Watch our complete discussion with a former neo-Nazi and the nephew of a white supremacist who marched in the Charlottesville, Virginia, protest. Christian Picciolini is co-founder of Life After Hate, a nonprofit helping people disengage from hate and violent extremism. He was a leading neo-Nazi skinhead gang member and far-right extremist in the 1980s and 1990s. We also speak with Jacob Scott, the nephew of Peter Tefft, who was disowned by his father, Pearce Tefft, in a letter published in a local newspaper.
AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday night, a thousand people gathered for a candlelight vigil at the University of Virginia campus to call for peace, later marching on the same route used by neo-Nazis and white nationalists in their torchlight march last Friday. Earlier in the day, a memorial service was held in Charlottesville to remember Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who died on Saturday after she was run down by a neo-Nazi named James Alex Fields. Heyer had repeatedly championed civil rights issues on social media. Her Facebook cover read, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Her favorite color, purple, which so many people wore at the memorial service yesterday. This is Heather’s mother, Susan Bro.
SUSAN BRO: Remember in your heart: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. And I want you to pay attention, find what’s wrong. Don’t ignore it. Don’t look the other way. You make it a point to look at it, and say to yourself, “What can I do to make a difference?” And that’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I’d rather have my child, but, by golly, if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.
AMY GOODMAN: Heather Heyer is the latest casualty in a number of deaths at the hands of white nationalists. Foreign Policy has revealed the existence of a recent FBI and Department of Homeland Security bulletin that concluded white supremacist groups were, quote, “responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016…more than any other domestic extremist movement,” unquote. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security report went on to state, quote, “Racial minorities have been the primary victims of [white supremacist] violence. The second most common victims were other Caucasians…and other white supremacists perceived as disloyal to the white supremacist extremism movement,” unquote.
Despite the FBI and DHS findings, the Trump administration recently cut funds to groups dedicated to fighting right-wing violence. One of those groups, Life After Hate, which works to help white nationalists and neo-Nazis disengage from hate and violent extremism, was set to receive a grant under the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism program, approved by the Obama administration. When Trump DHS policy adviser Katharine Gorka released the final list of grantees in June, Life After Hate had been eliminated. Gorka is the wife of Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, who has been linked to a Hungarian far-right, Nazi-allied group.
For more, we’re joined by Christian Picciolini, who is co-founder of Life After Hate, leading neo-Nazi skinhead gang member and far-right extremist in the ’80s and ’90s, author of Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead.
Christian, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about your response to what happened in Charlottesville.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Well, I think I went to bed, Amy, on Sunday with a sick feeling in my stomach, like most Americans did. But I have to tell you, what I saw last night, with the community gathering together, was what America means to me. I saw people of all different races, all different colors, creeds, religions, gathered together to pay homage to a woman who essentially gave her life to fight something that is very un-American. And that gives me hope. That gives me hope for America, because I know that we want to be able to live in a country where we can get along, where we have equal justice, where the systems of racism and the institutions are rebooted so that they’re fair for everybody. And I think that this is a turning point for America, because I think we can stop sweeping it under the rug and thinking that we don’t have a problem here. It’s time to face it head on and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian, when did you become a white supremacist?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I was recruited at 14 years old in 1987. And I spent—
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you live?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I was in Chicago, and that was the home and the birthplace of the American neo-Nazi skinhead movement. In fact, I was standing in an alley at 14 years old, and a man pulled his car up as I was smoking a joint, and he came over to me, and he said, “Don’t you know that that’s what the communists and Jews want you to do, to keep you docile?” At 14, I was a marginalized kid. I had been bullied. I didn’t know what a communist or a Jew or even what the word “docile” meant. But this man brought me into a family. He gave me an identity, and he fed my sense of purpose. While it was all misdirected, being marginalized and disaffected and feeling abandoned, I was willing to trade in the feeling of power, when I felt the most powerless, for something that was evil and eventually swallowed whole.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the groups you were in and what you did?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I was a member of the Chicago Area Skinheads, which was America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead group. Eventually I became the leader of that group, when the man who recruited me, who was America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead, went to prison. I became the leader of this very infamous group, and we were involved in acts of violence. Our primary goal was marketing and recruitment. I started a band, which was a white power band, that had violent lyrics that incited people to go out and commit hate crimes. And that was a recruiting tool. It was a social movement to get people together, young, angsty teenagers who were angry at the world, who felt like they had been pushed aside and now were given somebody to blame for that.
AMY GOODMAN: What was it that started you moving away and questioning what you were doing?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: You know, for the eight years that I was involved, Amy, I had doubts the whole time. I came from an Italian immigrant family who came to the U.S. in the '60s, who were often the victims of prejudice, so I wasn't raised with these racist beliefs. It wasn’t part of my family DNA or fabric. And I questioned myself the whole time, but I squashed it because the power and the acceptance were more important to me, and I was scared to lose that.
But, essentially, over those eight years, I started to meet people who I had kept outside of my social circle, who I hated: African Americans and Jews and gay people. But the truth was that I had never had a meaningful interaction with them. But when I started to, I started to receive compassion from the people that I least deserved it from, when I least deserved it. They could have attacked me. They could have threatened me. They could have broken my windows. But they didn’t. And they knew who I was, and they took it upon themselves to show me empathy when I deserved it the least. And that helped me humanize them and dispel all the stereotypes that I had in my head. And suddenly, I couldn’t reconcile my hate anymore.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was the response of the other white supremacists in your group?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Well, they certainly weren’t pleased. But luckily, I was a pretty selfish leader, and I never really groomed anybody to take over locally, so when I left, the group kind of imploded. However, I was a national and international figure at the time. And there were definitely threats, of calling me a race traitor, you know, insinuations that I had started working with police, which were not true. And I still to this day receive death threats almost on a daily basis.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a white supremacist at the Charlottesville rally this weekend. This is white supremacist Christopher Cantwell, who was speaking with Vice reporter Elle Reeve about, well, among other issues, Ivanka Trump.
CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL: I’m here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that, somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew.
ELLE REEVE: So, Donald Trump, but like more racist.
CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL: A lot more racist than Donald Trump. I don’t think that you could feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl, OK?
