The advent of the internet has proven to have provided great benefits to neo-Nazis, right-wing extremists, white power thugs, the Proud Boys, the Aryan Brotherhood, and all the other adjacent hate groups operating in many countries. The internet’s easy accessibility, 24/7 availability, cost-effectiveness, ability to transmit hate messages fast and to vast numbers of people, its anonymity, and several other features make the internet a truly valuable tool in a mission to spread hate.
Moving online is a prudent step for any right-wing movement that seeks absolute power, as well as the total destruction of its enemies — just as Nazi-ideologue Carl Schmitt once suggested. Any ground given to today’s neo-Nazis allows them to accrue even more power. Whether this power is received online or otherwise, it will be used toward violent goals like abolishing democracy using right-wing terror. There is a haunting quotation from German top Nazi Joseph Goebbels that describes this dynamic. Goebbels said, it will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy that it gave its deadly enemies the means by which it was destroyed.
Today, the internet may well have become such a means. Used the right way, it can contribute to the planned destruction of democracy. Virtually everywhere, neo-Nazis and the extreme right have the single violent ambition to destroy. Today, civil society and online corporations — via what is euphemistically framed as social media — work to make the internet a way for fascists to amass power and pursue that goal. Therefore for society to make peace with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists — say by giving their ideas room or a platform on the internet — would be to move in the direction of self-destruction.
Today, there are plenty of far-right chat rooms that can be found on messaging Apps like Telegram, a preferred neo-Nazi medium. American neo-Nazis like to call their online meeting places by names like The Bunkhouse. Others meeting places are full of Siegeheads — those who closely follow the neo-Nazi Führer James Mason. Mason advocated right-wing terrorism to topple the American social order, meaning democracy.
In 2015, American white supremacist, neo-Nazi, mass murderer, and domestic terrorist Dylann Storm Roof committed and was convicted for the Charleston church shooting in the state of South Carolina. Roof killed nine people, all African Americans, including a senior pastor and the state Senator Clementa C. Pinckney.
On June 17, 2019, the anniversary of the murder was marked by a mysticized rite in honor of Saint Roof. The celebration included a kind of quasi-religious prayer and litany of white-supremacists. There was a moment for the obligatory Heil Hitler salute. There was also a Heil Bowers to honor Robert Bowers, who murdered eleven Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018. After another Sieg Heil came: Heil Breivik. Anders Breivik is a Norwegian neo-Nazi who murdered seventy-seven people in a massive terror attack in 2011. All this was topped off with a Heil McVeigh — Timothy McVeigh being the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber.
Today’s computer-literate Neo-Nazis with easy internet access are the online jackboots-behind-a-computer-keyboard who write, for example, on Stormfront.org. Stormfront is a white-supremacist website that was once the largest online hub for neo-Nazis on the internet. Simultaneously, 8chan, now called 8kun, is a notorious anonymous message board that serves as a kind of a sewer for neo-Nazi internet-users.
Yet, one must realize, that once anyone has feared to gaze into the hateful abyss of neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists’ spaces online, they must watch out. Pretty soon, neo-Nazis will turn their searchlight back onto those whom they might deem as seeking to infiltrate their chat rooms.
For virtually all online neo-Nazis, classical ideologies like ultra-nationalism, racism, and antisemitism remain as the basis of their worldviews. Almost all of these ideologies seek to position the Aryan white men — the master race or Herrenrasse — above all others non-Aryans: Jews, Asians, Slavs, Bolsheviks, Africans, and so on.
Evidently, this means outright hatred against all non-Aryans, non-whites, and Jews. To further their course, many neo-Nazis and white supremacists trade the writings of their ideological forebearers back and forth. The internet is ripe with exchanges of such ideas. The participants rejuvenate their toxic and hateful — and often rather convoluted — texts over chat apps.
