Visions of Chaos: Weighing the Violent Legacy of Iron March
Brandon Russell, the 22-year-old founder of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, posted a PDF of an obscure textbook about paramilitary tactics to Iron March on the morning of May 17, 2017, and then his account on that website went dark.
Two days after posting the link to the book, Russell, who went by the handle “Odin” on Iron March, walked into his Tampa, Florida, home to find two corpses disfigured by gunshot wounds.
Devon Arthurs, one of his four roommates, who went by the handle “TheWeissewolfe” on Iron March, shot and killed Russell’s two other roommates, Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman. Oneschuk went by “Borovikov” on Iron March. Himmelman’s Iron March handle, if he had one, is unknown.
The murders, and Russell’s subsequent conviction for building explosives, are now infamous examples of the violence that emerged during Iron March's six-year run.
It’s not difficult to imagine a different and bloodier scenario taking place, one in which Russell actually carried out his alleged plan to bomb power lines, synagogues and a Miami-area power plant, potentially killing thousands of people. Had such events transpired, an examination of the online environment in which those men were radicalized would have arrived too late.
Hatewatch conducted a scrape of Iron March spanning over 150,000 posts ranging from Sept. 13, 2011, to Sept. 24, 2017, two months before someone took the website offline under mysterious circumstances. It includes posts from the 18- to 22-year-old men whose fates were irrevocably altered in Russell’s apartment that day. The sprawling scrape, taken from a time when the broader white supremacist movement in the West was both evolving and thriving, paints a portrait of a largely young, white and male online community slowly talking itself into embracing radical, terroristic methods to achieve their political goals.
Arthurs, who was ultimately declared mentally unfit to stand trial, first posted on Iron March as TheWeissewolfe on March 18, 2015, when he would have been 16. In his first year on the forum, he was posting his opinion that protests in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody were evidence that “multiculturalism has FAILED.” After murdering his roommates, he told police he did so because they mocked what he described as his conversion to Islam. Russell, who was 22 at the time of his arrest, first appeared on the forum on March 22, 2014, at age 19. Oneschuk, the murder victim, joined the Iron March community when he was 17.
The 1,653 users of Iron March believed they were united across the borders of white majority countries in a fascist struggle of an international scale. These users came to Iron March to debate what they believed to be universal truths about fascism, according to a 2016 podcast that featured one of the site’s founders and another contributing member. Fascism was a subject for which Iron March had a religious reverence, the Hatewatch scrape of the site reveals.
Russell, as Odin, introduced himself to the community on March 22, 2014, by saying, “I wanted to join Iron March and further my knowledge.” “I am currently reading many different fascist books, currently For My Legionaries,” he continued, referring to a book by WWII era Romanian fascist Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, whose followers engaged in grisly blood-drinking rituals. “I look forward to my time here.”
Select Iron March users contributed to the community’s in-house magazine, Rope Culture, and more published memes advocating for the genocide of Jews and non-whites, which were later propagated on more mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Iron March users also came to the forum to push one another to take direct, sometimes criminal action in fulfilling their desire to live in a purity-obsessed world of explicit fascism. An Iron March user going by the handle “Myrrysmies” wrote on June 21, 2017, in response to a Hatewatch post about Russell’s stash of explosives, for example: “Terrorist movements Ironmarch is hosting: 2 and counting. It’s now 3. Congratulations everyone. Let’s make it 4.”
In addition to Russell’s neo-Nazi group, Myrrysmies was likely referring to Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) of Scandinavia and National Action of the U.K. Both of those groups embraced terrorism in the name of creating a reactionary world for whites only, and both are linked to Iron March.
Nordic Resistance Movement has committed multiple bombings, including an attack on a Swedish refugee center in 2017. Zack Davies, a National Action member, attacked a Sikh man with a claw hammer and a machete because he said he “looked Asian,” and was found guilty of attempted murder by a British court in 2015.
“It has been reported in ALL Z.O.G. owned media,” a U.K.-based Iron March user going by the handle “Fascism=Fun” wrote June 25, 2015, of Davies’ conviction, referring to the antisemitic slang term “Zionist Occupational Government.” “The reports use the ‘victims’ family in an emotional bid to [sway] the viewer to sympathise with them. … Who is the real victim?”
