Eye of the Stormer
Propelled by the Trump campaign and a new focus on the 'alt-right,' the Daily Stormer is now the top hate site in America.
The celebrations at The Daily Stormer began early on Nov. 9, just hours after the presidential election was called for Donald Trump. And Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi who started the website in 2013, was in full-on arsonist mode.
“Female Hajis Fear to Wear the Headtowel in Public After Trump Win — You Should Yell at Them,” read one of the first post-election headlines written by Anglin that day. “Fear,” he wrote below. “Now is the time for it. We want these people to feel unwanted. We want them to feel that everything around them is against them. And we want them to be afraid.”
“This was not a presidential Election,” Anglin added. “It was a referendum on the international Jewish agenda. And the biggest part of that agenda is multiculturalism.”
Anglin and his confederates had plenty of reasons to celebrate. The man Anglin had endorsed 17 months earlier, in the wake of Trump’s out-of-the-gate description of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, had won, shocking the entire American political establishment.
The campaign that preceded that victory, with its dog whistles to the racist right, had helped propel Anglin and his movement into public consciousness.
Just three months earlier, The Daily Stormer had moved into the real world from cyberspace, setting up a “Troll Army” of activists who follow Anglin’s lead in the vicious online harassment of enemies of his movement.
And in July, four months before Trump’s win, The Daily Stormer had become the most popular English-language website of the radical right, eclipsing the Stormfront site that had held that position since the early days of the Internet.
“We won, brothers,” Anglin wrote a few hours after Hillary Clinton conceded. “Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor. Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
The very next day, a new banner went up atop the site: “Andrew Anglin’s The Daily Stormer, ‘America’s #1 Most-Trusted Republican News Source,’ First in Facts — First in Integrity!” Bracketing the site’s new “Republican” masthead were photos of former President Ronald Reagan and President-elect Donald J. Trump.
In the Beginning
The early days of the radical right on the Internet were dominated by Stormfront, a huge web forum set up and run by a former Alabama Klan leader and ex-felon named Don Black. Black had learned his programming skills while serving time in prison for an ill-starred effort to invade a black-run Caribbean island.
Black inaugurated Stormfront in March 1995, just a month before the Oklahoma City bombing left 168 men, women and children dead. Over the years that followed, he built up the site to the point where it had hundreds of discussion threads going simultaneously, many of them in sections for languages other than English. The site also benefitted from enormous attention from the mainstream media, mainly because it was the first of its kind and a relative rarity.
The site grew slowly at first but then much more rapidly as the white nationalist movement in Europe and the United States expanded. In early 2002, Stormfront had a mere 5,000 registered users, but that grew to 11,000 in 2003, 23,000 in 2004, and so on. By 2015, Stormfront had surpassed 300,000 registered users, although only a small fraction of that number was actively posting.
Black tried hard to maintain a relatively non-sectarian environment on Stormfront, and he brought in his son Derek as a contributor and, in 2010, as co-host of the racist radio show that eventually became Stormfront Radio. At around the same time, he began hosting real-world conferences of leading radicals.
But clouds were gathering around Stormfront.
In 2008, Black’s wife, thought to be a movement stalwart, told a newspaper, almost certainly disingenuously, that she did not agree with her husband’s views. Five years later, Derek Black famously renounced the movement, initially in a letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Don Black also angered many followers by trying to ban talk of violence and the use of racial slurs and Nazi symbology. He took sides in certain movement squabbles, alienating some of his followers. In 2014, the site was further damaged by a Southern Poverty Law Center report documenting that registered Stormfront users had committed nearly 100 murders.
At the same time, Black’s endless pitches for money were growing tiresome to many of those who had backed him, some of them with major cash contributions. And, most recently, his health increasingly became an important issue.
Beginning in 2013 — the same year The Daily Stormer began — Stormfront’s Alexa ranking began to plummet. From a ranking of around the 14,000th most trafficked site on the Internet, it fell to around 40,000th by mid-2015.
Another factor, too, seemed critical. Stormfront’s stodgy presentation and clunky features were increasingly behind the times. Meanwhile, The Daily Stormer was featuring flamboyant and eye-catching — if grotesquely racist and guttural — headlines that functioned as “click bait.” In effect, Stormfront looked like an ancient online version of The New York Times, even as The Daily Stormer increasingly took on the appearance and jazzy language of modern news sites like Buzzfeed.
Andrew Anglin grew up in Worthington, Ohio, in a family that did not share his later affinity for Nazism. He describes his ideological journey as beginning with an exploration of “all that Communist Jewish stuff” and including an examination of both Islam and Buddhism. But it seems the real gateway to Anglin’s future beliefs came when he started looking at materials produced by Texas radio host Alex Jones, a wild-eyed conspiracy monger who interviewed Trump during his campaign.
“I started out with normal Alex Jones type conspiracy material, and moved on to weirder conspiracy material,” Anglin wrote in an autobiographical piece. He said that he “then eventually decided Ted Kaczynski [the anti-technology terrorist known as the Unabomber] was right with regards to a coming apocalypse.”
