Light Upon Light say they “counter violent extremism”. Since the organization launched its website in June of 2019, it has not only failed at countering extremism–it’s exacerbated it. The founders engage in unethical activity. The former right wing extremists they hire and align with still have public financial and legal ties to right wing extremist organizations. The organization lacks any transparency or accountability about its funding and operations. These failures are cascading to the point that LUL now effectively launders right-wing hate for a mass audience and should be seen as a dangerous and harmful organization.
Many people grew concerned about Light Upon Light when news came out that Jeff Schoep, the ex-leader of the National Socialist Movement, had been hired as a representative by the founder Jesse Morton. Jeff Schoep’s very recent departure from Nazi ideology is widely regarded as suspicious. Schoep was the leader of the NSM when it participated in the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and is currently a defendant in Sines v. Kessler, the major civil lawsuit brought on by the survivors of the incident. Schoep failed to hand over information about the NSM to the court in the case. In this way, Light Upon Light is rehabilitating Schoep’s image and giving him cover to continue defending the members of his group.
Another level of alarm was raised when Christian Picciolini, an exit counselor of several decades experience, publicly warned about Light Upon Light on his social media. An appearance Picciolini was scheduled to make alongside Jeff Schoep was abruptly cancelled. Jeff Schoep soon published a long rambling article on the LUL website in which he attacked antifascists and said they were “just as as bad” as the Nazis. Shortly afterwards, Jesse Morton attended an event by far right media troll Andy Ngo and spoke positively about Ngo, saying that he was a “nice guy” and reinforcing Schoep’s argument that “antifa extremists” were just as bad as the far right.
Most recently, more ties with the far right have surfaced. Frank Meeink, who is featured on the LUL website as one of their “ShapeShifters”, has been working with the Clarion Project. The Clarion Project is an Islamophobic advocacy group whose propaganda was cited in mass murderer Anders Breivik’s manifesto. Meeink represented the Clarion Project at this year’s Turning Point USA Student Action Summit. TPUSA is an astro-turf far-right college campus group whose members are constantly exposed as racists. The white nationalist organization Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement uses TPUSA to recruit new members. In October, Jesse Morton spoke positively about meeting Jason Kessler, the organizer of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. None of these connections took place in a deradicalization setting, but rather represent obsessive publicity seeking by LUL and Jesse Morton. And in return, these far right organizations and individuals benefit their own public image by appearing to be “against extremism”.
Jesse Morton’s story up to 2017 is told in detail via a New Republic article. He is a Muslim convert and in his earlier life, a former propagandist for Al-Qaeda. After a short prison sentence, he was recruited by the FBI and became an undercover informant on ISIS networks. After his cover was blown, he began a new career in the field of “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE.) People who know him from this time warn clearly in the article that he is unready for any position of trust, and the manipulative nature of his personality is also clear. The other founder of Light Upon Light is Mitch Silber, Jesse Morton’s former handler and former NYPD Director of Intelligence Analysis. Silber’s current involvement with law enforcement and his level of funding of LUL is opaque. Other former extremist members include Jeff Schoep and Frank Meeink. Juncal Fernández-Garayzábal, who is a CVE specialist and Jesse Morton’s romantic partner, is also involved in the LUL core, and Samantha Kutner is a CVE researcher employed by Light Upon Light.
Light Upon Light’s unethical behavior has involved obscuring connections and faking support. They have used the names, images, and contributions of people without consent. Their “hashtag shapeshifter” program, the purpose of which they explain via psychobabble, serves to blur the distinction between 1) people who receive money from LUL 2) people who volunteer to be associated with LUL 3) people who don’t even want to be associated but get lumped in anyway. Light Upon Light uses this confusing structure to purposefully obscure who is responsible for actions the organization takes. However, as the founder and public figurehead, Jesse Morton is ultimately responsible.
This blog intends to document LUL’s disastrous failure and serves to warn about the risks of associating with them. While we will remain anonymous, we regard ourselves as accountable to a broader community of anyone fighting fascism. Everything published here has either been made public by LUL itself or is information we received from people that LUL has harmed who have gone on the record. Unlike LUL, we are transparent about motivations and purpose and we will take down any information reasonably confirmed to be false. If we publish any information that endangers people not in the LUL core and we receive reasonable confirmation that this published information is endangering, we will also remove it.
We need to state this because in the past, LUL has threatened former white supremacists who have raised criticisms of LUL. We are in communication with multiple former white supremacists who are highly critical of LUL, but none of them are associated with this blog. This point needs to remain very clear: absolutely no “formers” are involved in this blog. However, we can report on those experiences in aggregate, which include 1) breaches of confidence 2) inadequate, unprofessional exit counseling 3) threatening behavior.
Providing support so that extremists can leave hate groups is an important and worthwhile goal. It’s also a complicated and sometimes risky process. It should not be left to people like Jesse Morton and toxic, cult-like organizations like Light Upon Light. We encourage people to widely share this article and direct anyone in need of family deradicalization services or exit counseling to avoid Light Upon Light at all costs. As alternatives, we recommend Life After Hate in the US or Hope Not Hate in the UK, two organizations which have a proven track record of exit counseling.