The “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia made for a dangerous — and even deadly — event for hundreds of people this weekend, including Logan Smith.
The 30-year-old from North Carolina behind the “Yes, You’re Racist” Twitter account spent the last few days attaching names to photos from the rally, highlighting neo-Nazis carrying swastika-emblazoned flags and white supremacists hoisting tiki torches. He’s normally on the receiving end of hatred from racists, as he’s run the “Yes, You’re a Racist” account for five years. But the blowback reached new heights for Smith this past weekend.
“The good news, I suppose, is I haven’t really gotten threats until now,” said Smith in an interview with TheWrap. “I get all the insults: I’m a ‘race traitor,’ or a ‘n-word lover.'”
Smith added, “Now, I’m getting legitimate death threats. They’re threatening me, my family, my wife’s family.”
As pictures rolled in from Virginia, Smith said he was “inundated” with tips, allowing him to pin names to the faces. Smith then cross-referenced the tips against his own social media research, looking to see not only if the pictures match, but also if the person has shared racist content in the past.
The effects of Smith’s work was immediate, with several attendees outed — including Peter Cvjetanovic, a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, and James Allsup, president of the College Republicans at Washington State University. (Allsup did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.)
Another rally goer, Cole White, resigned from his job at Top Dog hotdogs in Berkeley, California, after he was spotted at the event.
“On Saturday, August 12, it came to our attention that one of our employees was involved in the recent ‘alt-right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia,” said a Top Dog spokesperson in an email to TheWrap. “Later that day we spoke with Cole White. During that conversation Cole chose to voluntarily resign his employment with Top Dog and we accepted his resignation.”
Smith said his goal is to expose racism, rather than have anyone fired or pressured into resigning.
In addition, the Fargo, N.D.-based father of Peter Tefft publicly disowned his son in the local newspaper because of his involvement in the Charlottesville rally and the white supremacist movement.
“I don’t set out to get anyone fired, I’m not calling anyone’s employer or anything like that. I’m not suggesting anyone try to confront these people, and I certainly don’t condone any form of violence against these people,” said Smith. “But if someone runs a business and they see one of their employees at a white supremacist rally, that’s their prerogative [to terminate them] and that’s something these people should think about before showing their faces at white supremacist rallies like this.”
After nearly five years running “Yes, You’re Racist,” the reverberations from Virginia reached a fever pitch for Smith, with his account swelling from about 65,000 followers to more than 300,000 in the last three days. His heritage has drawn the ire of white supremacists, while at the same time helped him develop a teflon attitude toward the vitriol he receives.
“I’m Jewish, so they focus on that. Stuff like ‘we’re going to burn you worse than Hitler did,’ and that sort of thing,” said Smith. “The interesting thing is, I’m a Jew by choice. And the most entertaining thing about it is the people throwing the word ‘Jew’ at me — as if I would be ashamed of that.”
Smith pointed to the anti-Semitism his stepfather experienced in Iran as one of the early events that crystalized his desire to push back against bigotry. A self-described “leftist,” Smith’s politics and Jewish identity have propelled him to exposing intolerance.
“The ability to fight [racism], it’s a calling,” said Smith. “There’s a principle of Judaism, Tikkun Olam — which translates to heal the world — basically working every day to make a better society, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
And the carnage he saw this weekend, with three people dead and dozens more injured, has galvanized him to continue his efforts.
“This is the kind of thing that you see in photos from 1930s Germany. This isn’t in a history book. This isn’t in a far away country. This is here and now.”