The definitive explainer on Molly Crabapple, her “ride or die love” of a Nazi hacker, and her efforts to cover it all up
BL - An SJW getz irate @Crabaple's secret love for fake NAZI - Weev
This "FurryGirl" has me Twitter blocked so glad I made an appropriate impression on her. Here is the source for the article
Content warnings: slurs, racism, white power, sexual abuse, threats of violence
With the #MeToo movement, I’ve been watching something I never thought I’d see: monsters are being held accountable for the things they’ve done. Abusers and bigots are being fired from their own TV shows, they’re losing their book deals, they’re being sent to prison. Horrible people are actually facing consequences.
Will this movement extend its rightful ire to those who are personally responsible for financing, glamorizing, and covering for abusers and hate movements? There’s one little corner of this topic that I’ve ranted about on Twitter many times, and it blew up this week.
Technology blogger Quinn Norton went from crowing about a prestigious new job at the New York Times to losing that job after her history of using racist slurs and supporting a Nazi hacker was brought to light. Consequences.
But what about that Nazi hacker’s other internet-famous fangirl, artist and political dilettante Molly Crabapple, who has somehow made an entire career out of bumbling her way through serious political subjects as a tragedy tourist? Will Molly Crabapple ever face any sort of consequences for her own advocacy on behalf of a Nazi hacker — time spent trying to frame him as a free speech martyr, recasting his white supremacism and misogyny as edgy, hip, and transgressive?
Let’s back up a step. Who is this particular Nazi making fresh headlines and why was he ever any sort of cause celebre among nerds? That background needs a thorough review before I can get to Molly Crabapple’s involvement.
Weev, aka Andrew Auernheimer, is a hacker who exposed a security flaw in AT&T, and ended up being indicted, convicted, and then having his conviction vacated after spending about a year in prison. It was akin to a mobster being imprisoned for tax evasion: finally, the government had some tangible thingthat they could try to nail him on, at least temporarily. Why might so many people be mad at this guy? Aside from that legal case which rocketed him to full internet stardom, Weev is a also renowned white supremacist and leader of targeted harassment campaigns.
Weev is a self-professed admirer of Hitler, and currently serves as the webmaster/IT guy for The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. He has bragged about faxing threats to kill Jewish children to synagogues. (There are 28 total mentions of the alias “Weev” on The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, filled under the sections “Hatewatch” and “Extremist Profile.”) He waged a targeted harassment campaign against a prominent woman programmer, taunting her and her family with rape and violence threats until she was scared to go out in public. He tried to organize people to crash the funeral of Heather Heyer. He has a large swastika tattoo on his chest.Top results from a Google Image search for “Weev tattoo”
So, this guy seems like kind of a turd, right? Not a mystery what he stands for or what his beliefs are. Weev has always been extremely proud of his racism and harassment campaigns, bragging to the New York Times in 2008 about his genocidal fantasies and how he loves making people “afraid for their lives.” For most people who consider themselves left-leaning, it should be a complete no-brainer about whether to applaud this guy.
Therein comes the layer of complication that other articles about Weev miss: the cultural context for why on earth anyone outside of white power circles would idolize this man. The American hacker community, of which Quinn Norton and Molly Crabapple are hangers-on, does not hold the same values that most left-leaning people hold, despite generally being comprised of people who are on the left side of the political spectrum.
I started going to hacker cons in 2002 because I wanted to connect with other weird, smart, creative people. And I did! I’ve met a handful of amazing, brilliant, emotionally intelligent people through cons. There are some real gems to be found if you look. However, I stopped going to these events a few years ago as the culture seemed to shift away from the parts that interested me. The American hacker scene’s hero worship of Weev is a key reason I soured on this subculture. I was backing away from the hacker world as Molly Crabapple was running towards it. I was leaving in disgust for the exact reasons that she was falling in love with it.
