In a review of leaked Epik data, Hatewatch has identified the administrator of a propaganda network linked to a white power accelerationist group that promotes neo-Nazi terrorism.
Jack Espinoza, a former Michigan chapter leader of the terroristic neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, registered the propaganda site on April 15, 2020, according to Hatewatch’s review of a trove of leaked data from Epik, a web hosting company popular with the extreme right for its demonstrated permissiveness of violent and/or hateful content. Espinoza’s site, which Hatewatch has elected not to name to reduce its visibility, has served as a propaganda outlet for proponents of white power accelerationism – a belief, increasingly popular among far-right extremists, that violence and terrorism are the sole means to achieve their political goal of an all-white ethnostate. Among the extremists Espinoza platformed on his website were the National Socialist Order, a group founded by former Atomwaffen members in mid-2020; James Mason, a mentor to members of both of those groups and an ideological architect of white power accelerationism; and at least one of Atomwaffen Division’s co-founders, Brandon Russell, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018 for possessing explosive materials.
The Canadian and U.K. governments designated one of the site’s contributors, the National Socialist Order, a terrorist entity in 2021. Canada has also included James Mason on the same list. Authors on Espinoza’s website have also explicitly advocated for white supremacist terror. On multiple occasions, its pseudonymous contributors have declared that terrorism was the ideal method for ending the “occupation” of white America. In another post, the same contributor stated that any white power activist who failed to embrace “the rivers of war and violence” was merely “a racist liberal.”
Hatewatch concluded Espinoza was the administrator, as well as the technical and billing contact for the site, through its review of a trove of leaked database files from the site’s registrar, Epik. Hatewatch obtained these documents after the hacktivist collective Anonymous leaked them to the public in mid-September. (Though Anonymous’ original website crashed shortly after their release to the public, the journalistic collective Distributed Denial of Secrets subsequently aided in their distribution to journalists and researchers.) The files included detailed information about customer payment histories, domain purchases and transfers, and registration information from the web hosting company. While Epik founder Rob Monster initially denied the company had experienced a data breach, an email sent to customers announcing that it had undergone an “alleged security incident” lent credence to the veracity of Anonymous’ claims and the data contained in the leak.
Epik’s records show that the site was registered on April 15, 2020, under the pseudonym “Jim Green.” In its review of the leaked Epik data, Hatewatch found that “Green” listed himself as the site’s administrator, as well as its main technical and billing contact in Epik’s domain registry database. These records showed that “Green” used a P.O. box located in Garden City, Michigan, which Hatewatch determined was located near Espinoza’s place of residence, according to public records. Hatewatch was able to connect Espinoza to his persona as “Jim Green” through its review of other files in the data set. According to logs from the same leak that contained detailed information about customer invoices, Espinoza used his real name and home address while paying for Epik’s services. His contact information also matched that of the “Jim Green” persona, as he used the one of the same emails and the phone number with the Texas area code.
Hatewatch emailed Espinoza and left a message at a phone number associated with him regarding his website and involvement with Atomwaffen Division, but he did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Hatewatch also emailed Monster of Epik. He responded by laying out his explanation of the difference between Epik’s work as a web registrar and hosting services.
“Once again, there is a difference between providing hosting services (which usually requires a hosting agreement) and domain registration (which doesn’t). The difference between these things is fundamental to how the internet works, and if you plan to report on an internet company, a brief explanation is in order,” Monster wrote.
Monster also explained that Espinoza’s content violated Epik’s terms and conditions and that he terminated its registration. Hatewatch has decided to publish his comment in full on DocumentCloud.
A propaganda hub with ties to Atomwaffen
Espinoza registered and launched his website at a crucial moment for the white power accelerationist movement. Throughout 2019 and into the beginning of 2020, federal authorities arrested and charged many of the core members of the two main self-styled accelerationist groups, The Base and Atomwaffen. This legal action, combined with the efforts of law enforcement, far-right researchers, antifascist activists and journalists to expose these groups’ inner workings, eroded their credibility among supporters and members. In March 2020, roughly one month prior to the launch of Espinoza’s site, James Mason, a close confidant of many Atomwaffen members, announced the group’s dissolution.
