Nazi Salutes and Fascist Chic Put Ukraine’s Jews on Edge

Worth noting:

At the Bingo nightclub, a few hundred Ukrainian music fans were celebrating the anniversary of their favorite very white ultra-nationalist metal band, Sokyra Peruna. Some were teens, some looked like they were in their 40s. They were dressed up and tatted up with Nazi symbols, pagan spirit designs and emblems from the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine.

Some fans brought their children along. Smoke wafted over the stage, guitars rocked, and dozens of right hands straitened up in Hitler salutes as the band’s leader, Arseny Klimachev, roared out neo-Nazi lines he’s made famous in Ukraine’s capital: “Heroes of my race! Heroes of your race!”

The fans will tell you these rants and symbols, banned in Ukraine by law, are really just fashion statements, a part of their sub-culture. But the Jewish population of Ukraine, estimated to be more than 200,000, is more than uneasy about such demonstrations. To them, Hitler’s fans are not just lovers of heavy metal music, but one more manifestation of a hostile, increasingly powerful movement.

For decades both Russians and Ukrainians referred to their enemies as “fascists,” and caricatured enemies as Hitler. During Moscow’s conflict with Tbilisi in 2007 and 2008 Russian propagandists painted Hitler-style mustaches on the face of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Today millions of Ukrainians refer to Russian President Vladimir Putin as to “Putler”–you can even buy souvenir toilet paper that says that. But if Putin is as bad as Hitler, what are Ukrainian Hitler fans thinking?

Meanwhile, Kremlin officials insist that the pro-European Maidan movement was “fascist,” and that Ukraine is now ruled by neo-Nazi government. And, as if to confirm the Moscow line, dozens of far-right movements, groups, bands use Nazi symbols and praise Hitler’s violence against Bolsheviks, “the occupants of Ukraine.”

Just a few days before the 73d anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazism in World War II, Ukraine saw a march of ultra-nationalists who proclaimed that Odessa should be cleansed of Jews. At the rally, the head of the Right Sector in Odessa, Tatiana Soikina, said: “We are sure that we can put things in order, so Ukraine will belong to Ukrainians and not to Yids, not to oligarchs, glory to Ukraine!”

The march took place several days after the U.S. Congress sent a letter to the State Department describing the  “unacceptable” situation with anti-Semitism in here (PDF). It noted that Ukraine was “glorifying Nazi collaborators and made it a criminal offense to deny their ‘heroism.’” Among those Nazi collaborators the American members of congress cited Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych, and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) for killing Jews and Poles in the years from 1941 to 1945.

In fact, all those historical figures mentioned in the letter are seen by many in Ukraine as heroes, even though today Ukraine gets more support from Washington than ever.
Washington is selling Javelin anti-tank systems to Kiev to reenforce the Ukrainian army in the war against Russia-backed rebels in Donbas. The four-year-long conflict has taken more than 10,000 Ukrainian lives.

Far-right activists insist that every single anti-Semitic action has the Kremlin’s agents behind it, while representatives of the Jewish community want to see the conspicuous fans of Hitler put in jail.

“Anti-Semitism is rapidly growing all over Ukraine: Holocaust memorials are vandalized every week, while the opposition say President Petro Poroshenkois ‘a Jew,’ when they want to say that the president is bad,” says Eduard Dolinsky, the head of Ukraine’s Jewish Committee.

Dolinsky, a prominent public figure in Ukraine, monitors incidents of anti-Semitism. The Jewish Committee has demanded that the government and law enforcement agencies push for punishment of those professing Nazi ideology, but so far there has been none.

Dolinsky says he is upset that both Russian propaganda and some Ukrainian media outlets use his name and voice for political agendas as each tries to put the fascist brand on the other. “Our main intention at the Jewish Committee is not to allow history to repeat itself. Today in public opinion Jews seem to be to blame for political failures, just as it happened in Germany in 1930s,” Dolinsky told The Daily Beast.

Earlier this month, the deputy director of Lviv school Number 100, Mariana Batyuk, was fired after posting photographs of herself and her school students lined up and saluting, “Heil Hitler.” The teacher also posted Hitler’s portrait on her Facebook page with a caption: “He was a great man, whatever you say.”

