WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATIONS OF VIOLENCE, UNEDITED RACIAL EPITHETS AND OTHER OFFENSIVE MATERIAL, AND IS NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG READERS
Today Luke Hunter, 23, of High Callerton, Newcastle, was sentenced today to four years and two months for seven terror-related offences, including encouragement of terrorism
HOPE not hate identified the extremist, who went by various pseudonyms online, during a yearlong investigation. In October 2019, days before his arrest, we informed authorities of his identity and activities after noticing worrying changes in his behaviour, including an uncharacteristic period of silence. It has since emerged that his father, who lives separately from his son, is a retired officer with the Met’s Counter Terror Command, and was still working there as a civilian at the time of his son’s arrest.
From his countryside home, the prolific young extremist encouraged terrorism, venerated mass murderers, advocated for the formation of “insurgent decentralised cells” and formed links to an international, terroristic Nazi organisation, the Feuerkrieg Division (FKD), which has since been banned in the UK under anti-terror laws. He also encouraged violence against police officers.
He did so through his own websites, numerous Twitter accounts, YouTube, Instagram, and the messaging apps Telegram and Discord; he also produced hundreds of hours of podcasts, multitudes of graphic designs, and dozens of stylised fascist videos. He was also active offline, networking, attending fascist meetups and events, and addressing a far-right conference in Glasgow in 2019. By the time of his arrest, he had become a recognised voice in the international extreme right.
Hunter is, in some ways, representative of a new generation of far-right extremists. Across the far right a post-organisational threat has emerged, a decentralised collective of anonymous activists working towards similar goals, often in informal interaction with one another. Organisations still play an important role, but membership of such a group is not required to wield influence in this collective form of politics. Hunter himself is not known to have been a member of an organisation in any traditional sense; rather he is a talented but deeply disturbed propagandist operating on poorly-moderated messaging apps and livestreamed videos.
Whilst significant, Hunter’s conviction is just one small step towards combatting far-right terrorism in the UK. The last decade has witnessed the emergence of an international Nazi underground that is obsessed with terror and destruction, and, as we have explored elsewhere, is drawing in young children. One of Hunter’s online associates, the Estonian Nazi who headed the FKD, was exposed in 2020 as being just 13 years old.
Hunter’s output offers a disturbing insight into the new wave of terror-advocating extremists, and the paths through which young people can be radicalised online.
By Hunter’s own account, he first entered politics around 2016, a time during which he was engaged with the extreme end of the alt-right, supporting Donald Trump, visiting the Nazi website the Daily Stormer, and, in early 2017, wearing a MAGA hat and swastika necklace to his college. However, the earliest political involvement we have definitively traced dates to April 2017, with his posts on the influential, now-defunct Nazi forum Iron March (IM). Despite its small size, IM was key in fostering the modern Nazi underground, partly by introducing a new generation to James Mason’s SIEGE, an accelerationist collection of texts that promotes the establishment of leaderless terrorist cells. British Nazis, including leading members of the now-banned National Action (NA), were influential on the forum; IM was also central in the emergence of the AtomWaffen Division (AWD), an American Nazi terror group linked to several murders. AWD would inspire future groups, such as the FKD.
Still a teenager, Hunter used IM to vent his pessimism about the state of the UK far right and to yearn for a radical alternative:
Reading all the British nationalist manifestos makes me feel sick. National socialism/Fascism is dead in the UK. The last time we had any semblance of a worldview or and [sic] ideology was the 1930-1939 before [Oswald] Mosely got interned.
He also expressed his sexual frustrations and violent fantasies: “…because I am 19 It [sic] is hard finding a girl who hasn’t had sex at 13-16. It is fucking disgusting that this is happening”, he lamented. “Niggers don’t even enter my mind because their existence doesn’t matter to me until they do until they try(and succeed) and fuck white women, in which case they deserve a bullet because they have violated the natural order of things”, he wrote in another message.
By 2017, Hunter was also active in far-right chats on the gaming app Discord, including that of the violent American Nazi street gang the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), led by fellow IM user Matthew Heimbach. Here Hunter advertised his videos and encouraged racist violence. “Make sure you bring 88 bullets to your nearest synagogue”, he wrote on Christmas day that year.
The IM milieu appears to have influenced Hunter not only ideologically, but also by providing the medium with which he would gain notoriety of his own. Hunter would adapt the distinctive, violent “terrorwave” aesthetic developed on the forum, and like other pseudonymous propagandists, he went on to develop a name for himself through his stark designs.
