Breaking Hate

Confronting the New Culture of Extremism

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By Christian Picciolini

Read by Christian Picciolini

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From a onetime white-supremacist leader now working to disengage people from extremist movements, Breaking Hate is a “riveting” (James Clapper), “groundbreaking” (Malcolm Nance), “horrifying [but] hopeful” (S.E. Cupp) exploration of how to heal a nation reeling from hate and violence.

Today’s extremist violence surges into our lives from what seems like every direction — vehicles hurtling down city sidewalks; cyber-threats levied against political leaders and backed up with violence; automatic weapons unleashed on mall shoppers, students, and the faithful in houses of worship. As varied as the violent acts are the attackers themselves — neo-Nazis, white nationalists, the alt-right, InCels, and Islamist jihadists, to name just a few. In a world where hate has united communities that traffic in radical doctrines and rationalize their use of violence to rally the disaffected, the fear of losing a loved one to extremism or falling victim to terrorism has become almost universal.

Told with startling honesty and intimacy, Breaking Hate is both the inside story of how extremists lure the unwitting to their causes and a guide for how everyday Americans can win them-and our civil democracy-back. Former extremist Christian Picciolini unravels this sobering narrative from the frontlines, where he has worked for two decades as a peace advocate and “hate breaker.” He draws from the firsthand experiences of extremists he has helped to disengage, revealing how violent movements target the vulnerable and exploit their essential human desires, and how the right interventions can save lives.

Along the way, Picciolini solves the puzzle of why extremism has come to define our era, laying bare the ways in which modern society-from “fake news” and social media propaganda to coded language and a White House that inflames rather than heals-has polarized and radicalized an entire generation.

Piercing, empathetic, and unrestrained, Breaking Hate tells the sweeping story of the challenge of our time and provides a roadmap to overcoming it.

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Introduction

Nation of Hate

For over five hundred years, the blood of countless victims has stained the hands of “proud” and “patriotic” white supremacists and seeped into the rich soil we call the United States.

It began with Christopher Columbus in 1492. Upon sailing into the New World with three ships full of seaworn European mercenaries, Columbus and his “explorers” decimated the lives of the indigenous people and their tender-aged children—often raping them before selling them in overseas slave markets. The brutal dehumanization of nonwhites by white Europeans escalated with the broader colonization of the Americas from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. Ten million natives and Africans died in the booming new transatlantic slave trade and the smallpox epidemic, which Columbus also introduced. Since then, the horrors of white supremacy on American soil have continued to manifest in insidious and grotesque ways.

Fast-forward to 1915: Hollywood’s first blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation, debuted in nickelodeons across the United States as the country’s first feature-length motion picture and the first movie ever screened inside the White House. Originally billed as The Clansman, the silent black-and-white drama depicts the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)—our nation’s oldest and deadliest terror group—as heroic American patriots defending white Western values. The roaring prominence of the film inspired a Klan renaissance, and exploded national membership in the KKK’s Invisible Empire to four million by 1925—roughly 15 percent of the white US population at the time.

Despite any progress modern America has made in addressing the injustices of our forebears, we have never escaped the shadow of white supremacy. Slavery became black disenfranchisement under Jim Crow laws, and Jim Crow morphed into the less recognizable—but still ravaging—racist policies in our institutions of financial lending, housing, education, and criminal justice. Tragically, this corrupt narrative still remains the unchallenged legacy of our United States.

Racist embers were again stoked during the 2016 presidential campaign and the subsequent election of Donald J. Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States. President Trump’s embodiment of an autocratic strongman and his use of divisive “identity politics” and fear rhetoric long espoused by bigots—as well as immigration policies that appear inspired by Columbus himself—fueled a new generation of American hate.

