Sines v. Kessler: Reckoning and Weaponization

Cantwell, who is currently serving jail time for past crimes, behaved throughout the trial like someone who had nothing to lose, as highlighted via his badgering of both plaintiffs and witnesses. Cantwell made his strategic weaponization of the trial clear in the November 1, 2021, episode of far-right podcast Free Talk Live, where he said, “I consider it [Sines v. Kessler] a spoken word performance, you know, and I take that kind of thing seriously, especially once I found out that people were going to be able to listen. I saw this as a tremendous opportunity both because of the cause at hand and because I knew the world was listening.”  

Throughout the trial, Cantwell plugged his “Radical Agenda” podcast and brought up a plethora of topics outside of the case, including Critical Race Theory.  He even used a portion of his closing argument to assert the innocence of James Alex Field, Jr. , the man who deliberately drove his vehicle into a crowd of protesters at the Unite the Rally, injuring 19 and killing Heather Heyer. Cantwell also made various guest appearances on extremist podcasts to be interviewed as a “political prisoner.”

Cantwell spent most of his time railing against “antifa” enemies or highlighting “Jewish-led” conspiracies. He argued that anyone at the Unite the Right rally wearing black, carrying a sign or flag, wearing sunglasses, a whistle or even a bandana was antifa. On his Radical Agenda podcast, Cantwell argued the real reason for the violence at the Unite the Right rally was the “deliberate negligence on the part of the city of Charlottesville and the Commonwealth of Virginia to enable antifa violence in order to deny us our right to assemble and speak.” 

On November 21, while the jury deliberated over the verdict, Cantwell appeared in an interview with the extremist podcast, The Right Stuff. The podcast’s host stated, “This [trial] demonstrates that we’re not dealing with old school of the Jewish elite, this is like the more degenerate level, they’ve been playing the game on easy mode and didn’t expect a wild card getting in there [Cantwell],” Cantwell responded, “I feel very good saying they screwed up by bringing me into this…I asked penetrative questions that dismantled those lies…I said to the plaintiff Kaplan, “Are you ready to lose to the crying Nazi?”

Cantwell’s conspiratorial rhetoric appeared to resonate with the broader racist and extremist movement. Prior to the trial, Cantwell had largely lost his leadership within the movement, particularly after the media ridiculed him, labeling him as “the crying Nazi.”  However, Cantwell’s performance during the trial has gone a long way towards redeeming him among other extremists, where his many court outbursts were seen as “wins” by fellow extremists.

Extremists, including Warren BaloghMike Peinovich, Eric Stricker, and Tony Hovater, praised Cantwell, while the extremist and Proud Boys-affiliated Western Chauvinist channel posted, “It was a privilege to be one of the 500 on conference call when Christopher Cantwell made his closing remarks.  Without exaggeration we can say that it was one of the greatest moments of oratory skill in known history.  Comparisons to all-time great orators like Cicero or Hitler would not be out of the question…Cantwell is probably the only UTR defendant who will be relevant after the trial.”   

This support for Cantwell spread beyond simple written words online. Various extremist and racist channels urged followers to donate to Cantwell’s legal fund for “fighting the good fight,” or even doxing individuals during Cantwell’s questioning of witnesses. In one instance, listeners on the public conference call were able to unmute themselves, and repeated the n-word multiple times while promoting Cantwell’s podcast. 

Cantwell recently stated that he plans to return to the movement once out of prison, and the attention he’s received during this trial will likely bolster his future activism. 

The article is published courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).