President Donald Trump may be stoking the flames of racism and xenophobia by repeatedly referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” but it appears white supremacists have been contradicting that narrative for some time by attempting to adopt the virus as their bioweapon of choice.
Yahoo News reported that federal investigators have been monitoring communications on the messaging app Telegram, which is apparently popular among white nationalists. On it, they found discussions between neo-Nazis about plans to weaponize the virus through the use of “saliva,” a “spray bottle” or “laced items.”
According to a weekly intelligence brief distributed by a federal law enforcement division on Feb. 17, these white supremacists planned on targeting law enforcement and “non-white” people in particular.
“Violent extremists continue to make bioterrorism a popular topic among themselves,” the intelligence brief reads. “White Racially Motivated Violent Extremists have recently commented on the coronavirus stating that it is an ‘OBLIGATION’ to spread it should any of them contract the virus.”
The brief was released by The Federal Protective Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for protecting buildings owned or leased by the federal government. Their brief explains that some white supremacists were already taking the coronavirus crisis seriously even as the president initially appeared to be downplaying the threat it posed. So, while Trump was claiming the virus wasn’t a huge deal, neo-Nazis were already making plans to utilize it for their own ends.
From Yahoo News:
The intelligence brief, marked for official use only, noted the white supremacists “suggested targeting … law enforcement and minority communities, with some mention of public places in general.” According to the document, the extremists discussed a number of methods for coronavirus attacks, such spending time in public with perceived enemies, leaving “saliva on door handles” at local FBI offices, spitting on elevator buttons and spreading coronavirus germs in “nonwhite neighborhoods.”
According to the Federal Protective Service intelligence brief, the discussion of spreading the coronavirus occurred in a channel on the app Telegram that is devoted to the “siege culture” philosophies of neo-Nazi author James Mason and “accelerationism.” Mason wrote a series of newsletters titled “Siege” in the 1980s that advocated for acts of racial terrorism in order to hasten a war that would cause the breakdown of society.
According to Yahoo, Mason and his teachings have become popular with Atomwaffen, a white supremacist group with offshoots in multiple countries that have been deemed so dangerous that the State Department is looking to have Atomwaffen designated a foreign terrorist organization. It would be the first white supremacist group designated as such in U.S. history.
Other neo-Nazi groups have also become inspired by Mason’s idea of “accelerationism,” which advocates for extremist attacks with the goal of provoking a race war or an otherwise larger societal conflict.
“There’s a whole branch of neo-Nazism that follows James Mason’s writings and uses his work as kind of their bible. Atomwaffen is part of that, but there are multiple groups that would fall under the same category,” said Nick Martin, editor of the Informant, a newsletter that specializes in reporting on extremist hate groups.
Report after report has come out about the FBI and other U.S. intelligence organizations declaring or seeking to declare white nationalists a major terrorist threat, even ranking above Islamic terrorists (but good luck getting President “very fine people on both sides” Trump to acknowledge that fact), so this evaluation shouldn’t surprise anyone. Apparently even amid a global pandemic, neo-Nazis gon’ neo-Nazi.