A data leak of internal communications for the explicitly fascist group Patriot Front published by Unicorn Riot last month did more than simply expose its members to public identification on social media—though that has been happening apace, much to the chagrin of both the people whose identities have been revealed as well as those who haven’t but are in line to be.
Most of all, it opened a window into the world of these young, white male extremists, and how they are working to establish their organization within the American body politic. Besides revealing embarrassing personal details such as their porn habits and the amateurish combat “training” sessions for members, it also gave researchers a clear view of their recruitment methods and targets, as well as the breadth of their reach within the mainstream—including the military.
The leak—published by Unicorn Riot, a journalism collective focused on right-wing extremism—featured thousands of pages of internal conversations within some 400 gigabytes of data. This data originated on Patriot Front’s internal Rocket.Chat boards for members and prospective recruits.
The portrait that emerges, as Gizmodo observes, is of an organization “highly focused on the recruitment of ardent nationalists and segregationists, and of Hitler-worshiping fascists who’ve grown tired of concealing fantasies of enacting his Final Solution.”
Patriot Front grew out of the now-defunct neofascist Iron March online forum, which spawned a range of violent neo-Nazi offshoots, from the murderous Atomwaffen Division and the domestic terrorist group “The Base“ to the West Coast-based Rise Above Movement, to the Vanguard America organization. That organization marched at Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, where one of its members, James Alex Fields, mowed down an antifascist counterprotester, Heather Heyer, with his car afterward.
Patriot Front’s founder, Thomas Rousseau, was photographed standing with Fields and other Vanguard America marchers. He was a Vanguard America member at the time. However, Patriot Front grew out of a desire to reorganize and dedicate white supremacists after Charlottesville, with an open embrace of fascism along the way.
One of Patriot Front’s fliers—its primary recruitment tactic—reads “Fascism: The Next Step for America.” Its manifesto declares: “Our national way of life faces complete annihilation as our culture and heritage are attacked from all sides.”
A report examining the data from Megan Squire, Jeff Tischauer, and Michael Edison Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center found that one in five of the young men applying to join Patriot Front have ties to the U.S. military. Of the 87 applicants on the chat, 18 of them (21%) claimed to have current or former military experience; one of these, claiming to be an ex-Marine, told the chat that he is currently employed by the Department of Homeland Security.
The chats showed that the applicants were drawn to the organization for a variety of reasons:
The Patriot Front applicants, listed by number, who claimed ties to the military expressed a variety of motivations for seeking entrance to the group. Applicant 441215, who said he lived in San Diego and served as a former Marine and current DHS employee, told Patriot Front that he “found out about the Jews while in the marines.” … Applicant 252979, who claimed to be a member of the Army Reserve, used derogatory language about LBGTQ people and stated he “first saw” them while in the military. Applicant 681985 claimed to have served in the military from 2005 to 2013 and live in Salt Lake City. He said that he started as a Republican, but after his first deployment he started watching Alex Jones and entertaining conspiracies related to 9/11. After his second deployment, he said he “shifted focus and questioned things” while becoming a national socialist.
As we’ve explored recently, one of the primary dangers of commingling far-right extremism with military service is that the people who by training and nature are skilled at handling weapons and materials and are knowledgeable about engagement tactics are being radicalized into their seditionist extremism, the kind we saw on display at the Jan. 6 insurrection. The chats revealed this danger explicitly: One applicant who claimed to have served as an Army Ranger listed “great land-navigation, great physical fitness, able to clear rooms” as well as “basic medical training” as skills he would bring to Patriot Front.
Another applicant boasted of experience in “Marine martial arts,” adding that he had been “trained in firearms.” Others claimed they had worked in military intelligence, had backgrounds in computer networking and programming, and were conversant in signals intelligence. One who said he was an ex-Marine claimed to be a leader of a hate group, the Kansas Active Club.
Rousseau and senior members called “network directors” oversaw the chats, organized by region. They organized real-world “actions” in the chatrooms, such as pasting propaganda stickers and fliers around the downtown areas of cities where they lived, as well as hoisting banners with their slogans and logo over freeways on overpasses.
The “actions,” as Gizmodo notes, included a number of criminal acts of vandalism, such as defacing memorials, statues, and murals in highly public places. These included a memorial to George Floyd in New York City, as well as other works of public art that provoked their ire, such as a mural supporting Black Lives Matter in Olympia, Washington, and depictions of Black heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman.
They also clearly believed they could do so with impunity. “As our recent actions have shown we can walk down busy avenues at prime time in Seattle and deface the largest most well protected mural in shitlib Olympia without so much as being accosted once,” one member who apparently participated in the Olympia vandalization wrote.
Most recently, on Jan. 21, Patriot Front organized a march in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the anti-abortion “March For Life.” About 40 of them formed a phalanx that eventually was forced to separate from the main crowd by counterprotesters and police.
Unicorn Riot reported that Patriot Front secured a police escort for that march by placing a “false” 911 call about themselves:
Thomas Rousseau directed member ‘Benjamin WI‘ to call police “from a burner [phone]” as Patriot Front left their nearby camp for D.C., pretending to be a concerned citizen. Rousseau said this step was taken to “soften the police up before our big visual contact on the bridge, and provide a little confusion and misinfo that’s within the realm of honest dialogue.”
Rousseau and his lieutenants set quotas for members to engage in various “actions,” including regional group quotas of at least “10 big actions a month.” Acts of vandalism were recorded in a spreadsheet.
The group also monitors its roughly 220 members’ personal lives and is fanatically controlling. Members are required to regularly log their weight and fitness regimen, follow an apparently disordered diet obsessively, and update their superiors on their “bad habits,” such as pornography and junk food. Leaders pointedly chastised members for failing to participate in enough chats or meetings or to file their mandatory fitness updates.
This kind of routine humiliation was evident in several of the “training” videos that were uncovered in the leak:
Another leak unrelated to the data—published this week by Daily Dot—also reveals that Patriot Front members toured Europe in 2019, connecting with other far-right groups there and participating in several marches, including the anniversary of Poland’s Independence Day in Warsaw. A man who says he infiltrated the group for three years provided Daily Dot with a document detailing the excursion.
Among the groups Patriot Front leaders connected with in Europe were the National Independence in Poland; CasaPound and Forza Nuova in Italy; Verrogs in Latvia; Nordic Resistance Movement in Sweden; and the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany and its affiliate, Junge Nationalisten.
Patriot Front members recorded how they ate at regional restaurants and visited such tourist destinations as the Vatican. When they were in Sweden, members of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement served them a traditional Swedish Christmas dinner. A Junge Nationalisten member also gifted the American fascists with Nazi paraphernalia.
This is how the unapologetic young fascists of Patriot Front, offspring of the white nationalist alt-right, are planning their long-term future: recruiting and organizing in remote corners of the internet, spreading propaganda, and building an authoritarian army of willing dupes—some of them with serious military training—while connecting globally with fellow participants in the rising tide of far-right extremism.
On paper, it sounds frighteningly impressive. However, the data leak revealed their amateurish clownishness both in their personal lives and as an “operationally secure” organization. The members who are having their associations with the organization exposed to the world are finding that out now.