Throughout the Trump era, the white nationalist media network The Right Stuff (TRS) was at the forefront of white nationalist organizing. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s analysis of cast member appearances on the show reveals that the network has lost much of its momentum.
SPLC analyzed cast member appearances from TRS’s flagship podcast, “The Daily Shoah,” from the show’s inception in 2014 to 2020. It found that the podcast’s ability to attract or retain broad spectrum of guests has diminished alongside the collapse of TRS’s domain popularity. Between 2014 and 2018, “The Daily Shoah” featured more than 100 different guests from across the far-right movement. However, between January 2018 and March 2020, it featured fewer than 25 new guests. Between 2017 and March 2020, its average monthly domain rank declined from 520,000 to 975,000 out of 1 million sites.
“The Daily Shoah’s” trajectory is reflective of an extensive shift within the white power movement away from traditional organizing structures and toward more diffuse systems of decentralized radicalization. Members of “The Daily Shoah” and TRS more broadly were key figures in the “alt-right” – a broad consortium that included an array of digitally savvy far-right organizations and leaders. In the run-up to and the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 election as president, alt-right leaders staged dozens of rallies, including the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, the legal and civil consequences of numerous acts of violence at these events, combined with infighting, caused the coalition to collapse in early 2018. Around the same time, TRS’s popularity declined precipitously and a new generation of white power activists, ones who eschewed traditional organizing methods in favor of terroristic violence, rose to prominence.
This is part three of the SPLC’s report examining 15 years of podcasting data across 18 different shows produced by far-right extremists. Through this analysis, the SPLC aims to document the ways in which podcasts have shaped the far-right movement, encouraged networking among extremists, and fueled the emergence of some of its key leaders.
The history of ‘The Daily Shoah’
Mike “Enoch” Peinovich and a cadre of writers from the racist libertarian blog The Right Stuff (TRS) founded “The Daily Shoah” in August 2014. The show debuted roughly two years after Peinovich, a former tech worker who wrote under the pseudonym “Mike Enoch” online, had launched the site in 2012.
“The Daily Shoah” established TRS as a brash, irreverent outlet among the white nationalist blogosphere. The name was an antisemitic riff on Jon Stewart’s popular comedy program, “The Daily Show.” Its hosts, known as the “Death Panel,” used a roundtable format and featured a variety of talking heads. Its hosts included Peinovich and contributors to TRS’s website, including Jesse Dunstan (known as “Sven,” “Seventh Son,” and “Bjorn”), Cooper Ward (as “Ghoul”) and Van Bryant II (as “Bulbasaur”). Peinovich, who grew up listening to shock-jock hosts such as Opie and Anthony, injected the radio hosts’ same comedic style into “The Daily Shoah,” albeit drenched in racism and bigotry.
“The Daily Shoah” runs at least twice per week. Some of its episodes are available for free, while others require a paid monthly subscription. Episodes run between two and three hours, and feature commentary, sophomoric musical numbers and recurring segments mocking Jews and racial minorities.
Owing to its long tenure and prominence, the show has popularized an extensive list of symbols, memes and jokes now used by other far-right communities online. In June 2016, for instance, the Google App store removed an extension for the Chrome web browser, called the Coincidence Detector, from its site. The app added triple parentheses, known as (((echoes))), on any website around names that were pulled from a user-generated list of Jewish last names. The meme was meant to be a visual representation of a sound effect featured in “The Daily Shoah,” where hosts would add an echo sound effect while referring to Jews.
TRS’s evolution from book-burning racist tastemakers to burned out
Although the “The Daily Shoah” and other shows on the TRS network were places for far-right extremists to “see and be seen” well into the first half of the Trump administration, the network’s popularity has suffered as a result of infighting, legal action and changing dynamics within the white power movement. As subsequent sections will show, both “The Daily Shoah’s” ability to attract new guests and the popularity of the TRS network have suffered as a result of the collapse of the alt-right in early 2018.
The alt-right, short for “alternative right,” was responsible for much of the far right’s on-the-ground activity in 2016 and 2017, including “Unite the Right.” However, these acts of mass mobilization came with a cost. Following a slew of rallies and university speaking events in Michigan, Florida, Tennessee and elsewhere in late 2017 and early 2018, the coalition began to fracture. The movement was split between dueling wings, with one side prioritizing street action, while the other worried that high-profile confrontations between its members and antifascist activists would damage the movement’s image. In the case of TRS, these issues came to a head in March 2018, when “The Daily Shoah” host Jesse Dunstan announced he intended to remove podcasts from the Traditionalist Worker Party, after several of its members and leaders were reportedly involved in a series of street brawls outside of an alt-right event at Michigan State University.
