- How a group of young people on the internet radicalizes in a few months
In May 2020 forms a group of young men on Instagram and Telegram called "The National Storm Association". Several dozen men have been involved here for a shorter or longer period of time. The group is now called "National Socialist Dutch Movement", one participant is in court for a death threat and another member is taken from his bed for sedition with a terrorist motive.
As long as the internet has existed, it has been a meeting place for right-wing extremists. On the one hand, to use the possibilities of the internet and social media for their political goals: recruiting new followers, propagating their ideas, mobilizing for campaigns and in recent years also to conduct digital campaigns. On the other hand, the internet has always been a place, where right-wing extremists feel safe and secure. Where the real world in many cases consists of hostility to their ideas and risks of counteractions and government repression, there the internet often seems like a free space.
There, right-wing extremists can talk about their ideas in freedom and anonymity, racist, air anti-Semitic and anti-democratic opinions and share plans about criminal activities, use of force, possession of weapons and terrorism.
For example, in recent decades we saw that the American Stormfront-forum and the Study Association Erkenbrand hundreds of people managed to interest in the extreme right, racist and anti-Semitic ideas. But there are more such far-right platforms out there, that do not explicitly become public.
The National Storm Association
There are many digital initiatives that are much smaller and much less visible than Stormfront or Erkenbrand. The internet services Telegram en Discord play a major role in this. Groups with names like Dietse SS exist on these platforms, Right platform, The Base and Feuerkrieg who have taken over the role of public far-right websites.
An example of this is a group of young people (teenagers, twenties) that occurred in the spring of 2020 collected under the name The National Storm Association (DNSV).
After a public appeal from a far-right account on Instagram, Several dozen men and boys from all over the country signed up with a locked Telegram account. Some of them already knew each other from other digital meeting places, most were new to each other.
This begins a digital group that still exists today and is characterized by super-fast radicalization of those involved., a keen interest in firearms, extreme fantasies of violence and fierce threats.
"We must drive the Jews out of our countries", writes 20-year-old Jelke in the DNSV group. "And kill", he adds. Jelke thinks the same about Muslims. "Really butcher everyone." And "niggers" should not be treated just harshly, he argues in a discussion. No, that "you must eradicate." he lets us know under his pseudonym Rechts Platform.
Members of the DNSV are not surprised by these kinds of comments. There is no reply to this kind of racist and violent expression. Not a moderating comment either, let alone the administrator of the group intervening.
Boys like Jelke do not get a reply at the DNSV, they do not have to justify themselves and they are certainly not expelled from the group. No, at the DNSV, the most extreme members are actually confirmed in their ideas, everyone is encouraged to propagate it and is challenged to put it into practice. The single member who, for example, dares to state that the Holocaust is “a bit extreme”, is abused and called to order. In doing so, this group sets out an outspoken racist, anti-Semitic and violent norm.
The DNSV was founded on the belief that the Dutch and European heritage is in danger as a result of "globalization" and "the genocide of the white race". To protect the legacy of their ancestors, the DNSV wants to "fight for your loved ones and culture" by "spreading the right ideology" and "preparing the members for war" in order to "serve as a right-wing militia". In concrete terms, the DNSVs are targeting Muslims, Jews, black people, migrants, gay and transgender people. These groups would undermine the unity of the Netherlands and Europe. Therefore, according to members, they should be “addressed, hunted down and exterminated ”. The group fantasizes aloud about the reopening of Auschwitz and a new Kristallnacht. Raving about Nazi symbolism within the DNSV is the rule rather than the exception. Photos of rooms with large Nazi flags, videos of members bringing the Hitler salute and showing (replica) Nazi uniforms and knives are the order of the day here.
At the same time, many members associate themselves positively with the established extreme right-wing parties PVV and Forum for Democracy (FVD). The parliamentary election in March 2021 is seen by them as momentum. “I'm going to vote anyway, healing Wilders!Let someone know. Another member agrees that Forum for Democracy is also “very hard” on Muslims. In addition to voting, there is more political activity outside the DNSV group. A number of members are taking over in October 2020 participate in a "White lives Matter" demonstration of the Nazi Dutch People's Union (NVU) in Den Haag. And the leader of the DNSV, Julius Smits (1999) from Kattendijke, claims to participate in anti-lockdown demonstrations in his province of Zeeland.
