In February 2019, on an encrypted chat platform, members of the white power accelerationist group The Base had a long discussion on a topic that had recently become a preoccupation: how to strike back against the antifascist or “antifa” activists who had again exposed the identity of one of their number.
Some of those in the conversation argued for a high-risk, mass-casualty shooting, by a member who would, in effect, be sacrificing themselves. One member (whose screen name was a pair of runes) wrote, "honestly we need a few martyrs," using one of the movement’s honorifics for those who had carried out massacres in the name of their white supremacist cause at the cost of prison or death.
The Base’s founder and leader, Rinaldo Nazzaro, then still only known by the pseudonym Norman Spear, shot back: "We have too many martyrs already. We can’t afford any more. Getting killed or captured is not an option."
Nazzaro wrote, "The media makes our martyrs look crazy or evil." He continued: "The other problem is that we think in all or nothing terms. it’s either full out race War now or nothing for many. Things need to be ratchet[ed] up. That’s how it works historically."
For Nazzaro, the dramatic, singular massacre of the lone actor brought the white power moment no closer to what he argued should be its central goal: the construction of a white ethnostate on the rubble of the hated "System" – a shorthand term taken from the works of neo-Nazi ideologues who used it to refer to liberal democracy in the U.S.
In Nazzaro’s mind, the white power movement needed a disciplined, patient guerrilla force, and The Base was devised as a mechanism for creating one. If race war was inevitable, as members constantly asserted, then their plan was to win.
In documents that circulated in the chats, and in Nazzaro’s public and private comments, recruits were encouraged to acquire uniform equipment and clothing, and to obey the group’s highest imperative: that local cellular groups meet up in person, bond as fighting units, perform drills and create militaristic propaganda videos.
The Base was conceived as an army, and civilian recruits were expected to look and act the part. Sometimes, however, soldiers arrived ready-made. What follows is a case study of one such soldier, an Iraq War veteran named Jerod Matthew Elder. His path to radicalization is but one example of the link between U.S. militarism abroad and violent paramilitarism at home.
The specific grievance fueling the revenge fantasies in the early 2019 chat was the exposure, or doxing, of Elder by an antifascist group, Eugene Antifa, the previous December. Elder, who posted under the username doomsayeth, is a former U.S. Marine who was deployed to Iraq for the 2003 invasion. More recently, he had been serving as a California National Guardsman, and living in Murrieta, California, a city that made headlines in 2014 as the site of anti-immigrant demonstrations.
During Elder’s time with The Base, he shared the knowledge, skills and experience he had acquired throughout decades of service as a U.S. Marine and a Guardsman. He also offered an account of his own radicalization, which emphasized the role of social media platforms, his participation in other right-wing subcultures, and his gradual loss of faith in the U.S.’s geopolitical role, including his disillusionment with the military interventions he himself had participated in.
False faith and fickle allegiance
Elder’s comments suggest that over time he became more loyal to the white power movement, and its vision of a transnational, imperiled white race, than he was to the United States, or to the military in which he still served. He also claimed that other soldiers felt the same way, and that they would offer a fertile recruiting ground for white power accelerationists.
After his identity was exposed, Elder left the group’s online forums. But even as he was under investigation by the California National Guard for his participation in the group, with his accumulated benefits and income at risk, he may have rejoined it under another username, and resumed his efforts to mold the group into a fighting force.
Following his exposure by Eugene Antifa in December 2018, Elder disappeared from the chats, and the incident was received as a blow by Nazzaro and the others.
But Hatewatch can reveal that a user under a different name, warlordgoals, entered the chats in late 2019, claiming to be the same person who had operated the doomsayeth account.
That user discussed the possibility of volunteering for Azov Battalion in Ukraine, and rehearsed familiar talking points covering prepping, firearms, guerrilla war and antisemitic conspiracy theories.
When Hatewatch contacted Elder in May 2020, he acknowledged ownership of the doomsayeth account, but denied that he had returned as warlordgoals account. When asked why someone would impersonate him inside a silent chat, Elder mentioned "lurkers" and "larpers" who “impersonate people for clout,” before accusing Hatewatch of "larping as a journalist" and "writing a hitpiece."
Elder also claimed to no longer be a member of the California National Guard, but refused to say whether his departure had been his decision or he had been discharged.
He also reaffirmed his white nationalist views, saying that humans were "a tribal species," that white people were all in "the same tribe, whether or not you realize it," and associated white demographic decline with falling birth rates.
