Less Than a Year After Charlottesville, the Alt-Right Is Self-Destructing

Kelly Weill, Daily Beast, March 29, 2018

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Last summer, the American alt-right was presenting itself as a threatening, unified front, gaining national attention with a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The collection of far-right and white nationalist groups proclaimed victory after President Donald Trump hesitated to directly condemn them and instead blamed “both sides” and the “alt left” for the violence. But less than a year after Charlottesville, the alt-right is splintering in dramatic fashion as its leaders turn on each other or quit altogether.

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But by March, [Matthew] Heimbach and the TWP had spent the previous months embroiled in a series of online spats with other alt-right factions. On March 14, police in his Indiana hometown arrested Heimbach after he allegedly assaulted TWP spokesperson Matthew Parrott during a fight over their wives, both of whom Heimbach was allegedly sleeping with. Heimbach’s wife is Parrott’s stepdaughter.

The high-profile bust was an accelerant in what had been a slow-burning feud among the alt-right. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said the schism started after Unite the Right, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August. The rally turned deadly after a man affiliated with a white supremacist group plowed a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring more.

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But the alt-right has had a bad month. In recent weeks, as Beirich described, prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer has dropped a lawsuit against Kent State University and canceled his speaking tour, after anti-fascist protesters opposed him at every stop. “Antifa is winning,” Spencer conceded in a video. Days earlier, Kyle Bristow, an alt-right lawyer who has represented Spencer, announced he was quitting the movement after the Detroit Free Press wrote an article critical of him.

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Earlier in March—after Bristow quit the movement, but before Spencer canceled his college tour—Heimbach and the TWP acted as a security force for Spencer outside a speech to a handful of people at Michigan State University. They scrapped with counterprotesters, resulting in at least a dozen arrests—including that of Greg Conte, director of operations for an alt-right group, HuffPost reported.

The physical brawl turned into a Twitter feud between Spencer and Patrick Casey, the executive director of white supremacist group Identity Evropa. Identity Evropa participated in the violent clashes at Charlottesville. But after the deadly rally, and two leadership changes (leader Nathan Damigo quit after Charlottesville, and his successor Eli Mosely quit to join a Spencer-affiliated group before it was revealed that Mosely lied about serving in the Iraq War) Identity Evropa promoted Casey to its head and attempted to rebrand itself as clean-cut.

On Twitter, two days after the TWP got in a brawl while acting as Spencer’s security force, Identity Evropa claimed to be “explicitly non-violent” and “peacefully effecting cultural change.” {snip}

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Currently “the biggest divide is between people who believe in online activism versus real-world activism.” Beirich said. After Charlottesville, Daily Stormer founder “Andrew Anglin, for example, posted things criticizing in-real-life protests… When PayPal and Facebook started banning accounts, he was pointing out that ‘these aren’t good things for us, taking to the streets isn’t necessarily positive, the optics were bad.’”

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Anglin is currently on the run and claims to be in Cambodia while he attempts to avoid a lawsuit by a Jewish woman whose address and phone number he posted online after she argued with Spencer’s mother. Anglin encouraged readers on his neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer to call the woman and visit her home, unleashing a campaign of harassment against her.

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Among the optics-skeptical is Chris Cantwell, a white supremacist who featured prominently in a Vice documentary on the Unite the Right rally, and who later became a meme when he cried on camera. Since Charlottesville, Cantwell has produced a podcast, which ran on The Daily Stormer until Anglin allegedly removed it without telling Cantwell earlier this month.

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Hovater, the remaining TWP leader who called Heimbach’s arrest “shameful,” shared the post. Cantwell’s attack on The Daily Stormer soon landed him in trouble with other members of the alt-right, when one of the blog’s contributors revealed that Cantwell was an FBI informant.

Andrew Auernheimer, a Daily Stormer contributor and hacker best known by his screen name “Weev,” posted screenshots of a conversation with Cantwell, in which Cantwell admitted to reporting members of Philadelphia ARA (anti-racist action groups) to authorities.

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After Weev posted the screenshots, Cantwell confirmed their authenticity in a blog post of his own titled “I Am A Federal Informant,” in which he attacked Weev as “a Jew in a foreign country” in reference to rumors that the neo-Nazi blogger is actually of Jewish ancestry. Cantwell also confirmed that his attorney had spoken with the FBI. The admission set off a fresh volley of criticism from alt-righters who are opposed to communicating with law enforcement.

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