This project was in collaboration with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
In the spring of 2017, Thomas White had an idea: What if he combined his love of gourmet coffee with his staunch belief in a white ethnostate?
In caffeinated circles, White was already well-known. Espresso Joya, which he opened in 2015, was a fixture of Thunder Bay, Ontario’s small but vibrant arts scene. The walls of the coffee shop, located in the town’s trendy Waterfront District, served as a revolving gallery for local artists. Joya’s small stage regularly hosted a mostly-acoustic plethora of singer-songwriters, and its shelves were stocked with local food and goods.
The quality of Joya’s espresso, hyped by locals and out of town Yelp users alike, completed this artsy smorgasbord. “It’s all about doing really exceptional quality in terms of the quality and the product as well as providing a really nice space for local artists,” White said in a short 2017 documentary on Thunder Bay’s coffee scene. An accredited teacher, he taught drawing art at the local arts centre and was a volunteer firefighter.
Online, White was the antithesis of this very earnest coffee shop owner. For the last six months, under the alias “League of the North,” White has co-hosted “This Hour Has 88 Minutes,” the most popular white supremacist podcast in the country.
The podcast’s title, a riff on the CBC comedy show with a nod to 88, or the numerical representation of “Heil Hitler,” speaks to the show’s format and ethos: a white nationalist take on the news replete with racial epithets, misogyny, and conspiracy theories, coupled with Holocaust denials and the occasional veiled call for violence. And White wanted to get his coffee into the hands of 88 Minutes listeners, as well as anyone else with pride in their white skin.
VICE conducted a months-long investigation into White and his coffee businesses. This included going through hours upon hours of podcasts, thousands of forum posts, pulling property records, and speaking to numerous people familiar with the situation on background. Two separate teams, one from VICE Canada, the other from VICE Quebec, arrived at the same conclusion independently—former Thunder Bay coffee whiz Thomas White was the man behind both the neo-Nazi coffee company Rising Sun Coffee and League of the North, making him one of the biggest players in the booming Canadian alt-right scene.
During these podcasts, “League of the North”—one of several of White’s aliases uncovered by VICE—often acts as cheerleader for the movement, speaking at length for the need to organize and promote white nationalism. “It’s really easy, especially where I live, to feel really isolated in our movement to secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” he said in his first guest appearance on the show on February 20, 2017. “We are the future of our people so we need to get organized.”
White positioned himself as a voice in the wilderness seeking to bring together like-minded “goys.” He organized so-called “pool parties”—alt-right slang for informal get togethers—for fellow rural racists. He led by example, heralding the benefits of clean living, physical fitness, and proper grooming in preparation for the inevitable showdown. “You’re going to do this because you want to improve yourself, and because you don’t want to be machete’d to death by a n----r” he wrote on ‘504um’, an online forum on The Right Stuff website in April 2017 as League of the North. (Editor’s note: offensive term redacted by VICE.)
He saw Northern Ontario as fertile ground. “Every blue collar guy I know will express outright racism when given permission,” League of the North wrote in The Right Stuff forum last month. The biggest local scourge according to his posts was the many Indigenous people in and around Thunder Bay, whom he referred to as “Chugs,” “Injuns,” and “tee-pee n----s.”
Key to organizing the Ontario neo-Nazi community was fundraising—and White saw opportunity in coffee. He loved the stuff, but clearly didn’t like the progressive aesthetic of coffee shop culture, nor its typically left-wing consumers—“shitlib normies,” as he described them online.
The solution: Rising Sun Coffee Company, an online coffee emporium dedicated to both quality beans and the protection of the white race. Five percent of all sales would go to the buyer’s white nationalist charity of choice. “Creating a new economy for the future of our people,” read the tagline emblazoned on a picture of an all-white tiki torch-carrying brigade from the Charlottesville riots last year.
