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With a new year comes new challenges, and one of the biggest struggles for antifascists is the unhealthy relationship between right wing propagandists and a security-industrial complex that claims to protect the public but actually enables and amplifies terror.
For much of 2021, LCRW has been monitoring a subset of the Terrorgram network that publishes the ‘Saint Calendar.’ Month by month, white supremacists celebrate historical acts of violence that shaped their movement, and document them exhaustively in hopes of inspiring more. At the time of writing, they have produced 94 posters glorifying the murder of over 600 people.
‘Saints’ are those who committed murder in support of white supremacy, neo-nazism, or some other variant of the same basic ideology. Whether killed during an attack, executed, or still rotting away in prison, they’re treated as martyrs for the cause. The Calendar also includes some ‘Brothers’ – people like Kyle Rittenhouse, whose acts of violence white supremacists enthusiastically support, but who deny (or at least don’t explicitly claim) white supremacy as a motivation.
Each month the organizers publish a calendar featuring ‘days of action’ when violent attacks took place, and birthdays or milestones in the life of those who perpetrated them. Throughout the month, they publish individual ‘day of action’ posters celebrating the murderous events in detail. Although we are reluctant to spread any of their information, LCRW is providing the names and dates behind these ‘days of action’ in a spreadsheet so that activists and antifascist researchers can better anticipate Terrorgram Nazis’ actions, which are often timed to commemorate past acts of violence and hate. The list can be accessed here.
While LCRW was drafting this article, the last example of the year was published to mark the December 27 birthday of Amanda Miller, who carried out a brief shooting spree with her husband in Las Vegas in 2014.
But on the day of December 27th, a Colorado man with a history of threatening violence and decidedly reactionary views murdered 5 people in Denver, CO before dying himself in a shootout with police.
We have no way of knowing if Lyndon McLeod was aware of Terrorgram in general or the Saint Calendar in particular, and it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to find out in the short term, as authorities are generally reluctant to share information about social media use and search history in the aftermath of murder.
But that didn’t trouble Terrorgram, which promptly declared him a ‘saint.’ The accelerationists rushed to update their December Calendar, following up soon afterward with a propaganda poster. For them, he could not have come at a better time: at a quiet part of the news cycle, with an elaborate plan, and a large body of written work – a 3-volume revenge novel that was available on Amazon until a few days ago – that doubles as manifesto and instruction manual. Far right accelerationists are not ideological purists: any kind of manifesto will do as long as it’s in line with with the basics like white supremacy and misogyny.
McLeod’s aggressive personality and long-term grievances make for a compelling personal narrative – if your goal is to recruit disaffected people into a nihilistic murder-suicide cult. The only real difference between western accelerationist terrorism and the religious extremists who become suicide bombers are that white supremacist terrorists are far more socially isolated and the radicalization process is impersonal and unspecific – tactics which have allowed them to avoid scrutiny from state authorities as long as they have some ability to keep their mouths shut about their specific plans. McLeod literally identified his intended victims by name and laid out his operational plans in print – marking him as well-organized in the FBI’s typology of active shooters. Law enforcement authorities in Colorado have admitted that he was ‘on their radar’ for a long period; a chilling reminder that the state is far more concerned with protecting itself than the public it theoretically serves.
LCRW prefers not to replicate far right propaganda or obsess over individual examples of it that might demoralize readers or embolden fascists. But we make an exception here given that this incident occurred during the writing of our larger story and the radical right’s near-instant embrace of the perpetrator.
Disturbing as this content is, we think it’s important to show readers how militant accelerationist propaganda works, at both the superficial and psychological levels. Though the garish colors, clunky layout, and messy collage of images may look amateurish or random, Saint posters follow a strict template that is instantly recognizable to its target audience. Nearly 100 have been created so far.
The top of every poster is the same: a garish exhortation to ‘hail the saints’ on the left and a link to their main Telegram channel on the right. Underneath in large type, the name of the murderer, in this case titled as a ‘Saint’ because of his stated commitment to white supremacy and violence. A cross next to the name indicates that the violent episode ended in the death of the perpetrator.
Underneath, a garish strip announces a casualty count of the violent incident and the date of the ‘day of action’ – punctuated by lightning bolts, or Sig runes – most famous for their use in the insignia of the Nazi SS. The next line features the birth date of the perpetrator and a repetition of the date of their violent action, punctuated with additional runes and framed by crude but evocative clip art of a pistol and hand grenade.
The graphic composition, repetition, bright colors, and quasi-religious elements all work together to create a distinct and highly recognizable ‘brand’ – just like those constructed for professional athletes or pop stars. Though the target audience have angrily rejected society (or feel rejected by it), the urge to fit in with some kind of community – even a largely imaginary racist one – is as strong as ever. Adolescent craving for validation and popularity can be weaponized to produce murder and suicide as easily as sporting competitors or entertainers, and the fanboyism of the producers is one way to compensate for their own sense of failure.
