Last Sept. 20, the eyes of America turned to Jena, La., where more than 20,000 people had gathered to protest what they saw as racism in the disparate criminal treatment accorded black and white students at a local high school.
ROANOKE, Va. — Last Sept. 20, the eyes of America turned to Jena, La., where more than 20,000 people had gathered to protest what they saw as racism in the disparate criminal treatment accorded black and white students at a local high school. For many, it was an uplifting moment, signaling what they hoped would grow into a renewed striving for racial justice, a reborn civil rights movement for a generation that didn't remember the first one. For one real estate developer in this city in the Blue Ridge Mountains, however, it was an occasion to vent feelings about six black teens in Jena facing harsh criminal penalties for a schoolyard fight.
"Lynch the Jena 6!" Bill White wrote in a screaming headline on his website even before the demonstrators had left tiny Jena. Then he got down to business.
"If these n------ are released or acquitted, we will find out where they live and make sure that white activists and white citizens in Louisiana know it, we'll mail directions to their homes to every white man in Louisiana if we have to in order to find someone willing to deliver justice," White wrote. Next, after some research, he appended home addresses and phone numbers for five of the teenagers.
Within hours, White's amazing statements were all over the Internet and the news. Officials expressed shock such comments could be legal, and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco ordered police protection at some of the boys' homes. Called by a reporter, the FBI said it was investigating White's threats for criminal content.
It was a classic Bill White moment.
William Alexander White may be the loudest and most obnoxious neo-Nazi leader in America. Currently the chief of the American National Socialist Workers Party, White is a former left-wing anarchist who is best known for his name-calling, threats and incessant gossip — not to mention embarrassing pleas of love for women who then publicly spurn him. He is a man who often seems incapable of separating truth from fiction, but also a skilled computer programmer who has built some of the radical right's more important websites. By his own account, White has a juvenile record that includes 22 arrests as a teenager, but he is also a businessman who in the last four years has bought 24 inner-city properties valued at $1,063,000 — most of them apartments he acquired as part of his "ghetto beautification project." Above all, White, now 30, is an angry, resentful and narcissistic loner — a misanthrope.
A Bully is Born
Bill White describes himself as a bright child who got interested in politics in junior high school, where he became what he called a "utopian anarchist" and began reading Freud and Marx at 13. The next year, he put out his first issue of the Utopian Anarchist Party newsletter. In it, he railed against juvenile psychiatrists, among other things, who had diagnosed him as particularly paranoid and aggressive.
That was reflected in his high school career, which included bouncing between three high schools due to an extensive record of disruptive and threatening behavior toward students, teachers and a principal, according to a psychological evaluation administered by the Montgomery County, Md., public schools.
That same evaluation may be the most sympathetic rendering of White, then 16, known. "Let us not forget that the world needs William White," it said. "And William White needs the world." But, in language that describes well White's career over the coming years, the report added this: "What he hasn't learned is tolerance, patience, foresight, wisdom, cooperation, respect and compassion. He has learned how to be rude, to challenge authority, to denigrate and despise others."
White has written that he was arrested 22 times between the ages of 15 and 19 on charges of "assault, weapons, explosives, property destruction, graffiti and use of false identification." He says he served a short sentence for attacking police at the age of 19. Although some of these arrests were noted in newspapers, they could not be independently verified because they are part of a sealed juvenile record.
In 1996, two years after his mental health evaluation, White became one of the first to use the Internet to harass his enemies. By now a student at the University of Maryland, White heard gossip about a certain teenage girl who was supposedly being abused by her mother. In a pattern of recklessness that would continue for at least the next decade, White didn't hesitate to go public, posting the mother's phone number to friends along with the suggestion that they harass her with calls.
"We can't stop the calls," the victimized family's father told The Washington Post that February. "It's like a virus. … It could break up our family." White's sneering response suggests the Internet philosophy he has followed ever since: "You should be able to write what you want on the Internet, whether it's true or not."
At college, White remained a spokesman for his Utopian Anarchist Party and loudly proclaimed his left-wing views, including his admiration for Marx and for Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam leader. After the jail visit occasioned by his tussle with police, White, in a ListServ E-mail, trumpeted "all the bomb threats and attacks on schools recently. Over 200 in the area. … I don't think I need to elaborate."
