ANTHONY CRIDER VIA FLICKR
The white supremacist and neo-Nazi online forum Iron March was hacked on Nov. 6, revealing private information of hundreds of former users. Among the extremists exposed by the leak was a user who claimed that they attended Fordham University.
The site, which was active from 2011 to November 2017, had stored information from previous users in an online cache, like most websites. An anonymous hacker by the name of “antifa-data” was able to uncover the site’s database, exposing over a thousand users’ email addresses, usernames, IP addresses, forum posts and direct messages.
One user posted “I go to Fordham and I’m infosci” on the forum. From the leaked information, The Observer was able to connect the post to an account operating under the pseudonym “The Captain” and compile a full profile on the account.
Iron March described itself as a fascist social network that attracted disenfranchised members of the white supremacist community. The forum promoted extremist ideology and disgust toward more mainstream white supremacists and alt-right movements. It is akin to 4chan, 8chan, 4plebs and other similar sites that are often criticized for permitting alt-right content to be posted.
Users believe in “crushing the system,” which, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), includes the local and federal government, law enforcement and modern Western society, which Iron March users believed threatened white existence.
The Captain joined Iron March in early 2017, when he introduced himself as a 20-year-old male attending a university in New York.
He wrote, “I got into the whole movement at around age 15 when I discovered the Stormfront forums.” The Stormfront forums are one of the oldest white-supremacist, neo-Nazi internet forums; it was founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader Don Black in 1996.
The Captain remained active on the forum for the next year and reached out to multiple members asking about an Iron March local chapter, as he hoped to “meet like-minded people.”
Throughout his messaging with other Iron March users, he used anti-Semitic and homophobic language. He maintained the same discriminatory rhetoric when mentioning his classmates at his university.
Iron March endorsed violent tactics and has been linked to numerous murders and terrorist activity both in the United States and around the world. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that in 2017 Iron March supported at least nine fascist groups in countries including Australia, Serbia and Ukraine.
The ADL cites Iron March as key to the formation of Atomwaffen, a white-supremacist group that is preparing for a race war and is active in the United States today. Atomwaffen has also been linked to at least five murders in the U.S.
At least one Iron March user was also confirmed to be at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. The protest, which advocated for white supremacy and neo-Nazism, led to violent clashes between counter-protesters and cost activist Heather Heyer her life.
Increasingly, social media is seen as a platform for extremist organizations to target and recruit younger members for their cause. Earlier this year, writer Joanna Schronder spoke to CNN about how she felt her teenage sons were actively being desensitized to white supremacy and neo-Nazi propaganda online.
“I’ve been watching my boys’ online behavior & noticed that social media and vloggers are actively laying groundwork in white teens to turn them into alt-right/white supremacists,” wrote Schronder in a viral tweet.
A study by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism saw a 600% increase in followers of American white nationalist-affiliated movements on Twitter between 2012 and 2016. During that same time period, reports from the FBI show that hate crimes in the U.S. also increased and were reported as being more violent.
Fordham’s own campuses were not exempt from that national trend. On Nov. 20, Fordham’s Public Safety reported that a Star of David was torn and destroyed from the Campus Ministry board. In October 2018, a swastika was found scrawled into a Rose Hill desk. Two other swastikas have also been found around the Rose Hill campus since 2015 — one in a residence hall and one in a Tierney Hall bathroom.
A photo of multiple Fordham students holding a Kekistan flag, a symbol that is widely associated with white supremacy and neo-Nazism and considered a homage to the 1930s Nazi flag, also circulated Fordham campuses in March 2018. The students pictured claim that they think of the flag as a satirical protest against politically correct culture and not as a symbol of Nazism.
Like Schronder, many experts have also suggested that online extremism like the content on Iron March might be responsible for the surge in hate crimes. Recruitment for white supremacist organizations increased by 77% from 2017 to 2018 academic years on college campuses, the ADL reported.
The Observer was not able to verify the identity of the Captain from the information obtained from the data leak, and cannot confirm that the user actually ever attended Fordham University. Bob Howe, assistant vice president for communications, stated that the university has not been able to confirm the person’s identity and if they ever attended Fordham either.
However, Jewish Worker, a publication with a self-declared left-wing Jewish perspective, created a website with an interactive map depicting Iron March users’ locations. That website shows that The Captain used Fordham University’s network to connect to Iron March at least seven times throughout 2017.
Although it is not confirmed if the Captain ever actually was a Fordham student, Howe stated that “neo-Nazi behavior is not tolerated at Fordham and members of our community found in violation of the code of conduct will face consequences.”
The Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J. has written the Fordham community before expressing that “the white supremacy Nazi ideology is the antithesis of what we believe and practice as a Jesuit university.”
Jordan Meltzer contributed additional reporting to this article.