AMY GOODMAN: That is white supremacist Christopher Cantwell. I’m sure you saw clips of him, this Vice interview, Christian. Your thoughts? In another part of this, they visit him where he’s staying, and he has one gun after another throughout his waistband that he brings out, and finally brings out a knife, and he says he’s well armed for more violence.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: This gentleman is an insecure—has no self-confidence and is clearly broken. There is something broken. I’m a firm believer that ideology isn’t what radicalizes people. I think it’s the search for identity, community and a sense of purpose. And if there’s some sort of brokenness, a void underneath that in your life—and it could be trauma or addiction or mental health issues, anything that would hold you back or deviate your path from the intended one that you were on—you tend to look for acceptance in negative pathways.
And it’s interesting that we brought up this clip, because I’ve actually reached out to this man, after I saw the videos, because he clearly needs help. And I want to offer him a compassionate ear to listen to what it is that is broken about him, because what we do at Life After Hate is, rather than argue ideologically with people, because we know that that just polarizes us further, we try to make the person more resilient, more competitive, more self-confident. And we do that by applying services, like mental health therapy or job training or life coaching or even tattoo removal. And when that person feels more confident, they tend to blame the other less. But I would follow that up with challenging their doctrine, not by telling them they’re wrong, but by introducing them to the people that they think that they hate. I may introduce a Holocaust denier to a Holocaust survivor, or an Islamophobe to spend the day with a Muslim family and have dinner. And it’s those connections, those moments, because most people have never met the people that they hate, that helps them humanize these people and dispel the ideas of them being a monster or a parasite. And that has been the most effective tactic that we’ve used.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian, President Donald Trump’s top counterterrorism adviser, Sebastian Gorka, has faced increasing calls to resign, after the Jewish American newspaper The Forward reported Gorka is a sworn member of a Hungarian far-right Nazi-allied group. The Forward reported members of the Vitézi Rend have confirmed that Gorka took a life-long oath of loyalty to their group, which the U.S. State Department says was under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany during World War II. If the report’s true, it means Gorka may have lied on his U.S. immigration application, which requires people to disclose ties to such organizations. Gorka has denied reports of his involvement with the Nazi-allied group, telling Tablet magazine, “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend.” And I wanted to ask you about the connection of Gorka to your loss of funding. Well, there’s Sebastian Gorka in the White House, the counterterrorism adviser, top adviser to Donald Trump, but then there’s also Gorka’s wife at the Department of Homeland Security.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: You know, I think that there are a lot of connections to white supremacists, what nationalists and the “alt-right” in the White House at the moment. You know, aside from Gorka, we have Steve Bannon, who is clearly a manipulative propagandist. We have Stephen Miller, who has a long-standing history of being a racist. And we have Sebastian Gorka and his wife Katharine, who are very much anti-Islam—not anti-ISIS, but anti-Islam, in general. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that we were the only organization that was focused on countering far-right extremism that was cut from the program. In fact, we’re the only organization in the Western Hemisphere that focuses on disengaging far-right extremists. So, you know, with views held like the Gorkas have, it does not surprise me at all. It’s disheartening, because I really think that it’s going to hurt our ability to be able to tackle probably the biggest problem we’re facing right now in America, which is white domestic terrorism.
AMY GOODMAN: Another participant in the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville was a man named Peter Tefft. He was outed by the Twitter group Yes, You’re Racist, which had been posting screenshots of participants in an effort to expose them. The site posted a picture along with the tweet, “This charming Nazi is Pete Tefft of Fargo, ND.”
Well, on Monday, Pearce Tefft publicly denounced his white supremacist son, Peter, in an open letter published in The Forum, a newspaper in Fargo. The letter read, in part, quote, “I, along with all of his siblings and his entire family, wish to loudly repudiate my son’s vile, hateful and racist rhetoric and actions. We do not know specifically where he learned these beliefs. He did not learn them at home,” his dad wrote.
The letter ended, quote, “Peter, you will have to shovel our bodies into the oven, too. Please son, renounce the hate, accept and love all.”
Joining us now is Jacob Scott, nephew of Peter Tefft. Jacob, your uncle marching in Charlottesville, talk about what’s happening in your family right now. You, too, live in Fargo, North Dakota, where we’re speaking to you.
JACOB SCOTT: I do. Peter had, for a long time, been a bit of a bully and kind of unstable. And my cousin and I had long wanted there to be some kind of reaction to this from the family, you know, some kind of repudiation. It was after Charlottesville, after he was involved in a demonstration that killed a person, that we were kind of finally able to get the rest of the family on board with us.
And we had been kind of forthcoming to the community. We had—there had been posters that had been put up around Fargo by some other people who had encountered him and who had dealt with his hate, kind of saying—with his picture on them, saying, you know, “This is Pete Tefft. He’s a Nazi. He’s not welcome in this community.” And when these posters started coming up, people started talking to me and my cousin, and we were like, “Yeah, he’s a Nazi. You should disassociate with him if you know him.”
But, you know, going to what the guy who founded Life After Hate said, I do think his ideology comes from something deeper than just, you know, the facts or the values. You know, he really—I feel like there’s something broken about him as a person, and he’s often very—he’ll get very, very emotional, very, very suddenly, if you get him flustered. And he’ll get violent. I mean, there was an incident where he attempted to assault my other cousin. So, I definitely do agree with the idea that this comes from something more deep-seated.
AMY GOODMAN: How did his white nationalism happen? Did you see it as you were growing up? Are you about the same age, even though he’s your uncle?
JACOB SCOTT: I’m a little younger than him. I’m the oldest of my generation. He’s is the youngest of his generation. So, even though we’re uncles, we’re closer to age. We’re more like cousins, but—
AMY GOODMAN: And what does it—what does it mean to say that his father has disowned him?
JACOB SCOTT: What was that?
AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean to say that his dad has disowned him, his family has disowned him?
JACOB SCOTT: Well, it means that he’s not welcome at family gatherings anymore. It means that pretty much nobody in our family would welcome him into our homes.
