Online Neo-Nazis Are Increasingly Embracing Terror Tactics
Fascist Forge is the latest online, neo-Nazi breeding ground for violent extremism and it’s unapologetically calling for lone wolf terrorism.
This article originally appeared on VICE CA.
With talk of potential ISIS terror attacks on western targets or Chinese and Russian hackers taking out the power grid, domestic terrorism from white nationalists is regularly overlooked—despite tragic events and the clear national security threat they pose.
Now, a new online forum appearing to be the heir-apparent to a taken-down militant neo-Nazi website called IronMarch, is calling on far-right extremists to attack public infrastructure and kick-off a race war.
‘Fascist Forge’ appeared online in May 2018 and users—many who’ve appeared on other militant sites tracked by VICE—recently began discussing on open forums about “direct actions” or, in other words, terror attacks, advocating for targeting public infrastructure and reflecting a growing trend online from the far-right.
A user named ‘IronWill’ who identifies as an extremist and believes in “Esoteric Hitlerism”—a mystical take on Naziism—begins a conversation by asking his fellow posters how they could instigate a race war.
“I'm sure most of you aren't going to go tomorrow and bomb a van of n-----s, but what exactly can we do, if we are to do some level of direct action?” he asks, conceding he isn’t yet going to go “Breivik” (an allusion to Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian mass shooter and neo-Nazi).
“Use partisan tactics from WW2, disrupt communication lines, the electricity grid, infrastructure is a big one seeing how shitty America's infrastructure is at the moment, we should use disruption tactics and then jump off from there,” fires back one user named ‘Reith’.
Another member writes extensively on the importance of operational security online, in order to continue the site and the broader white power movement without attracting attention from law enforcement. As the anonymous user, who has no handle, explains, everyone on the site is engaging in criminal activities.
“When it comes to our struggle, we are practically a scattered militia of autonomous guerilla lone wolves,” the user wrote in early January 2019.
Evidence of more neo-Nazis sharing a collective belief in inciting domestic terror attacks follows in the vein of Atomwaffen Division—a violent neo-Nazi extremist group linked to several hate crimes, an attempted bombing and a racially motivated killing—coupled with the social network called The Base, shows how the far-right is increasingly looking to organized militancy.
Fascist Forge’s founder and frequent poster is a user going by ‘Mathias’ who explained the apparent goal of the site in a post, which can only be seen by members.
“Simply put, we want to funnel Fascists to the site, get acquainted with them, and then help them get in contact with other Fascists in their area so they can meet up and form their own local groups & networks,” reads Mathias’ post. “The site will provide these local groups with the ability to communicate among themselves without the worry of censorship or attacks by the enemy in addition to a plethora of online resources.”
Moreover, Fascist Forge is directly borrowing from IronMarch—a defunct forum taken down in November 2017, where Atomwaffen Division was first conceived of among its members,and openly venerates IronMarch founder, Alexander Slavros. After it was linked to Atomwaffen Division, and the crimes surrounding the group, IronMarch was quietly pulled in 2017 and Slavros went dark. No concrete explanation for its removal has ever been given.
“The site has purposely been modeled after Ironmarch.org, which prior to its shutdown was the foremost Fascist website in the world. Our aim is to continue where they left off," writes Mathias in a post from June 2018.
And one leading expert agrees. Ryan Scrivens, a noted scholar on right-wing extremism, told VICE that IronMarch was a key accelerator in the extremism of the far-right and Fascist Forge is picking up where it left off.
“IronMarch was essential to the right-wing extremist movement because it served as a centralized space in which some of the most extreme adherents could connect, communicate, and interact with like-minded individuals from around the globe,” says Scrivens. “It would appear, though, that Fascist Forge is the new IronMarch. Like its predecessor, Fascist Forge explicitly promotes genocide against non-Whites—which is atypical of most right-wing extremist forums—and it also shares the similar goal of connecting violent extremists online for the purposes of networking and expanding the movement offline.”
Recently released FBI statistics show a significant spike in hate crimes across the US, while Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale—a similar position to the head of Department of Homeland Security in the US—recently admitted the rise of right-wing extremism is an increasing concern for officials.
“They may have behaved themselves as singular individuals doing very evil deeds,” said Goodale last week referencing the Quebec Mosque shooter and the Toronto van attacker, “but they were inspired by something and largely that relates back to what they saw on the internet.”
