Jeff Schoep was once America’s leading neo-Nazi, propagating anti-Semitism and building an army to wage “racist violence” in his role as leader of the National Socialist Movement.
But now he claims to be renouncing his racist past to help wean far-right extremists away from white supremacy using the blueprint developed by his mentor, a former al Qaeda recruiter.
They launch next month with an anti-fascist magazine that uses all the techniques that Jesse Morton once used to convert young Americans into jihadists, first attracting recruits with propaganda before sucking them into a network of online activists who radicalized them to fight at home or abroad.
Schoep, 45, said a former neo-Nazi and a former jihadist may seem like odd bedfellows but they shared a common experience.
“What Jesse did with the jihadists is that he had a magazine as a propagandist that reached people interested in extremism, and now he is countering it with the same template but for good purposes,” he said.
Morton was sentenced to 11½ years in prison in 2012 for conspiring to solicit murder. His Revolution Muslim website, which he ran while a student in New York, became a focal point for American-born extremists who were groomed for militant groups. His magazine was the template for al Qaeda’s English language publication, Inspire.
A collaborator died in a drone strike in Yemen, where he had joined al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And another recruit was implicated in a plot to fly a bomb-laden drone into the Pentagon.
Yet he was released early for cooperating with investigators and formed Parallel Networks, using his understanding of radicalization to rehabilitate extremists.
The method has won the backing of academics. He counts among his collaborators the former New York City Police Department intelligence analyst who once tracked him.
He said he was taken aback when Schoep contacted him out of the blue but he immediately understood the connection.
“He said, ‘I’ve been leaving this thing for two years, but I just don’t know how to do it,’” said Morton, who realized his model could apply to the growing threat from right-wing extremism.
Over email and late-night phone calls, the unlikely comrades explored their shared experience of being drawn into a life dominated by a tight-knit brotherhood and all-consuming ideology. And how difficult it was to quit that family.
Schoep said, “In that sense, when you’re in the movement, all your friends, everybody that you know, is there, and you don’t really have outside influences.”
He became obsessed as a child with Hitler after learning that his German grandfather fought in the Second World War. He rose quickly to become head of America’s neo-Nazi movement at the age of 21.
His brown-shirted National Socialist Movement was the biggest in the U.S., and he claims to have recruited more than 1,000 members, including children as young as 14 through the Viking Youth Corps.
He admits sharing violent, racist imagery and advocating the use of car bombs against “enemies.” It was all part of a campaign to prevent what he saw as the marginalization of white Americans.
“They feel white people are being replaced,” he said. “They feel there’s white genocide happening.”
In recent years, he attempted a rebranding, ditching the swastika and toning down the imagery to fit in with the new alt-right. But his efforts met resistance from members and ridicule from critics who still saw ugly racism at work.
He said it was a three-year process to leave, inspired in part by the kindness of a Jewish woman who offered him a place to stay when his address was published by anti-fascist activists.
“But once you’re deeply embedded in the ideology, in the movement, everything you know, everyone you know is all tied into it,” he said.
The conversations with Morton led to a magazine, Ctl-Alt-Del Hate, which will be published on Nov. 4.
It includes articles on right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys designed to provoke a reaction among adherents. A small team of volunteers will spread the magazine, then monitor social media to encourage members into a discussion about alternatives.
“It is exactly what we used to in the Jihadist world,” said Morton, who once would pass Osama bin Laden’s teachings around the internet, “but the other way around.”
Morton has won respect in the counterradicalization world for his work despite a setback in 2017 when he spent 90 days in jail after being arrested for cocaine possession, violating the terms of his parole.
But Schoep, long a figure of notoriety, may struggle to convince skeptics that his conversion is genuine. He said he was ultimately tired of a life in which friends had been killed or imprisoned.
“There is something out there that is better than being involved in this,” he said. “The movement is a dead end. It’s a dead end for so many people.”
The post Former neo-Nazi leader joins al Qaeda recruiter to fight extremism appeared first on Washington Examiner.