About Schmidt: How a White Nationalist Seduced Anarchists Around the World (Chapter 2)
By Alexander Reid Ross and Joshua Stephens
Previous installments: Chapter 1
Storm Clouds over the Battlefront
This past September, in response to incontrovertible evidence of Michael Schmidt’s racist activities, AK Press announced it was cutting ties with him and ceasing all printing of works connected to him. He quickly responded, mounting a preemptive defense in which he admitted opening and managing an account with Stormfront, arguably the preeminent online white supremacist forum, linked to some 100 racially-motivated killings.
The account dates back to the summer of 2006 — three years before the publication of Black Flame. In the lifespan of the account, he logged nearly 300 posts. Curiously, his explanation of it dated its origin a full year prior:
[S]ince 2005 until I shut it down recently, I maintained a profile on the white supremacist website. Let me explain: I am an investigative journalist by profession and in 2005 was working at the Saturday Star in Johannesburg. My beat included extra-Parliamentary politics — social movements, trade unions, and political organizations from the ultra-left to the ultra-right. My editor Brendan Seery allowed me to set up a Stormfront account under which I could pose as a sympathetic fellow-traveller in order to keep an eye on what the white right-wing in South Africa was talking about: in other words, this was professionally vetted by my editor.
Schmidt went on to state that he lied consistently for years about a group connected to his Stormfromt account, called Black Battlefront. In his statement, he openly confessed that he ran both the Stormfront account and Black Battlefront, but his admission makes confidence in his explanation difficult. Simply put, the details are bizarre. The deception in question, according to his mea culpa, included using a bout of anterograde amnesia in order to pass off a character he allegedly created on the internet, and then portrayed as an acquaintance in the employ of a shadowy private security company. According to this story, this character may or may not have hacked his Stormfront account to plant a post about Black Battlefront to frame him.
The defense goes on to mysteriously discard that fabrication while retaining a tale about another unnamed intelligence agent from South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), who he says had recently come out to him after spying on a friend for two full years. He could not admit to the Black Battlefront profile at the time, he claims, for fear that the NIA would learn of it, and retaliate. Since Schmidt has claimed journalistic privilege over his “source,” we cannot substantiate the story about the NIA agent who suddenly had a change of heart and came clean to the close friend of the anarchist on whom she’d spent two years spying. However, the Facebook page for Black Battlefront, as well as one of its moderators, retained several friends in common with Schmidt’s own more public profile. There seem two plausible readings of the narrative, each equally bizarre. Either he was attempting to entrap his own friends, or Black Battlefront remained a well-kept secret between Schmidt and a close circle of like-minded peers. There nonetheless remains one thing his story oddly fails to establish in any way: that it was a personal page used to infiltrate the virtual networks of white supremacists and national-anarchists.
It’s further confounding that Schmidt did not inform anyone about either of these apparent agents (the one he invented, as well as the one purportedly real) until suspicion began to swell around his links to white supremacist and white nationalist websites and groups. It also defies explanation that Schmidt is adamant in protecting a person who spied on the South African anarchist movement for years. What we know for sure, beyond Schmidt’s hazy memory, is the truth about his Stormfront profile, which appears lockstep with Schmidt’s public life when examined in closer detail.
As well as a possible reference to a kind of cigarette, Schmidt’s preferred Stormfront profile name, “KarelianBlue,” suggests a reference to his blue eyes and purported ancestry (the Karelians were an ancient people from Northern Europe, a reference echoed in the Norse names of his dogs), as well as a popular white supremacist pop band, Prussian Blue. On Stormfront, he details his tattoos, describes his neighborhood, holds forth on his (deeply flawed) knowledge of leftist and fascist movements, and even hosts a smiling photograph of himself with a shaved head in front of a Boer filling station, appearing to repurpose the sign in a macho, racist joke. Another photo on the Stormfront profile of KarelianBlue shows a blonde woman wearing a Nazi sidecap that one source confirmed to us Schmidt owns. If the intent was to go undercover, all the personal details Schmidt shared on Stormfront would undermine the anonymity of a simple “research” project.
Publicly, he enjoyed hot rod culture and his old Mustang, going to metal shows, and drinking beers with friends. Privately, he indulged in ignominious racism through an anonymous profile on at least four white supremacist sites. To what extent these scenes overlapped, it is not entirely clear, but on his profile, KarelianBlue lists as interests, “history, militancy, rockabilly, fast cars” — perhaps a clue that he shared his white supremacist views with communities beyond anarchists.
