A dangerous, fascist network that is attempting to recruit from the alt-right and grow its international presence
The Base is a militant fascist network formed in July 2018. The core premise of the network is offline engagement where members are encouraged to meet up with others in their local area to “Learn the skills that will keep you alive when society at large wants you dead”, according to a promotional video released by the group. The group has been called by it’s spokesperson “Roman Wolf” an “international fraternal network of survivalists” but content posted online tells a story of a militant white supremacist group that promote violence and aim to instigate racial conflict.
The group first received mainstream attention in November 2018 when both mainstream media outlets and several antifascist groups published screenshots of chat logs and exposed members. The logs included messages from members discussing their military background, the need for violent action to destabilise society, sharing of bomb making manuals and discussions of types of targets for their actions. Survivalism also remains important. Users regularly shares material aiming to educate in survival and make use of terms associated with the prepping community (the practice of preparation for a societal collapse).
The network’s founder has identified himself as “Norman Spear”. Spear allegedly has a background in the military and is well versed in far-right terrorism tactics. On his (now suspended) Twitter account he gives concrete instruction on how a white supremacist shooter can commit murder while remaining undetected, a tactic used by John Ausonius, a Swedish man who between 1991 and 1992 shot 11 people with mostly immigrant backgrounds using a sniper rifle.
In interviews with Spear he has admitted connections to the North West Front, a far-right group in the Pacific Northwest USA. The North West Front hold as its main goal what is known as ‘the Butler Plan’ after its main proponent Richard Butler, or the Northwest Territorial Imperative which is a plan to relocate far-right activists as well as general white population to the Northwest USA and ultimately declare it an independent white ethnostate. Spear has referenced the group’s ideology as being influential upon him and separatist ideas remain central to The Base. On 1 March, Wolf shared a post on Twitter: “The IRA could hold off the British Gov, everyone else can too. We need our own No Go Zones. Walled off and militarized communities. The government can burn down a forest, not a neighborhood.”
Leaderless Resistance in the Digital Age
The Base and its premise of teaching and sharing militant tactics is worrying in the wake of already rising far-right violence. ADL has reported that “at least 50 people were killed by [far-right] extremists in 2018” in the US, the highest number since 1995, the year of the bomb attack in Oklahoma City. 11 of these deaths were the victims in the Pittsburgh shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in October. Screenshots of chat messages show that members of the group talked of the killer as a hero and made romanticising imagery of the antisemitic murderer. The group also has members with ties to known militant fascist groups, including Atomwaffen Division which is connected to 5 murders and supporters of The Base often share messages of support for international nazi organisations like the Nordic Resistance Movement in Sweden.
Like it was for Atomwaffen, a central text for the members of The Base is James Mason’s ‘Siege’. Originally a set of newsletters published in the first half of the 1980s but now frequently shared as a compendium on militant fascist forums like the now defunct Iron March and more recently Fascist Forge. Central to the text is the concept of ‘leaderless resistance’, a term popularised by prominent KKK member Louis Beam, built on the premise of small cells acting without direct hierarchical command.
The Base spokesperson Wolf frequently makes loose references to the tactic. In an interview with Chris White, a British far-right blogger and podcaster (who denies being a member of the group but nonetheless has interviewed both Norman Spear and Roman Wolf and frequently pushes The Base propaganda), Wolf says that the group “[is] not a formal membership organisation, there are no membership dues, there are no membership cards, there is no leadership” and he prefers to describe it as a loose network rather than an group or organisation. Moreover, while general references to violent attacks and possible tactics are made frequently in the chat logs and by accounts associated with the group, direct actions are supposed to be left to be discussed in offline meetups. Leaving concrete plans to small local groups is argued to be part of its focus on teaching concrete survival skills, but in practice is a way to keep operational security high and a way to give de-facto leaders and other members plausible deniability, a central premise of the leaderless resistance tactic.
They also often directly call for violence against the left. Wolf started a campaign in early 2019 which he named #OpRedKarma. The hashtag did not get a significant traction but the spokespersons account published pictures and personal details of antifascist activists in the US while suggesting threatening that the group’s supporters would “simply do what’s necessary”. HOPE not hate was briefly mentioned in one of these posts.
