In August 2016, a thread popped up on a forum from a user with a grainy black and white avatar.
“C-Bus in the house!”
The post goes on to describe various city attractions. The user lists off parks and university centers to hang out and recruit members. They also mention a good target for activism: The Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Memorial.
The once-obscure forum is The Daily Stormer, started in 2013 by Ohio native Andrew Anglin. The Daily Stormer brings together neo-Nazis and houses Anglin’s blog broken down into sections such as “The Jewish Problem” and “Race War.”
It has since grown in ranking, surging to be the 13,352nd most popular site on the web. This seems low but compared to hovering around 30,000th in 2016, it’s a meteoric rise.
It’s now April 2017, and I stumbled across the thread when I visited the site on a whim to see if there were Ohio-centric discussions. Much to my delight and simultaneous despair, Ohio had a healthy community of neo-Nazis organizing all around that thread from August.
The original poster, “JulianCarmen,” was starting a “book club.” In reality, these clubs serve as an organizing tool for gathering neo-Nazis. Anglin outlined the club as a place to “develop brotherhood” and “become stronger, better men” in a blog post riddled with Nazi imagery. They seek to build members’ masculinity and explicitly say members will “hunt and capture your own women as part of the SBC’s (Stormer Book Clubs) operations.” Anglin views masculinity as tied to picking up women, physical fitness and brotherhood all through a lens of Nazism that boasts the ideology as the pinnacle of manliness.
Neo-Nazi groups in Ohio appear to be moving behind closed doors and private Facebook groups, but they show no sign of slowing down their efforts even in secret. This thread provides a brief look into what happens when neo-Nazis organize in view of the public.
JulianCarmen encouraged interested men to send him an email in order to get organized. The protocol was simple: Email him your phone number and you’ll chat for a bit so he can make sure you’re not an “infiltrator.” You’ll then discuss a time to meet up in person. Once you’ve been vetted, you’ll get a phone message telling you where the group meeting will be.
The website itself is rife with a sense of paranoia and suspicion. Amidst the masculine hubris there is near constant talk of infiltrators and feds. The spectral boogeyman of someone infiltrating their meetups in order to disrupt their organizing is brought up when new members give out too much information on the forum.
I was skeptical of their strategies and attempts to remain secret, given how much information JulianCarmen was willingly giving out. Before beginning my dive into this stranger’s internet persona, I realized I was becoming the boogeyman they feared so much. Their paranoia wasn’t all misguided as I began to chip away at JulianCarmen’s identity.
He already stated he was from the Hilliard area when he proclaimed it to be “fairly white” but then expressed disdain for the large Muslim population. Then when Anglin, the creator of the site, himself jumped into the thread to ask if the thread was still active, JulianCarmen replied, saying he was busy with a new baby.
I was slowly assembling a picture of JulianCarmen, the man behind the strange avatar. And so the avatar was where I started. A quick Google reverse-image search revealed it to be from a group photo of the members of Operation Paperclip, a U.S. program from 1945 to bring over Nazi scientists for their expertise. A neo-Nazi with a Nazi avatar didn’t seem like anything groundbreaking at the time.
Next, I turned to Facebook. I searched Julian Carmen and got no results in Ohio. I went back to the original post and scanned it for clues. I looked over the email address he provided again. His username was JulianCarmen, but his email listed something slightly different: julianmalizia. I typed the new name into Facebook and clicked on the top result.
Instantly, I knew I had it. His cover photo was that same group photo of the Nazi scientists. It was the closest thing to a smoking gun in an internet manhunt. From there it felt like his entire life was before me. I poured through relatives, photos and dropped off Facebook to search deeper across the internet. Within an hour I was staring at his home address.
A strange feeling came over me as I unfurled this man’s life within an afternoon. My gut twisted as I stared at my notes and saw a disturbing amount of details about a man I’ve never met — and all from a single forum post. The new baby he mentioned in a passing comment? I had the registry he filed for his friends and family.
I shot him an email. I explained I was a reporter and I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to pick his brain about how he joined the forum and why he left such a clear bread trail back to his personal life. Did he even know his neo-Nazi persona and his real life were so easily linked? By the time of publication, he hadn’t replied; however, his last post on the forum was Tuesday April 18.
So back to the thread that started it all. It’s filled with advice for residents of Columbus on how to avoid Muslims, Somalis and whomever else the groups feels are undesirable. One user chimed in to proclaim the south side of Columbus as “relatively white.” Another user wonders about the future of Columbus under Mayor Andrew Ginther: “Ginther just doubled-down on refugees.” JulianCarmen replies in agreement, proclaiming Ginther to be a “fat cuck” and then laments that he saw one Muslim family in rural Ohio.
The thread went dark at the end of February with a only few intermittent posts asking for email addresses.
On March 10, JulianCarmen chimed back in to offer an update. He told everyone of a Facebook group that holds most of the members of the thread and is growing. As always, he offers his email as a contact into the group. In order to get admitted, one would have to go through the same vetting as before, which still includes a short phone call and an in-person meeting. Finally, the admin of the group personally vets each candidate because “he has more on the line.”
The thread is now fairly dead; it seems all the action has moved to this monolithic Facebook group. I can’t help but admit they made the right choice. The amount of information I was able to glean from a couple months of activity was disturbing.
My deep dive into the personal life of a neo-Nazi on a forum is by no means unique. It’s not hard to imagine a person with a different intent going after a random person on Twitter and within an afternoon staring at their home address. The internet isn’t the Wild West it once was. Interlocking threads can connect us from our most obscure contributions on the web to the rest of our lives in an instant.
Ohio neo-Nazis are gaining momentum, and within the thread itself it’s easy to see the spread of members from Columbus to Cleveland to Cincinnati. Users pop in saying they’re willing to take the long drive to Columbus to meet up with like-minded individuals. By now, the threads’ participants have moved to the closed-door Facebook group.
The final post of the thread reads: “Toledo area, looking to get organized.”