Steven Mark Van Zelst Jr. is by all appearances a normal 18-year-old college student. A freshman at Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, he lives in a dorm and grew up in the affluent Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square. However, antifascist researchers have recently revealed that despite Van Zelst’s pleasant façade, he is an explicitly genocidal neo-Nazi who has called for, praised, and participated in acts of violence and hate.
Known online by his pseudonyms “Vlood” and “Felix,” Van Zelst has been a member of online extremist networks for at least two years, and has recently joined the neo-Nazi Nationalist Social Club (NSC). Materials disclosed by anonymous sources and data leaks going back roughly three years reveal Van Zelst’s extreme ideology, marked by an obsession with violence, an utter lack of concern for the lives of himself or others, and an increasing willingness to act on these views.
Since at least mid-2018, Van Zelst, as Vlood, has been active in a variety of neo-Nazi chat rooms with names such as “Debate Fascism,” “National Socialist Lounge,” and “National Socialist Learning Server.” Thanks to data leaks by activist collectives such as DDoSecrets and Unicorn Riot, we are able to see archived data from these chatrooms.
In an introductory post to one chat in August 2018, a 16-year-old Van Zelst defines himself as a national socialist and names his heroes as Adolf Hitler and George Lincoln Rockwell -- the founder of the American Nazi Party.
We have also confirmed that Van Zelst is affiliated with Fashlash, a neo-Nazi accelerationist network that splintered off from the terror group Atomwaffen Division in 2018 following the murder of members Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman by another member, Devon Arthurs. The arrest of Atomwaffen's founder, Brandon Clint Russell and a contentious change in leadership also precipitated the split.
Fashlash is led in part by the recently exposed neo-Nazi flight instructor Paul Joseph Landolt of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Van Zelst also delights in sharing photos from a visit to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp he took while his family was vacationing in Europe, attempting to prove through random observations that the Holocaust did not happen.
Van Zelst confirms these posts were written by him, jokingly sharing his leaked messages in a private chat.
In 2019, he shared a much darker side of his violent worldview.
In a chat server called “Nazi Shitpost Nexion,” meant to be a general chat for memes and conversation, Vlood was one of the primary participants, even having his own channel (or subsection of the chat) titled “The Vlood Zone.”
In this chat, Van Zelst and others dedicated their conversations almost solely to talking about repulsive and often abuse-centred sexual fantasies about young women online. Many of these women, who are cosplayers or small-time internet personalities, were underage.
While Van Zelst himself was underage as well at the time, he explicitly endorsed the sexual assault of minors saying in reference to women ageing “that’s why 30-year-old men should marry 16-year-old women.”
Other users in the chat frequently shared Instagram profiles of young women and discussed their desires to sexually assault them. Not only did Van Zelst frequently engage in these conversations about sexual abuse, assault and harassment, but claims to have actively participated in these activities as well.
On at least two separate occasions, Van Zelst boasted about soliciting nude photos from young women and manipulating them into self-harm.
"She sent me nudes and then cut herself," he wrote, later saying he did not even personally know the girls.
Beside delighting in descriptions of extreme sexual violence, Van Zelst expressed violent racism and showed support for white supremacist mass shooters. Only a day after a self-described white supremacist walked into an El Paso, Texas Walmart, opening fire and killing 20 people, Van Zelst asked other neo-Nazis in the chat if any of them had a link to the racist manifesto the mass shooter released. He also took the opportunity to assert that the abolition of slavery was disastrous for America.
His bizarre and sexual obsession with underage internet personalities did not stop in there.
According to sources, Van Zelst, alongside several other neo-Nazis, helped to create a channel on the encrypted messaging app that is centred around obsessively posting about an underaged internet cosplayer, who has a large following on Instagram and TikTok. A former associate of Van Zelst, and one of the other founders of the channel is a neo-Nazi from the United Kingdom known as “Blitz”. “Blitz” is better known by his real name, Andrew Dymock, and made headlines when he was arrested and subsequently charged with 12 terror offences for his role in leading the proscribed neo-Nazi terror group Sonnenkrieg Division.
Sonnenkrieg Division was also connected to the Order of Nine Angles, a group of occultists that use Satanism and neo-Nazi beliefs to reprogram the moral code of its adherents. Under Dymock, members of SKD showed an "open interest in Satanism and the promotion of pedophilia, rape and murder. Sodomy was also a disturbing and repetitive theme," according to the UK-based Hope Not Hate. Van Zelst has never publically claimed to be an "associate" of the order, but sexual sadism, references to language and terms used by the cult, and his association with SKD's leader are all red flags.
Dymock and Van Zelst's channel, besides various images of young women, also features openly neo-Nazi imagery alongside content from Islamic extremist groups such as Hamas, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Boko Haram, who are sometimes admired by neo-Nazis for their violence, homophobia, and antisemitism. All of this is posted under the guise of being an ironic “edgy” joke, in order to invoke plausible deniability, but much of the intent of this channel appears to be only intimidation, harassment, and the spreading of neo-Nazi propaganda.
NSC and Criminal Activity
The vast majority of Van Zelst’s neo-Nazi activities seem to have taken place online until September 2020, when he joined the Nationalist Social Club. NSC is run by a longtime Boston, Massachusetts neo-Nazi named Chris Hood, and Worcester, Massachusetts neo-Nazi Zachary Brackett.
NSC operates mainly out of New England, and at its height over the summer of 2020, it had chapters in Tennessee, Indiana, Arkansas, Virginia, Arizona, and even Germany. Van Zelst began bragging to various private Telegram chats about his involvement in NSC around October 2020, and circulated a picture of himself and neo-Nazi graffiti he claims to have written with other members of NSC.
The photo has since been deleted, but was saved by researchers.
The graffiti Steven Van Zelst poses next to and presumably wrote reads “Join your local Nazis,” a phrase borrowed from the disbanded Atomwaffen Division, and is accompanied by several swastikas and an NSC tag.
This would not be the only time Van Zelst claims to have put up neo-Nazi graffiti in Massachusetts. In one chat, Van Zelst recounts an episode in November 2020 where he and two other people were stopped by police in Somerville, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, after spray painting hate messages and symbols onto a wall. Van Zelst also shared a section of a document that he redacted detailing the incident.
We have not independently confirmed this, and it is unclear where the document that Van Zelst shared originated. However, it is important to highlight Van Zelst’s willingness to turn his violent neo-Nazi ideology into real-world acts of hate and intimidation.
Steven Mark Van Zelst Jr. is not only a young man who holds extreme neo-Nazi views, but is also someone who is deeply troubled, encourages and brags of taking part in sexual violence, and translates those beliefs into real-world activism.
The fact that his actions are considered immoral and disgusting even among other committed neo-Nazis is a major red flag. Even more concerning is his claim to be living in Boston University housing. Something that would put him in very close proximity to many young people of various ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, and many who identify as LGBTQ2+.
While uniquely extreme, Van Zelst is a picture of the new generation of extreme right adherents, many of whom were radicalized on the internet at a young age.
Follow Garfield on Twitter @antifagarfield.