Anglin says he spent time living and working in Southeast Asia, a fact that has led to accusations from his detractors in the movement of “race mixing.” “To this day,” he wrote in words that enraged some white supremacists, “I have very little negative to say about Asians, save that I don’t think they should be immigrating into Western countries (in any kind of numbers) and I don’t think White people should be producing children with them.” But he tempered these statements — tolerant words for a neo-Nazi — with the opinion that “Chinese people have no souls.”
Eventually, he came to full-blown Hitler worship, starting a short-lived website called Total Fascism, where he posted his own long-form essays on fascism, race and the alleged role of Jewish people in America. “I had always been into 4chan [an image board website inhabited by many racist radicals], as I am at heart a troll,” or Internet provocateur and harasser, Anglin wrote. “This is about the time /new/ [a particular 4chan board] was going full Nazi, and so I got into Hitler, and realized that through this type of nationalist system, alienation could be replaced by community in a real sense, while authoritarianism would allow for technology to develop in a direction that was beneficial rather than destructive to the people.”
On July 4, 2013, Anglin started what would become his main project, The Daily Stormer. The site took its name from Der Stürmer, an astoundingly vile and pornographic Nazi newspaper started by Julius Streicher and specializing in attacking Jews. Streicher was later hanged for war crimes at Nuremberg.
The new site, created from the ashes of Total Fascism, specialized in punchy, image-heavy stories that often rely heavily on quoted material. It used hyperbolic headlines — “All Intelligent People in History Disliked the Jews,” for instance, or “SS Auschwitz Guard Dies Days Before Scheduled Lynching by K----” — to grab readers’ attention, build up participation and shift people’s thinking.
Anglin relied heavily on the daily news, although it was news poisoned by his particular views, to drive his message home. “You make a very simple message, where you hit the same points over and over and over again and you repeat them,” he explained in a podcast on his site last year. “That’s been my style. That’s why I do the news. Because it can be new information all the time while still repeating the same points over and over again. … It’s about creating a gigantic spectacle — a media spectacle, which desensitizes people to these ideas.”
One of those who seems to have been “desensitized” to ideas like genocide and race war was Dylann Storm Roof, the young man who murdered nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015 in a bid to start a race war. Posting under the moniker of AryanBlood1488 (the numbers are references to white supremacist slogans), Roof wrote about black-on-white crime — a central topic on The Daily Stormer and Roof’s self-described motive for mass murder.
The Daily Stormer is not merely a propaganda shop. Increasingly, it has become a malignant presence in the real world.
From the beginning, Anglin encouraged his readers to engage in trolling campaigns against his enemies. An early example came in November 2015, when he launched “Operation: K---bart,” an attack on the right-wing news outlet Breitbart News after it decided to open a news bureau in Jerusalem.
Anglin’s “Stormers,” later rechristened the “Stormer Troll Army,” flooded the Breitbart site with vicious comments, demanding that it close its Israel bureau and accusing it of being part of a Jewish conspiracy. The aim, Anglin said, was to fill the comment sections with neo-Nazi propaganda to the point “where they just give up on trying to ban people, and then we guide their readership toward Jew-hatred by informing them of the truths we possess.”
It got so bad that Disqus, a comment platform used by both Anglin and Breitbart, cut service to The Daily Stormer.
Other early examples include “Operation: Jew Wife,” in which Stormers were directed to flood the website of conspiracist Alex Jones, who was seen as insufficiently anti-Semitic and who allegedly has a Jewish wife. Another campaign targeted Julia Ioffe, a Jewish journalist subjected to a barrage of incredibly vicious electronic attacks after Trump criticized her for her profile of Melania Trump.
Such tactics ramped up in March 2016, when neo-Nazi Andrew Auernheimer, a sophisticated computer user now working with Anglin, wrote code that caused thousands of printers around the country, most of them at universities, to spontaneously begin printing. What emerged, to the shock of recipients, was a pamphlet reading: “White man are you sick and tired of the Jews destroying your country through mass immigration and degeneracy? Join us in the struggle for global white supremacy at the Daily Stormer.”
The stunt generated headlines across the country.
Auernheimer, who goes by the Internet handle of “Weev,” has been increasingly active at The Daily Stormer as Anglin struggles to meet technical hurdles posed by the site’s rising profile. In 2015, Auernheimer bought ad blocks on Twitter and then used Twitter’s metrics report on the success of those ads to gauge how best to popularize certain white supremacist themes.
“I made a promoted campaign for the 14 words [a famous white supremacist slogan] and also for something about whites’ need to defend themselves from violence and discrimination,” he said last year. “Then I targeted it against feminist women and minorities and watched them all flip out. I think the biggest converter to our cause is shit lib reactions. Triggering [outrage] is the national sport. People want to see the blue haired establishment break down and cry.”
