Texas Man Arrested on Charges of Terroristic Threats Ran White Power Telegram Channel
A Texas man arrested on charges related to an alleged plot to carry out a mass shooting at a Walmart ran a white supremacist Telegram channel enamored with terrorism, Hatewatch has learned.
Police arrested Coleman Thomas Blevins on May 28 in Kerrville, Texas. The Kerr County Sheriff’s Office stated in a press release that they had issued a warrant for Blevins’ arrest and charged him with making a “terroristic threat to create public fear of serious bodily injury.” Blevins’ connections to the white supremacist movement are blatant: Police published a photo displaying a number of texts associated with the white power movement, including William Luther Pierce’s “The Turner Diaries,” as well as a Confederate flag and another bearing a Sonnenrad, a type of sunwheel commonly used as a neo-Nazi symbol.
Blevins has a history of drug offenses. Police allege he had a stash of firearms, ammunition and concentrated THC at the time of his arrest. Authorities decided to hold Blevins in the Kerr County Jail on a $250,000 bond. Like many of the perpetrators or suspected perpetrators of some of the most recent acts of white supremacist terror, Blevins was immersed in a violent digital subculture where users can simultaneously affiliate with a variety of white power communities.
The collection of extremist symbols also pointed to Blevins’ involvement with the online white power movement now flourishing on Telegram. Police showed evidence of two T-shirts, both bearing the logos of racist Telegram channels. One channel, which Hatewatch has elected not to name so as to reduce its visibility, uses a logo of a white syringe encircled by a shield. There, Blevins posted under the variations on the username “Korb.” Another T-shirt bears the logo of the National Partisan Movement (NPM), a youth-targeted neo-Nazi group with members in the U.S. and abroad, according to Hope Not Hate. While it is unclear whether Blevins was a member, he did say during a self-described “free speech” podcast recorded in March that his Telegram channel was “affiliated” with NPM, and his own channel has frequently shared their propaganda.
Blevins did not respond to a request for comment. As of the morning of June 17, Blevins' Telegram channel appeared to be banned for a violation of the platform's terms of service agreement.
Blevins’ case is indicative of a broader shift within the white power movement. Far-right extremists are increasingly congregating on decentralized online spaces such as Telegram. Dedication to white supremacy and accelerationist strategies – which presume terroristic violence to be the sole means of ushering in a white ethnostate – takes precedent over a commitment to any particular organized group.
Blevins’ footprint on Telegram
Following Blevins’ arrest, a number of channel operators on Telegram began posting in support of the arrested man, referring to him as “Korb.” Some far-right extremists – including from a channel claiming to be the Estonia-based neo-Nazi group Feuerkrieg Division – adapted Blevins’ mugshot into propaganda. In a channel belonging to a podcast associated with the white nationalist podcasting network The Right Stuff, a moderator claimed Blevins had tried to join one of their chatrooms in summer 2020 while posting under the username Kørb Seppükrieg. The post implied he was booted out for trolling.
Hatewatch identified Korb as one of the main contributors to that channel through chatter on Telegram after his arrest, the presence of a shirt bearing the channel’s logo, and the fact that his channel was set up to show the usernames of contributors whenever they posted to the channel. (Telegram allows channel moderators to show their usernames at the bottom of each post, in order to allow users to know exactly who has posted a piece of content.) Though Korb changed his display name on a number of occasions, all variations of the username included “Korb” in some capacity. Korb left other clues to his identity. In a video “Korbe” posted on the channel associated with one of the T-shirts police seized during Blevins’ arrest on April 10, a man wearing a skull mask said he was “ready to fucking die” in front of a stone wall with a cutout of the state of Texas, where Blevins lives. Another image, posted on April 30 by “Kørbe,” matched three of the books seized by authorities, including the same edition of “The Turner Diaries.”
Blevins’ Telegram channel was created on Feb. 1, after the company carried out a widespread purge of white supremacist channels on the platform in an apparent response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. His group’s propaganda blended a variety of themes, using imagery associated with Hitler’s Germany, the “war on terror” and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In late February, Blevins began posting original content, featuring the group’s logo and name, created by a number of young female artists.
Blevins has used the “Korb” moniker outside Telegram as well. For instance, in March, he appeared on a podcast streamed live on Facebook and other platforms as a representative of the National Partisan Movement.
Accelerationism moves out of the fringes
Blevins’ views are in many ways representative of recent trends within the white power movement. His Telegram channel subscribed to the strategy of accelerationism, making several references to an impending bloody breakdown in society. “You know you want holy war now,” he posted on May 13. Accelerationism as a tactic embraces terroristic violence with the goal of sparking a revolutionary race war, and contradicts the wing of the white power movement that seeks political power through electoral politics.
While accelerationists sat at the fringes of the white power movement during the early years of Trump’s presidency, their ethos now occupies a prominent place within the movement, exemplified by the proliferation of cell-style groups and networks with explicitly revolutionary goals.
Telegram has become the preferred platform of white power accelerationists in recent years. There, administrators can create public “channels,” where they can post text, images and videos up to two gigabytes. Users can also join private and public encrypted chats with up to 200,000 members. Telegram and companies such as Apple have made some attempts to remove or quarantine violent white supremacist channels, either on the app or on specific devices. But, as SPLC research has shown, this has had minimal effect on these channels’ membership. Channel administrators have found simple workarounds, and many of the accelerationist channels that had been restricted in some way experienced triple-digit growth throughout 2020.