Throughout this period, White was becoming a Web developer, building his own sites on the Internet. In late 1997, just before a failed run as an anarchist for the Montgomery County Board of Education, he built Overthrow.com, the personal website he still runs today. Back then, however, it wasn't a Nazi propaganda center. Instead, it featured links to the Green Panthers, an Ohio pro-marijuana group that wanted to create a "stoner homeland"; to Anti-Racist Action, a group that likes to physically confront neo-Nazis and others on the radical right; to the Revolutionary Workers Party, a Trotskyist group; and to the so-called Lesbian Avengers. The site also included recipes for an array of do-it-yourself synthetic drugs and bombs.
All that would disappear soon enough.
It isn't clear what sent White hurtling from the radical left to the radical right. But the man who had worshipped Malcolm X was soon ranting about "n------"; the friend of the Lesbian Avengers began to relentlessly attack "homo Jews"; and the one-time proponent of psychedelic drugs became a harsh critic of users.
There are some clues. In October 1999, White put up an angry screed on Overthrow.com attacking the Southern Poverty Law Center and another anti-racist group for their criticism of rock musician Michael Moynihan. White also sent Moynihan a sympathetic letter. "Mike, I, being a leftist-communist who wants to defend you, have to admit that there are racial overtones to your work," White wrote. But he went on to suggest that Moynihan had been unfairly defamed.
After that posting, White seemed to focus his hatred on anti-racist groups and, increasingly, Jews. At around the same time, White says he became an official of white nationalist Pat Buchanan's Reform Party presidential campaign and also that of Brian Saunders, a local candidate for the far-right Constitution Party.
In early 2001, the motto at the top of the Overthrow.com page — "Militant Anti-Government Anarchism At Its Best" — disappeared as White finally appeared to cross the Rubicon. Late that year, White took a job as a correspondent for Pravda Online, put out by former employees of the Russian Communist Party's newspaper but by then increasingly taking on a far-right flavor. White began to heavily cover "the Jews" and the internal politics of the American neo-Nazi movement.
After about six months, White left the Pravda job. He was growing closer and closer to the leaders of the radical right, as shown by his attendance at the 2002 conference of American Renaissance, a white supremacist journal. While there, he met a reporter for the far-right Washington Times, Robert Stacy McCain. Before long, White was being quoted in the Times, including in a story on an "alternative currency" issued by extremists. Described as "a Web development consultant for political and corporate clients," White gushed on about the dubious notes.
The next few years were largely spent building up Overthrow.com, which became one of the best-read sites on the neo-Nazi scene. White wrote often about the internal politics of groups like the National Alliance, then the largest neo-Nazi group in the country. After the death of Alliance founder William Pierce in 2002, his website began to fill with vitriolic criticism, much of it anonymous, of the men who had taken over the Alliance after Pierce's death.
Siding with internal Alliance rebels, White energetically published countless defamatory stories about the group's leaders — stories that were sometimes right, frequently wrong, but always well read.
At around the same time, White was helping build key white power websites, including the Vanguard News Network site run by Alex Linder, and becoming a real power on the radical right. But as has happened often in White's life, it didn't take long for a squabble to develop. In October 2003, White cut his ties to Linder, saying VNN had too many problems to overcome. He added: "Everyone wants to blame me like some n----- on welfare blaming the white man for being broke."
Even as the Overthrow-VNN relationship was collapsing, White was going through other difficult entanglements. And, increasingly, he began to reveal details about these matters — details that would surely have been better left private.
'Marry Me, Jennifer'
In late 2003, Bill White was going out with a white-power activist named Jennifer Adams — or so he says. In November of that year, he posted a long screed describing a quarrel the two had. "She attacked me like a wild animal," he said in his breathless Overthrow.com posting. "Only the fact that I am about 215 pounds to her 130 or so left me able to stop her." He also described breaking into a room she was in and finding her "having something very close to cyber sex" with a man.
But Adams sneered at that account. "Bill is/was in love with me," she wrote on another neo-Nazi site. "And the feeling was never mutual. He has tried to make advances towards me, but just ends up jacking off, by himself, in the end. … He is a very delusional guy and I am sure everyone knows what a liar he is."
After absorbing that insult, White took up briefly the next month with another white-power activist, a woman named Erica Hardwick-Hoesch whose family hailed from Roanoke. White, who boasted publicly of "several very special nights" he had supposedly spent with her that December, decided to follow her to Virginia. But she spurned him, and later publicly denied that she had ever been White's lover.
In early 2004, White apparently decided that it was Adams — a woman he'd spent much energy defaming as a promiscuous s--- in the preceding weeks — who he loved after all. In a widely mocked posting in February, he called himself "a blind and stupid fool" and said he had been "lashing out in pain." He said he had realized that Adams was pregnant with their child. "Marry me, Jennifer," he wrote.
