Creating the lone wolf terrorist

The investigative public television series Frontline has partnered with the investigative journalists at ProPublica on a series that they have called Documenting Hate where they chart the recent actions of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. Their first episode Documenting Hate: Charlottesville premiered in August and I reviewed it here. Yesterday they showed the second episode Documenting Hate: New American Nazis and you can see the full episode online here.

This episode feature a group that calls itself Atomwaffen and the documentarians managed to secure interviews with defectors from the group who revealed some if its goals and tactics. While their numbers are small and exact numbers hard to pin down, their message is simple: get rid of Jews, minorities, and homosexuals from America, and use murderous violence to spark a general uprising. In order to achieve that goal, they seek to recruit military people, inculcate new recruits with military training, or encourage people to join the military in order to acquire the training in weapons and bomb making. Then by arming them with their ideology, encourage them to be lone wolf actors, taking it upon themselves to unleash terror on members of the targeted groups. Dylan Roof’s attack on a black church in Charleston in 2015 and Robert Gregory Bowers’ attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue last month are seen by them as ‘successes’ for this strategy. In this, they are very similar to ISIS and al Qaeda.

There has been a spike in hate crimes for the third year in a row but making it even harder to see a pattern is that these attacks by neo-Nazi and white supremacists are interspersed with murderous rampages by assorted sociopaths such as incels who unleash violence for other reasons unrelated to the neo-Nazis but facilitated by the easy access to high-powered weaponry that enables anyone with a grudge or a grievance to create mayhem.

With the lack of a tight organization and emphasis on free-lance actions, they can avoid a widespread crackdown. They get their inspiration for this strategy from someone named James Mason (besmirching the name of a great actor) and the documentarians managed to track down this elusive person in Denver and even get an interview with him. He is very careful to say that he had no inside knowledge of any of the attacks carried out by the Atomwaffen members (to admit knowledge would make him an accessory) but that he does view Roof and Bowers and others as ‘heroes’ for what they did. His list of heroes also includes Timothy McVeigh who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Mason says that the surprising victory of Donald Trump in 2016 has given him reason for hope that they will succeed because, as he says, “In order to make America great again, you need to make America white again”.

The documentary provides a grim prognosis that we are likely to see more and more of such quasi-lone-wolf attacks by people who are not taking direct orders from a leader but are instead ‘inspired’ by the neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology to take action on their own.

Here’s a clip from the show. You can see the full program here.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    There has been a spike in hate crimes for the third year in a row

    There was a “spike” in the number of deaths from terrorists in the US in 2001. A “spike” is when there’s a sudden uptick in numbers, followed by an equally sudden drop. What you have there is not a “spike”. That’s the new normal. Get used to it.

    making it even harder to see a pattern is[…] the easy access to high-powered weaponry

    I’d put it differently. Making any pattern of neo-Nazi violence ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT is the easy access to high powered weaponry which means any yahoo with opposable thumbs can recreate Sandy Hook any time they like. Do you think the kids at Marjorie Douglas Stoneman High were huddled in cover thinking “well at least he’s not a Nazi”?

    How about: sort out the gun problem, and the Nazi problem will seem like less of an issue.

  2. says

    With the lack of a tight organization and emphasis on free-lance actions, they can avoid a widespread crackdown.

    They also guarantee thereby that they will be politically ineffective.

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