Taking the struggle offline
As a militant group, supporters of The Base are fiercely critical of the alt-right for its reliance on online-based activism and what The Base perceived to be a lack of urgency in taking direct action. It rejects the premise of promoting cultural change central to the alt-right. In a tweet from January 2018 Spear responds to an alt-right twitter account: “I already know all about Identitarians—In fact, it’s clear I know more about your movement than you do. You’re the one who needs to learn that cultural change & metapolitics can’t save White nations. Stop treating the struggle like it’s equivalent to running a marketing campaign.”
Instead, The Base argues for direct action and what is called accelerationism. Accelerationism is the idea that the intensification of forces which one opposes will reveal their flaw to the public and cause their own collapse. Originally a Marxist concept, the terminology has been taken up by parts of the far-right who believe that society as we know it will inevitably collapse. They argue that causing chaos and sparking a conflict along racial lines will accelerate the collapse of the current system so that it can be replaced by a new one, in the case of The Base, led by its members.
On a blog to which both White and Wolf has frequently contributed published a reply on 25 April to an article by alt-right figurehead Greg Johnson titled “Against White Nationalist Terrorism”. The author references both Norman Spear and quotes David Lane, the now deceased member of nazi terror group The Order, arguing “if there are not 30,000 warriors hiding for some reason, the white race is lost. That means that our attitude must be Revolutionary, not reactionary.”. Twitter users known to be related to The Base have, unsurprisingly, been banned from Twitter, but even the alt-right associated “free speech” social media platform Gab has terminated their accounts, fueling frustration within the online movement.
However, individual members interact relatively frequently with alt-right figures despite also denouncing their tactics. The group actively attempts to recruit members of the alt-right, especially worrying as we’re seeing an increasing disillusionment with Trump and an increasingly extreme core in the movement post-Charlottesville in 2017. Spear and Wolf often enter into polemics with well known alt-right figures and accounts, urging users to join The Base instead and creating a pathway to their networks on social media. A fervent supporter of The Base who goes by the name SoCo on Twitter (real name Matthew Blais) frequently urges white nationalists and alt-right users to read Mason’s Siege, the Turner Diaries and other far-right texts.
SoCo has also promoted and been promoted by alt-right figure Augustus Invictus, who has been a senate candidate for the Libertarian party in Florida in 2016 and shared the stage with Richard Spencer at the 2017 Free Speech rally in Washington DC, speaking on the topic of unifying the right. Invictus invited SoCo on his YouTube channel and both accounts have on multiple occasions tweeted supportingly of each other. After the November 2018 expose of The Base, Invictus tweeted: “I will be broadcasting live with @SoCoFanAccount at high noon here on the East Coast. Be there or be a Communist.”
The Base has, however, appropriated some practices of the alt-right. Extreme memes and imagery is a part of their repertoire, as with recent far-right terror groups like Atomwaffen and National Action in the UK, members of The Base produce visual imagery glorifying mass murderers and making use of archive material from Nazi Germany that they spread among themselves and externally on Twitter and Gab. The extreme nature of the content limits its potential reach but mainstream acceptance is not their goal. The Base doesn’t aim to be a mass movement but to reach those that could potentially take action. As opposed to the alt-right, memes are aimed more at encouraging violence than a slow radicalisation and normalisation of its ideas. Wolf puts it as “This red pill faggotry is basically an excuse 2 do nothing”. Both Spear and Wolf have outlined that they prefer a small an trustworthy group. For this purpose they communicate on encrypted chat platform Matrix and more recently also Wire.
The group has international aspirations and encourage its ideas to spread to Europe as well. In the leaked chat logs, users across the US as well as in European countries have made reports of meetups. Recently, fliers appeared in Belgium with images of Léon Degrelle, founder of the fascist Rexist Party during WWII in Wallonia. On the recently launched forum Fascist Forge, where users generally promote similar points of view of those of The Base (Wolf called the forum “Our comrades” on his Twitter account), there are a handful of members who associate themselves with group and appear to be based in Europe.
The Base is a worrying example of how elements of the far right are attempting to push online activists to take their struggle off the internet and into the streets where small numbers are not necessarily a problem but instead an advantage. The application of the leaderless resistance tactic is by its nature difficult to counter, especially if applied across borders.