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"We have a domestic terrorism issue that we hardly talk about."
Update: This video was originally published on Vox platforms on February 27, 2017. Since that time, the Israeli police have arrested a 19-year-old Jewish man with dual American-Israeli citizenship as the main suspect in hundreds of bomb threats made against Jewish community centers in the US and worldwide. http://www.vox.com/2017/3/23/15038030/jewish-community-center-jcc-suspect-arrest-bomb-threat-israel-us
As of April 14, 2017, investigations into the desecration of Jewish gravestones in the St. Louis area, also mentioned in this video, remain ongoing.
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Bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country. The desecration of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.
For Christian Picciolini, these recent incidents are not necessarily surprising. He’s at the forefront of warning Americans against the growing threat from white nationalists.
What makes Picciolini’s insight into these individuals so compelling is that he used to be one.
When he was only 14, Picciolini was recruited by Clark Martell, a prominent neo-Nazi skinhead leader. By age 18, Picciolini was leading America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead gang and helping to recruit and organize cells across the country.
Picciolini worked to soften the neo-Nazis’ external image and political language to attract individuals who would otherwise not have been willing to join the movement.
“We hear terms like ‘liberal media,’ when in fact what they are talking about is Jewish media,” Picciolini told me. “We used to say that the Jews controlled the media. And now they've just massaged the phrase to call it ‘liberal media.’”
Picciolini began his transformation from neo-Nazi to anti-hate advocate in his late teens.
“Having my child when I was 19 years old and being married was a powerful catalyst for me because I finally had something to love,” he said.
In 2010 he co-founded Life After Hate, a not-for-profit organization dedicating to fighting racism and violent extremism. Five years later he published his memoirs of his time in the neo-Nazi movement, Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead.
“I'm still pulling up the weeds from all those seeds of hate that I planted,” he said, “which is why I have dedicated the last 20 years of my life to help eradicate racism.”
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