May 7, 2018

Exclusive: Major neo-Nazi figure recruiting in Montreal

Against the Fascist Creep
One of the most influential white supremacists in North America is organizing small meetings in city bars and apartments.

May 4, 2018

One of North America’s most influential neo-Nazis lives in Montreal and is organizing a white supremacist network on the island.

“Zeiger” is the pseudonym for the second-most prolific writer on the Daily Stormer, an extreme right-wing news website that attracts upwards of 80,000 unique visitors a month.

The site traffics in conspiracy theories, refers to African-Americans as “nogs,” to gay men as “f***ots” and devotes coverage to what it calls the “Race War” and the “Jewish Problem.” Along with the Daily Stormer’s other authors, Zeiger has helped spread this ideology to a new generation of young white men across North America.

Since emerging as a key figure in the movement four years ago, Zeiger’s identity has been a closely guarded secret. But an investigation by the Montreal Gazette has linked Zeiger to a local IT consultant in his early 30s.

Gabriel Sohier Chaput lives in an apartment in Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. That same apartment was listed by Zeiger as his home and as a rendezvous point for a local neo-Nazi group, according to documents obtained by the Montreal Gazette.

The group also met at downtown bars, apartments and a hotel between August 2016 and January 2018. At various points, members self-identified as alt-right, alt-reich, Nazis, fascists and white supremacists.

They acted on the instructions of a man referring to himself as Zeiger from the Daily Stormer. Zeiger co-ordinated the time and place of most meetings.

“Zeiger is probably second to only Andrew Anglin, the Daily Stormer’s founder and chief propagandist,” said Keegan Hankis, the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s senior analyst. “[Zeiger] has been very influential in the strategies behind it.”

The SPLC monitors the online presence of hate groups throughout North America.

Zeiger used his infamy as a recruiting tool, sharing a manifesto he authored as well as hyperlinks to his Daily Stormer articles and podcast appearances with the local group.

They first met at an Irish pub on Prince Arthur St. in August 2016. Shortly afterward, he introduced them to another Montreal-based fascist group.

Over a one-and-a-half-year period, a core of between 10 and 15 members gathered in bars and apartments around the city. Only men were allowed to attend their official meetings, but they opened up some events to women and “normies” — a term they use to describe people outside the movement.

The information that links Zeiger to Sohier Chaput comes from anti-fascist activists who monitor neo-Nazi and other far-right groups online.

The anti-fascists cross-referenced Zeiger’s profiles on white supremacist websites like Iron March, the Right Stuff and the Daily Stormer with information Zeiger provided to a closed Montreal-based chat room.

A home address Zeiger shared with the chat group matches the corporate listing for GSC Gestion, a consulting firm whose owner and sole employee is Sohier Chaput.

Ironically, two key pieces of information linking both men came from Zeiger himself, who, during a March 11 appearance on a white supremacist podcast, revealed that he attended high school in Outremont. Although Zeiger did not name the school, it narrowed the activists’ search down.

They also believed his real first name was Gabriel after digging into Zeiger’s profile on the neo-Nazi website Iron March. The profile was connected to a Skype account registered under the name “gabriel_zeiger.”

The anti-fascists then found and combed through a small library of yearbooks from Outremont high schools. They were searching for someone whose first name, age and appearance matched Zeiger’s.

They found a 2002 yearbook from Paul-Gérin-Lajoie-d’Outremont, which Sohier Chaput attended in Grade 10. They saw a resemblance between the 2002 photo of Sohier Chaput and Zeiger’s online profiles.

Compared to Zeiger’s enormous digital footprint, there are only traces of Sohier Chaput online.

He was an IT manager at a UPS store before branching out as an independent contractor in 2016, according to his profile on a job networking site.

A Google search for his name yields a Soundcloud account and an entry noting his second-place finish in the 2012 St. Lawrence Toastmasters public-speaking competition.

He does not appear to have public profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media.

Instead, the anti-fascists claim, he exists under a Nazi alter ego: Zeiger.

Neither Sohier Chaput nor Zeiger responded to the Montreal Gazette’s request for comment.

Sohier Chaput’s brother hung up the phone twice when called by the Montreal Gazette. His father did not respond to email and telephone requests to pass along contact information to Sohier Chaput.

The Montreal Gazette also sent a letter to Sohier Chaput’s apartment by courier and rang his doorbell twice to no avail. His landlord agreed to pass along a message but as of Wednesday, he has not replied.

On white nationalist forums, Zeiger and other Montreal users brag about beating anti-fascist protesters and pasting Nazi stickers on the métro and co-ordinate their attendance at far-right rallies.

Montreal users brag about beating anti-fascist protesters and pasting Nazi stickers on the métro.

They also refer to a 2016 meeting with a representative from Students for Western Civilization, which led a campaign in 2015 for the creation of white student unions on Toronto university campuses.

One of the Montreal group members claims to have hosted a lecture by Ricardo Duschene, a University of New Brunswick professor who believes mass immigration is causing the ethnocide of European Canadians, in the summer of 2017.

Duschene denies any association with the group.

“I spoke at a meeting in Montreal last summer but it was for another group that does not identify as ‘alt right,’ ” he wrote in an email to the Montreal Gazette. “I don’t identify myself as ‘alt right’, and less so would I ever speak at a meeting organized by Daily Stormer.

“I am aware that someone by the name ‘Charles Zeiger’ posted one of my talks, but this was done without my knowledge, and I have no idea who he is.”

Zeiger’s reach extends beyond the North American movement. When the British government disbanded the neo-Nazi terrorist group National Action, the group’s final communiqué
personally thanked Zeiger and Andrew Anglin for their work in spreading propaganda.

