This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Ironmarch.org was not the kind of website to hang out on if you knew what was good for you. A swastika-plastered forum which took its users on a shared journey of extreme radicalisation, it kickstarted an international wave of Nazi terror.
Users of Ironmarch.org have attempted a mall shooting; murdered two young men; attempted to hack a Sikh dentist to death with a machete; and have been found to be in possession of illegal weapons and materials to make bombs, among other crimes. While these acts of violence mostly took place in North America, the forum had plenty of fans in the UK.
One of Ironmarch's administrators founded the banned British Nazi terror group National Action (NA), while an infographic produced by the site lists NA among its "affiliated groups", under the heading "Ironmarch members in the global fascist struggle".
The website disappeared in November of 2017, following reports that its founder had left. But as one of the main online forums advocating neo-Nazi terrorism, the bloodthirsty political current it helped to shape will live on.
Despite its frequent calls for violence, however, the forum never achieved the same notoriety as two other neo-Nazi websites – Stormfront and Daily Stormer, which both came under intense scrutiny last year after an alt-right demonstration in Charlottesville descended into violent clashes and an anti-racist protester was killed by a neo-Nazi.
One of the oldest and largest neo-Nazi forums – and linked to almost 100 hate crime murders in a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center – Stormfront had its domain name seized shortly after Charlottesville. Daily Stormer, meanwhile, was forced to move its domain registration repeatedly, before eventually losing it altogether and having to register at a number of other short-lived domain names.
Stormfront was always a site for all kinds of neo-Nazis, while Daily Stormer acted as bridge between extreme neo-Nazis and sections of the alt-right. Ironmarch was different.
The website was started in 2008, intended as an explicitly fascist online message-board. Instead, it ended up becoming a forum for the International Third Position Federation (ITPF), an extreme right-wing group that emerged in the UK in the 1980s around former BNP leader Nick Griffin. Most early members had left the group behind by the late-1990s, and by 2008 it was irrelevant, making membership of an ITPF internet forum an incredibly niche pursuit.
Things only started to change for Ironmarch when a number of its users discovered the work of a man named James Mason.
Mason is an elderly American neo-Nazi who was briefly linked to the Church of Satan, before getting involved with the American Nazi Party and the National Socialist Liberation Front (NSLF), which was responsible for three bombings in the Los Angeles area in 1975.
Mason revered Charles Manson, the notorious serial killer who carved a swastika into his forehead and died in 2017. Manson told Mason to start a neo-Nazi group called "Universal Order", and to make its logo a swastika superimposed over some scales, so that's exactly what Mason did.
In 1980, Mason began publishing a newsletter called SIEGE, which advocated armed struggle and terrorism, and celebrated serial killers and mass-murderers. Publication ended in 1986 and Mason disappeared from public view, but his ideas did not.
The SIEGE newsletters were published in a book, also called SIEGE, which was discovered by Ironmarch users and quickly became one of the key texts the forum encouraged its users to read. Ironmarch described finding the book as "something of an 'ah ha!' moment for us", and has even published its own edition, which it says has been dowloaded more than 16,000 times.
In July of 2017, members of the Atomwaffen Division – the neo-Nazi paramilitary group launched by Ironmarch users in the US – used the forum to announce they had met with Mason and were going to help him resume publishing SIEGE. A banner appeared on the site announcing "JAMES MASON IS BACK!", which linked to a thread containing an interview with Mason. A user called "Rape" said of his meeting with the neo-Nazi: "My road trip was worth the thousand miles." Another user said Mason had "100 percent endorsed" Ironmarch and Atomwaffen. Since encouraging Mason to return to active neo-Nazi politics, Ironmarch users have started a website for him and produced a number of videos promoting him and his views.
About two years after Ironmarch users discovered Mason’s writings, some began to act on the ideas they promoted.
In early 2017, four members of Atomwaffen were living together in a shared property in Tampa, Florida. One of them, Devon Arthurs (known as TheWeissewolfe on Ironmarch), converted to Islam and killed two of the other members, later telling police they had insulted his religion. The surviving member of the group, Brandon Russell (known as Odin on Ironmarch), was arrested by police when they turned up at the property and discovered the group had been stockpiling illegal weapons and materials they could use to make bombs. Arthurs told police that Russell had been planning to throw explosives into a nuclear power plant, and he was sentenced to five years in jail in January of 2018 for possessing bomb-making materials.
In February of 2015, a Columbine-obsessed American goth called Lindsay Souvannarath flew to Canada to visit two friends she had met on tumblr. The three were planning to head to a mall in Halifax on Valentine's Day to kill as many people as they could, using a rifle, a shotgun and gas bombs. When Souvrannarath arrived in Canada she was detained by police, and later pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. The court heard that "Souvannarath had a pre-existing interest in school shootings and Nazism".
Souvrannarath's Ironmarch username was With Hate As My Sword. One of the founders of Ironmarch is a Russian fascist who uses the screen name Alexander Slavros. Souvrannarath was one of Slavros' online girlfriends.
At the start of 2018, it was reported that a 17-year-old neo-Nazi had been charged with killing his girlfriend's parents just before Christmas, after they told her to break up with him. The Huffington Post revealed alleged killer Nicholas Giampa's links to Atomwaffen and his love of SIEGE.
In January, the body of Blaze Bernstein, a gay Jew, was found in California, having been stabbed over 20 times. The suspected killer attended a three-day training camp organised by Atomwaffen and was an avowed member of the group. This brings the total number of murders linked to Atomwaffen to at least five.
Meanwhile, other Ironmarch members were expressing their support for a number of violent neo-Nazi groups around Europe, including Golden Dawn, whose supporters killed left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas and have been linked to more than 100 racist attacks; the paramilitary Azov Battalion, which has been fighting in eastern Ukraine; and the Nordic Resistance Movement, a member of which murdered anti-fascist Jimi Karttunen in Helsinki in September of 2016.
A number of other neo-Nazi and fascist groups around the world can also be linked to Ironmarch.
One of the founders of the now-banned National Action – a young British fascist from Bognor Regis, called Benjamin Raymond – was an Ironmarch administrator. Since NA was proscribed as a terrorist organisation, it's been revealed that one member had made a pipe bomb, suggesting to friends that he might blow up a mosque – the kind of activity Ironmarch users celebrated and promoted.
Well before NA was banned, supporter Zack Davies – whose Ironmarch username was Rockerz88 – tried to kill a Sikh dentist with a machete in revenge for the murder of Lee Rigby. National Action publicly deny any association with Davies or his actions.
Another Ironmarch user and former National Action member, Ryan Fleming (known as Atlas on the site), was jailed for three years in July of 2017 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl. While in NA, Ironmarch users stuck by Fleming when it was revealed he had a conviction for sexually abusing a teenager, with site admin and NA co-founder Raymond taking to Stormfront to defend him.
Atomwaffen and National Action are unlikely to have been founded if Ironmarch didn’t exist. SIEGE would not have become as popular as it has if Ironmarch hadn't released its own edition and encouraged users to read it. Ironmarch had a forum culture which encouraged neo-Nazi terrorism, glorified acts of extreme violence and celebrated the individuals who carried it out. It helped to create and then mould a far-right political tendency in which acts of murderous political violence were explicitly encouraged – and acted upon.