Light Upon Light: An Introduction

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.


Frank Meeink and Light Upon Light’s Ties to the Anti-Muslim Clarion Project

Frank Meeink’s public-facing story is one where he leaves hate behind and spends the rest of his life speaking out against it. This isn’t true, of course. He works with Light Upon Light. 

Frank Meeink was quite the prolific bonehead back in the 80s and early 90s. He was a neo-Nazi gang recruiter in South Philadelphia. He had a public access show called The Reich and ABC’s Nightline and other outlets even platformed him, as NPR reports, “as a spokesman for neo-Nazi topics.”

“I did a lot of national TV shows, like with Ted Koppel and other news organizations, and so I’ve been kind of a face,” he told NPR. 

Meeink’s redemption story, according to the NPR interview, began in prison. He spent a few years behind bars for kidnapping a leftist skinhead and “beating another man senseless for several hours.” Meeink says meeting people of other races led him to rethink his Nazism, but the act that made him quit the movement completely was the 1995 Oaklahoma City Bombing by white nationalist Timothy McVeigh. Meeink claims he was so horrified by McVeigh that he began talking to the FBI about his time in the white nationalist movement. 

Shortly after, Meeink also began speaking publicly about his time as a neo-Nazi. The claim is often made that 1998’s ‘American History X’ is loosely based on Meeink’s life story, though it’s unclear if that’s actually the case. Meeink was a co-founding member of the deradicalization nonprofit Life After Hate in 2009. 

Christian Picciolini, another former neo-Nazi, was also a co-founding member of Life After Hate. Picciolini has since left Life After Hate and formed his own organization called Free Radicals Project in January 2018. Picciolini’s split with Life After Hate sparked litigation, but neither this conflict nor the personal conflict between Meeink and Picciolini is the subject of this article. As such, we won’t discuss it much further here, beyond noting that Picciolini has spoken out against Light Upon Light and Meeink:

“You are a fraud. As someone who has known you for years and fired you because of your indiscretions in the past, this is just another incident in a long line of incidents,” Picciolini told Meeink in December last year after Meeink tabled for the Clarion Project, an incident we’ll cover shortly.

“Our founder [Christian Picciolini] has made it very clear that he does not support the work of so-called Light Upon Light and called out some others in the “de-radicalization” space as dangerous and providing cover to dangerous people,” Free Radicals Project said in a tweet.

Meeink appears to have begun associating with Light Upon Light as early as March 2019—here is an archive of his page on LUL’s website. In one article for LUL’s blog, Meeink calls himself “The Original Former.” But “former” isn’t a good description for anybody working with Light Upon Light. As previous posts on our blog have established, Light Upon Light actively and unapologetically promotes hate groups. Meeink’s connections with the Clarion Project are perhaps the most glaring example of this. 

The Clarion Project, formerly the Clarion Fund and, is designated by the SPLC as an anti-Muslim hate group. Clarion was started to distribute a number of Islamophobic propaganda films with titles like “The Third Jihad” and “Iranium.” One of their films, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” was cited in neo-Nazi mass murderer Anders Breivik’s manifesto.

Alarmingly, the NYPD used Clarion propaganda as a training video for their officers in 2011. NYPD’s Director of Intelligence Analysis at the time was Mitch Silber, who is also a founder of Light Upon Light.

A more recent example of the Clarion Project’s demonization of Muslims came in 2015, when Ryan Mauro, the Director of their “Intelligence Network,” went on Fox Business. Mauro falsely claimed the community of Islamberg, New York harbors “training camps… for guerrilla warfare training.” This community has been demonized by widespread conspiracy theories on the far-right; conspiracies that have almost ended in terrorist attacks. In 2019, a “MAGA gang” plotted to murder Muslim families in Islamberg with improvised explosive devices, but were stopped by law enforcement. 

The goal of the Clarion Project is to demonize Muslims and foment mass violence and state discrimination against them. They are directly responsible for this and other incidents of bigotry, terror and harassment in Islamberg and against the rest of the Muslim community in the United States.