A Ukrainian nationalist, Sergei Parkhomenko from the “Anti-Putin Information Front” insists that real Ukrainian patriots could not attack Jews. “Both Odessa activists and the Lviv teacher and those who vandalized Holocaust memorials must have been paid by either the Kremlin’s agents or those who want to discredit Ukraine,” Parkhomenko told The Daily Beast.

Far-right militia units recently marching across Kiev and promising to bring “order” to Ukraine sounded threatening, and not many people wanted to get in the way of muscled-up guys with black masks covering their faces.

“The other day I was invited to a round table at a TV show to debate with far-right politicians, I had the opportunity to bring two people with me, but all my friends were too scared to go,” Dolinsky told The Daily Beast.

Reporters of the Zaborona media (translates as “banned” media) group of Ukrainian journalists covering forbidden, censored and sensitive news, took photographs of young men slamming during the concert, pushing each other, showing off Nazi and Ku Klux Klan symbols tattooed on their naked torsos.

One of the fans went from one corner of the club to another unfurling his big Nazi flag. Anna Belous, a Zaborona reporter, told The Daily Beast.

“It is stupid to blame everything on the Kremlin. Officials should admit that we do actually have guys using Nazi symbols in Ukraine,” Yekaterina Sergatskova, the founder of the Zaborona project, told us. “Every year  thousands of people with far-right views participate in Povstanets festival, this is not a news.”

Last week President Petro Poroshenko condemned the increasing anti-Semitism as “unacceptable” in a post on his Facebook page. But the dance goes on.

Source: Nazi Salutes and Fascist Chic Put Ukraine’s Jews on Edge

Exclusive: Major Neo-Nazi figure recruiting in Montreal

Long read on a Canadian connection:

One of North America’s most influential neo-Nazis lives in Montreal and is organizing a white supremacist network on the island.

“Zeiger” is the pseudonym for the second-most prolific writer on the Daily Stormer, an extreme right-wing news website that attracts upwards of 80,000 unique visitors a month.

The site traffics in conspiracy theories, refers to African-Americans as “nogs,” to gay men as “f***ots” and devotes coverage to what it calls the “Race War” and the “Jewish Problem.” Along with the Daily Stormer’s other authors, Zeiger has helped spread this ideology to a new generation of young white men across North America.

Since emerging as a key figure in the movement four years ago, Zeiger’s identity has been a closely guarded secret. But an investigation by the Montreal Gazette has linked Zeiger to a local IT consultant in his early 30s.

Gabriel Sohier Chaput lives in an apartment in Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. That same apartment was listed by Zeiger as his home and as a rendezvous point for a local neo-Nazi group, according to documents obtained by the Montreal Gazette.

The group also met at downtown bars, apartments and a hotel between August 2016 and January 2018. At various points, members self-identified as alt-right, alt-reich, Nazis, fascists and white supremacists.

They acted on the instructions of a man referring to himself as Zeiger from the Daily Stormer. Zeiger co-ordinated the time and place of most meetings.

“Zeiger is probably second to only Andrew Anglin, the Daily Stormer’s founder and chief propagandist,” said Keegan Hankis, the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s senior analyst. “[Zeiger] has been very influential in the strategies behind it.”

The SPLC monitors the online presence of hate groups throughout North America.

Zeiger used his infamy as a recruiting tool, sharing a manifesto he authored as well as hyperlinks to his Daily Stormer articles and podcast appearances with the local group.

They first met at an Irish pub on Prince Arthur St. in August 2016. Shortly afterward, he introduced them to another Montreal-based fascist group.

Over a one-and-a-half-year period, a core of between 10 and 15 members gathered in bars and apartments around the city. Only men were allowed to attend their official meetings, but they opened up some events to women and “normies” — a term they use to describe people outside the movement.

The information that links Zeiger to Sohier Chaput comes from anti-fascist activists who monitor neo-Nazi and other far-right groups online.

