POLITICS

The Neo-Nazi Podcaster Next Door

Alleged Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers was a fan of a white supremacist propagandist known as Grandpa Lampshade. Here’s who he really is.

A few days before alleged gunman Robert Bowers murdered 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue last October, he promoted a post by a well-known racist user of Gab, a social media platform that caters to white supremacists. The user had a “Pepe” frog avatar and a distinctly offensive moniker — “Grandpa Lampshade,” a reference to an apocryphal story about a Nazi woman who made lampshades from the skin of Holocaust victims.

On Gab, where Bowers appears to have been radicalized, Grandpa Lampshade has published thousands of messages designed to stoke hatred of Jews. Like the one Bowers reposted:

But there were many posts that were worse. Many that might inspire a person to scream “All Jews must die!” before shooting up a synagogue because he’d bought into alt-right propaganda falsely claiming that Jews had orchestrated a migrant caravan heading toward the United States. Messages like this:

And this:

But Grandpa Lampshade’s efforts to spread hate weren’t limited to Gab and didn’t stop at anti-Semitism. During his weekly “Thoughts of the Day” podcast on Radio Aryan, which he said reached thousands of listeners, he ranted about the hordes of black and brown invaders he claimed were displacing white people.

He often made it sound like violence was the only appropriate response.

On one podcast a few weeks before the Pittsburgh shooting, Grandpa Lampshade said that whites are “not gonna outbreed all of these blacks and browns” and that the “answer” might “involve a whole lotta killin’.” After the Oct. 27, 2018, massacre, he suggested that murdering 11 random Jews in a synagogue might not be the best approach, because of the scrutiny it attracted to the white supremacist movement and its chosen propaganda platforms. Better, he said, for the killin’ to focus on strategic targets.

There was a twang to his voice and some grizzle in his chosen handle — they were clues to his identity. Grandpa Lampshade fretted about being exposed, but he’d been sloppy in covering his tracks. He used the name “oilylizzard” in one email address to collect donations and in another email linked to his real name. His wife advertised his now-defunct Grandpa Lampshade Twitter account in memes she’d posted years ago.

And people were looking for him. His rapid rise to prominence in the white nationalist community had brought him to the attention of anti-fascist activists. Watchdog groups and journalists were looking for him, too. Grandpa Lampshade had gone big-time. The podcast had played on the Daily Stormer, the internet’s main hub for neo-Nazi content, from where he solicited bitcoin donations. (He has raised and spent almost $7,000 in bitcoin, according to information security researcher John Bambenek, who tracks neo-Nazi bitcoin transactions.)

Grandpa Lampshade also forged connections with prominent white supremacists such as Andrew Anglin, Christopher “The Crying Nazi” Cantwell, Robert “Azzmador” Ray and David Duke — just a few of the extremists who helped organize or participated in the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Grandpa Lampshade was, undoubtedly, a problem. In a bygone era, he might have donned a hood and burned a cross in a remote field. But he likely would have been little more than a local malignancy. In the social media age, however, he could reach through his keyboard and contact the world. The neo-Nazi next door could be your neighbor. Your own kid could be listening to Grandpa Lampshade. And the anonymity of the internet allowed him to operate without hindrance or consequence.

Until now.

Behind the Pepe mask and the Nazi pseudonym is a very average 51-year-old who represents how commonplace racism is in America. He lives about an hour outside Fort Worth, Texas, in a small town called Granbury. He works at an auto parts store. He likes motorcycles. He used to chew Red Man tobacco. He got married. He had a son. He got divorced. He remarried in blue jeans. He supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Meet Daniel Kenneth Jeffreys:

Jeffreys is an unremarkable man who has attained a position of influence thanks simply to an internet connection and an appetite for hate. He is the aggrieved white Everyman, a middle-aged schlub exalted and radicalized through social media at a time when the president has seemingly given every racist in America the feels.

He once worked as a youth activities supervisor at the now-shuttered Texas Youth Commission, the state’s notorious juvenile corrections agency. (In 2007, long after Jeffreys had left his job, local media revealed that hundreds of troubled kids had been abused by agency employees. There is no evidence that Jeffreys was involved in the abuse.)

