Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer, better known by his pseudonym Weev, was always a bit of a malicious type. As one of the internet’s most notorious extremist trolls, the young hacker has always deliberately sought after controversy. Although Weev claims he’s always done things “for the lulz” (caused chaos purely for nihilistic satisfaction) and was always unhinged and hateful, the young zealot wasn’t always the vitriolic neo-Nazi he is today.
In YouTube videos (or, as he calls them, his “sermons”) weev directs racial vitriol against black people, minorities and anyone else he doesn’t like prior to his public conversion to Nazism on The Daily Stormer in 2014. The Stormer, one of the internet’s most prolific hate sites, was recently booted from all respectable corners of the web for its triumphant sneering over the death of an anti-fascist protester in Charlottesville.
Generic as the saying goes, some people do genuinely like to watch the world burn. In his fight against other races and anyone else he deems a conspirator, Weev calls himself a warrior fighting “the snide, wizardly manipulators and mongrel half-orcs”.
He also takes time out to admire Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma city bomber, venerating him as a fighter against the powers that be – namely the US establishment. “What they do to us must be done asymmetrically to them,” raved Weev at journalist David Kushner. “For every child they kill, there must be a thousand dead federal children. That should be the rule.”
If Weev had been from a Muslim background and had spat this disgusting bile, he would have been in prison by now. In fact, he has been in prison. So where did this young man go so hideously, hideously wrong?
Weev grew up in a very fluid background, moving between poverty in Arkansas and a 100-acre farm in Virginia. Of Jewish origin, he now claims to be a Mormon. Weev’s mother works in real estate. His father is an engineer for the poultry industry. As a child, Weev was always bright. After reading Keats and Byron he describes himself as becoming “enchanted by the magic of language.”
He retrieved his first computer from a rubbish skip, quickly finding out that for him, writing code was another form of fascinating, eloquent speech. “It’s all about manipulating linguistic systems that would achieve things that are dazzling in effect,” he says. He spent his free time hacking ATM machines and roving through the very new creation that was the internet at the time.
But tell-tale signs of troublesome character defects were already coming to the surface. Weev, as he himself told Kushner, had fun by “using rhetoric offensively.” Short and inoffensive, he made up for his physical weakness by deliberately feeding disinformation to different children in the playground, claiming each was insulting the other behind their back. He would then take a sadistic delight in watching the ensuing fights from the sidelines, chuckling at the chaos that he created. Why? Purely for the sake of enjoyment. For “teh lulz”.
His parents, worried and convinced that the education system was failing their very gifted son, managed to get him into James Madison University – at the young age of 14.
It was not to be. Weev dropped out a year later to make a career for himself writing code. Living on his own and taking his nickname from his favorite animal (weevils are swarming insects that ruin crops relentlessly, a metaphor for his online efforts to destroy). Weev became a regular user of LSD, casually claiming he could “hack better” while he was “tripping”.
Before long, weev, found like-minded people who shared his penchant for rudeness, trolling and hacking: the Gay Nigger Association of America. Their mission was, in his words, to “spread comedy across the Internet”.
It wasn’t exactly what most would call comedic, its practices involved posting fake suicide notes on LiveJournal bloggers’ account pages . For weev, the sadistic online madness somehow made a lot of sense. “The Boston Tea Party was funny. And we in the American populace are not yet ready for violent resistance. You know, it’s not time yet. So for the time being, we are being funny.”
Weev’s star kept rising as his audacious behaviour kept growing. As well as hacking Amazon and messing with book classifications, weev kept up his audacious, bombastic behaviour until he was being featured in outlets like Gawker and the New York Times. In the latter he claimed to be a member of a shady hacking group known as “the organisation” that made $10 million annually. He even turned up to the interview in a chauffeur-driven rolls. Considering his frequent online appeals for donations, however, this is probably not the case.
The NYT profile saw other journalists seek him out for interviews. Weev’s happy-go-lucky attitude and aggressive defence of free speech (no matter how outrageous, offensive or extreme) earned him increasing attention and deference from many corners of the internet – including the dark ones.