Such trades are of Nazi texts, booklets, pamphlets, etc., dating back from the 1920s to 1945. They also include the disgusting ideology of contemporary neo-Nazis (post-1945) like George Lincoln Rockwell. Almost single-handedly, Rockwell forged the a brand of Holocaust denialism by calling Nazi atrocities a hoax. This neo-Nazi propaganda technique of covering past crimes was repeated by subsequent neo-Nazis and racists, up to the present day.
Not much later, another neo-Nazi, William Luther Pierce, produced a work that would go on to inspire several episodes of right-wing violence. Pierce’s spiteful tale became known as The Turner Diaries, which the FBI has called The Bible of the Racist Right. Published in 1978, it is a fiction depicting a violent struggle in a white utopia, set in the United States of the future. Today, we all know where such an Aryan dystopia ends: in the nightmare of Auschwitz. Thanks to the internet , Pierce’s trashy pulp can be easily disseminated. We also know it inspired the previously-mentioned mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 — which killed 168 people, including children. Right-wing and neo-Nazi Telegram users continue to adore the book.
Perhaps not accidentally, since the year 2019, the messenger service Telegram.org has become one of the most prominent meeting places for far-right extremists and adjacent neo-Nazis. This is particularly true for the hardcore neo-Nazis who aim to avoid the censorship practices of other social media platforms. On channels like 8kun, right-wing users list Telegram as their preferred place to gather.
There is also an online channel run by the white supremacist Paul Nehlen, also known as challenger to Republican Paul Ryan, endorsed by Donald Trump. Nehlen’s virulent antisemitism saw him banned from Twitter and the Wisconsin Republican Party. Neo-Nazis joined in on this channel by using the codeword: Z Y K L O N, while communicating on a chat room called MakeAmerica110. This numeric hate symbol derives from an antisemetic, white-supremacist number game that argues that Jews had been expelled from 109 countries, and that America would be the next: the 110th.
As we know, Donald Trump was and is ideologically aligned with these neo-Nazis who populate online spaces. And yet, some neo-Nazis argue that Trump was not extreme enough in his attack on Jews. It’s important to note that the gist of neo-Nazis’ rhetoric in regard to Trump’s role in the Oval Office changed from triumphant to disillusioned over his term. Despite this, Trump remains instrumental in the mainstreaming of fascism.
Despite these disappointments to part of this base, Trump’s win in the 2016 election proved to be the turning point for many oriented toward white supremacy and neo-Nazism. Throughout online chat rooms, his presidency created a tremor of right-wing sympathy that, to an extent, rejuvenated extreme ideologies which had been thoroughly isolated from the mainstream during the previous period.
It is almost impossible to exaggerate how enthusiastic the right, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis found themselves on the day of Trump’s election. It was a massive shot of adrenaline into the arms of the US white nationalists. In November 2016, the neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, celebrated Trump’s election in ecstatic terms. The website’s founder, Andrew Anglin, wrote the following on Nov. 9, 2016: “We Won. All of our work. It has paid off. Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor.”
Yet, all this was set to change. By December 2017, just a year after celebrating Trump’s ascendency to the White House, the Daily Stormer started calling Trump’s White House the Jew House. US Neo-Nazis were angry about the presence of Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. Also enraged were users of an online chat called the World Union for National Socialism (WUNS). So were those lonely white and single neo-Nazis looking for romance and patronizing a website called WhiteDate.net, one which appears rather harmless at first glance.
Neo-Nazis frequenting such websites, like the neo-Nazi dating sites and others, like secret-coded words, hidden symbols, and Nazi-identifying numbers like, for example, “1488”. 1488 is a well-known neo-Nazi symbol. The number “14” was initially used by white-nationalist terrorist David Lane. It stands for a famous line of 14 words: “We must secure the existence of our people. and a future for white children.”
Meanwhile, the number “88” stands for Heil Hitler. Here, the “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet: HH = 88. On the other hand, UK neo-Nazis prefer “18” — as in Combat 18 — where “1” represents the first letter of the alphabet (A) and “8” represents the character H, which makes AH or Adolf Hitler. In the same vein, there is “83” which stands for Heil Christ: a white-supremacist, racist, and antisemitic adoration code.
