never seen, activist.
For three years, she has been a tech-savvy moderator of Forum 38, the official website of supporters of the Hammerskin Nation, the country’s most frightening skinhead organization, where she is believed to screen those who seek eventually to become Hammerskins. She writes regularly for HomeFront, a magazine published by another radical group, Women for Aryan Unity. She has posted more than 300 times on Stormfront, a racist Web forum run by a former Alabama Klan boss.
And she doesn’t hold back. Complaining about her local schools, Vigdís said that more than 300 white children were “stuck with over 1,000 stupid blacks,” that “I’m sure I’ll vomit once I see a classroom,” and that “the local niggers” were trying to have a white superintendent removed. Elsewhere, commenting on a Stormfront thread entitled “Hit on By Negroes,” she talked about being approached by black men and ended with, “I’d rather stick thumbtacks in both of my eyeballs.” On her MySpace page, she says she will “gut you like a pig if you disrespect me.”
But in Lake Park, Ga., Vigdís cut a milder profile.
There, until she moved away recently, she went by her real name — Nicole Diana Childers. And her work was rather different than her white supremacist activism — Childers was the CEO of Lake Park’s American Animal Foundation, a nonprofit animal welfare group she founded in 2010, until it shut down about a year ago. The local Valdosta Daily Times ran a Pollyannaish 2011 feature about her titled “How an Abandoned Puppy Changed a Woman’s Life.” Helping animals, she said then, is “why I get up every day. … Donating my time and limited resources to a cause that I love gives me purpose and allows me to go to sleep at night.”
That may be. But Nicole Childers, never coming closer to using her real name than an occasional “Nicole Vigdís,” was simultaneously donating her time and resources to a very different cause — as an activist for Hammerskin Nation.
Childers, 38, could not be reached. Her mother, Ingrid Childers, said that she had left Lake Park to start a new life and had asked that no one be given her contact information. The elder Childers did agree to relay a request for comment, but no reply was forthcoming. Asked if her daughter was involved with neo-Nazis, she said, “No, absolutely not. As her mother, I would know that. That’s a joke.”
Since the days of the early Klan, when women were forbidden membership and relegated to ladies’ auxiliaries, female activists have been in a distinct minority in the white supremacist movement. But today, there are probably more women in that world than ever before, and some have taken on prominent roles, in a few cases even starting their own female groups like Women for Aryan Unity.
That may be because the men who dominate the contemporary movement have increasingly accepted women, even coining a female version of the infamous 14 Words, a white supremacist catchphrase: “Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.” While that acceptance and even recruiting have swelled the female ranks of the movement, most women there have sought to remain anonymous. Certainly, none of them has come close to the kind of personal fame attached to Kathy Ainsworth, a Klan member shot to death by police in 1967 as she attempted to bomb the home of a Meridian, Miss., Jewish leader.
One reason is that, like Nicole Childers, they have certain secrets — secrets about their real-world jobs, their backgrounds, their activities, and their men.
Vicky Cahill, whose father and uncle were notorious Irish gangsters, spent time training with other white supremacists. She is best known in the United States, however, for fawning over terrorist David Lane, whose body she displayed to friends in 2007.
Vicky Cahill is another energetic neo-Nazi and a leader of Women for Aryan Unity (WAU) for more than a decade. She has served as the contact person for a series of WAU magazines and moderated the WAU Web forum and at least one of its websites. A native of Dublin, Ireland, who has been in the United States, off and on, going back to at least 2001, she has described herself as a “Celtic pagan witch” and spent much of her life here and abroad raising money for imprisoned neo-Nazis, promoting violently racist groups like Blood & Honour, and posting racist messages to Stormfront — more than 11,000 of them, according to one newspaper.
Even as a youth in Ireland, Cahill, now 39, quickly developed a reputation for her work with Blood & Honour and another violent local group, Combat 18. In later years, she was photographed training with weapons at a camp alongside Blood & Honour, with whose members she also spent time in Canada. She has a tattoo on one leg that includes several shamrocks intertwined with a “life rune” — a symbol used both by neo-pagans and by the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group.
