The report can also be viewed below in two online versions. The first is an illustrated version matching the downloadable PDF. The second is a text only version for accessibility.
Radicalization’s Exodus – Illustrated Version
Radicalization’s Exodus – Text Version
HOLOCAUST DENIAL IS USED AS A GATEWAY TO FURTHER WHITE SUPREMACIST RADICALIZATION
Neo-Nazis were the first group to be de-platformed from mainstream social media channels and to move to alternative social media platforms. They have set the culture of these spaces, where Antisemitism, Nazi glorification, and Holocaust denial run rampant. Holocaust denial is used as a core catalyst for this online radicalization that is organized by white supremacists.
A meme from Telegraph highlighting that the reason white supremacists focus on the Holocaust is first to debunk it, and then to repeat it. The meme, which comes from Telegram channel dedicated to Holocaust denial memes, shows a small brain with the text “Study the Holocaust to prove it”, a normal brain with the text “Study the Holocaust to debunk it” and a large brain with the text “Study the Holocaust to do better next time.”
Another meme from Telegram forwarded by an account called “Sniper Tower” features the Capitol and two Nazi symbols. The first is the Sonnenrad (black sun), an esoteric symbol used by the Nazis, and which since the 1990s is popular with younger neo-Nazis. The second is the Totenkopf, the skull and crossbones device of the Nazi’s SS. The text on the image reads “As the empire falls, all it leaves behind, is its own ruins.”
While the efforts made by major social media companies to de-platform QAnon and white supremacists has decreased the reach of both groups, including their ability to recruit from the wider community, a new dangerous trend has developed.
Specifically, white supremacists are now focusing their efforts on radicalizing and recruiting from the QAnon supporters who are entering their alternative social media spaces. QAnon is in turn seeking to pull into these spaces those who have joined their exodus from mainstream social media channels.
Bottom Line: While QAnon introduces the idea of conspiracy theories and integrates its followers into alternative social media channels, the Holocaust denial that exists on these platforms shows itself to new recruits, serving as a gateway to and catalyst for white supremacist terrorism.
QANON HEADS STRAIGHT INTO A RADICALIZATION PIPELINE
QAnon began on 4chan and 8chan, internet forums that provided an anonymous alternative to mainstream social media platforms. One of the earliest QAnon videos was posted to 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum, entitled /pol/ in November 2017.
These forums also gave rise to the Alt-Right, and in 2019, to a series of white supremacist terror attacks, including the Christchurch mosque attack and the Poway synagogue attack. These attacks were the result of years of radicalization by white supremacists.
QAnon, due to de-platforming, is leaving mainstream social media channels where it went viral and attracted a huge new following. It is returning to its origins in alternative platforms, with many new supporters now alongside it who are entering these spaces for the first time.
Across these alternative platforms, neo-Nazi white supremacists are waiting for new recruits. They deny the Holocaust by presenting it as another conspiracy theory for QAnon supporters to explore, and Holocaust denial material as the secret ‘truth.’
The emerging environment has three distinct groups. The first is QAnon as we know it today, a movement based on conspiracy theories, many of them based on antisemitic origins. The second two are part of a continuum of Holocaust denial. On one extreme is the second group, neo-Nazis and those associated with them, who engage in Holocaust denial as a means of rehabilitating Nazi ideology. On the other extreme pf the Holocaust denial space in this emerging environment are members of QAnon who are discovering Holocaust denial materials and their conspiracy theories which claim the Holocaust or key elements of it did not occur. These QAnon supporters are starting to engage with the Holocaust denial material.
The result is a pipeline to radicalization in which QAnon member on one end are largely disengaged with neo-Nazism. At the other end is a group that have largely left the QAnon ideology and moved into a white supremacist / neo-Nazi ideology instead. This is the end of the pathway to radicalization. In between are those who are still primarily focused on QAnon, but who are increasingly exploring Holocaust denial and other explicitly antisemitic resources. Some of these sources simple reverse the obfuscation introduced by QAnon as it adopted antisemitic conspiracies and re-purposed them.
Bottom Line: Those who become QAnon Holocaust deniers enter a pipeline for further radicalization as white supremacists seek to indoctrinate them into neo-Nazism and violent extremism.
AS QANON DEPARTS MAINSTREAM SOCIAL MEDIA, IT’S PULLING SOME TRUMP SUPPORTERS TOWARDS DANGER
Mainstream social media outlets de-platformed white supremacists, then more recently QAnon. Yet as QAnon followers depart these mainstream social media platforms for alternative platforms, they’re pulling along with them many mainstream supporters of President Trump (MAGA).
These MAGA supporters are being intimidated into thinking that they may be de-platformed from mainstream social media outlets next. As a result, many are closing their accounts on mainstream platforms like Twitter and following the exodus to alternative platforms. There, they are being put at risk of exposure to the same white supremacist radicalization as are the QAnon followers.