The California National Guard confirmed in a telephone call in October that Elder was under investigation and had been since 2018. Their spokesperson was unable to offer details of the investigation but did say that it had commenced "after that article came out," referring to Eugene Antifa’s post, and that Elder had not been discharged.
Attempts to clarify with spokespeople the outcome of the investigation and Elder’s current status in the Guard closer to publication date were unsuccessful.
Under the username doomsayeth, Elder told his fellow Base members that he had served for eight years as a Marine and was now a Military Police officer in the National Guard. He had been a vocal participant in the group’s earliest chats in late 2018, when he was 37. The earlier chats were hosted by an application called Riot, a client for the encrypted Matrix protocol. (Elder’s identification was one of a number of events that pushed the group to look around for other technologies and move their conversation into a more carefully vetted group). The chats took place in a room for trusted recruits that they christened “Imperium,” a reference to a book, still influential in the white power movement, that prophesied a white supremacist world state that would realize the ambitions of the defeated Nazis.
After joining The Base, Elder tirelessly promoted the group and its ideology on social media platforms such as Gab. (Nazzaro was one of several white power activists Gab banned in the wake of the Tree of Life massacre.) His combat experience and skills gave him a special prestige within the chats.
The price of this status, afforded to Elder along with the handful of current and former active-duty military members from around the world in The Base, was an additional layer of risk. If serving soldiers were identified by reporters and activists as participants in a white power group, they were, in theory, vulnerable to military discipline, even where their actions did not violate civilian laws.
Even so, Elder’s identification by antifascists as a member did not bring his involvement in the white power movement, or The Base, to an end. On the contrary, his reentry into the group under a new username in late 2019 illustrates how some serving members of the military are prepared to risk their livelihoods, their benefits and even their freedom to indulge in fantasies about overthrowing the U.S., and how the group exploited their knowledge and skills in developing their plans for a hate-fueled rebellion.
Prepping for race war
Early on in his involvement with The Base, Elder told the group that he was a recent convert to the white power movement. Asked how long he had been a "WN," or white nationalist, Elder replied, "I’ve been a racial realist for a long time, but I never considered myself an actual 'White Nationalist' until recently." He attributed his embrace of white nationalism to a number of conspiracy theories that animate members of the movement: "The ramped up attacks by the left and media on white people. And also getting red pilled on accelerated white demographic decline."
He said that he had been radicalized on social media and added that both mainstream and niche far right-friendly platforms had played a part: "My main exposure to ‘white identity’ groups came from being on GAB and Twitter. This is the first forum that is explicitly for natsoc/WN/AWD etc that I have joined."
He said his interest in "preparedness and self sufficiency" served as a gateway to white nationalism. Throughout his participation in The Base, he dispensed advice on solar panels and food storage, and recommended acting in concert with the so-called prepper community, a term for those who anticipate a large-scale natural or human-made disaster to cripple society in the near future, and prepare themselves and their families to be self-sufficient in its aftermath. He recommended books from the genre of prepper-oriented speculative fiction, suggesting that fellow Base members read prominent examples of apocalyptic prepper sci-fi.
Elder supported Nazzaro’s calls advocating system collapse, and in turn Nazzaro treated him as something of an authority on on prepping. At one point Elder initiated a conversation on the topic by asking: "If the grid went down today, where would you guys go? Bug in or out?," using prepper movement jargon for the options to shelter in place during an emergency, or flee to a special location.
Among those responding was Nazzaro, who wrote, "I would bug out. What would you do?"
Elder responded, "Bug out, my whole family would be ready to leave within 30 mins. With supplies for at least 2 months until we could get to our property. The cities will be death camps IMO." His advice on preparing a "bug out" location was frequently layered with expressions of racialized contempt for urban centers. “Rural land with access to proven, clean water sources is going to be the next big land rush,” he said in one of these early chats. He added, "Even liberal whites will get tired of virtue signal[ing] if they have to move again to get away from the untermensch," using a German word that Nazis applied to members of racial or ethnic groups they considered inferior.
Public records show that the "bug out" property he referenced, near the unincorporated community of Vernon in Apache County, Arizona, in is still in his possession, as it was when antifascists first identified him. Satellite imagery shows a large house surrounded by several solar arrays, and several other structures on its grounds, including a geodesic dome and what appears to be a firearms practice range.
Elder alternated between boasting about the house and the safety it would afford him during civilizational collapse and expressing dissatisfaction with the location and contempt for his neighbors. Despite living in a majority Native American county, he apparently expected them to quickly disappear during the collapse of the system, deploying a slew of anti-Indigenous stereotypes in his explanation. Other residents also drew his ire. In September 2018, in the group’s early chats on the Matrix application, he posted, "I like the communities out there, but didnt realize how cucked mormons are, and how pacifistic and useless the prepper and homestead communities are."