His journey to extremism does have an atypical arc. Unlike most of his alt-right fellow travelers, Jeffreys doesn’t appear to have fully radicalized until later in life, when he was exposed to online propaganda created by millennial neo-Nazis. (Bowers, another Gen-Xer, also appears to have been radicalized later in life.)

We are not publishing Jeffreys’ address or contact information — we are not “doxing” him. We are exposing him. Left untreated, the racism he represents festers and metastasizes. And he is not a passive racist. He is a preacher of hate with a national reach — and as an undercover propagandist, he was a hidden threat within his own community.

From Yahoo Comments To The Daily Stormer

Jeffreys has been fascinated with Nazi Germany since he was a kid, he told listeners of his podcast in March 2016. He liked seeing people who looked like him “accomplishing these great things,” he said. Jeffreys grew up mirroring the conservative politics of his parents, who supported Ronald Reagan. He eventually ditched the Republican Party out of loyalty to Pat Buchanan, a Holocaust-denying commentator — and a source of inspiration for members of the alt-right — who twice failed to secure the GOP presidential nomination. Jeffreys then dabbled in the conspiratorial libertarianism of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, another mainstream politician who has served as a conduit to white nationalism.

In 1991, when Jeffreys was 24, he started working at the Texas Youth Commission. He would mention the job years later in an episode of his show with Anglin as part of his argument that “American blacks are really like spoiled children.” Jeffreys falsely claimed on the show that “a huge majority” of the “inmate population were blacks.” Jeffreys resigned voluntarily in 1996, according to Brian Sweany, a spokesman at the agency that replaced the Youth Commission.

By then, Jeffreys had married his first wife. Years later, that marriage ended in divorce. In 2003, Jeffreys got a job at an auto parts store, according to bankruptcy filings. The following year, he remarried. His wedding photos, which his mother-in-law posted to Facebook, show Jeffreys in jeans, with a handlebar mustache.

Jeffreys’ new wife shared his enthusiasm for automobiles as well as his racist tendencies. She posted offensive content on Twitter under an account named Gothmamba, which public records indicate is registered to her.

Money was in short supply for the couple. They filed for bankruptcy the year after they married. Dan Jeffreys listed a shotgun, a pistol and two rifles as assets. He was nearly $130,000 in debt and earned about $2,100 a month, according to bankruptcy records.

Jeffreys eventually worked his way up to manager at another auto parts store in a nearby town. It was, as he’d later say on a Grandpa Lampshade podcast, a “normie” job where he interacted every day with different people, including “Mexicans” and “niggers.” His wife opened an auto body paint shop specializing in “Custom painting, Flames Etc.” She posted hundreds of pictures of her bright orange muscle car on Instagram. Her business’s Twitter account follows Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Jeffreys might have carried on in this vein forever, the down-home racist slinging crankshafts and crackpot ideas, a bigot indistinguishable from any other in the area. But one day while clicking through the comments on a Yahoo news story, he spotted another reader’s recommendation to check out a website called the Daily Stormer. So he did.

The troll-y online gathering place for today’s millennial neo-Nazi movement, the Daily Stormer has featured numerous posts calling for the genocide of Jews. A few years ago, it surpassed Stormfront — an older white nationalist message board that Jeffreys has said didn’t “grab” him — as the leading hate site on the internet. The Daily Stormer’s founder and editor, Andrew Anglin, has perfected a humorous meme-laden style of blogging that makes the lies and hate he pushes appealing to a younger audience already steeped in internet culture. But the Daily Stormer, which has also celebrated violence against minorities, journalists and women, appeals to older racists, too. Jeffreys, a middle-aged, working-class Texan, thought the site was funny and kept coming back.

Eventually, his Daily Stormer-inspired self-indoctrination led him to “The Greatest Story Never Told,” a six-hour-long revisionist film from 2013 about Adolf Hitler. Jeffreys was “blown away” by the film.