The anti-fascists cross-referenced Zeiger’s profiles on white supremacist websites like Iron March, the Right Stuff and the Daily Stormer with information Zeiger provided to a closed Montreal-based chat room.

A home address Zeiger shared with the chat group matches the corporate listing for GSC Gestion, a consulting firm whose owner and sole employee is Sohier Chaput.

Ironically, two key pieces of information linking both men came from Zeiger himself, who, during a March 11 appearance on a white supremacist podcast, revealed that he attended high school in Outremont. Although Zeiger did not name the school, it narrowed the activists’ search down.

They also believed his real first name was Gabriel after digging into Zeiger’s profile on the neo-Nazi website Iron March. The profile was connected to a Skype account registered under the name “gabriel_zeiger.”

The anti-fascists then found and combed through a small library of yearbooks from Outremont high schools. They were searching for someone whose first name, age and appearance matched Zeiger’s.

They found a 2002 yearbook from Paul-Gérin-Lajoie-d’Outremont, which Sohier Chaput attended in Grade 10. They saw a resemblance between the 2002 photo of Sohier Chaput and Zeiger’s online profiles.

Compared to Zeiger’s enormous digital footprint, there are only traces of Sohier Chaput online.

He was an IT manager at a UPS store before branching out as an independent contractor in 2016, according to his profile on a job networking site.

A Google search for his name yields a Soundcloud account and an entry noting his second-place finish in the 2012 St. Lawrence Toastmasters public-speaking competition.

He does not appear to have public profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media.

Instead, the anti-fascists claim, he exists under a Nazi alter ego: Zeiger.

Neither Sohier Chaput nor Zeiger responded to the Montreal Gazette’s request for comment.

Sohier Chaput’s brother hung up the phone twice when called by the Montreal Gazette. His father did not respond to email and telephone requests to pass along contact information to Sohier Chaput.

The Montreal Gazette also sent a letter to Sohier Chaput’s apartment by courier and rang his doorbell twice to no avail. His landlord agreed to pass along a message but as of Wednesday, he has not replied.

On white nationalist forums, Zeiger and other Montreal users brag about beating anti-fascist protesters and pasting Nazi stickers on the métro and co-ordinate their attendance at far-right rallies.

They also refer to a 2016 meeting with a representative from Students for Western Civilization, which led a campaign in 2015 for the creation of white student unions on Toronto university campuses.

One of the Montreal group members claims to have hosted a lecture by Ricardo Duschene, a University of New Brunswick professor who believes mass immigration is causing the ethnocide of European Canadians, in the summer of 2017.

Duschene denies any association with the group.

“I spoke at a meeting in Montreal last summer but it was for another group that does not identify as ‘alt right,’ ” he wrote in an email to the Montreal Gazette. “I don’t identify myself as ‘alt right’, and less so would I ever speak at a meeting organized by Daily Stormer.

“I am aware that someone by the name ‘Charles Zeiger’ posted one of my talks, but this was done without my knowledge, and I have no idea who he is.”

Zeiger’s reach extends beyond the North American movement. When the British government disbanded the neo-Nazi terrorist group National Action, the group’s final communiqué
personally thanked Zeiger and Andrew Anglin for their work in spreading propaganda.

Anglin and Zeiger have repeatedly claimed their goal is to use internet culture as a way of making extremist ideas more palatable to a mainstream audience.

“(Young men) can go onto these forums and … they’ll be immersed in fascist culture, Nazi jokes, meme culture and (it) gradually breaks down their inhibitions toward the most despicable forms of violence,” says Alexander Reid Ross, a lecturer at Portland State University. “Forum culture in general has helped to draw people into this fever swamp of fascist ideas.”

Reid Ross is the author of Against the Fascist Creep, a sweeping history of post-Second World War fascist ideology.

Before founding the Montreal group, Zeiger claimed responsibility for the resurgence of Siege, a 1980s manifesto that calls for individual acts of terrorism as a means to create a white ethno-state. Posting on the forum the Right Stuff, Zeiger wrote that he digitized the book to help it reach a wider audience.

Siege’s resurgence within white supremacist circles is mostly “self-marginalizing,” Reid Ross said, adding that the book is “a thing 14-year-old boys read when they’re angry at their moms.”

