Neo-Nazi website raises $150,000 to fight Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit

A neo-Nazi blogger has been promised donations of more than $150,000 for his legal defense after the Southern Poverty Law Center sued him for organizing a “troll storm” against a Jewish woman in Montana.

The donations to Andrew Anglin and the website he founded, the Daily Stormer, came in over the course of less than two months on a crowdfunding site that caters to far-right causes, overcoming the difficulties that white nationalists often face in raising money online.

The mainstream crowdfunding websites GoFundMe and Kickstarter have policies forbidding fundraisers that promote hate speech.

The donations to support Anglin were made possible by a California-based site called WeSearchr, which has attracted donors hoping to fund rallies for the far-right and post “bounties” for damaging information about liberals, leftists and moderate Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

WeSearchr is run by Chuck C. Johnson, a Los Angeles blogger and right-wing provocateur who was banned from Twitter in 2015 after soliciting donations to support “taking out” prominent black activist DeRay Mckesson.

Johnson’s business is set up to profit from people who want to donate to controversial causes. It keeps 15% of every donation, or three times the base rate of GoFundMe and Kickstarter. That’s more than $22,000 of the money pledged for Anglin.

“All are welcome to fundraise on my properties,” Johnson said to the Los Angeles Times in an email.

“Like my mentor Alan Dershowitz my position is the same as the ACLU's was in Skokie: free speech even for the speech we dislike,” he wrote, referring to a 1978 legal case in which the American Civil Liberties Union defended the right of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Ill. “In recent years there's been an effort to move into a more censoring environment on the internet.”

Dershowitz, the famous Harvard University law professor emeritus who reportedly once employed Johnson as a researcher, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Most of the Daily Stormer’s donors on WeSearchr are anonymous, with the exception of the comedian Sam Hyde, who pledged $5,000.

When contacted for comment, Hyde asked the reporter if he was Jewish and then boasted that $5,000 was nothing to him. Hyde’s TV show on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” programming block was canceled last year, but not before Hyde amassed a following among the loosely knit movement of white nationalists, misogynists and anti-Semites that has come to be known as the alt-right.

“Don’t worry so much about money. Worry about if people start deciding to kill reporters. That’s a quote,” Hyde said in a phone interview, laughing, when asked why he donated to support the Daily Stormer. “For the reason why, you can say I want reporters to know I make more money than them, especially Matt Pearce.”

The Daily Stormer, thought to be the Internet’s most popular neo-Nazi website, is named after the German Nazi tabloid "Der Stürmer" and features sections titled “Jewish Problem” and “Race War.” The anti-Semitic, anti-black and anti-Muslim articles are often written by Anglin, who is in his early 30s and from Ohio.

“The only option now is charismatic leaders and revolution,” Anglin wrote in a post Monday arguing that the West was being “invaded and conquered” by Muslims. “That is my purpose. I want you boys to be ready for war. Because a war is coming.”

The Daily Stormer claims to be a nonprofit on its donation page, but it is not listed as a nonprofit with the Internal Revenue Service or in Ohio, where the site’s name is registered.

Anglin made headlines in December when he accused a Whitefish, Mont., real estate agent, who is Jewish, of trying to extort money from the mother of Richard Spencer, one of the nation’s most prominent white nationalists. The real estate agent, Tanya Gersh, denies the claim.

On Dec. 16, Anglin asked his readers to start a “troll storm” against Gersh and posted her address and phone number as well the Twitter account belonging to Gersh’s 12-year-old son, whom Anglin referred to using a derogatory word for Jewish people. “You can also leave a review of her business on Google, and perhaps note that it is [a] front for an extortion racket,” Anglin wrote in the first of many posts about Gersh.

Gersh said she was barraged by harassment, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks extremist groups and sometimes drives them into bankruptcy through lawsuits, sued Anglin on her behalf, alleging invasion of privacy, intimidation and infliction of emotional distress.

In response, the Daily Stormer posted a “SAVE THE STORMER!” notice on the site and claimed it was being sued by “Jewish terrorists.” “This site will be shut down if we don't win this,” the site says.

“The site is extremely popular and people feel very strongly about it,” Anglin said in an email to The Times when asked about the $150,000 fundraiser.

Anglin said that many of his supporters, including Johnson, don’t agree with his views. “People also feel very strongly about free speech, and look at attacks on free speech as something that needs [to be] fought against,” he said.

Anglin also accused the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish anti-extremism group, of trying to silence constitutionally protected speech by shutting down “my access to PayPal, credit card processors, [the crowdfunding site] Patreon, advertisers, even webhosts, with threats to defame these companies in the media.”

Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he was “surprised” that Anglin was able to raise the money so quickly, saying that Anglin’s popularity was rooted in “vicious, incendiary racist rhetoric.”

Cohen also noted a problem with the case against Anglin: locating him to serve him with the lawsuit.

A process server has unsuccessfully tried to find Anglin at several addresses in Ohio, Cohen said. “We are quite eager to take his testimony and to face him in court.”

When contacted for response, Anglin did not immediately respond to a message asking him where he was.

matt.pearce@latimes.com

@mattdpearce

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