What people need to know to understand the entire Weev debacle is that the American hacker scene has one core, unshakeable tenet: that free expression is an absolute which must never be curtailed. One’s social rank within this “free speech” culture is determined in part by how much atrocious free speech one can defend. Here, free expression doesn’t need to exist for some greater purpose, like taking on harmful institutions, exposing oppression, or liberating information. (Although on rare occasions, hacking is pointed in such directions.) For the most part, free speech is just an end unto itself, to be deployed for laughs and to freak out the squares. It’s the sort of political analysis of the depth you’d expect of a 15-year-old buying a tub of green hair dye in Hot Topic to make his dad angry.
To many hackers, supporting and befriending Weev was (and still is) a form of currency and status, having him at your table proved that you truly believed in free speech. The hacker scene used Weev just as much as he used them, a writhing ball of nerds congratulating themselves for being friends with a Nazi while he collected their financial tributes for his mounting legal bills. Everyone was winning.
Many big names in the geek sphere were Weev defenders/friends/publicists: Glenn Greenwald, Xeni Jardin and Corey Doctorow at Boing Boing, Laura Poitras, Jennifer Granick and the rest of the legal team at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Dan Kaminsky, and Gabriella Coleman, who rationalized Weev as “an ethnographer of the extreme”, to name a few. (The only major figure in the American hacker scene to unequivocally condemn Weev was Jacob Appelbaum.)
To a culture that admires free expression as such, devoid of any context or real world implications, Weev was an absolute wet dream. He wants to slaughter Jewish children? He sends directs his minions to flood women with rape threats? What greater badge of honor than to associate with him and send him money. Look at how totally free speech you are! You’re open-minded and not afraid of ideas that are different from yours! You’ve proven that you’re down with the political cause that matters most to privileged white men: offending people.
The rabid and completely decontextualized free speech fetishism that exists in the American hacker world is something that I see as a result of the subculture being made up almost entirely of white men who usually have considerable class privilege. If you’ve never experienced any form of oppression, it’s easy to dismiss threats of violence or racial/misogynist slurs as “for the lulz.” If you’ve never been subjected to anonymous accounts threatening to rape and kill you, then targeted harassment campaigns can be written off as transgressive-but-harmless fun. If your people were never hung from trees as a form of terrorism against your community, then dropping n-bombs can be painted as edgy. If you’re not in a group of people that has been targeted for genocidal extermination, then talking about throwing people in ovens and gas chambers means you’re just defying uptight PC culture.
One of the main symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome is a pronounced inability to empathize with others.
I’m a staunch supporter of the legal right to free expression, and I don’t believe that hateful and bigoted speech should be criminalized. Even the most ignorant scum in America has the right to express their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean I am required to lionize such scum just because they managed to yell hurtful things about minorities. Sadly, many American hackers are simply not capable of teasing apart these sort of distinctions. There were two binary options, a one and a zero: either you’re pro-Weev, or you believe that free speech should be outlawed. There was no room for nuance. There was no room for context. There was no room for the idea that a person could believe in free speech yet also choose to not give their time and money to a Nazi.
It’s within this very specific social culture that people were friends with Weev. Molly Crabapple, always on the lookout for the latest political bandwagon to jump onto in order to raise her own profile, entered the hacker community and became one of the most prominent of Weev’s groupies. She tweeted and blogged positively about him and worked to rally people to the cause of financially supporting his legal defense.
At some point, however, Molly Crabapple must have realized that in order to keep selling herself as a serious radical intellectual, it would be best to distance herself from her Nazi friend for whom she had been professing intense admiration. Weev was a ticking time bomb of a public relations problem for her, and he needed to be excised.
One key thing Molly Crabapple can’t scrub from the internet is the fawning profile of Weev she wrote for Vice in 2013, wherein she described the infamous Nazi hacker thusly: “Official internet asshole or not, Weev inspires ride-or-die love.” Ride-or-die love. The article is representative of the way she spoke of him in many tweets and Tumblr posts that she’s since deleted. Molly Crabapple did a portrait of Weev for a Kickstarter documentary that sold the original artwork for $1500 as its top tier pledge prize. (You can see the trailer for the Weev-the-hero movie that Molly Crabapple’s artwork donation helped make possible here.) Like her cheeky “asshole” line in Vice, the portrait acknowledges Weev’s “bad boy” status while also tacitly making it out to be some cute fun.
