Just over a year after assuming control of the college-focused white nationalist organization Identity Evropa (IE), leader Patrick Casey said on Twitter that the organization “has been retired.” The announcement comes just days after the nonprofit media organization Unicorn Riot released the group’s Discord server chat logs.
Casey says he is now launching a new organization, the American Identity Movement (AIM). For a group that has always paid scrupulous attention to branding, the move seems designed to distance Casey and his followers from the public-relations baggage that has burdened IE since the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, “Unite the Right” rally they helped organize. Identity Evropa is currently facing a lawsuit related to their role in the deadly rally.
Now, with leaked chat logs providing further evidence that IE’s “identitarian” label is simply a cover for rampant racism and antisemitism, the rebrand seems even more urgent.
More than any other white nationalist group operating today, Identity Evropa has attempted to frame their views in ways that appeal to mainstream conservative audiences. They downplay the extreme nature of their ideas, like referring to their ideal society as “ethno-pluralistic” rather than segregated. They push for a clampdown on immigration and stress nativist talking points that they believe will appeal to Trump supporters. They carefully manage their public image, holding only unannounced demonstrations where they hold banners with innocuous-sounding slogans like “Make America Beautiful Again.”
The thorough management of their image is all part of an attempt to cozy up to the Republican Party and, they hope, eventually alter the GOP to fit their own image. It’s a strategy James Allsup, a popular alt-right YouTuber and one of Identity Evropa’s most prominent members, has been promoting through example since he was elected a GOP precinct committee officer last summer.
The group’s rebrand offers further cover to smuggle white nationalist views into mainstream politics.
This weekend the American Identity Movement held their first public action, which took the same format as IE’s demonstrations. More than 50 AIM members stood outside the Tennessee State Capitol with banners that read “This land is our land” and “Defend America.”
While Identity Evropa’s aesthetic was an amalgam of superficial references to “European culture,” AIM is more heavily steeped in worn Americana. Instead of IE’s Greco-Roman imagery, AIM’s posters recycle American turn-of-the-century and Cold War propaganda.
But their imagery looks familiar for other reasons, too. The new group’s logo – an eagle rendered in red, white and blue with its extended wings framing the AIM emblem – is nearly identical to that of Patriot Front (PF), a white nationalist group headed by Thomas Rousseau that broke off from the explicitly fascist Vanguard America in the wake of “Unite the Right.” AIM’s pilfering of PF’s aesthetic brought criticism from other members of the racist “alt-right” who have long resented IE for its self-serious posturing.
“This wouldn’t be nearly as funny to me if these guys weren’t the group who are constantly bragging about how much more intelligent and visionary they are than everybody else in the movement,” Matthew Parrott, host of a white nationalist podcast and former spokesman for the now-defunct Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), tweeted in the aftermath of Casey’s announcement. In their Discord chats, members of IE mocked Patriot Front and TWP, calling them “terrible groups” with “terrible optics.”
Building a marketing strategy
Despite Identity Evropa’s efforts to differentiate themselves from other segments of the white nationalist movement with their tony aesthetic and faux-academic jargon, their Discord chats show that their views were essentially the same as any other group in the alt-right. Members toed the party line and avoided using racial slurs or other crude language, but they still engaged in Holocaust denial, vilified Jews and black people, and read crudely racist content like the Daily Stormer.
“Even blacks on the right side of the bell curve can’t engage in abstract thought,” Erika Alduino, who held a leadership role in IE, posted in early 2018.
One member called the Holocaust “the most disgusting lie of the 20th century.” Another responded by adding, “Six million is a meme number.”
Publicly, Identity Evropa appears unified behind their vaguely defined identitarian banner. Casey regularly accuses journalists who call them a white nationalist group of “mischaracterizing us.” But, behind the scenes, there was an ongoing effort to establish a consistent branding strategy that obscured the group’s racist views. They hoped, as Casey put it, to generate “cutting edge, headline-grabbing stances (without being explicitly racial).”
“I think it’s a good strategy to not use the word ‘ethnostate’ and instead focus on ‘getting the demographics back on track,'” a member posting under the name “Attrition in the desert” wrote. “This is in the same vein of saying ‘nationalist’ rather than ‘ethno-nationalist.’”
The term “identitarian” was also up for debate. “’Identitarian’ could appeal to more intellectual people,” a user an antifascist group identified as Jacob Labudda of Cheney, Washington, posted. “It sounds smart.”
“Saying words to sound smart is kinda of [sic] a weird strategy because if they’re actually ‘intellectual’ they might just be unimpressed,” another member responded.
One poster conceded Identity Evropa was “WN [white nationalist] in the literal sense, in the words themselves,” but that group shouldn’t use the label because it was “tied to too much baggage. Identitarian is what I am. That’s the way forward.”
“Anyone who listens to us for five minutes knows we’re White Nationalists,” another member wrote.
The group actively tried to influence the media in hopes of garnering positive coverage that would help spread their message and recruit new members. They were often successful.
Within their Discord server, IE had a channel called #cyberstrike where they coordinated campaigns to draw media attention to their demonstrations and flyering. After dropping a large banner from an overpass in Atlanta in December 2017, for example, Casey directed all the members in the chat to report the action to local news outlets, many of which later reported on the demonstration. Elsewhere in the channel, posters asked their fellow IE members to downvote videos on YouTube they found objectionable, promote online content that aligned with their ideology and harass Twitter users who were opposed to their racist views.
“I used a sock [fake] email account to report flyers in a recent campaign,” a member from New Jersey wrote. “It worked out pretty well and they published an article on it afterwards.”
Their efforts to garner media interest eventually landed Casey an interview on the Today Show, where the interviewer failed to seriously interrogate Casey’s views and, instead, provided the hate group leader with a platform to spread his white nationalist ideas. Casey hailed the segments featuring him as “extremely significant victories.” “[W]e have received more applications so far today – 40 and counting – than we have during some weeks in the past few months. Our strategy works!” he told members.
Infiltrating the GOP
Identity Evropa and, now, its derivative American Identity Movement, are especially dangerous because they have been able to successfully launder their image enough for their members to gain access to the Republican Party, which they hope will further allow their ideas to penetrate the GOP’s base.
That’s part of the group’s explicit strategy. “I am totally in support of people getting involved in not only their local Republican Party chapter but also organizations like the College Young Republicans,” Casey said on a podcast last June. He reiterated that message in IE’s Discord chat.
It appears many members took up Casey’s instructions. One member said he had an upcoming interview for a job in politics, another said he had knocked on doors for a local Republican candidate and a user from Minnesota said he had received a “positive response to my question about resettlement at MN’s governor’s forum today.”
“Once I graduate I plan to infiltrate my local GOP politics Allsup style,” another wrote.
In the chat, one user bragged in late 2017 that an unnamed “Chief of staff for a ‘conservative’ MO state senator” attended an IE flash demonstration.
Several members said they were members of College Republicans. Of the four IE members a Portland antifascist group identified based on the leaked Discord chats, two were members of College Republicans – one at Washington State University and another at the University of Washington.
With their slightly updated aesthetic and slogan, members of the American Identity Movement will likely continue on as they have now for years: quietly working to normalize their ideas within the Republican Party.
Photo illustration by SPLC