You are young, White, and male, proud of your European blood but not much else, and sick at the state of your country. End of a boring day, you pop a beer and fire up your laptop. Online, you come alive. Only place you can fucking speak your mind. The guys here get it. They see what is happening.
You are sick of sitting on your ass, watching the world burn. A name keeps cropping up: Patriot Front. It has a private server but also a red, white, and blue site on the world wide web, daylit and proud. Members are White men, eighteen to thirty-five, standard military range. In the videos, they stand tall and march in unison. They can have fun—one video shows them stuffed inside a U-Haul box singing “What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor”—but they are dead serious (and slightly, reassuringly awkward) when they do combat drills and practice shield walls. On weekends, they hike and climb—sometimes real mountains, sometimes billboards at night, covering communist bullshit with messages of strength and hope.
Now or never, you tell yourself, and you click Join. Relieved to finally be doing something, you start filling in boxes, glad for the double-edged instruction to speak freely but leave out anything that might identify you. In your Zoom interview, you say that America is and must be a White nation, a pure ethnostate. Black people maybe ought to leave. Immigrants, too, and degenerates, and women who defy men, and above all, the Jews, who control all the others (and all the media, and all the money).
The purging will take time. Meanwhile, the interviewer asks how tall you are, what you weigh, how often you work out. He jots down useful skills—military background, tech, outdoor survival, weapons training—and emphasizes discipline and makes you promise you can march at a rally without turning violent.
You agree that spontaneous violence would only hurt the group, but you add that you do think it will come down to violence eventually, and when nobody contradicts you, a thrill of electricity lights up your nerves. Purpose flows through you now, hot as blood. You will be part of a small but growing army, planning clandestine ops to save your nation, your race, your kids, your future. Eagerly, you click on the provided links and buy yourself the khaki Taclite Pro Performance Pants and navy Special Ops Military Tactical Soft Shell Jacket, the tan Condor Tactical Cap and combat boots, the white balaclava to hide your face.
The Story That Never Ends
“Saturday is probably best. I need to scout out the dorms to the south of the tunnel. That’s the best place to park if it isn’t riddled with cameras.”
~Randolph IL to Kyle MO in a leaked chat
Last December, four Patriot Front members snuck into a pedestrian tunnel that connects several Washington University dorms to the main campus. Its gray concrete frames a mural honoring Black political and cultural leaders as historic as Annie Malone, one of the first Black millionaires, and as recent as the late Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman. Blasting a fire extinguisher filled with white paint, the Patriot Front squad ghosted the face of civil rights leader and former U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Over the smear of white, they stamped their symbols in red. (They do this a lot. They call it “stenciling.”)
Zooming in on security-cam footage, university police identified a license plate registered to Mitchell Frederick Wagner, twenty-four years old, from Florissant, Missouri. He was assumed to be the ringleader and charged with felony property damage. A few months later, Jeff Tischauser, a senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, would piece together leaked chats, photos, and videos and identify a second man, Garret Garland of Freeburg, Illinois, as the real ringleader. Chats showed Randolph IL (Garland’s nom de guerre in Patriot Front) rounding up the other three, scouting the dorms, and choosing the date and time for the sabotage.
Wagner’s attorney, Michael Kielty, insists that Patriot Front is not a hate group. “They don’t espouse violence,” he tells the press. “They just have a different idea of how they think the country should be.”
WashU students scrubbed off the racist symbols as fast as they could, but the damage would cost $10,000 to repair. Meanwhile, the video Patriot Front made of the sabotage would be seen, liked, and shared by thousands.
The destroyed mural is titled “The Story That Never Ends.”
• • •
Thus far only Wagner has been charged (and not with a hate crime because the victim is the university, not a person of a particular race). In June, he and Garland traveled to Idaho, where they were among the thirty-one Patriot Front members who tumbled out of a U-Haul, sweaty and pumped up, riot shields at the ready. The Coeur d’Alene police were waiting, alerted by a tipster who said it had “looked like a little army was loading up” in the hotel parking lot.