The reference in her portrait is concerning in itself. The Hare and the Hedgehog is a Grimm fairy tale whose moral is that interracial marriage is bad. The final lines of the story: “When a man marries, he should take a wife in his own position, who looks just as he himself looks. So whosoever is a hedgehog let him see to it that his wife is a hedgehog also, and so forth.” Was Molly Crabapple using a xenophobic reference “ironically”? Haha, racism.
Over time, Molly Crabapple’s argumentation strategy to try to hide her past with Weev has changed.
At first, Molly Crabapple parroted the arguments she heard from hackers: that Weev was a political prisoner, and that even if we don’t agree with all of his views (*dismissive hand waving*), we must support him because we as progressives should resist the criminal justice system. At this stage, she would still say that she supported him, but would quickly point out that she was righteous in doing so. Molly Crabapple was casting herself as the co-hero of the story, pivoting from accusations of being a Nazi sympathizer to claiming that she was actually standing up for the rights of the downtrodden. She centers Weev and his experience of not enjoying prison as the real matter of importance. (He was placed in solitary for finding a work-around to post tweets and audio recordings from prison.)
“But my support of Weev was just about being anti-prisons!” is a obfuscation tactic still used by Molly Crabapple and other former fans of Weev. Well, yes, of course that’s the correct way to spin it as someone trying to remain employed by the left. Fighting the prison industrial complex is a good thing. Yet, that still doesn’t answer the underlying question, why select a white supremacist as the prisoner most deserving of money and adoration? There are over 2.3 million people in prison in America — and not a single one of them might have made a better person to rally around than a Nazi?
Later, Molly Crabapple argues that Weev’s “trolling” “felt small next to unjust incarceration”. Again, she’s framing Weev as the real victim in the situation, centering his feelings.
Next, Molly Crabapple unveiled Phase Two: flat-out denying that she had any idea Weev was racist or sexist. This is the point when she went on a deletion spree on Twitter and Tumblr, trying to purge years of her connection to Weev from anyone who might try and fact-check her claims about what she did and didn’t know about him, and how involved she was in promoting him and turning him into something of a counter culture icon. Gone were her tweets about Weev the hero, Weev her naughty friend, Weev’s legal defense fund. Gone also were the tweets from Phase One explaining that she’s actually a very noble person for defending a Nazi. (Ironically, tweets that she pledged she would “never regret.”)
There have been some wrenches in Molly Crabapple’s tidy plan to try and lie and delete her way out of her Weev friendship. For starters, you can only delete your own half of a conversation on Twitter, people do save screenshots, and then there’s that pesky Vice piece that she couldn’t erase. And despite the high turnover for lefty circles in America, some of us have memories that stretch back more than a few years.
Even Weev himself has publicly called out Molly Crabapple for her flip-flop friendship with him. From a 2017 interview (“AA” is Weev):
In 2016, Molly Crabapple claimed on Twitter that she drew her portrait of Weev before he “went fucking Nazi.”
So, let’s look at the timing of everything. It’s hard to perfectly fact check this topic because Molly has put in a lot of effort to try and erase her history with Weev. But, thanks to information still available online and some screenshots various people have saved over the years, we can get reasonably close to answering the important questions: when did Molly Crabapple lose the ability to say that she had no idea about Weev’s politics, and how soon after that did she start distancing herself from Weev?
Let’s start with considering 2013, the year of Molly Crabapple’s Vice article, which falls in the time period where Molly Crabapple says Weev was not yet a Nazi. So, what types of definitely-not-problematic things was Weev doing in 2013 or earlier? Let’s create a timeline of things about him that were easily accessible with a little digging.