He repeatedly complained about fellow preppers. At one point in the 2018 chats, Elder wrote of a "frustrating dynamic" that separated his social networks in survivalism and white power groups: "Most preppers aren’t interested in White Nationalism, and most White nationalists ive talked to arent interested in survivalist/ preparedness. Anyone else finding the same in their recruiting efforts?"
If the two communities were irreconcilable, Elder’s growing embrace of the most virulent and poisonous antisemitic myths suggested where his loyalties lay. In the chat he asserted the ancient antisemitic canard that Jews engage in the ritual abuse of children, adding that "Jews signed a bloodpact with the adversary of all men, in exchange for power and forbidden knowledge," parroting the "diabolization of Jews" characteristic of many forms of antisemitism, including Nazism.
His growing antisemitism also informed an increasingly acerbic view of the historical role of the U.S. military in recent history, even as he continued to draw checks from the California National Guard.
Making The Base combat-ready
Elder not only passed on prepping advice; in the early Imperium chats he also liberally shared the knowledge and experience he had gained in the military with the rest of the group, information that fueled their fantasies of insurgency. In September 2018, he posted a PDF copy of the USMC counterinsurgency manual, with the comment, "IMO the Marine corps counterinsurgency manual is one of the best sources of info on this style of warfare, how to conduct an insurgency, and how to fight one." He wrote, "Having actually fought an insurgency, I can tell you that it is mostly correct in its claims and tactics."
He flaunted his status as a military insider, and sided with Nazzaro, who was committed to a cell structure for The Base as opposed to one main group. At one point in the Imperium chats, Elder wrote: "I can give you a ton of examples of why a centralized leadership/organizational structure is a bad idea. Based on what I have seen about how our clandestine services operate to infiltrate and radicalize groups, and then use that as an excuse to attack them."
Elder offered advice to recruits about arming themselves, and even suggestions about how to skirt restrictions in states and countries whose gun laws were less liberal than Arizona’s.
In one conversation he dissuaded another member from buying guns built on the Russian AK-47 platform, and encouraged him to purchase a different model, carried by members of the military. He added his rationale that "in the case of SHTF," common prepper shorthand for when the "shit hits the fan," the gun he suggested would "be the easiest to acquire by trade or scavenging."
He added: "IMO ammunition should be considered precious metals. It will be better than money for trading in a SHTF scenario."
Elder advised the use of other kinds of military equipment, writing, "Having body armor is a force multiplier in emergency situations." He claimed to be constantly armed and prepared both for disaster and for violence in his own day-to-day life.
For those unable to purchase firearms, Elder recommended: "Get a crossbow. Even that will give you the upperhand in a confrontation with anyone armed with anything less than a firearm."
Elder also indicated that he was making concrete preparations for a time in which the circulation of firearms was more restricted, either by law or because of wider social collapse – an animating conspiratorial belief in the far right, telling other members that he was planning to acquire a device that would enable him to 3D print firearms without the knowledge of law enforcement.
Apart from this advice, he also offered crucial support to Nazzaro’s plan of guerilla warfare, and even claimed to have helped set the course that The Base would follow.
Elder endorsed Nazzaro’s overall plan against "the system," writing: "I think Norman Spears [Nazzaro’s] suggested approach is the best. Overt political movement supported by covert military movement." More specifically he offered that while a "white ethnostate can be created and preserved," to bring it about "we will have to fight as insurgents," and several times cited the Irish Republican Army as a model.
He was also prepared to nominate targets, at one point writing, "Bad people on the left who are high profile, need to be singled out and made examples of."
Defending our enemies, foreign and domestic
Though he had served in the Marine Corps, he bitterly criticized what he saw as the liberalism and multiculturalism of the U.S. and its allies in Western Europe, and praised its adversaries.
He reserved particular contempt for the governments of Western European countries that he believed allowed their nations to be overrun by mass immigration. He wrote in the chats, "France is absolutely cucked," alleging that "Muslims rob cargo trucks on the freeways all over France, no one does a fucking thing," concluding, "Anyone who has hope for European men to uncuck and save their countries is high on whitepills that don’t exist." Whitepill is slang in in right-wing subcultures for news that gives grounds for optimism.