In the United States, where she has lived in both Denver and Brooklyn, N.Y., Cahill is probably best known for a bizarre episode involving terrorist David Lane, who died in 2007, while serving a 190-year sentence for his part in the 1984 assassination of a Jewish talk show host in Denver. (Lane was the author of both versions of the 14 Words.) According to the Irish Sunday World, she was obsessed with Lane, writing after his death of how he “made me laugh and blush.”
When Lane died, his body was released to April Gaede, a Montana-based neo-Nazi. But before the body was cremated, Cahill actually displayed the cadaver, lying in a coffin with coins on its eyes, at a white nationalist event, drawing an angry condemnation from Gaede, who said her fellow racist was “show[ing] off.” Later, Lane’s cremated ashes were split up among 14 “white nationalist” women, including Cahill. Then, in 2009, part of Lane’s ashes were allegedly stolen by Australian members of Combat 18, prompting Cahill to threaten ominously that if they weren’t returned, “I will be contacting the bruders [German for brothers] about this.”
But there’s one aspect of Cahill’s past that is less well known.
Vicky Cahill is the niece of the late Martin Cahill, who was one of Ireland’s most infamous crime bosses and widely known as “The General.” Cahill and his gang terrorized Dublin in the 1990s, carrying out armed robberies and even the theft of some of the world’s most valuable paintings, before he was murdered. His brother Peter Cahill, Vicky’s father, was convicted of dealing heroin in the 1980s.
One Internet commentator was disbelieving upon hearing of the relationship, saying he had seen “the most ludicrous of claims” — that “our fellow race patriot” was The General’s niece. Informed by her that she was, the flustered poster offered an embarrassed response: “Sorry about that. … No disrespect intended.”
When she’s not modeling “Ladies SS bolts spaghetti tanktops” or working as a “fetish model,” Cami Lynn Debolt can often be found with her boyfriend’s followers in the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement.
Unlike Vicky Cahill, Detroit-based National Socialist Movement (NSM) “commander” Jeff Schoep’s latest girlfriend — the one he took up with in late 2011, after learning that his wife had breast cancer — is not a movement stalwart.
Indeed, Cami Lynn Debolt, 27, seems to spend most of her time as a “fetish model” — one who doesn’t do nudes, but just about everything short of that.
Debolt has posed for her boyfriend’s record company, NSM Records, but most of her modeling credits are more related to the Internet group she has been a member of, Deviant Art. They include, according to a variety of her online ads and modeling profiles, entities like Evil Cheerleaders, Dryve By Suizhyde, Ballsy Babes Swimwear, Sinnister Heelz, Essential Latex, Alloy Latex, Skin Two Latex, Caress Latex, Liberator Latex, Adultcon and — what else? — Pure White Clothing.
Normally, that isn’t the kind of resumé white supremacists boast about — after all, they routinely claim to be trying to clean up a world degraded by “Jewish pornographers” bent on exploiting chaste, upstanding “Aryan” women. But in the case of Schoep, Debolt is seen as a long step up from his ex-wife, who has a mixed-race child by a former marriage and an Arab background — anathema in the world of neo-Nazis, many of whom despise Schoep as a “confirmed race-mixer.”
Debolt doesn’t spend much time espousing the fascist propaganda that her beau specializes in. But she does model the neo-Nazi women’s wear Schoep sells, items like the NSM’s “Ladies SS bolts spaghetti tanktop.” On one site where she advertises her services, she says she is “88 years old” — the 88 being neo-Nazi code for the slogan “Heil Hitler.” She has a spider’s web tattoo on one shoulder, along with at least six others; for many white supremacists, a spider’s web signifies having drawn the blood of a minority. And, on another site advertising Debolt’s modeling services, she describes one of her favorite things: “Skin of choice: White.”
Some women in the white supremacist movement don’t have to explain or apologize for behavior like dressing up in skin-tight latex outfits or modeling at porn film conventions like Adultcon. Sometimes, it’s their men that embarrass them.