Clarion doesn’t just target Muslims. In early 2019, they also demonized antifascist activism as an “extremist movement” and a “hate ideology” to which Generation Z is “vulnerable.” Clarion compared antifa to ISIS, citing Trump 2016 campaign advisor Oz Sultan. 

Meeink’s willingness to work with Clarion undermines his claims of being a “former” in two ways: 1) He gives them a pass to spread Islamophobia by associating with them and lending them credibility. No one can claim they’re a “former” if they help someone who spreads hate look more credible. 2) Using a bad faith “both sides” comparison between neo-Nazis who want to commit genocide and antifascists who want to prevent genocide obfuscates that basic fact. If you claim to be a “former” neo-Nazi, you know damn well there is no comparison between antifa and neo-Nazis and you know damn well that pretending “the other side” is just as bad as your “former” side benefits neo-Nazism.  

Any organization legitimately fighting racism and other systems of bigotry and oppression would see Clarion as a vector spreading the disease of bigotry against Muslims. But, as we have established, Light Upon Light is not legitimately fighting these systems. Light Upon Light’s goal is to launder racists’ reputations and parade them around in a network of national security grifters for money. 

On December 19th, 2019, Frank Meeink tabled for the Clarion Project at Turning Point USA’s annual Student Action Summit in Florida. This is doubly condemning: TPUSA has a long history of members being exposed as white nationalists or otherwise part of the far-right. The white nationalist group Identity Evropa/American Identity Mopvement planned to use TPUSA to recruit members.  The SAS was a circus. Most of the attention was on white nationalist ‘Groyper’ king Nick Fuentes, who showed up to troll bigoted pundit Ben Shapiro. Current Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement leader Patrick Casey has thrown his support behind Nick Fuentes. 

But Meeink’s presence at this fascist circus didn’t go unnoticed.  Journalist Nick Martin first pointed out Meeink’s presence at the event. “It damages their credibility when former extremists associate themselves with an anti-Muslim hate group like this. It just furthers the cycle of hate,” Martin wrote. 

Reactions were split. Shireen Qudosi, a so-called “Muslim Reformer” who has been interviewed by anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer and is Clarion’s National Correspondent, accused Martin of “taking the extremist tactic of painting a thing in one shade.” Qudosi is also the author of the Clarion piece discussed above that compares antifascists to ISIS.

It should be noted that Qudosi wrote an opinion piece for Clarion a week after the TPUSA Summit which quoted both Jesse Morton and LUL associate/active Sines v. Kessler defendant Jeff Schoep.  The piece had to do with the recent securitization of parts of New York in the wake of antisemitic attacks. This securitization effort is being headed by one of Light Upon Light’s founders, Mitch Silber, who we will cover in upcoming articles. 

But back to the reaction to Meeink’s collaboration with Clarion. “The org you work for has pushed the myth of Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe and worked with some of the most noxious anti-Muslim voices in America. Its “Obsession” film was cited in Breivik’s manifesto. If you’re trying to prevent violent extremism, this ain’t the way,” Martin told Qudosi. 

Curiously enough, Samantha Kutner, who recently left her position as a research consultant with LUL, agreed with Martin that associating with Clarion was going too far. In correspondence Kutner posted between herself and Clarion employee Shoshana Palatnik, Kutner says “The materials the Clarion project creates do not fight extremism. They create narratives that exacerbate extremism on both sides.” 

 When AntiFash Gordon (AFG) pointed out that Meeink works with LUL, they tried to deflect. 

“Those collaborating with Light Upon Light are not bound by exclusivity,” LUL’s official Twitter responded, adding “Independent of whether you agree w/ the medium, the focus should be on the message.” They said that Meeink “is talking his experiences as a #Neonazi, which could be useful for any anti-Islam crowd to hear.” This ignores the fact that Meeink’s presence was in support of the “anti-Islam crowd,” rather than his being there in order to counsel them on exiting the movement. 