“I mean wow Dylann Roof, Zack Davies – there have been so many heroic autists this year,” “Daddy Terror,” another British Iron March user, who often posted in threads related to National Action, quipped on June 26, 2015. The user was referencing a meme that falsely suggests autistic people are predisposed to be killers.
Iron March was ultimately affiliated with or offered support to at least nine fascist groups in nine different countries by the time the website mysteriously disappeared in 2017. The other groups included Serbian Action of Serbia, Casa Pound of Italy, Golden Dawn of Greece, Antipodean Resistance of Australia, Skydas of Lithuania and Azov Battalion of the Ukraine. That total doesn’t even include Patriot Front or Vanguard America, white supremacist groups that descended from another Iron March-affiliated group that is now defunct. James Alex Fields, the man who murdered antiracist activist Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017, in a brutal car-ramming attack, marched with Vanguard America at the “Unite the Right” rally earlier that day. Patriot Front’s then soon-to-be-founder, Thomas Rousseau, also marched with them.
The 343-page textbook Russell posted to Iron March before heading into a murder scene in his apartment was called Tactics of the Crescent Moon: Militant Muslim Combat Methods. It purports to lay out tactics used by groups like Chechen rebels and the Afghan Mujahideen. The text is dry and mostly humorless, detailing such subjects as Hezbollah’s proficiency with “autonomous and remotely controlled mines.”
But the book’s focus on paramilitary uprisings against different governments around the world, framed as reading material for young white men who fantasized about disrupting the liberal hegemony with violence, helps paint a portrait of how dangerous Iron March really was by the end of its run in 2017.
“[Terror] watchlist here I come! :-D,” an Iron March user going by “Anti-Gay” wrote in response to Russell’s link, four minutes after he posted it.
Iron March users mostly eschewed the notion of voting their way into a fascist utopia. They wanted to see chaos reign.
Some dropped a few references on the site to “God Emperor” Donald Trump during the spring and summer of 2016, when the Republican nominee became a cause célèbre throughout the West, but others claimed to embrace him only because of the degree to which they thought he would aid in accelerating the planet to the point of collapse.
Russell, for example, thought of Trump as a “faggot” with a “pro-kike” mindset, according to a post published to the forum on Nov. 22, 2016.
“He doesn’t look bad ass,” Russell railed about the president-elect while older white supremacists like David Duke touted Trump as the “great white hope.”
“What I see is a faggot with a cucked worldview shouting to a crowd of sheep buzzwords that would naturally instill some energy in anybody. They’re literally at a rally, with a fag preaching to them about how much [they] love the president-elect of this SYSTEM, who is pro-kike,” Russell wrote. “WHAT A CLUSTER FUCK.”
Russell’s use of the word “system” is likely gleaned from reading repeated refrains in books like The Turner Diaries, a white supremacist novel beloved by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and SIEGE, a national socialist manifesto penned over several years in the 1980s by Charles Manson acolyte James Mason. Russell kept a framed photo of McVeigh in his apartment, and The Turner Diaries is referenced scores of times on Iron March.
Mason’s book, which was adored and aggressively promoted inside of the community of Iron March across the six years of its existence, explicitly calls for the reader to commit acts of terrorism. Mason suggests at one point in the text that when revolutionary national socialism reaches the United States, “There will be no need of concentration camps of any kind, for not a single transgressor will survive long enough to make it to that kind of haven.”
Russell’s explosive building agenda, and the revelations that he attempted to send bomb-making instructions to other Atomwaffen Division members from prison, indicate how seriously he took the statements he made on Iron March.
Montreal-based Daily Stormer collaborator Gabriel Sohier Chaput, an antisemite who went by the pseudonym “Zeiger,” posted frequently to Iron March and also wrote essays for the site’s in-house publication, Rope Culture. Chaput was outed by the Montreal Gazette in November 2018 and became a fugitive from justice. Today he is still fleeing the law on charges of promoting of hatred.