In 2006, Weev’s hacking group, called The Gay Nigger Association of America, created an anti-Semitic website called JewsDidWTC.com. In 2007, Weev’s first Livejournal post was about blacks having low IQs and concluded with the line, “Hitler was right.” (That’s a full 6 years before Molly wrote glowingly about him for Vice!) In 2008, an article in the New York Timesquoted Weev musing on his desire to throw “retards” into ovens and bragging that he makes “people afraid for their lives.” In 2008, Weev published a white power manifesto on his Livejournal account. In 2012, one of Weev’s hacking group’s most publicized actions was the release of a website called “Linux for Niggers,” a “joke” operating system which stated, “Niggers have always had trouble understanding new (or any) technology.” In 2012, Weev’s hacking group took to Twitter to promote fabricated photos and fake stories of black people allegedly looting in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, photos that ended up being used in the media. In 2012, a Gawker post noted Weev’s history of racism and his YouTube channel dating back to 2009 where he shared anti-Semitic rants. The victim of one of Weev’s most brutal harassment campaigns, Kathy Sierra, contacted Molly Crabapple via email in 2013 to tell her about Weev. She wrote, “In summary, he destroyed my life, for lulz, and you, personally, are propagating his mythology.” Molly Crabapple never replied. Also in 2013, a month before Molly Crabapple’s Vice article praising him, another Vice piece discussed Weev’s history of racism.
I first asked Molly Crabapple about her support of Weev in March of 2014. She and I are both former sex workers who used to work in the online porn industry, so I thought that she might be sympathetic to the angle that Weev wanted to execute people like us. Weev was quoted as saying in 2013, “We take all these vile pornographers, and all these fucking bankers that fund pornography, we line them up in the street and we crucify them, just like they crucified Christ. And that would be change I could fucking believe in … blood in the streets.” Molly Crabapple has since deleted her half of our first conversation on the topic, but she defended Weev on the grounds that all prisoners deserve support:
I initially liked Molly’s artwork, and even after this spat, I hoped she was going to come around on Weev. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and waited to see if she would change her mind. Molly Crabapple and I exchanged a few other casual tweets. At some point I simply stopped following her because she seemed to care only about self-promotion and whatever faddish cause she needed to pretend to support in order to get attention.
In April of 2014, shortly after his release from prison, Molly was still friends with Weev, seen below favoriting a holocaust joke he made on Twitter. (Screenshot from Twitter user @OLAASM, who has been one of the few people who has spent years calling out Molly Crabapple on Twitter and their blog. For their work, they’ve reported having been doxxed by Molly Crabapple and Weev.)
As of July of 2014, a screenshot by Twitter user @Umfuld shows Molly Crabapple was still busy promoting Weev on her Twitter account, displaying her now-famous portrait of him that she donated to a flattering documentary being made about him.
Weev’s swastika tattoo made its internet debut in October 2014 in an article on The Daily Stormer, and was apparently done by Weev’s tattoo artist girlfriend sometime between when he was released from prison in April and October when he posted on The Daily Stormer.
So, Molly Crabapple start distancing herself from Weev sometime between July 2014 (when she did the portrait) and December 2014 (when she defended her defense of him, but also stated “fuck nazis”). That answers one question.
But how on earth did it take her until late 2014? Years before that, Weev was posting white power stuff on his blog, he was spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, claiming that black people are too dumb to use computers, framing black people as looters. A year before dropping Weev, Molly Crabapple was directly told about Weev’s history of waging wars of sexual violence threats. Very shortly before Molly Crabapple started distancing herself from Weev, she favorited one of his holocaust jokes on Twitter.