All thirty-one were charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor; they had never reached the LBGTQ rally they intended to disrupt. Wagner’s attorney, Michael Kielty, insisted that Patriot Front was not a hate group. “They don’t espouse violence,” he told the press. “They just have a different idea of how they think the country should be.”
• • •
The leaked chats, phone calls, and photos that helped identify Garland came from Unicorn Riot, a not-for-profit journalists collective that has become an informal clearinghouse for infiltrators of extremist groups. This information is invaluable, but as I click through hundreds of messages, I shudder, thinking of the cold-sweat danger for those who go undercover, feigning likemindedness. Patriot Front demands constant proof of commitment, and its leader, Thomas Rousseau, has become vigilant:
General Attendance Meeting Security Breach
“We have a small team doing checks on a number of points of intelligence, but we need a larger force of verification to whittle down this list of names. Our infiltrator is hiding in this list. Of that we are certain.”
“We all safe and accounted for guys? Just got out of the lame afterparty…. Can confirm y’all are way more fun to party with…”
~Thomas Rousseau’s post after the deadly Charlottesville rally
During the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, an event members affectionately call Cville, Rousseau was one of the leaders of Vanguard America. He oversaw a group that included James Alex Fields Jr.—now serving a life sentence after ramming his car into a group of anti-racist protesters and killing thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer.
After the rally, Rousseau posted: “Took a deep breath of tear gas and stomped out rolling burning cylinders, while Alex was out there slamming commies in the face.”
He deemed the event “bad activism”—not because a young woman was mowed down, but because the jumble of swastikas and chants was chaotic, uncontrolled. Some members wanted Vanguard to become even more brazen, but Rousseau wanted to dial it back, widen the appeal. So he announced the founding of Patriot Front, named to “help inspire sympathy among those more inclined to fence-sitting.” The rebranded visuals would use a flock of eagles and American flags. “Something true Americans identify with,” as one follower put it, “and plausible deniability for us when associated with Naziism, etc.”
Patriot Front began in the wake of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, an event members affectionately call Cville.
In a video deposition after Charlottesville, Rousseau was asked to read posts on the Discord server in which he had used racial slurs for Jews and Blacks and praised Nazis. “I try not to use vulgarities anymore,” he replied.
The new group’s surfaces shines. Rousseau even banished the swastikas. But he kept the fasces—the rods bundled together so tightly that they are impossible to break— for the Patriot Front flag.
Like any symbol, the fasces is harmless in two dimensions. On a dime, it represents unity. But in ancient Rome, it symbolized the power of the state, and in 1921, it inspired Mussolini’s name for the National Fascist Party.
“If anyone asks what we are, we’re Americans, and we’re fascists,” Rousseau told PF members. “In that order exactly.”
• • •
He grew up in the Dallas suburbs. A Boy Scout whose merit badges included citizenship, emergency preparedness, rifle shooting, and shotgun shooting, he wrote at age sixteen of his determination to become an Eagle Scout and a professional writer. His real gift, though, was for caricature; one of his editorial cartoons for the Coppell High student newspaper won a national award.
Back then, according to a 2019 ProPublica profile, Tommy Rousseau was seen as a nice conservative boy who carried a Trump lunchbox, was a bit of a loner—yet mixed easily with a diverse group of 3,000 students—and loved to argue. He was also obsessed with working out, and was guessed to be smarter than his schoolwork might indicate.
With Patriot Front, that argumentative streak has only grown stronger. The emphasis on physique is a group standard. The visual ability shows in his adroit use of symbols and memes, his insistence on navy and tan “uniforms,” and his frequent aesthetic critiques (down to the use of white space in the “stencils”).
Only twenty-three years old, Rousseau has a knack for revving up his followers, giving them what they need to feel strong and right. Something their lives, until now, have failed to do. At rallies, his long hair pinned by a cowboy hat, he speaks of “ancient purity” and a “proud lineage” and envisions “history crashing down” around everybody else. “We the people” (the start of many of his sentences) “refuse to surrender our rights to our future,” he yells.