For White, it made for a contradictory existence. By day, White slinged coffee and otherwise endeared himself to Thunder Bay’s cloistered artistic community. By night, he denied the Holocaust, denounced women and immigrants, and waxed crudely about the superiority of the white race—when he wasn’t fomenting a self-sufficient, whites-only economy by way of bitcoins and coffee beans.
“Now you can have your autistically-curated coffee gear, and never need to interact with stretched-ear'd bearded faggots,” White wrote on an alt-right forum, in the months before his coffee shop closed after much of Thunder Bay had turned against him due to his far-right views.
“Nazi Barista, at your service."
In a sense, Thomas White doxxed himself. VICE was able to ascertain his identity, and attach it to his myriad online aliases, not through a trove of hacked documents but by matching language and following Internet Protocol addresses.
Rising Sun’s internet site shared an IP address with Theleagueofthenorth.com, a self-described “fraternity” open to “European [men] of good character.” According to League’s postings on the white nationalist blog The Right Stuff, “League” modeled it after League of The South, a notorious Alabama-based neo-Confederate organization advocating southern secession and white supremacy.
White tethered himself to these various aliases through good, old fashioned plagiarism. On its website, Rising Sun Coffee described its Erika Roast (named after a German military marching song) as “Apple and coffee cherry with tart acidity and a mellow, nutty aftertaste”—a word-for-word copy of the description used by Rose N Crantz Roasting Co, Espresso Joya’s unwitting supplier, for one of its roasts.
Like many in the community, Rose N Crantz Roasting was unaware of White’s leanings. “I find such movements despicable. While we no longer have dealings with Mr. White, we would have parted ways with him much earlier if we had known,” said Rose N Crantz owner Jamie Nichols. Dan Dampier, the owner of Wolfhead Coffee, another one of Joya's suppliers, said that his company stopped supplying White with coffee after his cafe shut its doors.
“I will not do business with Thomas White," he told VICE. "If I was aware that he was such a hateful person I would have never done business with him at all. This alt-right white nationalist racist stuff isn’t what I’m about, it isn’t what Wolfhead Coffee is about, and I don’t think it’s what our community is about.”
Using Rose N Crantz’s supplier list, VICE was able to ascertain that Joya closed down at the same time and in similar fashion as Rising Sun Coffee’s owner described anonymously online. From here the similarities between White and League of the North kept piling up—working as firefighters, career changes, same family size, living situation, background, etc.—until it was too much to ignore. People familiar with White and Espresso Joya confirmed to VICE on background that he indeed was the alt-right’s “Nazi Barista.”
A search of the Internet Archive showed that the roaster dropped Joya as a customer in July 2017. Another internet search yielded a Facebook post from July 14, 2017 announcing the closure of Espresso Joya. It was written by Thomas White.
White kept two Twitter accounts, @LeagueOfNorth and @thomas_mjolnir—an apparent allusion to Thor’s Hammer, a miniature one of which White wears around his neck. On Gab, the Twitter-like forum favoured by the alt-right, a pastoral scene complete with a blazing Swastika rising from behind a mountain range dominates Mjolnir’s page.
White didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story when contacted on May 9 and given a thorough overview of everything that was going to be included in this article. Shortly after VICE contacted White, someone from “the TRS media company” [sic] emailed from a Gmail account. “I am writing to you on behalf of the TRS media company to inform you that you do not have permission to reproduce copyrighted audio from "This Hour Has 88 Minutes" or any other podcast on the TRS website,” read the email.
The 88 Minutes archives were removed a few hours later. “Johnathan Boone,” 88 Minutes’ perpetual intern, erased his Twitter profile shortly thereafter. On 504um, the normally mouthy League went silent before his account was deleted completely at about 10:30 EST. “Axe in The Deep,” 88 Minutes’ Ottawa-based host, deleted his account at about the same time.
Of course, nothing ever disappears from the internet.
This Hour Has 88 Minutes began life in September 2016. The hosts and guests would discuss and comment on news items, complain about politicians, and generally cast a beady eye at anything non-white and non-male. Jews were “the enemy,” as host Axe in the Deep often said. Blacks, women, leftists, gays, lesbians, trans people, and a host of other minorities never fared much better.
