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Analysing Terrorgram Publications: A New Digital Zine

Analysing Terrorgram Publications: A New Digital Zine
12th September 2022 Matthew Kriner

Introduction

“For every Accelerationist who contributed to this book, there are 10000 others who will download, read and become further radicalized by it” – Hard Reset

On July 14, 2022, following a melodramatic advertisement campaign in neofascist Telegram channels, Telegram users issued the third instalment of a digital magazine series, called Hard Reset, to a muted reception. This Insight will examine the recent militant accelerationist publications, specifically the Hard Reset edition, and their context within the broader neofascist accelerationism community on Telegram, colloquially referred to as Terrorgram. 

What is Terrorgram?

The Terrorgram community on Telegram is a loosely connected network of Telegram channels and accounts that adhere to and promote militant accelerationism. Terrorgram channels are typically neofascist in ideological orientation, and regularly share instructions and manuals on how to carry out acts of racially-motivated violence and anti-government, anti-authority terrorism. In the earlier days of militant accelerationism on Telegram (from 2017-2019), Terrorgram was a key communications forum for individuals and networks attached to Iron March, Atomwaffen Division, The Base and other explicit militant accelerationism groups. Terrogram has waxed and waned in its prominence and composition over the years, as Telegram has actioned key channels for terms of service violations. Yet, in the face of these moderation efforts, new groups keep emerging and some attempt to create coalitions through Telegram’s permissive stance towards terrorist content. 

Graham Macklin has described Terrorgram and the broader ecosystem that it belongs to as “a ‘dark fandom’ that venerates and valorizes extreme-right terrorists as ‘saints’ and ‘martyrs’ in a manner similar to the heroization of school shooters and serial killers.” Indeed, a significant function of Terrorgram is to perpetuate the so-called “Saints culture” which connects to the new Terrorgram publications through its lionisation of Ted Kaczynski, the anti-modernity terrorist that has been a significant influence on contemporary eco-fascists. Additionally, previous iterations of Terrorgram lionised and promoted James Mason’s Siege and the Manson family murders as a form of accelerationism.

Terrorgram has gone through multiple phases and has proven to be a crucial space for building new networks and innovations on the Iron March constructs to better capture shifts within the global violent extremist landscape. Those phases and iterations have largely corresponded to shifts in the central gravity of the broader militant accelerationism movement, away from Atomwaffen Division’s collapse and the Base’s infiltration woes, and were usually prompted by infighting and government actions against key networks and figures. For example, following law enforcement actions aimed at disrupting Atomwaffen Division cells in the Fall of 2019, Terrorgram underwent an evolution away from its first iteration. In that power vacuum, Feuerkrieg Division (FKD) soon became a central force in the Terrorgram community. FKD experienced its own wave of law enforcement actions and soon ceded ground within Terrogram when it announced a disbanding in February 2020. However, Terrogram persisted and FKD’s branding remained influential in the subsequent iteration, illustrating Alex Newhouse’s observation that militant accelerationists had “created a network that does not rely on any one leader or group, and instead persists beyond periodic disruptions.”

Throughout the history of Terrorgram, there have been multiple aesthetic styles that defined the digital community and its propaganda. The AWD era was dominated by Siege Culture iconography that prominently positioned the skullmask and used themes like the Helter Skelter and Universal Order. This was built on by Dark Foreigner’s skullmask aesthetic which soon became the de facto visual brand for much of the militant accelerationism propaganda movement. In this vein, we can understand the newer Terrogram publications as an inheritor of these legacies, but one that seeks to redefine away from the failures of its predecessors. 

Role of Terrorgram Publications

The newest publications from Terrorgram appear to be intended as a digital magazine (a.k.a., a “zine”), though holding similar components to individual manifestos under Dr. Graham Macklin’s framework:

  1. Explanatory narrative
  2. Ideological justification
  3. Tactical lesson
  4. Call to arms for others to follow

Each publication in the series has been constructed in a manner reminiscent of a digital zine, typically as a compilation of semi-connected entries (usually one, but sometimes multiple pages) that are built around a single theme. 

Breaking Down the Content of Hard Reset

The most recent Terrorgram publication, Hard Reset, fits neatly into a longer history of accelerationist publications and discourse promoting tactics that lead to the targeting of critical infrastructure, harassment of minority populations, and exploitation of current events to hasten societal collapse. Though explicitly referenced only once in the Hard Reset, Siege Culture was thematically quite present throughout the document, and notably remains a critical ideological component of the Terrorgram community and its propaganda. 

Of Hard Reset’s 261 pages, 25 pages are dedicated to detailed descriptions of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). Additionally, 50 pages are dedicated to detailing which targets are best for attacks – specifically critical infrastructure (47) such as train tracks, LGBTQ+ (11), law enforcement (8), and abortion provision (7). There are 52 pages that carry a call to action or endorsement of terrorist violence and 31 pages that are dedicated to explanatory narratives (typically neofascist accelerationism).  

