Thomas Rousseau

Thomas Ryan Rousseau began revealing adherence to white supremacy as a member of his high school newspaper. This aided in his rapid ascension into leadership on the racist right, first with Vanguard America and later with his founding of Patriot Front.

About Thomas Rousseau

Thomas Ryan Rousseau grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, where he attended Coppell High School. While enrolled, he was involved with The Sidekick, the Coppell High School student newspaper where he was the staff cartoonist during his senior year. He also contributed to video production and wrote a number of opinion columns for the paper. This appears to be where the young white supremacist cultivated the propaganda production skills that propelled his rapid ascension into leadership on the racist right, first with Vanguard America and later with his founding of Patriot Front.

In his own words

“A nation within a nation is our goal. Our people face complete annihilation as our culture and heritage are attacked from all sides.”
— Patriot Front manifesto

“The State was founded on liberal ideals, even from inception, but many acts of the people counteracted its original foundation and ensured a White American homeland for a time. However, due to the basis of the State’s founding, these bulwarks against the eventual degeneration of the Republic were temporary and ultimately futile.”
— Patriot Front manifesto

“An African may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labeled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people, or do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora. The American identity was something uniquely forged in the struggle that our ancestors waged to survive in this new continent. America is truly unique in this pan-European identity which forms the roots of our nationhood. To be an American is to realize this identity and take up the national struggle upon one’s shoulders. Not simply by birth is one granted this title, but by the degree to which he works and fulfills the potential of his birth.”
— Patriot Front manifesto

“America our nation stands before an existential threat. The lives of your children, and your children's children, and your prosperity beyond that, dangle above a den of vipers. A corrupt, rootless, global, and tyrannical elite has usurped your democracy and turned it into a weapon, first to enslave and then to replace you.”
— University of Texas at Austin demonstration, November 3, 2017

Background

While working for his high school newspaper, Rousseau frequently wrote opinion columns in support of conservative topics including the controversial “campus carry” law in Texas and North Carolina’s since gutted “bathroom bill.” He was also an ardent supporter of Donald Trump during the 2016 election. In an October 26, 2016 column, Rousseau wrote — using rhetoric that would reappear in his future Patriot Front propaganda — that “Trump’s campaign is about more than just the election of who is president. It is a referendum on American democracy. A simple decision between who is really in control of this nation, a corrupt establishment with wishes to usurp democracy, or the American people.”

In a separate, since removed, opinion column published days after the election titled, “Trump: The silent majority no longer silent,” Rousseau wrote, “The truth is white voters, especially the working class, have had more than enough of being called racist, sexist, xenophobic, islamophobic, homophobic and the rest of the usual trite buzzwords. … The forgotten majority of the American electorate has shown that much to the dismay of the globalist agenda, that they have not yet been replaced by the tens of millions of blue-voting immigrants from abroad. That they can still hold up some semblance of a resistance against the decay of their nation.”

His first column for the student newspaper on February 28, 2016, was titled, “Diversity Club brings friendly atmosphere to students of varied backgrounds.”

Rousseau was also a Boy Scout attempting to become an Eagle Scout before his 18th birthday.

On August 12, 2017, Rousseau led members of Vanguard America at the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is in the foreground of several photos depicting James Alex Fields, Jr., the young man facing first-degree murder charges for allegedly ramming his vehicle into a crowd of protesters and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Fields marched with members of Vanguard America and carried a shield bearing the organization’s emblem.

In an August 14, 2017, post to a Vanguard America Discord server, Rousseau told members that, “The statement [issued by Vanguard America about Fields] never said that what he did was wrong, just clarified that he wasn’t a member. People aren’t buying it anyways.”

Vanguard America dissolved into chaos in the immediate aftermath of "Unite the Right," particularly at the leadership level. Dillon Irizarry, Vanguard America’s “commander” publicly accused Rousseau of seizing the organization’s [Discord] servers and web domain. On August 14, 2017, Vanguard America’s official Twitter account announced that Rousseau had been removed from leadership in the group.

On May 5, 2017, on behalf of Irizarry, Rousseau announced that Vanguard America would be breaking its Discord servers into regions. Rousseau was a moderator, with authority to ban users at his discretion which allowed him to wrest control of the organization’s chat servers from Irizarry.

In an August 30, 2017, post to “Southern Front,” formerly Vanguard America’s southern region chat server, Rousseau announced his new organization, Patriot Front.