To answer your first question, he–you know, our whole family, I mean, we’re all progressives. We’re all feminists. But around 2012, around the time of the Ron Paul presidential campaign, Peter started getting off into these sort of fringe internet spaces, like 4chan and Infowars and the like, and he started kind of swallowing up that whole mythos. And once he got inundated in that, he just kept moving further and further and further right. And this all happened kind of behind our backs. He became a men’s rights activist. And then, a couple years ago, he showed up to a family gathering and started ranting about the Jews. And I asked him if he identified as a white nationalist, and he said, “Yeah, I’m a fascist.”
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what it means now that your family has come out, the letter has been published in the paper. He has been outed as one of the white supremacists at the rally in Charlottesville.
JACOB SCOTT: Well, a lot of people online kind of—you know, thousands of people came, when Yes, You’re Racist outed him, and were flooding his Facebook page with comments and various denunciations. There was a little bit of friendly fire, so to speak. There were a few kind of—there were a few people, amidst the thousands, who were coming after other members of our family. And, you know, some people have been trying to say that these anti-fascists are just as bad as the fascists, and they’re—you know, they’re employing the same tactics. But, ultimately, I mean, considering the thousands of people that went after my uncle, it was really just a few bad apples that were attempting to harass certain members of my family. And there were other people who were suggesting that we only—we only disowned him, and we only publicly disowned him, to prevent—to save ourselves, so to speak, to absolve ourselves of guilt. But again, like my cousin and I had been pushing for this for some time. We do not believe that a Nazi should be welcome in our family. And we long wanted him to be excluded from family events. We don’t think that accepting a Nazi into a family—into the family, allowing a Nazi to go to our family events, is a morally right thing to do. It condones Nazism. It says that it’s OK for him to be a Nazi and that he’ll still be welcomed into the family. And so, we were very glad that we were finally able to get the rest of the family on board with this.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I was wondering if Christian Picciolini could respond to Jacob—Christian Picciolini, the former neo-Nazi and co-founder of this group, Life After Hate. If you could talk about what you’ve just heard and how Jacob’s family has now come out to also out his uncle, the white nationalist Peter Tefft, who was part of the rally in Charlottesville? What do you think can be done in this case? I mean, you’ve been through this a lot now, people who, like yourself, were a white supremacist and then started to change.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: You know, I agree with Jacob that we have to hold people accountable for what they say and what they do. However, I don’t agree with the tactic of public shaming or calling somebody out with the intention of pushing them further away. And I know that wasn’t the intention. The intention was to try and make a statement so that Peter knew that his family cared about him and would welcome him back if he renounced his views. But what happens and why people join these types of movements is because they already feel ostracized, because they already feel marginalized and disenfranchised. And pushing him farther away and not giving him the support of a family structure, I fear, will actually push him further into this movement, because he went searching for something. He went searching for a community or a family and an identity. And if the family, the real family he has, is pushing that away even further, the chances of him coming back because he feels remorse about what his family said are slim to none, in my opinion.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacob, if you could talk about what it would mean to welcome Peter back and any efforts you’ve made, as he increasingly turned to white supremacy, to reach out to him before this final disavowal?
JACOB SCOTT: Well, I understand what Mr. Picciolini is saying. In this—and I would agree with that in the general case, if a family out there has somebody who’s starting to fall into the white supremacist kind of mind trap. But in Peter’s individual case, I have to think that he’s simply too far gone. You know, before the break, I was talking about how he’s—as a person, he’s a bit unstable and a bit unhinged. You know, part of the reason why my cousin and I wanted to have him kind of formally disowned from the family, formally barred from family events, is because, frankly, we do fear him. Like I said, he gets very, very emotional, very, very suddenly, if he’s even slightly flustered. And he’s very muscular. He’s very strong. And a lot of family members just don’t feel safe around him. So, while there is the consideration of, you know, how best can we deal with him in such a way that he’ll feel that he can still come back to us, there’s also the consideration of, you know, in the meantime, could he potentially hurt us? Would it be more healthy for us to make sure that he’s not in our presence, at least until he, on his own, can find his way back?
AMY GOODMAN: Christian, any words of wisdom here? I mean, not only did you move away from white supremacy, the neo-Nazi movement, but I am—in your group, if you could tell us stories, Life After Hate, of other people? And what are the most effective approaches, through specific anecdotes and stories?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Sure. Well, you know, our approach is to work with people in a compassionate and empathetic way and to listen to what they have to say, instead of arguing with them ideologically or pushing them further away. And what I listen for are these things that I call potholes—what existed in their path that deviated it. And then, my job becomes to fill those potholes, whether it’s job training or life coaching or tattoo removal or mental health therapy. And what happens inevitably is, when people are more equipped, understand what they’re dealing with internally, they don’t necessarily need to blame somebody else for what they feel is being taken away from them, because now they’re more resilient and they’re more able to compete and they’re more self-confident. However, I do challenge their ideology, as well, but not by debating. What I do is I introduce them to people that they think that they hate. And I’ve introduced Holocaust deniers to Holocaust survivors, Islamophobes to imams and Muslim families to have family dinner. And it’s those types of connections, those opportunities to humanize, that really bring people back, because people join these groups because they’re out searching for something that they’re not getting in their real life.
But oftentimes—and I suspect this might be the case, just from what I’m hearing, and I’m not a psychologist, but because I see so many of these cases—almost eight out of 10 cases that I receive, from family members or from people asking for help, is that there’s some form of undiagnosed mental illness. And the trend that I’m seeing, actually, lately, is for so many of these young white nationalists, who live online, have undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s. And I would like to ask Jacob, if he would feel comfortable sharing, if there’s any of that history with Peter, because that might explain something that, until that is treated, there’s really no way to change his mind, because he’s on a very singular focus that makes him feel very comfortable.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Scott?
JACOB SCOTT: I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. You know, I don’t—he is my uncle. He’s not my brother, so I don’t—I don’t know him intimately enough to be able to speculate on whether he might have an autism spectrum disorder. But I definitely know that there is some kind of mental issue, mental health issue, going on with him, that just makes it really—you know, I’ve sat down with him. Like a couple months ago, I did sit down with him, and I actually tried to debate Nazism with him. I tried to—I tried to do what you say you don’t do, Mr. Picciolini. I tried to—I tried to actually debate the ideology. And, you know, talking with him, it was very clear that that wasn’t going to be an effective route. You know, he has a million reasons for believing every little thing that he believes.