“The light then completely shone on me,” he said.

Jeffreys went on to read Mein Kampf and started hanging out in Daily Stormer chat rooms, where Anglin’s readers plan real-world gatherings and in-person activism through his “Daily Stormer Book Club” network — from attending far-right rallies to posting neo-Nazi flyers in cities around the country. On the Daily Stormer, Jeffreys befriended “Sven Longshanks” aka Steve Stone. Stone is a British Hitler fanatic and host at Radio Aryan, a white nationalist online radio network that is based in the United Kingdom and broadcasts from a secret location. British government regulators have been unable to police the neo-Nazi network because it transmits over the internet. Jeffreys pressed Stone to let him record his own show on the network; eventually, Stone agreed.

Grandpa Lampshade’s “Thoughts of the Day” podcast debuted in February 2016. Jeffreys launched his Semitic Truth Center blog shortly afterward. Within months, he had become an influential neo-Nazi propagandist.

Grandpa Lampshade Finds His Fans

Some of the best-known members of the white supremacist community were soon talking with Jeffreys. He recorded shows with Duke, the former KKK grand wizard; Robert “Azzmador” Ray, an Anglin associate and longtime racist from east Texas who yelled, “Death to the enemies of the white race!” hours after the Charlottesville rally; Gabriel Sohier Chaput, a Canadian neo-Nazi recruiter who goes by “Zeiger”; Chris Cantwell, who cried over an arrest warrant and then pleaded guilty to assaulting counterprotesters at Charlottesville — and even Anglin himself.

“Yours is one of my favorite podcasts. I’d say it’s in the top three,” Anglin told Jeffreys in June 2016 when he appeared as a guest on Jeffreys’ show.

Jeffreys’ message is virtually indistinguishable from the conspiratorial ravings of his colleagues: White people, he claims, are the victims of a world order controlled by the Jews, who are actively replacing white Americans with black and brown invaders. This is the central and most hackneyed of white supremacist conspiracy theories, one that gives aggrieved race warriors an eternal enemy to rail against and blame for their own shortcomings. Jeffreys faults Jewish people for everything from Communism to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“We’re being served now with a cake that’s been poisoned. Cake with ingredients such as feminism, this racial demographic, multicultural time bomb,” Jeffreys said on his show last October. “All of these ingredients have been baked into this cake. And the baker is a hook-nosed rat Jew.”

What sets Jeffreys apart from his fellow neo-Nazi podcasters is his oddly pleasant demeanor. Unlike the jabbering Cantwell, who has the on-air presence of Archie Bunker on meth, Jeffreys delivers his sales pitch with a sing-song Southern drawl that belies the inherent violence of his worldview. He prefaces Holocaust-denying rants with a perfunctory “My gosh!”

Unlike most of his alt-right colleagues, Jeffreys also brings an authentic working-class Christian flavor to his racism. He has a recurring segment on his podcast that he calls “The Church of the Lampshade,” in which he preaches about the devil being the father of Jews. He is the traditionalist so many white nationalists aspire and fail to be, a family man who likes to talk about how he lovingly imparts his racist views to his son — just like Jeffreys’ father once did with him.

“I mean, the best thing I can say is, you know, just make ’em as Jew-wise as you can. Best safety advice you can give ’em boils down to ‘when around blacks, never relax,’” Jeffreys once said of his conversations with his son. “My dad has said, you know, he doesn’t believe blacks are a separate race, he believes they’re a separate species — and the older I get, the more I realize that, you know, he was closer to the truth than any college professor,” he continued.

Throughout these last few years of hate-mongering screeds, Jeffreys has made a deliberate effort to stop just shy of instructing his fans to commit violence against enemies of the white race. It’s not that he’s a “peace-loving hipp[y],” he said — he just doesn’t want to get kicked offline and end up in prison for endorsing bloodshed too explicitly.

“Just look at the amount of effort our enemies go through to try and choke out the Daily Stormer through limiting fundraising ability,” he said in January 2017. “What do you think would happen if we gave them the opportunity to declare us all as being a part of some sort of terrorist organization or something? At the very least, we would not have our platforms anymore ― and at the worst, we would all be bunking up in a federal prison somewhere.”

