Montreal

Alleged Montreal neo-Nazi testifies his online writing intended as humour, not hate

Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, 35, on trial for promoting hate against Jews, argued in his own defence from the witness box Tuesday that his writing was meant to "disarm" people on the left, who he said are "too sensitive."

'Zeiger,' on trial for promoting hate against Jews, says he 'wanted to create a boogeyman for the left'

Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, who went by the name 'Zeiger' online, said his writing was intended as satire. 'If we want to take down political correctness, we have to poke at Jews and the Holocaust, the sacred cow,' he testified. (Submitted by Shannon Carranco)

An alleged neo-Nazi known online as "Zeiger" testified in his own defence at his trial Tuesday, saying his online content was intended as satire and "irony that isn't irony," rather than hate.

Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, 35, who freely admits to being a right-wing nationalist, appeared before Quebec court Judge Manlio Del Negro at the Montreal courthouse. He said his writing was designed to "disarm" people on the left, who are "too sensitive."

"The goal was that in the future when someone calls you a Nazi you can say, 'Oh, like the people at the Daily Stormer who use pictures of frogs? That's ridiculous,'" he said.

Sohier-Chaput has pleaded not guilty to a single count of wilful promotion of hate propaganda against Jewish people.

He has admitted that as Zeiger, he contributed to the Daily Stormer between 2016 and 2017 and wrote part of the article at the centre of this case, entitled "Canada: Nazis Trigger Jews By Putting Up Posters On Ch--k Church," using a racial slur to refer to the Asian community.

Using antisemitic memes and editorial comments, the article celebrated neo-Nazi posters pasted on a bus stop in British Columbia, insulting a Holocaust survivor who had been interviewed about the incident. The 91-year-old man said seeing the posters reminded him of being a target of racial slurs as a child in Hungary.

"Here I am: I made it," the man told Global News. "For now," the Daily Stormer's article added.

Sohier-Chaput said some of the inflammatory comments and images had been added by Daily Stormer editor Andrew Anglin after he sent Anglin a draft.

Sohier-Chaput said he chose to republish that article with commentary because he found it absurd that journalists chose to interview a Holocaust survivor after posters claiming Nazism was the key to Canada were put on a bus stop.

He said people who would read his articles and feel encouraged to participate in Nazism "don't exist in real life" and "Nazis who want to do ethnic cleansing and want a full-blown Holocaust don't actually exist."

"It's a Hollywood invention," he said.

Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, 35, is accompanied by his defence lawyer Vicky Powell at the Montreal courthouse. (Erika Morris/CBC)

However, he acknowledged someone could read his article and interpret it as inciting persecution of Jews, and he admitted part of his goal was to offend, but not promote hate.

"We need to make sure no SJW [social justice warrior] or Jew can remain safely untriggered," Sohier-Chaput admitted to writing in his article. "Non-stop Nazism, everywhere, until the very streets are flooded with the tears of our enemies."

Holocaust is 'sacred cow,' defendant says

He said the Daily Stormer uses humour, irony, sarcasm and jokes to fight back against the far left. He said those on the left are led by their emotions and invoke the Holocaust and the words "fascism" and "Nazism" to put down people on the right. He said his purpose was to make fun of that approach.

"We wanted to create a boogeyman for the left," he said.

"If we want to take down political correctness, we have to poke at Jews and the Holocaust, the sacred cow" said Sohier-Chaput. "As long as it remains a sensitive topic, speaking about it freely will be impossible."

Sohier-Chaput testified the Daily Stormer has two audiences: younger people who "understand the jokes and irony and find it funny," and those who take it seriously, get offended and "whine online."

When asked by the judge how he can find Nazism funny, he responded it was making fun of Nazis as characters, "like Homer Simpson."

"We're exaggerating how awful they are to humoristic ends. It's a character exaggerated to absurdity," he said.

Crown prosecutor Patrick Lafrenière went on to ask if the content on the Daily Stormer was typically painting Jews in a bad light, to which Sohier-Chaput agreed — but only in a satirical tone, he said.

He said articles in the Daily Stormer made fun of Black people, women, homosexuals, Jews, Muslims and everyone who is marginalized, always in a satirical tone. He said the site made fun of anything politically correct.

When asked if the site had content making fun of white men, Sohier-Chaput said yes, they make fun of "soy boys," a derogatory term used for effeminate men, and "bugmen" or men who base their personalities on content they consume like Star Wars or Marvel comics.

Sohier-Chaput faces up to two years in prison if found guilty. The trial resumes Friday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erika Morris

CBC News journalist

Erika Morris is a reporter and researcher at CBC Montreal.

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