Among other neo-Nazi chatter on the forum, there is an entire section with manuals on how to make homemade weapons; a guide promoting the militaristic tactics of ethnic cleansing; a how-to on disposing of a body; descriptions on the best weapon to use in an urban firefight scenario and how to pull off an attack the likes of the DC sniper attacks of 2002. Recently, a condensed copy of David Myatt’s Practical Guide to the Aryan Revolution was added to the site—the text has been cited as being a direct influence in numerous right-wing terrorist attacks over in the past 20 years.
In order to become a member of the site, Fascist Forge requires new users to pass a membership exam. The exam consists of 26 essay style questions ranging from the overtly racist, “what are your thoughts on the Jews” to the more abstract: “how is Truth distinguished from falsehood?” Most questions center around Nazism, fascism, and racism. The exam is graded by Mathias and the results are posted in a section only available to users.
The exam serves as a pipeline to radicalization for new recruits. In order to pass, new members need to read the fascist reading list available on the site, which consists of radical writings by James Mason (the founder of Siege culture and something of a cultural godfather to Atomwaffen Division), George Lincoln Rockwell—the founder of the American Nazi party—and Slavros.
According to an investigation by VICE, at the time of writing, the forum had 441 members from the US, Canada and Europe. Of that total, 99 had taken the radicalization exam, and most passed it.
Among its membership is suspected former members of Atomwaffen Division, Sonnenkrieg Division (the British wing of Atomwaffen), newly-indoctrinated online neo-Nazis and former members of The Base. One of The Base’s primary propagandists, an alleged 18-year-old man from California who goes by the moniker ‘Poilu’, has begun to create propaganda for Fascist Forge.
Well-known open source researcher on the far-right, known as Subcomandante X,(who published his own reports on Fascist Forge) told VICE he, too, has seen familiar user accounts from other online, neo-Nazi militant ecosystems.
“Yes, not only have Fascist Forge members expressed admiration—and, in a few cases, disgust—for certain groups, some have implied on the forum that they are personally close to militant neo-Nazi organizations,” he said in a text exchange. “While, in other online spaces, genuine members of these groups have explicitly referred to their Fascist Forge usernames.”
On another popular neo-Nazi site called ‘Stormfront’, the forward facing nature of Fascist Forge is criticized. One user wrote in early January that he was less than impressed with users of the site.
“I was over on Fascist Forge a while ago, just browsing, trying to see if there was anything worthwhile, when I ran across a few delightful how-tos on DIY AR-15 assembly, assorted terrorist manuals, and even an "ethnic cleansing guidebook."...Taken as a whole the site seems to be either some form of FBI trap or else just a bunch of teenagers LARPing,” wrote user Matyas Rakosi.
“Either way avoid because the place is definitely on a watchlist.”
Another Stormfront user replies to Rakosi that he thinks the site is the latest Atomwaffen Division meeting space.
“It's just the new Atomwaffen hangout,” says the user named ‘Rockie NatAn’.
In recent days, Fascist Forge has received some attention after the Anti-Defamation League posted an article sounding the alarm on the site, which chatter on the forum indicates led to an uptick in membership. However, the newcomers haven’t shown the dedication, nor due diligence (many not taking the indoctrination exam), which the original, die-hard members seem to resent.
“The act of a newcomer making posts without having taken the exam (or even introducing themselves) is a sign of infiltration or ignorance/mere ideology shopping,” wrote user Adalwulf.
The forum’s most used area is, like many websites of a similar ilk, the general discussion area where fascism and its implementation are considered at length. The site was registered on Dream Host, a US based web hosting and registration company, on April 17, 2018. According to IP address data, the internet service provider running Fascist Forge is based in Ukraine. A closer inspection of the address points to Vinnytsia, a Ukrainian town that housed a Nazi military headquarters codenamed ‘Werwolf’. These were the headquarters used by Hitler in the Ukraine—and the site of a horrific genocide of Jews undertaken by the SS. It must be noted it’s possible to reroute IP addresses with relative ease.
Violent extremism researcher Sarah Hightower (who has monitored Fascist Forge), says sites like it should not be underestimated.
“Make no mistake about it—this is a contingent of hardened extremists who want a race war,” she said in an interview with VICE. “It really isn't too much of a stretch to assume the worst. And to those of us already familiar with groups like The Base, it's apparent that domestic terrorism on a grand scale is the end goal. Fascist Forge absolutely has the potential to be a petri dish of accelerationist domestic terror.”
Scrivens echoes those fears.
“While most of the people who participate in these online communities are what some would describe as ‘keyboard warriors’ who are all talk and no action,” he said, “these spaces are also home to a number of violent individuals who are willing to fight for the greater ‘good’ of the white race, as well as those who are actively recruiting new members into violent extremists groups.”