 

CategoryTotal Pages
Promotes attack on infrastructure47
Promotes or encourages criminal acts or acts of terrorism27
Hate, discrimination, and dehumanisation towards individuals and groups26
Promote serious physical harm to others21
Explicit LGBTQ+ Targeting9
Instruction for explosives7
Abortion5

 

So far these documents have experienced minimal spread throughout public-facing accelerationist Telegram, unlike Siege content and manifestos such as the document produced by the Buffalo shooter. At the time of writing, the most recent publication was found in approximately 50 Telegram channels and had not meaningfully spread beyond the ecosystem from which it was introduced on July 14. It is noteworthy that it failed to spread throughout other overtly militant accelerationist channels and neofascist ecosystems of Telegram that we can monitor, including channels that align with the broader skull mask network. One possible explanation for this is that the publication was designed to predominantly speak to an already acquired audience invested in the current iteration of the Terrorgram community or the network of channels that the likely authors are involved with as administrators. We assessed throughout our monitoring of the Hard Reset spread that a few individuals spreading the document were increasingly likely to be its authors based on how they referenced the content within and past social media activity. Additionally, as time progressed and its spread plateaued, the same individuals were increasingly the primary individuals pushing out the document.

While examining the content and themes within Hard Reset offers valuable context, observing what is excluded can offer equally meaningful insights. The most notable content exclusion from Hard Reset was the aesthetic pioneered by Dark Foreigner, which was a central element of previous Terrorgram publications. This exclusion could be attributed to the severe backlash to Dark Foreigner’s reputation after his identity was revealed. It may also be attributed to a competing faction of influencers within the broader militant accelerationism movement that are looking to redirect its trajectory.

Aesthetics as a Tactic of Terrogram

In the context of current far-right terrorism and extremism, Hard Reset and other recent Terrorgram publications can be viewed as unique from an aesthetic perspective. The tactical advantage of these aesthetics should also be considered as it might encourage novel forms of dissemination of the content in forums and on platforms catering more to visually appealing content. These aesthetic and tactical elements are thus seemingly intimately interlinked and may be the key to understanding the intended purpose and audience of the publications.

Terrorism is a performative act, and if the purpose of a specific act of terrorism is to spread fear, then the violence of terror serves a propagandistic purpose which can generate a “cumulative momentum” within a digital community. Acts of terrorism have frequently been used as a means of promoting the dissemination of manifestos, and the shock value of narrative elements, such as live streams feed into that. These shocking displays of overt violence play a role in the promotion of groups, and their propaganda efforts, such as those of ISIS. Thus the propaganda surrounding terror, including the imagery used in the Terrorgram Publications, serves multiple purposes. 

While the content of the Terrorgram publications is (at times shockingly) violent or graphic, the violence does not seem to serve a propagandistic purpose in promoting the publications. Rather, the purpose of the displays of violence seems to be the desensitisation of an already acquired audience. There have also, to date, not been any known acts of terror or mass violence with the explicit purpose of furthering the dissemination of the Terrorgram publications. This makes them distinct from examples like the manifestos of Anders Breivik, Brenton Tarrant and Dylann Roof, each of whom is a Saint in the so-called Saints Culture of Terrorgram. 

There is also an apparent visual distinction between Hard Reset and other editions of the Terrorgram publications (such as Do It for the ‘Gram), and manifestos. Where the manifestos have had visual elements, they have also argued ideology in detail, and often at length across multiple pages. The Terrorgram publications in contrast, with the exception of the ‘handbook sections’ mostly focus on visuals, distilling messaging down to one or two visually stimulating pages that can be disseminated as independent pieces of content without much context, ie. in other social media channels. This is also reminiscent of the style of Harassment Architecture, a book by Mike Ma (an influencer within militant accelerationism and eco-fascist communities), which is structured as many short vignettes. Ma has described his book as “more of a mental breakdown than a story.” While it seems apparent that instigating the use of individual entries within the publication as propaganda is the intention behind the zine-like design, we have yet to see this actually happen at any significant scale.

Conclusion

The newest Terrogram publication series, of which Hard Reset is the third instalment, appears to be an attempt to evolve Terrorgram and the broader militant accelerationism movement away from the AWD and Iron March era. Practically, this would have little impact on the threat that these digital communities pose as the individuals that created the publications and the content they push still advocate for tactics of terrorism and hate and racially-motivated violence to address their grievances. This is especially true with the persistent thematic presence of Siege. Ultimately, Hard Reset is another example that the threat of militant accelerationism is situated in an ever-rotating cast of novel actors who are intent on inciting violence against multiple levels of society.