“However, for those few people who do pick it up … it is definitely extremely dangerous. It points to a movement of leaderless resistance that’s been growing since Charlottesville.”

Zeiger attended the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last summer with a small group of Quebecers. At the end of the march, a right-wing extremist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

The rally in Charlottesville marked a turning point for the neo-Nazi movement in the United States. Before Heyer’s death, white supremacist ideology had been creeping its way into mainstream politics.

But the violence from that day triggered a backlash that forced the movement back underground, according to Reid Ross.

“It showed that you can’t get a (large) group of Nazis together in one place without there being some kind of murder, attempted murder, assault or things like that.”

After Charlottesville, the Daily Stormer published an article titled “Heather Heyer: A Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident Was a Fat, Childless 32-Year-Old Slut.” They were subsequently removed from web hosting by GoDaddy, Google and a series of international domains.

The site was hosted on the dark web for a brief period, but has re-emerged on the open internet through Eranet International Limited, a web hosting service based in China.

Hankis says there’s a link between the ideology espoused on sites like the Daily Stormer and acts of mass violence in the United States.

After murdering nine people at a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina, Dylann Roof released a manifesto outlining his racist views. Verbatim sections of the manifesto appeared in the Daily Stormer’s message boards in the months leading up to the 2015 massacre.

James Harris Jackson, who was charged with murdering a black man in New York City with a sword last year, told reporters he was an avid reader of the Daily Stormer.

Andrew Anglin and Zeiger did not respond to the Montreal Gazette’s email request for comment.

However a disclaimer on the website says it opposes violence and seeks “revolution through the education of the masses.” Further, it adds, “anyone suggesting or promoting violence in the comments section will be immediately banned.”

One expert cautions that while Quebec’s extremist movement is still relatively small, it is attracting a growing number of angry, disillusioned young men.

Maxime Fiset is a reformed neo-Nazi who now does outreach work for the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence. He estimates that active support for “alt-right” groups in Quebec numbers in the hundreds or thousands.

While the rise of far-right groups like La Meute and Storm Alliance have made waves in local media, Fiset says Zeiger’s movement targets a much different demographic.

“La Meute is an older crowd, between 40 and 65 years old,” he said. “With the alt-right, it’s more like between 15 and 35. They’re not as structured and organized but they’re becoming more and more visible.”

Fiset’s job is to try to understand how young men are indoctrinated with hateful ideology in hopes that they can be rehabilitated.

He said that the process of radicalization often begins with a feeling of injustice and sense of isolation. This leads to the person questioning why they are unhappy, and then either coming to terms with their situation, or seeking retribution for their distress.

“The person usually begins a path of questioning, which is legitimate, because injustices are corrected by some of those who challenge them at first,” Fiset said. “But it may become something much more dark when the person eventually arrives to more violent answers. That could be as common as hate speech or as dire as terrorism.”

For Zeiger, the “path of questioning” began early. In a white supremacist podcast, he describes his process of radicalization.

“I think I was about 14 when I was reading about the Holocaust and realized that it was a hoax,” he said. Later, he was exposed to a blog post that was “anti-semitic from a liberal perspective,” in that it described Jewish people as racist.

“This resonated with me, because my sister she had dated a Jew for a while, but his family forbade him from marrying her.”

From there, Zeiger fell deeper into the online rabbit hole of anti-Semitic propaganda, binge-consuming hundreds of hours of white nationalist radio shows and YouTube videos.

“I saw a video … and I wasn’t that right-wing at that point so I thought ‘Oh my God, this is so extreme, this is racist.’ But I thought it was interesting,” he said, on a December 2016 podcast. “So after that I listened to (hours of these) radio shows, one after the other.

“It took like a few weeks but I listened to all like 300 of them. After that I was like, ‘Gas the k****, race war now.’ ”

Fiset says he doesn’t believe that radicalized youth are irredeemable. He is living proof that a person can be drawn away from the extremist fringe.

But he worries that, left unchecked, the spaces that Zeiger inhabits can move beyond internet hate speech and into real-world violence.