Espinoza’s site took superficial steps to differentiate itself from Atomwaffen early on, asserting it was neither a “re-branding of [Atomwaffen or] any other organization.” However, the blog’s administrators launched the site on April 16 by reposting archival material from a now-defunct Atomwaffen-aligned blog. It wasn’t until May 18, 2020, that the site’s pseudonymous editor-in-chief, “Texas Pete,” posted the first piece of original content. In it, “Texas Pete” explained the site’s connection to Italian futurism, an early 20th century social and artistic movement whose founders provided an aesthetic and ideological basis for Italian fascism.
Contributors to Espinoza’s blog have included numerous now-former members of Atomwaffen Division. Russell, Atomwaffen’s then-imprisoned co-founder and a former Army National Guardsman, contributed a series of brief “prison essays,” which were posted to the site on May 26, 2020. (Russell has since been released.) The posts, which were dated from late February to May 2020, focused on the opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic presented accelerationists. Russell also lauded the white power movement’s fallen “heroes.” It is unclear if Russell contributed to the site without the Bureau of Prisons’ knowledge. As journalist Janet Reitman noted in Rolling Stone (after Russell provided voiceover for a 2018 Atomwaffen video antagonizing former members of the group he deemed insufficiently loyal), white supremacist leaders in high security institutions are often banned from producing such propaganda while behind bars.
Espinoza’s site has also become the unofficial home of Atomwaffen’s successor, the National Socialist Order. In an announcement posted on July 25, 2020, attributed to the official National Socialist Order author account, the group stated it traced its origins to “the remaining leadership of the Atomwaffen Division.” Since then, the group and accounts purporting to belong to members of its leadership have posted a handful of other official announcements on the site as well.
An early adherent to accelerationism
Espinoza claimed to have joined Atomwaffen Division in November 2016, according to a series of chat logs obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center revealing Atomwaffen’s inner workings. Public records indicate that he would have either just turned 16 or was about to celebrate his 16th birthday at the time he joined the white power group.
Antifascist activists with the Chicago-based group Panic! in the Discord first identified Espinoza as the Iron March user “Black Israelite” in February 2020. Hatewatch was able to independently verify the activists’ findings by reviewing “Black Israelite’s” statements to other forum members about his location, his remaining publicly available social media profiles, and his comments to members of Atomwaffen’s Discord server. Hatewatch was also able to verify that Espinoza used the same handle on both Iron March and Discord. In both cases, “Black Israelite” described himself as a resident of Michigan who lived outside Detroit.
“I don’t live in the city itself but on the outskirts near the city border,” he wrote in his Nov. 22, 2016, introductory post on Iron March.
Espinoza, writing as “Black Israelite,” provided more detailed information about his location to Atomwaffen members on Discord. “I live in a white area but on the border of a [N-word] town and 4 miles from Detroit too,” he wrote on Jan. 1, 2018. (Espinoza’s home is located a few miles away from the Detroit city limits.) One day later, Espinoza referenced Capriotti’s, a Nevada-based sandwich shop chain, opening a location near him. Hatewatch was able to identify two Capriotti’s locations in the greater Detroit area, both of which have since permanently closed but were open for business around the time Espinoza discussed the chain with other Atomwaffen members.
As early as December 2016, a month after Espinoza claimed to have joined the group, he introduced himself to prospective users on Iron March as a chapter leader of Atomwaffen Division. He and other users on that forum described him as an occasional point person for the group. On a handful of occasions in spring 2017, Espinoza offered to connect a potential recruit with “Odin” – the handle used by Russell – for an interview to join the group. Then, in May 6, 2017, Gabriel Sohier Chaput, a neo-Nazi propagandist who used the name “Zeiger” online, instructed another user to “talk to Odin, Black Israelite, and Ryan AW” about obtaining a physical copy of James Mason’s SIEGE, a foundational ideological document for white power accelerationists.
However, unlike other Atomwaffen chapters throughout the country, it is unclear the extent to which Espinoza was involved with the group’s real-world activities, such as flyering and meetups (known as “hate camps”). On Jan. 1, 2018, Espinoza noted that while there had been plans for a “Detroit Meetup,” he was “glad that didn’t go through,” adding that it “would have been worse than the may shit.” The comment was made in a conversation about one of the group’s former members, Devon Arthurs, and appeared to be referring to Arthurs’s alleged murder of another two members of the organization, Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman, in May 2017. During the police investigation into the two men’s deaths, police arrested Brandon Russell and charged him with the possession of explosive materials. The court declared Arthurs incompetent to stand trial, and he is receiving treatment at an inpatient mental health facility until a judge decides his case can move forward.
Photo illustration by SPLC