The internet proves to frequently be the site of right-wing and neo-Nazi radicalization of those enticed to move inside such right-wing chat rooms. The zealous and missionary quests of the neo-Nazi, to recruit and radicalize followers, originated from the tacky and persistent misogyny that runs rampant on right-wing internet chat rooms. Quite regularly, white supremacists expand their hatred of women to hatred of larger groups. Often, they proudly claim to have invented the hatred of women.
Of course, neo-Nazis subscribe to the white-supremacist ideology that women are passive custodians of Aryan blood. For reactionary white supremacists, feminism, with its much-feared birth control, its career women, and its ethos of sexual choice for women, embodies an existential threat to their beloved white race — an unscientific hallucination.
Then there’s the infamous fascistic Proud Boys who pointedly exclude women entirely, just like their ideological predecessors the SS.
These misogynists and right-wing extremists often overlap with what is known as inceldom, meaning involuntary celibate (shortened as incel). This term refers to self-identifying members of an online subculture based around the inability to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one.
Like other right-wing ideologies, theirs bears only a cursory relationship to reality. Its false logic is crude and corroded by irrational misogyny. Much of this isn’t new, of course. For instance, the Crusaders, who plundered, conquered, looted, murdered, and raped their way through the Middle East, appear very frequently in white-supremacist online rhetoric. Take, for example, the Australian neo-Nazi terrorist Brenton Tarrant who was responsible for the Christchurch killings in New Zealand. Tarrant live-streamed his murders on Facebook and posted a link of his killing video on 8chan along with an irrational and nonsensical manifesto. After that, he drove to the mosque listening to the soundtrack of a Serbian anti-Muslim song that later went viral. Tarrant’s 87 page-long online manifesto, The Great Replacement, is interwoven with references to The Crusaders.
On his gun, Tarrant painted Tours 732, referring to a battle in which a king conquered Spanish-Muslim invaders. Tarrant also quoted the colonialist, racist, antisemitic, misogynist, and right-wing imperialist warmonger Rudyard Kipling, as well as the mid-20th century British antisemitic fascist Oswald Mosley.
Much of his text romanticizes the so-called white race, based on a twisted and false version of European history that reads like the ultimate dystopia: a mixture of Dante’s Inferno, Hitler’s Volksgemeinschaft, and Auschwitz. Still, much of standard online neo-Nazi ideology worships the so-called “White West”. The previously-mentioned Proud Boys are an example of a group known for street thuggery and Western chauvinism.
All of this makes up the picture of a contemporary, online, white-supremacist view of a racially-cleansed Europe in which the spiritual-mythical homeland is under siege: by Muslims, Jews, and other non-Aryans. To keep their illusionary homeland white, contemporary Neo-Nazis are all too happy to announce in online chat rooms that, “people can fuck who they want … I’m a libertarian but I’d never marry outside my race.”
Overall, the online landscape of right-wing, white-supremacist, and neo-Nazism, as presented in social media, draws a crowd that is almost exclusively white-identifying. Their YouTube videos are efficiently produced, simplistically argued (which always helps), and often create a full-fledged and semi-plausible narrative through which viewers can sink deeper and deeper into the ideological orbit of contemporary neo-Nazism. Indeed this contributes to a higher rate of right-wing radicalization.
Yet, rather than being a product of the internet alone, the far right is also ideologically based on right-wing disinformation transmitters like radio personality Rush Limbaugh and the crypto-journalistic villains at Murdoch’s right-wing Fox News, where gullible people with conservative leanings are easily OutFoxed. Older viewers with no internet access are sucked in via cable TV. Yet, for the right it only takes an internet connection to access a wide group of people to indoctrinate. Once they’ve found their target, neo-Nazis seek to move them into a world whose core ideological tenet is the awakening of the white race.
