Crashing the Nazi’s Dinner Party

Crash Barry goes undercover to expose a Maine hate group

Tom Kawczynski, second from right, in a Lewiston restaurant last month. photo/Crash Barry

The Nazi walked into the Thai restaurant in Lewiston just as I finished my last Crab Rangoon. In his distinctively whiny voice, he told the hostess he was Tom and had a reservation for the large table in back — right next to the booth where I was sitting. Disguised by a wig and a 10-day beard, I sipped my beer and watched Tom Kawczynski, the recently dismissed town manager of Jackman, Maine, saunter across the dining room, followed by two short females and a tall male.

It was 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 10. It’d been two and a half weeks since elected officials of the tiny Somerset County town fired the 37-year-old Kawczynski, and three weeks since my friend Andy O’Brien and I had outed this fascist racist on social media, sparking an uproar that became national news. Kawczynski was trying to establish a community he called New Albion, a white ethno-mini-state, in rural Maine, and had been encouraging fellow Nazis and hate-mongers to join him and his wife here, promising cheap land and the company of other Caucasians.

I’m not gonna name the Thai restaurant. It’s not their fault Kawczynski chose their establishment to hold a “leadership meeting” for prospective co-founders of New Albion. He’d been promoting this meet-up for the past couple weeks during interviews on alt-right podcasts and on Gab, a hybrid Twitter/Tumblr for white supremacists who’ve been booted off other social media.

Kawczynski had personally invited me to the meeting. Or, rather, he’d invited Walt, one of my numerous online alter-egos. I’d been catfishing Kawczynski via an encrypted e-mail service as Walt, a single guy in his late 20s who lives in his parents’ basement in the Hancock County town of Trenton, where he strings together seasonal jobs to make cash. Walt agrees with Kawczynski about everything and was eager to meet and eat, but he didn’t show up for this supper.

The author in disguise. photo/Leon Samson

I’d arrived a half hour early, looking like Bang-Bangs, star of the “Island Conceptual Artist” series of short films I made for The Bollard a decade ago. I requested the booth next to the big table with eight chairs. After ordering a beer and appetizer, I took out my tiny cameras and other surveillance gear and duct-taped a digital voice recorder to the underside of my table, its highly sensitive mic pointed in the direction the Kawczynski party would soon be sitting. Then I grabbed another digital voice recorder and sat down at Kawczynski’s table with my laptop. To the casual observer I would’ve looked like a long-haired bohemian trying to connect to Wi-Fi. As it happened, I was able to hide this second recorder within five feet of Kawczynski’s seat.

The purpose of this surveillance mission was to learn more about Kawczynski’s master plan — and to see who showed up for the planning meeting. This was Kawczynski’s big — and maybe only — chance to capitalize on the infamy his firing had lent him before his story was further buried beneath the deluge of daily outrages.

“Today is our first move into possibly hostile ground,” he posted on Gab hours before the dinner party, “but also a place where I suspect we have many allies.” Lewiston “is where the largest number of Somali refugees have been deposited,” he noted in the post. “People there will know the cost in a way only those who live it can.”

“Today is a foundation,” his post concluded. “We give up too much ground too easily. And in some small corner of Maine, now we begin planning to take our home back.”

The Rise and Fall of New Albion

According to Kawczynski, his firing was the result of a grand conspiracy involving the anti-fascist movement Antifa, billionaire businessman George Soros, communists in Boston, the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Jewish-owned media mafia.

The truth, of course, is much less interesting.

Andy O’Brien and I are just two writers who don’t want a bunch of Nazis moving to Maine to set up some sort of white-power commune. In recent years, O’Brien has been monitoring the rise of local alt-right groups. (He’s the managing editor and ace political reporter for Rockland’s Free Press, a newsweekly owned by the decidedly goyish Reade Brower, who also owns the Portland Press Herald and Lewiston’s Sun Journal.) In early January, he followed a link to the New Albion blog (newalbion.org) and learned that it was run by a man named Tom Kawczynski. A quick Google search revealed that a fella with that name had been hired to be the town manager of Jackman the previous June.