“So you’re cool with your “influencers” collaborating with hate groups?” AFG replied.

The question went unanswered. 

Meeink responded to criticism of his working for Clarion through several rambling, vague tweets over the next week. 

“Communication what a great gift,” he wrote in the caption of a picture of himself shaking hands with a young man wearing a TRUMP 2020 yarmulke. 

“To live by what I preach to understand that even conservatives deserve empathy,” he wrote on the 21st of that month.

This happened on the same day that AFG documented how Clarion used a post featuring Meeink’s life story to lobby right-wing legislators at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Conference. ALEC is one of the strongest engines of right-wing politics in the US. Its conference is intended to build relationships between state legislators and right-wing activists, and teach state legislators how to more effectively advance right-wing politics. The stated purpose of Clarion’s presence at the ALEC Conference was to promote their “Preventing Violent Extremism” program to legislators, and their post uses Meeink’s presence and life story for credibility.

“Am I a good human being or coward for not engaging in Twitter rhetoric led by an egomaniac and his internet crew? I think it’s the same person anyway,” he wrote on the 30th, probably referring to a thread by AFG about Meeink’s connections to Clarion. In later posts Meeink rambled about how he’d rather spend time with his family than deal with it. 

The criticisms of Meeink do not hinge on whether or not he is a “bad human being” or tainted by his past. They are based solely on his actions in the present day. Meeink’s responses to such criticism are typical of Light Upon Light’s reaction when the group is confronted with its own participation in hate. They make a bad faith argument: “everyone deserves empathy, so why can’t we talk to bigots?” Deradicalization groups, of course, do talk to bigots all the time. But we have seen absolutely no evidence that LUL is trying to hold bigots accountable, or that Meeink is working with Clarion to reform its virulent Islamophobia.

When LUL members are criticized for their actions, they hide behind vague, culty rhetoric and act like people don’t understand what they’re doing. When that doesn’t work, they simply ignore criticism, attack their critics’ character, and obfuscate what they’re really about.

Even Kutner’s denunciation of Clarion uses a bad faith “both sides” equivalency. Just as Clarion wants us to believe antifascists are as bad as ISIS, Kutner wants us to believe Jihadi terror and the U.S. government-stoked Islamophobia that Clarion represents are two sides of the same coin and not a direct result of U.S. imperialism.

The reason for this is obvious. Most of LUL’s work relies on providing a pseudo-intellectual justification for U.S. imperialism and the national security industry. Jeff Schoep and Jason Kessler have done absolutely no work to repair the damage their involvement in white nationalism caused and yet LUL sees fit to parade them around in front of NatSec wonks. The doctrine of “Countering Violent Extremism” that LUL’s researchers subscribe to was always about putting a veneer of academia and community engagement over mass surveillance. If Light Upon Light’s involvement with Clarion proves anything, it’s that you either have to be actively against racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, or else you’re enabling them. You can’t have it both ways.


Addressing Samantha Kutner’s Departure From Light Upon Light

Samantha Kutner, a “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) researcher at University of Nevada, Reno, was one of the most vocal defenders of Light Upon Light on Twitter. Kutner began associating with LUL as early as April 2019. Shortly afterwards, she started working for LUL as a “research consultant”.

On January 28th, 2020, Kutner publicly left LUL.

“I’m officially leaving Light Upon Light. I’m grateful for everyone’s support and for their patience as I process what has been an incredibly difficult decision to make,” Kutner wrote on Twitter. She went on to say it was her decision to leave.

“I still believe in their overall mission and I wish them well,” she added.

As we’ve noted before, Light Upon Light’s founder Jesse Morton has a manipulative personality and abused, threatened and extorted people in his organization. With that in mind, we’d like to say this openly and directly to Samantha Kutner:

Leaving Light Upon Light was the right thing to do and took real courage. When you are ready to, we hope you’ll talk about what you went through. Because you participated in and attempted to deflect attention from Light Upon Light’s inexcusable behavior, including the group’s interpersonal abuse and normalization of an Islamophobic hate group, people including ourselves will hold you to account. We will ask that you be as transparent as you can and work to repair the damage caused by the organization you were in. Asking this of you and holding you to account does not negate what you went through. We will listen to you. Your story matters.