The structure is what his members have been craving. One applicant says that with Patriot Front, “he could make a difference without doing something stupid.”
Rousseau keeps a tight hold on his organization’s reins, demanding punctuality, preparation, fitness, and activity. Those who are not working out enough or losing enough weight are exposed and shamed. Street actions, pasting up flyers, participating in marches—all of that is logged on spreadsheets, and there are quotas. As for illegal activities, “things like billboards, big murals, stuff like that,” he says in a leaked phone call, “you want to be careful, you want to run it by me.”
The structure is what his members have been craving. One applicant says that with Patriot Front, “he could make a difference without doing something stupid.” Another says he wants to be with “people who can hold him accountable and make him better.” Most show up without a stellar record of academic performance or career success. In a leaked photo of a sparring drill, one guy wears a T-shirt that says “Fear the Underdogs.”
No doubt it was bought as a bitter jibe—but give him a little more training, and people just might.
Why They Join
“Biggest threat is our sovereignty, has been stolen, need it back.”
~from an applicant’s interview
Reasons given for joining Patriot Front, as reported by Randolph IL and other interviewers:
“Looking around for places to put in his time.”
“He is sick of sitting on his ass on an anime-image board watching the shills.”
“Doesn’t want to waste time on video games.”
“Tired of no action.”
“Doesn’t want to feel like he’s standing on the sidelines anymore.”
There is not enough community among White men, they say. In Patriot Front, they see “a bunch of white men standing up together unafraid,” and they want to be part of that.
“Is sick and tired seeing this world burn and wants to take action to stop it.”
“Nobody looks like him in his city.”
“Wants to find ideological allies.”
“Wants to be able to tell his kids that he tried to do something.”
Applicants want to “spend time with PF guys on the weekends,” feel “less alone,” be “part of a brotherhood that is the future of America.” There is not enough community among White men, they say. In Patriot Front, they see “a bunch of white men standing up together unafraid,” and they want to be part of that.
Nearly all mention that Patriot Front is “straightforward. Well organized. Disciplined. Very thought out,” “uniformity oriented,” “respectable and secure.” “All the guys were white and fit,” and they “look awesome marching.” Patriot Front is pronounced “more serious and substantial than the Proud Boys,” with “the best optics and ideals to strive for” and “the balls to go out and be active.” It is declared “palatable to a broader amount [sic] of Americans.”
Rousseau must read these comments with considerable satisfaction.
• • •
In photos, Randolph IL looks handsome and somber, his back as ramrod straight as any officer’s. Garret Joseph Garland was one of the star baseball players at Freeburg Community High School. His grandmother had been a teaching assistant at the Freeburg grade school, and his mother shows up as a volunteer in old editions of a Catholic parish newsletter. Now she and Garland’s father live in Belleville, Illinois, in a lovely home with arched brickwork above the windows. It is a home you can imagine filled with conversation and laughter.
Garret did not talk much growing up, though. In grade school, classmate Ty Dill remembers him as “the one that’d be in detention every single day. They’d read out the names.” The two boys went on to the same high school, played on the same team. Got along fine, Dill says. “Once you got him out of his shell a little bit, he’d talk more. But it took a while to get him out of his shell.” Girlfriends? Never. Was he moody, depressed? “Nah. I just think he really didn’t want to talk.”
Yet in Patriot Front, Garland has been chatting up a storm. “I can finally be a National Socialist,” he told a network director, exultant.
• • •
The private server URL is bloodandsoil. I kept misremembering the phrase as blood and sand, an old reference to the sand spread on the floor of the Colosseum to absorb the blood of gladiators and those thrown in to fight them. Rousseau worships ancient Rome fervently enough to fancy the allusion, but in fact, the URL refers to Blut und Boden, the Nazi ideal of a racially homogeneous homeland. Patriot Front translates that as a need for men of pure European stock to reclaim the U.S. as their secondary homeland.
Still, my mistake is accurate. The ground is shifting beneath their feet, and they feel themselves sinking.
