O n December 16,Tanya Gersh answered her phone and heard gunshots. Startled, she hung up. Gersh, a real-estate agent who lives in Whitefish, Montana, assumed it was a prank call.
But the phone rang again. More gunshots.
Again, she hung up. Another call.
When Gersh put down the phone, her hands were shaking. But Gersh had lived in Whitefish for more than 20 years, since just after college, and had always considered the scenic ski town an idyllic place. Now that sense of security was about to be shattered.
Check out the full table of contents and find your next story to read. The Spencers had long-standing ties to Whitefish, and Richard had been based there for years. But he gained international notoriety just after the election for giving a speech in Washington, D.
In response, some Whitefish residents considered protesting in front of a commercial building Sherry owned in town. Sherry Spencer did not respond to a request for comment. At the time, Richard Spencer and Andrew Anglin barely knew each other.
Anglin prefers the gutter, reveling in the vile language common on the worst internet message boards. Over the next week, the Stormers besieged Whitefish businesses, human-rights groups, city-council members—anyone potentially connected to the targets. Gersh came home one night to find her husband sitting at home in the dark, suitcases on the floor, wondering whether they should flee.
Anglin is an ideological descendant of men such as George Lincoln Rockwell, who created the American Nazi Party in the late s, and William Luther Pierce, who founded the National Alliance, a powerful white-nationalist group, in the s. Anglin admires these predecessors, who saw themselves as revolutionaries at the vanguard of a movement to take back the country.
He dreams of a violent insurrection. But where Rockwell and Pierce relied on pamphlets, the radio, newsletters, and in-person organizing to advance their aims, Anglin has the internet. His reach is exponentially greater, his ability to connect with like-minded young men unprecedented.
He also arrived at a more fortuitous moment.
Anglin and his ilk like to talk about the Overton Window, a term that describes the range of acceptable discourse in society. Six days into his Whitefish campaign, Anglin announced phase two: an armed protest. He promised to bus skinhe in from the Bay Area.
As national news outlets picked up the story, frightened Whitefish residents gathered for a community meeting, where Dial, the police chief, saw a year-old Jewish couple trembling with fear. Some people had alarm systems installed. A rabbi had paranoid visions of skinhe in the woods with night-vision goggles and scoped weapons. The police increased patrols. In the end, no one showed up—no European nationalists, no Hamas representatives, no armed skinhe. The Whitefish attack cemented his reputation as the trollmaster of the alt-right.
Was this all just a sick joke? Over the coming months, however, Anglin continued to build his audience and urge his followers to take their hate offline, into the real world. In August, when white nationalists actually did stage a major rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, many of his readers were there, chanting slogans he had coined.
The alt-right, it became clear, was coming off the message boards and into the streets. But it fit a pattern that scholars have identified, in that he seems to have been driven, at least initially, more by a desire for status and belonging than by deeply held beliefs. Anglin wanted to be somebody, and the internet gave him a way.
Anglin has long kept his own location secret. For years he floated around Europe, and one family member told me that around he was holed up in Russia, his last known foreign address. No payment processor would touch The Daily Stormer, but Anglin had little trouble raising money. Anglin urged his readers to send checks as well.
Anglin had first come to my attention in the summer ofafter he endorsed Trump on The Daily Stormer. Before that article came out, he falsely accused me on The Daily Stormer of fabricating information from the FBI regarding his whereabouts. More than once, I offered to walk him through my reporting, but he refused to hear me out. He also refused numerous requests to talk to me for this article.
But he never came out from behind his keyboard. And although he showed no scruples about smearing others and flagging them for harassment, he became wildly defensive when anyone dared examine his life. The Daily Stormer had become arguably the leading hate site on the internet, far surpassing Stormfront, whose message boards had brought white nationalism into the digital age back in the s. Anglin was a punchy, prolific writer who used snark and hyperbole to draw in Millennial readers. Irony gave him cover to claim that he was just kidding around.
He cited Infowars, Viceand BuzzFeed as inspiration, but the closest analogue in terms of format and tone, he said, was Gawker. Like the now-shuttered gossip site, The Daily Stormer aggregated the news with attitude. Unlike Gawker, Anglin doctored everything to reflect his racist worldview.
He wanted to burn it to the ground. A Columbus group met at a gun range.
Other clubs had been kicked out of bars after openly expressing anti-Semitic views or flaunting Nazi paraphernalia. InThomas Mair shot and stabbed a British member of Parliament. Devon Arthurs, an year-old former neo-Nazi who converted to Islam, shot and killed two of his three roommates in Tampa, who were still neo-Nazis.
Police arrested the surviving roommate for hoarding explosive materials. Anglin was a normal kid back then, whose only remarkable quality was his extraordinarily nasal voice—it was so bad that Burkholder thought he might have a sinus problem, and raised the issue with his mother, Katie, at a parent—teacher conference. But that was nearly 30 years ago. B y all outward appearances, Andrew Anglin had an ordinary, comfortable childhood, at least until adolescence.
And he loved to read. One book that left a deep impression on him was Weaselwhich tells the story of a boy in frontier Ohio seeking revenge against a psychopath who, having run out of American Indians to murder, takes to slaughtering white homesteaders. A declared atheist, he styled his reddish hair in dreadlocks and favored jeans with inch leg openings. He often wore a hoodie with a large fuck racism patch on the back. Anglin was one of only two vegans at Linworth, and before Local Sluts Whitefish MT he began dating the other, a brunette named Alison in the class ahead of him, whom he wooed by baking vegan cookies.
She was a popular girl who introduced him to a diverse and edgy clique of. To them, Anglin seemed sweet and funny, if a little too eager to latch on to causes. Alison was deeply into animal rights. Suddenly, he was too. He also got deeply into drugs, according to half a dozen people who knew him at the time. He took ketamine, ate psychedelic mushrooms, and snorted cocaine on weekends.
Here, his leftist leanings were on full display: He wrote posts encouraging people to send the Westboro Baptist Church death threats from untraceable s, and he mocked the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations. But people who knew Anglin in high school told me that, for reasons that were unclear, his behavior became erratic and frightening sometime around the beginning of his sophomore year at Linworth.
Visitors to his house saw holes in his bedroom walls, and they knew that when he was upset, he would smash his head into things.
Several recall an episode at a party: Anglin burst out crying after Alison drunkenly kissed someone else, then ran outside and bashed his head on the sidewalk over and over. He harmed himself in other ways, too.