On the other hand, he found praise for countries and leaders that are commonly viewed as U.S. adversaries but are lionized in the white power movement. In September 2018 he wrote, "Russia is not nearly as bad as here," since "they shoot people at gay pride parades." He offered some praise for Vladimir Putin’s conduct of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, but nevertheless incorporated the Russian leader into conspiracy theories about “the globalists," and claimed Putin had ties to "the real powerful Jewish houses."
This pro-authoritarian, anti-American and antisemitic point of view informed his assessments of recent wars, including the conflict in which he had participated. At one point, he wrote: "Everything that we did in the [Middle East] was the best thing that ever happened for ZOG. And still is. Makes me sick now." "ZOG" refers to a white power conspiracy theory of a "Zionist occupational government" in charge of the U.S., foreign governments and international organizations such as the U.N. Later in the same conversation, he wrote, "It saddens me that we are still doing what they want. We would go to war today with Russia and Iran if the jews seriously called for it. And TBH we are 1 false flag a way."
Throughout the 2018 chats, he attributed all of the U.S. involvements in failed foreign wars to the malign influence of Israel and Jews. In a conversation about various conflicts in the Middle East, he wrote that a high-level Jewish conspiracy had engineered a range of recent conflicts, and that "they want to rape the resources of the whole world. Not just the U.S."
His antisemitism and hatred for his and the group’s perceived enemies on the left even led him to make revisionist assessments of past wars. Elder absolved the Nazis in their conflict with the U.S., posting that "anyone that killed commies is a hero in my book, that’s when I first knew for sure the U.S. was fighting for the wrong side after reading what they let the animal russians do to people." He also claimed, "Hitler let the English escape Dunkirk as a peace offering." He wrote that modern-day white nationalists "have the opportunity to learn from" the mistakes of Hitler and the Nazis.
He also claimed previous military leaders had come to view the United States’ choice of sides in World War II as a mistake, writing, pointing to Gen. George S. Patton’s antisemitism and anticommunism.
This disillusionment with the U.S. and its military endeavors went hand in hand with his speculations about an eventual societal collapse and civil war, and his willingness to pass on his training, skills and knowledge in the use of firearms, military tactics and survival strategies to the rest of The Base.
Extremism in the military goes beyond The Base
Along with other military members who have joined The Base and other far-right groups, Jerod Elder’s story is less one of active infiltration of the armed forces by the far right, and more one of veterans being radicalized – whether through conspiracy culture or less radical right-wing subcultures like prepping – until they finally reach a group whose aims contradict the oaths they swore to protect the U.S. and its Constitution.
Elder’s radicalization came at the end of decades of continuous immersion in the culture and discipline of America’s armed forces. He was also a part of the militaristic, survivalist "prepper" subculture, with an interest in the more radical expressions of gun culture, such as "ghost guns." In these respects, and in his affinity for the accelerationist group whose founder was self-consciously attempting to build a guerrilla fighting force in the homeland, the trajectory of Iraq War veteran Jerrod Elder shows one way in which U.S. militarism abroad can feed into violent paramilitarism at home.
When Elder first fought in Iraq in 2003, the war he was involved in was frequently cast in conservative political rhetoric and conservative media coverage as a battle in a “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Islamic world. In Elder’s contributions to The Base’s chats, he showed that he had retained the sense that the world’s peoples were locked in existential struggle, and also the belief that Islam was bent on the colonization and destruction of nations in Western Europe and North America. In the context of The Base, Elder was free to explicitly voice a narrative of race war that has been implicit in the prosecution of a "War on Terror" in the Middle East.
Previously in Hatewatch, Cassie Miller has argued that police militarization fuels the paramilitary culture of the far right. In the case of Jerod Elder, and the other military recruits in The Base and other far right groups, we can see how U.S. militarism has played a role in a wider militarization of U.S. society, which makes it easier for some soldiers, who are sworn to protect the Constitution, to join groups whose reason for being is the destruction of constitutional democracy.
The fact that Jerod Elder reentered The Base while his case was still subject to investigation by his service suggests that the models of dealing with radicalized military personnel need to change. For example, they should at least factor in social media and internet use. Any effective intervention must also address the enduring, persistent appeal the violent white supremacist worldview holds for some soldiers, who take their skills in combat and apply them to groups that plan to subject the U.S. to terror attacks, guerilla war and white supremacist rule.
Elder, for his part, believes military members are a rich vein of recruitment for the organized white power movement. He wrote in The Base chats, "I know a bunch of guys that are hard core pipe hitters, they aren’t political right now," but added that what he saw as the excesses of liberal democracy "[are] going to force them to make a choice. I’m pretty sure I know what that will be."