Commentary—White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi Send a Telegram
When I was a child, the word “Telegram” had a chilling effect. Western Union was a company that delivered messages ( called the” telegram”) by hand. They were printed on strips of paper which were then pasted on small yellow paper and placed in a sealed envelope. Delivered, night and day, by a boy on a bicycle. During WWII, more often than not, it was to notify a parent that their child had died in combat. In the 40s it rarely brought good news—“Uncle Loui is dying. Come Quick.” Later, it was used to say: Happy Birthday or to get money sent to someone in immediate need. There were 24 hour Western Union “telegram” stores in almost every community. Today, the word “telegram” has a different meaning and use. It is an internet platform and the favorite tool of the neo-Nazi, the white-supremacist, ISIS, the anti-vaxes and the rest of the haters. Matthew G. Olsen, the head of Justice’s National Security Division, in his opening remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month, noted that the number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists had more than doubled since spring 2020.
A Telegram internet platform is a cloud-based chat and group messaging app. A “Telegram Channel is quite similar to WhatsApp’s Broadcast feature to send one-way broadcast messages to the members, commonly known as subscribers. Only the admins can send messages in Telegram Channels. Other people cannot reply or send messages on the Channel. “The…Telegram Group is like any other chat group where people can send messages and interact. That said, the group admins get permissions to restrict messages from members, make the group public or private, make other members as Admins….”
The idea of a “telegram” platform was initially developed by two Russian brothers –pro democracy activists who were forced to operate beyond the borders of their mother country and its control of the usual social platforms and to permit them to aim their direct attacks and harassment at the authoritarian regime in Moscow. As the use of the Internet increased—social platforms in the United States were employed as an attack weapon. The language employed by its users became, to some, unacceptable in tone and content. In time, the rules regulating the use of inflammatory speech on the customary internet platforms became so lax as to be non-existent. Very slowly, as social and political pressures built, platforms, such as Facebook, were forced to reverse their non-interference in the matter of content and to purge the extremist content. It was almost the end of January of this new year, that YouTube finally deactivated channels linked to the Oath Keepers—that had 45,000 subscribers–a militia group whose members have been charged in relation to the January 6 Capitol riot. The usual mainstream social media platforms that had been utilized to plan or promote the January 6th attack have reacted with varying degrees of responsiveness and speed in cancelling the terrorist/rioters accounts that were involved. But these deactivations, it is alleged, had another effect—it created the opportunity for another and clearly more dangerous type of platform—the Telegram to be created. The new “concept” by necessity became the ideal location sought by the extreme right who had been purged from the mainstream platforms.
The new platforms also became the perfect vehicle to dox (or doxx or doxing) someone. When one “doxs” –the short form for “dropping dox,” there is an online attack in which one digs up personal or confidential information and documents — hence, the “dox” part of “dropping dox” —or to expose the real identities of those hoping to remain anonymous. But very often the goal is to harass and identify those persons whom you wish to harm. Simply by publishing private information or documents it is their intent to injure their targets standing or reputation, getting revenge or even inviting physical attack. For example–On November 16, a neo-Nazi Telegram channel posted what it claimed to be the home or work addresses of members of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA), the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee and the alleged home address of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky and the alleged address of her synagogue. All with the very obvious intent they become targets of attack and harassment. Steve Bannon despite his purge from YouTube, Spotify and other mainstream platforms found a place in the alternative universe.
Telegram has been transformed into a central command center for far-right sympathizers and potential terrorists, where content is more often shared widely within this volatile and hostile environment. Their posts typically revel and celebrate Hitler, ISIS, anti LGBT, defaming Jews, Israel and people of color, spread far-right philosophy and violence; they have become a mecca for anti-vaxers and the “agents of terror attacks” motivated by racial hatred.
The ADL first sounded Telegram’s extremism issues in 2015, when a number of ISIS-related channels and groups were found on the platform. Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, which my wife and I just missed, the ADL subsequently uncovered that the attackers had used a “Telegram” channel to communicate their intent and plans.
The Counter Extremism Project has reported that Telegram currently hosts in excess of 200,000 channels and groups. Although many channels are freely accessible, there are channels and groups (within the channels) that require a “digital key” (a link) to gain access and admission. Some have alleged that the majority of Telegram’s 200 million-plus users have nothing to do with extremists of any types. I doubt that conclusion. What is clear is there is a large cadre of far-right Republican conspirators and white separatists that have found Telegram to be a welcoming and safe haven to meet and plan online. The Anti-Holocaust channel describes itself as “A sequel based on the original folk tale.” On a Telegram channel for the white supremacist group, the Vorherrschaft Division, it promotes the murder of Blacks, gay people, Jews and others. Multiple white supremacist and neo-Nazi Telegram channels have alleged that Covid vaccines kill the recipients, most especially children, and view the vaccines as part of an anti-white plot perpetrated by Jews. The RapeWaffen Division channel is a white supremacist channel that openly promotes rape and murder as part of their mission in any race war. The infamous Rittenhouse murder dismissal was celebrated on the supremacists channel Keithworth, with 23,500 followers. The Texas synagogue hostage event that occurred this month brought a slew of comments on Telegram: On Poast, a forum popular with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, a user wrote during the hostage situation: “Good luck to the hero under siege in a Texas synagogue.” On one Telegram site the following: “Closest live stream of the Jew hostage situation…cheer on the hostage taker.” In a Gab Group, a user wrote: “Looks like a Kike synagogue has been taken hostage!!! Apparently, this is still going on as I type. DEATH TO THE KIKES, AND LETS ALL HOPE THEY GET BLOWN TO FUCK!!” Again, as reported in MEMRI: “Neo-Nazis and white supremacists expressed their displeasure with the successful release of the four Jewish hostages. On January 15, a user of a Telegram channel chat group expressed their disappointment with the event’s conclusion and wrote: “All Kikes released. Camelfucker is dead. Waste.”’ All this is happening now in the United States: “How many dead kikes?”
Most agree that the tracking of extremist’s channels employing Telegram have just uncovered the tip of the iceberg. It is very clear that law enforcement and those who assist in tracking and exposing the ills of this platform have much to learn, not merely in exposing them and their members but to attempt to force the termination of those channels by Telegram.
There is a neo-Nazi, white-supremacist network that describes itself as an “international survivalist and self-defense network”, training its members for an oncoming race war. The presence of these types of network also reach outside of the United States, and in recent months, it has been claimed by some analysists, have sought to both energies and to swell their ranks while holding survivalist training camps throughout the United States.
While researching for this commentary, a thought from past years came to mind. When my second grandson, then in his very early teens was and is now a computer/internet designer and creator, told me: “Papa I don’t want you to try to gain entrance to the ‘Dark Web’.” When I tried to get him to tell me more–what the Dark Web was all about– all he would reveal to me, in very broad terms, was that it was a very dangerous place full of “criminal activity”. I would think he would tell me something very different now if I were to ask him about “The Telegram”. A place something much more dangerous and insidious and not merely for those who wish to wander on the internet. The Telegram channels and its participants, beyond those who are allegedly learning how to knit or build a model airplane, are a direct danger not merely to the culture of our society but its very fabric, the foundations upon which this nation survives.
The Dark Web looks inward; the terrorist channels of Telegram look outward to instigate and conduct race wars and the murder of those “they” find unacceptable. Telegram is not merely a platform for venting anger but a dangerous, proactive invitation to join in violence based, not merely upon a general violent philosophy, but aimed at the very essence of how you and I chose to live.