However, the DNSV has considerable doubts about participation in regular political activities. Either because of the limited political clout of a club like the NCE, or because of the lack of revolutionary élan at FvD and PVV. "I don't believe in protest", leaves the Frisian Sem Hilvers (2000) in response to the participation of DNSV's in an NCE demonstration. There is something else that Hilvers believes in. "Kill people.", let him know. Hilvers is certainly not alone in this.
The leader Smits, which has indicated his (limited) the ability to use to buy explosives writes that "we must be prepared to take matters into our own hands". "Be mentally and physically ready for battle", he warns. This is in line with the image that DNSV envisions as a militia. But standing between dream and deed, also at the DNSV, laws get in the way. And practical objections. The reports show that several members carry stabbing weapons. These are therefore quite easy to obtain. But serious revolutionary violence requires heavier artillery. Some members think they can legally obtain a firearm in the South of France or look for it in 3D printing technology. Fabio Iovanella (2001) Zwijndrecht, who occupies a prominent role in the group, wants to pick up the weapons in Poland. Others claim to have addresses in the Netherlands where weapons can be obtained illegally. It is not clear to what extent these searches have been successful. There is an emergency pistol within the group, knives and air guns. And show different members on photos (hand)firearms that cannot be distinguished from real ones.
Threats and Arrests
In juni 2020 is it just too much for DNSV leader Julius Smits. Anti-racism activist Akwasi gave a charismatic speech at a demonstration in Amsterdam. "Cancer Sucker", he writes to Akwasi via Instagram. "When I meet you I'll behead you". After Akwasi shares this message with all his followers, Smits no longer feels safe on the street. In the city of Goes, near the village where Smits lives "all blacks want to get me", let him know. Smits is also considering leaving the DNSV group so as not to compromise other people. Smits clearly feels responsible for the group. However, the problems that Smits claims to have do not impress the other members. And the sense of responsibility is not shared by everyone.
Indeed, four days later Kay van Poppel does (1999) from Den Helder such a threat again. “I'm going to be sylvana siemons (so) kill with a glock 17 ”, he writes. A date, he also mentions time and place. This threat, which leaks out and ends up with the politician and activist Sylvana Simons, leads to the arrest of Van Poppel and logically to the attention of the Ministry of Justice for the DNSV. His arrest leads to a sharp decline in activity within this group.
In december 2020 demands the Public Prosecution Service (ABOUT) two months in prison for death threats. During the lawsuit Kay claims that he has left his far-right ideas behind him during the remand. Something the officer doubts, because he gave the Hitler salute during his detention. That the officer's doubts are justified, is clear from the message that he posted on his Instagram account shortly after his release from custody.
Under his pseudonym "nazi_kay’ he places an image of a swastika. Van Poppel says he is "really cancer insane" and obsessed with the Wehrmacht from childhood. These things are unlikely to change any time soon.
After Van Poppel's arrest, a quiet period followed at the DNSV. After a month or two, Julius Smits takes the initiative to revive the group. Together with a secondary school student from Haarlem, he sets up a new structure for communication. The DNSV is also looking for international cooperation, to boost the group's strength and inspiration. They rename the DNSV as National Socialist Dutch Movement (NSDM). "God willing," they write, "We will destroy globalization and make our countries great again". The fact that this still has to be done by force has not changed. “Take up your arms and join the NSDM!They end their argument. The radio silence of the DNSV has not taken away the attention of the Ministry of Justice. Indeed, In response to an official message from the AIVD, a targeted investigation into one of the NSDM members is initiated.