Due to the unwillingness to meet any semblance of a compromise to resolve ongoing disputes with disagreeing parties, we are rebranding and reorganizing as a new entity. Vanguard America, as you know it, will now be the “Patriots Front.” … Our website is under construction, and will be back online via the same domain. Our focus will remain much the same, as will our overal [sic] goals, this restructuring will happen alongside the creation of an extended manifesto, and a top-down reform of the entity’s ranking system. … This change comes alongside many new visuals, and a new overall look. The new name was carefully chosen, as it serves several purposes. It can help inspire sympathy among those more inclined to fence-sitting, and can be easily justified to our ideaology [sic] and worldview. The original American patriots were nothing short of revolutionaries. The word patriot itself comes from the same root as paternal and patriarch. It means loyalty to something intrinsically based in blood.

Rousseau’s design skills are his greatest asset among his followers, hence the promise of fresh visuals for Patriot Front. He also designed the insignia used by Exodus Americanus, a white supremacist radio program hosted on the Right Stuff that frequently features headliners from the racist right.

On September 24, 2017, members of Patriot Front confronted a group of Houston anarchists at a book fair at the Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts community center. A course was being taught on how to “refuse fascism” titled, “Punching Nazis.” Masked members of Patriot Front, a Texas Daily Stormer Book Club, and the Houston Goylers, a Right Stuff “Pool Party,” held banners that read “for race and nation,” lit flares, and chanted, “blood and soil,” while the anarchists held the doors to the community center closed to keep out members of Patriot Front.

Patriot Front quickly turned footage of the short confrontation into a propaganda video that was posted to the group’s YouTube page on October 15, 2017.

With the formation of Patriot Front, Rousseau instituted strict rules on dual membership, requiring members to disclose affiliations with other organization. He also required members to disclose activity on a regular basis or risk being purged from the organization. Typical offerings include distributing flyers and banner drops, proof of which are posted to Patriot Front’s social media accounts almost every day.

Records obtained by the Texas Observer show that the FBI has been monitoring Rousseau since at least May 2017, while he was still a student at Coppell High School, for his own flyer distribution on Dallas area campuses.

Rousseau’s rebranding of Vanguard America as Patriot Front is aesthetic, rather than ideological. The group’s manifesto is adorned with images of George Washington, George Patton, Robert E. Lee, Andrew Jackson and Henry Ford. Its text focuses on the familiar themes of apocalyptic modernity, European ancestry and white homelands, but is now couched in Americana.

A nation within a nation is our goal. Our people face complete annihilation as our culture and heritage are attacked from all sides. … The State was founded on liberal ideals, even from inception, but many acts of the people counteracted its original foundation and ensured a White American homeland for a time. However, due to the basis of the State’s founding, these bulwarks against the eventual degeneration of the Republic were temporary and ultimately futile. … An African may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labeled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people, or do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora.

The rhetorical shift came at a notable moment of self-reflection across the white supremacist movement as organizations and leaders that participated in the Charlottesville rally were widely condemned. The negative response from the mainstream public resulted in an identity crisis, particularly around the issue of optics and whether to continue using well-known racist symbols or to fall back on the image of the American flag. Patriot Front, under Rousseau’s leadership, represents one distinct outgrowth of this dispute.  

Under Rousseau’s direct leadership, Patriot Front’s Texas chapter is its most active — relying mostly on flyering, banner drops and occasionally demonstrations. When the organization ventures off the internet, its activities are primarily conducted in the dead of night, anonymously. Numbers at demonstrations are typically few, and tightly choreographed. They usually feature a scripted speech by Rousseau, in order to maximize propaganda value.

On November 3, 2017, roughly 30 members of Patriot Front marched through the University of Texas at Austin to the campus’s George Washington statue where Rousseau delivered a torchlit speech. The following day, Patriot Front members convened at Austin’s Monkeywrench Books with members of Daily Stormer and The Right Stuff meet-up groups for a flash demonstration. At both events, participants displayed American flags and the Texas state flag while wearing masks featuring skulls or American iconography.  

These disciplined demonstrations illustrate Rousseau’s tight control of Patriot Front and its public appearance. The group emphasizes image-driven activism as pre-packaged propaganda. Its incessant social media posts celebrating members’ activism in local communities — which has recently expanded to include park clean-ups — suggests that Rousseau expects members to take initiative independently and perform activism that can be branded. Since its foundation, Patriot Front activity has expanded into dozens of states.

Patriot Front has also declined to participate in large rallies with other hate groups, preferring instead to work with small, local chapters that allow Patriot Front to remain the center of attention while controlling their message and presentation. 

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