Wielding executive power like a medieval battering ram, Trump’s polemics against undocumented immigrants and minority groups fanned the flames of racist vitriol to rally an aggrieved political base, body-slamming an already wounded nation. His Twitter platform became a megaphone to tens of millions of disaffected white Americans, where he scapegoated their afflictions and irrational fears upon nonwhites, non-Christians, women, the mainstream news media, and progressives, while funneling their outrage into votes at the ballot box. Hot-button wedge issues, including immigration reform, religion, social welfare, reproductive rights, gender, government corruption, gun laws, and the use of presidential privilege, duped Americans into cosigning his crooked agenda to “drain the swamp” of DC bureaucracy. Trump further amplified fear levels with “shit-hole country” statements about friendly nations and rants targeting the “lying” media, while also promoting white genocide conspiracies and reckless birther lies that painted his predecessor as an illegitimate president who’d been born in Kenya.

Since the 2016 election, the continued breakdown of discourse has made it impossible to reach a national consensus on how to address these critical social and political moments. Hindered by disruptive foreign influence campaigns and the disturbing and very real proliferation of “fake news” that is meant to influence and divide Americans, we have yet to understand what the lasting implications will be for our fragile democracy.

The growing heft of information we consume makes defining the problem even more difficult. Feeding our internal insecurities and triggering our sensitivities, Internet memes, social media platforms, political podcasts, disinformation crafted to masquerade as authentic web ads, college campus propaganda, and online “fringe” forums have become fodder for a new era of ideological warfare. Preparation for this war is taking place not just online, but also in prison yards, around office watercoolers, on cable “news” networks, and among our children while they play multiplayer video games (it’s not the violent game content we need to fear).

Until recently, most Americans enjoyed the privilege of living near the center of the political spectrum, only inching toward a precipice when an issue hit home. In today’s America, however, we’ve become forced to choose between limited one-size-fits-all options intent on herding us toward opposing cliffs to leap from. What was once a fissure between value systems has widened into a Grand Canyon of ideological difference and primed America for the fires of violent extremism to ignite—and Donald Trump’s incendiary “America First” platform lit the fuse.

From the ashes of old-fashioned American white supremacy, a new social carcinogen has emerged. The rapid growth of the racist “alt-right” movement and a new strain of white-supremacist ideology that calls itself “white nationalism” are making hate the most dangerous contagion in America again—and we’ve reached epidemic levels.

The ugly and tragic events of August 11 and 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, bear witness to this alarming trend. Hundreds of white nationalists from across the United States descended on Charlottesville to stage a series of public rallies, painting themselves as a conservative grassroots effort to “Unite the Right.” Claiming to protest the removal of Confederate monuments, the bloody endeavor was instead a bullhorn to alert a “friendly” president that white supremacy was alive and thriving in America under his watch.

Clean-cut, young white men dressed in khakis and polo shirts adorned with Nazi insignia gathered in the blistering Virginia heat, carrying flaming torches and battle flags. United in their collective paranoia that the white race is facing cultural genocide, they clutched defaced placards proclaiming, “It’s OK to be White” and “White Lives Matter.” In unabashed unison, they chanted, “Blood and soil!” on ground where their European ancestors once spilled the blood of people of color.

Violent clashes between hordes of white supremacists holding makeshift shields and an army of counterprotesters ensued, and yet again, senseless racist violence would claim another victim. Killed by a neo-Nazi marcher who rammed his vehicle at full speed into a crowd of anti-racist activists leaving the demonstration, Heather Heyer was a young woman entering the prime of her life. After deciding her silence was no longer acceptable in the face of such hatred, Heather protested the rallies and sacrificed her precious life for her values. Heather’s mother, my dear friend Susan Bro, stated at her daughter’s memorial service, “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her.” Indeed they did.

But what actual progress have we made in preventing white-supremacist violence since it cut Heather Heyer’s life so tragically short? Not much. In fact, things have gotten worse.

Since Heather’s death in Charlottesville in 2017, violent white supremacists have killed and injured many more innocent victims. Emboldened by a commander in chief—whom notorious white nationalists have publicly stated supports their vision of making America white again—white extremists are committing acts of racially and politically motivated violence in record numbers. One only needs to turn on cable news to find horrific stories of journalists and politicians targeted by pipe bombs, schoolchildren assassinated by classmates, and the faithful slaughtered inside their houses of worship.

