SAN ANTONIO: AtomWaffen Member Charged with Possession of Child Pornography

By Mike Talavera and Steve Bingham

Last week, neo-Nazi Benjamin Bogard was brought to court in San Antonio, Texas, for possessing child pornography after images were discovered on his phone and computer when he consented to a search by the FBI earlier this month. The federal agents were responding to a crime-stoppers tip about Bogard’s Instagram account where he had displayed fascist rhetoric and made threats of mass violence.

The 20-year-old Bogard had dropped out of school last fall and bought a van and a shotgun. He later posted a video on Instagram of himself firing that shotgun wearing the skull mask associated with the neo-Nazi terrorist group the AtomWaffen Division (AWD), which has been linked to several murders and has an estimated 20 cells around the country.

The alleged AWD leader, John Cameron Denton, lives outside of Houston, and the group has a strong presence in Texas in general, including a cell in San Antonio near Bogard’s home of New Braunfels. After the 2016 nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, suspected San Antonio AWD member Stephen Billingsley had protested a vigil wearing a skull mask and holding a sign which read, “God Hates Fags.”

The group takes its ideology from the 1980s writings of the National Socialist Liberation Front, which have since been collected into a book titled “Siege.” Authored mostly by neo-Nazi James Mason, the book advocates for a decentralized organization conducting isolated terrorist attacks against civilians and infrastructure in order to overthrow the US government.

Like Bogard, Mason was also prosecuted for pedophilia, charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in 1994. According to AWD’s encrypted chat logs uncovered by a ProPublica investigation, the group harbors and promotes deep misogynistic and in general anti-people attitudes, including towards children.

Fascism, perversion and reactionary violence have always gone hand-in-hand. Fascists are fervently anti-masses. Their ideology is a reflection of the decrepit old state. Their ideology welcomes and nurtures their anti-people ideas and behavior.

At Bogard’s defense hearing, his lawyers claimed that he was a mere “edgelord” who was simply out for attention. Bogard’s father, ex-Air Force, displayed the pinnacle of credulity when he called Benjamin a “good kid” and said of his son’s own military ambitions that “he didn’t want a job where he would have to kill people.”

The efforts to de-fang the allegations against Bogard are typical of the way that fascism is swept under the rug in US society, taken as a joke or even a cry for help, and never taken seriously until its fatal consequences are felt.

The broader alt-right movement has grown out of the pseudo-ironic discourse of anonymized online forums, and its recruitment techniques bear the birthmarks of that origin. The so-called irony of most of today’s fascist propaganda is a cover used to smokescreen its reactionary political agenda.

A far-right pole in the US fascist movement, AWD is less ironic about its goals than other alt-right groups. “We want men who are willing to be the boots on the ground. Joining us means serious dedication not only to the AtomWaffen Division and its members, but to the goal of Total Aryan Victory,” an anonymous AWD recruiter said in the chat logs.

Bogard’s Instagram posts may have been depicted as virtually innocuous by his defense lawyers, but his social media endorsement of fascism is in line with AWD’s greater strategy.

Two weeks after AWD member Sam Woodward murdered Blaze Bernstein in 2018, Texas AWD cell leader Sean Michael Fernandez wrote in the chat logs, “We’re only going to inspire more ‘copycat crimes’ in the name of AWD. All we have to do is spread our image and our propaganda.”

Since that murder last year, AWD has inspired an offshoot neo-Nazi cell in the UK known as the Sonnenkrieg Division. In addition to having made terrorist threats, the group has also taken footage, uncovered by police, of its male members torturing women supporters.

At the conclusion of Bogard’s detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad had decided to release Bogard on $75,000 bond, but Senior US District Judge David Ezra blocked that order late this past Monday, keeping Bogard behind bars until a March 6 appeal.

The outcome of Bogard’s case is unclear, but what is abundantly clear is that the fascist threat posed by AWD and other organizations like the Rise Above Movement cannot and will not be stopped by the bourgeois state. It will take a serious and militant antifascist movement prepared to confront this scum of the earth by any means necessary.

The US antifascist movement must divorce itself from the spontaneous, laissez-faire strategy of the recent past where being an antifascist only meant throwing on a mask to occasionally go to a big protest.

Antifascism must come only to mean hierarchically-organized paramilitary units devoting themselves in serving the masses selflessly and courageously. Antifascists should train daily, collectively, in preparation not only to fight back against creeps like Bogart but in devoting their entire lives to the militarized Communist Party, the Red Army and the New State.

This rectification of the antifascist movement must include, above all else, subordination to Communist leadership as part of the greater movement to reconstitute the Communist Party. Women fighters will constitute a reckoning force against these fascist misogynists. The bravado of AWD and its fascist allies will quickly fall when up against the storm of the masses and organized and militant antifascists under the leadership of the Communist Party.