President Trump at a veterans commemoration in France in 2018. Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images
While President Trump continues to reject the results of the U.S. presidential election, the neo-Nazis populating the underbelly of the self-declared “Terrorgram”—a shorthand name for the ecosystem of neo-Nazi militants and their sympathisers on the Telegram app—have elected to take a wait-and-see approach to the future of the American experiment.
Before the election, experts and national security types worried that throngs of Boogaloo Bois, armed miltias, and/or neo-Nazi terrorists could interfere with polling stations or cause violence. In advance of November 3, the FBI was very active, thwarting multiple terror plots—one involving a plan to kidnap the governor of Michigan—and schemes like militiamen trying to sell guns to Hamas, across the country.
So far, though, besides protests in a sprinkling of flashpoint states where the election was decided on a razor thin-margin, things have remained peaceful since Biden was announced as the president-elect.
For their part, online Nazis are skeptical of what comes next, but they’re certain of one thing: The longer Trump sows doubt over the results, the more opportunities for accelerationism; a violent political ideology calling for terror attacks and chaotic acts to hasten the collapse of the U.S. government.
“Bullets over ballots,” reads a meme with the image of a Kalashnikov rifle on a Telegram channel popular with accelerationist neo-Nazis. The post, viewed hundreds of times, is one of many recently-posted inflammatory pieces of propaganda calling for violence on the heels of Trump’s continued assertion that he “WILL WIN” the already-lost election.
“Do not let this election’s political theater distract you from the fact that with each passing day, our people’s power dwindles,” reads a long screed posted by a popular accelerationist account viewed close to a thousand times. It goes on to call for assassinations: “This is not an organic development, it was put into motion by ‘people’ who have names and addresses and of whom some are still alive.”
Many of the postings openly say that the longer the president holds off on calling the election, the better the chances for unrest to unfold.
And, according to Terrorgram, if armed militiamen and Boogaloo Bois clash with Black Lives Matter protesters near the same rates as the summer, the chaos will create the ideal environment for societal collapse.
Some of the posts revel in the possibility.
“I hope things heat up before Dictator-for-life Trump can get his case before the Supreme Court,” reads another post on Telegram. “Just imagine: Biden bags all contested states through blatant voter fraud. Clashes in the streets escalate. The Electoral College doesn’t cast its votes due to bomb threats. Both candidates declare themselves the winners. President-Elect Biden trying to force his way into the White House while President-Elect Trump tries to block him.”
Joshua Fisher-Birch, of the Counter Extremism Project, a U.S.-based terrorism watchdog, is alarmed.
“Following Election Day, channels that make up the neo-Nazi accelerationist and extreme white supremacist sphere of Telegram have continued to declare that they cannot use the political system to meet their demands and have advocated for their followers to either increase tension or to stay out of the immediate situation because they view medium-term civil conflict as inevitable,” he said. According to him, much of the chatter is neither pro- or anti-Trump; instead online neo-Nazis think the “system itself is the enemy.”
At the same time, Fisher-Birch pointed out, many Telegram channels are warning followers they’ve become the target of recent FBI probes and have “advised their followers to act cautiously and avoid organizing with strangers or large groups.”
Some accounts fear the prospect of a Biden administration. One pointed out that the platform of the Democratic president-elect included a task force meant to go after online extremism, which will almost assuredly include the world of militant white nationalism.
That said, some believe Biden will make white citizens uncomfortable while he pursues a multicultural mandate—something that could, in the minds of neo-Nazis, benefit, aid in the rise of a violent movement or “system collapse” and a coming race war.
“It’s time for the whites to feel the terror of an openly anti-White incoming federal government regime,” read another post, viewed over two-thousand times. “Though I still hope Trump refuses to concede and fans the flames of social unrest.”
While the online bluster of neo-Nazis on Telegram can easily be written off as an example of troll culture, and does not necessarily augur real-world violence, several bonafide terror groups have had active accounts on the site. Both Atomwaffen Division and the Base—two neo-Nazi terror groups that are the subject of a continuing nationwide FBI counterterrorism operation netting dozens of arrests—were known to operate on the website, using it as a recruitment and propaganda tool to reach a wider audience.
In another incident in June involving Telegram, the FBI arrested an Army private who had, along with the neo-Nazi terror group he was secretly a member of, plotted to ambush and kill members of his own military unit while they were stationed overseas. Part of his planning involved sharing covert intelligence on the location of his unit with individuals on Telegram.