We’re here to talk when you’re ready.


Jesse Morton Comes Out in Support of Andy Ngo’s Kill Lists

Andy Ngo runs interference for fascist terrorists. Jesse Morton runs interference for Andy Ngo. Andy Ngo tries to get people who oppose fascism killed—and Jesse Morton tells people who oppose fascism they deserve to die.

Andy Ngo doxxes people. While an editor at Quillette, an “intellectual dark web” online magazine that promotes literal race science, he helped put journalists on a neo-Nazi terror cell’s kill list. Ngo spent years as the de facto propagandist for Patriot Prayer, a violent Christian fascist group with a body count of four. When Patriot Prayer attacked Cider Riot in Portland, Ngo was there to “report” on it. He didn’t mention Patriot Prayer pre-planning the attack, which he witnessed. Instead, Ngo chose to doxx a woman who had her spine broken by fascist Ian Kramer’s baton. Ngo has deadnamed trans people, deliberately misgenders them, and in general tries to disprove the idea that hate crimes are real. (For an excellent rebuttal to Ngo’s false claim, see this Twitter thread by far right expert David Neiwert). Anyone unlucky enough to meet Ngo’s public disapproval gets their face and name plastered on Ngo’s social media and falls victim to his over hundred thousand Twitter followers. These followers send Ngo’s victims death threats and harass them. It is increasingly likely that Ngo’s form of stochastic terrorism will result in a murder committed by one of his enraged followers.

If Light Upon Light’s founder Jesse Morton were acting in good faith, he would have had done his due diligence and recognized that Ngo profits from spreading hate and stoking extremists’ resentments. All of this background on Ngo has been available for months–and Morton knew it. 

In September, Light Upon Light published an interview in which LUL employee Samantha Kutner interviews Portland-based antifascist group PopMob. In it, PopMob activists accurately lay out how Ngo operates in bad faith and targets people. Kutner has confronted Ngo on Twitter before and even repeated the popular and factually accurate meme, “Andy Ngo is a threat to our community and provides kill lists for Attomwaffen.

Morton had no excuse not to do his due diligence before associating with Ngo. And yet he had no problem meeting with Ngo last November after the latter gave a talk at the Heritage Foundation. Morton even called Ngo a “nice guy” and said he was open-minded. When pressed, Morton did say that “the accusations against [Andy Ngo] may be somewhat warranted,” before couching the statement in obfuscating CVE-speak that only served to further Morton’s “both sides” line. “Both sidesism” is a reductive rhetorical sleight of hand that bad actors like Morton often use to say the people who fight fascists are somehow just as bad as fascists.

In January, Ngo published an article about Antifash Gordon (AFG), a high-profile antifascist researcher who has outed numerous members of the Proud Boys, Atomwaffen, American Identity Movement, and other hate groups. The article weaponized old allegations (addressed by AFG on this Twitter thread) in order to disparage AFG’s character and thereby justify allegedly doxxing AFG and their family to thousands of people who want to hurt or kill them.

Absurdly, Jesse Morton is cited heavily in Ngo’s article, essentially to say that doxxing is wrong. In the article, Morton says that outing someone as a member of a hate group only gives fuel to hate groups’ “victimization narratives;” an asinine claim given hate groups already use anything and everything to frame themselves as victims and their victims as aggressors. Morton also claims that somehow people are more willing to join hate groups after seeing others getting doxxed and fired for participating in them, an assertion completed unsupported by any serious research studies.

January 6, 2020 screenshot from Andy Ngo’s website “The Post Millenial” from the article allegedly doxxing AFG and their father, mother, and brother. We will not link the article in order not to drive traffic to Andy Ngo’s website and further enable him to monetize hate.

