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Serving National Guardsman Sought to Build White Power Army

WASHINGTON - A serving national guardsman and U.S. Marine Corps veteran helped the accelerationist organization, The Base, plan a white power army, according to a new report published in Hatewatch. The piece, which follows his path to radicalization, provides an inside look at the dangerous and disturbing trend of links between former and active-duty members of the U.S. military and extremist organizations.
 
“This deeply troubling report illustrates how servicemembers’ capabilities and specialization in weapons training make them prime targets for recruitment. Unfortunately, this is not a new problem. There is a long history of ties between troops and veterans and the far right,” said Rachel Janik, Editor of the Hatewatch blog. “Despite some adjustments in policies related to recruitment and conduct within the Armed Forces, white supremacist and extremist activity continues to persist in the military and more must be done. While the number of those in the military with extremist ties may be relatively small, the impact can still be enormous and deadly.”

The report exposes:

•    The participation of Jerod Matthew Elder, a former U.S. Marine who was deployed to Iraq for the 2003 invasion and then was serving in the California National Guard, in the accelerationist group.
•    That during 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.
•    His online comments also made clear he had become 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.
•    His combat experience and skills gave him a special prestige within the chats.
•    After being exposed by an antifascist group, Eugene Antifa, he appears to have rejoined, using another account (he claimed to reporter Jason Wilson that the account was started by someone impersonating him, though he had no evidence of that). 

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has been tracking the issue of extremism in the military since the mid-1980s as part of their work monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and extremists. 

In March, Lecia Brooks, SPLC’s Chief of Staff, testified before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee about how the military has long failed to adequately address far-right extremism in the ranks. Last February, she also testified before a committee subcommittee about white supremacy in the military and how to stop it. SPLC has also been involved in advocating for more action since Secretary Austin’s announcements earlier this year regarding the Defense Department’s efforts to address the issue. SPLC provided the Department with a set of recommendations for consideration.

The SPLC recommends that each of the military service branches address the problem of extremism at every stage of a servicemember’s career – better screening during the recruitment process, an updated, expanded prohibition against advocating for, or involvement in, supremacist or extremist activity for all active-duty military, and more extensive efforts to help veterans transition into civilian life. In addition, to design better screening, education, and inoculation within all branches of the military, the Department of Defense should commit to annual voluntary, anonymous service branch-wide climate surveys designed to enable military personnel to report their exposure to white supremacy and extremist views during their service. 

“The fact is that veterans and servicemembers bring social capital, legitimacy, specialized training, and an increased capacity for violence to white power groups,” said Janik. “When servicemembers and veterans do engage with extremist groups, they frequently take on leadership roles in their mission to enact violence on their fellow citizens. This is exactly why it is such a pressing issue.”

Read the full report here.

Last month, SPLC released Season Two of the Sounds Like Hate podcast, which includes the continuation of the investigative series on The Base, Baseless. Last season the series started with an analysis of 83 hours of never-before-heard secret recordings of the neo-Nazi white supremacist group made inside their vetting room. Military recruits were top recruits. This year, the series centers on the stories of two young men, one from Michigan and the other from Boston, and their radicalization path into the grips of white supremacy.