One of the sites in the white supremacist blogosphere that KarelianBlue visited and commented on is a blog called The Spoils of War managed by someone calling themselves, “the accidental ‘racist.’” Commenting in 2007 on an article comparing the analysis of white privilege to medieval witch trials, KarelianBlue waxes prosaic:
Although Schmidt describes his posts on Stormfront as “pretty neutral in tone,” we found them to be consistently otherwise. They regularly refer to Africans as “k*ffirs,” a highly derogatory slur, when they do not refer to them as a “subspecies”; they also lament the dying out of the white race, “white genocide,” and call for potentially violent “fascist skinhead” intervention. Well afield of mere research, Schmidt’s Stormfront profile and other interventions in the white supremacist blogosphere encourage white supremacist organizing, offer strategic options and critiques of antifascist analysis, and discuss historical trivia about the “Good Guys of the Waffen SS,” as well as provide links to Nazi paraphernalia for sale online.
In posts marked with the black and red Nordic cross backed by green — the flag of the short-lived Republic of Karelia on the border of Russia and Finland — KarelianBlue corrects other users about the radical history of the Soweto riots, while also deriding the Black Consciousness movement for reverse-racism. Publicly, in writing done under his own name, Schmidt has shown no compunction about smearing African politicians with allegations of “black racist” and anti-white “hate speech.”
To put what Schmidt describes as “occasional” posting into perspective, it yielded an average of more than one Stormfront post per week for the first four years. Many were more informative than inquisitive. Often, they were deeply personal, almost introspective. Stormfront seems to have functioned for him as a forum for a kind of soul searching, where he sought to identify problems holding him back from securing a romantic partner or some other variety of success. His activity depicts an isolated, deeply frustrated radical blowing off racist steam.
Desperate, esoteric, sad windows into an incredibly turbulent soul, described on his profile as a “lonely Aryan redoubt”.
Networking as a Skinhead
On his profile, KarelianBlue declares that his heroes are those “who stand their ground and fight back,” and his earlier posts are full of a sense of alienation in a neighborhood that is decaying. He writes vividly about an ongoing turf war in his neighborhood between whites and blacks, in which it appears the whites are losing.
In a post dated August 20, 2007, he writes about defending his white neighbors from potentially “dangerous” people of color:
I don’t have firearms as that attracts the attention of the authorities: instead I prefer bladed weapons, my favourite being a vicious, curved Gurkha kuki [a Nepalese blade]. A month ago, the white American student across the road heard a noise and called me for help. I ran out, around the block, with the kukri tucked back against my forearm (out of sight, but perfect for CQB [Close Quarters Combat]) and found nothing, but I sure impressed the Yank.
The same blade appears in a selfie on one of Schmidt’s Facebook profiles.
In a post from April 10, 2009, KarelianBlue brags, “it’s hard to be an open white racist in south africa, but i’m an obvious skinhead.” Indeed, photos on his profiles from the time period show him to be presenting as a skinhead. Less than two weeks later, KarelianBlue posts about wearing the traditional skinhead gear — boots and braces — and walking into a mostly-black, formerly-Scottish bar to make his presence known:
These posts appear to reveal significant and corresponding details about his own private life, defining himself a fascist skinhead defending his neighborhood with lethal weapons in the unfriendly territory of South Africa under the “k*ffir state.” If Schmidt let these feelings show in public, the presentation was usually masked and indirect, often during drinking bouts with close friends. According to a source who was close to him, his drinking would often result in revealing utterances. “Why do they get to call us white trash, when we don’t get to use our words for them?” Occasionally, he would raise his voice and make racial slurs as though relieving himself of a burden. But for whatever reasons, he generally kept KarelianBlue bottled up. One former friend of Schmidt’s described his personality as “compartmentalized.” Sober, the racist beliefs, the championing of “white trash,” and the feeling of victimhood at the hands of Affirmative Action and the black majority were generally vaulted.
Ideological and Political Alignments
One revelation that Schmidt alerted us to in his lengthy, public statement was that he used his Stormfront profile to enter into correspondence with Troy Southgate, who he describes as “the founder of ‘national-anarchism.’” Schmidt revealed not only correspondence with Southgate, but that he had “talk[ed] on a personal level with Southgate and his cronies.” That Schmidt made no attempt to disguise his identity on Stormfront is both conspicuous and mysterious, for the simple fact that, had any of his anarchist peers recognized him (as some eventually did) his open visibility throws into question the status and function of his relationship with Southgate and his national-anarchist circle.