But I just don’t think that he’s going to come back of his own will at this point. He’s locked into this—into this pathway of thinking, and he thinks that he’s on the road to something big. And he thinks that he’s going to—that he’s on—he’s part of a new civil rights movement. And, you know, it’s—and, frankly, some of the things that he’s said to me indicate that he is actually delusional. He was texting me the other day, thinking that I was secretly on his side, because I have been doing these TV interviews, that I was secretly on his side and secretly trying to support his cause by giving him publicity. And that’s actually why I turned down another interview with CNN and instead decided to do an interview with Democracy Now!, because I felt it was a more—it was a better audience to talk to. He’s just—I don’t think he’s in a good place mentally.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to your uncle, Peter Tefft, who recently spoke to the local station WDAY TV in Fargo, North Dakota, where you, too, Jacob, live. Peter defended the term “fascist” and said he doesn’t blame his family for speaking against him publicly.
PETER TEFFT: Fascism is just loving your family and doing what’s best for your nation. I don’t hold anything against them for what they had to say about me, because it’s the safest thing to do in this political climate. “Nazi” is a racial slur towards white people.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacob, as you listen to him, your thoughts?
JACOB SCOTT: I mean, he says things like that: Fascism is about loving your family, and “Nazi” is a racial slur against white people. I mean, it’s like he’s so far gone down the rabbit hole that you can’t even reach him to bring him back. Obviously, I hope that’s not true. But, ultimately, that’s the case that we find ourselves in. You know, he—I consider myself pretty far left. I consider myself a democratic socialist. And he’s talked to me about how he and I, and my people and his people, should team up, because we’re both fighting against the same establishment, the same globalists. And, you know, I say to him, “You know, you believe in racial separation. I believe in racial reparation. There’s no similarity between us.” And he and lots of Nazis think that they’re fighting against the establishment. But racism is the establishment, you know? I mean, capitalism is built on racism from the ground up. And so, when you have this worldview that kind of looks at everything upside down and backwards, it’s—I just—I don’t know how to reach him and how to prevent him from doing the things that he says he’s going to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian Picciolini, when you hear Peter speak, Jacob’s uncle, what are your thoughts?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Well, from what I heard from the clip from Peter and what I heard from Jacob is that what Peter is saying is straight out of, you know, the manual. He’s repeating all of the things that he’s been taught. He’s been going down a rabbit hole online of these propagandist and fake news websites that are putting forth conspiracy theories. There are two very parallel realities happening in the United States right now. And when both sides talk to each other, neither one understands how the other person can think that way. And there are very few bridges between those two parallel realities. And I try to be that bridge.
And, you know, I want to just give the viewers a little bit of hope. And when Jacob says, you know, he’s too far gone, I don’t believe that anybody is ever too far gone. I’ve worked with, you know, grand dragons of the KKK who have been in for 40 years and recognize the error of their ways and suddenly now realize, you know, that’s not what they want to do anymore and that they’ve wasted, you know, their lives. You know, I, myself, have a very checkered past. When I was involved in the movement, I was invited to Libya by Muammar Gaddafi to receive money to start a revolution against the Jews. I committed acts of violence that nearly killed many people. I stockpiled weapons to prepare for what I believed was an inevitable race war. So, you know, to that, I would say—and I’ve worked with people in prison who have murdered people of color because of their racism. And while they were in prison, they found a way to disengage from that, which is probably the hardest environment to do that. So, you know, just to give some hope, I’ve worked with some very tough people who, you know, most people would never think would change, and it’s really that compassion that you show them, because that’s what’s been lacking both within themselves and from the people around them as they get frustrated with, you know, their loved ones’ beliefs.
So what I would say to Jacob is, don’t give up. If you care—and it’s apparent that the family cares about Peter; otherwise, they wouldn’t have said the things that they did—but don’t give up. There are things that can be done. We need to understand what the underlying issues are with Peter, address those, and then, through immersion and meeting people that he thinks might be monsters or evil or parasites, we can build that humanity back. We can build that through empathy. So, you know—and I would offer my services to the Tefft family any time. I’m happy to sit and talk to Peter. But mostly I’ll listen, because when I listen, they always give me the clues, without even knowing it, of what is actually happening inside of them. So, we’re happy to help.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacob—Jacob, did Peter text you after the Klan march on Friday night, the torch—the torch march, where hundreds of white supremacists marched through the University of Virginia campus, leading to one of the counterprotesters having a stroke, as he was hit by these tiki torches in front of the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia? But did he text you after the rallies on Friday and the attack on Saturday?
JACOB SCOTT: Yes, he actually texted me after I was on CNN yesterday. He was texting me, convinced that I was—that I was secretly on his side and that I was somehow helping him by giving publicity to this rally that he wanted to hold.
AMY GOODMAN: Where does he want to hold it?
JACOB SCOTT: In Fargo. And, actually, the reason why I canceled my CNN interview was because I didn’t want to give publicity to his rally. In my morning interview, I called for people to come to Fargo to help us counterprotest. There’s going to be a diversity and peace rally to sort of counterprotest against his rally.
AMY GOODMAN: And when is this?
JACOB SCOTT: But when I mentioned it on CNN, he became convinced that I was actually helping his rally by giving national attention to it. And so, that’s why I preferred to come on Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: When is your rally?
JACOB SCOTT: He said—he has—ultimately, if he doesn’t hold his rally, we won’t need to hold our counter-rally. And we’re—and I’m still hoping that he doesn’t do anything. I’m hoping that he’s—that he’s delusional about this and that he doesn’t actually have the clout to be able to organize the rally, which may very well be the case. But if he holds his rally, he says he wants to hold it in October. And if that’s the case, then we will hold our counter-rally. And we hope that people would come to Fargo and help us, because, you know, we have a thriving progressive community here in Fargo, and I’m sure that there will be lots of people here who want to counterprotest, but, you know, if Peter does have a large national profile—and it’s seeming like he might be developing one because of this whole incident—he might be able to bring in, you know, who knows how many Nazis, and they might be able to outnumber us, the way we saw in some of the pictures from Charlottesville, where there were, you know, just a small ring of counterprotesters and then just a sea of tiki torches around them. That’s not a situation that I want to see here in Fargo. So if he does end up doing something, I would hope that we could get some people from outside of town to come and help us.
