The former leader of the supposedly now-defunct Atomwaffen Division (AWD)—the same terror group linked to a string of killings in the U.S.—is currently in prison on federal swatting charges after a nationwide FBI crackdown. He also wants to enjoy some Lord of the Rings during his incarceration.
Going by the online alias “Rape,” John Cameron Denton, 26, once led one of America’s scariest neo-Nazi terror groups, but now sits in a Virginia jail cell awaiting trial for carrying out a series of death threats and swatting campaigns targeting journalists, politicians, and members of the Trump administration. Federal prosecutors alleged in one of his first court appearances that Denton even traded child pornography online with another white supremacist.
Since being jailed, Denton has asked to be released from custody because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also made another unique plea.
"John Cameron Denton has requested some letters,” reads an online post by a charity organization specializing in helping imprisoned "nationalists" get support inside. “He is into D&D, The Bible & LOTR.”
The so-called charity, which denies any links to neo-Nazism but is providing support to the domestic terrorist who infamously killed Heather Heyer at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, says Denton is imprisoned at a facility where “inmates may not receive books or magazines,” so he might be looking more for letters inspired by Tolkien, Hobbit fanfic, or passages of the Bible to get him through his potentially lengthy sentence. Denton stands accused of coordinating a swatting campaign, but another incarcerated AWD member also jailed in February sent gruesome death threats to the personal addresses of journalists, making Denton's desire for mail somewhat ironic.
While undoubtedly a literary classic, Lord of the Rings has long been criticized for having racist undertones. Well-known fantasy author Andy Duncan played on this in a 2008 short story called "Senator Bilbo," which envisioned Bilbo Baggins as a segregationist, while also criticizing the characterization of orcs as a race that is inherently evil and violent.
“It’s hard to miss the repeated notion in Tolkien that some races are just worse than others, or that some peoples are just worse than others,” Duncan told Wired in 2018. “And this seems to me—in the long term, if you embrace this too much—it has dire consequences for yourself and for society.”
One popular white nationalist blogger, who has been connected to groups like The Base and interviewed its leader, Rinaldo Nazarro (AKA Norman Spear), has written extensively on the “inspiring aryan tale” that is the Lord of the Rings. “Most commenters and bloggers in the white nationalist scene are like the Hobbits,” begins one of his diatribes.
Some stereotypical neo-Nazis, in many ways, aren’t dissimilar to what would be described as run of the mill nerds. They spend a frequent amount of time on chat boards, embrace fantasy or occult archetypes, and love to posture about violence. It’s unsurprising that, when faced with a period of time behind bars, they would regress to this position of desperately needing a tap up of Aragorn.
Tolkien, by all accounts, didn’t seem to like actual Nazis. In 1938, as he was finalizing the publication of The Hobbit in Germany, the publisher inquired if he was Jewish. Tolkien, who in the past had ridiculed Nazi race science, responded: “I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”