Can’t we all get along? That seems to be the question coming from internet personalities Baked Alaska and Matthew Colligan after they were attacked and doxed while participating in a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
Matthew Colligan and his friend Baked Alaska, whose real name is Anthime Gionet, have spent the past few years tweeting neo-Nazi slogans, advocating for white nationalism, and even saying that “Hitler did nothing wrong.” But they both have dramatically changed their tune in the past 24 hours. This in the wake of a terrorist attack by a neo-Nazi who murdered 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured dozens of others.
Baked Alaska was maced at the neo-fascist rally and Colligan says that he’s received hundreds of death threats after having his personal information posted online, a practice referred to as being doxed. In response, Baked Alaska has now published tweets saying that “violence is never the answer” and that everyone “must come together as a country and try to understand each other peacefully.” Colligan even released a video on YouTube where he said that, “there’s nothing funny about threatening people’s lives.” The life he’s referring to in this case is his own.
But it’s a remarkable turnaround for two people who have spread hateful messages across social media for years. Colligan often proclaims on video and in tweets that “Hitler did nothing wrong” and has earnestly defended this stance on social media. If Colligan truly believes that it’s not funny to threaten people’s lives, that’s hardly consistent with constantly saying that Adolf Hitler’s murder of millions of Jews was fine, joking or otherwise.
Baked Alaska’s own hateful messages have included photoshopping images of Jewish people in gas chambers and posting a video of himself as recently as Friday yelling that he was “proud to be white” and chanting “hail victory,” the English translation of “sieg heil.”
The Nazis of the 1930s, of course, shouted sieg heil at their own rallies, though Baked Alaska and Colligan claim that they’re not neo-Nazis. They seem to prefer the term alt-right, a rebranding effort that has been met with some success in the mainstream press.
The two men proudly participated in the tiki torchlight rally on Friday in Virginia where white supremacists assaulted peaceful counter-protesters in images eerily reminiscent of Klan rallies from the early 20th century. Baked Alaska even posted video of the assaults by his fellow white supremacists shouting, “pray for us, they’re attacking us, the Communists are out!” The video also shows the neo-Nazis chanting “white lives matter” as men give Nazi salutes.
Some men at the torchlight rally, like 20-year-old Peter Cvjetanovic, were surprised to see their faces go viral, though Colligan seemed to have been proud of his own presence at the rally. At least he was until his friend got maced. Now he doesn’t seem to think it’s so funny.
Colligan, who goes by the Twitter handle @Millennial_Matt, has not been shy about proclaiming that past violence by the Nazis was justified. He tweeted just a week ago that, “the worst atrocities of WWII were committed by the allied nations,” and published a photo of the Rheinwiesenlager, the prison camps set up by the Allies to hold Nazis at the end of World War II. Colligan said that “This place makes Auschwitz look like a 5-star resort.”
This past Friday the two got into an altercation with a black Uber driver in a video they posted on Twitter. Colligan and Baked Alaska were both kicked out of an Uber upon their arrival in the Virginia area for allegedly saying racist things. They reportedly told their driver that this was “white America,” causing her to feel unsafe. She wound up ditching them on the side of the road with the Washington monument in the background.
Baked Alaska now claims that he’s never advocated for violence against anyone and apparently wants to encourage reasonable discussion after a long history of going after what he calls social justice warriors (SJWs) and peddling in anti-semitic hate. Again, it’s quite a dramatic turnaround in such a short period of time, but it’s not entirely surprising to see.
Baked Alaska and Matthew Colligan come from a long line of keyboard fascists who are happy to dabble in holocaust denial, white supremacy, and racist intimidation until they get a punch in the nose. Or, in the case of Baked Alaska, sprayed in the face. Now they suddenly want to be the voices of reason after leading online armies of angry young men under a banner of “white pride.”
America is truly at a crossroads when it comes to racist hate and bigotry. The president of the United States refused to condemn the neo-Nazis at Saturday’s riot and didn’t denounce their support for Trump’s message to make America great again, now seemingly the rallying cry for white terrorists. The most vile white supremacists online got the message loud and clear when President Trump said that there were “many sides” who were to blame for the violence.
Only time will tell if men like Baked Alaska and Matthew Colligan are serious about denouncing violence. But make no mistake that the cries of “hail victory,” “blood and soil,” and “Hitler did nothing wrong” are advocating for just that—violence on a scale that the average person has trouble even grasping. Praising genocide and echoing the Nazis is explicitly a call to violence, even if the meme brigade wants to claim they’re just trolling.
In fact, it’s disturbing how often President Trump’s defenders have said he’s merely joking on any number of issues from roughing up suspects to praising Vladimir Putin. But Trump himself almost always insists he was serious whenever confronted with those questions directly.
These white supremacists aren’t joking. And if they are, it’s a joke they’ve dedicated their lives to for years. At some point you have to take the neo-Nazis at their word. Because if you spend too long dismissing it as trolling, pretty soon it becomes too late to do anything about it.