Tom Kawczynski standing in front of the flag of New Albion. (social media photo)

O’Brien literally couldn’t believe his eyes. What public official could be so stupid, he thought, as to promote white ethno-nationalism on public websites (including Facebook and Gab) using his own name? Perhaps the Nazi behind New Albion just happened to have the same moniker as Jackman’s town manager, or maybe the Nazi stole Kawczynski’s identity. O’Brien stewed about this for a couple weeks, then mentioned the dilemma to me. I offered to investigate.

On the morning of Friday, January 19, I smoked a huge joint and drank two cups of tea, then sat down at my computer and commenced what I call deep Googling. I soon discovered that Kawczynski was a prolific Gabber. After reading a couple hundred posts of white-supremacist jibber-jabber I found mention of his day job as — bingo! — a town manager in western Maine. (Jackman, pop. approximately 900, is near the Quebec border, about four hours north of Portland.)

Soon after that, I learned Kawczynski’s “#TraditionalWife,” Dana Steele, a.k.a. “Snow White,” is also a hardcore Gabber, one with even more virulent views. By 10 a.m. I’d found the couple’s Christmas e-card: a photo of Adolf Hitler with the message, “We’re having a white Christmas in Maine.” It only got uglier from there. Post after post expressed their disdain for all people of color, feminists, liberals, Jews, and anyone who isn’t strictly heterosexual (“White is the new straight,” Kawczynski wrote in one post). I also found conversations encouraging other haters — e.g., Gabbers with swastika avatars — to move to Maine and help make New Albion a reality.

After a call to Jackman’s town office confirmed that Kawczynski was still employed there, we went public. Around 11 a.m. that Friday, O’Brien and I began publishing our findings on our personal social-media accounts. This prompted other concerned Mainers to do their own digging and some shared new tidbits with us. By mid-afternoon, members of the Maine media who’d seen our posts rushed to publish their own articles. The wire services noticed and the story went global. By the end of Friday, Jackman town officials announced a special meeting had been scheduled for the following Tuesday, the earliest date allowed by law, to address the matter of Kawczynski’s employment.

Kawczynski was freaking out. He deleted his Facebook accounts and changed the setting on his Gab account to make it private. But he soon realized that by doing so, his supporters couldn’t reach him. Panicking, he made his Gab account public again and asked tech support how he could delete posts. Turns out the only way to scrub a Gab account is by deleting the whole damn thing. For Kawczynski, that would’ve been social-media suicide. Without Gab, he was isolated and invisible.

The firestorm raged all weekend. Angry Mainers began posting negative reviews on the social-media pages of the town of Jackman and local businesses, demanding that Kawczynski be fired. The townspeople and the local Chamber of Commerce weighed in, telling members of Jackman’s select board and journalists covering the story that they wanted Kawczynski gone.

Kawczynski and Steele proclaimed themselves victims of a witch-hunt. The Nazi town manager appointed himself a spokesman for “white civil rights.” Steele started posting photos of O’Brien and me on various hate-sites, calling us “faggots” and “commies.”

By 10 a.m. Tuesday, Kawczynski was out of a job, fired “without cause” after accepting a $30,000 payout in exchange for agreeing not to sue the town. Jackman wasn’t without leadership for long. The select board chose Mitchell Berkowitz, an experienced Maine municipal professional, to take the helm on a temporary basis. I haven’t been able to confirm this yet, but I suspect Kawczynski’s worst nightmare has come true: He was replaced by a Jew.

15 minutes of infamy

So Kawczynski was unemployed and his name was mud. After legal fees, taxes and paying for COBRA insurance, that $30,000 would disappear fast. He needed to parlay his sudden notoriety into a lucrative role in the white-power underworld before his fellow fascists moved on to the next crackpot.

But the fella couldn’t commit to a role. Was he a victim or a hero? A martyr for the cause or a leader of it? Kawczynski didn’t seem to understand that he couldn’t be all of those things. It didn’t help that Snow White was begging on Gab for money and pleading for more mainstream hate-mongers, like Alex Jones and Ann Coulter, to cover the unjust firing of her hubby.