• • •
The Jewish Question
“Sieg fucking heil! Lets fucking go! I can say that now that it’s over!”
~a Patriot Front member after a reading of the manifesto
Religion matters terribly to Patriot Front, yet it barely matters at all. Many members are devout Catholics, Lutherans or evangelical Christians, but others say they are agnostic and quite a few are Asatru or “folkish heathen,” worshipping pre-Christian Norse and Germanic gods. I doubt a Muslim or Buddhist would be welcome, but the acid test is that you need to be “JQ woke.” That means being alert to “the Jewish Question.” Which means knowing that “Jews want to see the downfall of this country.”
A Patriot Front interviewer reports an applicant’s belief that “israelies responsible, want to dumb down populis to make slave class.” (That would be “Israelis responsible, want to dumb down the populace.” Apparently they are succeeding.)
Members credit Jews with having “the power to shift the masses,” “control the media,” control the banks, summon immigrants, subvert American democracy, “rule over humanity and bring about the end times.” The biggest threats to this country are communism and media, they say, and Jews control both. “Jews want foreign immigration to replace whites and give themselves protective status.” “Jews commit usury, this is why we go to war.” “Jews…should be exiled. Fascism is the opposite of Satanic Bolshevism.”
They do not want to feed into “the crazy mouth-foaming Nazi stereotype.” They want to be positive. “The world already understands what quote-unquote Nazis dislike. They don’t understand what we do like.”
Periodically, Rousseau throws a little cold water. “This is not Germany, this is not the 1930s,” he once scolded. “Get a grip on the fact that we’re activists, not re-enactors trying to scratch some self-indulgent itch for a political fantasy.”
When rank-and-file members grumble that the group is not publicly antisemitic enough, a higher-up says the restraint is deliberate. They do not want to feed into “the crazy mouth-foaming Nazi stereotype.” They want to be positive. “The world already understands what quote-unquote Nazis dislike. They don’t understand what we do like.”
Someone points out that even if Jews disappeared, you would still have a bunch of White people who did not understand their heritage.
Someone else says that if all the Jews disappeared, “it would be a very good start.”
• • •
I keep quoting the transcripts to my (Jewish) husband and friends. I am like a consumptive spitting blood into a Kleenex every few minutes, trying to get that rusted tang out of my mouth. I smirk at their twisted logic, but soon I have none: all I want to do is scream at them and throw glass.
Years ago, I had an editor with a lot of social worker in him, and he was always nervous about giving ink to hate groups. When an activist complains about the shallow, brief coverage the media give to Patriot Front, I ask if he thinks editors are wary of donating free publicity to their cause.
He shrugs. “I think we need to know where the Nazis are.”
• • •
Twenty hours into the leaked chats, I am dizzy and confused. “Why do White supremacists think they are fighting communism, and what does that have to do with Jews?” I ask David Cunningham, chair of sociology at Washington University.
Today, you have U.S. hate groups calling themselves Nazbols (a political movement that fuses elements of radical nationalism and Bolshevism) and Russia pretending to bomb Nazis in Ukraine, and none of it has to make sense.
He tries to explain “the matrix that incorporates anticommunism, racism, and antisemitism,” and how ideology and paranoia glue all that together. Two contemporary examples: first, the sense that antiracist efforts are traitorous because they are part of a communist conspiracy to undermine America. Second, the suspicion that “such plots are not engineered by people of color (who, in a White supremacist worldview, are seen as inferior and incapable of designing such complex conspiracies) but by a global network of Jews who are manipulatively pulling the strings behind the scenes.” By moving through a fear of communism to racial bigotry and then antisemitism, the ideology links up neatly with Nazism.
Now to the historic example: an old bit of war propaganda about “Jewish Bolshevism” that set the stage for the current histrionics. Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg whispered that it was Russia’s Aryan-blooded citizens who had made Russia great and the Jews revolted against them, starting the Russian Revolution and moving on to dominate communist movements around the world. Hitler picked up on Rosenberg’s phrase right away, declaring that the Nazi mission was to destroy “Jewish Bolshevism.”
