In a ramshackle inner Sydney boarding house, surrounded by his collection of Adolf Hitler dolls, a 48-year-old unemployed neo-Nazi plies his trade as one of Australia’s most aggressive online trolls.
Nathan Sykes – a former journalist and bankrupt – has spent much of the past few years under various pseudonyms harassing and baiting left-wingers and Muslim activists through social media, and writing anti-Semitic articles on neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.
“When do you envisage and [sic] end to the Jew privilege that vilifies White males on a daily basis?” he wrote in a Twitter post in January last year.
Sykes is also a member of the far-right political party Australia First and a devotee of its shadowy leader, convicted fraudster Jim Saleam.
But what makes Nathaniel Jacob Sassoon Sykes particularly unusual is that, despite his neo-Nazi persona, he himself is a Jew.
Sykes was born in December 1968. Virtually everything else about his upbringing is shrouded in mystery and he has gone out of his way through pseudonyms to obscure his identity.
But Fairfax Media can now reveal that Sykes is part of an international network of trolls, and has been crucial in the campaigns to vilify a number of high-profile Australians, including Racial Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, Muslim activist Mariam Veiszadeh and Guardian journalist and left-wing commentator Van Badham. 100% Home Girls
Sykes, who declined through an intermediary to speak to Fairfax Media, was, in the mid-2000s, editor of 100% Home Girls, a soft-porn magazine published by Australian Consolidated Press.
But he had already by then developed a strong interest in Nazi paraphernalia.
“He would keep Hitler dolls on his desk, and play German marching band music. He even tried to do a Hitler doll giveaway in the magazine, but he was stopped and disciplined by management,” a former colleague told Fairfax Media.
“We all thought it was strange that this Jewish bloke was running around with these crazy right-wing ideas.”
In 2008 Sykes was retrenched. In October 2013, he sought the protection of a bankruptcy claim after being unable to pay bank and credit card debts of $39,000. Bankruptcy documents show that, three days after Christmas in 2012, he had even drawn $6934 from his superannuation account.
Sykes describes himself in the documents as a “journalist/sub-editor”, with a business as a “casual writer”.
Part of his written output at the time was a 2012 self-published novel, Stuck Forever in the Throat of Society, about the life of a former pulp magazine editor who lost his job after being persecuted for his affinity with Nazi dolls, and who lived alone in a rooming house.
In one passage from the book, Sykes wrote: “If I didn’t have trolling, I’m sure I’d be crouched on a rooftop with a sniper’s rifle popping rounds into the ant-like, sheepish f#@kers on the street below”.
Former colleagues from ACP say the name of the book’s lead character, Stanley Dangerfield, had come from his days at the magazine.
‘We gave him that name,” a former staff member said.
When Sykes later took to expressing his views on Twitter, one of his pseudonyms became “Stan Dangerfield”.
Sykes as “Stan Dangerfield” on Twitter Photo: Twitter
Another alias is “Hamish Patton”, the name Sykes uses when he writes for the notorious website Daily Stormer.
The American-based site which takes its name from the Nazi era publication Der St??rmer attracts up to 70,000 unique visitors a day and is the best-read English language neo-Nazi website in the world according to a recently published report by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
The site operates what they call a “Troll Army”, which is used to launch campaigns online to smear and harass opponents. Unmasking two trolls
In 2015, a Fairfax Media investigation revealed that notorious online Islamic State supporter “Australi Witness” was in fact a young Jewish man called Joshua Goldberg. At the time of his unmasking, Goldberg was allegedly trying to provoke jihadist bombings from his computer in a basement bedroom of his parents’ house in Florida.
He is now in a US prison facing terror charges.
But it was Goldberg who told Fairfax Media that he had introduced Sykes to the Daily Stormer in early 2015. Goldberg offered to publish Sykes’ writing under his own Nazi pseudonym, “Michael Slay”.
According to Goldberg, the pair had previously met on Stormfront, a long established neo-Nazi forum, and had formed a close online friendship. Between them, the pair cooked up a trolling campaign against Ms Veiszadeh, a lawyer and Muslim activist.
The 2015 campaign was motivated by Ms Veiszadeh’s opposition to a Cairns Woolworths store selling a singlet adorned with the Australian flag and the words, “Love it or Leave”. Her campaign prompted a vicious online backlash from “nationalists”, who started threatening her.
