When the FBI arrested five senior members of the Neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Divison early in 2020, it seemed that the terror cell was on its last legs. Under sustained pressure from law enforcement, effective doxing by anti-fascist activists, increasingly revealing investigations by journalists and even deadly in-fighting among members, the group was dying a quick death. Its name, however, had become synonymous with the violent right-wing accelerationist movement, inspired by James Mason’s Siege, and seeking to bring about the fall of modern society through acts of violence leading ultimately to a race war.
In its short four-year existence, the group had been linked to at least five murders, as well as plots to bomb nuclear facilities, poison water supplies, and cut out power to major cities. The group preached chaos and race-war, inspired by their mentor James Mason. By March of this year, however, it seemed that their short reign of terror was over, and the latest white supremacist threat had been all but neutralized.
History has taught us one thing however. The far-right has a habit of shapeshifting. Groups retreat into the shadows and re-emerge with a new name, new look, new leadership, but the same hateful ideology. In the UK and Germany, where groups can be and are legally proscribed by the government, this rebranding tactic is used to avoid prosecution while maintaining ideological continuity, while in the United States it most often happens when a group is decapitated and left leaderless. When Atomwaffen dissipated, it was only a matter of time before a successor emerged, and in late July, the National Socialist Order reared its ugly head for the first time.
The far-right has a habit of shape-shifting. Groups retreat into the shadows and re-emerge with a new name, new look, new leadership, but the same hateful ideology
The newly branded NSO first appeared on Telegram on 25 July, when their first channel was launched with a cryptic message that claimed they were “building networks of proud brothers in enemy lands” alongside the trademark black and yellow Atomwaffen imagery and a picture of the Totenkopf, an insignia used by numerous Nazi SS divisions in World War II. They soon followed up with a warning that they would “build an Aryan, National Socialist world by any means necessary” before briefly recanting the history of the Atomwaffen Division’s demise and eventual dissolution in the United States.
Two days later, however, a new Telegram channel was started, using the same name and same logo of a white sword on a red swastika. This channel, which claimed to be the “only authorized Telegram channel for NSO”, grew quickly in comparison to the original, which soon went quiet, suggesting that two of the founding members of the new NSO had failed to communicate and had both started their own channels.
An official announcement was soon made on the fascist ‘American Futurist’ website, where the group claimed to have a strong core of executive leadership, most of whom were apparently also in leadership positions within AWD. The group also attached the NSO program to the American Futurist article, in which they outlined 8 key points upon which their platform is built.
Throughout these points the group outline their support for Adolf Hitler, their global outlook, their revolutionary racism and their desire to seize territorial power by any means necessary.
A new wave of terrorist violence may be on the horizon in the United States
Unlike many white nationalist and white supremacist groups who seek a territorial ‘homeland’ for the white race, the NSO go as far as to claim that “the earth should be solely populated by the Aryan race”, which in itself is one of the most radical racial worldviews of any group on the far-right.
Perhaps most concerning, however, was the final point of the program. Point 8 stipulates that all members of the NSO are required to be armed and ready to act at a moment’s notice. Given the violent and deadly record of AWD, the centrality of violence to the NSO’s program would suggest that a new wave of terrorist violence may be on the horizon in the United States.
In the months since the launch, the channel has been increasingly active, and the content is quickly becoming more violent and more radicalizing. Memes and posters are posted regularly, including some featuring Hitlerian imagery and commonly used neo-Nazi numerography such as ‘1488’. Others feature images of well-known terrorists such as Brenton Tarrant and Dylann Roof alongside calls to violence, including a series of posters calling on members to ‘Siege your local mosque’.
In mid-October the group shared a video promoting a ‘three step’ radicalization process that succinctly summarized their model of leaderless resistance. The video, which was polished and well-produced, encouraged followers to ‘educate [themselves]’, ‘identify allies and enemies’, and ‘act’ in order to ‘forge a new world’ from the ‘festering corpse of America’. Each step was accompanied by cartoon stick figures, and gave clear instructions as to what was meant by each step.
The threat of opportunistic, accelerationist terror should not be forgotten or ignored
The first image featured a figure reading a book, while titles like The Turner Diaries, The Camp of the Saints, Mein Kampf, and Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto appeared in the background. The second step featured a number of figures which conformed to crude stereotypes, including neo-Nazi skinheads, an armed ‘Moonman’, an anti-Semitic representation of a Jewish man, and another figure wearing a shirt emblazoned with ‘This is what a feminist looks like’.
The final step was accompanied by cartoon images of a powerplant being firebombed, a protest being targeted by an automobile ramming attack, an antifascist being sexually assaulted, and a politician being assassinated. Echoing the message of violent ideologues like William Luther Pierce – whose own work inspired Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh – the video clearly and explicitly called on viewers to become versed in militant guerilla tactics, identify targets, and commit deadly acts of terror.
This post was a clear call to violent action, and promoted the same form of directed self-radicalization that Atomwaffen Division mobilized so effectively in the mid 2010s and that ISIS and related Islamist groups deployed in the first half of the decade. Coming only a week after another post which featured images of four convicted or killed far-right terrorists alongside a gun-wielding silhouette and the phrase ‘With your brothers’ backing you are the way forward’, the video is another significant escalation for the group, which seems to be ramping up its online presence and careening uncontrollably towards its first act of deadly violence.
While the subscriber list remains fairly limited and for the moment the group seems to be very small, we have seen time and again the danger that a single radicalized individual or a small armed cell can present, particularly when these individuals feel supported and insulated by a largely anonymous online echo chamber. As we approach an election which many experts believe will already be marred by violence, the threat of opportunistic, accelerationist terror should not be forgotten or ignored.
The National Socialist Order presents a very real security threat due to their leaderless resistance approach and emphasis on lone-actor terror. Academics, law enforcement and community activists alike should be keeping a close eye on the new face of accelerationist terrorism in the United States.