Of all the radical right’s multiple permutations in the era of Donald Trump—Proud Boys, QAnon conspiracy theorists, “Patriot” militiamen, and “Boogaloo Bois” among them—the most worrisome by far is the spread of white-power “accelerationism”: a belief system predicated on the idea that modern human civilization (and especially its multicultural features) is a blight, and that the only solution is to encourage its destruction through acts of terroristic violence. Its followers explicitly embrace violence as the only viable means for change, because they see politics as a waste of time.
That phenomenon—like QAnon—is now spreading globally. A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Jason Wilson explores how a notorious “accelerationist” neo-Nazi group called The Base—which has made headlines in the U.S. for various acts of domestic terrorism—has found fresh recruits in both Europe and Australia, including connections to the killer responsible for the March 2019 mosque massacres in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Rinaldo Nazzaro, aka “Norman Spear,” the founder and main organizer of The Base—previously exposed by Wilson as a New Jersey man who stewed in neo-Nazi theories about creating a white homeland in the Pacific Northwest, but now appears to operate in Russia—has apparently been spreading his toxic ideology abroad as well.
It appears that Nazzaro targeted existing white-nationalist groups overseas for recruitment. In Australia, the bulk of the recruits came from the ranks of men who were involved in existing far-right groups. One of these—the Lads Society, cofounded by a longtime anti-Muslim activist named Blair Cottrell and other key figures in the far-right scene—promotes a violent brand of white nationalism that inspired, among others, Christchurch killer Brenton Tarrant. The group once invited Tarrant to join them, but he declined; however, they remained a mutual admiration society, even after the massacres.
Wilson’s report illustrates the mindset of the “accelerationists”:
Tarrant had been a devoted online follower of United Patriots Front (Cottrell’s anti-Muslim group), and Cottrell in particular. When Cottrell and Sewell livestreamed their ecstatic reaction to the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, Tarrant reportedly wrote a series of comments on the group’s Facebook wall.
“Knocked it out of the park tonight Blair,” he wrote. "Your retorts had me smiling, nodding, cheering and often laughing.
He added, “Never believed we would have a true leader of the nationalist movement in Australia, and especially not so early in the game”.
Their private chats indicate members of the Base are gearing up for what they hope will be a civil war or a “race war”: “[I] approve of wht [sic] McVeigh did. Killing innocent children only makes the wound deeper and more real for all involved,” wrote one online chat participant. “They don’t deserve to be spared in guerilla [sic] attacks.”
However, as Justin Ward observes, “the main purpose of The Base is to facilitate real-life meet-ups of ‘action-oriented’ white nationalists to build interpersonal ties as the basis for future organized armed struggle. The network holds regional ‘activity contests’ where members are encouraged to go out in the woods and practice survival skills or engage in arms training.”
The Base first attracted notice in 2019 when Nazzaro purchased a plot of forested land in a remote corner of northeastern Washington state and began holding paramilitary training exercises. Shortly afterward, its first involvement in domestic terrorism was manifested when a member from New Jersey was charged in a series of synagogue vandalisms in Michigan and Wisconsin, having traveled hundreds of miles to strike his targets.
Accelerationists, as SPLC analyst Cassie Miller explains, reject “political solutions” as inadequate to dealing with the threat of what they call “white genocide”—the hysterically fallacious belief that “white culture” faces an existential threat from multiculturalism and a demographic tide of nonwhite people: “the accelerationist set sees modern society as irredeemable and believe it should be pushed to collapse so a fascist society built on ethnonationalism can take its place.”
Base leader Rinaldo Nazarro, when explaining why he had chosen to devote himself to “system collapse” rather than mass-movement or electoral politics on a December 2017 podcast, likewise cited demographics: “As time goes on, our numbers continue to dwindle, the pressure keeps getting ramped up on whites cause that’s not gonna end. … Like, look, there’s no turning back the clock. Our numbers are just not gonna increase from here.” With a shrinking white political bloc, Nazarro and many others contend, why pursue electoral strategies? Among a growing segment of the white power movement, there is a pervasive sense that they are out of time and out of institutional or political remedies.
Violence culminating in genocide is its ultimate agenda, though it may seek to downplay its embrace of violence when first recruiting young followers. As Miller observes, however, “there is no moderate, non-violent version of white nationalism. The “optics debate” was never just a discussion of strategy, but an attempt to distract from the fact that everyone who embraces white nationalism also—transparently or not—necessarily accepts violence as a political tool.”
The spread of this view globally will have consequences well beyond the United States—and stopping it will entail reforms in what kind of material social-media platforms continue to enable. As Jason Wilson observes:
The Base’s success in drawing on members of existing local groups, such as the Lads Society, shows how groups seeking to export accelerationist ideology can exploit existing networks of young men who have already commenced down the path of radicalization.
They are also aided by their use of information and communication technologies, including encrypted messaging platforms, which allow them to build global networks, away (or so they think) from the prying eyes of law enforcement and antiracist activists.
Posted with permission from Daily Kos.