On 22 January, Italian Police arrested a neo-Nazi sympathizer on terrorism-related offenses in the northwestern port city of Savona. Police also searched the houses of 12 other suspects across Italy, from Turin in the north of the country to Palermo in the south.
The man arrested, Andrea C., is currently charged with terrorist association, extremist propaganda, and incitement to commit crimes on grounds of racial discrimination with the aggravating circumstance of historical negationism (negazionismo).
This arrest originated from a previous investigation of a close friend of the suspect, a minor from Turin who joined supremacist groups. While several details of this case are not yet available at the time of writing, it is known that Andrea C., together with other young extremists, set up a neo-Nazi-inspired group, called Nuovo Ordine Sociale (“New Social Order”), with the aim of recruiting other far-right extremists (even with a questionnaire) and, according to the investigators, planning acts of violence.
Andrea C., 22, reportedly did not study or work and lived with his parents (who are not involved in the investigation) in Savona. According to media reports, he had been a model student in high school.
The suspect was very active on the Web and did not hide his far-right positions. On a very popular social network, his alleged account still shows the coat of arms of Rhodesia and the motto “Be a man among men,” a Rhodesian Army recruiting slogan. Rhodesia – a former unrecognized African state (1965-1979) under white minority rule – has become a recurrent reference among today’s white supremacists, including even terrorists. For example, Dylann Roof, the US white supremacist formally sentenced to death for the 2015 Charleston Church shooting, had shown emblems of Rhodesia online and had even set up an extremist website titled “The Last Rhodesian” before the attack.
Interestingly, Andrea C.’s account also shows a photo of the young man wearing a t-shirt of ZetaZeroAlfa, a musical band that is closely associated with the history of CasaPound Italia (CPI), the Italian neo-Fascist social movement (and political party until 2019, when its leadership decided to abandon electoral competition). However, according to the information available, the suspect never belonged to any political party and there are no indications of the involvement of Italian legal social movements or political parties in the investigation.
On the web, Andrea C. was very active in spreading extremist propaganda, against Jews, women, non-white people, and other “enemies”. Together with his underage friend, the suspect explicitly incited to a “violent revolution” against the “State occupied by Zionists”, a well-known anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, and even the physical elimination of Jews.
Andrea C. was also in contact with other extremists. In particular, in 2019 the man and his friend opened an Italian-language neo-Nazi Telegram channel, titled Sole Nero (“Black Sun”, a common neo-Nazi symbol), that had around 500 followers. This channel also disseminated an extremist manifesto in Italian, allegedly written by Andrea C.’s friend with his help. Moreover, the two friends planned to recruit people on other encrypted platforms.
According to Italian police, Andrea C. was inspired by the Nazi Waffen-SS and by AtomwaffenDivision, the small US neo-Nazi violent network. This contemporary organization, officially known as National Socialist Order since 2020, has been associated with acts of violence and criminal actions in the US and has branches in Europe as well. In the suspect’s words, “the New Social Order will become the Italian version of the Atomwaffen Division”.
On the other hand, according to currently available information, Andrea C. and his online associates apparently showed a relatively limited interest in Italian Fascism and neo-Fascism, despite the fact that neo-Fascist violence and terrorism played an important role in Italian history, especially from the 1960s to the 1980s. They instead looked for sources of inspiration abroad, especially from the US. An example of this is, among others, the reference to the so-called “Day of the Rope” (i.e. the mass lynching of “race traitors”), a white supremacist concept taken from The Turner Diaries, the highly influential racist novel written by US neo-Nazi author William L. Pierce in 1978.
Furthermore, Andrea C. celebrated various far-right terrorists as “heroes”, including Anders B. Breivik (perpetrator of the 2011 Oslo and Utøya attacks), Luca Traini (the 2018 Macerata shooting), Brenton H. Tarrant (the 2019 Christchurch shootings), Patrick Crusius (the 2019 El Paso shooting). According to investigators, the man was even interested in planning Utøya- and Christchurch-style attacks and he also made generic references to the importance of self-sacrifice. Additionally, one of his associates reportedly told him that he was “planning an attack on the synagogue of Rome”.
Interestingly, Andrea C. was also fascinated by violent subcultures and experiences that in themselves are not directly associated with political purposes. First, the suspect expressed his hatred against women on the Web and explicitly considered himself a member of the “incel” (“involuntarycelibates”) movement. He even told a friend: “We will be the first Italian incels to take action”. As is wellknown, in recent years, a few radical incels did not hesitate to plan and even carry out terrorist-type attacks in North America, such as the serious vehicle-ramming attack in Toronto on 23 April 2018. In 2020, Canadian authorities decided to treat another incel-related act of violence as a case of terrorism.
In addition, misogynistic ideas and practices tend to be widely spread among far-right extremists and even actual terrorists – such as the three European men who carried out attacks respectively in Bærum, Norway, on 10 August 2019, in Halle, Germany, on 9 October 2019, and in Hanau, Germany, on 19 February 2020.
Second, Andrea C. made a number of positive references to school mass shootings. For example, on an online chat, he reportedly mentioned the “pleasure” of participating in a potential school shooting, even at the cost of his own life; in his words, “it’s better to die with honor in a school shooting than to live a life of sh.. alone”.
The young man had a passion for weapons. Furthermore, his father legally possessed firearms in their home. As a precaution, in July 2020, the police confiscated ten hunting rifles and three pistols from his father, under the guise of an administrative problem.
For his part, during the first interrogation after the arrest, unlike his underage friend, Andrea C. reportedly said that he did not really intend to carry out acts of violence. The man will undergo psychiatric evaluation.
This case did not come as a total surprise in Italy. In recent years, national authorities conductedvariouspoliceoperations against far-right extremists. Like in other Western countries, these extremists provide valuable opportunities for information and interaction on the Web. In this regard, for example, the latest annual Report to Parliament of the Italian intelligence system noted “the emergence of an insidious neo-Nazi resurgence, favored by creeping but pervasive virtual propaganda through dedicated online platforms, used to convey supremacist, racist and xenophobic documents, images, and videos,” although “the associative dimension of this phenomenon shows low numbers” in the country. In extreme cases, words turned into real acts of violence. In particular, it can be recalled that on 3 February 2018, Luca Traini, an Italian far-right sympathizer, wounded six African immigrants with a gun in the town of Macerata.
In conclusion, the case of Andrea C. and his extremist network confirms the current process of the spread of militant far-right positions across the West, beyond old forms of narrow nationalism. Unsurprisingly, this phenomenon is strongly facilitated by the Internet, in a manner that is quite similar to jihadism. This Italian story also shows the risk of a convergence and intersection between far-right positions and non-political violent subcultures, such as the incel movement.