AMY GOODMAN: There are something like a thousand, 900 hate groups around the country. Is there a Klan chapter known? I mean, you can’t say that—what’s underground. But a chapter that’s known in North Dakota or white supremacist group that actively organizes?
JACOB SCOTT: I have been told that there is a group in South Dakota that organizes, and so they might potentially show up. I don’t know. You know, again, I’m hoping that none of this happens. And I imagine most of the people here in Fargo are hoping that none of this happens, because Fargo is a pretty small city. It’s a pretty quiet city. We don’t want some kind of big Nazi rally here, you know.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian Picciolini, you mentioned this online organizing that’s going on, and you talked about 4chan. I don’t know how many people who are watching or listening or reading right now have heard of 4chan. But can you explain what you mean by this, who is on this, what it is?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: So there are websites, like 4chan and Reddit, which are essentially forums where people can post a topic, and then it will list its responses to that for discussion. And, you know, while most of the things on these sites are fairly benign, they’re also rife with misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism. Because most people can post anonymously, they can post the most heinous things that they want without any repercussion. And, you know, it kind of fertilizes itself. As these discussions go on, they get worse and worse and worse. And sometimes it’s for the intention of being as—you know, to give as much shock value as possible. But more times than not, it’s because these people actually believe this.
And aside from those sites, social media, in general, has become a fertile ground for propaganda and extremist recruitment. Because there’s so much information on the internet and because most people live online, it’s hard to distinguish what’s real, what’s fake news, what’s propaganda, what’s misinformation or even parody. And young people, I think, more than ever, in this country are disenfranchised. They’re disenchanted. They feel like there’s no hope, no leadership. They feel like they can’t find a job if they go to college. And if they do go to college, they get saddled with debt. So, they’re really searching for something right now. And without clear leadership, essentially, the internet and these propaganda sites, these conspiracy theory websites, are their moral compass. Because of algorithms online, if you click on a story, inadvertently or on purpose, the internet and social media will continue to feed you those same types of stories, the same way that you go to Amazon and buy a product, and it will recommend something else that you might like. Unfortunately, news on the internet is, in many times, the same way. So you go down a rabbit hole where that becomes your reality. And if that’s the information you’re exposed to on a consistent basis, and it’s the only information you get, it’s easy to understand why both sides can’t agree with each other, because they both think that the other person is in some alternate reality.
So, the internet is a—you know, I believe in the internet. I think it’s an amazing tool that brings us education and connects us and makes us closer than ever. Unfortunately, it’s also a tool that is being used for, you know, not so great purposes, and that’s to recruit the most vulnerable young people. And that’s why I asked Jacob about, you know, any history of mental illness, because it appears to me, because of the trends that I’m seeing, that these recruiters are very savvy and looking for those people because they are the most vulnerable. I believe that they’re being targeted because they’re—you know, in real life, they may not fit in, they may be socially awkward, but online they can create that identity, that community, and find a purpose. And they can role-play. They can—you know, online, they can be whoever they want. And then, this community now, which is a social community as well as a political community, goes out and protests, and they all have these ideas based on the conspiracies that they’ve read. And the idea that violence against the enemy, because they believe the enemy wants to destroy them, which is not true, they are proactive about destroying the enemy.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, you’re talking about recruiting. The leader of the Vanguard America neo-Nazi hate group that rallied in Charlottesville, Dillon Ulysses Hopper, was a Marine Corps recruiter. Now, this is very interesting. It’s believed that this information led the Marine commandant, the head of the Marines, to issue a statement. General Robert Neller, Marine Corps commandant, tweeted, “no place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC [the U.S. Marine Corps]. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.” And it wasn’t only the Marine commandant who tweeted, but it seems that almost every general of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have now made statements, and it may well be in part because of President Trump’s unhinged, fiery, bellicose news conference that took place on Tuesday. I wanted to play for you part of what President Trump said on Tuesday about the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally.
REPORTER 1: You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are the counterprotesters to blame—
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I do think there’s blame—yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at—you look at both sides, I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it, either. And—and—
REPORTER 1: But only the Nazis—
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And—and if you reported it accurately, you would say.
REPORTER 2: One side killed a person. Heather Heyer died—
REPORTER 1: The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville. They showed up in Charlottesville—
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me.
REPORTER 1: —to protest the removal of that statue.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They didn’t put themselves down as neo—and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.
AMY GOODMAN: “Very fine people.” Christian Picciolini, co-founder of Life After Hate, the nonprofit that helps people get away from right-wing extremism, leave groups like the neo-Nazis, the Klan, what are your thoughts, the role that President Trump is playing? There are groups like the Anne Frank Center here in New York that say Twitter should close his account because he is inciting hatred and violence.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I believe that Donald Trump is the internet’s biggest troll. I think his account should be shut down, because in the process of his rants and his daily tweets, you know, maligning everybody from disabled people to women to people of color, and supporting organizations like the “alt-right” and retweeting white nationalists, this is not appropriate action for somebody who holds the largest and most powerful office in the world.
You know, what I heard at that—if we can call it a press conference, what I heard was Donald Trump essentially, you know, making excuses for the “alt-right” and protecting them, by equating the protesters to them and by saying that there were good people on both sides. What I saw at that rally was a group of Nazis, who historically are un-American, anti-American and, you know, something we fought against in World War II at the cost of many American lives, and then I saw a group of very proud American patriots who were not willing to let that happen. Now, of course, there are bad apples everywhere. And certainly, you know, violence doesn’t solve anything. But I think, by and large, the protesters that were there were peaceful and were reacting in self-defense to the attacks, the fear rhetoric, the threatening masses who were saying things like “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil,” which is essentially a chant for a white homeland. So, you know, if there were 300—and there were, you know, a thousand people there, however many neo-Nazis were there marching, who committed a terrorist attack. They targeted somebody and killed them. And I would ask Donald Trump what his reaction would be if it were 300 ISIS members marching down that street and a bunch of Americans showed up to protest them, if his reaction would be different to that, because, to me, it’s not that different.