This concerns Fabio Iovanella (who also calls himself Fabian van Wijngaarden), who has previously announced that they want to get firearms in Poland. Iovanella indicates that she is active in several extreme right-wing groups on the internet, including the American The Base. As evidenced by the photos he posts, he distributes Nazi paraphernalia. And in addition to his desire to buy firearms, he calls himself a supporter of Siege, an extremely violent theory from the US. It outlines the need for large-scale and deadly political terrorism to ensure that National Socialism can take over.. This theory has gained popularity among Nazi groups in the United States in recent years, such as the Atomwaffen Division, FKD, The Base and Sun War Division. Nazi groups often organized on the internet, which, however, are also responsible for several, partly failed, terrorist attacks. These groups also have supporters in Europe. Fabio suggests to be part of this network.
In oktober 2020 becomes Iovanella in his family home arrested. He is suspected of right-wing extremist incitement and crimes with a terrorist aim. The ABOUT also states that he is part of far-right groups "that incite racial hatred and anti-Semitism online and glorify perpetrators of violence". Iovanella has been in custody since October. Begin 2021 this case will be brought to court.
Boasting or real danger?
Extreme right-wing activists, especially those in the Nazi spectrum, have a penchant for violence and firearms. Kafka has written about this several times on this website in recent years. The orientation on weapons fits within the ideologically driven idea that the use of (deadly) violence is good and necessary. Yet terrorist-motivated violence from the current extreme right-wing movement is hardly used. The last time was almost five years ago, by members of Municipalities Against Protesters. They are in 2016 sentenced to years in prison under terrorism law for throwing incendiary bombs at mosque.
Possession of firearms within the far-right movement is a reality, but appears to have mainly symbolic value. For that reason, the AIVD and the Ministry of Justice intervened for a long time in the past fifteen years or at a late stage in groups preparing for an armed struggle. With the Nazi Combat 18 leader Arris de Bruin, a man with a very violent profile, werd in 2007 only occurred when trying to acquire a grenade launcher. At that time he already had a machine gun in his home, ammunition and others (fire)weapons in possession. Four years later, members of the Nazi turn out Ulfhednar even be able to practice with firearms before Justice intervenes. During this period, the large number of activists who indicate online that they want to wage an armed struggle is usually not done by the Justice Department.
In 2018 that will change. The leader of the far right Anti Terror Brigade appears to have collected two emergency pistols and a large amount of ammunition. Although he, unlike the examples from Combat 18 and Ulfhednar was not yet able to use it to use lethal force, he was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison on the basis of anti-terror law. A considerably heavier sentence than his political companions in 2007 en 2011 have got. When Fausto Lanser, a leader of Erkenbrand, on the internet suggests possessing a firearm he gets in 2018 police visit. They don't find a firearm. And an HTM security guard who made extremist verbal threats in the workplace is the same as Lanser.
The police come to visit him at home and will find it here by the way prohibited weapons and lots of ammunition. This man is condemned to a prison sentence for threat of a terrorist offense and illegal possession of firearms.
There is an extreme right-wing terrorist threat. And in specific cases that comes across as very threatening. Yet, according to the Ministry of Justice, this threat is not very concrete, while extreme right-wing stakeholders are more often confronted with a firm approach from the Ministry of Justice.
A number of DNSV members are now dealing with this. This may have the effect of halting preparations for an attack and other political violence. Perhaps this is also a daunting example for the many other young men in the Netherlands who post the same kind of expressions and exchange ideas in comparable digital groups.. It seems to have had little effect on DNSV members. After the arrests of Van Poppel and Iovanella, a period of some restraint followed, but it is temporary in nature.
Verkiezingen, PVV and FvD
The constant alarmist call from parties such as the PVV and FvD that the Netherlands is in danger of falling under immigration and Islam, gives these young people the motivation to let go of their own Nazi interpretation and to become active in a group such as the DNSV.
Should the upcoming election to the House of Representatives not bring what DNSV members expect and hope of it, a victory of the PVV and FvD, then revolutionary violence turns out to be a legitimate option for them. In this context, the DNSV talks about a coup d'état and the “shooting” of Jesse Klaver and Mark Rutte. Conducting a coup is beyond the scope of this group. The shooting of political opponents is more within reach of Julius Smits and his friends.
Update 3 January: Kay van Poppel has been sentenced to four months in prison, two of which are conditional.