Dissenting with some of his cohorts outside the forum, including Daily Stormer’s editor Andrew Anglin, who heralds Trump as “the great cleanser,” Chaput predicted the degree to which white supremacists would eventually become disenchanted with the president’s potential to bring transformative, racist change to the West.
“Even if Trump were the new incarnation of Hitler himself, there’s very little he could do, surrounded as he is with the swamp of Kikes and shills which have festered at the heart of America for decades,” Chaput wrote on Iron March as Zeiger. “As such, his presidency doesn’t change our goals and the task at hand.”
The task at hand was always to build a hardline fascist state regardless of what path it took to get there. Chaput summed up his nihilistic view of the world in a Nov. 21, 2014, post on the forum, addressing the subject of what he perceived to be a plague of human degeneracy sweeping across Western countries.
“The degenerate man of today is a consequence of the degenerate world we live in,” he wrote. “As the age of darkness recedes, the new man will rise all by himself. The coming chaos (economic collapse, race wars, whatever) will kill off the degenerates and facilitate the rise of the best elements.”
“That’s fascism brah,” he quipped later in the post.
Seemingly every news event discussed on Iron March was framed in the context of how it potentially could portend the collapse of society, giving way to a national socialist, genocidal planet. The convicted killer Arthurs even suggested in 2015, for example, that not Trump, but Jewish Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, could be “great” from an “accelerationist perspective.”
“Well, his policies would be suicidal for the state it would cost the state something like 24 trillion dollars,” Arthurs wrote as TheWeissewolfe on Sept. 23, 2015. “From an accelerationist perspective he’s great, on the other hand he could have far more devious and terrible policies that could harm us.”
Accelerationism refers to the idea that our neoliberal social order should be pushed to such an extreme degree that Western countries become failed states, giving rise to changes that would reshape our world in radical ways.
Alexander “Slavros” Mukhitdinov, a mysterious figure believed to be an Uzbekistani man who emigrated to Russia, is often credited with founding Iron March. He distinguished his vision of a fascist future from that promoted by the “alt-right,” a mix of Pro-Trump racist writers, activists and podcast hosts like Richard Spencer, Michael Peinovich and Matthew Heimbach, in a post on the forum dated Feb. 8, 2016.
“You know how the Alt-Right talks about ‘don’t punch to your Right’? i.e. don't cause ‘in-fighting on the Right’ so that they can have their all inclusive tent?” he wrote under his handle “Александр Славрос,” which translates to Alexander Slavros.
“Well fuck’em,” he concluded. “The only thing to our Right is the fucking Wall.”
The wall in Slavros’s prose is not Trump’s promised border wall; it’s the type of wall against which political opponents are executed by firing squad. This mindset of eschewing anything that compromises the most extreme vision of fascism can be seen in bulk supply in Hatewatch’s scrape of the site.
Iron March users helped give birth to the refrain “Read SIEGE,” for example, which is now a ubiquitous battle cry in white supremacist internet circles and refers to James Mason’s apocalyptic tome.
Data compiled by Hatewatch shows the use of the word “siege” first appeared on the forum in 2011 and then was gradually used more frequently over time. “Siege” then abruptly spiked between 2015 and 2017 – going from roughly 200 appearances in a year to close to 700 in the next, as people began recommending the book to one another as an answer to their political questions.
The staying power and widespread dispersal of the meme is an example of the degree to which Iron March set trends among white supremacists. It’s also a testament to the community’s power to bowl over critics within the broader white supremacist movement, who sometimes fretted aloud about what the forum’s obsessions with purity and violence could do to their cause.
Matthew Heimbach, founder of the now-defunct neo-Nazi group Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), spent time on Iron March at different points in its history. The street activist appeared to credit Iron March for radicalizing his worldview in a chat hosted on TWP’s Discord server on April 24, 2017.
“Iron March has been a big net positive for me, drove me to read [national socialist] books, SIEGE, and evolve ideologically,” he wrote.
Heimbach changed direction eight months later in the same Discord server, when it became apparent that the “Read SIEGE” meme had infected his group. Heimbach is no stranger to committing acts of violence in his own right, but nevertheless flinched at the idea of TWP becoming another Atomwaffen Division.