AMY GOODMAN: And then this issue of this military recruiter, this marine who was identified now, the leader of Vanguard America named Dillon Ulysses Hopper, a Marine Corps recruiter, in Charlottesville this weekend?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Yeah, the FBI published a report recently that showed that there is a massive amount of recruiting happening within the military and within law enforcement. And, in fact, it was a concerted strategy of ours 30 years ago, when I was involved in the movement, when we recognized that the shaved heads and the swastika flags and the Klan hoods were turning away the average American white racist that we could recruit, but they were too afraid to join because, you know, of how edgy we were. So we decided at that point, 30 years ago, that we were not going to shave our heads. We were going to trade in our boots for suits. We were going to go enroll in college and recruit on campuses. We would get jobs in law enforcement, go into the military to get training and to be able to recruit there, and then even run for office. And here we are 30 years later with that dream—or that nightmare—realized. Now, you know, they’re wearing polos and khakis, and they blend in. They look like our doctors, our mechanics, our teachers, our nurses. And it’s hard to distinguish them, aside from the words that they say and the actions that they take, which oftentimes, in public, when they’re alone, they won’t do.
So I think that the movement now is much, much bigger than it is, because it has become normalized. It’s infected the average American, who normally, you know, would only say things like that behind closed doors or to people that they trusted, now feel very emboldened because of the words and the actions and the policies of the president, that they feel they have a commander-in-chief who gets them, who understands their ideology and is willing to stand up for them and fight for them. And at that press conference, in fact, that’s what he did, by equating both sides and saying that there were good people on both sides and, you know, not specifically calling out the “alt-right”—I should mention this. He denounced the KKK. He denounced neo-Nazis and white nationalists. But what he specifically left out was the “alt-right.” And then he later went on to defend them, saying, “Well, they had a permit, and the other folks didn’t.” As far as I’m concerned—
AMY GOODMAN: And talked about the “alt-left,” the other folks.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Yeah, and talked about the alt—there is no “alt-left.” There are Americans, and then there are Nazis. And let me just say, the people that didn’t have a permit there, the people who were there to counterprotest the Nazis, well, the U.S. Constitution gave them a permit to do what they did, so they didn’t need one. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s one of our most important American values, is the ability to protest what we see as damaging to our core American values, which still, frankly, need a lot of work.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip of David Duke. He was speaking in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was there with Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler. The KKK leader David Duke said white nationalists are going to, quote, “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump’s presidency.”
DAVID DUKE: This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back. And that’s what we’ve got to do.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was David Duke. Quite astounding, given that during the campaign, when—the famous clip—and I’ll play it for you now—of Jake Tapper of CNN questioning Donald Trump about David Duke. Interestingly, years ago, he said he was going to leave the Reform Party—this is Donald Trump—because of David Duke’s involvement. But when Jake Tapper asked him about David Duke’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president, he had a very different response. Let me play that interaction.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know—did he endorse me, or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so, when you’re asking me a question, that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.
JAKE TAPPER: But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is—even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say, unequivocally, you condemn them, and you don’t want their support?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them, and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.
JAKE TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?
DONALD TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups, and I’ll let you know.
JAKE TAPPER: OK, I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but…
DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know any—honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him.
AMY GOODMAN: There you have candidate Donald Trump disavowing even knowledge of David Duke. When you saw this, Christian Picciolini, then and today, how hard is it for you, in your group—is it made more difficult to have Donald Trump as the president of the United States, with the kinds of things he said? I mean, even Tuesday, after the deadly attack, after Heather Heyer was killed on Saturday, and two state police, who were in a surveillance helicopter above, crashed—that’s three people who died—he said, on Tuesday, the reason he didn’t respond more quickly, that, you know, people had to wait days to hear what he had to say—and then, the next day, he completely reversed what he was saying, on Tuesday, in this rant, what many called a news conference—is it more difficult to encourage people to disengage from hate groups because of the way Donald Trump is speaking, is reaching out to these groups, saying they’re the permitted ones, it’s the counterprotesters who weren’t permitted, talking about them as “fine, very fine people”?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: You know, I would rather hear Donald Trump talk about the tragedy of three people dying at a rally because they were there to, you know, either protest the neo-Nazis or to do their job, yet he really didn’t even mention that. You know—
AMY GOODMAN: And one other thing, you know, he has still never commented on or tweeted, since that’s the way he communicates—
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —on the bombing of the mosque, the Muslim mosque, in Minneapolis.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And the only people who have commented on this are Sebastian Gorka, you know, the husband of the DHS officer who defunded you, Sebastian Gorka, his—one of his top senior advisers, saying that might have been a “false flag” operation, they made a bomb themselves.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Right, yeah. I mean, it’s all—it’s so conspiracy theory-driven. And, you know, anybody who knows or has watched Donald Trump knows that he doesn’t take time to say what’s on his mind. He flies off the cuff. He says things that, you know, most people find appalling. So, for him to say he wanted to do his research about the KKK and David Duke to see if he would disavow them, I don’t know anybody, you know, with any critical thinking skills or logic, that needed to do research on the KKK in order to disavow them. You know, to me, that’s just dodging the question. That’s just trying not to alienate part of your base, that, frankly, did a hell of a job online to get him elected. When I monitor these people who are in these extremist groups, and when I’m doing research on people that I’m working with, I discovered hundreds of thousands of accounts that were being driven by the “alt-right” and Eastern Europeans and even, in some cases, coming from Russia as these fake accounts that were continually pushing out propaganda that was pro-Trump, anti-Hillary and very national socialist or white nationalist in nature.
You know, for somebody who lives on Twitter to not see that, to retweet things with a hashtag that say “whitegenocide,” to be promoting and putting out conspiracy theories, it’s irresponsible. I’m tired of the lies. I’m tired of his inability to govern because of his ego. Trump is a Trump supremacist, and the people around him are racists. They’re white supremacists. And it’s damaging for our country, a country that, while we may not have completely fulfilled our American values, because we do have many things that are broken, and our history shows that, you know, we’ve made a lot of mistakes, but the idea of America, the idea of the promise of democracy, is being destroyed daily by this man being in office who does not represent the majority of the people. In fact, he represents a very small majority of Americans in the things that he says. And he’s being irresponsible, and, you know, he’s damaging the fabric of our country, something that we’ve worked very hard for and something that people have lost their lives for and have been treated unfairly for, for many, many years
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a new Trump tweet. He just wrote, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson–who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Amy, let me just jump in.
