- Revelations trigger investigation at Alaska department of law
- Matthias Cicotte a supporter of Deseret nationalist group
The Guardian has identified an Alaska assistant attorney general as a supporter of the Mormon-derived extremist group the Deseret nationalists who has posted a series of racist, antisemitic and homophobic messages on social media.
The Guardian’s investigation has triggered a review in the Alaska department of law, where the lawyer works.
Matthias Cicotte, whose job means he works as the chief corrections counsel for Alaska’s attorney general, has acted for the department of law in a number of civil rights cases.
But evidence from his Twitter output allowed Cicotte to be identified by anti-fascist researchers, whose evidence was confirmed and augmented by a Guardian investigation.
After the department was presented with the information last week, Alaska’s deputy attorney general, Cori Mills, wrote in a statement shared with the Guardian: “The department of law takes the allegations raised here seriously, and we uphold the dignity and respect of all individuals and ask that all of our employees do the same.”
Mills added: “Having just learned about this late last week, we are gathering information and conducting a review. Since this involves personnel issues, we are very limited in our ability to comment further.”
Matthias Cicotte did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Online, Cicotte, under the moniker J Reuben Clark and the Twitter handle @JReubenCIark, has expressed extreme positions on race, criminal justice and religion.
Since-deleted tweets archived by anti-fascists reveal that he advocated various extreme positions including the summary imprisonment of Black Lives Matter protesters; vigilante violence against leftwing groups; and a punishment of execution for acts including performing gender reassignment surgery.
The JReubenCIark account was also one of the earliest and most prominent accounts to promote Deseret nationalism on Twitter using hashtags like #DeseretNationalism and #DezNat.
Deseret nationalists or DezNats are a loose association of rightwing Mormons. Previously they have been noted for harassing perceived enemies online, such as progressive Mormons, LGBTQ Mormons, former Mormons and political progressives.
Some who identify with the movement wish to recreate Deseret, the region which is now much of the interior of the western United States, which Mormons sought to have admitted to the union, and effectively ruled between 1862 and 1870.
Some DezNats advocate the creation of a theocratic secessionist Mormon state, and some have proposed that this be a white ethnostate, a desire which is reminiscent of the proposals of some white nationalists for a white ethnostate in the Pacific north-west.
Many DezNats flirt with accelerationist neo-Nazi imagery, and pass around memes and catchphrases that are adaptations of imagery and verbiage associated with the “alt-right” movement.
The account is pseudonymous, but it left a trail of evidence regarding Cicotte’s identity which were archived by antifascist activists.
The moniker not only references a prominent 20th-century Mormon leader and attorney, but is the name of Brigham Young University’s law school, from which Cicotte graduated in 2008.
The account revealed a number of biographical details that match Cicotte’s, from the length of his marriage, to the identity of his criminal law professor, to his frequent moves, to the dates of his various stints in higher education, to his ownership of a Minivan, to the date of his house purchase.
There are other clues based on the course of his life or contemporaneous events. In August 2020, the account’s owner remarked that he had been overweight but lost a significant amount of weight, which matches a long chronological sequence of photographs obtained from his wife’s Facebook page.
The most compelling evidence comes from photographs posted by the account, presenting them as depictions of the interior of the owner’s house. One reveals a distinctive patterning on the brickwork, and another a similarly distinctive pattern on wood paneling in a kitchen.
The first matches a fireplace pictured in two photographs of Cicotte’s house posted to the realtor.com website; the second matches several pictures of Cicotte’s kitchen on the same site. The pictures of the kitchen also reveal a matching layout and countertops to the image posted to Twitter.
In a telephone conversation that took place after he had viewed the photographs posted to Twitter, Ellsworth Warner, who lived in the house until 2014 when it was sold to Cicotte, said, “Yep, it is the same house,” and identified the cabinets as having been installed by his mother, Renee Warner.
Another description of the disposition of his house on Twitter also matches satellite images.
Many of the tweets under the JReubenCIark moniker suggest antipathy towards Jews, who are the subject of hundreds of tweets that suggest that they are involved in conspiracies against white people, or that they already control the commanding heights of the economy, the media or education.
In 2016, the account sent a tweet evoking a past time when “real history was taught in school, angry yentas didn’t rule, white men didn’t play the fool”.
The tweet – which suggests the malign influence of Jewish women and the decline of white men as problems in the contemporary world – tagged in two then prominent alt-right accounts at a time when that movement was at the height of its influence on social media.
In February this year, JReubenCIark wrote in reference to the Republican Jewish Committee’s push for the expulsion of Marjorie Taylor Greene that he supported their efforts “to combat the conspiracy theory that Jews run everything by getting any member of Congress they don’t like expelled from Congress”.
The account also regularly denied the reality of anti-Black racism, attacked Black public figures and showed an extraordinary hostility towards anti-racist protesters associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. He also made casually racist remarks about other groups including Mexicans and Native Americans.
In a March tweet, JReubenCIark claimed that accusations of racism were “purely a tool to control people on the right”, going on to ask “try to think of example of an accusation of racism that helped the right, or Christians, or whites in the last 10 years”.
On 15 June last year, he riffed on a catchphrase of the so-called Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, tweeting: “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its Consequences Have Been a Disaster for the Human Race.”
The account also repeated familiar white nationalist talking points about the relationships between race, crime and IQ. He tweeted: “Is it ‘white supremacy’ to note that some racial groups have higher IQs than others based on IQ tests? I believe that and I am only a Deseret supremacist.”
JReubenCIark also evinced a dismissive animus towards Latinos. On 25 June last year he wrote: “I can’t believe there’s a faithful Latter-day Saint out there who can look at the collapse of birthrates among the Latter-day Saints and say, ‘Well, hey, at least lots of Catholic Mexicans are coming to the US.’”
On 30 June, as the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder were in full swing, the account told a Utah BLM supporter he was arguing with on Twitter: “You and all of your lying violent criminal friends belong in prison.” He later added: “#BlackLivesMatter is a criminal enterprise that murders people and destroys property. In a sane world you would all be in prison or worse.”
On 2 July, discussing an incident in Provo, Utah, in which a man appeared to drive his car into a crowd of BLM protesters, he remarked: “No one had a right to block his car. You all belong in jail.”
The account tweeted about violence against trans people.
On 17 October 2017, responding to news of a Drag Time Story Hour event in Long Beach, California, Cicotte wrote: “This demon should be burned to death and everyone responsible for that library event should be in prison.”
On 16 August 2019, he tweeted: “People who encourage a kid to think he’s a different sex than what he is (including parents) go to jail for child abuse”, adding that “people who perform or abet sex change operations on kids get the death penalty.”
The account was more forgiving of accused murderers with rightwing political sympathies.
Discussing the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of a double murder of protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August, it wrote: “The justice system will fail. He’s not a cop, he’s gonna get screwed like James Fields.”
James Fields was convicted last year of the murder of Heather Heyer, who he killed in a car attack after marching with white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
The account regularly advocated vigilante action against political opponents.
In June 2017, JReubenCIark concluded a thread on how best to respond to the left’s characterizations of conservatives with the remark: “If brute violence is the only way to be free of them, what do they expect us to do?”