I’m a former neo-Nazi. Don’t ignore the threat of white extremism.
When he was only 14, Christian Picciolini was recruited by Clark Martell, a prominent neo-Nazi skinhead leader. By age 18, Picciolini led America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead gang and helped recruit and organize cells across the country.
Picciolini worked to soften the neo-Nazis’ external image and political language to attract individuals who would otherwise not have been willing to join the movement.
“We hear terms like ‘liberal media,’ when in fact what they are talking about is Jewish media,” Picciolini said. “We used to say that the Jews controlled the media. And now they’ve just massaged the phrase to call it ‘liberal media.’”
Picciolini began his transformation from neo-Nazi to anti-hate advocate in his late teens. “Having my child when I was 19 years old and being married was a powerful catalyst for me because I finally had something to love,” he said.
In 2010, he co-founded Life After Hate, a not-for-profit organization dedicating to fighting racism and violent extremism. Five years later he published his memoirs of his time in the neo-Nazi movement, Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead.
Former neo-Nazi skinhead speaks out
A former neo-Nazi skinhead who embraced hate brought a very different message to Southeast Texas Tuesday. Frank Meeink became a skinhead at 13-years-old. By 17, he was recruiting white supremacists and was arrested for kidnapping a man and video-taping his torture. In prison, Meeink started questioning his racist beliefs after befriending men he used to think he hated.
More than 200 people came to Antioch Missionary Baptist Church to listen to Meeink’s story, including law enforcement agents who investigate hate groups. The former skinhead says he changed when he developed empathy for others.
“That’s how people stop using [drugs], to people that hate, to people that hate gay people,” said Meeink. “You know it’s always the same, you say to guys who are fearful and hateful of gays, ‘why’d you stop hating them?’ ‘Well I got to know one.’ Oh, so you had empathy for them? Like, they went through the same maybe things as you did in life huh?” Meeink said empathy was the key that helped him get out of gangs.
Confessions of a former neo-Nazi: ‘I would have killed people’
Maxime Fiset was on his way to becoming a neo-Nazi when he was arrested for inciting hatred. Fellow skinheads had shaved his head for him, he had a Nazi flag in his room, draped over his copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and books on bomb-making,. Fiset had founded the first organization and website in Quebec to bring right-wing extremists together, “The Fédération des québécois de souche.”
It wasn’t until his arrest at school in Quebec City that he truly became radicalized and planned to inflict maximum damage. In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, a week after U.S. President Donald Trump’s inaguration, as swastikas appeared across the U.S. and in Canada, Fiset decided to look back on how he joined the neo-Nazi movement — and how he got out.
By: Michael Schwartz