Even before the post-“Unite the Right” fallout, TRS had started to take a darker turn, in part due to longtime Daily Stormer contributor Joseph Jordan’s (aka “Eric Striker”) growing involvement with the network. In mid-2017, Peinovich hosted a Nazi-style book-burning ritual, where he, Jordan and others threw up Hitler salutes, according to leaked footage later published by Hatewatch. One former member described the atmosphere around such events to Hatewatch as that of “a cult.” TRS’s association with white nationalist shock jock Christopher Cantwell contributed to further rifts between TRS hosts and other white nationalist organizers. On Sept. 14, 2019, Daily Stormer editor Andrew Anglin wrote in an article for his website that he had stopped sharing TRS podcasts in fall 2018, due to the network’s association with Cantwell. Cantwell, one of the organizers of “Unite the Right,” came under fire from some in the white power movement in spring 2018, after he told Daily Stormer webmaster Andrew “weev” Auernheimer that he had chosen to cooperate with police and federal officials.
“I have always liked Mike Enoch [Peinovich]. I think he is a borderline genius. There was a time when I wished he would have been the spokesman of a pro-white movement,” Anglin wrote in a June 1, 2019, blog post. “But this is the path he’s chosen. He’s chosen to betray the trust of the people, to give his approval to known, proven and self-admitted fed snitch.”
The Right Stuff’s own efforts to engage in real-life outreach and recruitment also were crumbling, as its nationwide network of in-person meetup groups, known as “pool parties,” dried up around 2019.
‘There is no political [podcasting] solution’
TRS’s decline is emblematic of wider trends within the white power movement away from traditional organizing and propaganda structures and toward more diffuse, decentralized systems of radicalization.
Following the intense scrutiny from media after “Unite the Right” and the collapse of the “alt-right” coalition in early 2018, many in the white power movement began to question whether participation in politics and mass mobilization were outdated. Groups such as the Atomwaffen Division promoted an alternative known as white supremacist accelerationism, wherein terroristic violence is deemed the sole means of ushering in a whites-only fascist society. Eventually, a growing subset decided that even self-styled accelerationist groups such as Atomwaffen and The Base, another white power organization, were too institutionalized.
While Peinovich and his co-hosts on “The Daily Shoah” dismissed the promise of public events altogether by spring 2018, calling rallies “directly counterproductive,” he and others within TRS’s inner circle distanced themselves from the accelerationists.
However, these efforts caused uproar among other members of the white power community, including lesser-known TRS hosts. In 2019, TRS prevented a host by the name of “Larry Ridgeway” from hosting guests such as Andrew Richard Casarez, a proponent of white supremacist terrorism who went by the name “Vic Mackey” online. Casarez’s supporters dubbed themselves the “Bowl Patrol,” referring to the white supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof’s “bowl cut” hairstyle. In one of “Ridgeway’s” podcasts aired in September 2019, after he was booted from the network, he and his fellow hosts accused TRS of failing to stand up for white supremacist mass murderers out of fear of losing access to their online payment processor.
Tracking cast members on ‘The Daily Shoah’
Between 2014 to 2018, “The Daily Shoah” show featured numerous prominent white supremacist leaders as guests. Guests on the podcast used the platform to interact with one another and inject new ideas into a growing ecosystem of far-right extremists online. However, the SPLC’s data reveals that this once-central propaganda hub’s average monthly cast count has declined 50% since 2018.
The count of new cast members – meaning those who have not appeared on the show before – is even more striking. The bar graph below shows a count of the new cast members who appeared on “The Daily Shoah” each month from August 2014 through March 2020. In its early years, the show attracted an average of between three and six new cast members per month. However, after the alt-right collapsed in spring 2018, cast appearances became increasingly sparse and infrequent. From April 2018 to February 2020, “The Daily Shoah” featured no more than one or two new cast members per month, even though TRS has continued to publish multiple episodes per week.
The drop in the number of guests on the show is not limited to new cast members. In fact, returning guests have largely disappeared as well. The plot below shows each “Daily Shoah” cast member and their appearances over time. Cast members are numbered on the vertical axis in order of their first appearance on the show (line 1 is Peinovich, line 2 is Dunstan, and so on), and each of their episode appearances is shown as a dot. The original hosts, located at the bottom of the y-axis, have the most dots, indicating that they have appeared on the largest number of episodes. Thus, while the original hosts of “The Daily Shoah” have remained frequent, stable presences on the show, the majority of guests have not.
This decline in guests means that even as the movement has become more diffuse and less personality-driven, “The Daily Shoah” has become more reliant on its three remaining hosts — Peinovich, Dunstan and Alex McNabb. The show’s role in the movement has changed dramatically as well. While it was once a hub for crucial information for white power activists about on-the-ground rallies and discussions of strategy, today’s episodes are largely limited to analyzing the news from a white nationalist perspective and miscellaneous griping about the state of the movement.