More shocking still, if only for Schmidt’s own openness about it with sources who spoke to us, was that while self-identifying as a “fascist skinhead,” he publicly supported the Freedom Front Plus Party (Vryheidsfront Plus, FF+), voting for them in the 2009 elections. The party is a political splinter group from the white nationalist paramilitary group Afrikaner Volksfront led by former army commander Constand Viljoen. As a right-wing coalition of groups, the Volksfront included the Boerestaat Party, and other ultranationalist white separatists. The FF+ currently proposes a Volkstaat in western South Africa that would provide land reform to shelter whites from Affirmative Action and the “black majority.” Since Africans did not occupy much of South Africa when the Dutch settlers came, FF+ members claim, a considerable amount of land is authentically Boer territory.
In a post from this time period (pictured above), dated April 23, 2009, KarelianBlue laments the high number of voters he saw at the ballot box in 2009, and claims he voted for “the only white rights party available.” A month after his account of voting for the FF+, KarelianBlue posted a demographic survey that breaks down class divides among whites, stating that they present “not quite the picture of white rule that is so often peddled by our k*ffir state.” Interestingly, while the statistics show that there are more poor whites than affluent whites, they also show that the white “emerging middle class” outnumbers the white poor. His statistics also fail to show the proportion of whites making up the ruling class as opposed to non-whites, who The Economist described as composing a mere “sliver” of the South African economic elite.
As pertains leftist rhetoric and theory, one does well to examine a November 15, 2009 post by KarelianBlue at length, if for no other reason than it clarifies Schmidt’s public analysis:
Though the characterization of Maoism is at best mistaken, KarelianBlue offers something of a class analysis in the post. “Our enemy in short is liberal capitalism which drove the deindustrialization process in what, for workers globally, amounts to a lose-lose situation,” he writes. Just over four months later, on March 6, 2010, in a post related to Iceland’s resistance to austerity, KarelianBlue exposes the nature of his anti-capitalism, asking the rhetorical question, “Is this not a Semitic-banker plot to destroy one of the world’s most homogenous Aryan cultures?” The anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist analysis lines up with what’s sometimes called “Third Positionist” fascism, defined by some as “neither left (Marxist) nor right (capitalist), but something else.”
Elsewhere, KarelianBlue delves deeper into racist terrain through additional reflections on demographics. On December 22, 2012, he looks into the South African Census, claiming that it “shows the decline of our race in South Africa,” and complaining that “White women are so prone to race-mixing (at least in the ‘cosmopolitan’ parts of our cities).” He goes on to say, “While the numbers of Whites marrying other sub-species is very rare, this is the thin end of the wedge.”
In a post created less than a year ago, KarelianBlue expresses delight that “Afrikaner women are far more racially-aware” than “English-speaking-White-South-Africans,” but laments:
As goes his own identity, KerelianBlue declares on November 17, 2007:
For Schmidt, the nation is a cultural development marked by centuries of wars and slavery; hence, his designation between white and black culture and the “white ‘national’ organization” in his “Politico-Cultural Dynamics” memo.
Detailing his practice of cultural identification, KarelianBlue declares on April 10, 2009:
He finishes the post “sig heil! 14!” To the casual reader, the number 14 is at best obscure, at worst almost meaningless. In the world of white nationalists, it’s code for the “14 words” of neo-fascist terrorist, David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”
Corroborating the information in this post, we found photos of Schmidt on one of his Facebook profiles wearing the mjolnir:
His surreptitious wearing of the sidecap in public was confirmed by a source who knew him. Furthermore, KarelianBlue writes about where he purchased his Nazi paraphernalia: the War Store at the Military History Museum. An eyewitness source confirmed Schmidt’s patronage of the store.
Fascism to Schmidt is neither costume party nor fetish, however. It runs as deeply as white nationalist beliefs in pan-European ancestral spirituality. KarelianBlue describes his tattoos on July 25 of last year, declaring, “my uniform is my skin… Every race has historically marked its skin with symbols relevant to its culture and whites are no exception, whether they align spiritually as Christian, Norse, Teutonic, Celtic or other.” He discusses his “14th Century family crest, which includes two crescent moons as symbols of the crusades my ancestors fought in.” Regarding his “Scythian chieftain’s tattoos,” he explains, “the Scythians were a white horse people who ruled the steppes from present-day Ukraine to the Altai mountains).” In truth, the Scythians were a nomadic people originating in modern-day Iran, and have become an important figure in the narrative of the emergence of the Indo-Aryan white race and the “birth of Eurasia,” which features prominently in neo-fascist literature.
He also lists his “lebensrune” tattoo. While the actual Nordic-German Algiz rune is not itself related to racism, it was only dubbed the “lebensrune” in twentieth-century Germany, first by occultists and then by the Nazi Party, who utilized it in Stormtrooper uniforms. It has been employed regularly since by neo-Nazi and white nationalists groups, the militant fascist skinhead group, Volksfront International, the the US National Alliance, and the Flemish nationalist Voorpost. Of his tattoos, Schmidt proclaims, “It means I’m serious about my heritage.”