In 2017, the FBI reported that seven thousand hate crimes were documented in the United States the previous year.* The number itself is staggering, but considering that many hate crimes go unreported by law enforcement agencies due to the difficulty in classifying and prosecuting them, it is even more so. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published a similarly chilling report in 2019, concluding that incidents of American far-right violence had accounted for almost all hate-related murders in 2018. But this isn’t just America’s problem anymore.

On March 15, 2019, soon after the ADL released its report, an Australian white supremacist attacked two New Zealand mosques with an assortment of loaded semiautomatic assault weapons. Through a Facebook live stream, the world watched as the terrorist massacred fifty-one peaceful Muslim worshippers—men, women, and small children. The killer wore identifiable white-nationalist movement markings on his body armor (insignia supporting a deadly neo-Nazi militia in Ukraine) and left behind a revealing manifesto, providing further proof of a growing transnational terror network. Just five months later, a similar tragedy played out when an anti-immigrant gunman killed twenty-two people in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The shooter’s manifesto cited the New Zealand attacks as inspiration.

To keep this deadly trend of violent extremism from spiraling out of control, it is imperative that we examine it carefully—and from deep within.

Extremism, regardless of whether it’s motivated by a political, religious, or social doctrine, flourishes when a critical mass of people believe their lives are becoming meaningless, displaced, or disempowered. Extremists feast on frenzy and polarization during times of crisis. Fear is primary sustenance for extremism to thrive, and its survival rests on the ability to foment the chaotic conditions that keeps us broken and afraid. The strategy is simple: turn everyday victims into perpetrators of “rough justice” by trading them a “great cause” for their discontent, while fooling them into believing they’re still victims.

When faced with losing something of great value or importance—one can think of the disappearing middle class or the hollowed-out job market in economically challenged American communities such as the Rust Belt—desperate people tend to seek out radical solutions for their mounting grievances. Even if frustrations stem from necessary social or economic equalization, the threat of marginalization—or “replacement”—can lead to intense fear, and the sudden downturn mistaken for oppression.

Today, more than ever, ideologues at the furthest edges of the political spectrum are using crisis to bait aggrieved, isolated, even privileged and willfully ignorant Americans with glory-driven promises as a panacea for their woes.

Extremists use deceptive online marketing tactics and spin elaborate conspiracy theories to lure fresh recruits—mostly male, young, intelligent, middle-class, idealistic, disenchanted, and alienated. Narratives are crafted to feed distrust and antipathy toward the mainstream. Efforts become amplified through the dangerous hyperbole and paranoia infused from our highest seats of power (as well as by our personal blind spots and unconscious biases). Our deeply fractured sociopolitical environment and collective distress have also emboldened hostile foreign actors to target our open wounds and inject their poison into our bloodstream.

Still, even as the delicate fibers of America’s fabric are being ripped to shreds by extremism, there are some people who claim the threat of violent white supremacy is a “hoax.”

The sliver of pessimism still lodged in me from my former life as an extremist agrees that as a society we are sliding headfirst into Mahatma Gandhi’s warning of “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” While that may be how we’re trending, I refuse to believe surrendering our nation over to hate is the only remaining option. Instead, I follow the wisdom of Malcolm X: “Sometimes you have to pick the gun up to put the gun down.” I know this sounds backward and counterintuitive. To be clear, except in self-defense or to protect others, I don’t condone violence. The “weapon” I now hold is one whose barrel I have stared down from both sides: hate. My ammunition is the objective truth that radical ideologies are not what lead people to these destructive movements. No one is born to hate. I have found this bit of rare insight to be more powerful than any weapon Smith & Wesson can forge.

For those who align themselves with extremist ideologies, doctrine is but the final component that locks into place. Radical ideologies and extremist movements act like green traffic lights, signaling to those who have “stalled” in life where to direct blame for their grievances, anger, and insecurities—sometimes in violent ways—instead of working to resolve their obstacles in a positive or healthy manner. Feeling newly empowered, the cruelty that extremists adopt is the fraudulent license that grants them permission to project their pain onto others.