A Code Too Far
Weev became part of Goatse Security, a hacking group named after a disgustingly pornographic early intenet meme. After Amazon, he and his comrades’ gaze turned to Apple, condemned by his little crew as “subhuman scum” for their business practices and approach to making a profit.
Weev and fellow hacker Daniel Spitler discovered a flaw in AT&T’s website. The overlooked flaw made vulnerable the email addresses and details of some 114,000 plus ipad users. But there was no hacking and no real genius required to find this out; AT&T unintentionally made all the information available on the internet. All the two needed to do was to use a coded script that would cause the site to divulge the email addresses to them. Anyone with a little know-how could have done it.
Weev and friends emailed the list of email addresses to various outlets, redacted lists of email addresses were then published online alongside stories covering the scandal. Weev and Spitler claimed they were merely trying to help out by alerting AT&T to their serious security issues. Instead, the US government charged them with identity theft and conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Unsurprisingly, untold numbers of people came out in support of weev, including respected voices. Why? Simply due to the absurd nature of the charges and their being based around a seriously outdated law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Hani Fakhoury came to his defence, claiming the arrest “only discourages security researchers from sharing their discoveries.” George Washington University professor and computer law expert Orin Kerr chimed in: “What Auernheimer and Spitler did was lawful authorized access.”
Weev remixes, shirts, hashtags and online campaigns and petitions sprang up overnight all over the internet.
It was hardly surprising, given the vague nature of the law charging Weev. The CFAA dates from the Reagan era and was originally designed to protect government bodies from unauthorised outside access. However, the law hasn’t kept up with the age of social media and fails to identify what that actually consists of. Technically, anyone creating fake profiles online could be in violation. The law was already infamous after another Jewish hacker, Aaron Swartz, once downloaded multiple journal articles. After being charged under CFAA for unauthorised downloads, he killed himself.
Weev was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to hand over $73,167 in compensation. He was incarcerated in the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center in New York, banned from using a mobile phone or the internet, unless he wanted to use the monitored message service given by the Trust Fund Limited Internet Computer System (TRULINCS).
Weev found a way around it: he gave his passwords to security researcher Meredith Patterson, a trusted associate. She would then take notes from weev, type them out and post them to his Twitter profile on his behalf.
Tweet after tweet was spat out, unrepentant, defiant words from a completely focused (albeit caged) mind.
“Every day of this upcoming 3 years is worth it to defend the rights of the Internet. I’d do it all over again. IDIFTL” (“I Did It for the Lulz”)
His method was perfectly legal. Three days later, his TRULINCS account was terminated, the prison still won’t say why. It seems they were simply keen to shut him down whatever the cost.
But weev had a plan. He phoned up the “Gay N*gger” organisation with a proposal; he would call a phone, have his message recorded, and then have that message uploaded to Soundcloud to be shared in the form of a podcast. A week later, he was back online and raging about the “f****** government” and how it cut him off.
Weev was moved to the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in Pennsylvania. There, he befriended and began to hang out with neo-Nazis, teaching them to sing “Springtime for Hitler”. He made and blew money on prison heroin. He continued his furious ranting. But it didn’t last long.
Tightening the Knot
Two weeks later he was thrown into solitary confinement for his continued indirect online defiance. He was put in a tiny cell, only allowed out for a maximum of 15 minutes to bathe and relieve himself. He was allowed no books, no phone contact, no stationary. The food was terrible and the human contact was next to none.
A few weeks of intense confinement later (and having been allowed to write after a while) he was released back into the general inmate population. But something had snapped. He wrote a tirade to a girlfriend, describing his adoration of the Oklahoma city bomber Timothy McVeigh (who had murdered hundreds of civilians).
This got him total isolation. No writing, no reading, nothing. For months. Weev felt he was going mad, trying to stay sane by shouting poetry by Byron and Keats. He also – worryingly – started to launch into spontaneous Norse poetry, something of a minor fetish among the neo-Nazi community. He described his prison time in October 2014 as “thousands of hours yelling the Eddas at the top of my lungs and scrawling runes on the concrete walls.” His descent into neo-Nazism was well underway.
