A neo-Nazi group focused on providing paramilitary-style training to far-right extremists has been conducting a massive recruitment drive and claims to have already conducted live-fire training with its members.
The Base, which is connected to extreme-right groups the Atomwaffen Division and the Feuerkrieg Division, has been promoting its growth on social media with photos announcing its presence in major cities across North America, including New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and in Europe, South Africa, and Australia. The images often include a small contingent (typically one to three) of masked, camo-clad men holding weapons standing in front of The Base's flag, a black flag with three white lines running down the centre.
Attacks committed by far-right extremists expressing similar worldviews and ideologies are on the rise. Last week, an alleged Atomwaffen Division member was arrested for planning terrorist attacks on his local synagogue.
A post from a suspected member shows a masked man in front of an electric transformer holding a book known to be an insurgency bible to militant neo-Nazis, with the caption: "The electric grid as well as many other of the system's tentacles that keep the lemming class fat and happy are extremely weak and easy to target."
A series of other posts allegedly shows its Georgia "cell" in live-firing training. One photo depicts a masked man shooting a target painted with a Jewish Star of David. Other posts call for "tit-for-tat" violence.
The group has also been conducting postering campaigns in several of the cities they claim to have members in. Many of the posters went up in universities; others were spotted in less traditional locations, such as on a drive-in menu in Newark. "Would you like some societal collapse with your coffee?" read a social media post of the poster. Some of the posters, which have been found and reported on by members outside of The Base, contain a QR code that brings a potential recruit to a video entitled "What is The Base?" on Bitchute, a video-hosting service used by the far right.
"Together, we will secure a future for our people" is the last line of the video, echoing the famous neo-Nazi slogan. Posters have been found in Newark, Winnipeg, Seattle, Princeton, and Milwaukee.
The group is reportedly planning a "hate camp," a paramilitary-style training camp among militant neo-Nazis in Washington state, according to an anti-fascist group in Eugene, Oregon that has been investigating The Base. Coined by Atomwaffen Division, hate camps are intended to unify online fascists and provide them with information and skills to carry out violent attacks.
Spokane police spokesperson Officer John O'Brien told VICE that while police are aware of the event and are investigating, they do not believe it will take place within the city or county of Spokane.
"The location has not been shared with me," said O'Brien. "The only connection to Spokane is the possibility that members of that group may fly into our airport to travel to their destination."
O'Brien told VICE that if the group is conducting paramilitary-style training on private property with firearms, "they are within their rights to train."
For Joshua Fisher-Birch, a research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project, a U.S.-based terrorism watchdog, The Base presents a "significant threat" because it is attempting to build a network with "individuals in different groups, or those with slight ideological differences." According to Fisher-Birch, the group has "combined online recruitment efforts with real-world efforts" including supporiting "lone-actor violence" and "shared terrorist tactics."
"The Base is particularly dangerous because of [its] focus on developing and sharing skills useful for terrorism and guerilla warfare, such as ambushes, weapons training, and making explosives," Fisher-Birch said. "This is a radical group that not only wants violence, but is preparing for it."
The Base was founded by Spear in early 2018. Before this, Spear was a follower of the teachings of Harold Covington and the Northwest Front, a neo-Nazi group that wants to create an Aryan ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest. Spear appeared on several white nationalist podcasts and YouTube livestreams in which he preached theoretical violence as a means to an end and complained about the lack of a cohesive white supremacist movement.
The Base is seemingly his attempt to solve these issues. The group counter-intuitively states it does not endorse violence, regardless of its members' frequent postings relating to taking down the current "degenerate system," and rejects charges that The Base resembles a terrorist organization. Interestingly, "The Base" is the English translation of "Al-Qaeda," the jihadist terror group responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
VICE initially reported on The Base in November 2018 and gained access to a secure chatroom shared by members. Once the story went live, the group had its chat pulled by the Matrix server it existed on and moved to Wire, a more secure communication channel. Spear provided a hub for the fascists to meet, and assigned a "trainer" who would dole out information and organize.
At all times all members had access to the group's "library," a Megaupload-esque page of PDFs and books that explored terrorism tactics in depth. The books touched on lone-wolf terror tactics, gunsmithing, data-mining, interrogation tactics, and counter-surveillance techniques. Users could learn how to make bombs or chemical weapons at home, or how to conduct a small-scale ethnic cleansing. The library also featured a plethora of neo-Nazi propaganda and literature, which members could chat about in a separate book club chat.
An active network of anti-fascists has slowly been unmasking the anonymous members of the aspiring terror collective. Using the hashtag Debased Doxx, the network has found several members to be ex-military. Posts made by affiliated members in other far-right chats show the group is still organizing on the Wire platform.
VICE attempted to reach out to Spear on Wire but the request was not accepted.
Evan Balgord, the executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, told VICE that his group has been watching the growth of The Base in Canada and says that even though the group seems small, it can be dangerous.
"A very small number of individuals, properly motivated, with even the most basic materials could murder a lot of people or damage infrastructure in some significant way," said Balgord. "Groups like The Base, or Atomwaffen Division, are here and they're a clear and present danger, so they should be listed as terrorist entities and be pursued very robustly by law enforcement."
The Base and its affiliated accounts have been purged from Twitter and even the far-right-friendly social platform Gab for their violent rhetoric. However, their content can still be found in some of the darker recesses of the internet where membership is steadily growing.