Many women in the West Virginia-based National Alliance, which for close to three decades was America’s leading neo-Nazi group, have a particularly well-known, if rarely written about, history of this. William Pierce, the late Alliance founder known for badmouthing “Jewish pornographers,” secretly kept a huge porn collection and often videotaped sex with his lovers — one of whom once tried to sell the Southern Poverty Law Center a tape of such an encounter. Pierce also was known for the mail-order brides he repeatedly procured from Eastern Europe.
More recently, two women in the Alliance were humiliated by longtime Alliance member Francis Jeromy Drumm, 41, who was apparently involved with each of them for a time. Using the Internet names of Berzerco and Wernerschmidt, Drumm posted a variety of salacious photographs of Stacy Lee Fogarty Mokma, now 42, and Lynette Sonya Avrin, 44, to a male-dominated Web forum run by Pirate4X4, a California truck parts store. Both were shown partly nude.
Avrin, who has posted on Stormfront for years under the moniker of Freya14, lived with Drumm for a time, but apparently left the Alliance and California over the soured relationship. Mokma, formerly married to Alliance member Donald Mokma, is a longtime participant in the racist subculture and was a member of the Alliance’s Western North Carolina and Sacramento, Calif., units. She lived with Drumm after Mokma did at his Orangevale, Calif., home, which was sold in November. The sale may have been related to the disbanding of the Sacramento unit in October.
Avrin could not be reached for comment. Mokma, who now goes by her maiden name of Fogarty, was reached on her cell phone but declined to discuss the situation. “I don’t have anything to say,” she told the Intelligence Report.
Boys and Girls Together
Women aren’t the only ones on the radical right who have secrets, often very embarrassing ones. Over the years, there have been male Klan activists with black girlfriends and even one with Latino boyfriends. At least one white supremacist man has turned out to have a black parent, and leading neo-Nazis have been unmasked as secretly of Jewish descent. Many movement men are involved with the sex industry or child porn, and domestic violence is remarkably common among them.
But women in racist and anti-Semitic groups can have a special burden to bear. For one thing, they’re not in control, and the men in their lives will often use sketchy aspects of their past to attack them — something that most women in the movement would not dare with the men. Erika Gliebe, for instance, was routinely pilloried for having been a stripper and posing for Playboy as a means of attacking her husband, Erich Gliebe, the current leader of the National Alliance. The same male critics said nothing about male comrades involved in the porn industry.
Scholarly research also suggests that many women have more to hide. According to pioneering work by Kathleen Blee, the author of Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement, large numbers of movement women have had abortions, boyfriends of color or gay friends. “[T]hey are not wildly racist, not off the charts, before they join, and most of them aren’t initially anti-Semitic at all,” Blee told the Intelligence Report after her book was published in 2002.
“So the racism that these groups espouse, the sense that the whole world is revolving around race, and the idea that conspiratorial Jews run the world, seem to be for these women a product of being in the group rather than something that convinced them to join. … [I]t’s almost always a pull from the group that brings [women] into these racist groups, rather than a push from their own experience.”
In other words, many of these women are maintaining a difficult balancing act — a situation that could, and sometimes does, explode when it becomes public. Blee found that many women “even have friends in the, quote, enemy races,” and nearly a third were on friendly terms with mixed-race or gay family members. Almost every woman she interviewed, she said, had a “significant tie to somebody on the outside, and often that was a tie that she kept secret from others in the group.”
Such secrets have the potential to wreck a woman’s life in the white supremacist subculture — to ensure that she is driven out, or humiliated, or even physically attacked by movement menfolk. At the same time, as Blee pointed out, these same ties to outsiders — like that, apparently, between Nicole Childers and her mother, who was her daughter’s partner in her animal shelter — are the very lifelines that women use if and when they choose to leave the racist movement. And that may be reason enough to find some real good in the secrets of the sisterhood.
Photo credit: Jason Miczek/AP Images