These tattoos, taken in full, represent a deep expression of pan-European traditionalism and pride, linked to crusades and ancient warriors. The narrative inked on Schmidt’s flesh is in keeping with the cultural pride of colonial Europeans in Africa, bearing what scholar Tamir Bar-On calls an “ultranationalist or pan-European, pro-colonialist and militaristic tone calling for the revival of elite, chivalric warrior societies where honor and courage superseded material considerations” (2007, Ashgate). Schmidt’s honest descriptions of pan-European cultural signifiers based in crusades and German mysticism seems to provide a fuller picture of the white cultural identity staked out in 2008 ZACF internal document.
In a post from May 10, 2009, KarelianBlue tells his Stormfront forum that he “attended a private boy’s school in joburg [Johannesburg] for the full 12-year-stretch, matriculating in ’84.”
Recalling the system of seniority that carried over to the army when he signed up after school, KarelianBlue connects the hierarchical structures to the British system: “i was in favor of a mentoring approach and when i was an ouman myself [I] had a throw-down fight with another ouman [superior] who was being needlessly vicious towards his roof [inferior].” When he went to university, KarelianBlue claims, “[I] resolved i’d get extremely violent with anyone who even dared” to demean him. “In sum,” he announces, “i’d say my attitude is that if the system teaches respect, self-discipline, cleanliness and upstanding character, then okay. if it just serves to brutalise and crush the spirits of the younger then i’m opposed to it.” The question of anarchy hovers in the midst of this moral and ethical question: if a hierarchical system utilizes mentorship in an organic and orderly fashion, then it can be considered healthy; otherwise, the order must be disrupted.
Less than a month later, KarelianBlue strikes out against the enemies of such an ethical order — figures who promote disorder or, perhaps worse, an order of shame and guilt. Unable to limit his response to just one enemy under an illustratively titled thread:
Mandela was later the subject of a weird article from Schmidt published shortly after his death, titled, “From demonic terrorist to sainted icon: the transfiguration of Nelson Mandela,” which describes the late President of South Africa as the satanic-angelic leader of a politico-religious cult.
The Battlefront Analysis
While receiving accolades for Black Flame in 2009, Schmidt distanced himself from the ZACF. Former friends told us he was complaining of a lack of time, money, and personal interest. One piece of what he had been developing at that time frame was the analysis anchoring Black Battlefront:
Schmidt’s use of the term “political soldier” is significant, developed by the Strasserist faction of the English fascist party, National Front, to describe both rural paramilitaries and urban skinheads. Otto Strasser, the guiding theorist, had been a member of the original Nazi Party before being kicked out in 1930, at which time he formed a group called Black Front in order to grow a clandestine base of “true national socialists” against the Hitler faction. That the group Schmidt created took the name Black Battlefront suggests a nod to some sort of similar clandestine operation within the South African anarchist scene, through which he could encourage privately racist analyses among key friends. Put another way, his group seemed intended to function like a secret social club for anarchists who believe in militant white separatist ideology in keeping with what some neo-fascists call “ethno-pluralism” — the need of different ethnicities to live in separate racial enclaves in order to preserve true cultural diversity. In a post to his profile, KarelianBlue included three red, circular patches with different “Black Battlefront” logos:
In his September 27th public statement regarding the revelation of this “network”, Schmidt claimed that the site was initiated in 2009, as he stepped up research into the “national-anarchist” movement. Nobody else could know about this group, he insisted, not even his ex-wife — lest the NIA catch wind of his investigation. Again: Schmidt’s more-public Facebook profile shared friends with both the group and its moderator (another top-secret profile Schmidt created) before the site went down; unless Schmidt was working to entrap his own friends, he was clearly using it as a focal point for a “racially aware” cell within the anarchist movement. Furthermore, the site was actually initiated in 2006, three months before his Stormfront profile, exposing another timeline anomaly in Schmidt’s account. According to a web designer we talked to, Schmidt and a friend pitched him the idea for developing a similar white nationalist internet site as early as 2003, but they were refused. This was a year before Schmidt proposed a division between white and black collectives in the ZAC Federation. The first post in Black Battlefront, published March 3, 2006, was the “Platform of the Anarchist Communists of Bulgaria, 1945.”