It soon became apparent that the alt-right’s media stars weren’t gonna go to bat for a couple that wore their swastikas so boldly on their sleeves. And Kawczynski must not have gotten the memo about the new white-supremacist dress code: polo shirt and khakis. On the morning of his firing, he showed up for the cameras wearing a black shirt and red tie beneath a buttoned-up black trench coat. With his head freshly shorn, he looked like an extra playing a Gestapo agent in a Netflix reboot of Hogan’s Heroes.

The junior-varsity Aryans, however, did welcome Kawczynski. One of his first post-firing interviews was on Radical Agenda, a “pogrom” hosted by Christopher Cantwell, the “Crying Nazi” who famously broke down during an interview with VICE News following the deadly white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville last summer. And over the next couple weeks Kawczynski appeared on numerous racist podcasts, petulantly retelling his sob story while announcing new initiatives. A tell-all book was in the works, he promised, as was a podcast of his very own. He plugged the upcoming “leadership meeting” and urged listeners living in New England to contact him for details. He repeatedly bragged that the (imaginary) community of New Albion now had 100 members.

But all was not going well on the fundraising front. It can’t be easy to squeeze dollars from a bunch of keyboard warriors whose meager earnings are blown on in-game currency and Papa John’s pizza. Besides, Kawczynski had just pocketed thirty grand, which is a fortune to the alt-right’s core audience — enough cash to move out of the basement and buy a realistic sex robot.

Even if the racists with real jobs wanted to financially support Kawczynski, he couldn’t get his hands on their money. The GoFundMe crowdfunding page he made was shut down in short order for “terms of use” violations. He started a campaign on Hatreon — a Patreon-like site for the Dark Side — but no legit payment processor wants to facilitate such transactions, so that was a bust. He was able to set up an account through Freestarter (think Kickstarter for haters), but the website’s administrators take a 15 percent cut of any funds he raises in support of “White Civil Rights,” and this campaign has also faltered.

This is just the latest of a long string of failures for Kawczynski. Born in Arizona in 1980, he graduated from Swarthmore College, outside Philadelphia, in 2003, and then launched two unsuccessful bids for public office in Pennsylvania — once for Congress, running as a Libertarian, and once for the state House of Representatives, running as a Republican. He quit both races before Election Day.

A devotee of Libertarian icon Ron Paul, Kawczynski was lured to New Hampshire to participate in the Free State Project, a Libertarian movement that had hoped to attract 20,000 “liberty-loving” people to the Granite State. He volunteered there as a campaign organizer for Donald Trump. For the past several years, he apparently earned a living managing procurement for a construction company. He and Steele came to Maine last summer when he somehow landed the job in Jackman. So yeah, the fella who wants to establish a whites-only enclave in rural Maine has only been here for eight friggin’ months. Nearly all the refugees and other immigrants in our state have been living here, paying taxes, working and otherwise contributing to their communities much longer than this carpetbagging Nazi.

•••

“I work hard to keep a cooler demeanor than I often actually feel,” Kawczynski wrote in a recent Gab post. “But my heart, like my wife, is considerably more radical.”

Sometimes I start to feel sorry for Steele. She frequently complains of being sick with “neurological Lyme,” among a slew of other ailments, real and otherwise. As someone who once struggled with tremendous pain caused by Lyme disease, I empathize. The neuropsychiatric symptoms of the disease include “irritability, easy tearfulness, anxiety, and depression,” as well as “paranoia … hallucinations, or full blown mania,” according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center. So maybe, I think, her hatefulness is a symptom of her affliction as the Lyme spirochetes eat away at her brain. But then I read another of her racist rants, or she posts a Valentine’s Day meme with a picture of Hitler and the caption “Be Mein,” and all my pity vanishes.