The decline of ‘The Daily Shoah’ parallels TRS’s domain popularity
Peinovich trumpeted TRS’s listenership in early 2018, claiming that his audience “is always growing … [and has] never declined.” However, data reviewed by the SPLC reveals that TRS’s domain popularity has declined 87.5% since 2017. This general drop in traffic to TRS’s website coincided with the decline in the number of cast members appearing on “The Daily Shoah.”
The SPLC analyzed TRS’s web domain ranking using historical data from the Cisco Umbrella domain popularity list, which tracks the top 1 million domains each day through passive DNS usage. DNS, or “domain name system,” refers to a protocol that allows computers to translate human-readable domain names, like splcenter.org, to IP addresses, so browsers can find internet resources. While Cisco Umbrella’s data only goes back to January 2017, that year marked a watershed moment for far-right organizers. As an August 2020 report from the SPLC noted, of the 125 rallies, marches and protests organized by far-right extremists, 74 of these events occurred in 2017 alone. Several hosts from the TRS network, including Peinovich himself, were instrumental in planning, promoting or executing these events. These include, but are not limited to, “Unite the Right” and Spencer’s college tour, as well as a handful of smaller rallies.
The graph below shows “The Daily Shoah’s” declining total cast count (red) and the concurrent declining web site rank (blue).
Traffic to the TRS website peaked in spring 2017, after Trump’s inauguration. There was another small increase during August 2017 in the run-up to and aftermath of “Unite the Right” rally, though traffic was on the decline the rest of the year. These changes in early 2017 do not necessarily correlate to a lack of on-the-ground activity, however. The decline in site rank could have been a result of TRS’s own efforts to monetize the network. In July 2017, roughly a month before “Unite the Right,” the site introduced a paywall structure, limiting access to some of its multimedia offerings to paid subscribers only. As a result, the domain, which at its height was ranked as high as 179,468 out of 1 million domains, has only cracked the top 500,000 domains once since 2017, in March 2018.
Peinovich lent credence to these findings in a February 2019 court filing from the civil case against “Unite the Right” organizers. (Peinovich has since been dropped from the lawsuit. He did not respond to SPLC’s requests for comment on the matter.) Blaming the court’s effort to subpoena data regarding TRS’s web traffic, TRS had “lost regular listeners,” he claimed, and many users had “cancelled their accounts and stopped visiting the site.”
By then, TRS’s domain rankings had dropped to a monthly average of over 900,000 out of 1 million. Meanwhile, “The Daily Shoah” welcomed only 13 different individuals as guests on the show throughout 2019. Neither “The Daily Shoah,” nor the number of visitors to TRS’s domain, have recovered to their pre-“Unite the Right” popularity.
Other extremist podcasts have failed to attract new cast members
“The Daily Shoah” is far from the only far-right podcast that has failed to attract new cast members over time. Indeed, by comparing “The Daily Shoah’s” cast with the other 17 podcasts in the data set, the SPLC found that the average number of unique cast members per episode is mostly inversely proportionate to the total number of podcast episodes of any given show.
The data shows that even though podcasts with high episode counts, such as “The Political Cesspool” or “The Daily Shoah,” have a higher total cast member count (3,409 and 1,609 respectively, during the period analyzed by the SPLC), these shows have a low number of cast members per episode (2.69 and 2.68). The number of unique cast members – meaning cast members who had not appeared on other episodes of that podcast – was low as well. A little less than one out of three episodes of “The Political Cesspool,” for instance, featured a new cast member. Meanwhile, one in five episodes of “The Daily Shoah” featured a new guest.
Shows, episodes, and unique cast members, in order of Cast Count Per Episode
|Show Name||Episode Count||Total Cast Count||Unique Cast Count||Cast / Episode||Unique Cast / Episode|
|The Political Cesspool||1266||3409||362||2.69||0.29|
|The Daily Shoah||600||1609||122||2.68||0.20|
|The Cocktail Hour||61||162||50||2.66||0.82|
|Good Morning Weimerica||54||131||26||2.42||0.48|
|Fash the Nation||310||630||56||2.03||0.18|
|White Rabbit Radio||120||236||27||1.97||0.23|
|Strike and Mike||105||180||12||1.71||0.11|
These findings demonstrate that “The Daily Shoah’s” inability to attract fresh faces is symptomatic to far-right podcasts as a medium. Hosts, producers and guests alike face both public scrutiny and social pressure for their involvement in the production of hate material. Some may try to protect themselves by using pseudonyms, although few are able to keep their online personas and real-life identities separate for an extended period. Likewise, extremists have struggled to find stable platforms to distribute and finance their activities. Like other forms of extremist propaganda, many of the podcasts in this data set, including “The Daily Shoah,” have been deplatformed from many mainstream social media sites and podcast distribution platforms. (Here, “deplatforming” refers to the action of tech companies stopping a person or group, typically those who give voice to an extreme ideology, from using their websites.) Even though the TRS network hosts its content on its own site, these popular platforms are crucial to developing an audience beyond a more tightly knit network of dedicated extremists.