“Considering we don’t use SIEGE as [inspirational] material, we can stop bringing it up in here, because the Farmers Almanac is literally more relevant,” Heimbach advised his flock in a chat. “And fuck Charles Manson too, that goofball was a shitshow and a half with a retarded plan. So no SIEGE, Mason, or Manson. So say we all.”
Around the same time that Heimbach backtracked his endorsement of SIEGE, Anglin publicly expressed concerns with the Daily Stormer’s potential role in promoting Atomwaffen Division on other forums. When fans of his neo-Nazi site began promoting Mason’s book in his Gab.com mentions with greater and greater frequency, Anglin lashed out.
“Fuck siege, fuck their cult, fuck satanism – this is so gay it makes me sick,” Anglin wrote to his Gab followers, referring to Mason’s affiliations with the Church of Satan. “Autism doesn’t have to lead to joining a satanic death cult, friends.”
One year after those words were published, far-right trolls are blasting the “Read SIEGE” meme across the internet. The phrase has become so ubiquitous online that a pseudonymous Twitter user going by the handle @ReidSeej even tricked celebrity gossip columnist Perez Hilton into saying those words in a surreal, Christmas-themed video recording, which was published to that site on Dec. 18, 2018.
Dmitry Borovikov, a neo-Nazi who killed immigrants and an antifascist activist in his native country of Russia, would be an unusual figure with whom to publicly associate yourself under most circumstances, but on Iron March, it was the kind of reference that would help endear a new person to the community. So, Oneschuk chose Borovikov as his handle for the site when he joined on March 28, 2016.
Russell found Oneschuk dead facing up on the floor of their apartment with a bullet in his head only a little more than a year later. Six months after that, Iron March was removed from the web for reasons that are unknown.
Some, including Andrew “weev” Auernheimer of the Daily Stormer, have speculated that Slavros ran the site from his family’s home in Russia, and received some kind of international pressure to take it down, perhaps in reaction to the blood spilled in Tampa in May 2017.
“Just now in the dead of night … Iron March disappears … Rope Culture disappears,” Auernheimer announced on a Nov. 30, 2017, podcast called “Race Ghost, Roast to Roast,” providing some insight into the timing of the forum’s disappearance.
Auernheimer, who featured his Daily Stormer collaborator Chaput on the episode to provide insider details about Iron March’s subculture, described the site as “punching above its weight” in terms of influence:
“Their visual propaganda was leaps and bounds beyond anything that any other part of the community was doing,” Auernheimer said, adding later that Iron March also created the foundation of “what it means to look like a fascist” in the contemporary era.
By April 2018, a little less than one year after the Tampa murders, a new forum modeled after Iron March returned to the internet going by the name Fascist Forge. Fascist Forge is small but growing, and the posts in which users introduce themselves to the fascist community are designed to look like what was published on Iron March starting in 2011. New users sign up, just as Russell, Arthurs, Oneschuk and others did – and immerse themselves in a world of apocalyptic words and imagery.
The introductory posts were a common occurrence on Iron March, but in Hatewatch’s scrape of the site, only Oneschuk’s can be read with the foreknowledge that the author of the post is now a murder victim, dead at the hands of another forum user who readily told police he was part of a “terrorist organization.”
The Oneschuk post underscores both his youthful vulnerability and his willingness to flirt with the violent ideology that played a role in killing him.
“Greetings,” Oneschuk began. “I recently started browsing [Iron March] and have taken an interest in some of the projects going on here. I’m located in the Boston area and hoping to get involved with like-minded individuals. Any group similar to [National Action] in ideology and action would be ideal. As for my political history, I’m only seventeen, but for most of my life I’ve been interested in far-right politics and nationalism,” he wrote.
When Oneschuk signed off from his first post, he did so while referring to himself as the rebirth of Anders Behring Breivik, the infamous Norwegian terrorist who murdered 77 people and injured more than 300 others in 2011 in the name of fascism.
“Till then,” Oneschuk wrote, “Breivik V.2.”
Photo illustrations by SPLC
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Azov Battalion by the wrong name. We regret the error.