Before he became one of the country’s most prominent Internet neo-Nazis, Andrew Anglin was an anti-racist vegan whose favorite band was the indie group Modest Mouse.
A lengthy profile in the Atlantic chronicles Anglin’s transformation from shy teen to racist troll.
Anglin grew up in Worthington Hills, an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. He collected X-Men comics, played computer games and attended the Linworth Alternative Program, what the Atlantic describes as Columbus’s “hippie” high school. Anglin was then an avowed vegan who styled his hair in dreadlocks and wore a hoodie with a large “f*ck racism” patch on the back. Anglin dated another vegan and was an animal rights advocate. Anglin also experimented with drugs, including LSD, Robitussin, psychedelic mushrooms and cocaine.
Meanwhile, Anglin began his exploration of the Internet’s subcultures. He spent days in his parents’ basement downloading music and setting up his own website. Then, he seemed to have leftist leanings, penning posts telling people to send death threats to the Westboro Baptist Church. He also mocked the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations. “He wasn’t so different, back then,” the Atlantic wrote, from the “antifascist activists” he would later despise.
Anglin’s behavior became erratic in his teens and he had a proclivity for self-harm. He would smash his head into walls; he forced marker caps into his earlobes until they bled and burnt his forearms with a lighter. After breaking up with his girlfriend, according to the Atlantic, Anglin didn’t date again, but sometimes tried to kiss other boys in school.
Anglin’s exploration of internet subcultures led him to far right-wing web radio, where he discovered Alex Jones, who would go on to become one of the country’s most influential conspiracists.
Profile from @TheAtlantic on Andrew Anglin delves into the Daily Stormer founder’s transition from “antiracist vegan to the alt-right’s most vicious troll and propagandist.” https://t.co/35h36mATz4— SPLC (@splcenter) November 14, 2017
Anglin started his own website and began trafficking in conspiracies about “lizard people” and eventually the “Zionist Occupied Government.”
After a transformative trip to Asia — which involved journeys into the jungle, lengthy breaks from the Internet and much soul-searching — he re-emerged espousing full fascism.
In 2012, he announced his transformation. “From the flaming wreckage of the alleged Truth Movement,” Anglin wrote, “a group of people has begun to emerge … We have found the truth. We have found the light. We have found Adolf Hitler.”
Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum .
Before He Was The Web’s Top Neo-Nazi, Andrew Anglin Was An Anti-Racist Vegan