On April 11, 2014 the Third Circuit vacated Auernheimer’s conviction, claiming the venue (New Jersey) was “improper”, while not disputing the conviction or facts of the case. In other words, he was free to go – but he was still slapped with a label of shame.
Weev left prison, broken but having been built back up – in a terrifying new way.
He posted a new, rambling, furious blog post to his website, weevjournal. Part of his entry included the following:
I am not notable because I was meant to be taken seriously. I am notable because this my life is a comedy show that is run on a scale that hasn’t been fathomed since Shakespeare’s As You Like It. I am relentless about producing this comedy show. This comedy show is so well produced that it makes Fortune 500 executives and whole swaths of the judiciary reel in shame and seethe in rage.
Weev was as self-important as ever. But, most importantly, seething with rage and eager for revenge:
People that want me to be taken universally seriously and stop joking around would have me robbed of my essential power. What I do is powerful because it delights some and repulses others. Stop trying to integrate me into something palatable to everyman. It isn’t going to happen. They will choke trying to digest me.
Weev had been robbed of his “essential power” – the power to express himself – by those he hated. Chased down based on an 80s law, imprisoned in conditions that can be described as inhumane at best, demonised in the media. Something had irreversibly changed.
This revolution ends in the way all revolutions do. In the meantime, we’ve got a whole fucking Internet to cover with dongs and swastikas, and we’ve got a whole world to fill with monuments to martyrs that the government dares call “terrorists”. Let the ruin begin.
A New Path
Weev officially resurfaced on Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer in October 2014, announcing his conversion to Nazism and that his future would be devoted to fighting for Anglin’s version of America – an America without blacks, Asians, Muslims or anyone else deemed not “white” enough for his liking. Weev’s rant was disturbing in the extreme, including such gems as:
Judge Wigenton was as black as they come.
The post included weev displaying his new swastika tattoo. Not only that, weev is a fanatical supporter of Putin, Hezbollah and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (as are all his comrades on TDS, on which he is now a permanent contributor).
Weev left the US for Beirut, Lebanon. He got a girlfriend, a Syrian Alawite from Assad’s sect, who did Nazi tattoos for him for free. In 2016 he wirelessly instructed thousands of unsecured printers across several American universities to print out swastika flyers promoting The Daily Stormer. He claims he’d rather live in Assad’s Syria, but wants to wait for it to “cool down”.
Disgusting as ever, Weev claims Assad’s problem was that he wasn’t genocidal enough, he didn’t go “full Hafez” on his people, who weev dismissively describes as “the bedoin”. Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, killed 40,000 people in the city of Hama alone after Syrians rose up against his rule in 1982. After studying the Norse Eddas in prison, he told Dan Raile that his inspiration is Volund the Elf.
“Volund was basically a proto-hacker. He was a blacksmith who was imprisoned by a tyrant but later escaped and smote his enemies, killing the king’s sons and raping his daughters.”
The swastikas, the runes, the genocidal diatribe – all the warning signs were there in April of 2014 and before; weev was posting casual bigotry long before his arrest and incarceration. But it seems to have been the solitary confinement that fully tipped him over the edge.
Cutting people off for even short periods of time can lead to irreversible brain atrophies; their brains are “literally shriveled.” Psychology professor Craig Hainey has studied the effects of being in solitary confinement and found that it leads to cognitive dysfunction, self-harm, paranoia and and hypersensitivity to simulation (note weev’s constant, darkened rages). In California alone, only 5% of the prisoners have been in solitary confinement. But this counts for 50% of the suicide rate among prisoners.
This is not to say that weev isn’t responsible for his own views, or for putting himself in these situations due to his hurtful, irresponsible and hateful conduct. Everything he has done has not only harmed others, but put him in situations that have harmed himself. But his treatment surely has something to do with fully shaping the person he became.
weev was already a vile individual before his time in prison. But his toxic cocktail of thrill-seeking jest and neo-fascism took shape within its walls. Journalists will continue to line up to demolish his disgusting world view. But will they focus on what helped shape it?