People have had trouble finding Andrew Anglin recently.
He’s the man behind the Daily Stormer, one of the most prominent neo-Nazi websites on the internet. He’s being sued for unleashing a torrent of online hate against a Jewish family.
The suit has major implications for hate websites, potentially making them responsible for the emotional toll they take on their targets. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is representing Tanya Gersh in the lawsuit, has been unable to find Anglin to serve him with papers.
Anglin has told reporters and his followers he’s in Nigeria. “I in fact get along well with the Nigerians I live amongst here in Nigeria. In fact, they love me,” he wrote.
This clearly seemed fishy. So, in a story yesterday, I took a deeper look at his whereabouts, and found reason to believe this is just more trolling from Anglin.
For example, in his post about living in Lagos, titled “Nigerians Love Neo-Nazi White Supremacist Andrew Anglin,” he included a screenshot of a Facebook post from a woman named Julian Natukunda that read, “We love u Andrew Anglin live 100 years happy bd.”
Natukunda lives in Uganda, about 3,000 miles away from Lagos. When I contacted her, she said “Andrew Anglin” happens to be her son’s name and she had never heard of the American Andrew Anglin.
“There’s irony in him being a big scary bully who is willing to take on anyone so long as he’s hiding behind his keyboard,” said David Dinielli, the Southern Poverty Law Center attorney suing Anglin. “Now he actually has the opportunity finally to come and defend himself and wrap himself in the First Amendment, and yet he doesn’t have the guts to do so.”
Then there’s one of Canada’s leading internet trolls
Just across the northern border, a Canadian blogger is being charged with a hate crime for his internet comments.
While Canadian authorities didn’t specify precisely what got 45-year-old Ontario resident Kevin Johnston into trouble, the operator of the far-right website site Freedom Report was charged with making statements that “willfully promote hatred” against Muslims.
“The charge stems from a lengthy investigation into numerous incidents reported to police, involving Johnston and concerns information published on various social media sites,” reads a police report about Johnston’s arrest.
In March, Johnston offered a $1,000 reward for video showing Muslim students praying in local schools. His stated goal was to determine if the prayer ceremonies contained any hate speech, but critics worried Johnston’s bounty could lead to trespassing or violence.
The legal issues faced by Johnston and Anglin show an important difference between how the United States and Canada deal with hate crime.
Dinielli, the SPLC lawyer suing Anglin, told me he was perfectly fine with Johnston spewing hate on his website, even if he personally found it vile. Instead, Dinielli argued, the problem was that Anglin was organizing targeted harassment campaigns against private citizens.
In the United States, the First Amendment gives broad protection to all types of speech – including hate speech. That’s why hate groups around the world often register their websites in the U.S. In a unanimous ruling in favor of free speech on college campuses in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that it has a long tradition of protecting “the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’ ”
In places like Canada, simply saying defamatory things about protected demographic groups is enough to warrant prosecution.
Trump’s trans ban has implications beyond the military
Banning transgender people from serving in the military is likely to have reverberations across American society that could ultimately put many trans people in real, physical danger.
The ban, announced by President Donald Trump in a series of tweets on Wednesday morning, was framed as a cost-saving measure – even though the U.S. military currently spends five times more on Viagra than it does on transgender health care.
Media reports indicate the decision was made to quell the concerns of some congressional Republicans over the Army funding gender-reassignment surgeries, which had the potential to block the passage of a spending bill paying for Trump’s border wall. However, some Republicans seem excited to bring up the fight as a cultural issue in the 2018 midterm elections.
Demonizing trans people may work as a wedge issue (a recent poll found only 23 percent of likely voters said letting trans people serve openly in the military was a good idea), but fostering an environment where elected officials and pundits are encouraged to bash trans people for political gain has the potential to bring increased violence to a community already beset by hate.
“There’s no question that when our public leaders target an already vulnerable community for discrimination, it gives a license to discriminate and bully to too many people across the country,” Human Rights Campaign’s Sarah McBride said.
McBride said that after the Trump administration rescinded federal guidelines about letting transgender public school students use the bathroom of their choice, the Human Rights Campaign heard stories from parents and teachers about a marked increase in bullying directed against transgender kids.
Transgender people in the U.S. are already subject to regular discrimination and violence. Killings of trans people, especially trans people of color, are at an all-time high. Last year was the deadliest year on record for trans victims. With 15 victims identified so far this year, 2017 is on track to be even worse.
Watching hate in action
A video of a white North Dakota woman verbally accosting a group of Somali women in a Walmart parking lot has gone viral, showing the hate that many religious and racial minorities face on a daily basis.
The video, recorded on Tuesday, showed Amber Hensley insisting the women “go home” and leveling threats. “We’re gonna kill all of ya’,” Hensley said. “We’re gonna kill every one of you fucking Muslims.”
In a comment on the video posted to Facebook, Hensley apologized for her conduct, but insisted there was more to the story.
“It was not a Christian like thing to do AT ALL and wish I could take it back, but I lost my cool and I can’t. I am terribly sorry,” Hensley wrote. “I just wish that the whole video could be shown. And the things that were stated before she starts taping. She had parked way too close to my car and I couldn’t get in, when I asked her to move she refused, I asked her again and she swore at me calling me a fat b-tch.”
ProPublica reports that these sorts of attacks have become a routine occurrence. “One of the truths the effort has laid bare,” ProPublica wrote, “is that such crimes are so commonplace that they can seem an almost ordinary part of the fabric of life in America.”
However, Hensley’s story has an ending that bends toward reconciliation. On Thursday, Hensley met with Sarah Hassan, one of the women she had confronted in the parking lot. According to the Billings Gazette, the pair “exchanged tears, regrets, hugs, apologies and personal stories.”
Hensley apologized and Hassan said she’s not going to press charges.
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