The Base, a sister organization to AWD that has seen over ten of its members arrested in the U.S. and Europe, also had a connection to the Corps. Earlier this year, VICE News broke the story that former Marine poolee Ryan Burchfield, 21, a Virginia native and onetime member of The Base, was deported from Ukraine for his alleged affiliation to a neo-Nazi extremist group and for trying to fight in the ongoing war in Donbass as a foreign fighter. Under an alias in 2019 and in an encrypted chat room, he told other members of The Base, “we’re going to make Atomwaffen look like boy scouts.” Prior to that post, AWD was well known for being implicated in five murders in the U.S.
Over the past four years, at least seven former Marines have openly avowed or been identified with neo-Nazism or the extreme right, with some allegedly involved in planned terrorist acts.
In a broader story about extremism in the U.S. military in May, journalist Talia Lavin outed another Marine, whose online footprints clearly espoused Nazism, as an extremist who was harassing her about her book Culture Warlords, which broadly examines the internet world of the far right. That man was subsequently investigated by military authorities and then demoted, but remained active-duty. The list of reported Marines involved with the violent far right goes on and on and raises the question of why this specific branch has so many former members engaged in political extremism. “It seems to me that the anecdotal evidence is piling up that there is something weird about the Marines,” said Heidi Beirich, a longtime expert on right-wing extremism and the chief strategy officer at the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “I think it has to do with a couple of things. The Marines have the most hardcore culture in in the military, aside from some of the Special Forces teams; they're also centralized on a couple of bases. So they're not as distributed throughout the United States as other forces are.”
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There is a history of far-right extremists inside the Corps, Beirich said. For example, in the 1970s at Camp Pendleton, active-duty Marines openly paraded their membership in the Ku Klux Klan, intentionally threatening Black Marines with knives. In 1986, white supremacist Marines stole weapons from Camp Lejeune, the same base where Collins and Duncan were stationed, then funneled them to their underground paramilitary organization in preparation for their antigovernment activities. By its own admission, the Marine Corps is aware it is susceptible to extremist influences. But in a statement to VICE News, the Corps couldn’t account for why so many of its former members were recently avowed Nazis or far-right extremists.
“The anecdotal evidence is piling up that there is something weird about the Marines.”
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