I haven’t blogged for awhile, but since white nationalism and neo-Nazis are trending topics these days, I figured I’d share some thoughts. After all, I was a teenage skinhead.
I’m a first generation American who grew up in a diverse city, in a deeply racist state. In the 1980’s, Miami was the murder capital of the country and the port of entry for 70% of the nation’s cocaine and marijuana. You’re probably familiar with Scarface and Miami Vice, but few know the Sunshine State has a dark and violent culture lurking in its shadows.
Historically, Florida has been a safe space for America’s oldest terrorist group, the KKK. Some of the most violent acts of terrorism throughout the 20th Century happened in Florida.
The strength of the KKK waxes and wanes over time; by late 1980’s/early 1990’s it was beginning to wane. However, new varieties of right wing extremist groups were significantly increasing. Neo-Nazi, racist skinheads, white supremacist hate groups and anti-government militias almost doubled in size.
Neo-Nazi and racist skinheads were responsible for some of the most vicious and violent hate crimes throughout the country, especially in the ‘Sunshine State’. Stormfront, the most popular white supremacist and neo-Nazi forum on the web, is based in West Palm Beach.
The Birth of Skinheads
Before Miami Beach became a playground for models and celebrities, it was a magical wasteland of dilapidated art deco hotels, senior citizen homes, Cuban coffee shops and a thriving punk rock scene. Hardcore punk rock was an eclectic musical subculture of disaffected youth that originated in England and quickly spread across the US.
Skinheads were part of this music-oriented subculture, but they weren’t the violent, racist ‘boneheads’ most people know today. Skinhead subculture originated in the 1960’s when Jamaican immigrants brought ska music to England and created a unique subculture with British punk rockers.
One more time for your Facebook friends who comment without reading: The original skinheads were working class Jamaicans and Brits who created a subculture centered on music and fashion.
The Birth of Racist Skinheads
Years later, the far right (National Front) would infiltrate punk rock, appropriate the skinhead aesthetic and create that hateful racist skinhead you’ve seen in movies like American History X, Romper Stomper or Green Room. What started as a small group of ethnonationalist, anti-immigration skinheads in the UK eventually became a global community of white supremacist and neo-Nazi skinhead gangs.
This new breed of racist skinhead attacked ethnic minorities, immigrants and made an aggressive effort (which was almost successful) to destroy punk rock. The violence they brought to punk rock escalated into near-constant fighting at concerts and in the streets. Musical acts were banned, clubs were shut down and areas where punk rock flourished soon became ghost towns. This happened in the UK and throughout the US. After one too many brawls, there was an obvious need to do something, lest our beloved community be destroyed.
The Birth of SHARP Skinheads
Skinhead violence at punk rock shows continued for years, so at some point, some of us decided to sit down and have heart-to-heart conversations with racist right wing extremists who advocate domestic terrorism and ethnic cleansing. You know, to hear both sides. I mean, who are we to judge, right?
We didn’t just punch neo-Nazis – we stomped them out and chased them out of town.
I did this (and other types) of anti-racist activism in Florida, Ohio, California and New York. Punk rock resistance to right wing extremism and white supremacy wasn’t just happening all over the country – it was global. And it wasn’t new, Bob Marley sang about it in the 1970’s.
If you want to read more about the history of SHARP skinheads and anti-racist, anti-fascist activism in punk rock, check out my page: Punky Reggae Party.
A two-year study by the Intelligence Report shows that registered Stormfront users have been disproportionately responsible for some of the most lethal hate crimes and mass killings since the site was put up in 1995. In the past five years alone, Stormfront members have murdered close to 100 people.
As it turns out, it’s not just rhetoric, hate speech, empty threats or mean tweets. Racist skinheads, neo-Nazis and several other groups on the radical right are ultra-violent.
At some point, my friends and I realized that we didn’t want to get stabbed, murdered or even be associated with it, so some of us traded in our Doc Martens for Vans and grew out our hair. The next few years, I toured the US and Europe in hardcore punk bands before moving to the Lower East Side in the early 90’s.
Throughout the last two decades my main pursuit has been a career in health & fitness, but ‘all work and no play’ is not healthy, right? So for balance, I kept tabs on a few skinhead gangs and the growth of white nationalism.
For the record, I didn’t follow any of the white power music scene because it’s trash. But over the years I’ve lurked in the biggest neo-Nazi forums and followed the most influential white supremacists and white nationalists on the radical right. I tracked a few websites and ‘think tanks’. I read a few books, journals (magazines), and followed ‘academic’ racists and eugenicists who push debunked ideas from ‘scientific racism’.
Meet the New Racists, Same as the Old Racists
Although I haven’t blogged for a few years, I was active in social media and told you about the new, rebranded white supremacist and resurgent far right extremist movement, the Alt Right.
The Alt Right started out as a small white nationalist organization and grew into a much larger network (both online and in real life) of extremist subcultures, communities, groups and characters unified by a few things namely white supremacy and misogyny.
Now, there is some nuance here (minor variations in ideology, politics, etc), and there’s differences between basement dwellers, trolls and offline threats, but simply put – this is an alternative right wing media (propaganda) system, an attempt at creating a far right militant political party and a subculture of the most degraded bunch of dirtbags, bigots, liars and bullshit artists you would’ve never heard of had it not been for Trump.
I wasted time, not too much, but just enough following some key leaders, influencers, friends and fellow travelers in this cult-like community.
For the past ~6 years, I closely followed Mike Cernovich, Milo and Gavin McInnes.
I started following Cernovich in his early twitter tough guy days. I read almost everything he’s written and forced myself to sit through way too many of his interviews, videos, periscopes and podcasts. I tracked his online growth for a few years and followed his “journalism” throughout major events. This was tedious, to say the least. This dude’s twitter feed has been one long ‘roid rage of hate news, fake news and subterfuge.
Inside the Echo Chamber of Hate and Disinformation
There’s a few reasons I did this.
I told you the story of skinhead because it’s an important in its own right. But I already witnessed the far right infiltrate a community and radicalize young men into what would become global networks of white supremacist organizations, skinhead street gangs and domestic terrorists.
I also witnessed corporate media help support that growth of the radical right with two decades of outrageous bullshit and racism by Fox News and right wing radio. It’s not all on right wing outrage media though. I saw two decades of Trash TV (tabloid talk shows), misinformed journalists, irresponsible reporting and a sensationalist 24 hr news cycle. I knew once corporate news media & journalists would start reporting on it, they’d screw up. Right now, corporate media is a) getting trolled, unintentionally giving platforms and b) giving platforms (interviews, positive write ups) and enabling the growth of right wing extremism.
What’s happening now is a systematic campaign of deceit by slightly more sophisticated, middle class bigots who’ve rebranded their image and updated their methods of delivery.
These dudes are not journalists, ‘provocateurs’, ‘controversial’, ‘mavericks’ or ‘firebrand’ personalities. They are professional trolls, deliberately distorting the truth and infecting the culture with hate; sometimes blatant, other times disguised as lulz or cloaked in irony.
They’re reactionaries and extremists desperately trying to push their views and conspiracy theories into the mainstream. They don’t want to debate. They’re not defending ‘free speech’. They are dispensing propaganda, radicalizing a new far right subculture and inciting violence.
So, I have a few things to share with you about…
- how this alt media system operates, their campaign of disinformation
- how mainstream corporate media amplifies extremism
- the difference between basement dwellers and offline threats and violence
- white supremacy
- rebranding & radicalization of extremists
- political violence
- white liberals caping for racists
- neo-fascist gangs
Thanks for reading. Find me on twitter.