Here we go again. Another gang of neo-Nazi white supremacists thinks Maine is the next thing to heaven.

“I’d recommend anyone in Maine not interested in a white ethnostate to move out of Maine. Because they’re in one,” Chris Pohlhaus, aka “The Hammer,” told me in a text.

Pohlhaus, a 34-year-old former Marine from San Antonio, Texas, is a man on a mission: Move to northern Maine with a band of like-minded misanthropes, buy up all the cheap real estate they can find, stock up on guns, set up their own schools and live nastily ever after.

And, oh yes, no people of color allowed.

It all began back in February, when Pohlhaus, who’s cultivated a high profile in the world of rabid white supremacy by selling Nazi banners for “banner drops” on highway overpasses, opened a chat called “Great Maine Migration” on the instant messaging platform Telegram.

Vice News ran a story on the chat Monday after obtaining a transcript of the session from the Counter Extremism Project, which tracks extremist groups and, when possible, gums up their operations. The organization sent me a copy of the chat transcript Wednesday, along with Pohlhaus’s contact information.

Let’s start with the transcript.

It reads like a bunch of teenage boys planning an adventure that in all likelihood will never happen. While some said they’re on the verge of pulling up stakes and buying a place in Aroostook or Piscataquis County this summer, others lamented that the only thing holding them back is their bad credit or lack of what one called “provable income.”

Either way, from where they sit, Maine is some kind of nirvana.

“The sheer number of snowmobile/atv trails in Maine is huge. It’ll be a good alternative to the regular roads,” noted someone calling himself Nurmof. “I’m starting to map out trails that connect to other friends in the northeast.”

“Yes,” replied Master Orwell. “That will be so sick.”

Back to Nurmof: “A nazi home owners association would be cool too. Anybody can make one. Use the fees as a community safety net. Use the money to build a community center with a gym etc etc.”

“Find an abandoned house and squat,” chimed in Awakened Saxon.

“The only way you could do something like that is an abadoned cabin the woods. But even then if found out they will remove you,” warned Jack Corke.

And on it went. They exchanged real estate listings. They discussed buying buildings that would make good schools. They went down rabbit holes – such as how to protect your electronic equipment from a solar flare, or how former Gov. Paul LePage was “great for Maine” because he once warned that Black drug dealers were coming to Maine and impregnating white women.

“Too bad he isn’t still governor,” mused Nurmof.

And punctuating it all were racial slurs and stereotypes too offensive to repeat here. If washing mouths out with soap was still an antidote to bad language, this bunch would be speaking in bubbles.

Over it all sat The Hammer. Alluding to Maine’s reputation as one of the whitest states in the nation, he speculated, “Maybe with our efforts we can raise it higher than it is now.”

Which brings us to my online conversation with Pohlhaus, the face behind The Hammer.

Over the course of 90 minutes, a portrait emerged of a young man motivated not so much by hatred and anger but by fear. A man who claims to have Black friends, even relatives, on the one hand, but sees people whose skin color doesn’t match his as “a threat to what I am.”

“I don’t want to go extinct,” he wrote after I asked how he feels about people of color. “Anyone who is in the way of what I am … is an existential threat.”

Should he and his fellow neo-Nazis actually make it to Maine, I asked, what kind of reception do they expect?

“I will not need a reception,” Pohlhaus replied. “I have my own people.”

“Doesn’t sound too neighborly,” I observed.

“I wish I could be neighborly. But people want to destroy me and make me homeless.”

He sent me an image of the group’s flag. Filling the background are three yellow, orange and red stripes – “we picked autumn colors to represent maine.” The centerpiece is a white swastika. In the upper left corner sits a triple Tyr rune, an ancient pagan German symbol that Pohlhaus said “represents victory and it also represents the forest … I have distributed maybe 50 of (the flags) so far.”

So, what are we dealing with here? A man-child from Texas who’s a legend in his own mind? A rerun of Tom Kawczynski, who in 2018 was fired as town manager in Jackman after selectmen learned that he was actually in Maine to establish an all-white community called “New Albion?”

Or, as white nationalism spreads like a brush fire all over the United States in the post-Trump era, does Pohlhaus represent something more nefarious?

Steve Gardiner is assistant research director at Political Research Associates, a Boston-based nonprofit committed to exposing movements, institutions and ideologies that threaten human rights. He’s watched Pohlhaus emerge over the past two years as a rising star in the neo-Nazi movement and, in an interview Thursday, offered a mix of realism and caution in dealing with uninvited, white nationalist newcomers.

“These folks, as obnoxious as they are, are going to live somewhere,” Gardiner said. “And that means someone is going to be their neighbor, and (somewhere) is going to be their town.”

But at the same time, he said, chatter like “Great Maine Migration” goes on all the time. Often, he said, it’s just that – idle blather about a white separatist utopia that will never materialize.

“If these guys did everything that they said they were going to do in a chat room, the country would have been in flames long ago,” Gardiner said.

Still, he cautioned, it’s a mistake to ignore Pohlhaus and his ilk outright.

“The point is to right-size the threat, to pay attention,” he said. “And when they start coming, you don’t organize to get rid of them.”

Rather, Gardiner continued, you demonstrate to them that your neck of the woods is not what they envisioned. You vocally support the most vulnerable in your midst, organize community fundraisers and activities that run blatantly counter to neo-Nazis’ toxic belief system. You make them feel unwelcome not with confrontation, but by simply holding fast to the way life should be.

Good advice. Time will tell whether we’ll need it.

In our one-on-one conversation, Pohlhaus actually tried to convince me how lucky we Mainers are.

“We must move somewhere and in my opinion maine is the perfect choice,” he wrote. “You should be flattered we think so highly of you to get so many people so excited on the move.”

Flattered? Try repulsed.


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