Deep digging about this duo revealed a lot of odd factoids. For example, he believes Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile, was white. He’s an avid gamer who prefers “strategy” contests set on European battlefields. They’re both big fans of the Crusades (#DeusVult), especially the ones that killed the most Muslims. And they love Dr. Who, though Steele was disgusted by the selection of a woman as the Thirteenth Doctor.

Steele loves lizards; she considers her reptiles her children. The couple have no human spawn, but are currently keeping six turtles hostage.

For the record, Kawczynski rejects the Nazi label. He insists he’s just an everyday white nationalist who happens to admire Hitler, posts Nazi-themed memes and finds the Holocaust hilarious. You know, just an ordinary American Crypto-Christian, trench-coat-wearing skinhead who’s trying to build a racially pure community. He doesn’t yearn for the “final solution.” Kawczynski promotes the “95 percent solution.” In New Albion, up to five percent of the inhabitants could, in theory, be non-Caucasian.

Gee, thanks, Tom. That’s mighty white of you!

Catfishin’

“Walt” reached out to Kawczynski in early February and dangled several financial carrots to tempt him to take the bait, including the prospect of a cash donation for his cause, a payment via Paypal, and a fraction of a unit of Ethereum, a cyber-currency currently in vogue among the alt-right. Knowing the Nazi needed a job, Walt offered him a spot on the apple-tree-pruning crew at his cousin’s orchard, which he claimed paid “$15 an hour and all the weed you could smoke.”

Kawczynski declined the offer of manual labor. “Alas,” he wrote, “I’m a better writer than worker with tools, but I did appreciate it.”

He gave me his Paypal info, his Ethereum wallet number, his mailing address in Jackman and his cell-phone digits. And he expressed interest in cannabis, but not for himself. “I don’t smoke,” he wrote to Walt, “because of some lung issues, but my wife uses it quite a bit because of her medical conditions.”

Then he invited Walt to the dinner party.

•••

Kawczynski sat at the head of the large table in the Thai restaurant. To his left was the last arrival, a middle-aged, bald white nationalist who lives on a homestead in Machias. He was the most menacing-looking of the bunch, which really wasn’t saying much. I knew a lot about this fella even before he showed up for dinner, thanks to his online activities. Like many alt-right homesteaders, he frequently blogs and babbles. He’s a hardcore forager and has a very close relationship to the natural world. He also attends neo-Nazi Stormfront conferences and obsesses about racial purity.

To Kawczynski’s immediate right sat a young woman, perhaps 17 years old, whose connection to the rest of the gang wasn’t clear. She didn’t say much, but mentioned that she was homeschooled. One telling measure of her limited life experience: she didn’t know how much to tip the waitress.

Next to the teen sat a forty-something woman who I recognized as one of Kawczynski’s most strident defenders, the author of many livid comments on blogs and in the online comment sections of local newspapers. Another homesteader, she’s a veteran who claims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. She moved to the town of Canaan, in central Maine, less than two years ago, with her husband, a vet who also has PTSD. She loves chickens and guns, and extols the virtues of hollow-point ammo. (She recently gave Steele lessons on how to shoot a .357 magnum.)

Her husband, sitting next to her, seemed more interested in the Thai food (he said he’d never eaten that cuisine before) than the conversation. He especially enjoyed the sampler platter of appetizers that Kawczynski bought for the group to share — Kawczynski said he was feeling rich, having made a thousand-dollar profit in crypto-currency trading the day before.

That was it: five people at a table set for eight, and only three of them actually discussed New Albion. Even Steele was a no-show. I guess someone has to stay home and feed the turtles.

The Nazi from Machias drank a Sapporo and told a tale about his pal Jason, who is “very dark skinned, but the whitest man I know, inside.” He loves Jason, but he’s not gonna let him date his daughter or be part of any planned community “because of breeding,” he said, as the others murmured in agreement.

The involuntary skinhead from Machias also shared advice on how to spot infiltrators. “People who are nationalists tend to be polite,” he said with a grin. The so-called “super-soldiers” of Antifa “aren’t polite,” he added, “and you can’t fake it.”

