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USA: The far right: One in five applicants to white supremacist group tied to US military

Sunday 13 February 2022, by siawi3

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/09/white-supremacist-group-patriot-front-one-in-five-applicants-tied-to-us-military

The far right: One in five applicants to white supremacist group tied to US military

Wednesday 9 February 2022,

by Maya YANG

Leaked documents show that about 18 out of 87 applicants, or 21%, to Patriot Front were currently or formerly affiliated with military

One in five applicants to the white supremacist group Patriot Front claimed to hold current or former ties to the US military, according to leaked documents published and reviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and alternative media collective Unicorn Riot.

Some 18 out of the 87 applicants, or 21%, said they were currently or previously affiliated with the military. One applicant, who claimed to be a former Marine, also said he currently worked for the Department of Homeland Security, according to the SPLC’s Hatewatch, a blog that tracks and exposes activities of American rightwing extremists.

A white supremacist and neo-fascist hate group, Patriot Front emerged as a rebrand of the neo-Nazi organization Vanguard America in the aftermath of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

According to the SPLC, the Patriot Front “represents one of the most prominent white supremacist groups in the country” and is led by Thomas Rousseau, a 23-year old man based in Dallas, Texas. “A nation within a nation is our goal. Our people face complete annihilation as our culture and heritage are attacked from all sides,” Rousseau once said.

In January, Unicorn Riot published over 400 gigabytes of data that included “ostensibly private, unedited videos and direct messages [that] reveal a campaign to organize acts of hatred while indoctrinating teenagers into national socialism (Nazism),” the journalist collective said.

Group members and applicants expressed an open admiration for Nazi ideologies, with the latter expressing various motivations for joining the group.

One applicant, who said he lived in San Diego, claimed to be a current DHS employee and told Patriot Front he was inspired to join after he “found out about the Jews while in the marines”.

Another applicant used derogatory language about LGBTQ+ people and said he “first saw” them during his time in the military.

Someone else from Salt Lake City said he “shifted focus and questioned things” after his second deployment and went from being a Republican to joining the far right.

Applicants also touted their various skill sets, including “great land-navigation, great physical fitness, able to clear rooms” and “basic medical training”. Others said they had been “trained in firearms”. One claimed to train people in “marine corps martial arts” and said he was the leader of the Kansas Active Club, an affiliate of the Rise Above Movement, a Southern California-based SPLC-designated hate group.

In addition to alleged military affiliations, the leak also revealed that the group targets minors. According to Unicorn Riot, Patriot Front recruits “members through the internet who are still legally minors, indoctrinating them with white supremacist ideology and even encouraging them to lie to their parents so the group can transport them across state lines for fascist events”.

Patriot Front’s official policies require members to be at least 17 and a half years old, but it “goes by a case by case basis” with certain members being below that age.

In the past year, there has been growing concern surrounding the far-right radicalization of current and former military members. More than 80 defendants charged for their affiliation with the deadly January 6 riots have been found to have ties to the military, with most being veterans.

Last March, the Pentagon released a report that cited domestic extremist groups posing an increasing threat to the military by attempting to recruit service members and in certain situations join the military to gain combat experience.

“Military members are highly prized by these groups as they bring legitimacy to their causes and enhance their ability to carry out attacks,” the report said. “In addition to potential violence, white supremacy and white nationalism pose a threat to the good order and discipline within the military,” it added.

In October, a House panel convened to discuss ways to address veterans being increasingly targeted for recruitment by extremist groups.

“They provide them with a tribe, a simplistic view of the world and its problems, actionable solutions and a sense of purpose, and then they feed these vulnerable individuals a concoction of lies and an unrelenting narrative of political and social grievance,” retired Marine Lt Col Joe Plenzler said at the panel.

A study last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that in 2020, 6.4% of all domestic terror attacks and plots were committed by active-duty or reserve personnel, up from 1.5% in 2019 and none in 2018.