On Aug. 23, 2016, Anglin formalized his attempts to affect the real world, publishing a call for supporters to “Register Now for the IRL [In Real Life] Troll Army AKA The Stormer Book Club.” Anglin described the club as “groups to prepare for the coming race war,” a place to “form cells, build bonds, develop brotherhood. You will become stronger, better men. It’s a bit like Fight Club.”
Remarkably, the call produced results. The Southern Poverty Law Center has confirmed that by late 2016 Anglin had managed to produce 31 distinct chapters of his Troll Army that were actually active. A month later, Anglin urged followers to “BUY GUNS!” in case Clinton won the presidential contest. “The race war is coming,” Anglin wrote in that missive, “and it is coming quickly.”
Stormers and the Alt-Right
Long before it adopted the motto describing itself as “America’s #1 Most-Trusted Republican News Source,” The Daily Stormer billed itself as “The Most Visited Alt-Right Web Site.” That was a reference to the so-called “alternative right,” a sort of kinder, gentler rebranding of white supremacy for public relations purposes that has picked up a great deal of steam in the last year.
The Alt-Right is fundamentally about the idea that societies and nations should be based on race, an old mainstay of the radical right. But most of its self-described activists tend to avoid neo-Nazi imagery and Klan robes, preferring to paint themselves as real intellectuals seeking to solve real problems.
Not Andrew Anglin. He specializes in a kind of sophomoric and repulsive humor about topics like the Holocaust. He styles himself a “general,” ordering his Stormer Troll Army into dirty campaigns meant to frighten enemies with threats and insults, often accompanied by publication of their personal information.
But he also sees himself as a guardian of the Alt-Right name. In March 2016, Breitbart published “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” by Breitbart tech editors Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos. The story whitewashed the racism at the core of the movement, enraging Anglin.
“Basically, they claim that everything the alt-right says it believes they don’t actually believe, but simply say they believe as part of a joke to piss off feminists and Black Lives activists,” he wrote in response. “This is not the exact opposite of what’s actually happening, but it is close enough.”
Regardless of these internecine squabbles, the Alt-Right received enormous publicity last year, especially after an August speech by Clinton that lambasted Trump for failing to disavow his support in that movement. One result of Trump’s apparent sympathy for the Alt-Right and Anglin’s adoption of the label was that The Daily Stormer got even more mainstream attention.
Three days before the election, Anglin tried to repay the debt. Announcing “Operation No Survivors,” he implored readers to vote for Trump. The goal was for each of his alleged 100,000 readers from the United States to convince five other people to vote for the man Anglin calls “Glorious Leader.” The comment section of Anglin’s Election Day story detailing followers’ efforts to get out the vote reached a total of some 3,000 posts, thick with racist and anti-Semitic memes.
Whither The Daily Stormer?
On July 18, 2016, The Daily Stormer officially surpassed Stormfront’s traffic totals, making it the most popular English-language radical right website in the world. Andrew Anglin had successfully used computer and communications savvy, rising right-wing populism, the Trump phenomenon, and his own signature vulgarity and aggressiveness to displace Don Black, for years arguably the radical right’s most longstanding and respected cyber-leader. Few had seen it coming.
“The Stormer’s impact has been underrated,” Brad Griffin, a key player at the racist Occidental Dissent website, which is sometimes syndicated at The Daily Stormer, wrote recently. “From my perspective, it sure looked like it was the aggressive trolling of journalists and conservatives on Twitter that put the ‘alt-right’ on the map. … As I watched it unfold, I couldn’t believe how successful the troll armies were at getting under the skin of these people.”
Whether or not those “successes” will continue for The Daily Stormer, which has certainly benefited from the country’s political situation, is not clear. One problem for Anglin is that prominence on the radical right, combined with the power of the Internet, has not always worked out well for racist leaders.
A little-noticed video mounted on YouTube by an enemy of Anglin’s is a case in point. In it, Anglin is seen talking to his own cell phone camera as he walks through a glitzy mall in the Philippines. Bouncing along beside him is a dark-skinned Filipina who appears to be of high school age. She giggles and laughs as the pair walks through the mall, with Anglin occasionally telling her to “shut up.”
The girl, Anglin says, is “my jailbait girlfriend.”
Then he goes on to say that she is “obviously descended from Africans,” adding that she had straightened her hair and gotten a weave — admissions that could easily have the effect of ruining Anglin’s movement stature. In the world of contemporary neo-Nazis, “race-mixing” is a cardinal sin. Commenters on the video lambast Anglin as a “pedo,” a “w-----” (white n-----) and a “p----b----.”
Apparently, Anglin isn’t worried.
“Dear Liberals,” he wrote days after the election. “You have never been humble in your victories over the White Man. You have gloated. You have insulted us, attacked us, threatened us, condemned us, even while you had the massive advantage over us. Here’s the thing: We are not going to be humble either. We beat you. We beat you badly. And now that you are on the ground, we are going to keep kicking you in the head. I have heard there are no tears in heaven. So you should probably just kill yourselves. And you should livestream it.”