Below the header, the rest of the poster is divided into text on the left and a collage of pictures on the right. A skeletal biography is notable only for a section on motivations – ‘hatred of Antifa; hatred of the weak; hatred of the System’ and the least unflattering portrait photograph the designers could find. The cover image of McLeod’s book is also included, featuring a skull with a Wolfsangel rune. Below, a ‘stats’ section – present on every poster – itemizes the number of casualties, the weapons used, the location, and a pithy quote.
In McLeod’s case, this was ‘Pain demands a response.’ LCRW has not delved too deeply into McLeod’s biography, and better-resourced media outlets will no doubt delve into his personal history and writings to untangle his motivations. What we know at present is that he fell out with his former friends and business associates in the tattoo/body art scene, and eventually shut down his business and sold his property to live off-grid in the mountains of Colorado and plot a bloody revenge. His writings seem to revolve around the idea that his genes made him naturally violent and his rage was just the product of just about everyone setting him off. McLeod fantasized about killing over 40 people in his written work and admitted frankly to being ‘a jerk’ on his social media, but seems to have only ever viewed himself from a position of victimhood.
A section labeled ‘drop out + confront’ sketches out McLeod’s drift away from the normal world and preparations for attack – a common pattern among accelerationists, though McLeod’s years-long trajectory is unusual. The ‘Day of Action’ section which follows is a fixture on ‘Saint’ posters, describing the progression of events in a flat dispassionate style except for using slurs to describe victims. On the other side, collage images of weapons, locations, maps and shooting victims. ‘Saint’ posters typically use the most recognizable images from media coverage. They eschew gory or sensationalist pictures of crime scenes, presumably in hopes of scooting past Telegram’s censors. Such content is eagerly traded in other private Telegram groups.
At the bottom is a section on ‘further reading’ present on almost every ‘Saint’ poster. This contains a list of links to videos and news coverage of the shooting, invariably through copies of original articles uploaded to the Internet Archive for long-term accessibility.
LCRW is of course not the only news outlet to pay attention to the Saint Calendar. TRAC is the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, a commercial service (despite the misleading ‘.org’ domain) which monitors and documents terrorist incidents around the world.
When new propaganda material appears on Terrorgram, TRAC analysts take note and in many cases create new profiles for the perpetrators and/or entries on the historical incident. In turn, a Telegram account called ‘TRACSTARS’ monitors TRAC and gives a congratulatory shout-out to the Saint Calendar channel operators when one of their profiles is added to TRAC – often within hours of publication.
Thus, when a new poster appeared on November 11th documenting a 1985 multiple homicide, several channels shared it to their own members, including one named RWBC (an acronym for Right Wing Book Club). TRAC in turn filed a report about it later the same day, and on November 12 one of the ‘TRACSTARS’ accounts then sent a message of congratulation to RWBC for having been featured on TRAC.
While it’s understandable that a commercial threat intelligence service like TRAC wants to report on specific threats by far-right extremists in a timely fashion, treating every one of their publicity efforts as events in themselves may actually worsen the problem. As TRAC publicizes each news release, fascists in turn watch TRAC and point back to their reports in real time as evidence of their movement’s growing impact, hoping to motivate new acts of violence.
TRAC is fully aware of this, and has in fact produced a bulletin mentioning the fact, which was in turn was featured by TRACSTARS.
This kind of symbiotic notoriety between advocates of terrorism and those who report on them creates thorny ethical questions; the interest of adequately informing the public has to be balanced against the cost of giving fascists free publicity and allowing them to bask in the ensuing negative attention.
The connection to an external audience and the sense of urgency created by real time coverage make the difference between inconsequential LARPing and being the author of a historical event – literally the manufacture of authority through action. Accelerationists are not satisfied with attacking their perceived enemies or altering the world through violence, but almost invariably seek the attention of a wider audience for their underlying grievances. Becoming a ‘TRAC star’ by posting propaganda online allows accelerationists to bask in a relatively scarce kind of attention, deriving a narcissistic buzz at minimal risk.
But online kicks are not enough for some.
Just hours before publication, a Terrorgram channel republished a message and a 6-second propaganda video depicting a building on fire, sent from a private Telegram channel. Citing a prolific TRAC analyst by name, the message tauntingly said the idea was provided in response to ‘a personal request from’ the analyst ‘and the promise of tiddy pics.’
LCRW is not naming the channels, Telegram user, or TRAC analyst.
Although the originating channel was listed as private, LCRW does not rely on the Telegram app to gather data. Within that channel, the owner posted 3 photographs from this news story describing the destruction by fire of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Knoxville TN, yesterday morning. In accompanying text, the channel owner appeared to take credit for the blaze, gloating ‘it’s so easy it’s laughable’ and encouraging others to engage in similar behavior.
That user created their Telegram account on the evening of August 22nd, though it was restricted by Telegram some time afterwards for violating their terms of service. Their newest, supposedly private, channel was created just about 24 hours ago. Between Telegram’s lax platform management and TRAC’s eagerness to sell $10,000 subscriptions, the market for terrorism is red hot.
Qualified researchers can inquire for a full archive of the Saint Calendar material that LCRW documented during 2021 at email@example.com.