AMY GOODMAN: The words of the president of the United States. Christian Picciolini?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Let me—yeah, let me just jump in. Let’s take the statues down, however we need to take them down. Let’s put them in Confederate cemeteries, so people who do genuinely believe in the heritage, even though I disagree with that, can still pay homage to their idols and to their family members who lost their lives in the Civil War. However, I think we need to replace those statues with civil rights heroes, true Americans, who did give their lives to fight for justice and the American dream. And especially the Robert E. Lee statue that is in Charlottesville, I would propose that a statue goes up in its place to honor the three people who died that day, you know, because those are true Americans. These are people that we need to look up to. These are the values that we hold dear as Americans—not politicians or military generals who promote war, who promote slavery, who owned slaves. That’s not what America is about anymore. We’re moving forward, and we need to move forward with the values that we hold dear and that we want our children to be able to benefit from. So, let’s take them down, and let’s replace them with something that represents who we are and who we want to be.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to the issue of recruiting, in the military and also police. I mean, when I was in Haiti years ago, talking to some of the U.S. soldiers who had come down, very clear organizing of the white Aryan Nation was going on there of the U.S. soldiers in Haiti. And I want to also go back to Jacob Scott. But before I do, recruitment in the military, like the head of Vanguard America, who is a Marine recruiter, and police—I wanted to share this with you, Christian. You know the story, the prosecutor in Cincinnati who declined to press a retrial for the white former police officer, Ray Tensing, who shot African American Samuel DuBose in the head in July 2015, after pulling him over for missing a front license plate. At the time of the killing, Officer Ray Tensing was wearing a T-shirt under his uniform emblazoned with a Confederate flag. If you could talk about that and also the importance of these monuments when it comes to recruiting? How important are these Confederate monuments all over the country?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Well, first of all, the monuments don’t really mean anything to these groups. They use them as an excuse to gather. You know, they don’t care. They’re egotists. They only care about themselves, their agenda and how it moves them forward. And they’ll use, you know, the term “free speech” to hold a rally, or they’ll use an excuse to protect a statue to hold a rally. So, let’s just dispel that myth. Those statues really don’t mean anything to them.
As far as the recruitment that’s happening in the military and in law enforcement, if we really kind of take a step back and look at it, police officers and law enforcement officers and military people are constantly, every day, in difficult situations. And over time, people become jaded, especially after you’ve—you know, you’ve worked in crime-ridden neighborhoods for 20 years, and you’ve had to deal with sometimes the worst of the worst people. Well, recruiters know this. Recruiters know that they become jaded, and they become prejudiced towards these people. So they actually infiltrate these organizations to recruit these white officers or white military people who have become jaded, and they create kind of an us-against-them mentality, where they shift the blame to minorities or African Americans or people of color, in general. And they essentially manipulate these people and capitalize on the fact that, you know, their job is stressful and that they can use an opportunity to blame somebody else and then recruit those people.
They also go into the military to get free training. And there are white supremacist groups and militia groups in the United States that are massive, that are strictly meant for ex-military and ex-law enforcement. And these are white supremacist, racist, you know, ultra-fundamentalist, constitutionalist organizations that, many times, often target police officers, to kill them, because they seem them as part of the system. It’s a dichotomy that doesn’t make any sense to me, but it’s a really savvy strategy on the part of white nationalists to go to the places where they know people are the most vulnerable to their message.
AMY GOODMAN: And the groups like the ACLU, there’s a real debate going on within them now about whether to represent these white supremacists. You know, you had a Virginia board member of the ACLU quit. And you had the head of the ACLU in Virginia representing the white supremacists, which ensured they got their rally. And now we’re seeing this all over the country. How important is it for these rallies to be legal?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: You know, I think it’s important for them to be legal, just because of the threat of violence. You know, I think that the towns and law enforcement need to be aware of these ahead of time so that they can prepare accordingly, so that what happened in Charlottesville, hopefully, doesn’t happen again. You know, but that said, I do believe they have the right to say what they believe. However, that does not give them the right to direct that toward somebody else, nor does it make it acceptable for somebody to have to accept that. Free speech gives you the right to say and believe what you want, but it does not necessarily give you the privilege of somebody agreeing with you or somebody having to listen to that.
AMY GOODMAN: How many—n your group, Life After Hate, how many people are cops or former cops or veterans or soldiers now?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: We do have former soldiers. We don’t have any former law enforcement. But I do know very many people from the organization that I used to lead 30 years ago, the neo-Nazi group, that actually did go on to become police officers in Chicago, probation officers, prison guards, and, you know, infiltrate that way, and especially the military. Many went into the military.
AMY GOODMAN: And what should the military and police do to deal with this?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Well, first of all, I commend the branches of the armed services that actually came out and said that they oppose racism. That’s very rare for these military branches to come out and say something that is political like that, and I commend them for that. And I do believe that the vast majority of people in law enforcement and in the military are there because they want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, we hear about the bad apples that are there, and they do exist. I mean, we hear, time and time again, the unfair treatment of African Americans, the murdering of young black men for, you know, a broken headlight or a missing license plate or, you know, because of the prejudice, the biases that exist in these police officers because they’ve been jaded for so long and they’ve become afraid, or they’re racist.
And, you know, it’s really disconcerting that we’re at this stage now, after making progress, that we’re going backwards, that we’re not just taking steps backwards, but we’re taking leaps backwards. And, you know, until we can understand that we need each other, that America was established to bring together people that were oppressed—and now we should be accepting people who are being oppressed from all over the world, because that is really what America is. We are the melting pot, and we are successful, and we are the greatest country, for a reason. And that’s not strictly because of white male Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: And speaking of white male Americans, where do women fit into the neo-Nazi, skinhead, white supremacist, Klan movement? We saw, well, very few holding those torches on Friday night.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: It’s a very misogynistic movement. While publicly they proclaim that white women are the future of their race because, you know, they’re birthing the next generation of white warriors, behind closed doors, women are treated—I don’t even want to say “poorly,” because that’s not even—that’s giving it too much credit. They’re treated like garbage, essentially as baby makers, as slaves, as people who are not respected and second-class. There are definitely more men in this movement than women. In my day, I would say, you know, maybe 10 or 15 percent of the people in the movement were women. And I would say that that’s definitely growing now, as the movement is starting to recruit more young people online, and more females have access to the internet and are starting to find this propaganda.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jacob Scott, you’ve listened to this conversation for quite some time now. You’re in a studio in Fargo, North Dakota. And I was wondering, as we wrap up, for—your reflections on what you’ve heard, and, particularly, if you feel that President Trump, and what he says, makes it more difficult for you to reach your uncle, the white supremacist, the proud fascist, Peter Tefft?
