Following the fall-out from the murderous Unite the Right demonstration in Charlottesville in 2017, the Alt-Right has attempted to rebrand itself in the eyes of the public and the wider Right. By and large, these attempts, both at rebranding white nationalism as simply a form of American patriotism as well as entryism into the Republican Party has been met with failure. Dwindling attendance at rallies, factional splits, high-profile domestic abuse cases involving former leaders like Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach, and continued mass acts of white power murder and terror have continued to take their toll on a movement that once said it had “a direct line to the White House.”
In the last few months however, a new strategy has arise within the Alt-Right that now seems to be taking shape. In late February, a neo-Nazi podcast show hosted by Mike “Enoch” Peinovich (best known for having both an ex-wife who is Jewish and for selling oven mitts in an effort to make light of the Holocaust) and Eric Striker (a notoriously racist contributor to the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer), recorded a podcast conversation with “Blackstone,” an attorney. The title of the podcast, now on YouTube is Testudo Legal Defense Network.
The name of the network is a reference to the Roman fighting formation that Blackstone describes as “an attacking formation…strategically offensive.” But moreover, “the way it protects us is by being offensive. Engaging in civil litigation.” In other words, law fare, or the use of the courts to attack one’s enemies.
Blackstone goes on to describe the strategy:
“In the case of our groups, if antifa doxxes you, if you are…fired from your job…[we] take your case and essentially pursue it against those who have injured you. Basically creating a defensive shield because of a fear of “being sued,” which is what we would call a chilling affect in a legal sense and essentially from a law and economics point of view, increasing the transaction cost of engaging in things like doxxing [and] harassment.” [Our emphasis.]
Mike Enoch replied:
“Any institution or individual that engages in this [doxxing, etc], is going to have to start to feel worried. As soon as costs are imposed, things will start to change.”
Blackstone then went on to rant against members of the Alt-Right talking to women in their workplace:
“Unless you have to, don’t talk to any women in the workplace, at all. In the workplace, it’s just never a good idea…Be paranoid. Be a sociopath.”
From the “Weed Nazi” to Daryle Lamont Jenkins
There are two cases which point to this strategy already being put into affect. Last year, antifascists with Eugene Antifa were able to expose a pot dispensary owner as an active member of the local white nationalist movement. The story picked up steam, and soon the “Weed Nazi” lost clients and workers quit working for her. In response, the Weed Nazi filed a lawsuit against Eugene Antifa, essentially in an effort to doxx them, and was represented by long term white nationalist attorney and organizer, William Johnson, who is currently the head of the American Freedom Party, a “third positionist” organization of which Nathan Damigo once ran the youth wing, before launching Identity Evropa, now named, the American Identity Movement. The case didn’t go very far and it was eventually dropped.
A white nationalist outed through the @UR_Ninja discord logs attempted to sue @_eugeneantifa for exposing them to the wider #Eugene community. We talked with an attorney at @CLDC about the #WeedNazi case and what it means for the rest of us. https://t.co/CsuFFKVxE5 pic.twitter.com/09K5fviwCD
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) December 19, 2018
More recently, longtime antifascist organizer and researcher Daryle Lamont Jenkins was sued for defamation by a member of the Council for Conservative Citizens (best known for writing a manifesto that helped inspire Dylann Roof) for writing an article calling him a white nationalist. Like the Weed Nazi case, the matter was quickly dropped.
Joel Marasco has been on our radar for a while. He's a lawyer working for the Office of Parental Representation in the state public defenders office. He's also a white nationalist. pic.twitter.com/DzaGMQIdZf
— Hudson County DSA 🌹 (@HudCoDSA) October 29, 2018
Last month Joel Marasco filed a criminal complaint against Jenkins charging him with cyberstalking and bias harassment by “threatening, stalking and harassing the victim, causing him to fear for his safety” and “by repeatedly using the words ‘White’ and ‘Italian’ referring to the victim’s race.” Jenkins has never met or spoken to Marasco, but One People’s Project has written about his associations with not just the Council of Conservative Citizens but other White supremacist groups and figures as well. Commune Magazine published an article about the so-called alt-right in New York City, identifying Marasco and quoting him regarding his support for Trump and an eventual white city-state during a neo-Fascist conference held there at the Playwright Tavern two years ago.