I’ve learned the only way to break this cycle of hate we are stuck in is to not distance ourselves from the problem, but to invest in one another, and in our failing “human infrastructure.”

Instead of attacking racists for their ignorance, I draw them in closer, knowing that beneath their protective armor of hate is a fractured human who is wearing it to mask their agony, shame, and fear.

If we can acknowledge that underlying environmental, emotional, and/or physical challenges, or any multitude of challenging life factors, are what give people their first push toward extremism—and not the other way around—then hope exists of diverting future generations from its devastating path altogether, and redemption is possible for those still wandering lost.

To confront this new culture of extremism that is emerging in America, we must approach it holistically just as the great Jewish scientist Dr. Jonas Salk tackled the epidemic of polio: treat the sick while inoculating others against contracting the disease. Although my work intervening with violent extremists is one way to “treat the sick,” the information I offer in these pages illustrates how anyone—at home, in the classroom, around the dinner table, in a legislative body, even one-on-one in public (with caution)—can intervene to prevent future generations from succumbing to extremism.

We can avert many of the tragedies we’ve become forced to accept as convention if we acknowledge that we are all “broken” and imperfect and that no one is alone in their despair. It’s something we all share. This universal brokenness is at the very core of the human condition, and it is the fundamental glue that can put us back together.

Yet, to fully eradicate hate, we must also heal the lingering wounds of our nation’s past failures. We must acknowledge the grave errors we’ve made and learn from them, while also learning from one another, calling out hate by its name, and enlisting those harmed by it to shape our future together. Let’s embrace the values of our great democracy—but understand we have much to do to fulfill its potential. Pledge allegiance to one another and the rest of humanity, using our shared bond of imperfection to grow and make our nation a bastion of courage and freedom. Only then will we embody the strength and idealism we have long professed.

Our greatness still lies ahead—but only our goodness will lead us there.

America—this is your intervention.




PART ONE

PRE-RADICALIZATION

“The Marginalized Seeker”

They hate because they fear, and they fear because they feel that the deepest feelings of their lives are being assaulted and outraged. And they do not know why; they are powerless pawns in a blind play of social forces.

—Richard Wright, Native Son

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

—James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time




1

Warning Signs: The Prelude to Hate

Kassandra

“SHE’S GONE, CHRISTIAN,” Meredith sobbed.

The din of clanking flatware and midday chatter inside my favorite Chicago delicatessen made her words pulsing through my mobile phone hard to decipher. When Meredith’s number popped up on my screen, it was always a crapshoot whether something horrible had happened—again. Miming to my colleague that I needed to step outside to take the call, I cupped a hand over my free ear and snaked through the scrum of hipsters and busboys at Manny’s Deli and out the front door.

“Campus police called… they found Kassandra’s phone in her dorm.” Meredith’s hurried words ebbed into staccato whimpers. “Jack is with me, and we’re driving… to meet campus police… dear God.”

“Meredith, please slow down.” Rain speckled the cracked pavement around me. “Breathe. I can’t understand you—say that again.”

I already sensed whatever came out of Meredith’s mouth next would mean one of two terrible things: yet another significant regression with her seventeen-year-old white-nationalist daughter, Kassandra, or worse, Kassandra’s Nazi boyfriend followed through with what he long threatened and physically took her from her family. Neither scenario was good, but the latter would be devastating.

“Jakob abducted Kassandra,” was all I heard before losing the rest of her words to the ether. The humid Chicago air squeezed the remaining breath out of me. Meredith’s voice was flat with despair, empty and heavy like the fog rolling in from Lake Michigan. I lowered the phone and pressed it against my chest, the speaker vibrating my skin as she wept for her missing teenage daughter a thousand miles away. I shuddered, feeling responsible, as if my chronic fear of this moment had somehow manifested it.

