Frank Meeink, the former neo-Nazi whose troubled life inspired the explosive hit movie American History X, says Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric is inviting “another Timothy McVeigh” to carry out a mass-casualty bombing of a federal facility or other kind spectacular attack.
“There are Timothy McVeighs everywhere,” Meeink said in a Tuesday phone interview about the Proud Boys and other right-wing extremists descending on Washington, D.C.—with the president’s encouragement—to protest the congressional vote sealing his electoral defeat. “Every hour that this madness goes on, we are waking up more and more Timothy McVeighs.”
McVeigh, a Gulf War army veteran and white-power aficionado, used a powerful homemade truck bomb to attack the Alfred P. Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people and wounding more than 680 others. He was quickly apprehended and executed in 2001.
Meeink says his own years as a white power, neo-Nazi skinhead leader in the early 1990s gives him insight into the thinking of anti-government radicals today.
“I would be planning stuff right now,” he told SpyTalk. “I mean, that’s what I did. I kidnapped people, that’s what I did in the movement…”
Meeink, now 45, says he’s not worried about the extremist protesters in Washington so much as the under-the-radar loners nursing their hatreds, building bombs or readying their stocks of automatic weapons to assassinate or kidnap government officials—all in the service of igniting a civil war.
“I know that they’re psyched for this. They’re pumped for this,” he says. The crisis over certifying Joseph Biden’s election victory is “the big game that they’ve been talking about for 30 years in The Turner Diaries”—a civil war.
Trump’s incessant, baseless complaints that the election was “stolen” is “waking up” the malcontents, he said. “And I believe out of the 75 million that voted for Trump, one million of them are now radicalized hardcore, but about 10,000 to 50,000 of them are like me or what I was. And that’s really dangerous, and really scary for America.”
Born in South Philadelphia in 1975, Meeink was raised in a dysfunctional family, with an abusive stepfather and drug addicted, alcoholic mother. Bullied as an outcast at school, he discovered the neo-Nazi movement at 13 and quickly rose to become one of its violent leaders, carrying out a kidnapping of one man, the near murder of another, and other random acts of violence. He went to prison at 17, but emerged a changed man and drifted away from his skinhead buddies.
Since then he has worked to persuade other alienated youths to resist the siren call of a twisted kind of brotherhood in racist and fascist gangs. His turnabout was dramatized by Ed Norton in American History X. Today, a documentary about him and other reformed skinheads, Healing from Hate: The Battle for the Soul of America, is making the rounds of film festivals.
Last year Meeink testified to Congress about white supremacists in police forces. It provoked a stream of death threats and a break-in of his Baltimore apartment, he told SpyTalk. He’s now living on a boat off the West Coast.
Back in his day, he says, he never threatened, “I just did it.”
“So I’m not worried about the people that are threatening me. I’m worried about the ones that aren’t threatening me.”
In the 1990s the skinheads were largely fringe movements that either operated in the shadows, in entrenched pockets of racism in the rural South, or anti-government hotbeds in Idaho and other parts of the Northwest U.S. FBI undercover agents like Mike German were able to infiltrate the groups and arrest their leaders.
But Trump has revitalized hate groups and armed militias with his anti-immigrant policies, denunciations of the Washington “swamp,” dismissals of scientific expertise and kind words for everyone from neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, to the misogynistic white-power Proud Boys marauding through D.C. spoiling for a fight.
“Donald Trump knew what he was doing,” he says. “They are validated everywhere they turn around.”
During his own, pre-Internet time in the movement, “you had to go to functions and you had to go to rallies. And you had to go get the others and gather.” Now, “you don’t see neo-Nazi skinhead gangs anymore, right? You don’t see the KKK stuff. It’s morphed into this Proud Boys fake patriotism, wrapped in nationalism.”
Meeink says he’s been glued lately to the far-right One America News Network, which is “constantly beating the drum of ‘patriot, stand up... take what’s ours... now’s our chance.’”
The more organized militants “are planning a fucking race war,” he says. “And it’s not what people keep thinking—white against Black. It’s going to be these white supremacist Westerners against our federal government and trying to get some piece of land that’s going to be their homeland.”
He can be amused about his own turnabout. Last June he was arrested twice in Los Angeles with Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrating against police brutality. He says he’s been beaten up by the cops and shot at twice for involvement with the BLM.
“Funny angle,” he says.
Co-published with SpyTalk, where Jeff Stein leads an all-star team of veteran investigative reporters, writers, and subject-matter experts who will take you behind the scenes of the national security state. Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and website.