“We need to address this because they’re living in very dark corners of the web, without any boundaries, without any limits, without any structure or counter narrative,” Fiset said. “These guys are just alone, evolving together, in what becomes more and more violent ideologies, and it’s not getting any better. We’re just starting to realize that we have a ticking time bomb on our hands.”

via Exclusive: Major Neo-Nazi figure recruiting in Montreal | Montreal Gazette

The fascists are mobilizing in Donald Trump’s name: John Ibbitson

Appropriately strong column by Ibbitson:

Not all the people who support Donald Trump are Nazis, white supremacists or more mundane racists. Some genuinely believe that the institutions of the republic have become so corrupt that only a wholesale, populist cleansing will redeem the American promise.

But for whatever reason they support him, Mr. Trump’s followers are enabling a President who stokes race hatred, who will not condemn Nazis and other fascists, whose words and deeds are leading white supremacists to kill on a street in New York, on a subway car in Portland and now during a melee in Charlottesville.

We can empathize with people cast adrift by the economic storms of globalization and the digital revolution; we can understand, though never condone, their resentment over the fact that a minority of children born in the United States today are white, that the evolution of the American myth embraces a racial and sexual diversity that they can’t comprehend.

But empathy has limits. The fascists are mobilizing in Donald Trump’s name. They may be few in number, but a larger, still-silent minority may come to approve their message, if not their methods or regalia. Unless this President’s malignant poisoning of the body politic is contained, there will be more riots, more confrontations, more deaths. Unless he is contained, future historians may see Charlottesville as an overture to something even uglier and deeper and more dangerous.

Donald Trump exhausts us. He tries to tear down the social safety net. He seeks to wreck the global trading system. He attacks a free press. He threatens war against other weak, dangerous men. And he does it all at once, day after day. His assaults on democracy and civility are so multifaceted – and his term has barely begun! – that it’s tempting to turn away, to hold your family tighter and just try to carry on.

But those who believe in democracy, in a free press, in racial harmony, in peace, have to fight back. What’s so frustrating for Canadians is that there is little we can do on this side of the border, except watch in horror and pray.

Source: The fascists are mobilizing in Donald Trump’s name – The Globe and Mail

History’s lessons on dealing with Canada’s neo-Nazi groups

Interesting bit of history regarding a number of anti-Nazi events: the 1965 Allen Gardens riot and the 1933 Christie Pitts clash, and less violent protests during Quebec neo-Nazi Adrien Arcand’s Toronto visit in 1938.

The recommendation not to give neo-Nazis publicity (oxygen), while sound, is unrealistic given competing passions, mainstream and social media coverage:

Beattie [leader of Allen Gardens neo-Nazis] didn’t turn out to be that person, however. Even though he continued to hold rallies in the park, his movement fizzled out, partially because he wasn’t actually all that dynamic or novel, and was—as historian Frank Bialystok points out—a terrible orator. The numbers he led were small, and the best publicity he got was the media coverage and public dismay that such horrific events could be happening in Toronto the Good. Judge Sydney Harris, notes Bialystok, said that if the Jewish community had ignored the neo-Nazis from the outset, the movement would have died.

There was some upside to the Allan Gardens riot; Bialystok argues that, even though the incident is rarely remembered as any kind of turning point, it actually marked the birth of a new collaboration between Jewish communities that were previously divided, roughly according to when they had immigrated—prior to, or after the war. But, today, whether we’re dealing with actual neo-Nazis or merely street-fighting western chauvinists, there are perhaps wiser lessons to be drawn from 100 years of dealing with extremist groups in Toronto. Four thousand people turning up at Allan Gardens in 1965 only amplified the neo-Nazis’ message; 12,000 people showing up at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1938 helped to drown out the hate being spewed at Massey Hall.

It’s not wrong to be concerned about the extremist movements cropping up. But we have to be careful not to give these attention-seekers the megaphone: they’ll only use conflict to amplify their message. The answer, instead, is to drown them out by making broad coalitions and working together towards education, truth and reconciliation, social equality and representative democracy. It worked in 1938—and it can work again.