Muslims were disparaged as violent mass killers, though the hosts often spoke approvingly of white perpetrators of mass violence. “I do not endorse this at all but this is kind of true there's [Anders] Breivik approach where you know his grisly actions saved his country from becoming too much like Sweden right now,” Axe said in an 88 Minutes podcast from last April, in reference to the Norwegian white nationalist who killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, in 2011.
“Norway is better off than Sweden mostly because a bunch of those young kids who were going to go into politics, you know radical leftist politics, ended up getting shot. It's not great but sometimes sometimes if you want to make an omelet you got to crack a couple eggs.”
Though Canadian, the show had an international reach. It was often uploaded and shared on the Daily Stormer, one of the most prominent white nationalist websites in the world. “Zeiger,” an editor and writer for Daily Stormer recently discovered by the Montreal Gazette to be Montrealer Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, made four appearances on the show. “[88 Minutes] is unironically one of my favourite podcasts. Literally the only source for non-pozzed news from Canada,” wrote one Daily Stormer commentator.
Profane, proudly hateful and full of inside jokes, 88 Minutes was an important contribution to the spreading of the white nationalist movement, according to Keegan Hankes of the SPLC.
"Podcasts are extremely important to the movement, this is evident by how many there are, particularly on the Right Stuff network where This Hour Has 88 Minutes was hosted. They have made a prolific amount of content in their short couple of years in existence. It's really critical for new and fledging members indoctrination into this world.”
Users agreed with Hankes’ assertion that podcasts work as recruitment tools. Several posters on TRS, many of them Canadian, stated that This Hour Has 88 Minutes was their entry point into white nationalism, aiding them to graduate from ‘shitposting’—slang for mostly anonymous posting of messages on the internet—to IRL activity.
One white nationalist, who goes by Cracker Jack, articulated this sentiment as a guest on the 87th episode of the podcast. This Hour Has 88 Minutes “changed his life” and that the podcasters “affect the culture more strongly than any other group in Canada,” he said.
“I always often find it pretty surreal to think there's several thousand people listening to me fucking shitpost every week,” White responded. “It's humbling and the reason I do it is to connect with people.”
On 88 Minutes and elsewhere, White built a suitably fierce persona to make himself known in the alpha male world of white nationalism—and at a brawny 6’4’’ he certainly had the appearance to back it up.
"I am a father of 3, an entrepreneur, a volunteer firefighter, I work-out, commute to work, manage employees and a household, cut and chop wood for my wood stoves, keep a flock of chickens, have a dog, and train my boy to target shoot, spend quality time with my daughters, and somehow I still find time to shitpost. I came from a single-mother household. I never had an ‘easy job’ handed to me. I graduated with 50k of student loan debt which I paid off with hard labour in under 3 years," he wrote on the 504um in April 2017.
Reality is slightly more nuanced. An arts student who graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design after a sojourn in Italy, White and his wife moved to the outskirts of Thunder Bay in 2008. His wife, a civil servant with the Ontario government, is the family’s main breadwinner. They’ve since had a fourth child.
White taught figure drawing at the Baggage Building Arts Centre, where he taught how to capture the naked human form with charcoal on newsprint paper. His own sketches, posted on his blog, include resplendent naked women lounging on pillows and chairs. Another shows a male model, nude and muscular, seated and looking upwards as he leans back on his hands, legs spread. White also custom-painted motorcycle gas tanks.
At the same time, White was a prolific poster on 504um, where the subjects weren’t nearly as genteel. White has posted there 3,800 times, for a total of nearly 100,000 words, since July 2016. In his early days, he would stay put to mostly to a conversation about weightlifting in a mega-thread entitled “The Eternal Alt-Right Muscle thread.” Over time, his posting habits encompassed far more than just fitness tips for neo-Nazis.