For a time, Iron March seems to have led Hunter to a different style of politics, despite retaining his core Nazi beliefs. He wrote in a Discord chat in May 2019:
Someone from the IM community invited me to a reactionary server which did IRL [offline activities] and at that time I never met anyone so I went down that rabbithole [sic]. Probably for the best. It helped me into a progression which was built upon foundations. The weird thing is I always held onto my NS [National Socialist] beliefs so I really was LARPing [pretending] as a Trad.
“Trad” refers to “Traditionalist”, both a specific intellectual school and a tweed-clad far-right milieu aiming to present a “sophisticated” face to racism, reactionary politics and extreme elitism. One branch is “High Toryism”, a neo-feudalist ideology championed by the London-based Traditional Britain Group (TBG), among others. In 2018, the “High Tory Gang” became something of a fad for stuffy, middleclass, far-right young Brits, and Hunter officially aligned himself to the scene in May 2018. To Hunter:
High Toryism, the form of government, is beautiful. Mixed government, mixed market, hereditary monarchy, hereditary aristocracy, morality, ethics and much more. What isn’t there to like about it. It transcends all post-modern decadent ideology.
Waxing lyrical about the monarchy and a mythical, Arthurian past, he retained his fascistic beliefs, a fact obvious when visiting his website, which incorporated an image of John Tyndall and a Sonnenrad symbol in its banner. In March 2018, Hunter launched his podcast, and in April hosted Alex Davies, co-founder of National Action (NA). The pair encouraged listeners to send supportive letters and commissary money to several far-right figures incarcerated on terror charges, including Jack Renshaw, then awaiting trial (and since convicted) for plotting to behead an MP and murder a police officer.
A key influence on Hunter during his “Trad” phase was James McCulloch (AKA Simon Fraser), a regular guest on his podcast. McCulloch was also “National Chairman” of Identity Albion (IA), a collection of Discord racists who held small meetups, a group Hunter regarded to be “one of the best hopes we’ve seen for Britain since Enoch Powell and Oswald Mosely”. Hunter also organised his own meetups via his Discord server.
Hunter and McCulloch together attended the October 2018 Traditional Britain Group conference in London, a key networking site for the “intellectual” end of the British far right, which brings together figures from the Tory and UKIP fringes alongside hard line white supremacists. The event was addressed by the disgraced TV personality Katie Hopkins, among others. Hunter also attended Vortex Londinium, the UK branch of the Italian fascist group CasaPound, which held a series of events throughout 2018 and 2019.
From IA emerged TradSoc, which held a poorly-attended inaugural conference, organised by McCulloch, in Glasgow in February 2019. By this time, Hunter was disillusioned with the “High Tory Gang” and delivered an invective-filled speech, taking aim at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, among others. Citing fascist mystic Julius Evola, he told his tiny audience to “be that which the bourgeoisie calls an extremist”, continuing: “If anyone in the room considers this a social event, rather than a serious enterprise, for serious individuals to dedicate themselves to, then they know where the door is.”
By spring 2019, it was evident that Hunter had entered a dark spiral. Abandoning much of the “highbrow” pretensions of the Trad scene and rejecting the viability of political solutions, his rhetoric, videos and graphic designs becoming ever more vulgar, uncompromising and violently antisemitic. He began discussing the need to prepare for societal collapse, including using the internet to purposefully desensitise himself to violence, and steeling himself for potential incarceration due to his activities. The shift seems to have been partly due to his decision to abandon mainstream platforms, such as YouTube, for poorly moderated alternatives such as BitChute, and thus no longer needed to dilute his content in order to avoid moderation.
Hunter’s descent coincided with his flirtation with a peculiar strain of far-right mysticism. By his own account, in early 2017, as an atheistic teenager, he had experienced a powerful religious conversion to Catholicism, but came to believe that Christianity lacks a racial doctrine. In 2019, he embraced Esoteric Hitlerism, the bizarre pseudo-religion of Nazi misanthrope Savitri Devi, which incorporates elements of Hinduism and worships Hitler as an incarnation of Vishnu. Hunter imbued his propaganda with an esoteric, almost New Age sheen, and went so far as to record an audiobook of Devi’s most notorious book, The Lightning and the Sun.
By early June, when he founded his channel on the messaging app Telegram, he was a full-time participant in a right-wing scene obsessed with death. Telegram is, above almost all other platforms, a safe haven for the violent fringes of the far right, its chat groups providing privacy, community and the ability to organise, and its one-way channels allowing for the wide dissemination of propaganda, akin to Twitter, but with virtually no moderation. Through the “Terrorgram” circuit, a loose collection of violence-promoting far-right channels and chats, the extremist subculture of Iron March has evolved and reached broader audiences.