Today, you have U.S. hate groups calling themselves Nazbols (a movement fusing elements of radical nationalism and Bolshevism) and Russia pretending to bomb Nazis in Ukraine, and none of it has to make sense.
• • •
Patriot Front’s logic twists to meet its own ends.
“You have to be European to be American,” members insist, and then they complain that “too many foreigners have diluted the national spirit.” “A White Nation should stay a White Nation,” they say. (Should a red one have stayed red?) “Genocide is immoral but conquering can be justified.”
The fascist antisemitism forgets that many of the Italians in Mussolini’s Fascist Party were Jewish—as was Margherita Sarfatti, the mistress who influenced his policies. As for worshipping ancient Rome, they forget that its empire was wildly multicultural and mixed-race.
One applicant said he “wasn’t ‘racist’ but wanted a homogeneous society.” Another, asked if he was okay working alongside people of other faiths, responded, “When the Jews turned against Jesus, they never stopped doing so. They have been at the center of every evil revolutionary position. No problem working with others.”
• • •
Vicious hatred of Jews does not preclude hostility toward those who are Black, Hispanic, recent immigrants, or refugees. Patriot Front members talk a lot about Whites “becoming second-class citizens in their own country.” They are terrified of being “replaced” at the top of the heap; of becoming a minority. (This does seem logical, given their attitudes toward minorities.)
Applicants volunteer reasons they feel maligned: being treated poorly by nonwhite students at trade school; seeing bosses value Blacks more highly; watching Mexican coworkers speak Spanish to one another and “hang with their own.” (White guys would never do that.)
Their solution to these petty slights? “Would be in favor of segregation or some sort of separation.” “It’s clear that the races are not supposed to live together.” “Africans should probably go back.” “Blacks have been in America for 100s of years but still cannot adapt.”
“To some extent, Patriot Front is a response to Black Lives Matter,” notes Chris Schiano, one of the journalists in Unicorn Riot. “But they believe those people are controlled by the Jews.”
• • •
As I write this, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has just attended the America First Political Action Conference, as did Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona in 2021. Organized by White nationalist Nick Fuentes, AFPAC does not hide its stance. This year’s crowd cheered Vladimir Putin and approved comparisons of Putin and Hitler.
Jason Stanley, who holds a distinguished professorship in philosophy at Yale University, is in Vienna warning the Europeans that they should be “Preparing for a Fascist America.” The author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, Stanley sees racist, undemocratic impulses being normalized as “true national consciousness.” White replacement theory, he says, is fascism’s new name.
What Brought Them to This?
“The attack on white children and the disarming of white people threatens our existence.”
~a Patriot Front member explaining his motivation
When applicants state their ideology, the answers cluster in three nearly interchangeable categories: White nationalist, national socialist, fascist. They are cheerful about the inconsistencies: “Doesn’t matter how the state is organized, as long as it serves the Blood of white people.”
When they explain the journey that brought them to this point, though, lines shoot off in every direction. One guy said his “dad was a democrat. went hunting with a friend. thought republicans were cool because they also hunt. became a ‘shitlib.’ voted for obama. went into a union. voted for jill stein during 2016. liked what trump was saying. redpill moment was a ben shapiro video on transgenders.”
Does he know Ben Shapiro is Jewish?
Quite a few of these guys were Trump fans who became disenchanted because Trump “supported Israel,” “didn’t do anything” for White people, “became more open borders and put the blue-collar worker to the back of the bus.” Now, they see him as “a distraction from what America needs.”
Naively, I figured members would be law-and-order types, appreciating, if nothing else, the blunt force behind the military and the police. But those who did military service wound up disillusioned, and when one member received a phone call fundraising for the police, he replied, “I do not support the police they are system pigs policing this technofuturistic shithole into existence. Have a nice day though.”
Bitterness seeps through almost every discussion. One member “started out with the American dream but realized everything has been outsourced and no way to raise a family. Nationalism gives him hope.”
“The nationalist movement is growing,” another observes with satisfaction. “The GOP is going far left, which drives people to nationalism….[and] Patriot Front makes nationalism look cool.”
