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‘Get involved, because the Nazis certainly are’
Talking with Amanda Moore about her time with the alt-right
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In 2021, I went to a bar in DC to meet a friend who is a journalist. When he showed up, he brought his friend Amanda, who had that day been doxxed by the alt-right. As we drank too much whiskey, Amanda told me how she had spent the past several months undercover with the alt-right — going to events and rallies and conferences. How she’d wound up at the “Stop the Steal” rally and the threats and harassment was now directed to her online.
Two years after I met Amanda, she published her story in The Nation. You can read it all here. The article shows how easy it is for a young person to get involved with the alt-right; how that ideology can subsume you with power and influence; and how tangled up it is with conservative politics.
It’s easy to point the finger at extremist factions and say “that’s not us” or “this is just the fringe” but in reality, as Moore’s and so many other people’s reporting has shown, extremist ideology has tangled its roots with those so many other political movements in America that it’s hard to fully weed it all out. Moore writes, “People in the political center and on the left tend to have a monolithic view of the far right. In reality, it is an expansive ecosystem that includes neo-Nazis, Christian nationalists, conspiracy theorists, anti-government militias, and white nationalists. These groups have some beliefs that conflict, but they are generally willing to overlook their differences.”
And while they are a minority, vocal and active extremists are getting books banned from schools.
To quote Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”: "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity."
The passionate intensity of the worst of America has a stranglehold on our politics. Meanwhile, the best of us, stay away from fear.
I spoke with Moore about her time going undercover and what she learned about it all. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
LL: Why did you go undercover with the alt-right?
Amanda: Ultimately it was kind of something I just fell into, like an accident. My original reasoning for going out to “Stop the Steal” rallies was pretty simple. I had wanted to be a writer, but writing pays shit. So I was in a completely different career path. I worked in live events, but it was 2021 so there was nothing to do.
I was at the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 before the Capitol riot, and I was like, "Oh, shit, this is bigger than a blog post."
Editor’s note Moore wrote about her time at the rally and how she witnessed violence, harassment and intimidation. She found herself marching along with the Proud Boys toward the Capitol…
I found myself marching down to the Capitol around 12:45 pm on January 6, ten feet from the QAnon Shaman — without a gas mask. By the time I made it to the edge of the Capitol grounds, it was packed. A man with tears pouring down his face came up to me. “I just punched a fucking cop!! He was trying to hurt some lady, and I told him we don’t do that where I’m from, and I just hit him!!! I’m not crying, they’re gassing us.” His eyes focused on my shirt, which reads “Biden: Not My President” in the same font used by the real campaign. For a brief, terrifying moment he looked furious, before he laughed. “I thought you were one of them for a minute. Hey, I want you to know — I’m really not crying. It’s because of the tear gas.”
So from there, maybe a week after January 6th, two weeks after, I bought a ticket to CPAC down in Orlando, and I used airline miles and hotel points. I still had not really planned to get very involved, but I had a better backstory than I had for the rallies. At the rallies, no one's really exchanging excessive information. While I was at CPAC, this guy, who I later discovered described himself as a blood and soil libertarian, which is a reference to a Nazi slogan, asked me to help out with his America First National Populace group. From there it was completely different than what I had set out to do.
I was also deeply motivated by my belief that the fascist threat to the country was misunderstood by much of the press and far more dangerous than what was being reported.
LL: I remember meeting you one night in DC, just after you had gotten doxed. And we were very tipsy on whiskey and you told me that you felt like even though there was a surge in white nationalist violence before the 2016 election, that something felt different this time in the rage that people were experiencing.
Amanda: When Trump came down that escalator in June 2015, I remember looking at my boyfriend and being like, "That asshole is our next president." He was like, "That's not true. That'll never happen." I was like, "Yeah, it is." I grew up conservative, believing in the rapture and that Bill and Hilary Clinton were connected to the anti-Christ. For a long time, I was a libertarian. And I later I worked a job in sales talking about pick up trucks for a living. You do that long enough with a bunch of farmers, and I tell you what, you know exactly how people are talking. He talked like my family.
I have one uncle, I called him my “drunkcle,” and when Trump talks, it’s the same cadence and the same points, honestly.
So I mean, this is all I ever knew, and I was vehemently opposed to Trump. The infiltration of the alt-right into the Libertarian party, which ultimately turned into mass support for Donald Trump among Libertarians, is what pushed me left and out of the party.
But 2020 and 2020 was a really difficult time. Some people were doing well, because they were saving so much money on commutes. Meanwhile, I was working in live events at the time and there were a bunch of those industries that were gone. What were we supposed to do? It's like, what, am I supposed to go work at the grocery store and make the exact amount of money that I would make taking an unemployment check?
So it was constantly being jerked around and just feeling completely forgotten about. I don't know, there's also, in the industry I was in, there's a lot of Trump support.
