A former white supremacist cautioned that there’s no real difference between the racist ideology he once embraced and the so-called “alt-right” or white nationalist movements.
Christian Picciolini, a former skinhead who now leads the nonprofit Life After Hate organization, said white supremacists have tried for years to obscure their racist intentions to help broaden their appeal, reported Business Insider.
Picciolini was recruited into Chicago Area Skin Heads in 1987, at 14, and became the neo-Nazi group’s leader two years later — and he recognizes the tactics employed by white nationalists like Richard Spencer to rebrand their hateful ideology.
“We recognized back then that we were turning away the average American white racists and that we needed to look and speak more like our neighbors,” Picciolini said. “The idea we had was to blend in, normalize, make the message more palatable.”
The former neo-Nazi, who left the hate group in 1996 and works to get others out now, told Business Insider that white supremacist ideas about the “Jewish media” and “Jewish global conspiracy” showed up in last year’s election — but reframed as the “liberal media” and “globalism.”
Website like Breitbart News — run by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon — push those tropes into the political mainstream.
Picciolini said many followers of the “alt-right” movement don’t realize they’re being recruited into white supremacy for one simple reason: hate groups lie.
“We lied all the time,” Picciolini told Business Insider. “To the media, we weren’t a hate organization — we were a pro-white organization. We felt that our white pride was being taken away. It was all spin. Behind closed doors, it was all about supremacy and power and eliminating people that weren’t like us.”
White supremacists are bleeding into other right-wing extremist movements during the Donald Trump presidency, according to experts.
“Not everyone in the alt-right is a overt white nationalist,” said J.M. Berger, who studies far-right extremism at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. “But white nationalism is definitely the movement’s center of gravity, and the term originated with an explicitly white nationalist website.”