Police ultimately tracked down one of these people, arresting and charging a Brisbane woman over the harassment.
Two days after the arrest, an article on the subject appeared on the Daily Stormer. It was written by Sykes, but published under Goldberg’s pseudonym, “Michael Slay”.
The article revealed Ms Veiszadeh’s personal details, including phone numbers and a former residential address, and urged the “troll army” to attack her. Ms Veiszadeh later received a call from a former neighbour informing her that bacon had been left at the door.
The campaign received international coverage by outlets such as CNN. Seemingly eager to claim credit, Sykes momentarily dropped his guard.
On the day the Brisbane woman was to appear in court, Sykes posted another attack against Ms Veiszadeh, this time using his real name. The article has since been deleted from the Daily Stormer website, but remains available on web archives.
Perhaps realising he was putting himself at risk of criminal prosecution, the offending article was quickly updated to reflect Sykes’ new persona, “Hamish Patton”. Sykes told Goldberg he had been forced to adopt the pseudonym to evade detection by Australian authorities.
Article byline changed to Hamish Patton. Photo: archive.is
Ms Veiszadeh told Fairfax Media’s Daily Life that the trolling had made her “physically sick”, and that she was living at the time in a state of “fear” and “paranoia”.
“I remember ??? feeling like someone was hunting me down,” she said.
On the day the Brisbane woman was sentenced to 180 hours’ community service, Sykes published another article, this time under the name “Hamish Patton”, entitled, “Mariam’s ‘Rag Head’ Harasser Sentenced to 180 Hours Community Service”.
“The only thing we can truly hope for – aside from a serious car accident, death by stroke or tumour, a freak lightning strike, spontaneous combustion, or being swallowed up by a sinkhole and never heard from again – is that [Ms Veiszadeh] is being genuine about all these mean comments affecting her emotionally,” Sykes wrote.
“With a little bit of a psychological push, by cleverly using a carriage or service, it just might be possible to drive her over the edge ??? Be mean to Mariam. Make it a mini-mantra.”
Dr Soutphommasane became the target of another relentless campaign starting in 2015 that Sykes dubbed “Operation Filthy Chink Rat”. It began after the commissioner took a strong stance on the rise of white supremacist groups in a speech delivered to the National Press Club in Canberra, on the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Blog posts, doctored images and articles produced by Sykes depict Dr Soutphommasane as a “filthy, MSG riddled rodent”.
Nathan Sykes’ Daily Stormer article on Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane. Photo: Facebook
Dr Soutphommasane declined to comment on the campaign against him.
Sykes also regularly targets journalists, such as Guardian columnist Van Badham, whom he labelled a “Commie bush pig”.
“Let’s get to work, Stormer Troll Army,” Sykes wrote of Badham in 2015.
“This over-starched suffragette is so full of herself that she’s all over social media. It’s time for reality to punch an iron fist through the communist fantasy,” he wrote, going on to provide details of her social media accounts.
That campaign led to Badham being inundated with online abuse.
Badham said incitement over the internet could be dangerous in the real world. “What we learnt from Joshua Goldberg is that there are people out there who can be persuaded to act out the threats.”
Goldberg also revealed Sykes’ obsession with Hitler dolls.
In October 2015, using the “Patton” pseudonym, Sykes wrote an article on the Daily Stormer about German footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had sued a European doll company for appropriating his likeness. Eager to show off his own collection, Sykes posted a photo with the caption “Hamish Patton’s personal collection of DID [sic] figures”.
A collection of Nazi dolls owned by Nathan Sykes. Source: Dailystormer苏州美甲学校
At a similar time, Sykes also published a series of videos on YouTube under the name “United Nationalists Australia”, in which he showed off the dolls while dressed in an SS hat and fake beard and calling himself “Adolf Gadaffi”.
Sykes later attempted to delete the video.
Images obtained by Fairfax Media, which we have chosen not to publish, confirm that the video was filmed inside Sykes’ inner Sydney apartment.
Asked if they were investigating Sykes, the Australian Federal Police said it “does not confirm or deny who it may or may not be investigating”, but did note they move on political extremists at the point when “extremist views become actions that are illegal”.