This article originally appeared on VICE US.
While President Trump tweeted that his administration would be moving to designate “ANTIFA”—broadly and incorrectly referring to the movement of antifascist activism as a centralized group—a terrorist organization, online chatter among the far right shows accelerationist neo-Nazis calling for terror attacks on U.S. cities dealing with mass protests.
The thinking, as laid out on a series of Telegram accounts linked to a wider network of paramilitary far-right extremists, is that ongoing protests are spreading America’s police forces thin, making this the ideal time to strike with a strategic attack.
“I wonder how many synagogues could be targeted by vicious anti-Semites who wear masks, gloves, and leave their phones at home while most police, firefighters, and paramedics are being tied up in rioting cities,” reads one post from a neo-Nazi channel specializing in anti-surveillance tradecraft that frequently calls for an insurgency against society. “A total theoretical hypothetical.”
Another infamous account, with thousands of followers and links to several neo-Nazi terror groups like The Base and the Nordic Resistance Movement, called for attacks on critical infrastructure.
“The real way any of us benefit (from) this situation is to go after serious infrastructure,” reads a recent post from the account, viewed over a thousand times. “If the power goes out in any of the affected cities right now on top of what's already happening, you can expect them to really shatter.”
Neo-Nazi terror groups have been known to call for attacks on critical infrastructure. In 2019, The Base released propaganda suggesting its followers bomb their local transformers, while as far back as 2017, a ProPublica investigation reported how Atomwaffen Division members internally discussed meddling with public water systems and taking out the California electric grid.
Though far-right activists have appeared at protests and officials in Minneapolis and Atlanta suggested these types of white supremacists might be infiltrating protesters to capitalize on social unrest, many of these same Telegram accounts viewed by VICE preached the opposite.
One particularly racist post told followers to allow protesters and police to fight it out, because “They’re both our enemies.” The same post warned against going to a protest, because it offers the chance for authorities to identify suspects in the white supremacist movement. “Never forget that the system is 1000x more interested in putting you in jail.”
Accelerationism—a decades old, hyper-violent doctrine among the far right that seeks to hasten the collapse of society through terrorist acts—has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity among neo-Nazi paramilitary types, who have propagated its teachings on far-right social media platforms during the pandemic. In April, one man in Missouri, who was under investigation by the FBI for his links to a neo-Nazi terror group, died during a gunfight with police. They had intercepted him before he attempted to bomb his local hospital, which was struggling with the coronavirus outbreak.