But some Grandpa Lampshade fans don’t think like that. The Pittsburgh shooter, at least, was willing to act on the violent ideology Jeffreys promoted.

Jeffreys didn’t feel bad for the 11 people killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue, he said on his show a week after the attack. But he was upset about the backlash. Internet service providers abandoned Gab, forcing it to go offline temporarily. Wordpress took down Jeffreys’ blog after a commenter posted a “battle plan” on the site: “Shooting of Jews every week ― until normies start to wonder why people hate Jews so much and start doing their research.”

Jeffreys implored his listeners to be more strategic in choosing which Jews to murder. He knew some of his listeners were “half a step away from being the next Bowers,” he said, but he wanted them to make sure their attack would be worth it.

“Now if you’re gonna get the death penalty and your grievance is that the Jews are doing all of these things and you’re willing to take action that is going to result in the death penalty … if you’re gonna do this, why are you gonna go kill some random Jews when you have these high-profile Jews?” he asked.

This is hardly a disavowal of the violence that is foundational to white nationalism. It is, rather, a horrific suggestion from Jeffreys that targeted killings might be a more effective way to spark the white ethnostate Nazis dream of. A far safer way to feed the white nationalist movement, as Jeffreys knows, is to maintain a footprint on the platforms that give him and other neo-Nazis such far-flung reach. Platforms like Gab or Radio Aryan or the Daily Stormer. Or Twitter. Platforms that can turn a racist nobody hawking auto parts into a somebody selling hate around the world.

Last week, HuffPost called the auto parts store where Jeffreys works and asked to speak with him. Whoever answered the phone hung up quickly. Hours later, Grandpa Lampshade announced that he was quitting his Radio Aryan show. He told his listeners that he wanted to spend more time with his family “living the 14 words.”

But it was clear that Jeffreys knew people were onto him. He was on guard.

Under The Mask, The Everyman Racist

Granbury is an ordinary town of about 8,000 people southwest of Fort Worth. Cows and llamas graze in nearby pastures. The downtown is centered around a courthouse, surrounded by a few restaurants. Fox News plays in the lobby of the Holiday Inn. Though Granbury was named for a Confederate general, it was hard to imagine a neo-Nazi cranking out propaganda for a national audience from this bland little burg.

On Tuesday, Jeffreys was at his job at the auto parts store several miles up the highway, his wife’s bright orange muscle car parked outside. When HuffPost reporters approached him to confirm his identity and ask about his racist alter ego, he agreed to talk outside on the store’s front steps. He was visibly nervous.

“Who’s doxing me?” he asked, holding a paint can and using the far-right’s preferred term for any journalism that exposes extremists.

He was worried about anti-fascist activists in the area and claimed he had received death threats. He didn’t want to lose his job. He said he’d ended his show and wanted to be left alone to take care of his family. He claimed that he’d never called for violence on the podcast — but he had, several times.

“I mean we may have some killin’ involved, but maybe not a whole lotta killin’,” he said on his podcast in October, weeks before the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

When asked about the podcast episode after that massacre, the one where he questioned the purpose of killing “random Jews” instead of “high-profile Jews,” Jeffreys said that people bent on violence can’t be swayed with appeals to morality. Better, he said, to talk strategy.

“I’m not responsible for crazy people doing crazy shit,” he said.

After speaking with HuffPost, Jeffreys took old episodes of his show offline. But he is still responsible for promoting an ideology in which violence against Jewish and non-white people is not only justified but ultimately required. 

Like most alt-right podcasters, Grandpa Lampshade spoke with a swaggering confidence about racially transforming the country. Social media had made him important. Made him a leader. Anonymity made him unaccountable. There was no telling how many angry white men he’d helped push further down the path to extremism. Grandpa Lampshade mattered. He had influence.

But Dan Jeffreys is just Dan Jeffreys. And he is anonymous no longer.

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