Adams didn't see it that way. "I am not pregnant and I am not having Bill White's love child," she countered on VNN. "Furthermore, if I was, it would be an immaculate conception." A little later, in the same forum, she added, "Everyone who knows me in REAL LIFE knows that I was utterly repulsed by Bill."
Rejected, White turned his energies to building a real estate empire in his new hometown of Roanoke, buying up houses and apartment buildings in a largely black neighborhood. Unfortunately for him, he found himself facing Hardwick-Hoesch, who had renounced racism and begun working with One People's Project, an anti-racist group. That summer, she passed out flyers outside the rental properties White had purchased. Targeting White, they were entitled "Meet Your Local Racist."
White, spotting the woman he claims is his former lover passing out the flyers on his property, screeched to a halt, ran up two flights of stairs, and punched her in the head. Ultimately, he was convicted of assault and fined $100. He was also fined $250 for contempt of court after losing his temper on the stand and screaming at Hardwick-Hoesch, who was herself convicted of trespassing and fined $100.
Building an Empire
In the coming months and years, White would build up a real estate empire under the aegis of his White Homes and Land, LLC, which he started in April 2004. He says he maxed out several credit cards to raise the capital to start, then began to buy properties, many in foreclosure, with the help of limited partners he'd solicited to acquire venture capital. White called this his "ghetto beautification project."
Buying up distressed properties in the Mountainview neighborhood of Roanoke's West End — a tough area characterized by crime and blight — White began to improve them, raise rents and, often, boot out original residents who could no longer afford to stay. He refused to accept Section 8 government vouchers.
At the same time, White endlessly insulted his clients, writing publicly about their alleged drug use, criminal records, prostitution and so on. Throughout, he slandered African Americans as "n------," "nig-rats" "vermin" and worse.
Some of the victimized tenants — White often had no proof of his accusations — sought help from the local Legal Aid Society, which jousted with White in court repeatedly in 2004 and 2005. (White had routinely called police on invited guests if their hosts were behind on their rent, calling them trespassers.) Very few of these cases succeeded, but his tenants, many of them black, felt the pressure.
"His modus operandi was to intimidate the people of that neighborhood through defamation," said David Beidler, a lawyer who represented four of White's tenants in court battles with the landlord. "He readily said things on his website that weren't true about his tenants. I had one client who was slandered terribly by him. I tried to encourage her to sue him, but she was too intimidated by him."
In complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, tenants claimed White walked around their neighborhood armed with a shotgun and tried to intimidate them by saying the Klan was coming to "regulate" the area. "I was unable to sleep at night," one woman wrote in her complaint. "He forced people to move because they were afraid of what he might do."
Toward the middle of 2005, with his real estate business apparently thriving, White began to move even more into the neo-Nazi world. On June 25, he joined a rally at a Revolutionary War battlefield in Yorktown, Va., hosted by the National Socialist Movement (NSM). At the time, NSM was rapidly growing into the largest neo-Nazi group in America, thanks mainly to huge numbers of defections from the National Alliance, the group White had helped attack on his website earlier.
At the rally was NSM leader Jeff Schoep, along with white supremacists from various Klan and racist skinhead groups. But it was White, drawing attention with his violently acerbic style, who wound up being quoted as NSM spokesman.
Upon his return to Roanoke, Schoep, apparently impressed by White, announced that White had joined the group and would be leader of its new Roanoke chapter. (The chapter's membership appears to have been limited to White.) He also became national spokesman for what Schoep called "America's Nazi Party."
Toledo, Satan and Beyond
On Oct. 16, 2005, White led an NSM rally that was supposed to kick off a provocative neo-Nazi march "against crime" through a poor, black neighborhood of Toledo, Ohio. But the speeches of White and others were so incendiary that a crowd of neighborhood residents and anti-racists began to swell threateningly, and police ushered the white supremacists away, saying a riot was imminent.
And it was. As White and the other neo-Nazis were whisked off, the crowd attacked police, police vehicles, and local buildings. The results, from the point of view of NSM, could hardly have been better. The violence made every network TV news show that night, along with reports of more than 100 rioters' arrests.
Crowed Schoep: "The Negro beasts proved our point for us."
Thrilled with the attention, White and the NSM repeated the tactic. On Dec. 10, the group returned to Toledo. The police were far better prepared this time and held violence to a minimum. But the NSM kept going, taking its show to Orlando, Fla., where members held another "march against black crime" on Feb. 5, 2006.