JACOB SCOTT: Yeah. You know, when he came to that family gathering a few years ago and he was talking about the Jews, I mean, he showed up wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, and he had two “Make America Great Again” hats. And he—I know he admires Trump and regards Trump as a good thing for him and his movement.
You know, going back to what Mr. Picciolini said about treatment of women, my uncle is definitely very misogynistic. He’s been—you know, he’ll sit down and listen to me. He’ll have a conversation with me. I had mentioned I had a conversation with him about Nazism a few months ago, where I tried to deconvert him. He won’t listen to my cousin. He won’t respect my cousin’s opinion. I mentioned that he—
AMY GOODMAN: Because your cousin’s a woman?
JACOB SCOTT: —that he attempted to assault my other cousin. It’s a very—
AMY GOODMAN: Sorry, can you repeat that, about assault?
JACOB SCOTT: He attempted to physically assault my other cousin. And—
AMY GOODMAN: A woman or a man?
JACOB SCOTT: You know, it’s just very, very clear that he has—he has absolutely no respect in his mind for women.
AMY GOODMAN: Is your cousin a woman or a man?
JACOB SCOTT: Both of my cousins are girls, women.
AMY GOODMAN: And he assaulted one of them?
JACOB SCOTT: He physically assaulted one of them. And the other one is—has been with me trying to denounce him and trying to oppose him. And whereas he will sit down and have a conversation with me, he won’t have a conversation with her. But, you know, his misogyny manifests in many ways. You know, he—we found his Tinder profile, where he was using a fake name. And he had for his profile description on Tinder the 14 Words. And he was trying to—he was trying to find a white woman to make white babies with. You know, I mean, it was—it’s really—it’s kind of—
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, the “14 Words”?
JACOB SCOTT: There’s a neo-Nazi slogan or mantra, the 14 Words. It’s like we must—
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I’m happy to—I’m happy to jump in here. Yeah.
JACOB SCOTT: —secure the existence of our people and the future for white children, or something like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian Picciolini, can you explain those—
JACOB SCOTT: And it’s all about—it’s all about—
AMY GOODMAN: —Fourteen Words?
JACOB SCOTT: It’s all about how white people must breed. White people must breed, because, otherwise, we’ll be outbred by all the “brownskins.” You know, it’s this—they’ve got this complex about white fertility and making sure that white women are pregnant and having white babies. And it—and Pete, it really come across from him. I mentioned that he was a men’s rights activist before he became a Nazi. And there’s a huge amount of misogynist—misogyny that’s steeped into his Nazi worldview.
AMY GOODMAN: Final comment, Christian, about these 14 Words?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Jacob is right. The 14 Words are “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” If we were to remove the “white” in front of “children” and just say “our,” I would say that that’s a pretty benign statement that anybody can get behind. We want to, you know, make sure we’re safe, and we want to build a better life for our children. But they’ve specifically made it just for, you know, white children. It was a phrase that was invented by David Lane, who was a member of The Order, which was a terrorist organization that committed acts of murder. They robbed banks—or, sorry, they robbed armored cars worth millions of dollars and distributed that money to organizations like the White Aryan Resistance and Aryan Nations. You know, it’s their mission statement. But the way that they interpret that is not in a benign way. The way that they interpret that is, you know, to protect our people and the future of our white children, we have to eliminate the enemy; otherwise, our future and our children are going to be diminished, that—and they’ll claim that diversity and multiculturalism are code words for white genocide. So—
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what white genocide means for them?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: White genocide, for them, doesn’t necessarily mean the killing of people of their race, but it means the watering down, the loss of identity of European culture. You know, they believe that interracial relationships are destroying European heritage, that eventually the white race will disappear from the face of the Earth because it’s been breeded out, you know, and especially white men. And I just want to kind of pick up on what Jacob said. These young men who are in this movement, their biggest fear is that they’re going to lose their white male identity. They feel that America is—
JACOB SCOTT: And privilege.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Yeah, and privilege. And they feel America is demasculating them. So, you know, everything that they do is really driven by ego. It’s driven by fear and a low self-confidence and the ability to, you know, not think critically.
AMY GOODMAN: The Unicorn Riot got an internal planning document from the Unite the Right rally. And it says they believe that police officers were generally sympathetic to them. One of the documents read, “We strongly encourage women to stay off the front lines and help setup with the after party.” But they went on to say that the police will be sympathetic to them as well as their “personal openness to calls for genocide of non-white people under the condition that people expressed this view in a calculated PR-friendly” way.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: It’s a common tactic, Amy. I mean, it’s—you know, they’re pushing women aside to, you know, go set up the party favors and make the food and keep their beer cold, while they go out and pretend to be, you know, white warriors. You know, this is something that’s never changed. It’s been like this, you know, for 30 years, since I’ve been involved. It’s an insecurity. It’s a brokenness. And these are people who are living in an alternate reality, that can be brought back. However, you know, I think that because of anger on both sides, we’re using the wrong tactic. Polarization is happening, because we’re being aggressive with each other. We’re arguing. We’re debating. And I think we need to start with finding common ground. We’re all Americans. We all want security. We all care for our children. We want them to be successful. You know, we want to have a job. Let’s focus on that. And if we focus on that, maybe the problem of blaming the other will go away.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Christian Picciolini and Jacob Scott, I want to thank you for this fascinating discussion. Christian Picciolini, former neo-Nazi, co-founder of Life After Hate. It was up for a grant at the Department of Homeland Security, defunded by the wife of Sebastian Gorka. Katharine Gorka is at the Department of Homeland Security. Jacob Scott is the nephew of the white nationalist Peter Tefft, who is one of the white nationalists who participated in the Charlottesville rally on Saturday. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.