Christian Marco Picciolini
November 3, 1973
Blue Island, Illinois, U.S.
|Alma mater||DePaul University (B.A.)|
|Awards||Emmy Award (regional)|
Christian Marco Picciolini (born November 3, 1973) is an American author, public speaker, former neo-Nazi punk rock musician, and founder of the Free Radicals Project, a global network of people who are working to prevent extremism and helping people disengage from hate movements and other violent ideologies. He is the author of a memoir, Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead, which details his time as a leader of the white power movement in the U.S. An updated version of the story was published in 2017, titled White American Youth: My Descent into America's Most Violent Hate Movement--and How I Got Out. His next book, Breaking Hate: Confronting the New Culture of Extremism, was released on February 25, 2020, and provides an inside look at how extremists recruit the vulnerable to their causes, details Picciolini's disengagement process, and serves as a guide for how anyone can help intervene.
Early life and education
Picciolini was born and raised in Blue Island, Illinois, the son of Italian immigrants. His father was a hair salon owner and his mother is a restaurant owner. At age 14 in 1987, Picciolini was recruited to join the Chicago Area Skinheads (CASH) by the group's founder, Clark Martell. Two years later, after Martell had gone to prison for a second time, Picciolini became the group's leader at age 16. He facilitated a merger between CASH and the Hammerskins, a more violent and well-organized white supremacist skinhead organization.
He would go on to head the white supremacist punk band, White American Youth (W.A.Y.) and, eventually, a hate rock band called Final Solution. Final Solution was the first American white power skinhead group to perform in Europe. The concert was held in a former cathedral in Weimar, Germany, attended by 4,000 people, and was made up of several other white supremacist bands. In 1994, Picciolini opened a record store called Chaos Records where he primarily sold white power music. He officially renounced ties to the American neo-Nazi movement in 1996 at the age of 22.
Picciolini founded another, non-racist punk rock band called Random55 after leaving the white power movement. The band toured with Joan Jett in the mid 1990s. In 1999, Picciolini began working for IBM. He eventually left IBM to start his own record label, Sinister Muse. Sinister Muse is part of the broader entertainment firm Goldmill Group. Picciolini managed Flatfoot 56, a Celtic punk band from Chicago and The Briggs, a Los Angeles punk band.
After graduating from DePaul University, Picciolini spent time writing his personal memoirs about his experience as a youth involved in the early American white power skinhead scene. In 2010, he co-founded Life After Hate, a peace advocacy and counter-extremism consulting group, with former neo-Nazi, Arno Michaelis. That same year, he took over as the executive producer and general manager of JBTV, a music-themed television program and entertainment media network based in Chicago. Picciolini is responsible for changing the show's basic format, securing a national distribution deal with NBC, and earning the show multiple Regional Emmy Award nominations. He would stay at the show until 2012.
In 2011, Picciolini spoke at the Summit Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) in Dublin, Ireland which was presented by Google Ideas and the Tribeca Film Festival. Also in 2011, Picciolini served as the executive producer and film director for the Smashing Pumpkins' DVD re-issues of Gish and Siamese Dream. He also served as the producer for The Frantic's music video for "Blackout Brigade" and, later, as the producer for Dead Town Revival's music video for "Johnny". Picciolini had previously served as producer for The Frantic's music video for "Audio & Murder" and for Dead Town Revival's music video for "The Rain."
Picciolini released Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead in April 2015. Over the course of his career, Picciolini has contributed to a variety of nationally broadcast programs as a subject matter expert, commenting on issues related to far-right, white supremacist extremism. He appeared on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and on Anderson Cooper 360° on CNN where he discussed the Charleston church shooting. He has also recently appeared on Chicago Tonight on WTTW, The Afternoon Shift on WBEZ, NewsMax TV's MidPoint with Ed Berliner, Al Jazeera, WGN Radio, and The Adam Carolla Show. He has also been profiled in online publications like Vice and The Blaze.
Picciolini left the Life After Hate organization in August 2017, intending to explore international groups that encourage violent extremists to leave their lives of hatred and find better lives. He went on to establish the Free Radicals Project, a global, multidisciplinary extremism and violence prevention, intervention, and disengagement platform and practice.
Awards and recognition
In his role as executive producer of JBTV, Picciolini helped the show earn five Regional Emmy Award nominations (three in 2010 and two in 2011). The show won a technical Emmy award in 2010 for motion graphics.
In 2016, Picciolini won a Regional Emmy Award for his role as executive producer and director of ExitUSA's "There is life after hate" anti-hate campaign.
- Ritz, Erica (20 January 2015). "Former Neo-Nazi Leader Shares the Chilling Way He Was Seduced by Hate at Age 14 — And What Made Him Leave It All Behind". TheBlaze. Archived from the original on 28 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Bensing, Kayla (1 July 2010). "Out of his skin". The Chicago Reporter. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Terry, Don (April 2015). "Redemption Song". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Segall, Mandy (1 July 2011). "Former skinhead: 'My hate had no basis'". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Ludwig, Jamie (17 November 2014). "From White American Youth to Life After Hate: Former Racist Skinhead Vocalist Pens Memoir About His Road to Peace". Vice. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Reynolds, Dean (23 June 2015). "Former skinhead explains how he was radicalized". CBS News. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Mohr, Michael (27 February 2015). ""ROMANTIC VIOLENCE: MEMOIRS OF AN AMERICAN SKINHEAD" BY CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI". Michael Mohr. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Shrum, Tony (27 March 2015). "Interview: Christian Picciolini Talks About His Part In The White Power Movement & His Memoir Moving Past It". New Noise Magazine. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- "American Skinhead to Peace Advocate Announcing Christian Picciolini for Glappitnova". Glappitnova. 5 May 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- "JBTV Is Bad, Nationwide". The Beachwood Reporter. 20 January 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- "Christian Picciolini". www.whoproducedit.info. Who Produced It. Retrieved 1 July 2015.[permanent dead link]
- "Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream". www.fvlb.org.nz. Film & Video Labelling Body. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- "Christian Picciolini". www.allmusic.com. AllMusic. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- THE FRANTIC - "Blackout Brigade" music video (OFFICIAL). YouTube. 18 October 2011.
- DEAD TOWN REVIVAL - "Johnny" music video (OFFICIAL). YouTube. 31 July 2014.
- THE FRANTIC - "Audio & Murder" music video (OFFICIAL). YouTube. 1 October 2007.
- DEAD TOWN REVIVAL - "Rain" music video. YouTube. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- "ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES". CNN. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Shefsky, Jay; Qiu, Linda (6 May 2015). "Life After Hate". Chicago Tonight. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- "Afternoon Shift: Former skinhead Christian Picciolini discusses his time in the white power movement". WBEZ. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Wakenight, Bennett (8 June 2015). "Christian Picciolini Talks Romantic Violence". WGN Radio. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Laxamana, Chris (3 May 2015). "Dr. Drew and Christian Picciolini". The Adam Carolla Show. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Davies, Luke (13 January 2018). "These Former Skinheads Are Fighting Racism". Vice. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- "Former Neo Nazi Explains Why Hate Drew Him In And How He Got Out". National Public Radio. 14 January 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
- "JBTV wins an Emmy… and celebrates". Redwall Photography. 11 November 2010. Archived from the original on 21 July 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- "Christian Picciolini Wins 2016 Emmy for ExitUSA Spot" (PDF). Chicago Midwest Regional Emmy Awards. 3 December 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2016.