A few months ago, Andrew Auernheimer, one of the leaders of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, sent a simple message to some of his Spanish-speaking fans: "Would you like to write a Spanish version?"
With that he began to recruit writers for a new version of the website aimed at extending its racist and anti-Semitic content to Spain and Latin America. The site launched in April as El Daily Stormer.
"There’s half a billion Spanish speakers in the world and I want every single one of them to understand the threat to their people and their nations," Auernheimer told Univision in a telephone interview.
By "threat,” the well-known hacker refers to “Jewish control over international finance and media, the spread of homosexuality and transgenderism, the abuse of children,” he says. The Daily Stormer’s objective is "to spread Hitlerism,” he told the AP.
El Daily Stormer contains anti-Semitic articles, such as "The Jew is the Genetic Enemy of All Humanity" or "One-third of Austrians think National Socialism brought good things,” illustrated with caricatures of Jews similar to those popularized during the Third Reich. In addition, the website includes racist and misogynist articles that target the Latin American public.
Among the volunteers for Auernheimer’s project is a Spanish user who identifies himself as JAPR and who signs off as “Alerta Judiada,” which translates roughly to “Jew Alert.” “Judiada” is an offensive term for Jews used in Spain.
"The reason for the site is obvious: (Spanish) is the language with the highest number of native speakers, only surpassed by Chinese Mandarin," JAPR wrote in an email to Univision. "Another reason that it was necessary to create a platform in Spanish is that most Spanish speakers do not speak a second language," he adds.
El Daily Stormer has collaborators in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, although the bulk of writers are from Spain, Auernheimer says. Spain is also the home of Forocoches, the largest Spanish-speaking forum and one of the most active forums in the world, which has been linked to El Daily Stormer. El Daily Stormer used to describe itself as: “The news source for the people of Forocoches.”
Though Forocoches has a reputation for its conservative ideology, founder and owner Alejandro Marín says it is in no way associated to the neo-Nazi publication. In fact, Marín is considering legal action against The Daily Stormer.
"It is a parasitic use of the brand and, insofar as it is linked to a racist ideology, it could be a violation of the honor of [Forocoches]," says Javier Maestre, his lawyer. Marín has blocked links to El Daily Stormer on Forocoches.
Asked about Forocoches, Auernheimer responds that "our Spanish community [rages] on that forum and they will educate people about the Jewish question and the issue of blacks in their country."
"It's a place where they have a lot of fun,” he adds.
Since Univision first published this article in Spanish, El Daily Stormer has removed its tagline linking it to Forocoches.
For JAPR, Forocoches is where Nazi ideology is spread in Spain.
"In Spain the forums have fulfilled the same role as 4chan or 8chan in the U.S.," he says in an email, referring to the U.S. forums that have become linked to subcultures like the alt-right.
Trolling as a mission
Forocoches users have trolled television programs, sent hundreds of pizzas and mariachis to the headquarters of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party and flooded the City of Madrid with absurdist urban development proposals.
But they have never reached the level of The Daily Stormer, which is currently being sued for organizing a campaign of harassment against Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent in Whitefish, Montana. The website unveiled private information about Gersh and other Jewish residents in the area and allegedly invited its "army of trolls" to harass them in retaliation for the boycott allegedly inflicted by Gersh and others on the business of the mother of popular white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, which is located in Whitefish.
Auernheimer, who spent a year in a federal prison in Pennsylvania for hacking the personal data of more than 100,000 AT&T users, says trolling is an "aggressive" mission that transcends jokes.
“Trolling on the internet is about engaging in a battleground of ideas and content,” he says. “We have a lot of fun and we tell a lot of jokes, but underneath those jokes there's a message that's very serious. Our cultures are dying.”
The growth of the anti-Semitic internet
Founded in 2013 by Andrew Anglin, The Daily Stormer is an anti-Semitic, racist and misogynist website that has become a favored meeting place for white nationalists.
On The Daily Stormer, Jews are orchestrating an international conspiracy to dominate the world. While creating his publication, Anglin was inspired by the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, which published a section on crimes committed by Jews. And Jews aren’t the only target of their criticism: articles often portray women as "whores" and African Americans as inferior.
Its creators claim that this cocktail of content has brought on remarkable growth in web traffic: it has surpassed the traffic of its predecessor, Stormfront. Some say Donald Trump’s victory has also helped attract readers; The Daily Stormer has supported Trump unconditionally.
Auernheimer claims the site is visited by more than three million unique users per month, but it’s unclear whether that it true. Other trackers accessed by Univision, such as Comscore and Quantcast, show significantly smaller numbers, ranging from 64,000 to 2 million.
According to Auernheimer, the Spanish version currently has 10,000 visitors per month, which also cannot be corroborated.
Nazis in trouble
Earlier this month, Univision published a report by ProPublica that explored the mechanisms that allow a website like The Daily Stormer to survive on the internet. It’s thanks in part to the services of Cloudflare, a web hosting company that refuses to censor websites with racist content because they are protected by the first amendment, which safeguards freedom of expression in the United States. In other places, such as Spain and other European countries, the law is different and can pursue hate speech. But El Daily Stormer is an American website.
However, other online service providers like Google, PayPal and Coinbase long ago decided to cut off services to The Daily Stormer, financially stifling the publication. The website is using bitcoin to raise money for the Gersh lawsuit, because bitcoins "cannot be confiscated easily by judicial orders.”
Today, Auernheimer admits he does not pay Daily Stormer contributors. "We can’t get advertising,” the hacker say. “The banks will cut us off for credit card processing so it’s hard to raise money from subscriptions. We generally get ... donations in the mail. People send envelopes with checks in them and that’s the only way, totally non-modern in terms of payment.”
JAPR does not mind working as a volunteer: "Our purpose is not to generate any business model," he writes.
Despite difficulties in staying afloat, Auernheimer says The Daily Stormer is exploring the possibility of "growing horizontally" with websites in Mandarin, Hindi, Portuguese and French. “We want all peoples of the world to be freed of this wicked source of degeneracy and decay,” he says.