My head spun as thoughts raced inside of it—and it all rushed back in a flash.

Like a tornado of binary fragments, a stream of digital evidence from my year-long investigation into Kassandra’s online tormentors swirled in my mind—the suspects, aliases, accomplices, doctored videos, manipulated images, IP addresses, map coordinates, and countless screen grabs of bogus alt-right and pro-Trump social media accounts. Thousands of them all linked to Kassandra through a single nexus—Jakob Bergsson, her online Nazi boyfriend. Following the never-ending trail of rancid breadcrumbs to protect Kassandra and her family from Bergsson consumed me.

Now, she was gone.

It no longer mattered that I had made a solid identification on two suspects I believed were conspiring to lure Kassandra into thinking “Jakob Bergsson” was a real person: a Peruvian man living in Northern California named Santiago Amaro, and his partner, Maksim Volkov, a Russian millennial in Moscow, whom I labeled Troll Zero. As far as I could tell, the pair used the Jakob Bergsson fake-boyfriend alias to catfish at least four other underage female victims besides Kassandra. I warned the girls’ families that an imposter boyfriend was grooming their young loved ones as white-supremacist mouthpieces but none responded to my phone messages or emails. The other girls likely shared revealing selfies like Kassandra had, and the looming threat of blackmail was also keeping them compliant.

The dizzying scenario made me question my sanity many times since meeting Kassandra. But I was damn sure of one thing: Jakob Bergsson—the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan avatar Kassandra fell in love with over the Internet, the romantic twenty-three-year-old German American Nazi boy from Eagle, Idaho, who stole her heart and robbed her of her mind—did not exist in real life. He was a fraud.

The bizarre notion of a Russian Internet troll and a Latino immigrant living in Northern California conspiring to impersonate an American neo-Nazi was puzzling enough, but that they would go to such insane lengths for over eighteen months to dupe a random American teenager and her family gnawed at me. It was unlike any case of extremist radicalization I had encountered in almost twenty years of disengagement work, and I couldn’t figure out why she was being targeted by these two discrete foreign men. Sex trafficking? The Russian mob? A doomsday cult? I wrestled with every possible warped scheme.

Jakob Bergsson—Kassandra’s virtual boyfriend—was a self-anointed white supremacist, to be sure, but at least one of the real people behind the Bergsson alias appeared to be nonwhite and into non-movement-related cybercrimes like deep-web drug sales and financial pyramid schemes. The whole charade left me confused and in constant worry about Kassandra and her family’s safety.

When I first discovered a connection between the Jakob Bergsson alias and thousands of fake pro-Trump social media accounts, I wondered if it was somehow related to the upcoming election before quickly whiffling it off as farfetched. Four months later, on January 6, 2017, when the CIA and FBI announced Russian president Vladimir Putin’s intelligence directorate—the FSB—had meddled in and influenced the 2016 US presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, it confirmed my suspicions.*

How did Kassandra’s radicalization fit into this? None of it made sense when I first stumbled on it. But as evidence piled up, a telling picture emerged. Still, my revelation to Kassandra and her family about the two men behind her fake boyfriend’s social media accounts had failed to wake her from her nightmare.

I am not losing my damn mind, I convinced myself for the millionth time. Battling legions of doubt, along with a Russian troll brigade engaged in a furious siege on my will, took its toll on me. Bergsson had promised to come for Kassandra before, but the veiled threats never amounted to anything. This time, though, the elusive digital specter kept its word.

“Everything kosher?” my colleague asked as she approached me in the parking lot with an open umbrella and two bags of deli takeaway in tow. “I figured you got tangled up in that call, so I ordered us a couple of pastrami sandwiches to go.”

My eyes lifted from their locked-downward stare, drops of dangling rain leaping from the brim of my cap. I gave the FBI all my evidence on Jakob Bergsson. Why wouldn’t they use it to stop him? Eight months after I turned over evidence of Bergsson’s social media scam to the feds, I was still pissed at them for not following up with me—and now Kassandra was missing.