Blevins’ channel shared an aesthetic with a Telegram network that its followers call “Terrorgram.” That network, which started as only a few dozen channels, solidified on the platform around mid-2019. Users and channels associated with the network advocate for political terror, express reverence for past acts of white supremacist terrorism, venerate white supremacist killers such as Dylann Roof as “saints” and share information about how to construct explosives and homemade firearms through posts, PDFs, memes and videos. The platform has helped facilitate the emergence of an increasingly decentralized movement, where individuals can move fluidly between different groups and subsets of the white power movement without ever having to officially join an organization.
The diffuse nature of the movement has allowed individuals such as Blevins to claim they represent “a conglomeration of seemingly disparate creeds” – or, at the very least, seemingly disparate influences.
Eclectic religious influences with standard white power fare
While he said that the group had no Muslim members, Blevins said that its “contributors” ranged from the violent white power group The Base “to the Mujahideen.” A professed “fanatic Christian,” Blevins has an online presence littered with references to jihadism, and a photo from the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office made public at the time of his arrest show officers found a Saudi flag in Blevins’ home alongside neo-Nazi paraphernalia. But right-wing extremists are opportunists who have, at times, co-opted revolutionary violence across the globe as their own, resulting in an apparent surface-level affinity for guerrilla fighters and international terrorist organizations originating in the Middle East. White power groups such as Atomwaffen Division and Feuerkrieg Division have used images of Osama bin Laden and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria propaganda videos, respectively, in propaganda of their own.
This same tendency toward eclectic influences extended to Blevins’ apparent interest in symbolism associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Police found a banner in the style of a calvary cross. The symbol is a variant of the Orthodox three-bar cross – which features three horizontal crossbeams instead of one – that is situated on a small platform intended meant to represent Calvary, the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified. The particular banner that police found in Blevins’ house “bears a striking resemblance to the garments worn by Russian Orthodox schema monks,” Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, a postdoctoral fellow in the “Recovering Truth” project at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University, told Hatewatch in an email. However, a commentator in a chatroom associated with Blevins’ Telegram channel noted shortly after his arrest, “To be honest, he could not distinguish Russia from Ukraine either.”
Riccardi-Swartz, whose forthcoming book studies American converts to Russian Orthodoxy in the United States, saw parallels to other far-right extremists who have taken an interest in the Orthodox Church, particularly among men.
“In the U.S. we see increasing interest from radicalized males (those who consider themselves white nationalists, America First groypers, neo-Southern secessionists etc.) in Russian Orthodoxy, in the Tsar Nicholas II, and in Vladimir Putin,” she noted.
“Part of this is a desire for authoritarian strongman rule, part of this is an expression of toxic masculinity and whiteness preservation, and part of this is existential angst over social changes and progressive social politics in the United States.”
However, many of the texts police found in Blevins’ possession are standard fare within the radical right. In addition to “The Turner Diaries,” Blevins had a copy of Italian philosopher Julius Evola’s "Revolt Against the Modern World." Evola’s 1934 book argues for “traditionalism,” built on social and racial hierarchy, and insists that “total catharsis and a radical ‘housecleaning’” are necessary responses to the modern world. Admired by Benito Mussolini, Evola has gained influence within the far right in the last decade, thanks in part to praise from Steve Bannon and to white nationalist presses who have republished his work.
The same police images showed that Blevins had a copy of “Harassment Architecture,” an accelerationist fantasy self-published by former Breitbart contributor Mike Mahoney (under the pen name Mike Ma). Mahoney’s 2019 book has made him a darling of accelerationists, as “Harassment Architecture” is full of violent fantasy and exhortations. “Kill someone important! Burn something down! Cut yourself for attention! Anything! The gas pedal is waiting to be stepped on,” he writes.
‘This is a doomsday cult’
Blevins described participation in far-right extremism as a remedy for personal suffering. “It is sobriety to enact the 14 words,” he said, speaking as “Korb” on a March podcast with the National Partisan Movement. The 14 words is a phrase popularized by neo-Nazi terrorist David Lane. He continued, “Extremism and purpose is the only way to abstain from bad habits.” He attributed the group’s logo to the fact that he envisioned it as an “extremist alternative to the Twelve Step Program.”
Though Blevins did not reference his own history with substances, public records indicate he has been charged three times in the past on drug-related offenses – first in February 2014, then in October 2015, and finally in late 2016. A news report from Blevins’ 2015 arrest said that authorities had found heroin in his car after they pulled him over for a traffic violation.
Far-right extremist groups do tend to use people’s hardships as a recruitment mechanism, claiming to offer a way to alleviate loneliness through racial camaraderie, explain personal shortcomings by blaming out-groups, and boiling down large societal changes to simple, conspiratorial explanations. Blevins’ self-help-inspired recruiting technique is not new within the world of far-right extremism, but spaces like Telegram may afford him a far larger audience than was available in the past.
On Telegram, his goals were more explicitly bound up in violent accelerationism.
“I’m grooming all of you for terrorism. This is a suicide cult because I hate most of my friends, but for the ones I like this is a doomsday cult,” Korb Taran wrote on Telegram on May 24, four days prior to Blevins’ arrest.
Photo illustration by SPLC