Molly Crabapple considers herself a serious investigative journalist, but she also claims that she had no awareness about any of Weev’s history. His views were well-known in the hacker community during the time in which she and Weev were friends and that she was circulating in those social circles. Racism was Weev’s defining personality trait, the thing everyone knew him for (along with being a freeloader who was always trying to extract money and free stuff from people). I simply do not believe that it’s possible that anyone could be friends with Weev and not know he was a profoundly racist person. Here’s an October 2014 tweet from Quinn Norton about people who were “surprised” upon the official unveiling of her friend’s tattoo:
Quinn Norton went on to defend her friendship with Weev by explaining that Nazis are no different than people who eat meat:
Even if Molly Crabapple somehow, through some very convoluted twist of events, managed to not know anything about Weev apart from what she heard about him while lionizing him for the AT&T hack, the whole issue in that legal case was dealing with hacks done under under the banners of the Gay Nigger Association of America and Goatse Security.
In 2016, before being banned from Twitter, Weev even called out Molly Crabapple for pretending she didn’t know of his beliefs. Screenshot posted by Twitter user @OwenRBroadhurst.
In searching Twitter to collect all of these screenshots, I did find one tweet that made me laugh:
In August of 2017, I went on a tweetstorm about Molly and her friendship with Weev, where I was warned by a Twitter user, “Hey, be careful what you say about Molly. She and weev share a penchant for doxing people they don’t like.” Another Twitter user claims, “Crabapple also doxxed multiple socialist organizers.” (My Twitter account was hacked to say “free weev” on February 15, 2018 after I had again raised the topic of Molly Crabapple and Weev in the wake of Quinn Norton’s firing from the New York Times.)
In September of 2017, I brought up the issue of Molly Crabapple’s Weev fangirling because she had received over 11,000 retweets for sharing the story of a Jewish woman resisting Nazis in Auschwitz. How cute, Molly Crabapple was now deciding that being anti-Nazi was her best path towards internet fame, rather than defending Nazis.
Molly Crabapple has a lot of fans and followers, and therefore a power that she can harness and point in a direction of her choosing. Of all the things going on in the world, glamorizing a Nazi was her priority for a period of time. In a country where women in prison — some of the most oppressed members of our society — are denied access to menstrual products unless they have families on the outside who can afford to send money for their commissary purchases, Molly Crabapple and other prominent lefty nerds were directing people to send money to an imprisoned Nazi.
I don’t think Molly Crabapple is herself racist. I think she doesn’t give a shit about racism one way or the other, and will stand for a Nazi or stand for anti-Nazis depending on what seems to be in style at any given moment. That’s her privilege as an obtuse upper class white woman. For people like Molly Crabapple, racism and oppression get to be an abstract concept, some sort of ephemeral thing that exists out there somewhere, to someone else. Racism has no bearing on her life other than to get her clicks and retweets. Is racism in style this week, or not? Are we supposed to have crushes on Nazis, or are they not cool any more? This bothers me more than if she was simply a racist. Molly Crabapple doesn’t care what side she’s on, just so long as she’s being paid in money and attention to take a side. She’s a tourist, traipsing through a variety of different political causes that seem to be “in.” Molly Crabapple stands for Molly Crabapple.
Yet, this has somehow never becomes a real scandal, because when confronted, Molly Crabapple plays dumb. She continues to make enough money off of the left to afford a beautiful high-ceiled loft in one of the world’s most expensive cities, where her “closet brims with high-end designers, from Alexander McQueen to Vivienne Westwood.”
Considering that Molly Crabapple’s history of supporting a Nazi has made not a dent in her own popularity in social justice circles, I was truly shocked when Quinn Norton, one of Weev’s other groupies, actually faced a consequence over it. Maybe the tide is turning against not just bigotry, but also against the enablers and cheerleaders of bigotry.
It’s up to you — the internet — to decide, just as you decided this week regarding Quinn Norton. Should Molly Crabapple face any consequences for her role in glamorizing and defending a notorious Nazi? Should the left keep hiring Molly Crabapple to draw and write stuff? Do you want to buy her next pair of Louboutins?
Just as I repeatedly demanded to know of Molly Crabapple regarding her selection of Weev as her hero for a period of time, are there not more deserving people that you could be supporting instead?