I tried in vain to say some comforting words to Meredith on the other end of the line, but the truth was I was a mess, too. After gathering the details of her daughter’s abduction, I said a clumsy goodbye and left her crying on the other end.

Sensing my distress, my colleague leaned in closer with her umbrella to shield me from the downpour I had somehow ignored. “You’re soaked. Can I give you a ride somewhere?”

“Yeah,” I replied, breaking my daze. “To the airport.”

Most of my many interactions with ideological extremists over the years have not involved high-stakes abductions or international espionage, as young Kassandra’s did. Still, neither of those frightening scenarios is much of a rarity in my workload these days either. Typically, these extremist disengagements—or off-rampings—begin with a concise but cautious appeal from an individual nearing their bottom, or, more commonly, a panicked or puzzled bystander—a loved one or acquaintance—who is worried that someone they care about has “suddenly” become lost to hate. Almost always, the frantic email, social media message, or phone text will include the same two vulnerable words: Please help.

In Kassandra’s case, the desperate plea came to me from her father, Jack, a year before she went missing. On September 4—two months shy of the 2016 US presidential election—Jack and his wife, Meredith, discovered that their daughter Kassandra transitioned from the bright and shy girl they thought they knew into a neo-Nazi YouTube sensation.

My wife and I learned this morning that our seventeen-year-old daughter has been posting content online related to Nazi beliefs. She’s also in an online relationship with an older, twenty-three-year-old “boyfriend” from Idaho who has influenced her in ways we are just now learning about. We’re shocked and very concerned. Kassandra is a good kid, maybe a loner and a little awkward, but she’s not hateful. Please help.

—Jack

His feet planted in his terry cloth morning slippers, hair still damp from a shower twenty minutes before, Jack stepped aside to let his next-door neighbor Mitch through the front door.

“Morning, pal! What’s brought you over so early, Mitch? Is the homeowners’ association threatening to fine me again because my grass is too long?” Jack joked, not yet aware of the seriousness of his friend’s visit. “No? Must be the aroma of Meredith’s cinnamon apple biscuits in the oven that’s brought you over, then.” Jack gestured for Mitch to join him and his wife in the living room for coffee.

Meredith set her magazine down on the ottoman and asked Mitch if she could pour him a cup.

He declined her offer and eased into an armchair. “I’m afraid this is serious. I need to tell you both something.”

“All right, Mitch, what is it?” Jack asked, anxiety brimming as he wondered what his neighbor had come by to tell him at seven on a Sunday morning. Jack lowered himself down onto the sofa next to Meredith. “Everything okay at home?”

“It’s about Kassandra.” Mitch paused to measure his words. “She’s involved in some white supremacy nonsense and is spewing horrible, racist things online. Against Jews and Muslims. It’s awful, just awful.”

Genre:

  • "This riveting narrative portrays on an intensely personal level the impacts of extremism. Encouragingly, it also identifies a method for recovery. Picciolini's experience and practice reinforce the truism that hate is a learned behavior, and it can be unlearned. Breaking Hate should be required reading for all citizens who care about dangerous behavior, want to understand it, and are committed to reducing it."—James Clapper, former US Director of National Intelligence
  • "Riveting, horrifying, and hopeful, Breaking Hate provides a careful and detailed account of how to stop society's death spiral into extremism, and when we need it most urgently."—S.E. Cupp, nationally syndicated columnist and CNN host, author of Losing Our Religion
  • "With piercing insight and unrivaled compassion, Breaking Hate tells the tragic story of how extremism has torn our communities asunder and how every American can work together to end the epidemic of violence that has taken so many of our loved ones. In a country where more than 96 percent of mass shootings are perpetrated by men, we need to find ways of helping our boys grow into healthy young men who not only reject hate but also feel they have paths forward in today's economy."—Andrew Yang, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate
  • "Gripping and timely...Written with authority and first-hand experience...Breaking Hate is filled with rare insights that put today's rise of white supremacy into perspective -- and shows us how to stop it."—Ali Soufan, former FBI special agent and New York Times bestselling author of Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State
  • "Breaking Hate is a groundbreaking book. It reveals the depths of the modern white-power extremist movement and illustrates how easily the children of good-hearted, proud Americans can become transformed and corrupted...A sorrowfully necessary book for the dark period America has found itself in."—Malcolm Nance, counter-terrorism analyst for NBC News and New York Times bestselling author of The Plot to Betray America, from the foreword
  • "At a time when the bonds of multiracial democracy and pluralism are being torn by political strife, growing hate group activity, and acts of white-supremacist terrorism, Christian Picciolini provides us a roadmap to a new sense of community and justice. As a former extremist himself, Picciolini knows what turns people into ticking time bombs and what it takes to defuse them; and more to the point, what it takes to prevent still more fuses from being lit. In Breaking Hate, he combines a keen sense of history with human psychology, sharp storytelling and the kind of hopefulness it will take to emerge from our current moment a healthier and more just nation. In this impressive volume he provides a critical glimpse inside the broken humanity of not only individual extremists, but the brokenness of America itself."—Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
  • "Christian Picciolini changed the way I see the seduction of hate groups and the vulnerable people lured into them. Let him do that for you, too."—Sarah Silverman, comedian
  • "A rare, exquisitely narrated tale of journeys to the edge and back, Breaking Hate illuminates a creeping danger that threatens to polarize American society and split it asunder. It documents Christian Picciolini's inspired efforts to turn back a tide of hate about to engulf us all. A must-read for anyone who cares to understand what feeds violent extremism, and how it can be countered."—Dr. Arie Kruglanski, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland and author of The Three Pillars of Radicalization
  • "Those who ignore Picciolini's agonizing and dire warnings about the pervasive and systematic alt-right movement, do so at all of our peril. We must instead listen intently to what he is telling us, and internalize his poignantly told personal story and fervent efforts to repair fractured souls lost to forces beyond their control. Our survival as a civil society may depend upon it."
    Glenn Frank, coauthor of From Broken Glass: Finding Hope in Hitler's Death Camps to Inspire a New Generation
  • "A candid look inside the radical and violent behavior that unites those in these movements....As the world is currently waking up to the devastating consequences of racism, perspectives like [Picciolini's] can help us understand the lure of white supremacy."—TED.com
  • "As an outspoken advocate who has denounced racism and resolved to "repair the harm I once caused," Picciolini sets an instructive example for those questioning their own extremism."
    Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
Feb 25, 2020
Publisher
Hachette Audio
ISBN-13
9781549171475

Christian Picciolini

About the Author

Christian Picciolini is an award-winning television producer, a public speaker, author, antiracism advocate, and a former extremist. After leaving the hate movement he helped create during the 1980s and 90s, he began the painstaking process of making amends and rebuilding his life. Christian went on to earn a degree in international relations from DePaul University and launched Goldmill Group, a counter-extremism consulting and digital media firm. In 2016, he won an Emmy Award for producing an anti-hate advertising campaign aimed at helping people disengage from extremism. For nearly two decades, Christian has helped hundreds of individuals leave hate behind through his disengagement work and the organizations he founded. He has spoken all over the world, including the TEDx stage, where he shares his unique and extensive knowledge about how to effectively prevent and counter extremism. Christian chronicles his involvement in and exit from the early American white-supremacist skinhead movement in his memoir, WHITE AMERICAN YOUTH, and is the featured subject in season 3 of WBEZ’s ‘Motive’ podcast, which received the 2021 National Edward R. Murrow Award for best podcast in large market radio. He showcased his disengagement work in a second book, BREAKING HATE: Confronting the New Culture of Extremism, as well as in the MSNBC documentary series of the same name, which aired in 2018-2019. He is the host of the ‘F Your Racist History’ podcast, a scripted history show that tells America’s hidden, overlooked, and unknown racist origin stories. The first season of it is currently available across major podcast platforms.

Learn more about this author