Hunter’s channel quickly gained a significant following and became a recognised part of the Terrorgram circuit. Alongside his own propaganda, he pushed that of terroristic Nazi organisations, including the Atomwaffen Division, Feuerkrieg Division, The Base, Antipodean Resistance, and National Action. Hunter’s channel celebrated terrorists such as Brenton Tarrant, Thomas Mair, and David Copeland, the latter of whom he honoured with a tribute video, “Hail Saint Copeland”, which remains in circulation on Telegram. He also pushed propaganda including the symbols of the Order of Nine Angles (ONA), a Nazi Satanist group influential on sections of the modern extreme right (despite claiming he did not consider ONA “mind blowing stuff”).
Hunter’s antisemitism became ever more genocidal:
The eradication of Jews is a moral and racial duty. Stop kidding yourself. The final solution is the final solution. Yes I am an eradicationist. The only people I would never disavow the complete and utter physical and spiritual destruction of is the Jews.
“Prison won’t stop me kikes”, read another ominous message. In the summer of 2019, he visited Berlin, photographing himself at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and posting the pic to Instragram with the hashtags “#HH” [Heil Hitler] and “#6millionwasntenough”.
The private Telegram group over which Hunter presided had over 100 members and was, if anything, even more extreme; for example in one post he simply wrote “KILL JEWS” over and over, 29 times in total. At times, a nihilistic preoccupation with death overtook political pretences, with clips circulating of people being maimed and killed without context.
The group was also home to apparently serious discussion about how best to carry out terrorist attacks. For example, one member posted in July 2019:
[…] people need to think bigger. Imagine people doing what Tarrant did, only in squads to maximise kills, and with an organized getaway, with distraction teams to tie up police resources […] War demands planning and coordination, and with the right people covering all the bases, it can be done.
In the same group, a manual titled “How to Start and Train a Militia Unit” was shared, as was talk of how to disrupt power supplies in major cities. “I’m going to go to the scottish highlands and on my way there I am going to meet my boogaloo “totally legal” rifle”, Hunter wrote in one conversation about an oncoming societal collapse. “Commander”, the head of the FKD, was also an active member of Hunter’s private group. “The day of nationalist parties is over”, Hunter wrote in one exchange with Commander, continuing: “Insurgent, decentralised cells […] that is the way forward. To action.” The young Nazi replied: “Exactly”.
Launched in Octber 2018 and formally disbanded in February 2020, FKD built on the legacy of AtomWaffen Division, establishing an estimated membership of 50 across Europe and North America, including a handful in the UK. Members in various countries have received charges and convictions for terror-related offences. In the UK, after the September 2019 arrest of a teenage member, FKD posted a picture of the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police, Dave Thompson, with a gun to his head. “Release our member or your heads will be our agenda”, the group wrote on Telegram, and posted the addresses of police stations and offices.
Hunter regularly pushed FKD material on his Telegram channel, with FKD returning the favour, and in September, he wrote “Hail the Feuerkrieg Division!” followed by “Death to ZOG. Death to PC Thompson!” alongside a news report of the FKD’s campaign against the West Midlands police (ZOG is short for “Zionist Occupied Government”, antisemitic slang for alleged Jewish control).
Notably, Hunter also edited a September 2019 “FKD Action Report” video, extreme even by his standards. During its short running time, pictures of Auschwitz, executions, and far-right terrorists flash up on the screen over drum and bass music, alongside the words: “SET THE WORLD AFLAME/JOIN FKD TODAY/OR DIE LIKE THE REST/DEATH TO PC THOMPSON”, followed by the FKD email address.
The milieu to which Hunter belonged regards mass murder as a means to revolution and retribution, but also as a form of entertainment. Talk in the media of “lone wolf” far-right terrorists can, when used incorrectly, give the impression that an individual has radicalised in complete isolation. However, while some terrorists do plan and carry out their attacks alone, they near-universally emerge from an ecosystem of sorts. Hunter, and others like him, intended to foster such an ecosystem.
The hate that motivates modern far-right terrorists may be old, but they have found new ways to operate and organise. Telegram continues to fail to take appropriate action against the dangerous hate operating through its software. Hunter’s channel remains available on the platform, and his violent propaganda continues to be circulated by other channels. All tech companies have a responsibility to deal with the use of their platforms for nefarious purposes, and Telegram must be held to account.
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