The antifascist community was alarmed by Ngo’s article. While Ngo has gone after individuals before, this is the first time to our knowledge that he’s targeted someone’s family as well. Further controversy, which we won’t cover in detail here, erupted when allegations of a supposed alt-right-funded bounty for AFG’s doxx started circulating on Twitter at the same time as fame-hungry Nazi trolls began to claim credit for the alleged doxx. Those allegations are beyond what the authors of this blog feel is necessary to cover at the time, but we encourage everyone not to make or uncritically accept any claims without evidence.

For the goal of this blog, we believe it is most important to note that Morton’s willingness to provide credibility as an “expert voice” for Ngo at all is damning and discrediting. But Morton went further: he helped Ngo get a pass to target someone’s family. Morton’s actions show that he is willing to look the other way with fascist propagandists like Ngo, and therefore that Morton isn’t able to judge peoples’ characters competently enough to do deradicalization work.

In the aftermath of Ngo’s article and the subsequent allegations around the supposed bounty, Morton began making a series of increasingly bizarre and hostile statements. First he took to Light Upon Light’s Medium account to make a number of false claims in order to deflect blame from himself for aiding Ngo. In the Medium post, Morton repeatedly misgenders Antifash Gordon’s accuser. Morton lays a blanket denial over all allegations against LUL and flatly refuses to accept any responsibility for aiding Andy Ngo.

“My interview with [Andy Ngo] was done without prior knowledge of the abuse, so I do not apologize for doing it,” Morton says.

After refusing to take responsibility for anything, Morton goes on to claim at length that AFG isn’t taking responsibility for what happened with their accuser, insinuating, with absolutely no evidence, that a campaign of harassment against the accuser was directed by AFG. This line of attack conveniently derails the relevant issue: Morton and Ngo’s actions in weaponizing the accuser’s statement against AFG. Morton’s statement is padded out with misused accountability language that shades into psychobabble, such as this narcissistic line: “As the cofounder of @lighttuponlight, I am accountable… for anything that might play a role in harming another individual.”

Later that day, Jesse’s public statements began to sound less high-minded and more angry and unhinged. “I’ll be off twitter for the next two weeks to see if my daddy, who got me my job, can salvage it,” Morton said in reply to AFG’s statement.

To clarify, this tweet taunts Antifash Gordon by referring Andy Ngo’s alleged doxx of their family.

If that wasn’t enough, Morton replied to a comment AFG made about LUL’s funding with a vague threat. “Come see me!” he said.

This wasn’t the end of Morton lashing out at antifascists. Later the same day, Morton got into a long, heated exchange with several people, calling them “simpletons,” “spoiled, white priveleged [sic] kids,” (ironic considering the role of his own white privilege in avoiding long sentencing for terror charges) and “crazed lunatics.” One of the people he was arguing with was prominent antifascist, journalist and Charlottesville-based activist Molly Conger. Conger, it should be said, persists in her work in the face of constant threats of death and rape from neo-Nazis including Paul Nehlen, Christopher Cantwell and the “Bowl Patrol”–– a cult dedicated to worshipping mass murderer Dylann Roof.

In the exchange, Conger said she believes the factually correct assertion that Andy Ngo “is a threat to our community who provides kill lists to Atomwaffen.”

“And then you are just as full of oversimplistic heuristic bias as all these other spoiled white privileged kids,” Morton replied.

“No, I’m someone who is on an Atomwaffen kill list, Jesse,” Conger retorted.

“Live by the sword…” Morton said.

The full biblical proverb Morton references is “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” Morton means here that Conger deserves to be on an Atomwaffen kill list. There is no other way to interpret this. 

Andy Ngo liked Morton’s tweets.

In case he deletes public tweets, as he often does after fits of rage, we have archived many of them. He threatens Molly Conger, insults her, insults her again, refers to members of fascist organizations as “our numbers“, denies that Andy Ngo is even an extremist, and attacks a Charlottesville UTR survivor by accusing them of lying about their extensively documented experiences with Nazi terror attacks.