That summer, an internal dispute began to tear apart the NSM. The wife of one of the group's original founders, Clifford Herrington, had long been a leader of the so-called "Joy of Satan Ministries," and as this news leaked out, it provoked widespread ridicule and attacks. Some of the most heated came from proponents of the theology of Christian Identity, which generally claims that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan and people of color are soulless beings who were never in the Garden of Eden. To these men, Satan was an enemy to be taken seriously.
In July, White, who had been an atheist for most of his life, wrote a commentary in which he argued that he was "much more bothered and offended by the reaction from various Christian Identity adherents than I am by anything Mrs. Herrington has to say." He went on to call the theology "stupid" and "harmful to the white nationalist movement" and to suggest that its adherents foolishly relied on the Old Testament, a Jewish document whose dictates "Judaized white people."
That was apparently too much for Schoep, who told White he was suspended from his NSM post. White responded typically, "resigning" from NSM even as Schoep said that he was being ejected permanently. Weirdly, the man who had given campus sermons from a Satanic "Bible" now told the world he was leaving NSM because he could not remain in a group with ties to a Satanic ministry. White formed the American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP) the same day.
The Beat Goes On
Given White's chronic inability to maintain interpersonal relationships, ANSWP seemed doomed to failure, or at least to essentially be an organization that existed only in cyberspace. But by the end of 2007, the group was actually claiming 30 chapters, and included some former leading activists from the NSM.
Still, ANSWP's main purpose seems to be as a springboard for White, who remains very much a creature of the Internet despite occasionally joining neo-Nazi rallies like one held in Kalamazoo, Mich., last August. "They're invisible," Brenda Walker, a Roanoke NAACP official who fielded many complaints about White, said of ANSWP events. "When he stages protests and rallies, he's always alone."
But the racist vitriol never ends. Last Aug. 19, for instance, the former Malcolm X admirer wrote: "[A]ll the 'repressive' acts whites have conducted towards Negroes throughout our history together are justified, from the whippings of slavery through modern 'police brutality.' … The only healthy mode of existence for the Negro in white society is a state of complete subjugation… . I no longer doubt that the expulsion and extermination of the black race on the American continent by their white betters is an inevitability that whites can no longer turn their heads from."
Also last year, White went into a rage when Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a column on the murder of a white couple in Tennessee that White didn't like. White posted several attacks on Pitts, who he called a "n-----," and also Pitts' home address. He posted his attack on the Jena 6, along with their home addresses. And, closer to home, he took on the entire editorial staff of The Roanoke Times, printing names, addresses, personal information and even the suggestion that his supporters crash the wedding of the niece of an editor he particularly despised — a "Jew-loving piece of shit," as he called her.
Such commentary is what caused Overthrow.com to be cancelled by a hosting company late last year. The site reappeared a short time later, this time hosted on a server owned by racist propagandist Hal Turner. But after the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed this January that Turner was an FBI informant, many radicals questioned White's trustworthiness. When both Overthrow and the VNN Forum website went down again a little later, many activists warned against using either Turner or White's expertise to try to bring the sites back to life.
None of this — not even the real hate some activists express toward White, who they see as causing nothing but problems — has slowed him down. In January, White used still another Web forum to write: "Sometimes you just have to murder blacks — and, frankly, the killing needs to start with the black leaders and NAACP activists… . I know where my local NAACP 'leaders' live — do you?"
In other words, Bill White remains the same overbearing bully that he has been since his days as a high school anarchist. That trait was in evidence again last December, as he engaged in a court battle with one Aries Defrance Brown, a 32-year-old black man who says he intervened when White leaped out of his car in Roanoke to attack Latoria Minnis, a black woman. (Both men have charged each other with assault, and White has also accused Minnis of attacking him first.)
Brown, a man with a featherweight build and a quiet smile, was being represented by a public defender. Across the courtroom, White, a big man close to twice Brown's weight, was taking no such chances. He had paid a top-dollar criminal defense attorney, known for a fondness for African safaris and also getting defendants off in the most trying of circumstances, to defend the misdemeanor charge. And even that didn't seem to be enough for White — as he sat in court, he kept throwing evil glares and smirks in the direction of the diminutive Brown.
Brown, apparently cognizant of Bill White's vision of himself as the great American führer, found the whole performance amusing. "He's supposed to be a Klan leader or something, but he let a black man whoop him?" he said.
Heidi Beirich contributed to this story.