Autobiographies of Former Neo-Nazis (Part I of V)

*This article series was originally published at Violent Extremist Exit Resources (VEER)

Exit Resources: Former neo-Nazis

“Prejudice is learned behavior, and so is tolerance…Interactive education about tolerance is the only key I’ve seen that will fit in the lock of this problem. I believe education has to begin with kids as early as elementary age…The entire community…need to band together”
~ TJ Leyden, former neo-Nazi

This article is going to introduce the reviews of three former white supremacists autobiographies: TJ LeydenFrank Meeink and Arno Michaelis. I will also be reviewing other autobiographies of former white supremacists that come out, so far we are awaiting stories from: Angela KingTony McAleer and Christian Picciolini.

This resource is intended to provide a public resource that considers the range and frequency of social change and identity transformation that human beings can achieve. Elements of the human experience such as resiliency and compassion are at the forefront of each one of these people’s experiences. I have had interactions with each and everyone of these people and it has been my observation that each one is brilliant and brave in their own way because they speak openly to the public about their life stories. Each one of us that has a public role and speak openly about our pasts risk public criticism, but in spite of the criticisms anyone may have, each one of us are vulnerable and offering that vulnerability to the general public in hopes that we can contribute to a better world; at least that is the trusted perspective of each one of us.

There is no doubt that I have a very analytical perspective and some people can be offended by this fact, but I hope that people do not mistake my directness for malice. I prefer to make statements that are sharp, and sometimes perceived as stabbing, only to encourage and challenge people and institutions. It appears to me that the network of former extremists and terrorists is in motion towards developing as a [sub] culture. I have observed social dynamics developing within the public work we do as individuals forming a collective direction, not all of which are beneficial dynamics. Collectivity can sometimes form into a negative institutional steady state. I hope to contribute my analysis to our collective in order to offer analytical perspectives that may otherwise go unmentioned.

First, I will offer excerpts from my graduate studies thesis, which include some basic interactions I have had with each of these people. I will then offer the process and findings of my research analysis of TJ Leyden, Frank Meeink, Arno Michaelis and myself. Following this article you will then be able to read my book reviews of each of these former white supremacists stories. Preceding this article I did write a comprehensive book review of Elisa Hategan’s book Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence Service’s Greatest Cover-Up. It is my hope that this resource of exit stories is accessed by people in order to encourage others to change and to offer possible ways we as formers can keep engaged with further growth as individuals within the public forum.

Following text are thesis [edited] excerpts from:

A “Former” Perspective:
An Exploration of the Disengagement Process from Violent Right Wing Extremism

Daniel Clayton Gallant
B.A. (First Nations Studies), UNBC, 2011
M.S.W., UNBC, 2014
This text is copyright of Daniel C. Gallant © and cannot be distributed, nor copied, without expressed written permission from author.
*…signifies edits
**[…] signifies edits
Relationships with FVRWE
*To receive permission or access to whole thesis document please contact Daniel C. Gallant.

TJ Leyden

My relationships with several FVRWE (Former Violent Right Wing Extremists; aka i.e. white supremacist racist skinheads) are included within this study. I had been introduced to these FVRWE over the last decade. First was my contact with TJ Leyden.
TJ was the first prominent voice to denounce the VRWE network as a FVRWE. TJ has been acknowledged to be a trailblazer of exiting the violent world that we shared. I had first contacted TJ in about 2005 when I was seeking information in order to disprove ‘the movements’ theories of a fictionalized ‘Zionist conspiracy.’ At that point I had already learned how and why race was a failed context of logic/reasoning. I emailed TJ after reading about him online. I read about how he changed his life and that he denounced the white supremacist movement. I emailed his social service initiative called StrHATE Talk

I wanted to find some sort of literature, or at least an explanation that would deconstruct and prove the RWE doctrine wrong. I wanted hard facts to say that there was no such thing as a ‘Zionist-conspiracy,’ which is allegedly claimed to have an intention to obliterate the ‘white race’. TJ Leyden referred me to a cultic studies expert who then put me in touch with an organization in Edmonton, Alberta, that worked with former cult members. That agency then invited me to a global cultic studies conference that was held in Edmonton, at the University of Alberta. Coincidentally the conference was being held shortly after I began searching for this help. My journey began. I now understand this journey to be the process of surpassing the mere behavioral change of disengagement. The role of post-secondary education in my life in conjunction with First Nations’ culture, language, and ceremony has enabled me to integrate a degree of decolonial praxis into my healing journey (Gallant, 2014, p. 77-78).