• • •
Favorite music: National Socialist black metal, also known as NSBM, Aryan black metal, and Neo-Nazi black metal. “Nearly every man in the ‘movement’ has shared this vibe,” a seasoned Patriot Front member tells a new enthusiast.
Favorite book: Mein Kampf. Many applicants insist they have read it, which is quite a feat because setting the ideas aside, the prose is, in the words of a recent translator, “an incoherent soup.” Many have also read The Turner Diaries, in which a second revolution leads to a race war in the U.S., and the autobiography of George Lincoln Rockwell, who brought Nazism to the U.S. political landscape.
Heroes: They refer to Rockwell by his monogram, GLR. They also admire David Lane, a White supremacist famous for fourteen words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” Also frequently named: George Patton (“He saw that we fought the wrong enemy”) and Andrew Jackson, who complained that the northeastern elite had taken over the country and wanted to seize it back for ordinary Americans.
Who They Despise: “Marx (not American)” reads a cryptic entry that could either mean that Karl Marx’s philosophy was incompatible with capitalism or that he was not Groucho. “Soros (Hungarian Jew).” “FDR. He betrayed the Germans.” “FDR…very Jewish cabinet.” “The Rockefellers.” Almost unanimously: Martin Luther King Jr., who “took the masses and made them agree with Marxism. Had a dream that everyone would get along. Got rid of our culture and people through race-mixing.” “He was funded and promoted by communists,” “built up as a hero but another commie shill” who was “making people feel entitled.”
• • •
If anybody feels entitled, it is these guys. Young White males disinherited when their race and gender were deposed, they have raised a small army to seize power again. For this to be a pure ethnostate (their goal), White European males must rule. “Civnat” (civic nationalism, the founders’ notion that the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights could provide a foundation for people of all creeds and colors to unite as one nation) is impossible. Only blood is strong enough to unite people.
The United States of America was a grand experiment, but it is fast devolving into factions. An awful lot of human beings still only feel comfortable living and working with those they perceive (in an immediate, superficial calculus) as being just like them.
Are they right about that much? Should we all split into tiny individual nations, like with like? When filming Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston “noticed that the humans would tend to eat together, and not only did the apes eat by themselves, but the gorillas would eat with gorillas and the chimpanzees with chimpanzees. They did it instinctively.”
The tendency worries me. The United States of America was a grand experiment, but it is fast devolving into factions. An awful lot of human beings still only feel comfortable living and working with those they perceive (in an immediate, superficial calculus) as being just like them.
Sad as that is, though, chimpanzees eating lunch together is not the core problem. The reason we are devolving is that hatred is being hurled like lightning bolts by people who cannot even accept someone different from them as being equal.
Petty arrogance is not the necessary end of a grand experiment. It is human nature at its scared worst.
• • •
Nearly all cultures have defined a man’s traditional role as protecting, providing, and procreating. Protecting is tough, though, when the danger comes from invisible viruses, impenetrable technologies, alien value systems, or increasingly destructive storms, floods, and fires. A man can solve none of that with a cocked rifle. Providing? The jobs men used to count on as solid, respectable livelihoods even without a college degree have been sent overseas. As for procreating, first birth control changed the dynamics, and now (though the advantage is debatable) a woman can buy sperm from a lab, make her own baby, and earn enough money to raise the child alone.
Not sure how to prove their manhood, some are latching on to groups that promise them it is their right to be protector, provider, and procreator. Their wife should bear the kids and stay home to mother them. The men will band together and protect the whole goddamned country.
These are men for whom babymaking is a military strategy. One says that Owen Benjamin (an alt-right internet personality and racist comedian) taught him about the importance of not masturbating, of starting families instead.
The cause of the Roman Empire’s decline was moral degeneracy, Patriot Front members say (forgetting the small details of civil wars and foreign invasions), and they see the same dissolute state in the United States today. “Women are given too much authority.” “The man should be working and the woman should be home.” “Ideal family structure is father over mother and mother over children.” A long list of aberrations is destroying the family: homosexuality, promiscuity, porn. “Trans is a sick joke.” “Working man and a humble woman and children is the ideal family structure. Today Men are fat and lazy and women don’t have children.”
