On August 3rd, 2019, twenty-two people, mainly from the Latinx community, were murdered while shopping in El Paso, Texas by 21-year-old white supremacist, Patrick Crusius. As ProPublica reported, members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front, which formed in the aftermath of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Virgina, expressed sympathy online in secret chat forums for Crusius and his anti-immigration manifesto. High-ranking members within Patriot Front justified Crusius’ actions with the rationale that white men are currently suffering the most oppression within this nation so it should not be a surprise that men like Crusius become “loose cannons.” In November 2019, ProPublica’s Carol Schaeffer and Fritz Zimmermann reported on Patriot Front’s origins and communications, its history of arrests and its “outsize aims for an all-white America.”
Thomas Rousseau founded Patriot Front in 2017, when he was age eighteen, and in just two years the group has gained three hundred followers who actively seek to “reclaim America.” Patriot Front quietly discourages mass acts of violence, but instead pushes for members to spread propaganda that promotes American fascism and hate. As Pete Simi, a professor at Chapman University and an expert on white supremacists in the US, told ProPublica, “It is very common for the leadership of these groups to disqualify violence, while doing things that are encouraging violence… It is part of their strategy to avoid liability, while simultaneously promoting hate. When they say they are not violent, this is a lie. They are promoting violence by their goals.”
Patriot Front members seek to recruit others who appear to be exclusively males, from blue-collar backgrounds or “white-collar tech geeks,” according to one ProPublica informant who had infiltrated Patriot Front. New members, who were typically recruited online, are often single, in their mid-twenties, and sympathetic to “right-wing terrorism.”
This informant gave ProPublica access to Patriot Front chats from secret forums. In addition to online postings by Patriot Front members, ProPublica based its reporting on police records, Thomas Rousseaus’s public statements online and in a variety of far-right podcasts, video material recorded both by the group and members of the public, and visits to the homes of Rousseau and two members who had recently been arrested.
Source: Carol Schaeffer and Fritz Zimmermann, “They Are Racist; Some of Them Have Guns. Inside the White Supremacist Group Hiding in Plain Sight,” ProPublica, November 8, 2019, https://www.propublica.org/article/they-are-racist-some-of-them-have-guns-inside-the-white-supremacist-group-hiding-in-plain-sight; reposted as “The Most Active White Supremacist Group in the US Is Hiding in Plain Sight,” Truthout, November 9, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/the-most-active-white-supremacist-group-in-the-us-is-hiding-in-plain-sight/.
Student Researcher: Haley Hatch (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)