His identity for Black Battlefront is “Strandwolf”:
the brown hyaena found on the lonely Atlantic beaches of the Namib desert: with more powerful jaws and greater stamina than a lion, the hyaena hunt in matriarchal packs and, inverting their clitori, are impossible to rape. They are viewed by the indigenous people as spirit-animals… Strandwolf is a ghost in the machine of the African night, a spectral flicker on the shores of the Skeleton Coast, a low-slung hunter on the night-time highway that stretches away from the rolling smokes of Johannesburg into the bleach-and-acetate reaches of the platteland where gaunt wind-pumps scratch stars in the sky.
The analogy evokes the militant, lone-wolf character advocated by Louis Beam, a famous Texas Klansman who advocates for “leaderless resistance” through acts of political assassinations, individual murders, bombings, and general terror. It was Beam’s ideology and his relationship with San Diego-based white supremacist Tom Metzger and his acolyte Dave Mazzela, that helped shape the consciousness of the early west-coast skinhead movement through an organization called White Aryan Resistance.
The “creed” advertised on the Black Battlefront blog is practical:
Strandwolf calls for revolutionary anarchism as an answer both to the modern multicultural project and the apartheid era exploitation of poor whites and blacks, alike. The postings on Black Battlefront were sparse between from 2006 to 2009. However, after midnight on February 17, 2010, two posts appeared, authored separately by “white African national anarchist” and a shadowy, Ukrainian woman named “Ardent Vinlander.” Vinlander’s article is dedicated entirely to a cultural reading of race and class, as well as a sense of nationalism rooted in conquest. In the other article, “white African national anarchist” explains:
‘Medieval’ is the closest that blacks have come to civilisation, while some still today languish 10,000 years behind the Europeans who gave Africa its science, industry, infrastructure, education, medicine and large-scale agriculture, most of it fallen into terrible disrepair under black rule since the late 1950s. In order to, if not forestall this decay, at least build the bulwarks of a white redoubt strong enough to stand against this darkening tide, we require organization.
The same post declares that revolutionary anarchism must be informed by Jim Goad, Nestor Makhno, and Troy Southgate, realizing that:
in order to be truly grounded, we need to be scrupulously egalitarian and what this means in the southern African battlespace is that we are compelled to judicially recognize the right of white anarchists and black anarchists to establish their own separate, culturally-distinct formal organizations and informal networks.
Schmidt’s cultural racism carries over from his “Politico-Cultural Dynamics” memo within ZACF, to Black Battlefront, which appears to show that the latter was formed through his disaffection with the former. Furthermore, Schmidt’s desiderata of a “white anarchist organization” to develop independently as a “national” group seems to be at work in his writings as Strandwolf at this time. While we can’t be certain how much support Schmidt had during this endeavor, his admission that he fell in with Troy Southgate and his “cronies” seems to imply that his blog was more than just an isolated project. Instead, it was an outreach tool with some (perhaps extensive) network behind it.
Schmidt, of course, has claimed that this elaborate, circuitous trail — as often confused as confusing — was ultimately nothing more than an investigative ruse carried out for the purposes of journalism. Setting aside the correspondence between the sentiments of his allegedly undercover persona and his own publicly-stated beliefs, and his bizarre attributions to conspiratorial counter-intelligence operations and selective amnesia, there is nothing in his online activity that, in principle, anyway, conflicts with a (perhaps staggeringly overzealous) long-con for the sake of investigation.
Only, it wasn’t.
When we tracked down Brendan Seery — the editor Schmidt claims authorized his journalistic foray into the depths of the white-nationalist internet — he seemed bewildered by Schmidt’s story. “Mike did work for us as a senior reporter and on a number of big stories,” he told us. “[A]nd because of his seniority and the way newspapers work, I would not have to give him permission at all to investigate. That would be something a good investigative journalist would do off his own bat.”
Schmidt having laid oversight at Seery’s feet aside, it was never likely Seery would’ve authorized such an undertaking, if only because gathering information through deception, while standard for police, is at odds with basic journalistic standards. “My style as an editor is that journalists should be as upfront as possible in order to get a story with subterfuge only as a last resort,” Seery told us. “If, however, you mean that we ordered or gave permission to him to pose as a right-winger, then I certainly don’t recall that.”
Since Seery ran the Saturday Star until 2007, after Schmidt left and after the Stormfront account went up, there’s zero chance that a subsequent, incoming editor approved Schmidt’s alleged project.
Alexander Reid Ross is a moderator of the Earth First! Newswire, the editor of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab and author of the forthcoming book Against the Fascist Creep (AK Press)
Joshua Stephens is a former collective member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and a writer whose work has appeared with The Atlantic, Gawker, AlterNet, Truthout, NOW Lebanon, and The Outpost.