National Socialist Movement, one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in America, has named its new president. The man who will sit at the helm, called the "race whisperer," has no intention of upholding the white supremacist doctrine of his predecessors.
James Hart Stern, a black 54-year-old activist and pastor from California, outmaneuvered members of NSM in his long-term plot to infiltrate the organization and dismantle it from within. "As a black man, I took over a neo-Nazi group and outsmarted them," the pastor explained. In an interview with CNN, he said that his ultimate goal is to "change it, reverse it, and ultimately destroy it."
In his first move as president, Stern addressed a pending lawsuit against the group by asking that a Virginia judge find NSM guilty of conspiring to instigate violence at the 2017 riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. He also plans to modify the group's website into a platform for Holocaust history lessons.
Stern's predecessor and outspoken racist, Jeff Schoep, led NSM for over two decades. The new president explained to the Washington Post how his rise to power, which included manipulation and persuasion, transpired. Schoep reportedly appointed Stern amid discord among some of the group's key members, as well as to protect the group from a lingering lawsuit against NSM for their alleged role in Charlottesville. The lawsuit was lodged by victims who suffered as a result of the "unlawful conspiracy" of NSM and twenty other groups.
Following the appointment of Stern, Schoep sent a letter to other members of the group purporting that Stern had "deceived" him. Although he admitted to initially nominating Stern to the post, he claims that the pastor "convinced me that in order to protect our membership from the ongoing lawsuit, I should sign over NSM's presidency to him."
However, this wasn't Stern's first time infiltrating a white supremacist group. While serving prison time for mail fraud, Stern formed a bond with his cellmate, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Edgar Ray Killen. Despite their opposing views, Killen gave Stern the power of attorney over his estate. The activist then used his legal discretion to dismantle the Klan organization Killen once led.
Stern's strategy has drawn comparisons to Spike Lee's 2018 film BlacKkKlansman, in which two police officers, one of whom is black and the other Jewish, scheme to infiltrate the Klan in the 1970s. While Stern has shied away from comparing his intervention to that of the Oscar-winning film, the pastor did note that he intends to inspire fellow activists to join the fight. "I expect every minority, Jewish and black, which has been affected by it... to contact me and reach out so we can put our heads together and make sure that this is done productively."