LL: There is a thing politicians do where they engage these far-right extremists in subtle ways. But then if they get caught with them, they disavow them. In Iowa, a congresswoman spoke at an event with Nick Fuentes, a figure in the alt-right, and claimed it was an accident. But you don’t accidentally speak at the same event with a neo-Nazi. It happens because you have a lot in common. I think one of the things that you write about so well in The Nation is these far-right extremists are not just these little dudes on the side, they're the veins. They're these tiny little veins running through the entire party. There's no way a conservative politician can really exculpate themselves from this far-right extremism.
Amanda: I'm actually writing about this now. There’s an organization called Republicans for National Renewal and they organized the Americans First Caucus. The America First Caucus was a secret group of lawmakers who vowed to preserve “Anglo-Saxon” traditions. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar were involved.
Of course, when it leaked to the press, Greene and Gosar are both like, "Never heard of it, don't know what it was. Must have been a staffer." But I watched these extremists talk about it in front of Greene and Gosar. I recorded them talking about it in front of them. So it seems to me, that if you didn't know what it was, maybe you should have asked what caucus you were involved with.
Look at Nate Hochman, he was the DeSantis aid who was fired in July after making a campaign video with a Nazi symbol in it and sharing it on a burner account. When that video came out, I knew as soon as I watched it, I was like, Nate knows what this is, but so does everybody else. So if he posted it, everybody had to know, because that's the way it works. It's just who's the one person that you can blame things on. My dog ate my homework, my staffer signed me up with a Nazi.
But the politicians that keep having these little accidents by associating with Nazis, I mean, my experience tells me that they're lying.
LL: I know when you first wrote your story it was a lot longer. What got cut?
Amanda: So a lot of the foreign connections got cut. One of the first things that Shane Trejo, who heads one of the many Michigan GOP groups, had me do, literally the first thing he had me do when was meet from somebody from the Hungarian Embassy to get trained to recruit people to the alt-right. There are a lot of connections between Hungary and the American far right. And it was a huge crisis for me, because I'm playing it cool with him. But then privately, I'm messaging journalists and I'm like, "Oh, is this a crime? Can I go to prison?"
But yeah, a lot of these connections, these guys will go out to Hungary. Gavin Wax, the President of the New York Young Republicans club, has spoken glowingly of far right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The rest of them will go out to Hungary and have little international populous meetings, just stuff like that. So there's a huge foreign connection that is just not in that article.
The passionate intensity of the worst of America has a stranglehold on our politics. Meanwhile, the best of us, stay away from fear.
LL: There are a lot of names and in-fighting and threads of connection in the alt-right, but what should the average person take away from your reporting?
Amanda: It’s important to know that there's a percentage of people in and around the Republican Party who are just blatantly Nazis. The only way that this can really be stopped is for the Republican Party to step up and either vote people out or remove people from office, whatever they have to do. To squash it in a way that we as Libertarians just never did. We just let these people come in and take over the party.
Also, extremists are running for local office. So the average person can run for office or make sure they vote. If you are not a lunatic, try to get on the school board, try to get on the city council. Just something. Get involved, because the Nazis certainly are.
LL: People often contact me to say, "Okay, I want to run for school board. I want to run for local office, but I'm afraid. I'm afraid of these far-right extremists attacking me." I get really frustrated by that because I'm like, this culture of harassment creates an atmosphere of fear that stops good, kind people from wanting to step up and put their necks out. What would you say to people who, when you say, "Get involved if you're not a Nazi" reply "Okay, but I don't want to get doxxed on the internet"?
Amanda: I mean, I will say I've written about Gavin Wax in the past, and I have a pretty loud Twitter account, and I fight with him specifically quite a bit. I wondered if The Nation was going to say something to me, like, “Amanda, shut up.” But the whole goal with harassment is to get me to fuck off and shut up.
I've talked to people as sources for my stories and they would tell me, "Yeah, other journalists said they were going to write about this too. Then Gavin scared them off."
So, don’t be scared off. You might start to get that backlash. But just give it right back to them because that's what they understand, and it makes the harassment not as bad, ultimately. I mean, this has been my experience, and I'm not an expert, so I don't really have a good answer for this question. My real answer is, suck it the fuck up and do the right thing.
LL: Are you worried about the next election?
Amanda: I don't know. It's really hard to say today because everyone in the alt-right is worried that everyone else is a fed. Because there are still people going to jail because of January 6. So, to get people to be together at a mass scale like January 6th, that requires people being okay being together again and trusting each other.
I think there's just so many variables at this point. I think that Trump will be the nominee. That's my prediction. I don't think that he'll win, but I think if he loses and it's not a complete blowout, I think that they will continue to treat him as the orange idol. They will continue to try to ... I don't know, I don't want to say have vengeance for him because it has a violent connotation, but it could. I think him losing will help reinvigorate them if he doesn't lose by a ton. People's identities are wrapped up in Trumpism. It's not like being wrapped up in being a Republican, or Democrat, or Libertarian, whatever. It's a specific person, and I don't know how we combat that.