According to records, Marasco started working as a public defender last year, and before that had close ties to political figures in Jersey City, including those who were seeking the Mayor’s office. It is not known if he still maintains such ties, but despite the documenting of his White supremacist ties, he still maintains his position as an assistant deputy public defender position.
Although a complaint was filed, Jenkins was never arrested or charged with a crime, nor did he have to appear in court.
While it could be argued that white nationalists ended up spending more resources and time on these cases only to then quickly fail, on the other hand, they did take time, energy, and some amount of money away from the wider movement that could have been used for other things. On the other hand, they also give us a glimpse at what might become a growing Alt-Right strategy while exposing the players currently on the field.
“A Legal Strategy To Get a Non-Legal Outcome”
Doxxing in of itself is not illegal, however in cases like that of Andrew Anglin, individuals can be held responsible by the legal system for encouraging acts of harassment and intimation. The law is also clear in terms of what libel and slander are: written or stated known false hoods about a person. Thus, for antifascists to show the public that white nationalists are indeed involved in white nationalism is not libel or slander, nor is it defamation: an attack on someone’s character, if it can be clearly shown that a person is indeed involved in that movement.
We asked one longtime antifascist organizer and researcher in both online and real life capacities that they thought of Blackstone’s stated goal, and they said, “What they’re trying to do is lay out a legal strategy to get a non-legal outcome,” even if through doing so, “they violate the civil rights of those they go after.” Meaning in an effort to protect members of their movement from being exposed to the public, Alt-Right attorneys like “Blackstone” are willing to attack people’s basic rights to free expression.
An attorney with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) who spoke to It’s Going Down about Testudo stated that it reminded them greatly of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suits which are designed to silence and censor activists and community organizers. Some states have anti-SLAPP laws on the books and lawyers have decades of experience fighting these cases, as they designed to stifle people from speaking out against injustice.
But carrying out such a strategy, as the antifascist we interviewed pointed out, “This opens up attorneys to getting disbarred for filing frivolous lawsuits,” which is exactly what happened to the former white nationalist attorney of the Proud Boys, Jason Van Dyke, who was recently suspended by the Texas bar association.
Only the Latest In a String of White Nationalist Attorney Associations
The Testudo Legal Defense Network seems to have little infrastructure online. Only one link could be found encouraging people to donate to it, through the Cursus Honorum Foundation. The YouTube account of Augustus Invictus, another member of the Alt-Right that at times has been an attorney, links to the Cursus Hontorum Foundation but also encourages people to donate to a different page, the American Legal Defense Fund, which also lists William Johnson, Kathleen Synder, and the Alt-Right libertarian, Chris Johncox as part of the legal team.
Over the last three years, the Alt-Right has attempted to form a variety of white nationalist formations made up groups of attorneys. First, there was Augustus Invictus’ “Based” Legal Support, which quickly fell apart. Then, there was the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, founded by Kyle Bristol in 2016, which was supposed to become the ACLU of the far-Right. In March of 2018, Bristol dissolved the organization in the midst of Richard Spencer’s failed Michigan event in March of 2018. Augustus Invictus, who has also had to deal with his own legal troubles, has also attempted to represent white nationalists and neo-Nazis being charged from Unite the Right in Charlottesville in 2017.
While coming on Alt-Right podcasts and laying out a strategy of attacking community organizers and journalists may in the end come back to bite them, at the present moment, people should recognize the nature of the threat and the desire of the far-Right to attack our movements and prepare our defenses.
Members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) encourage people to contact them if they are legally threatened by the Alt-Right.