It’s nearly impossible to summarize all his views, but within these conversations he spoke at length of his hatred of minorities, and about how he read Siege, the neo-Nazi tome that inspired the neo-Nazi terrorist organization known as Atomwaffen.
He spoke of his many rifles, and how he regularly took his son out target shooting. However, as his time cavorting with neo-Nazis online and in person went on, his rhetoric became more and more extreme. “Basically my kids are the one thing that keep me from seigeposting 24/7. Otherwise, it’d be massacres on the streets until I met an untimely end,” he said during an 88 Minutes podcast.
He mused about taking another wife—all the better to propagate the white race—and suggested to like-minded fathers on the forum that his young daughter would probably take a husband in ten years. “I want a nice young fella who is smart and responsible, and about 5 years older than her, and let them bond on supervised ‘dates’ until she is 18 wherein I want them married and making babies,” League wrote on 504um last November.
In recent years, The Right Stuff has become one of the most resilient and influential hubs for the alt-right—outlasting the likes of Stormfront and the Daily Stormer, which have been shut down or taken offline.
"I would argue that The Right Stuff is the most important hub for the alt-right, right now. I say that mostly because of the audience it generates,” said Hankes. “They command a very formal audience for all their podcasts—they host the Daily Shoah and Fash the Nation, probably the two most popular ones in the United States. They have the most popular one in Canada, This Hour Has 88 Minutes. They have a loyal listenership and a loyal audience and it makes it kind of a driver in the far-right."
In one of his final posts in early May, White wrote of his desire to come out publicly as a white nationalist. He’d already started with his own family. “My family knows. My side is completely supportive. Wife's fam is not in agreement but doesn't disown,” he wrote. “I even had a very civilized conversation with my mother-in-law about how the ideal for their grandchildren's future is segregation. She tut-tutted, but that's about all. Many co-workers know and agree completely but aren't active politically."
For White, it was the optimistic first step towards “becoming fully public,” as he once said. “I intend to use my real name proudly within our movement as soon as I can make myself reasonably anti-fragile,” he wrote last year.
This meant casting aside his public persona as an arts-loving coffee shop owner and letting the online white nationalist version of himself creep into his daily life. Espresso Joya customers didn’t take well to it.
On May 25, 2017, White took to The Right Stuff to announce the birth of Rising Sun Coffee. “While most of us love the delicious taste of coffee and the fascinating and aesthetically-pleasing gear that is used to produce it, we are often forced to deal with normies and hipster faggots when acquiring that sweet caffeinated goodness,” he wrote.
The company logo featured the sonnerad, the mystical symbol first appropriated by the Nazis and more recently by the alt-right. $14.88 bought you a pound of either Erika Medium or Hindenburg Dark Roast.
White also had Axe In The Deep and Slug_2, then the hosts of This Hour Has 88 Minutes, vouch for him so that caffeine-starved neo-Nazis would look to Rising Sun for their coffee fix. Many did. “That's the stuff right there, bro,” wrote one pro-white coffee consumer shortly after the announcement. “If we build a base of businesses that are happy to support the movement with ad revenue, it takes away ZOG's favorite weapon of platform denial.”
Rising Sun Coffee advertised on the Daily Shoah, The Right Stuff’s main podcast.
It received another bump when the Fatherland, another US-based neo-Nazi podcast, linked to its website and gave props to White. “This is 100 percent Nazi Coffee, he’s not cucking in any capacity whatsoever,” said Fatherland’s host. “Who would have thought a Canadian, a Leaf, would be the first with the balls to start a Nazi-themed business?”
Last December, Rising Sun Coffee garnered the highest of praise for someone on the far right, however backward: a piece from the Southern Poverty Law Center denouncing the initiative.
White donated five percent of his sales to one of six different causes of the buyer’s choice, all of which focused on the movement “to preserve and protect European identity and heritage against the many external and internal threats that we face.”
Rising Sun’s first customer, “James Morris,” posted invoice #1 from Rising Sun Coffee on May 26, 2017. He ordered a pound each of the Erika and Hindenburg roasts, along with a French press. Morris donated about $4 to the Daily Stormer Legal Defense Fund as a result.