“(It) gradually breaks down their inhibitions toward the most despicable forms of violence.” — Alexander Reid Ross

Anglin and Zeiger have repeatedly claimed their goal is to use internet culture as a way of making extremist ideas more palatable to a mainstream audience.

“(Young men) can go onto these forums and … they’ll be immersed in fascist culture, Nazi jokes, meme culture and (it) gradually breaks down their inhibitions toward the most despicable forms of violence,” says Alexander Reid Ross, a lecturer at Portland State University. “Forum culture in general has helped to draw people into this fever swamp of fascist ideas.”

Reid Ross is the author of Against the Fascist Creep, a sweeping history of post-Second World War fascist ideology.

Before founding the Montreal group, Zeiger claimed responsibility for the resurgence of Siege, a 1980s manifesto that calls for individual acts of terrorism as a means to create a white ethno-state. Posting on the forum the Right Stuff, Zeiger wrote that he digitized the book to help it reach a wider audience.

Siege’s resurgence within white supremacist circles is mostly “self-marginalizing,” Reid Ross said, adding that the book is “a thing 14-year-old boys read when they’re angry at their moms.”

“However, for those few people who do pick it up … it is definitely extremely dangerous. It points to a movement of leaderless resistance that’s been growing since Charlottesville.”

Zeiger attended the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last summer with a small group of Quebecers. At the end of the march, a right-wing extremist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

The rally in Charlottesville marked a turning point for the neo-Nazi movement in the United States. Before Heyer’s death, white supremacist ideology had been creeping its way into mainstream politics.

But the violence from that day triggered a backlash that forced the movement back underground, according to Reid Ross.

“It showed that you can’t get a (large) group of Nazis together in one place without there being some kind of murder, attempted murder, assault or things like that.”

After Charlottesville, the Daily Stormer published an article titled “Heather Heyer: A Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident Was a Fat, Childless 32-Year-Old Slut.” They were subsequently removed from web hosting by GoDaddy, Google and a series of international domains.

The site was hosted on the dark web for a brief period, but has re-emerged on the open internet through Eranet International Limited, a web hosting service based in China.

Hankis says there’s a link between the ideology espoused on sites like the Daily Stormer and acts of mass violence in the United States.

After murdering nine people at a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina, Dylann Roof released a manifesto outlining his racist views. Verbatim sections of the manifesto appeared in the Daily Stormer’s message boards in the months leading up to the 2015 massacre.

James Harris Jackson, who was charged with murdering a black man in New York City with a sword last year, told reporters he was an avid reader of the Daily Stormer.

Andrew Anglin and Zeiger did not respond to the Montreal Gazette’s email request for comment.

However a disclaimer on the website says it opposes violence and seeks “revolution through the education of the masses.” Further, it adds, “anyone suggesting or promoting violence in the comments section will be immediately banned.”

One expert cautions that while Quebec’s extremist movement is still relatively small, it is attracting a growing number of angry, disillusioned young men.

Maxime Fiset is a reformed neo-Nazi who now does outreach work for the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence. He estimates that active support for “alt-right” groups in Quebec numbers in the hundreds or thousands.

Quebec’s extremist movement is still relatively small, but it is attracting a growing number of angry, disillusioned young men.

While the rise of far-right groups like La Meute and Storm Alliance have made waves in local media, Fiset says Zeiger’s movement targets a much different demographic.

“La Meute is an older crowd, between 40 and 65 years old,” he said. “With the alt-right, it’s more like between 15 and 35. They’re not as structured and organized but they’re becoming more and more visible.”

Fiset’s job is to try to understand how young men are indoctrinated with hateful ideology in hopes that they can be rehabilitated.

He said that the process of radicalization often begins with a feeling of injustice and sense of isolation. This leads to the person questioning why they are unhappy, and then either coming to terms with their situation, or seeking retribution for their distress.

“The person usually begins a path of questioning, which is legitimate, because injustices are corrected by some of those who challenge them at first,” Fiset said. “But it may become something much more dark when the person eventually arrives to more violent answers. That could be as common as hate speech or as dire as terrorism.”

For Zeiger, the “path of questioning” began early. In a white supremacist podcast, he describes his process of radicalization.

“I think I was about 14 when I was reading about the Holocaust and realized that it was a hoax,” he said. Later, he was exposed to a blog post that was “anti-semitic from a liberal perspective,” in that it described Jewish people as racist.

“This resonated with me, because my sister she had dated a Jew for a while, but his family forbade him from marrying her.”

“They’re living in the very dark corners of the web, without any boundaries” — Maxime Fiset

From there, Zeiger fell deeper into the online rabbit hole of anti-Semitic propaganda, binge-consuming hundreds of hours of white nationalist radio shows and YouTube videos.

“I saw a video … and I wasn’t that right-wing at that point so I thought ‘Oh my God, this is so extreme, this is racist.’ But I thought it was interesting,” he said, on a December 2016 podcast. “So after that I listened to (hours of these) radio shows, one after the other.

“It took like a few weeks but I listened to all like 300 of them. After that I was like, ‘Gas the k****, race war now.’ ”

Fiset says he doesn’t believe that radicalized youth are irredeemable. He is living proof that a person can be drawn away from the extremist fringe.

But he worries that, left unchecked, the spaces that Zeiger inhabits can move beyond internet hate speech and into real-world violence.

“We need to address this because they’re living in very dark corners of the web, without any boundaries, without any limits, without any structure or counter narrative,” Fiset said. “These guys are just alone, evolving together, in what becomes more and more violent ideologies, and it’s not getting any better. We’re just starting to realize that we have a ticking time bomb on our hands.”

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