A Neo-Nazi group that stepped up its recruitment after the August 2017 “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., resurfaced online this month after a year with no new video production.
The Atomwaffen Division recruitment video “Accelerating Vengeance!” is readily available on online file sharing sites. The only speaking in the two-minute video is an archival clip of a transmission from the 1952 H-bomb test: “It is now 30 seconds to zero time. Put on goggles or turn away. Do not remove goggles or face burst until ten seconds after the first light.”
With a soundtrack of heavy techno music, masked, camouflage-clad adherents are shown conducting rifle drills, practicing hand-to-hand combat and target shooting in the woods along with shooting on a separate snowy range.
In the second half of the video, a member with a torch and a bottle of lighter fluid sets aflame flags that others set in a pile: the flag of Israel, the United Nations flag, the Gadsden flag, a rainbow LGBT pride flag, a Black Lives Matter flag and a Blue Lives Matter flag.
“Join your local Nazis!” continues the recruitment pitch, noting that their website is under construction and offering a contact email.
The Atomwaffen Division was formed in 2015 by Brandon Clint Russell, a member of the Florida National Guard who was arrested in 2017. He pleaded guilty to possessing an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material, and was sentenced to five years behind bars in January 2018. Police reported finding a framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on his dresser, along with other neo-Nazi and white supremacist propaganda as well as weapons.
In January 2018, college student Blaze Bernstein was stabbed 20 times in Orange County, Calif. Atomwaffen member Samuel Woodward was charged with killing Bernstein because he was gay and Jewish; he has pleaded not guilty.
Though the group’s membership strength is unclear, internal documents obtained by ProPublica last year indicated Atomwaffen members in 23 states and Canada, with the biggest chapters in Virginia, Texas and Washington. Fliers posted on college campuses have been one avenue of recruitment. Army officials at Fort Bliss have been investigating whether a combat medic there is an Atomwaffen member; in a report last year, ProPublica identified numerous current and former service members among Atomwaffen membership.
The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) at George Washington University said Monday that tech companies including YouTube were doing little to remove Atomwaffen Division recruitment and incitement materials. The newly released video had been removed yet reposted in numerous locations. Video links were also disseminated in places like Reddit and Vimeo, and promoted on 4chan and Gab.
“Despite repeated promises and proclamations to the public, tech companies continue to allow re-uploads of extremist content on their platforms,” said CEP Researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch, adding that the re-uploads suggest “that YouTube is not deploying hashing technology or artificial intelligence to prevent the reupload and spread of this content.”
“Even YouTube’s manual flagging mechanism is broken if some copies of this video are removed, while others are allowed to remain online after being reported,” he said.