Saying that Light Upon Light counters violent extremism is like saying “ANTIFA are the real fascists”; it’s meaningless doublespeak only fascists believe. Jesse Morton isn’t just a grifter laundering hatemongers for public consumption. He is actively, personally aiding and abetting a stochastic terrorist in his attacks on innocent people, and when antifascists try to hold him to account, Morton tells them they deserve to be killed by neo-Nazis. 

We call on everyone who now works with or has worked with Light Upon Light and Jesse Morton to disavow them now if they haven’t already. Those who don’t should expect to be considered collaborators with fascism and apologists for stochastic terror.

We also call on Mitch Silber, co-founder of Light Upon Light and former Director of Intelligence Analysis at the New York City Police Department, to deliver a statement as to the behavior of his protégé and clarify his current role in Light Upon Light.


Erik von Brunn’s Account

While many people formerly involved with Light Upon Light have quietly backed away because of Jesse Morton’s erratic and threatening behavior, most have been unwilling to go on the record due to the very real threat of reprisals. However, we are now able to publish a short account relayed to us by Erik von Brunn, a former Light Upon Light insider.

Erik von Brunn is not a former white supremacist. However, he has direct connections with many white supremacist figures because his father was James von Brunn, a neo-Nazi who in 2009 committed a shooting attack on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, killing security guard Stephen Johns. Von Brunn spoke out about his father in this article in The Guardian: “Holocaust museum shooter’s son: ‘The wrong man died that day’”. Because of his family history of abuse and trauma, von Brunn was highly motivated to involve himself in campaigns to prevent more tragedies like the one committed by his father, but he was also vulnerable because of that same history of trauma — and Jesse Morton manipulated and took advantage of him.

After the shooting, von Brunn had developed a close bond with the Holocaust Museum. Its representatives connected von Brunn with the FBI, who wanted him to do a presentation on white supremacist extremism. At this point, unsure of the next step, von Brunn reached out to former white supremacist and longterm exit counselor Christian Picciolini for advice. Picciolini spoke with Erik and also invited him to become an interview subject of “Breaking Hate,” a TV documentary series on counterextremism and exit counseling. Around this time, Jesse Morton and Juncal Fernández-Garayzábal (Morton’s partner and a Countering Violent Extremism researcher) also contacted von Brunn and recruited him to become a representative of the organization that would become Light Upon Light.

Von Brunn was at first enthusiastic about Light Upon Light’s mission. Early iterations of the Light Upon Light website feature him prominently. However, problems soon formed due to Jesse Morton’s intense professional jealousy of Christian Picciolini. Morton began pressuring von Brunn to “get dirt” on Picciolini, which von Brunn refused to do. Morton solicited an article for LUL about von Brunn’s participation in the “Breaking Hate” episode, for which he paid von Brunn. Morton then selectively edited the article to make it highly critical of Christian Picciolini and published it without von Brunn’s consent. The resulting damage to professional relationships was another source of stress on top of an already difficult situation.

When von Brunn began to voice doubts and criticism, Morton attacked him publicly on Twitter and claimed that von Brunn was in debt to them because Light Upon Light had provided him “free therapy”. Von Brunn had no idea he had even been receiving therapy; he thought he was simply having heartfelt conversations with supportive friends. This constant blurring of the personal and professional is another hallmark of Jesse Morton’s manipulation tactics. 

As a result of his encounter with Light Upon Light, Erik von Brunn has withdrawn entirely from any public deradicalization work. He would like to become involved again at some point in the future, as he feels his contributions could be valuable. But while Jesse Morton holds any influence in the sphere, this is unlikely. Jesse Morton and Light Upon Light have wounded and alienated many others with this kind of behavior, so von Brunn’s case is not an isolated one.

We invite others to send in their accounts to insofar as they feel safe enough to do so.