Twitter reinstates neo-Nazi publisher who targeted Whitefish Jewish community

Federal judge in Montana signed arrest warrant for Anglin, who owes at least $14M

By: - December 6, 2022 7:03 pm

Andrew Anglin, publisher of the Daily Stormer (Photo courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center).

The federal justice system can’t seem to find him, but Elon Musk has.

Twitter has reinstated prominent neo-Nazi website publisher Andrew Anglin to Twitter, and the Daily Stormer publisher who has evaded a federal court order in Montana after he was found guilty of violating the civil rights of a Montana Jewish family has been given another chance by the social media giant.

In the past three days since his reinstatement, the man who has gone underground, running from a federal court judgment for creating a “troll storm” for a Montana Jewish family has been busy at the keyboard with around 60 Tweets. Anglin has commented on a familiar litany of issues, ranging from the war in Ukraine to endorsing Kanye West’s bid for American president in 2024.

Anglin was removed from the platform – called “deplatforming” – in 2013 for spreading racist, bigoted posts. His reinstatement came after billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter, who reinstated many people kicked off the platform.

The Daily Montanan tried reaching out to any spokesperson from Twitter to better understand the rationale for allowing Anglin back, but a former communications department Twitter handle and information about the department on Twitter’s website has disappeared. Moreover, national media outlets report that part of the massive layoffs after Musk bought Twitter was a nearly complete elimination of the corporate communications department which was reduced to a single, unnamed staff member, according to Axios.

From his account, Anglin has started writing about an expansive number of familiar topics, including falsely alleging that the war in Ukraine is about an attack on Jesus and that the leaders of the free world include Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping of China and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He called St. Petersburg, Russia “the most beautiful city on earth,” and continued to promote his views, which target most non-white groups while espousing to stand up for Jesus Christ.

Organizations dedicated to monitoring and speaking out against hate groups have condemned Twitter’s move, and Jewish leaders in Montana have condemned the action.

“I do not want to get into who should be allowed to have conversations on Twitter,” said Rebecca Stanfel, the President and Director of the Montana Jewish Project. “But this was a person who terrorized an entire Montana Jewish community and not just a family.”

In 2016, Anglin’s publication, the Daily Stormer, a prominent online publication for neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other conspiracies, had called for a “troll storm” or a flood of threats and online comments that targeted Jewish community members living in Whitefish.

Anglin had claimed a Jewish woman tried to extort money from the mother of Richard Spencer, who had been a national leader in fringe movement of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other far right extremists. At the time, Spencer’s mother owned property in Whitefish, and Spencer lived there part of the year.

Anglin’s followers then bombarded the woman, her family and Jewish community members with crude messages and threats, according to court records.

The family won a victory in federal court, but he remains at-large, and elusive. The court awarded the family $10 million for compensatory damages and an addition $4 million in punitive damages.

The Associated Press has also reported that Anglin has been successfully sued for libel from others, including a Muslim radio host.

Both Stanfel and the Montana Human Rights Network, which has as part of its focus monitoring hate groups and extremism in Montana, have said many misconstrue Anglin’s reinstatement as a First Amendment or free speech issue. Instead, they said the real danger isn’t just repeating the same bigoted tropes, but it’s about amplifying his organization and giving him the opportunity to connect and rebuild a following.

“Through these channels, they connect. They organize and then they make plans to attack,” Stanfel said. “They reinforce each other.”

That is in part, why Stanfel has been working to establish the Montana Jewish Project – to promote cultural and religious understanding.

Cherilyn Devries of the Montana Human Rights Network said that Anglin’s reinstatement is “a very bad sign.”

“The problem is not the words, it’s the action,” Devries said. “He leverages social media to recruit and radicalize those who want to commit their radical action. And now we will have to watch it play out.”

Devries said that the purpose is to make those who are different – the LGBTQ, Jewish, Black or Indigenous communities —  fearful and quiet.

“They are the ones who will be targeted by those groups,” Devries said. “The problem is that it normalizes radical ideas and puts them where people can see them every day so that they don’t seem so radical.”

As Montana Human Rights Network has tracked Anglin and the Daily Stormer, its online traffic and presence has plunged since both Facebook and Twitter deplatformed them. However, Anglin’s number of followers on Twitter has been rising and traffic to the Daily Stormer has increased, she said.

“The danger is that it becomes mainstream,” Devries said.

However, she also warned that Anglin and other leaders of radical movements prey on young men in their twenties, gradually radicalizing them.

“Andrew Anglin, Ammon Bundy – these are not crazy people. They’re sane and the actions they take are done by calculating people who want to sow violence and conflict into society,” Devries said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security as recently as last week put out an advisory bulletin warning about a “heightened threat environment” regarding domestic extremism with potential threats to LGBTQ+, Jewish and migrant communities.  

While it’s hard to tell what effect reopening Anglin’s account will have immediately, Stanfel said it’s a good reminder for Jewish residents.

“Jewish folks in Montana who are in community spaces should be more aware,” Stanfel said. “We don’t need to live in fear, but this is part of a larger national trend.”

–Deputy editor Keila Szpaller and reporter Nicole Girten contributed to this report. 

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.