Other causes included Chris Cantwell’s (the crying neo-Nazi) Legal Defense Fund; The Right Stuff forum; Identity Evropa; the Fash the Nation podcast; and the Suidlanders, a far-right South African survivalist group.
The site accepted PayPal or Bitcoin, discretion assured. When American neo-Nazis kvetched about shipping costs, White suggested they buy in bulk. “It does make a big difference,” he wrote, “as sending a package with 3 or 4 lbs of coffee costs only slightly more than a single bag.”
On the TRS forum, White wrote how he kept a spreadsheet of how much was to be sent to each cause, which he would then donate anonymously via bitcoin wallet. Once the process was done he would then send a receipt to the buyer. On the forum, White looked to hire a fellow racist to audit his sales and subsequent donations so that “the process remains transparent, and trust is maintained.”
When he became the new co-host of 88 Minutes on November 5, 2017, White, appearing as League of the North, used the opportunity to plug his coffee. “You can continue to be a coffee snob with Rising Sun Coffee without any of the anti-white guilt you might experience going to Starbucks,” he said. As a proudly white nationalist business owner and co-host of the country’s premier neo-Nazi podcast, Thomas White’s star continued to rise—however, in his real life, his white nationalist views were beginning to corrode everything White had built for himself.
Soon after Espresso Joya opened in February 2015 it became the darling of Thunder Bay’s artistic community. White’s “gourmet coffee shop is going gangbusters, creating new fans, delightfully surprised to learn how good coffee can be when made properly,” fawned a Northern Ontario travel magazine in June 2015.
Named after his favourite album— Joya, by singer-songwriter Will Oldham—the cafe served as a live music venue and gallery for local artists. He would host vernissages of his favourites on his own dime.
“Thomas was genuine, sweet, thoughtful, and seemed ambitious and creative. I got no weird/strange vibes except an artsy dude who loved his coffee,” Danielle Clarke, the film student who directed the 2017 mini documentary on Thunder Bay coffee culture, told VICE. Clarke was unaware of any of White's racists views until contacted by VICE for this story.
But there were rumblings about White. He’d link to white nationalist or pro-Trump articles on Facebook, either through his own or Joya account. He painted Nordic runes that began appearing on the walls of the coffee shop, and would have loud political conversations with customers and artists—whether they liked it or not.
“Over the years I’ve had several interactions with Espresso Joya, none of which left me with a particularly good feeling,” wrote singer-songwriter Jean-Paul De Roover on Facebook. (De Roover wouldn’t comment further. “I'd rather he nor his cause have any more attention given to them,” he wrote in an email to VICE.)
According to White’s posts on 504um, Joya’s downfall began when he failed to denounce one of his pro-Trump employees. “Based on the fact that I didn't immediately freak-out and fire him, the cat ladies put two-and-two together and made connections about my power level which I will admit to having not perfectly hidden,” he wrote on TRS in June of 2017. An unofficial boycott ensued, which White said resulted in a collapse in sales.
Espresso Joya closed last July. Shortly thereafter, White attempted to turn the shop’s Facebook page into a place for political discussion—”a real Conservative voice in this city,” as he put it. He wanted to call it “It’s Okay To Be Thomas White,” but claimed Facebook prevented him from doing so.
So White retreated back into the world of white nationalism and refocused his efforts on the 88 Minutes podcast, the League of the North fraternity and Rising Sun Coffee. None of the ventures have been particularly successful. 88 Minutes has gone dark. The League of the North page no longer exists outside the Internet Archive.
Rising Sun, meanwhile, delivered its last bag in early 2018, despite White’s own pleas to fellow neo-Nazis to buy his coffee. “It’s just a glitch and will be back up today,” White wrote on The Right Stuff on March 10, shortly after the Rising Sun Coffee site went down. It remains offline to this day.
This story was updated with additional comment from Wolfhead Coffee.