On September 20, 2020, Taliban militants ambushed a security checkpoint in Uruzgan, Afghanistan. The attack killed at least 24 members of the Afghan security forces.
The online web forum Fascist Forge was an important recruitment and networking tool for some of the most extreme neo-Nazis for almost two years. Following the site’s removal in February 2020, no strong contender has emerged to take its place. It is possible that following arrests and the site’s removal, the specific forum model may not return for an extended period. The lack of one dominant Siege-influenced forum, however, does not mean that the threat from white supremacist groups has abated, only that in the short term, recruitment and propaganda campaigns may be more dispersed on social media, imageboards, and communications platforms.
Fascist Forge was founded in April 2018 explicitly to be a networking website for individuals with some of the most extreme white supremacist views. Users claimed allegiance to a number of sometimes overlapping strands of violent neo-Nazism, including James Mason’s Universal Order, esoteric Hitlerism, and the satanic cult the Order of Nine Angles. Fascist Forge members also praised and encouraged acts of violence, including terrorism, mass shootings, attacking journalists, and coordinated sexual violence against women. Typical content on the site included information on building explosives and homemade weapons. To be a full-fledged member with access to the entire site, users had to take an exam that probed their ideological and philosophical beliefs and knowledge of fascism. However, individuals who chose not to take the exam still had access to many sections of the forum. Site administrators could also delete accounts to remove those they felt to be insufficiently fascist, infiltrators, or claimed views deemed detrimental or counter to the forum.
Fascist Forge was an adaptation of a previous notorious online forum, Iron March, which operated from 2011 to 2017 before it disappeared. In fact, the creator of Fascist Forge referenced Iron March in announcing his intentions for the site. Iron March was a crucial ideological meeting ground for several groups, including the Atomwaffen Division and National Action. According to Lawfare, Iron March had 1,200 regular users at its height. By comparison, Fascist Forge had more than 1,500 registered users in February 2020, less than two years after its founding, but it is unclear how many were vetted or regular users.
The BBC revealed in June 2020 that Fascist Forge’s creator was Matthew Baccari of southern California, a high-ranking member of the neo-Nazi group The Base. Baccari promoted the The Base on the forum, and succeeded in connecting vetted individuals in the same regions, bridging the online/offline divide.
Law enforcement in the United States and the United Kingdom have arrested a number of Fascist Forge members for extremism-related crimes. Luke Lane, an alleged member of The Base and a purported user of Fascist Forge, is currently on trial in Georgia with two others for membership in a criminal gang and conspiracy to commit murder. A 17-year-old Fascist Forge user from Durham, U.K., was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison for six terrorism-related crimes, including “preparing acts of terrorism, disseminating terrorist publications and possessing material for terrorist purposes.” According to prosecutors, some of the explosives and firearms guides the individual used came from Fascist Forge. Harry Vaughan, an 18-year-old from London who frequented Fascist Forge, pleaded guilty in October 2020 to 14 terrorism-related offenses, including 12 charges of having “documents useful to a terrorist, one count of encouraging terrorism, and one of disseminating terrorist publications.” Additional prosecutions of individuals who used Fascist Forge are expected.
Before it was removed by Baccari himself, Fascist Forge ran into several problems with web services companies. In February 2019, the site went temporarily offline when DreamHost, the site’s registrar and name server placed it on “hold” status following the publication of an article in Vice and being contacted by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP). One month later, international web hosting company Hostinger ceased providing services as well after being alerted by CEP to the site’s history of advocating violence. Unfortunately, neither action took the forum down permanently, as it found other companies willing to provide those services.
As of October 2020, there is no clear successor to Fascist Forge. While some who share similar neo-Nazi accelerationist views post on 8chan successor websites, including on the dark web, these sites are open to a variety of viewpoints, encourage anonymity, and lack the specific Siege inspired worldview embraced by Fascist Forge. Some former Fascist Forge propagandists have moved to Gab. However, it is unclear whether they will be successful at spreading their ideology in an extreme right-wing but ideologically broader social media community. Gab has previously removed accounts associated with The Base, but tolerates numerous other profiles and communities on the platform that support and encourage white supremacist violence. Telegram is also a hub for white supremacist and neo-Nazi propaganda, where administrators can limit membership in channels and chats or impose rules to create exclusivity. Some channels frequently repost Iron March propaganda, including images, books, and pamphlets. However, Telegram channels and chats lack the community appeal of a web forum and require more hands-on moderation from administrators to achieve the same effect.
An individual or group will likely try to create another Iron March successor to network, recruit, and promote violent neo-Nazi ideology. The ethos and style of Iron March and Fascist Forge could also be recreated using a different model, such as communications apps. Regardless, law enforcement and web services companies must be vigilant and prepared to take immediate action, as the history of Fascist Forge clearly demonstrates the real-world danger of allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists an online home.
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