Always helpful in the push towards radicalization are YouTube algorithms which promote the most outrageous, obscure, and murky claim to the top. It is on the internet where well-polished, semi-plausible, and mostly self-appointed right-wing mini-celebrities present their reactionary viewpoints, with YouTube being one of the most preferred tools. On YouTube, these personalities can build a faithful-follower audience by deliberately cultivating an atmosphere of (faked) authenticity that has a counter-cultural appeal.
The internet stakes out the playground of right-wing influencers who draw on common propaganda tactics of social-media marketing. They sell their viewers a range of right-wing ideologies by means of skilfully baiting them with mainstream conservatism, and then slowly moving their viewers toward radical white nationalism with neo-Nazism as the ultimate destination.
Yet, YouTube is not alone in this function. Video games, for example, have a far broader cultural appeal than the far-right ideology presented on YouTube. But the gaming community makes one of the most fertile recruiting grounds for right-wing and neo-Nazi ideologues.
Right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis thrive on the fact that very profitable social-media corporations have failed miserably — or perhaps haven’t tried — to address the issue of white-supremacy and Neo-Nazi violence exploding on their online platforms — with a few notable exceptions, of course.
Historically, white-supremacist and neo-Nazi online activities are much older than Facebook, Twitter, and even Google. Recruiting neo-Nazis came even before the internet was used as a staple of commerce. Somewhat surprisingly, white supremacists were some of the earliest adopters of the internet over forty years ago. At that time, the internet provided a brand-new way of influencing people, an opportunity which the fascists did not miss out on.
By 1984, the Ku Klux Klan in Texas already had a website. By 1985, it used dial-up modems. Meanwhile, a website called Aryan Nations was posting lists of addresses of their Jewish enemies online. Worse, the internet provided the white supremacists and surrounding neo-Nazis a valuable tool for international networking.
Virtually every day, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Eastern Europe are on Telegram exchanging hate messages and spreading propaganda with their Western European, Australian, US and Canadian counterparts. Beyond that, the international network of neo-Nazis and white supremacists aid a global cross-border financing of right-wing tactical coordination and personnel.
Connected to this web is the infamous, well-armed, Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. Azov is the now-famous Ukrainian far-right and extremely brutal militia that became part of the National Guard in Ukraine. American Neo-Nazis have been drawn to supporting them.
Here, they find a common ground with the explicit Neo-Nazi ideology, which in this case features Ukrainian militarism. In Ukraine, the Azov Battalion is known as a state within a state. In 2018, the FBI alleged that the Azov Battalion has participated in training and radicalizing US right-wing extremists and operating as a white-supremacy organization.
At that time, four members of the white-supremacist organization Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.) were found to have trained with Azov. In September 2019, two ex-US-Army soldiers, Alex Zweifelhofer and Craig Lang, were arrested for their involvement in the murders of a Florida couple. Both had trained with the far-right Ukrainian militia Right Sector.
Meanwhile, a third US soldier, Jarrett William Smith, was apprehended by the FBI. Smith, a bomb maker, had sought to travel to Ukraine to train with the Azov Battalion. Azov has reached out to its counterparts in Western European nations, similarly, via online networks.
Overall, the internet provides a valuable online pipeline for far-right ideology. Once a user is enticed to enter a right-wing chat room and is suitably radicalized, these chat groups offer a semi-closed community of right-wing faith-fools sharing a common ideology. Online groups offer solace and an opportunity to intensify one’s commitment to violent neo-Nazi ideologies.
Despite increasing prevalence, many far-right online groups remain insular — an online echo-chamber — in which they socialize and further radicalize one another. Still, a key element of such online activities is their desire to engage with outsiders in a messianic quest to recruit new members and to strengthen their battalions.
On Twitter, Telegram, YouTube, Facebook, and many other mainstream social media sites, today’s neo-fascists can engage in sharply-focused, nonstop, inexpensive, and aggressive harassment and attacks on those they perceive to be their political foes. Thanks to the extreme negligence of major social-media corporations, the far-right, white-supremacy apostles, and adjacent neo-Nazis do not need to create alternatives to existing social media. They can simply use what is provided to them to their immediate advantage.