These are men for whom babymaking is a military strategy. One says that Owen Benjamin (an alt-right internet personality and racist comedian) taught him about the importance of not masturbating, of starting families instead. “Ideal family structure is a biological man and woman having as many kids as possible,” another says. “Husband Wife and 9 kids (the more the better). Dad works. Mom raises children.”
But to have the sort of family they want, they need the lives their parents had—the perks and certainties, the earning power, the stability—and all of that is gone. Randolph IL reports that one applicant “feels like an alien, grew up in a traditional family, tried to do the same for his family but feels helpless, its a lot harder.”
Concern about the displacement of men stretches far outside Patriot Front’s bounds. It shows in a wider concern about the absence of Black fathers, the absence of men among college undergraduates, the growing failure rate of boys in school. The causes are complex, and the answer is not reversion.
To Patriot Front, though, all this is somehow the fault of Blacks and Jews. How did they get there? Schiano has pored over thousands of leaked documents, and he is pretty sure most of these guys did not grow up hearing antisemitism at all. Some became “J woke” in the military, some through conversations online. When they discovered Nazi precepts, they seized upon them, and Schiano thinks the reason is shockingly simple: “It provides an overarching explanation for everything.”
How Dangerous Are They?
“The nation will see the thin veneer of civilization begin to wane, as resources are diverted from them to the replacement population.”
~from the Patriot Front manifesto
Patriot Front’s numbers are still relatively small, which is another reason the members mask up: “We can make them feel as if there are thousands of us,” a member from New York explains. “Next time they are at the CVS and see a kid with a neat haircut, it could be us. Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all.”
Like Mussolini’s squadrismo (militias organized to spread terror), Patriot Front has a deliberate paramilitary feel. More than a few members have backgrounds in the U.S. Marine Corps or Army Rangers, and at least one is still contracted with Homeland Security. Each man is taught to be an essential part of a larger, stronger whole. He must demonstrate his strength in full view of others, a man among men, fearless (or at least faking it).
What chills me is not their posturing, the uniforms and drills and camping trips, but their assumption that large-scale violence is inevitable.
“Does not believe violence makes sense to use right now,” reads one of many such reports. “Believes violent attacks right now would be self destructive right now. Because we cannot exact punishment without destruction right now we cannot be violent, but the elite in charge does deserve punishment.” Just not right now.
Each man is taught to be an essential part of a larger, stronger whole. He must demonstrate his strength in full view of others, a man among men, fearless (or at least faking it).
“The nation will see the thin veneer of civilization begin to wane,” Rousseau’s manifesto predicts, “as resources are diverted from them to the replacement population.”
One applicant had originally thought to join the Atomwaffen Division, an international neo-Nazi terrorist organization. He told Patriot Front that in the end, he did not agree with their methods, “but does think it will come down to violence eventually.”
After a White man killed twenty-two people, mostly Latinos, in El Paso, Texas, a Patriot Front member wrote that “it shouldn’t be hard to believe that the group facing the harshest oppression from our ruling elite are producing shooters. White men are being slowly destroyed in a way calculated to produce resentment and a sense of helplessness. Of course, some of them decide to lash out.”
That is Rousseau’s nightmare, an infiltrator says. Turns out he is far more worried about his own members than about the covert Jewish black ops he rants about. “Thomas’s biggest fear is someone doing something crazy” that would end the group.
He agrees, for now, with White supremacist Jared Taylor: “You don’t have to be the great Aryan warrior pumping your chest, not from the start…. Get an education, make a family, establish yourselves and make money for our movement….. Increasingly, as the shrillness of the attacks on whites surmounts, it’ll be more and more possible for white people to apply for local office…county commissioner, city council, schools.”
The framework will be in place.