The gun-toting poultry farmer had her own anti-infiltrator advice. At meetings or events, everyone’s cell phone should be put into a box, she said, and anyone who hesitates to do that is suspect. The Machias Nazi agreed and took that idea one step further. Future events should be scheduled for one location and, once everybody arrives, suddenly bring them all to another place and take note if anyone protests.

The Canaan Nazi was enthralled by the Machias Nazi’s cool demeanor and real-life experience. She wanted to get more involved in white nationalism, but she said didn’t have a lot of free time, being busy with her birds, tending her garden, and target practice. She was considering trying to become a guest on a podcast. The Machias Nazi encouraged her. He said there was definitely a shortage of female, alt-right podcast guests. She needed to develop a brand, he advised, and stick to it.

“Could you tell me what to say?” she asked.

No need, he replied. Just be yourself. She beamed at him. He nodded sagely, smiled and took another sip from his silver can of Japanese lager.

As I finished my dinner of Pad Thai (two star, no egg) and a third Tarnation lager from Lewiston’s Baxter Brewing Co., I began to wonder if the Canaanite or the Machias Nazi, or both, might be infiltrators. Their shtick seemed so familiar, like they were actors playing roles. I knew something about infiltrating neo-fascist gatherings, having portrayed a skinhead* while attending a racist cult’s anti-Somali rally in Lewiston back in 2003. [You can read that story at crashbarry.com.]

As they finished up their meals, I decided it was time for me to go. I’d had enough of their drivel — the voice recorders would capture the rest. I paid my bill and headed outside to hang with my pal Leon, who’d been maintaining a stakeout in the parking lot, watching for certain alt-right politicians who we’d thought might attend, but didn’t.

Meanwhile, back inside, after requesting separate checks, the members of Kawczynski’s party of five agreed to meet again — next time, it was decided, closer to Machias. After a long goodbye, they went their separate ways.

To reward Leon for jotting down the license-plate numbers of all the white people who picked up Thai takeout that night, I suggested he follow Kawczynski. This would be a real kick for an enthusiastic anti-Nazi like Leon. At first he tailed from a safe distance, unobserved, like a private eye. Then, with a fit of manic cackling, Leon closed the gap. For a second I thought he was gonna give the little red car with a Tardis sticker a bump or two, but Leon was just micro-tailgating. Kawczynski noticed and made a series of lane changes to shake his Antifa pursuer. Leon, a naturally aggressive motorist, stayed on his ass until the Nazi took a hard right turn down a dead-end street. We laughed and headed back to the restaurant to retrieve the surveillance gear.

The aftermath

During dinner, Walt e-mailed Kawczynski to apologize for his absence. His “libtard sister,” who was giving Walt a ride to the restaurant, had freaked when she found out where he was headed, so they were driving back home to Hancock County.

“I just mailed the twenty bucks I was going to give you,” Walt lied. “I had some weed, but I wasn’t gonna mail it. Did a bunch of people show up?”

Kawczynski wrote back the next morning. “We had some people from all around. Enough to fill the table at least,” he lied. The attendees all had the desire to “build a community of our own where we won’t be persecuted,” he continued. “That’s a different and in some ways harder challenge than I anticipated, but I’m going to be testing the viability of it next week. The situation with your cousin [sic] is instructive. We can’t really co-exist with the normies.”

True dat, bro.

•••

I wonder if the good people of Jackman know their former town manager now claims to have been elected mayor of their community. Yep. A mere 28 seconds into his new “podcast,” called Exit Strategy*, Kawczynski says, “Most of you will know, I previously worked as the mayor of Jackman, Maine.”

Kawczynski calls Exit Strategy a podcast, but it’s actually a series of 18-minute YouTube videos shot on his iPhone. And he doesn’t even explain his exit plan. In episode one, he stands, slightly bearded, in front of a white wall with an earbud in his right ear, retelling his tale of woe and his dreams. By episode two, he’s clean-shaven and standing in front of the New Albion flag, hinting at forming a “nationalist” political party. (Good thing he already owns the URL nationalist.us.) Later, on Gab, he floated the idea of a purple flag for his new party. “No one has had the balls to use [purple] well since Rome,” he wrote. “Dana thinks I’m nuts for saying this.”