As we discussed in the previous chapter, we analyzed 24,000+ right wing Twitter accounts and found that 6% of them discussed insurrection. In looking further at that 6%, we found that 40% of those were QAnon accounts while 60% could instead be categorized as more general MAGA accounts.
Building further on this, we saw that four weeks later, 39% of the QAnon Twitter accounts that discussed insurgency were no longer operational. 90% of them had been suspended by Twitter and 10% has been voluntarily closed by their owner. We can compare that to the MAGA accounts were 23% of them were no longer operational. Of the MAGA accounts that are no longer operational, 70% of them were suspended by Twitter and 30% were closed by their owner.
Overall MAGA users are significantly less likely to leave Twitter than QAnon users. While most MAGA users who are leaving Twitter do so due to deplatforming, the number of additional MAGA users leaving voluntarily is far higher than the number of QAnon users laving voluntarily. Voluntary account closures by MAGA users are in fact three times more likely than for QAnon users.
Gab’s official account on Twitter put out a tweet saying, “Have you come to Gab, yet? We’re waiting for you. We have a place for you. #GetOnGab” is accompanies by an image of a sailor behind a ships wheel with the text “We are the storm. Gab.” which plays on one of QAnon’s slogans.
A tweet from a QAnon account that signs it’s message with the QAnon slogan “WWG1WGA” and three frogs (a reference back to the Alt-Right) reads, “I joined Twitter when General Flynnput out the call for digital soldiers. I have Gab & Parler accounts but will stay here till either I’m kicked off or the (three stars) General give the command to leave.”
A Twitter account with the name “We Are the Storm” wrote “Wow… #getOnGab seems to be humming tonight. Hope it keeps up.” At the time trending hashtags included #gab, #getongab, #twexit, #leavetwitter, #canceltwitter and #deletetwitter.
A far-right channel on Telegram posted a welcome to “Twitter and Parler refugees” that said, the N word, “Hitler did nothing wrong”, “The holocaust [sic] was a lie”, “There are no political solutions”, “voting will not remove them” and “You all have a lot of catching up to do.”
Bottom Line: The discourse promoted by QAnon is contributing to a self-imposed exile from Twitter by many MAGA supporters. They are then lured to fringe platforms, encountering Holocaust denial & white supremacist radicalization.
MAINSTREAM PLATFORMS AREN’T YET IMMUNE TO NEO-NAZI & WHITE SUPREMACIST MEMES
There is still much more work that needs to be done on mainstream social media platforms as well.
For instance, Twitter backtracked on a claim to have banned Holocaust denial and new Holocaust denial is now tweeted out daily. Despite policies against Holocaust denial on both YouTube and more recently on Facebook, and the companies’ efforts to remove such content, instances of Holocaust denial remain. This content helps funnel additional people to alternative platforms and further radicalization.
Some examples of this content include:
A YouTube video of a 1994 speech by the well-known Holocaust denial David Cole to a conference run by the Institute for Historical Review, one of the primary producers of Holocaust denial. In the video Cole denies the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz. The video has been on YouTube since 2016.
A Facebook post that says “Trust the science? You mean the MSM cult? Who’s pushing false information all the time? The Holocough is the new Holohoax. Expose the Fake news.” The post promotes a COVID conspiracy theory which holds that COVID doesn’t exist and the global response to the pandemic is based on a lie created by Jews to control global populations. IT also promotes Holocaust denial with its reference to “HoloHoax”.
On Twitter there is an account pretending to be Dr Mengele, a notorious Nazi doctor who experiments on children. He used twins to conduct often lethal experiments. The Twitter account writes “#holohoax One Hundred and nine & counting” as it retweets someone else’s tweet saying “Everyone knows that for no reason at all Hitler gave a well documented order to spend resources while fighting a war on two fronts to create an elaborate system to kill exactly 6M Jews at only camps the Jewish soviets liberated, and it’s illegal in 18 countries to say otherwise”.
Beyond the blatant Holocaust denial in the Twitter example, there is also an effort at misinformation to make the Holocaust seem less likely. The number of Jews killed in the Holocaust is not “exactly 6M” as claimed, the figure of 6 million is an estimate by experts. The number is also not, as claimed, limited to those killed in the death camps. It includes all the Jews that were killed by the Nazis. Around 2.7 million Jews were killed across the extermination camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka 2, Belzec, Sobibor, and Chelmno. Others were shot, gassed in wagons, or died in the ghettoes. The distortion seeks to over-simplify the Holocaust to create a strawman version that can then be attacked to “disprove” the Holocaust itself.
Urgent action is needed now to stop the radicalization pipeline. Yet many of the alternative platforms where such radicalization takes place are based outside of the U.S, making this more difficult. Their unmoderated nature allows incitement and radicalization, while their use of anonymous or pseudonymous accounts hinders open source counter-intelligence efforts used by law enforcement.
Bottom Line: An international response is needed to tackle the domestic terrorist threat posed by online radicalization.