I had not been in contact with TJ Leyden since I first contacted him nearly a decade ago, until recently. I was re-introduced to TJ through the social network AVE. After several online discussions with an executive at Google Ideas we had a lengthy phone conversation about my life and what I am researching. He informed me of the reasons why the AVE (Against Violent Extremism) network was started. He stated that the white supremacist movement has always had an online presence since the beginning of the internet… Moreover, my introduction to the Internet was through the white supremacist movement in 1996. Specifically I was introduced to Stormfront, which is a discussion board run by RWE (Right Wing Extremist) Don Black… I broadened my white supremacist involvement through online forums such as Stormfront…, and then later recruited youth in cyber spaces…[as I had indicated on the short documentary film Brotherhood of Hate] (Gallant, 2014, p. 79).

Arno Michaelis

Arno founded an online journal of basic human kindness called Life-after-hate … I discovered Arno was the front man of a white supremacist hate rock band that I used to listen to and pump myself up with before I would get energized with hate and beat people on the streets. Arno’s…music was a passionately hateful charged system that fueled masses of [violent right ring extremist] youth across the world. Arno’s band sang anthems from an organization that I belonged to, World Church of the Creator…Arno’s band had record sales alone that exceeded over 20,000 copies in the 1990s… Now after many years, Arno and I were introduced [to one another] through AVE and Lah…I was excited to add Arno to my list of credible [former-violent-right-wing-extremists] for this study.

Soon after, Lah invited me to be an author for their journal. Now, after building some relations with Lah, and Arno, online and through phone conversations, we plan to meet, and hope to work together to educate people. Arno has a very similar perspective about the role of education, within healing contexts, as I do. He has a grass roots understanding, which I respect a lot. It is my hope that Arno and I can build a bridge between our individual experiences in the future that works towards curriculum development. Arno has turned his autobiography into an educator’s tool with the help of an American educator…

Frank Meeink

I was also introduced to Frank Meeink through the AVE and Lah network. With limited contact we have discovered some parallel directions and themes between our stories. Through this study I hope to bridge further relations with these three FVRWE and others. I also want to include two other names from Lah and AVE. Angela King…[a] declared feminist researcher, think-er, and do-er, Angela inspires me on a regular basis. I had hoped to include her work in my study. The only way I could fit her into my research without distracting from my topic at this point is by mentioning that her research does exist on the topic of gender, from a feminist perspective within the white supremacist movement…

The other name I want to mention is Tony McAleer. Tony is a Canadian who was a leader of the VRWE network in Canada and has since become a bona fide FVRWE…Tony is the only one of these FVRWE that I had met in the past, during my time in the Canadian white supremacist movement. We had met one time in Vancouver, BC, during the 1990s. Tony is also the only FVRWE I have met in person within AVE to date. I re-acquainted with him on April 4, 2013, in Vancouver, BC. Unfortunately Tony’s autobiography [has not come] out in time for this study. I hope to include both Tony and Angela’s autobiographies in future studies, after they are published (Gallant, 2014, p. 80-81).

Emerging Culture

Through the AVE…and other similar networks, we see that the emerging culture of [former extremists] includes former cult members, former extremists, and former gang members. This collective social network has already developed cultural nuances. For instance NGOs, online dialogues, discourse, and narratives could be seen as the beginnings of new era of counter-[extremist] dialogues/measures. Further establishing a cohesive culture of [former extremists] could prove to be an effective counter-[extremist/terrorist] measure.

I have identified autobiographies of three separate [former white supremacists in North America]: TJ LeydenFrank Meeink and Arno Michaelis and I have included some of my published autobiographic narratives as well [for analysis in my study]. These authors are all [former violent white supremacist extremists]…Positioning myself within the AVE, as an author for Lah, research affiliate of Terror, Security And Society (TSAS)graduate studies researchereducatoractivist, and a member of the emerging cultural phenomenon of [former violent right wing extremists]. I hope to contribute to counter-terrorist discourse, particularly to fill in some gaps identified by Dr. John Horgan…who calls for qualitative research on the disengagement process from [violent extremist/terrorist action] (Gallant, 2014, p. 112 – 113).

It is my hope that this Exit Resource website will contribute to a broader understanding of the human capacity for social change and identity transformation. This will be the first article in a series of book reviews and analysis of stories of former violent extremists.

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About Daniel Gallant

Daniel is a social worker (MSW,RSW) and is a current student of law, who is also an emerging writer and has been published internationally in literary journals. Poetry is his primary creative processing tool, and also has published creative non-fiction (auto-biographic). He has a B.A. in First Nations Studies. I am a consultant for media, scholars, and government bodies about violent right wing extremism in Canada and a trained counsellor; Daniel offers services to individuals seeking to leave violent extremist lifestyles, and facilitates public speaking on matters of resiliency. Daniel presents Scholars from the Underground Blog in order to promote transformation and to contribute to create safe spaces in society for true cultural transformation. Canada has to move from a racist nation to an inclusionary society. We are blessed to live in a space and time where we can now talk openly about these social issues. Daniel welcomes you to is Blogosphere.

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