Kawczynski has all sorts of big ideas for a fella who doesn’t have money, land or a job. In the days following his dinner party, Kawczynski estimated it would require $5 million and “a lot of sweat equity” to set up New Albion for 500 families. He’s looked at three different pieces of real estate, each eight square miles or larger. “Good land,” he writes. “Timber has value, potential for farming and fresh water.”

Since he doesn’t personally have any resources to contribute to the founding or functioning of New Albion, he’s looking for liberty-minded folks to invest in the project, hoping he’ll be supported there in exchange for his “will and talent.” The alt-right has a word for people like that: commie.

Kawczynski’s got a gazillion money-making schemes. Grow marijuana. Purchase heavy equipment to build New Albion, then start an ancillary business doing ditching and stumping for non-Nazis. Buy electricity from the grid, mark it up, and sell the juice to Central Maine Power. Harness the Bay of Fundy’s dramatic tides to generate power, just like his arch-enemy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, tried and failed to accomplish.

A word of warning to my Passamaquoddy pals and other friends living Downeast: it looks like Kawczynski is eyeing Washington County as a potential location for New Albion, though he mistakenly refers to the region as “Northeast Maine.” And he doesn’t want to hear any claptrap about America belonging to the Native Americans. “We fought. We won,” he wrote in a recent Gab post. “It’s ours, and the only way that changes is if we’re stupid enough to give away what our ancestors fought, bled, and struggled to win for us. Our kindness and clemency has been understood for weakness for too long.”

•••

Those of us lucky enough to live close to nature understand the importance of diversity. A mixed forest thrives thanks to each spruce, pine, oak, maple, beech, ash and apple tree. The healthiest lakes have a wide variety of fish and the most beautiful skies have many types of birds.

There are certainly other fear-mongers spewing hate here in Maine who are much more powerful and influential than Kawczynski. Like our lame-duck governor, whose position on refugees is essentially identical to Kawczynski’s. Or Larry Lockman, the homophobic, misogynist and racist clown from Amherst, in Hancock County, who serves in the Maine House of Representatives. Or Rep. Heather Sirocki, a Republican from Scarborough, who recently introduced legislation backed by Islamophobes trying to push their agenda in Augusta.

I’m no longer overly concerned about Kawczynski’s plans for New Albion. It’s clear he’s not much of a leader. Possessing the charisma of a turnip, he failed to inspire anyone when he got his moment in the alt-right sun. Building an all-white ethno-state will take a hell of a lot more money, organization and effort than Kawczynski and his team of captive turtles will ever be able to muster.

Lately I’ve been wondering what to do about Walt. In late February, he e-mailed Kawczynski with an offer to meet in Skowhegan, an hour and a half south of Jackman, with a nice bag of weed. Sure, Kawczynski replied. He said he shops for groceries in Waterville and they could meet in Skowhegan on his way back — at the local Thai restaurant, for lunch and ganja gifting.

For a white supremacist, this creep sure loves Thai food. And why the hell does he buy groceries in a city two hours away from his home? I gotta stop communicating with this pinhead — there are much bigger fish to fry.

I briefly considered setting up that lunch date and then letting my pals in the real Antifa know the details. But that wouldn’t be nice, karmically, and getting Nazi-punched would just give Kawczynski another chance to play the victim card.

There is one way Kawczynski and Steele could come out of this situation smelling like white roses — and maybe even make some money. All they’d have to do is renounce their evil ways. Try to identify and heal whatever personal shortcomings make them so friggin’ angry. If they disown the alt-right, ask forgiveness for their hatred and embrace American multiculturalism, a publisher might pay for their story of redemption. Heck, if they play their race cards right, I can even see a made-for-cable movie deal in their future.

I’m willing to guide them into the light and even offer free advice on a book proposal or film pitch. All they need to do is reach out to Walt. He knows how to get in touch with me.