• • •
Members go to College Republican meetings, keep an eye out for “fashy haircuts,” talk about how being a straight White male makes you an enemy. They cover up billboards—in Houston, they hid an FBI message about how to report a hate crime under “Reclaim America.” They especially like to paste flyers around historically Black campuses—but why? It cannot be to convert; is it only to terrorize?
Yeah, Tischauser says, and also to get the publicity that might bring them recruits or donations.
“They are not really converting anyone,” Schiano points out. “Patriot Front is only interested in reaching ‘our guys.’ They want to recruit and professionalize people who are already part of this online far-right ecosystem. It’s Oh, okay, you are one of us? This is what us does.”
In the first half of 2022, Tischauer says, Patriot Front posted eight times as much propaganda as it posted in the same period last year. In March and April, members reported 1,721 actions (about 28 per day) across 46 states (not including illegal acts of sabotage).
Destroy murals that celebrate Black accomplishments, LGBTQ pride, Hmong culture, Mexican-American culture. Trash memorials to victims of violence against Blacks and a community memorial to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Disrupt civil-rights rallies. Disrupt civil rights.
In the first half of 2022, Tischauer says, Patriot Front posted eight times as much propaganda as it posted in the same period last year. In March and April, members reported 1,721 actions (about 28 per day) across 46 states (not including illegal acts of sabotage). On July 3, they marched on Philadelphia’s Freedom Trail, because “the wills of the men whose names were first affixed to the documents that would shape a prosperous nation have long since been absent in the streets.” On the Fourth of July, they marched in Boston. Wearing his customary cowboy hat, Rousseau stood at the historic site of the Boston Massacre and vowed “to defend virtue without compromise.”
But what if compromise is a virtue?
• • •
One of many neo-Nazi groups, Patriot Front is hardly novel. It echoes the German American Bund, the 1936 successor to the Friends of New Germany. Only Americans of German descent were allowed to join, and they dressed uniformly, organized into districts, set up training camps, held rallies animated by antisemitism, waved the German flag and Nazi insignia about, and declared George Washington the first fascist. The Bund fizzled out within five years: first its leader was convicted of embezzlement, and then the U.S. government declared the organization illegal.
Patriot Front could have a different trajectory.
Study the radicalization of its members, and you will see firsthand the power of the internet. “These are young men whose identity was mostly online,” notes Schiano. “The online subculture is the common denominator.” Before they went online, they were drifting, and before they found Patriot Front, they were passive, digital hate sloshing over them in great waves from Discord, The Daily Stormer, Fascifist, Goyim TV, Dissident Homeschool, Western Chauvinist, Enjoy the Decline, Fascist Fitness, The Furgen, Sons of Columbia….
More than one applicant followed the path the Southern Poverty Law Center warns parents about: teenagers eased into hate by edgy online jokes and memes. “Found his way onto /pol/,” an interviewer writes, “thought they were funny. Eventually he realized it wasn’t a meme and these things were true, the world was shit. It drove him crazy.” Others “went to uncensored areas online and awoke to the truth of national socialism.” Several found likeminded guys while playing video games: “Lots of White Nationalists in those crowds who are J woke.”
Rousseau set out to operationalize all this passive hatred. His followers are spreading propaganda, rebranding old hate, and bonding over their shared, seething resentment. But if they want to create a White, European “nation within a nation” here, they will need a far more sophisticated grasp of reality. And their own biases, their wounded egos and confusion, stand in the way.
More than one applicant followed the path the Southern Poverty Law Center warns parents about: teenagers eased into hate by edgy online jokes and memes.
“People who think ‘the Jews’ run the banks lose the ability to understand, much less to operate financial systems,” points out foreign policy scholar Walter Russell Mead. “People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate business through hidden structures can’t build or long maintain a successful modern economy. People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate politics lose their ability to interpret political events, to diagnose social evils and to organize effectively for positive change.”
Patriot Front’s members are hardly positioned to reclaim America. All they can do is sledge a few more cracks into its foundation.
Note: Many of the leaked interview reports can be found at this link.
Read more by Jeannette Cooperman here.